Bryant will try to lead the Lakers to their ninth straight victory Sunday night when they host the Suns, who are facing Los Angeles for the second time this season under similar circumstances.
Los Angeles (15-3) last played Friday when Bryant’s banked desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer gave the Lakers a 108-107 victory over Miami. It will likely rank among the most incredible highlights of his career - even if Bryant refused to take too much credit for it.
“It was the luckiest shot I’ve ever taken, by far,” said Bryant, who scored 33 points. “It felt good, (but) I just couldn’t believe this ball might go in on this shot.”
The Lakers are on their longest run since winning 10 straight from Feb. 8-28, 2008. They’ll have the advantage of playing a Phoenix team that used its starters extensively in a 115-107 home win over Sacramento on Saturday.
The Suns (15-5) had lost two straight road games by an average of 22.0 points before beating the Kings.
“We are a little bit tired from the travel,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. “I’m not making excuses, this is just the facts. We are a little tired right now and not quite as energetic as we’ve been. We’ll get back there, but now we are just a little bit spent.”
This matchup is somewhat similar to when these teams met Nov. 12 in a 121-102 home victory for the Lakers, who had three days off before that contest. Phoenix won at home the night before over New Orleans - although it was able to rest its starters more than Saturday - and was plagued by fatigue.
“Unfortunately, we just didn’t have the legs tonight to give them a good shot, so we can look back and throw this one away,” said Suns guard Steve Nash(notes) after the loss. “We didn’t give them any resistance tonight.”
The Lakers continue to enjoy a season-opening stretch in which it plays 17 of its first 21 games at home. Seven of their victories in this streak have come at home, and the last seven have featured the first action of the season from Pau Gasol(notes).
Gasol did not face the Suns last month due to a hamstring injury, and he’s been solid with averages of 18.3 points and 10.0 rebounds since returning. He’s formed a dominant frontcourt with center Andrew Bynum(notes), who had 26 points and 15 rebounds in the victory against Phoenix.
Friday’s victory marked the first in this streak in which Los Angeles did not win by double digits. The Lakers were sluggish throughout and forward Lamar Odom(notes) was ejected in the fourth quarter before Bryant’s heroics rescued them.
Nash scored 32 points and Amare Stoudemire had 18 and 21 rebounds Saturday for Phoenix, which has played the most road games in the NBA, going 8-5.