Suns 114, Lakers 108

Forrest Lee, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- Guard Kobe Bryant shed some of the rust that plagued him in his debut, but that still wasn't enough as the Los Angeles Lakers fell to the Phoenix Suns 114-108 on Tuesday night at the Staples Center.
Guard Goran Dragic tied a season-high with 31 points, lifting the Suns to the victory.
The Suns (12-9), winners of three straight, have taken five of the last seven meetings against the Lakers (10-11). The Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff, came off the bench to combine for 37 points. Marcus Morris had 22 of them. Guard Eric Bledsoe finished with 18 points, nine assists and three steals.
Bryant had a smoother outing than his opener Sunday, when he managed just nine points on 2 of 9 shooting, eight rebounds and eight turnovers in a loss to the Toronto Raptors in his first game back from an Achilles' tendon injury last season. Against Phoenix, Bryant led the Lakers with 20 points on 6 of 11 shooting. He had three turnovers. Center Pau Gasol finished with 19 points, while forwards Jodie Meeks, Nick Young and Jordan Hill had 13 points apiece. Hill also had seven rebounds. Guard Steve Blake added nine points and 10 assists.
Phoenix was clinging to a 97-93 lead after forward Nick Young hit the second of two free throws with 3:38 remaining. But like they had the entire game, the Suns kept the Lakers at bay and hit crucial buckets when they needed them and hung on for the win.
The Suns jumped out to double digit leads in the opening three quarters before Los Angeles launched comebacks. Phoenix opened the third quarter with a 9-0 run for a 65-51 lead after a dunk by forward Channing Frye, who finished with 11 points, with 9:49 remaining. But the Lakers rallied, pulling to within one. But a layup by Bledsoe with one second left capped the scoring, giving Phoenix a 79-74 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
Phoenix led 26-21 after one quarter, then used a 11-2 spurt for a 37-23 lead after a layup by guard Archie Goodwin with 9:27 remaining in the second quarter. Again, the Lakers cut the deficit and closed to 50-47 after a 3-pointer by guard Jodie Meeks with 1:51 left before intermission. But the Suns failed to give up the lead, taking a 56-51 halftime lead.
Bryant scored 10 of his points in the first half, hitting 3 of 4 shots from the floor and committing just one turnover.
NOTES: Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni took issue with SG Kobe Bryant's assessment the Lakers didn't open the season like "gangbusters" with their 10-9 mark. "We were 6-2 in the last eight (games before Bryant's return), and I thought we played extremely well, winning three (in a row) on the road," D'Antoni said after Tuesday's shootaround. "So, that's not quite right." ... D'Antoni switched his lineup for the ninth time in 21 games, starting PF Shawne Williams instead of PF/SF Wesley Johnson and moving PF/C Pau Gasol to the middle to replace C Robert Sacre. ... Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek is pleased with the development of C Miles Plumlee, who began the night averaging 9.8 points and 8.5 rebounds and was seeing increased playing time with C Emeka Okafor out due to a herniated disk. "The one thing that has impressed us is his ability to score on the block," said Hornacek, crediting assistant coaches Mark West and Kenny Gattison with Plumlee's improved play.

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