Suns-Lakers Preview

The Associated Press

A lengthy road trip seemed to take its toll on the Los Angeles Lakers, possibly contributing to an uncharacteristically poor rebounding performance in their last game.

They'll likely be happy to return home for Tuesday night's matchup against the struggling Phoenix Suns.

The Lakers (24-28) are looking to avenge a 92-86 loss at Phoenix on Jan. 30, which started their seven-game trip. It also gives Steve Nash another shot against his former team after he had 11 points, two assists and two turnovers in his return to Arizona.

Los Angeles bounced back from that loss with wins in four of the next five games. The schedule, dictated by Staples Center hosting Sunday's Grammy Awards, saw the Lakers travel over 6,500 miles in a span of 13 days, the effects of which perhaps manifested in a 107-97 loss at Miami on Sunday.

Los Angeles, third in the league in rebounding at 44.7 per game, was outrebounded 38-29 by a Miami team that averages a league-worst 38.9 rebounds per game.

"There were moments that we gave up a foul shot or a rebound that turned into a three-point shot," coach Mike D'Antoni said. "There were extra shots that we gave them and we didn't rebound."

Kobe Bryant drew extra attention for his increased role as a facilitator as he totaled 39 assists in the three games before the Lakers left Los Angeles, a trend that continued to a lesser extent. He had eight or more assists four times on the trip.

Bryant had 28 points on 11-of-19 shooting with nine assists against the Heat, but Metta World Peace shot just 3 of 11 for nine points.

"For the most part, we played hard," said Bryant, whose scoring average of 27.4 per game ranks third.

The Suns (17-35) have lost seven of nine and are coming off two blowout defeats at the hands of Oklahoma City, falling 127-96 on the road Friday, then 97-69 at home two days later. Wesley Johnson's tip-in with 7.8 seconds to play Sunday prevented the Suns from setting a franchise scoring low. The team scored 68 at Kansas City on March 8, 1981.

No starter scored more than eight as Phoenix shot 33.0 percent - its worst clip since hitting 26.8 percent in a 110-72 loss at New Jersey on March 27, 2006.

Markieff Morris was the only player in double figures with 12 points, while Goran Dragic, Phoenix's leading scorer with 14.2 ppg, was held to six on 2-of-7 shooting. It was his lowest total since scoring four in a loss to New York on Dec. 26.

"It is like having a bad day at work and nothing goes right for you," interim coach Lindsey Hunter said. "Look at it and you go on. ... You do not hang your head and dwell on it, you move on. And that is what we are going to do. That is my job not to let the guys have pity parties."

That could be tough for the Suns with their next three games on the road.

Phoenix owns the league's second-worst road record at 5-22, while Los Angeles has won five of six at home.

The Lakers also defeated the Suns 114-102 in Los Angeles on Nov. 16, their 11th win in the last 12 meetings at Staples Center - including the playoffs.

Bryant had 31 points in the November matchup, and is averaging 39.3 points during the Lakers' four-game home winning streak in the series.

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