Kobe Bryant refused to shoot, Mike D'Antoni forgot to coach in the third quarter and Jermaine O'Neal turned back the clock, but the L.A. Lakers still managed to eke out a 91-85 win over the hapless Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night.
Bryant continued his efforts at facilitation against the Suns, taking zero shots in the first half and finishing just 1-of-8 overall. He looked for his teammates relentlessly, tallying nine assists. But he also gave the ball to the other team far too often. His eight turnovers also led the Lakers.
Down low, Dwight Howard led the Lakers with 19 points and 18 rebounds. At first glance, it would certainly seem like D12 had himself a nice game. But his interior defense left plenty to be desired, and Jermaine O'Neal embarrassed him with a couple of surprising blocks.
After a solid first half, the Lakers simply failed to show up in the third period, scoring a season low nine points and allowing the Suns to turn a nine-point halftime deficit into a six-point lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Fortunately for the Lakers, the Suns lived up (or maybe "down" is more appropriate) to their record and came apart down the stretch.
On the whole, the Lakers escaped with an ugly win, but issues with transition defense and stagnant offense continued to plague them. Against an average opponent, L.A.'s overall effort would have resulted in a sure loss.
The Lakers moved to 25-28 with the win, while Phoenix fell to 17-36 in defeat.
Final Score: Lakers 91, Suns 85