NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Friday, March 12th (All times eastern)
Los Angeles Lakers (47-18) at Phoenix Suns (40-25), 9 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The two top teams in the Pacific Division meet for the last time in the regular season tonight, when the second-place Phoenix Suns welcome the front-running Los Angeles Lakers to the U.S. Airways Center.
The defending NBA champion Lakers are once again atop the Western Conference and a comfortable seven games ahead of the Suns in the Pacific with just 17 games to go before the postseason.
After being blown out twice in Los Angeles earlier this season, the Suns responded with an impressive 118-103 win over the Lakers in Phoenix on December 28 and will now try and even the season series with another triumph tonight.
Most recently, the Suns, who are percentage points behind Oklahoma City for the fifth seed in the West, improved to 1-1 on a season-long seven-game homestand with a 113-104 win over Indiana last Saturday. Amare Stoudemire poured in a game-best 30 points to go with six rebounds in that one.
Grant Hill added 22 points and eight rebounds for the Suns, who have won 14 of their last 18 games overall. Jason Richardson donated 20 points and 10 rebounds, Steve Nash tallied 12 points and five assists while Jared Dudley finished with 11 points and 12 boards off the bench for Phoenix.
"It was a good win for us. We're still a little banged up obviously," Suns head coach Alvin Gentry said. "Steve (Nash) played minutes that I wish I could sit him over there, but he wanted to gut this game out and that just speaks volume about what he's all about as far as our team."
The Lakers, meanwhile, snapped a season-worst three-game skid Tuesday in Los Angeles. Kobe Bryant played the hero again, sinking the winning jumper from the right baseline with 1.9 seconds left to left the Lakers over the Toronto Raptors, 109-107.
Bryant, who missed a potential winning three-pointer at the end of regulation in a 106-105 loss in Toronto on January 24, scored 32 points, dished out six assists and had six rebounds.
"They didn't come early at me and I got the shot off," Bryant said. "That's part of my responsibility, to close teams out. Our defense tonight was garbage. We have to focus on execution."
Andrew Bynum tallied 22 points while Pau Gasol registered 17 points and nine boards for the Lakers, who were on their longest skid since January of 2008.
03/12 10:49:51 ET