NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Sunday, February 19th (All times eastern)
Los Angeles Lakers (18-12) at Phoenix Suns (12-19), 8 p.m.
(Sports Network) - Kobe Bryant will try to torment the Phoenix Suns once again when the Los Angeles Lakers close out a home-and-home series with their Pacific Division rivals tonight in the desert.
Bryant scorched the Suns for 36 points on 14-of-25 shooting in Friday's 111-99 victory at Staples Center and is averaging 42.0 ppg in two meetings with Phoenix this season. He scored a season-high 48 points in a 99-83 win on Jan. 10 in LA. In 55 career games against the Suns, Bryant is averaging 26.6 points per contest. He also grabbed his 6,000th career rebound, becoming the ninth guard in NBA history to hit that mark.
Matt Barnes had 17 points off the bench and Andrew Bynum tallied 17 points and 14 rebounds for the Lakers, who have won three in a row and seven of 10 games. The Lakers also shot 53 percent from the floor and made 5-of-11 three- pointers.
"A good win for us. We made enough plays to win the game and scored more points that usual," said LA center Pau Gasol, who posted 10 points and 13 boards. "They made it close, but we didn't panic. It was a solid effort."
The Lakers look to improve on their 5-10 away mark tonight and sit 1 1/2 games behind the Clippers for division supremacy. Friday's win was only the fourth time in 30 games this season that the Lakers reached the 100-point mark.
Phoenix has lost four in a row and five of its last six games, and received 21 points and 16 rebounds from Marcin Gortat in the recent loss. Steve Nash registered 11 points and 17 assists for the Suns, who committed 17 turnovers for 21 Los Angeles points.
Ex-Laker Shannon Brown had 15 points and Markieff Morris netted 14. Reliable defender Grant Hill had eight points in defeat.
"Every time I take Grant (Hill) out of the game, Kobe explodes," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. "Someone else has to step up. You can't turn the ball over 15 times in the first half. We had unforced turnovers. We didn't protect the ball tonight."
Gortat has started every game since last March 27 and owns 18 double-doubles in 17 of the past 23 contests. Phoenix will play six straight and 10 of the next 11 games in the Valley of the Sun, and is 5-8 as the host in 2011-12.
Phoenix has lost four straight and 14 of the past 18 meetings with Los Angeles, which has won three in a row and six of eight games as the visitor in this series.
02/19 10:45:05 ET