Lakers Crush Suns' Playoff Hopes in Triple-Overtime Thriller

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Who said the Phoenix Suns weren’t entertaining anymore?

In a game that featured 276 total points, 226 shot attempts, 68 three-point attempts and 64 assists, the Los Angeles Lakers proved they could still rely on their offense to win games.

Throughout the past few seasons, the Lakers have boasted a top-notch offense. This season has been no different, as L.A. ranks fourth in offensive efficiency.

Yet during their 12-1 streak after the All-Star break, the Laker’s offense took a back seat to their stellar defensive effort and intensity. Their previous offensive high during the streak was 108 points, a feat they’ve previously achieved twenty-two times this season.

Let’s just say they easily eclipsed that mark tonight, winning in thrilling triple-overtime fashion against their old division rivals.

This game had everything you could want: multiple overtimes, game-tying shots, highlight passes and dunks, and absolutely no defense. In the end, L.A. escaped with a 139-137 victory, led by a near triple-double from Kobe Bryant (42 points, 12 rebounds, and 9 assists).

Despite Bryant’s impressive stat-line, he wasn’t the player of the game. That honor is shared by the Queensbridge brothers. Lamar Odom, with a season-high 29 points and 16 rebounds, kept the Lakers alive with big play after big play. Ron Artest, on the other hand, did not have as big of an impact on the entire game, but came up big in triple-overtime.

With both teams dead-tired after playing over 58 minutes of basketball, Artest stole the ball from Steve Nash and ran down the court for a monster left-handed  throw-down, putting L.A. ahead 135-132. To outdo himself once again, Artest hit a one-footed fadeaway jumper with 1:07 left, boosting the Lakers’ lead to 137-132 and putting the Suns away for good.

Besides Bryant and Odom’s impressive stats, Artest finished with 18 points and 3 timely steals, Pau Gasol had  24 points and 13 rebounds, and Matt Barnes chimed in with 13 bench points.

For the Suns, Nash had 19 points and 20 assists, Channing Frye had a career-high 32 points and 14 rebounds, Aaron Brooks had 15 points off the pine, and Vince Carter managed a -20 +/- despite scoring 17 points. Yes, only Vince could do that.

The game was a microcosm of LA’s season: an up and down roller coaster ride.

In the first quarter, Phoenix shot 54% in route to a 31-27 lead.  L.A. was discombobulated defensively, allowing Carter, Frye and Nash to each go off in the quarter. We should have known more was to come.

The second quarter brought out the best in L.A. Despite a lackluster first half of the quarter, the Lakers turned up their defensive intensity, finishing the quarter with a six-point halftime lead (66-60) after trailing by as many as eight points.

After halftime is when L.A. decided to start playing true championship basketball. The Lakers turned their 66-60 halftime lead into a 89-68 lead in just under 8 minutes. After L.A.’s impressive run and twenty-one-point lead, things took a turn for the worse. Phoenix ended the quarter with an 18-6 run, capped by back-t0-back-to-back Nash three-pointers.

Finally, the fourth and final quarter. Or so we thought. Through a barrage of three-pointers, a stifling zone defense, and L.A.’s bench struggling, the Suns easily disintegrated L.A.’s double-digit lead. Still, L.A. had a 110-101 lead with three minutes remaining and blew their chance. Once again, Phoenix shot themselves back into the game. With 31 seconds remaining, Grant Hill hit a three-pointer off an offensive rebound to send the game into overtime at 112 apiece.

In the first overtime, both teams struggled to score. Marcin Gortat, who had 24 points and 16 rebounds, scored the Suns’ first four points, while Odom and Artest combined for L.A.’s first seven. After a beastly dunk from Gortat, and two Derek Fisher free-throws, it appeared L.A. would finally take home the win. Not so fast. After a missed Frye three-pointer, Nash got the offensive rebound and kicked it back out to Frye, who attempted another three but was fouled by Odom (really?). Frye sank all three free-throws, tying the game up at 121 and sending it to double-overtime.

During the second overtime, L.A. looked like they’d pull away after taking a 127-123 lead with 2:23 remaining. Yet once again, the Suns responded, taking a 130-128 lead after yet another Frye three-pointer with 52 seconds remaining. Luckily, Gasol got fouled with 2 seconds remaining, knocking down both free-throws, and tying the game up at 130.

The third and last overtime showed just how tired each team was. With players visibly out of breath, Bryant and Artest overcame their fatigue in route to a clutch overtime performance and a 139-137 victory over their old nemesis in purple and orange.

With the victory, the Lakers move to 51-20 for the season, and are now one and a-half games ahead of the Dallas Mavericks. L.A. surprisingly moved to 2-0 without Andrew Bynum during his suspension, yet the big man should be back for L.A.’s game Friday vs. the Clippers. LA is currently amidst a 13-1 streak after the All-Star break.

The Suns, on the other hand, drop to 35-34, and are now three games out of the playoffs with only 13 games remaining. Although their playoff chances are officially over, their friends in L.A. did not help their cause. Phoenix will have to play near perfect basketball down the stretch to sneak in over the Memphis Grizzlies or Houston Rockets.

They say revenge is a dish best served cold. After tonight’s loss, the Suns must not be feeling so hot.

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Tags: Aaron Brooks Andrew Bynum Channing Frye Derek Fisher Grant Hill Kobe Bryant Lamar Odom Los Angeles Lakers Marcin Gortat Matt Barnes Pau Gasol Phoenix Suns Ron Artest Steve Nash Vince Carter

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