Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The Lakers might have finally found a winning formula but apparently they didn’t pack it for their trip to Phoenix. Hopefully someone can overnight it to them as this road trip is just getting started.
Three straight wins at Staples gave way to their eighth straight loss on the road. Up 13 in the fourth this one got away from L.A. in a disappointing 92-86 loss to the worst in the West Suns on Steve Nash’s homecoming.
Nash played his first game in his former city since leaving for the Lake Show. As expected he got a warm welcome but it was Michael Beasley’s cold blood that killed the special occasion.
Beasley bullied his way through the Lakers defense en route to a game-high 27 including some clutch buckets that turned the tide late.
Blame the tired legs of the older Lakers in this second of a back-to-back but in the end Phoenix just wanted it more and executed better when it mattered most. This Kobe Bryant–Steve Nash role reversal isn’t such a beautiful thing when the offense gets sloppy and the turnovers pile up. Kobe can’t win for losing on nights like this as he might have shared the rock too much. 9 assists for KB24 led the way for the Lake Show so too did his 6 turnovers.
Nash was a non-factor most of the night and was completely invisible down the stretch. On his big evening Nash scored 11 with only 2 assists, not at all what the folks in Phoenix were used to seeing.
Something we haven’t seen much of is Pau Gasol playing big minutes in the fourth but that became necessary tonight as Dwight Howard left after another tweak to that troublesome shoulder. Shannon Brown came across D12’s arm as he went up for a dunk and Dwight collapsed never to return.
But that wasn’t why this one ended in an inexplicable L.
L.A. put up bricks from deep making just 8 of 27 three point attempts. 20 turnovers are tough to overcome no matter the opponent especially when you’re committing careless ones in the clutch. Kobe fumbled away the rock, Earl Clark threw it away on an inbounds play and Bryant missed a layup that might as well count as a turnover.
Tonight the Lakers needed points from Kobe and he only delivered 17 on 17 shots. As a team the Lakers only scored 13 in the fourth and for the second night in a row they let a lead slip away late. Difference was last night they closed the door. Tonight they left it wide open and the Suns stormed in leaving with a win.
Terrible way to start the longest road trip of the year as some of the newfound goodwill has been given back. No telling how long Howard might be out of action. After the game Mike D’Antoni said this is something that his starting center is just going to have to deal with for the rest of the season. Not to get too gloomy here but the season is slipping away when a team desperate for wins starts giving them away cheap to lesser competition.
If the Lakers do miss out on the postseason it will be losses like this that will haunt. The Suns get respect for being hungrier but a veteran squad like the Lake Show should be able to close any opponent with a double-digit lead in the fourth. If that formula left in Staples can’t get to Minnesota by Friday then the echoes of those recent struggles will get louder by the day. There’s time left but not so much time this team can afford to cough up winnable games when the squads in front of them are winning as they did tonight.