Lakers 109, Suns 104
INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) _ Vlade Divac had 30 points and 13 rebounds Sunday night as the Los Angeles Lakers tightened their grip on a playoff spot with a 109-104 victory over the Phoenix Suns.
Terry Teagle added 18 of his 22 points in the second half for Los Angeles. Their sixth win in eight games increased the Lakers’ lead over idle Houston to 1 1/2 games for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot.
The defense limited Suns scoring leader Jeff Hornacek to just four free throws through the first 41 1/2 minutes and seven points altogether, 13 off his season average.
The Suns faded badly in the second half, wasting a 34-point effort by Tom Chambers, along with 27 points and 12 assists by Kevin Johnson. The loss was their third in the last 13 games, but they still won the season series from the Lakers for the first time in 11 years by a 3-2 margin.
Phoenix rallied from a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit and narrowed the gap to 99-95 as Dan Majerle’s 3-pointer capped a 15-4 run. But Hornacek missed one of two free throws with 37 seconds left and missed a a pair of 3-point shots in the final 25 seconds.
Byron Scott iced the game with four free throws in the last five seconds and finished with 25 points.
Teagle, who shot 9-for-12 in the second half, had 12 points in the fourth quarter. Eight came in less than four minutes, caping a 14-6 run that widened the Lakers’ six-point margin to 93-80.
Los Angeles trimmed a 13-point halftime deficit to 66-64 as Scott’s jumper capped a 13-2 spurt. The Lakers grabbed a 79-73 lead with six straight points by Teagle, who sandwiched a layup with a pair of outside jumpers - the second with 40 seconds left in the third.
Phoenix used 21 points by Chambers and 17 from Johnson to build a 60-47 halftime lead. Chambers had 13 points in the second period, matching the Suns’ entire output from the second quarter of Friday night’s loss at Utah. But they only had 13 in the third period against the Lakers.
Majerle scored six points off the bench in a six-minute span, fueling a 19-6 run that extended the Suns’ one-point lead to 46-32 with 5:14 left in the half. Chambers’ slam dunk put them ahead by 16 points with three minutes remaining.
″We knew they were shooting the ball well,″ Teagle said. ″We just didn’t want to get away from our game plan, and we wanted to control Tom. We tried to deny him and make him work for everything he got. We thought he got a lot of easy baskets in the first half. And if he continues to do that, he’s going to kill you.″
Chambers took only four shots over 10 minutes of the third period, scoring his only points on a driving layup that put the Suns ahead 64-51. But they shot only 4-for-20 in the period as the Lakers took the game away.
″We’re shooting from the outside too much,″ Hornacek said. ″Sometimes we get into bad habits. We come out at the beginning of a game and hit our outside shots and everything looks fine. But later on, when they don’t go down, it’s quite a difference. That’s the key thing when we have a 13-point quarter.″
Hornacek, a 51-percent shooter this season, was 1-for-9 in his 40 minutes on the court. To punctuate his miserable night, the All-Star guard fouled out for the first time all season with nine-tenths of a second on the clock.
″We’ll take it,″ Teagle said with a laugh. ″He’s a great player and sometimes you’re going to have some off nights. He wasn’t really aggressive tonight. I think we just caught him on one of his bad nights.″