Suns hold off Lakers 116-107 for 6th straight win
LOS ANGELES (AP) — When the Phoenix Suns deploy their three playmaking guards simultaneously, even Kobe Bryant gets a bit overwhelmed.
“They’ve got one on the left, one on the right and one in the middle,” Bryant said. “You can’t cover them all.”
With Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas on the floor together in the final minutes, the Suns had more than enough options to keep their winning streak rolling.
Dragic scored 24 points, Bledsoe had 20 of his 22 after halftime, and Phoenix beat the Los Angeles Lakers 116-107 on Sunday night for its sixth consecutive victory.
Thomas added 15 points for the balanced Suns, who weathered an impressive Los Angeles surge in the final minutes of their seventh win in eight meetings with the Lakers, who lost their third straight despite Bryant’s return.
Phoenix’s 13-point lead dwindled to one, but the Suns finished on a 10-2 run.
“Everybody makes runs in the NBA,” Bledsoe said. “We just kept our composure, hit some shots and made our free throws.”
The Suns lost six straight before their winning streak, but coach Jeff Hornacek’s rotation has been working particularly well.
“We just had to push the pace and keep up on Kobe,” said Markieff Morris, who had 12 points and seven rebounds. “We can score with anybody in this league, but we win when we play some defense.”
Bryant had 10 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in 32 minutes during his first game back from a three-game absence to rest his aching 36-year-old body.
“My legs felt a lot better,” said Bryant, whose 10 shots were less than half his season average. “Just working myself back into form, but I felt fine.”
Nick Young hit four 3-pointers and scored 21 points while taking up Kobe’s scoring slack again for the Lakers. Jeremy Lin added 19 points.
Phoenix used its fast-break offense to grab control with a 14-3 run early in the third quarter, and then increased its lead to 13 early in the fourth. Young led a rally that included back-to-back 3s by Wesley Johnson to keep it close, and Young’s free throws made it 106-105 with two minutes to play.
But P.J. Tucker made a gritty driving layup and Morris banked in a long hook shot on consecutive possessions, and the Lakers couldn’t respond.
“We couldn’t get a stop, and when we got a stop, they got an offensive rebound,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said. “I think that’s the most disheartening thing. We were right there again. Played hard, but the last couple of minutes is where we seem to lose it.”
Suns: Phoenix is on its first five-game road winning streak since February 2011. ... Thomas had a lengthy halftime conversation with boxing king Floyd Mayweather Jr. at center court. Mayweather is a regular at Lakers and Clippers games. ... The Suns also beat the Lakers at Staples Center on Nov. 4.
Lakers: Los Angeles went 12 for 20 on 3-pointers. ... Before the game, Los Angeles claimed center Tarik Black off waivers from Houston and waived injured guard Xavier Henry. Black is expected to be in town Monday for a physical. ... Young’s girlfriend, rapper Iggy Azalea, was shown on the Staples Center scoreboard chair-dancing to her own No. 1 hit song, “Fancy,” during a timeout in the second half.
The Lakers remained winless since their surprising victory over Golden State last Tuesday. Los Angeles played four games in the past six days with roughly 4,400 miles of travel in between, and it has a one-game road trip to Denver to cap off 2014.
A MINUTE DIFFERENCE
Bryant’s 32 minutes were four fewer than his team-leading average, and Scott hopes to keep him at that limit in most games. “We’ll just be smart about it, just keep the minutes down,” Bryant said. “Three or four (fewer) minutes makes a big difference, especially the type of minutes that I play. Those four minutes can be like 12.”
Suns: Visit New Orleans on Tuesday.
Lakers: Visit Denver on Tuesday.