Sports Out West

Kobe Bryant improves, but Lakers fall 114-108 to Suns

Photo Credit: Lakers.com

LOS ANGELES - In his second game back from his torn left Achilles tendon, Kobe Bryant scored 20 points but the Los Angeles Lakers once again had another poor defensive outing as they fell 114-108 to the Phoenix Suns.

Bryant in Tuesday’s game was more aggressive and appeared to be feeling better health wise  as evident by his a baseline dunk midway through the first quarter, several cuts to the basket, and on his banked 20-foot jumper in the second quarter.

“Yeah, that’s my go-to stuff, that’s’ rhythm stuff,” Bryant said of his bank shot. “Catching it in the mid post area and facing up and operating from there that’s stuff I ‘ve been doing for years. I feel very comfortable doing that. As far as going to the basket is something completely different. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do that or not, but I figured I would just try it.”

The 15-time All-Star also displayed his improved health as he on several occasion was able to get to the rim to either get a layup or draw a foul as shown by his eight free throw attempts in the game. What was also encouraging was that Bryant played 29 minutes shooting 55 percent from the field on 6-of-11 shooting and cut down his turnovers by only commiting three on Tuesday.

The 18-year veteran was pleased by his performance, but knows that he must continue to get better game by game.

“It’s a process, you just have to figure out what you can and can’t do,” Bryant said. “Every game, just try and step out and do a little more and do a little more and go from there.”

Although Bryant saw improvement in his game, it was bad night defensive for the Lakers as they surrendered their third straight home loss with the opponent scoring over 100 points.

For head coach Mike D’Antoni, he associated Los Angeles’ defensive woes to the foot speed of their opponent with Goran Dragic tying his season-high of 31 points, Eric Bledsoe scoring 18 points with nine assists, and allowing 56 points in the paint by the Suns.

“Foot speed’s a little problem,” D’Antoni said. “We’re not quite able to get back sometimes, but tonight they just went around us and we’re going to have to ‘d’ it up a little better and ‘man up’ a little bit and we’ve got to figure why with the rhythm of the game our threes now are abandoning us.”

“Defense is communicating, talking and almost spitting blood out there. There’s got to be a little more urgency in our game. It’s like you play good defense and somebody doesn’t box out and there goes an offensive rebound. It just deflates you.”

Phoenix shot 52 percent for the game and also received 37 points between the Morris’ twins off the bench with Marcus scoring 22 points and Markieff chipping in with 15.

In each of the first three quarters of the game, Los Angeles trailed by much as 14 points and was able to cut it down to five points each time. But in each instance  their porous defense made it too difficult to overcome.

“There should be a way,” Steve Blake said of the Lakers in finding a way of playing better defense. “It’s tough to keep getting down. We stay confident, and believe in ourselves, even when that happens, but we’re playing against good NBA players, and it is tough to come back. We have to find a rhythm again, and get things flowing.”

With two consecutive losses, Los Angeles now enters a stretch of the next four road games in five nights with their first tilt coming on Friday against a tough Oklahoma City Thunder team, who are undefeated at home with a 10-o record.

“It is what it is,” Pau Gasol said, who had 19 points and five rebounds. “It’s not going to be easy as we start (the road trip) in Oklahoma with how good of a team they are. You got to be ready for it otherwise we are going to get punched in the mouth.”

Lineup Change

Prior to Tuesday’s game D’Antoni switched up the Lakers’ lineup by inserting Jodie Meeks and moving Wesley Johnson to the bench. Meeks in his new role in the starting lineup at small forward scored 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field with five rebounds, and one assists in 32 minutes played.

Johnson in his move to the bench was limited in his production as he was 2-of-6 shooting for five points and one rebound.  The switched appeared to be beneficial to Meeks, but Johnson struggled in his move to the bench. D’Antoni had made the move to shake things up, but it did not seem to help improve the Lakers level of play as they once again struggled defensively.

With their next game on Friday against the Thunder, it will be interesting to see if D’Antoni once again makes another lineup change.

Photo Credit: Lakers.com

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Bob Garcia IV

Bob Garcia is a sports journalist from Southern California. He was a reporter for the award-winning newspaper, The Daily Sundial, at California State University, Northridge. You can follow him on Twitter, @BGarcia90.