Game Notes: Lakers at Suns
Odom leads Phil Jackson’s 1100th coaching win.
by Nima Zarrabi / @NZbeFree
Lamar Odom calmly wiped his glistening dome with a towel as a group of reporters buzzed the 6-10 tower. While they crowded around one of the League’s most versatile players, Odom patiently answered their questions until there weren’t any left. He was humble, understated and friendly.
I expected him to be a bit more pleased with his impressive 18-point, 17-rebound and 5-assist performance in helping the Lakers to a 114-106 road victory against the Suns. But LO has fully adapted to the SoCal lifestyle.
Laid back, chill, cool — call it what you will. Lamar is all those things.
“I really don’t have to force it on this team,” Lamar says of his game. “I don’t have to rush my offense. I can find my speed and the tempo I want to play at and I usually play well when I find my rhythm.”
I spent most of the pregame trying to wizard through some technical difficulties. There were major wireless issues at US Airways Center, nixing my ability to blog live from the venue. Many beat writers retreated to the media room during the game where there was better connectivity.
The arena was filled with mostly Suns fans but I was surprised by the amount of L.A. jerseys in attendance.
The Lakers came out aggressive and established an early lead from the tip. Ron Artest picked Steve Nash clean a few possessions in, racing down court for a three-point play. Grant Hill started the game on Kobe Bryant and the Suns switched to Jason Richardson for a stretch in the 1st.
Kobe immediately scored two buckets in a row on him. Hill looked exceptional in the first quarter, knocking down jumpers and playing Kobe tough. The Suns tried to get Robin Lopez going inside early, and the young fella looked good around the basket. He has clearly improved his game and his teammates definitely have confidence in him. Lakers led 28-27 at the end of the 1st.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson gave Kobe a long rest in the 2nd. He stayed on the bench until the 6:00-minute mark of the quarter and was booed loudly by the home crowd when he checked back in.
The Suns got a spark from Goran Dragic who highlighted the quarter with an incredible spin move for a layup that resulted in a three-point play.
In the middle of the quarter, Hedo Turkoglu forgot who he was and tried to slice to the basket for a one-handed flush. Lakers center Theo Ratliff met him at the rim and went Mutombo on that ass. A Suns fan behind me screamed: “What the fu** is Hedo Turkoglu doing trying to dunk!”
Hill kept the precipitation going with his wet jumper, racking up his 14th point of the half with a jumper to cut the Lakers lead to 1 point. But a couple three’s by Kobe and Derek Fisher helped lift the Lakers to a 57-50 halftime lead.
The Suns tied the game at 76 with about three minutes left in the quarter following a layup by Turkoglu. But the Lakers continued to hold them off thanks to great outside shooting. The Suns constantly left Ron Artest wide open on their rotations and he responded by putting down three triples in the quarter.
Steve Blake added another three with about a minute and a half left in the quarter and Shannon Brown closed out the third with a nasty breakaway dunk that sent Lakers fans into a frenzy. L.A. up 87-79 at the end of the third.
Cedric Ceballos got on the mic in the stands to get the crowd hype before the Q began. Let’s just say he looks a lot different. Ceballos’ encouragement couldn’t stop the threes from coming.
Matt Barnes hit one to start off the quarter and the Lakers enjoyed a comfortable lead. Phoenix answered back with a nice run from its bench crew. Dragic, Jared Dudley, Hakim Warrick, Josh Childress and Channing Frye were all on the floor when Phoenix cut the L.A. lead to 97-91 with about six minutes left.
But Kobe and Odom responded with back to back baskets and the Lakers were never in any danger during the quarter, eventually pulling it out to win 114-106. Lakers finished shooting 44 percent from three-point range, led by Barnes and Artest who each had three triples.
The victory for L.A. marked the 1100th coaching victory for Phil Jackson, the fastest coach ever to reach the milestone. “It took 20 years to do it,” Jackson joked.
The Lakers finished with six players in double figures. “We took too many three’s, that’s the only thing I had trouble with,” Jackson says. “Twenty-seven three’s in a ballgame is not our type of ball. Ron got over in that corner over there and they were letting that ball get to him.”
Jackson believes the game was decided by a couple sequences. “At the end of the third, Shannon got that runout that gave us a little bit of a margin there,” he says. “We were able to sustain the runs a little bit longer than theirs. I was happy with our second unit who I thought played good defense. The second unit for Phoenix has been playing very well. We were able to defend them in the 4rth quarter, get a little lead and hold them off.”
I was able to get Odom for a few questions in the visitors locker room.
SLAM: Is the All-Star team one of your goals this year?
Lamar Odom: If it happens, it happens. My goal is to win. With winning comes individual success. I don’t really put that first right now, at this stage in your career.
SLAM: That being said, with your performance last season and your play for Team USA, it seems like many people are really appreciating your game.
LO: Well, again all I can do is go out and play and win as much as possible. If that presents itself and I can keep playing at a high level then of course, it’s something that I want to accomplish.
SLAM: You kind of stole the show the other night during the ring ceremony. You seemed to be in a very comfortable place.
LO: It was great, especially to be able to introduce Ron. I have known him for so long and we have so much history together–so much history as far as where we come from and as far as basketball is concerned. It was an honor.
Hill led the Suns with 21 points on 10-17 shooting. Lopez added 18 points and 14 rebounds, Richardson had 17 points. Dragic added 15 points and Nash finished with 8 points and 9 assists.
Six players finished in double figures for the Lakers: Kobe (25), Pau Gasol (21), Odom (18), Artest (14) and Derek Fisher and Matt Barnes each had 11.