The Los Angeles Lakers beat the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night, but the game did not go exactly according to plan. Kobe Bryant did not have a field goal attempt in the first half and finished with more turnovers than points in the game.
Even with Bryant forcing passes instead of taking open layups, the Lakers led by nine points at the half. On several occasions, the Lakers looked like they would blow the game wide open, but the extra spurt never materialized.
A 12-point lead in the first quarter suddenly disappeared with the Lakers only up by three points at the start of the second quarter. Just before halftime, another 12-point lead was cut to nine at the intermission. Still, the Lakers appeared to be in control of the game.
Then, the third quarter hit.
In one of the ugliest quarters of the season, the Lakers scored nine points on 3-20 shooting from the field. From behind the arc, the Lakers were 1-9. Bryant finally got around to shooting after the half, and he went 0-5 from the field in the third. Also, he contributed three of the team’s six turnovers in the quarter.
In 12 minutes of game time, the Lakers were outscored 24-9, and they trailed by six points entering the final period. Bryant was 0-5 for two points, eight assists, and seven turnovers.
"I guess every 17 years, he’s allowed that," D’Antoni said about Bryant’s poor shooting night. "I wouldn’t be too tough on him. It was just one of those nights.
"He was trying too hard to get everybody else involved. You got to walk a fine line and he’s way over the other line and he’s got to get back to the middle where he facilitates and he’s aggressive."
In the final period, however, the team found a way to break their third-quarter dry spell.
They scored 26 points and held the Suns to only 14. Seven different Lakers scored in the period as the team's offense avoided the trap of relying on a struggling Bryant to make shots.
Tuesday night at Staples Center was meant to be a "statement game" against the Phoenix Suns. It was meant to right a wrong that occurred in the fourth quarter in Phoenix. It was meant to provide momentum into the battle for Los Angeles against the Clippers on Thursday.
Ultimately, Tuesday night against the Suns was a statement game, but that statement was not one Lakers’ fans necessarily wanted to hear: with less than 30 games remaining, the Lakers still cannot play 48 minutes of consistent basketball—even at home.
Tuesday night was a win, but it sure didn’t feel that way.