|Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant watches from the bench during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Phoneix Suns, Saturday, April 7, 2012, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)|
Without Kobe, Lakers fall to Phoenix 125-105
PHOENIX—The Los Angeles Lakers played their first game without Kobe Bryant in two seasons, and it wasn't pretty.
Shannon Brown scored 20 of his 24 points in the third quarter Saturday night, leading the Suns to a 125-105 victory, their fourth in five games.
An injured left shin ended Bryant's string of 138 consecutive regular-season games played. The NBA's leading scorer watched the Suns reserves dominate the second quarter, then Brown go off against his former team in the third.
Michael Redd scored 17 of his 20 points in the second quarter for the Suns in their highest-scoring game of the season.
Pau Gasol had 30 points and 13 rebounds, and Andrew Bynum added 23 points and 18 boards for the Lakers, who surrendered the most points they have allowed this season.
Phoenix set a franchise low with three turnovers.
The Clippers, with a victory over Sacramento, pulled within a half-game of the first-place Lakers in the Pacific Division. The Suns are one game behind Denver for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference.
Bryant was kicked in the shin against New Orleans a week ago and had tried to play through the pain. He was limping noticeably late in the Lakers' home loss to Houston on Saturday night. He had played in all 82 regular-season games last season and all 56 this year. Trainer Gary Vitti said the only way the injury will subside is with rest and there is no timetable for his return.
"When Kobe wasn't going to play it was going to be natural that Andrew and I took a few more shots than usual," Gasol said. "Most of them were good shots. It is not like I am going to take 25 shots and Andrew is going to 27 shots a game. It should have been a little more balanced throughout our roster."
Seven players reached double figures for Phoenix. Marcin Gortat scored 14, Sebastian Telfair had all of his 13 points in the second quarter, Markieff Morris scored 13 and Steve Nash had 13 points and 11 assists.
Metta World Peace added 19 points for the Lakers.
The Suns reserves outscored their Los Angeles counterparts 58-10.
"We don't come in with any predetermined plans," Redd said. "We just go in there and play."
Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry went with his reserves the entire second quarter and they outscored the Lakers 38-25, Phoenix's highest-scoring period of the season.
"I put them in when we were down eight," Gentry said, "and I thought all of them to a man did a great job."
Redd and Telfair led the way.
Redd shot 6 of 11 for his 17 points, while Telfair was 5 of 7, including 2 of 2 3-pointers, for 13 points with four assists and three blocked shots.
Redd's steal and layup put the Suns up 45-44, then after Gasol's 16-footer briefly gave Los Angeles a 46-45 lead, Telfair sank a 3-pointer to trigger a 13-4 run. His 18-footer capped the spurt and made it 58-50.
After the Lakers cut it to 59-55, Telfair drove the length of the court for a layup with 0.7 seconds left. He was fouled and made the free throw, the three-point play putting Phoenix up 62-57 at the half.
The Suns starters stretched the lead in the third. Brown, who signed with Phoenix as a free agent after leaving the Lakers following last season, sank consecutive 3s to finish off a 12-4 run to end the third quarter and put the Suns ahead 99-83 entering the fourth.
Gasol led a late Los Angeles comeback but the Lakers never got closer than 10.
"I left about 50 out there," Bynum said, "three or four layups, three or four little shots in the middle of the lane. I can make them in a different game. We let them do the same thing to us the whole game -- pick and roll away from the week side and if the corner guy came in to help, they shot a 3."
Phoenix made 14 of 29 3-pointers.
Brown, who left the Lakers after last season and signed as a free agent with Phoenix, has taken over the starting role from injured Grant Hill. In his torrid third quarter, Brown made 8 of 12 shots in the third quarter, 4 of 6 of them 3s.
"I think overall he feels a lot more comfortable right now and obviously he is getting more extended minutes with Grant out," Gentry said, "but I think that it took a little bit of time for him to really relish the freedom that we give him.'"
Notes: Phoenix played its only home game in a stretch of eight contests. The Suns open a four-game road trip Monday at Minnesota. ... The Lakers started a three-game trip. They are at New Orleans on Monday, then play a crucial contest at San Antonio next Wednesday. ... The teams split the season series 2-2. ... Bryant averaged 38.7 points in three games against Phoenix this season. ... The Suns are 15-7 since the All-Star break and have won 12 of their last 15 home games. ... Bynum was 3 for 8 from the free throw line. ... The Suns' previous record low for turnovers was four against Denver on Jan. 17, 1995.