Bryant's Lakers beat Shaq's Suns 132-106Posted: Updated:
LOS ANGELES -- Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal got together for the first time since sharing MVP honors at the All-Star game. It was no contest, especially without Steve Nash.
The Los Angeles Lakers scored 70 points in the first half and rolled past the Nash-less Phoenix Suns 132-106 Thursday night for their sixth consecutive victory.
Bryant had 22 points and eight rebounds for the Lakers, while O'Neal had 12 points and seven rebounds for the Suns, who trail first-place Los Angeles by 15 games in the Pacific Division.
The good feelings shared by Bryant and O'Neal during All-Star weekend in Phoenix continued in their seventh career head-to-head meeting. Bryant put his left arm around O'Neal and thumped him on the chest with his right fist before tip-off after teammate Luke Walton hugged O'Neal.
O'Neal was warmly received by the crowd at Staples Center, where the Lakers improved to 27-4 and have won four in a row.
Lamar Odom had 23 points to lead the Lakers and Pau Gasol added 16 points and nine rebounds.
Leandro Barbosa and Alando Tucker, who started in place of Nash, led Phoenix with 18 points each, and Jason Richardson added 13. Alvin Gentry fell to 4-2 as interim coach.
The Suns had won four of their previous five games since the All-Star break, but they played without All-Stars Nash and Amare Stoudemire, putting them at a decided disadvantage before the game even started.
Nash is day to day with a sprained right ankle suffered Tuesday night against Charlotte, while Stoudemire could be away up to eight weeks after having eye surgery last Friday.
The Suns fell to 2-4 this season without Nash in the lineup, and 6-17 in games without him since the 2004-05 season.
The Lakers took advantage early, scoring 70 points in the first half - two off their season high - while shooting 62 percent from the floor. The Suns hadn't given up close to that many points in a half this season.
Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson paired Odom with four reserves for much of the second quarter, and the Lakers didn't miss a beat in building a 19-point lead. He wanted to rest the starters as much as possible ahead of Friday night's game in Denver, where the Lakers could close February with a 12-1 record.
Los Angeles went up by 25 points in the third quarter, when the Suns got no closer than 11 early on.
Gasol's turn to lead the second unit came in the fourth quarter, when he played the first few minutes before joining Bryant, Odom, Walton and Derek Fisher on the bench as the reserves cruised to a 28-point lead.
Sasha Vujacic led the Lakers' bench with 14 points, helping them outscore Phoenix's reserves 58-37.
Notes:@ Los Angeles scored 72 points in the first half against Washington on Jan. 22. ... The Lakers lead the season series 3-0. ... Odom had nine rebounds, giving him 129 over his last nine games in the best rebounding stretch of his career. ... When Nash returns, he needs three points to reach 13,000 in his career.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)