Bryant leads Lakers past Shaq-led Suns 105-92Posted: Updated:
PHOENIX - Shaquille O'Neal had nothing bad to say about Kobe Bryant and the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers.
The man who led the Lakers to three consecutive NBA titles witnessed this year's version of the team dominate his Phoenix Suns 105-92 on Thursday night.
The big guy came away impressed.
"They're the best team," O'Neal said. "They're 9-1. They're playing good. Kobe's playing team ball, keeping everybody involved. He's got a lot of shooters around him. They're a very dangerous team."
Bryant scored 24 points, Vladimir Radmanovic made all five of his 3-pointers and a host of others made significant contributions for the Lakers.
Bryant praised the Lakers' defense, but coach Phil Jackson gave it mixed reviews.
"Defensively we were pretty good," Jackson said, "but I thought the Suns missed a lot of easy shots and we got away with it."
Bryant shot only 8-of-23, but the Lakers overwhelmed Phoenix with their depth. Six players reached double figures for Los Angeles.
"I was telling Luke (Walton) about 10 minutes ago that this might be the first season I average 31 minutes because we've been blowing people out," Bryant said. "I've been sitting the whole fourth quarter. That's pretty amazing."
In the only other NBA game Thursday night, Boston beat Detroit 98-80.
Bryant did make a fourth-quarter cameo, but mostly it was left to the reserves to finish off Phoenix as Jackson rested his starters in preparation for Friday night's home game against Denver.
Radmanovic scored 15, Lamar Odom 13, Jordan Farmar 11, and Andrew Bynum and Trevor Ariza 10 apiece for Los Angeles. Pau Gasol scored only four points but had nine assists and nine rebounds.
Amare Stoudemire scored 21 for Phoenix on 9-for-21 shooting. The Lakers' reserves outscored their Suns counterparts 42-30.
"It's the kind of game we need from our bench," Jackson said. "We were able to play them most of the fourth quarter."
The Lakers had 21 points off 15 Phoenix turnovers. Los Angeles committed just seven turnovers, resulting in seven points for the Suns, struggling in their transformation from fastbreak machine to more of a half-court game.
"We have to really take a long look at our turnovers," Suns coach Terry Porter said. "That's something we have to get under control. We have been fighting that since day one."
Radmanovic had only five points and was 0-for-2 on 3s in the Lakers' victory over Chicago on Tuesday night.
"We'd been kidding him that he'd not made a shot the last week," Jackson said.
O'Neal added 15 points and nine rebounds. The Suns' Steve Nash was scoreless in the first half and finished with eight points and 10 assists, leaving the court with back spasms with 4:38 to play.
"I thought Raja (Bell) did a great job on Kobe," Porter said. "He goes 8-for-23 and he has other guys step up. That's what's made these guys good this year."
The Lakers made 10 of 21 3-pointers to win in Phoenix for the third straight time.
Los Angeles took the lead for good late in the first half. The Lakers led by 14 in the third quarter and were up 89-71 when Odom sank a 3-pointer with 8:34 to play. Phoenix cut the lead to 10 in the final few minutes but got no closer.
Celtics 98, Pistons 80
At Boston, Rajon Rondo had 18 points and eight assists, outplaying new Pistons acquisition Allen Iverson in a matchup of teams that met in last season's Eastern Conference finals.
Iverson had 16 points and four assists for Detroit, which fell to 4-3 since he was acquired from Denver for Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess. Iverson helped the Pistons beat the previously undefeated Lakers and snap Cleveland's eight-game win streak, but he hasn't changed their lot when it comes to the defending NBA champs.
Kevin Garnett scored 15, and Kendrick Perkins had 10 rebounds before both teams emptied their benches down the stretch.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)