Wednesday , Nov , 01 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Kobe-less Lakers knock off Suns in season opener

Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) – Kobe Bryant spent the season opener in a
suit, but Lamar Odom picked up the slack with 34 points and 13 rebounds while
Andrew Bynum continued to blossom with a career-high 18 points and nine boards
as the Lakers rallied from a slow start to shock Phoenix, 114-106, at the
Staples Center.

Bryant, who missed the game with soreness in his surgically repaired right
knee, was all smiles in the second and third quarters when the Lakers erased
all of a 15-point deficit and turned it into an eight-point edge.

New Laker Maurice Evans had 17 points and Luke Walton donated 11 points for
Los Angeles, which has knocked off Phoenix two straight times in the regular
season after losing seven straight in the series.

The Suns rallied from a 3-1 deficit to stun the Lakers in the first round of
the Western Conference playoffs last season.

Leandro Barbosa led Phoenix with 30 points, Shawn Marion added 16 points and
Steve Nash had his typical complete night with 15 points and 13 assists in the
loss.

The Suns shot 51.9 percent from the floor, made 13 three-pointers and
converted 13-of-17 from the charity stripe, but again failed to show
improvement in two troubling areas from last season — team defense and
turnovers.

Phoenix turned the ball over 21 times and allowed the Lakers to shoot 55.4
percent for the game.

“Good offense leads to good defense,” Odom said of forcing 21 turnovers.
“That’s what we practice. That’s what we preach.”

The Lakers slowly inched closer after narrowing the gap by the half, finally
seizing the lead, 59-58, on Walton’s layup that capped a quick 6-0 spurt out
of the locker room.

A 16-2 burst later in the stanza opened a double-digit lead for Los Angeles.
Odom started it all with a three-point play, Bynum made two deft post moves
for easy buckets while Evans and Jordan Farmar also chipped in during the
stretch.

Los Angeles led 87-79 after three stanzas.

Phoenix kept firing — and missing — in the fourth as the Lakers maintained
the status quo from the previous period. Barbosa’s three-pointer with 1:29
remaining cut the deficit to 110-103, but Bynum hit a contested short jumper
with just over one minute left to push the edge back to nine and end any hope
of a comeback.

The Suns were flying high in the opening quarter, pouring in 41 points to take
a 15-point edge. Phoenix used a 12-2 burst during the midst of the onslaught
to seize a 30-14 advantage. Four different players scored for the Suns with
Amare Stoudemire’s hook shot capping the stretch.

Another quick spurt — this one a 7-0 stretch capped by Barbosa’s rain-making
three — gave the Suns a 39-20 advantage in the waning stages of the quarter.

The second stanza began to shift the momentum toward the Lakers. A stiffer
defensive effort and a 10-4 burst to close the half brought the Lakers within
58-53. Evans had two buckets and Bynum converted a three-point play — a sign
of things to come — during the half-ending stretch.

Game Notes

The Lakers held a 43-29 edge on the boards…Bryant will not play Wednesday in
Golden State…Phoenix has dropped seven of its last eight season
openers…The Lakers have won four straight season-opening games.

LAL PHO