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Suns 125, Lakers 105: Brown, Redd And Ugly All Over

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It's hard to remember now, but the Lakers actually held a lead in this game. About a minute into the second quarter, starting two guard Devin Ebanks (!) dropped in a fast-break layup off a feed from Matt Barnes to give the Lakers a nine-point cushion over the host Suns. I understand if you don't believe me. For an hour and a half after the Lake Show hit its momentary apex, the Suns took turns working on their shooting form, raining three after three on a Laker defense that seems to be getting worse by the minute. When the buzzer sounded on a not particularly enjoyable Saturday night, the Suns were proud owners of a 20-point beatdown. 125 to 105 is your final score.

About Ebanks: he started tonight because Kobe Bryant sat out with a sore left shin. The injury doesn't sound concerning in the big picture, and frankly there are worse developments at this point of the season than Kobe getting a little rest. He spent the game in a sharply styled suit and a watch that looked like it cost 80 grand and was constructed from a melted-down battle tank. Why start Ebanks in his place and not someone who, say, has been a regular part of the rotation? No idea. But Devin was all right (12 points, four rebounds). The same could be said of almost nobody else in purple and gold.

Let's get the excuses out of the way first. This is one tired-ass Lakers team. Tonight was their sixth game in eight days, and Kobe's decision to sit it out marked it as not exactly a must-win. Schedule losses are real, and I think it's fair to throw this evening's debacle into that category.

That said, it was all far uglier than it had any right to be. The offensive numbers look OK thanks to sweet shooting by Pau Gasol (30 points, 13 rebounds) and another weirdly effective game from Metta World Peace (19 points on 8-for-10 shooting). Andrew Bynum, fresh off his latest drama, scored 23, albeit inefficiently. Scoring wasn't really the issue, unlike the Lakers' butt-awful defense.

Just gonna throw out a few numbers to put things into proper scale: the Suns needed only 94 possessions to pile up 125 points. According to my computer machine, this averages out to 1.33 points per trip. I'm confident I don't need to tell you this was the Lakers' worst defensive performance of the season by far. Remember Game Four of the Dallas sweep last spring? In that game the Mavs scored 1.33 points per possession. Defense this bad comes around about once a year. At least I hope it's just once a year.

Even when they're rested and healthy the Lakers don't do much to disrupt opponents' offensive flow. Make them play nonstop for a week and then take away Kobe Bryant and this is what you get: three forced turnovers. That's it. Three turnovers committed by the Suns in 94 possessions. It's a record low both for the Suns and for a Laker opponent. When people talk about the Lakers being a good defensive team, they're mainly just (a) internalizing Mike Brown's reputation as a defensive coach without actually examining the results from this season, and/or (b) focusing overmuch on opponents' field-goal percentage. Tonight notwithstanding, the Lakers are indeed pretty good at forcing misses, but they give back a big chunk of those gains by letting opponents get a shot off every time down the floor. It's a problem that's been getting worse as the season wears on. Would you say it's possible for an NBA team to commit zero turnovers in a game? I feel like we may see it happen in the next couple weeks.

Had Shannon Brown been re-signed by the Lakers this past offseason, he would've started tonight in Kobe's place. He wasn't, though, so he was free to put on a Suns uniform and destroy his former team. The man we used to call UPS scored 24 points on 19 shots. Michael Redd, who's so old the password to his CompuServe email account is "password," made 4 of 10 threes and scored 23. Shannon, Redd and Sebastian Telfair combined for 60 points and zero turnovers. Let that sink in for a second.

More good news: we get to worry about the Clippers again! Left for dead earlier this week, our dorky little brothers have picked up a few W's to climb back within half a game. And the Grizzlies are only two back, so it remains possible that the Lakers won't have home court in the first round. Fun fun fun.










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Follow Dex on Twitter @dexterfishmore.