PHOENIX — The Lakers took a significant stride tonight toward regaining their championship swagger. OK, maybe they just took a halting step toward playing more like a team that might challenge for a title. Whatever it was, they played with far more fire and determination than in recent games. They took the lead over the Suns near the end of the first half and held it most of the rest of the way. Kobe Bryant scored 21 points to lead five Lakers in double figures. He also had 10 rebounds, eight assists and seven turnovers. He blamed the turnovers on his broken right index finger. “I can’t hold the ball. It’s a little frustrating,” he said. Amare Stoudemire led Phoenix by scoring 19 of his 29 in the first half.
“Our execution wasn’t so great,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “I thought we tried to do some things that were beyond our level, running out and shooting 3s on fastbreaks, but the effort was there. … We were aggressive and guys stayed aggressive out there.”
Said Bryant: “We just took what they gave us. … I think, all in all, we attacked wherever they put two guys. Wherever they double(-teamed) us, we did a good job spacing out (the floor), making shots, shot the 3 pretty well. Defensively, we were very solid.”