Final

Regular Season Series (Game 3 of 4)

Series starts 10/29

Game 1: Friday, October 29th
Lakers114Final
Suns106
Game 2: Sunday, November 14th
Suns121Final
Lakers116
Game 3: Wednesday, January 5th
Lakers99Final
Suns95
Game 4: Tuesday, March 22nd
Suns137Final
3OT
Lakers139

Lakers 99

(25-11, 13-6 away)

Suns 95

(14-19, 8-8 home)

Coverage: ESPN/WatchESPN

10:30 PM ET, January 5, 2011

US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ

1 2 3 4 T
LAL 31 18 31 1999
PHX 24 26 23 2295

Top Performers

Los Angeles: K. Bryant 24 Pts, 7 Reb, 5 Ast, 1 Stl

Phoenix: J. Dudley 21 Pts, 6 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Stl

Lakers-Suns Preview

STATS LLC

Kobe Bryant knows how to motivate the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers, but coach Phil Jackson still wants to see further improvement.

A visit to the struggling Phoenix Suns could help.

The Lakers look to build on one of their best performances in nearly three weeks when they face the Suns on Wednesday night.

Los Angeles (24-11) is trying to turn around a sluggish 3-4 stretch that has seen its losses come by an average of 17.3 points, including a stunning 104-85 home loss to Memphis on Sunday.

The Lakers bounced back in impressive fashion Tuesday, beating Detroit 108-83 after Bryant gave his teammates some advice in dealing with the growing criticisms of the two-time reigning NBA champions.

"I told the guys, 'Listen to how everyone is talking about you. You have to use it as fuel for motivation,'" Bryant said. "It's early, we just continue to play, take our time. The playoffs aren't tomorrow."

Jackson feels there's still more work to do for Los Angeles to turn things around. However, the Lakers' struggles haven't done much damage to their lead atop the Pacific Division -- 8 1/2 games ahead of second-place Phoenix (14-18).

"We have to really turn it around," Jackson said. "One game is not the end of this situation."

Continued success in the defensive end could go a long way in spurring Los Angeles. The team held the Pistons to 3 for 13 shooting from 3-point range while forcing 19 turnovers that led to 25 points -- 17 more than Sunday.

Bryant is getting closer to another milestone after his 17 points Tuesday moved him past Dominique Wilkins into 10th on the NBA's career scoring list with 26,671. The 12-time All-Star is 39 points shy of Oscar Robertson in ninth place.

Bryant has reached 40 points once this season, getting 41 in a loss to Indiana on Nov. 28. He topped that plateau eight times last season, including seven by this stage.

Bryant is averaging 29.9 points in his last seven meetings with Phoenix, and the Lakers have won 10 of the last 14 matchups.

They won 114-106 in their last visit to US Airways Center on Oct. 29 behind 25 points from Bryant.

The Suns have dropped nine of 12 while giving up an average of 105.2 points over that span. That's actually an improvement from the 108.4 points per game they're surrendering on the season.

Phoenix has been much better defensively over the last two games, allowing 40.6 percent shooting -- 28.1 from 3-point range. However, the Suns have just one win to show for that improvement as they followed Friday's 92-75 win over Detroit with a 94-89 loss at Sacramento on Sunday.

That defeat came despite a perfect shooting performance from Steve Nash, who was 8 of 8 from the field -- including a pair of 3s. He also hit both free throws to finish with 20 points and 12 assists against the Kings.

Nash wasn't close to being that productive in the most recent home meeting with the Lakers, making 3 of 9 shots for eight points while dishing out nine assists. He was much better at Los Angeles in a 121-116 win on Nov. 14, scoring 21 points with 13 assists.

Vince Carter is averaging 18.0 points over three games since being acquired from Orlando as part of a six-player deal last month. The swingman scored 25 points for the Magic in a win over the Lakers on March 7.

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