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Lakers suffer worst loss of season; Bryant out

By Kevin Ding, The Orange County Register –

PHOENIX — Kobe Bryant was injured and didn’t play, which only drew the spotlight away from the longer-term problem for the Lakers:

Their defensive improvement, which Coach Mike Brown promised and delivered most of this season, keeps slipping away.

The Lakers lost to the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night, allowing a season high in points in a 125-105 result that stands as the Lakers’ worst loss of the season. The previous largest margin of loss was 15 points at Oklahoma City on Feb. 23.

“We haven’t quite figured out how to play at this new pace that we’re playing at and defend at the same time,” said Brown, citing the Lakers’ increased speed and output on offense.

Forcing turnovers is not a must in Brown’s system — and the Suns committed only three, the fewest forced in a game in Lakers history. Contesting shots is a Brown staple, however, and Phoenix got too much of what it wanted, including a Lakers opponent season-high 14 3-pointers on 29 attempts.

Pau Gasol scored a season-high 30 points on 14-of-25 shooting, and Metta World Peace continued his offensive improvement with 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting.

Center Andrew Bynum came out aggressively seeking redemption for his ejection in the Lakers’ loss Friday night but only set a record for shots taken, surpassing his career high for field-goal attempts by three with 27. He made just 10.

Bryant was announced as not playing just before game time because of a sore left shin, and the suit-clad Bryant was available for an amiable chat at halftime with two Suns: Michael Redd, a longtime peer at shooting guard in the NBA, and Shannon Brown, who left the Lakers after last season.

Redd tore up the Lakers in the second quarter, and Brown did in the third. Redd (23 points) and Brown (24) each hit four 3-point shots in the game while the entire Lakers team shot 1 for 9 on 3-pointers.

“We started playing into their hands, shooting shots a little quicker,” Gasol said.

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