Lakers drop Suns with D'Antoni ready to take over
Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) - A new coach is finally in place for the Lakers, but Mike D'Antoni and his crutches were unable to make it back to the sideline in time for a reunion against the team where he rose to prominence.
Instead, D'Antoni will make his debut Sunday.
Kobe Bryant netted 31 points in the Lakers' 114-102 victory over the Phoenix Suns.
Metta World Peace had 22 points, Dwight Howard tallied 18 points and 12 rebounds and Pau Gasol added 16 points and 10 boards for Los Angeles, which has won three of its four contests under interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff since a 1-4 start forced Mike Brown out of town.
The 61-year-old D'Antoni, who recently underwent knee surgery, watched the game from the locker room.
He made his mark as Steve Nash's coach and guided Phoenix from a 29-win squad -- D'Antoni won 21 of those games after taking over for Frank Johnson -- in 2003-04 to a 62-win team the following year.
D'Antoni was named NBA's coach of the year award in 2005, when the Suns fell in five games to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals.
He compiled a 253-136 mark over five seasons with Phoenix.
Goran Dragic recorded 22 points and seven assists for the Suns, who have dropped three of their last four games.
The Lakers jumped out to a 35-30 lead after a quarter of play and took a 62-57 advantage into the locker room.
Bryant poured in 11 points in the third stanza and the home team led, 92-84, after three.
The margin swelled to as many as 16 in the fourth for Los Angeles.
The Suns held a 64-48 points in the paints disparity ... Los Angeles won the rebounding battle, 48-38 ... Michael Beasley registered a career-high nine assists for Phoenix.