Los Angeles: Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers gave their fans a taste of the “Showtime” basketball promised by their new coach Mike D’Antoni with a rousing 114-102 home win over the Phoenix Suns on Friday.
Though D’Antoni was not courtside to take charge of his first game as he recovers from knee replacement surgery earlier this month, his players thrived with the up-tempo approach as they posted their highest score of the season.
Five-time NBA champion Bryant scored a game-high 31 points, centre Dwight Howard contributed 18 points and 12 rebounds and Spanish forward Pau Gasol also recorded a double-double, with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Metta World Peace poured in five-of-10 three pointers to finish with 22 points and Jordan Hill, off the bench, also reached double figures with 10.
Guard Goran Dragic led the way for the Suns with 22 points and forward Luis Scola weighed in with 18 but the visitors paid the price after being out-rebounded 48-38.
“We’re just getting started, but it will make a lot of things easier,” Bryant told reporters of the strategy already instilled in the team by D’Antoni after his first practice session with them the previous day.
“The whole offense has to find their position. He (D’Antoni) knows how to direct his offense and he’s been directing it for a long time. The main thing is it’s very simple.”
The Lakers dominated free throws, making 22-of-28 compared to just seven-of 15-by the Suns.
“We made shots tonight,” six-time All-Star Howard said. “Metta was on fire, Kobe hit some tough shots and we got to the free-throw line a lot. When we do that, we win.”
D’Antoni, appointed as Lakers coach on Monday after his predecessor Mike Brown was fired three days earlier, watched Friday’s action approvingly from the team locker room.
The Memphis Grizzlies, meanwhile, handed the New York Knicks their first defeat of the NBA season on Friday, another big win in their impressive early campaign.
Zach Randolph had 20 points and 15 rebounds and Marc Gasol added 24 points and seven rebounds as the Grizzlies beat the Knicks 105-95.
Rudy Gay scored 17 points and Mike Conley chipped in 16 points with eight assists for Memphis, who are perfect since a season-opening loss to the Los Angeles Clippers and improved to a league-leading 7-1.
The triumph comes on the heels of a 104-86 victory over reigning NBA champions Miami on Sunday and a 107-97 victory over last season’s Western Conference champion Thunder in Oklahoma City on Wednesday.
The Knicks, who went into the contest as the league’s only unbeaten team and off to their first 6-0 start since 1993, were led by Carmelo Anthony’s 20 points.
New York shot a creditable 51 per cent from the floor, but the Grizzlies’ 12 offensive rebounds led to a 10-point advantage in second-chance points.
Memphis took firm control with a 19-1 scoring run in the third quarter, building a 77-56 lead.
The Knicks let the frustration get the better of them, with Anthony, Rasheed Wallace and coach Mike Woodson assessed technical fouls and J.R. Smith whistled for a flagrant foul in the third.