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11/17/2012 2:13 AM EST
Up-tempo Lakers race to 114-102 win over Phoenix
LA LAKERS 114, PHOENIX 102

By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Mike D'Antoni spoke to the Los Angeles Lakers
before the game and then retired to the training room, getting
treatment on his surgically replaced knee. After a few more
words at halftime, D'Antoni went to the players' lounge to watch
the second half.



Although it's not the easiest way to take charge of an NBA team,
the Lakers are pretty sure their new coach was pleased by what
he saw from a short distance.



Kobe Bryant had 31 points, Metta World Peace hit five 3-pointers
while scoring 22 points, and the Lakers played D'Antoni's style
of up-tempo basketball in a 114-102 victory over the Phoenix
Suns on Friday night.



Dwight Howard had 18 points and 12 rebounds as the Lakers
improved to 3-1 under interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff, who
filled in because D'Antoni wasn't quite ready for sideline duty
while recovering from surgery earlier this month. The Lakers
don't have D'Antoni's offense figured out after just one
practice, but they played with an aggression and urgency they
had lacked during their early season stumbles.



The result was more than Phoenix could handle.



"That really is his offense, for us to kind of read each other
and react to each other, kind of go out there and play on the
fly," Bryant said. "He has certain things that he wants to put
in that gives us some framework to try to get some easy
opportunities, but for the most part, he wants us to go out
there and play."



Even though it happened against the defensively questionable
Suns, the Lakers quickly lived up to D'Antoni's bold Thursday
prediction about their offensive capabilities: "If we're not
scoring 110, 115 points, we need to talk."



Los Angeles took charge of an entertaining game with a 17-2 run
spanning the final two quarters led by Bryant and Jordan Hill.
The Lakers surpassed 100 points with 9:26 to play on a
three-point play by Howard, who is widely expected to thrive in
a pick-and-roll offense.



While World Peace relished his 3-point attempts, Pau Gasol
scored 12 points on a series of spot-up jumpers in the first
quarter before finishing with 16 points and 10 rebounds.



"Not as many post-ups," Gasol said in describing the offense.
"More transition and quicker shots, I guess. Also against a team
that plays that pace, it helps your offense, let's say. ... We
played pretty simple basketball and just played off each other."



D'Antoni is still on crutches after surgery earlier this month,
but he's expected to debut on the Lakers' bench Sunday night
against Houston. Bickerstaff pledged to run elements of the new
coach's offensive sets against the Suns, who still follow many
of D'Antoni's tenets under coach Alvin Gentry.



The night was a pleasure for Bickerstaff, who joined fired coach
Mike Brown's staff in September and then agreed to preside over
the transition period.



The veteran coach's .750 winning percentage with the Lakers
"will get me a Popsicle," Bickerstaff said.



"I (think) it would be a footnote, and it would be something
that's in history that maybe my grandkids can talk about," added
Bickerstaff, who hasn't said whether D'Antoni will keep him
around. "It's all fun, and that's what life is about. Don't take
yourself too seriously, and enjoy the ride."



Goran Dragic scored 22 points for the Suns, who have lost three
of four.



Luis Scola scored 18 points, while Michael Beasley added 14
points and a career-high nine assists. The game is Phoenix's
only road contest in a six-game stretch through Thanksgiving,
but the Suns must rush home to face defending champion Miami on
Saturday night.



"That team is in another area as to where we are and where we're
trying to get to," Gentry said. "They've got much bigger fish to
fry, and we've got to get ourselves to the point where we become
significant again. And the only way to do that is to be
consistent."



Steve Nash missed his seventh straight game for the Lakers with
a small fracture in his left leg, keeping him out of his first
potential matchup with the franchise with which he spent the
past eight seasons, winning two NBA MVP awards and reaching two
Western Conference finals with D'Antoni on the bench.



During the third quarter, the Lakers announced Nash will miss at
least another week before getting re-examined next weekend. The
Lakers are in the midst of a heavy slate of games, meaning the
point guard is likely to miss 12 straight games before the
Lakers' next projection on his return.



The results of D'Antoni's arrival seemed obvious from the
opening quarter, when the Lakers scored 35 points and ran the
court with an urgency they haven't consistently shown in years.
Both teams traded significant runs in the second quarter, with
the Lakers taking a 62-57 lead at halftime after closing with a
12-2 surge.



"We gave ourselves a chance, but we had a lot of unforced
turnovers," said Jermaine O'Neal, who scored 12 points. "They
capitalized on the turnovers that we had in that one spurt in
the third, and they scored in transition. That was the
difference-maker."



NOTES: The Suns have trailed by double digits in nine of their
10 games this season. ... Eddie Murphy, Andy Garcia, Los Angeles
Kings forwards Jarret Stoll and Trevor Lewis, and "2 Broke
Girls" stars Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs attended the game.

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