LOS ANGELES — If the Phoenix Suns fail to make the NBA playoffs, they will kick themselves about Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Center Chris Kaman scored a season-high 28 points and pulled down 17 rebounds, helping the Lakers surprise the Suns 115-99 at Staples Center.
The loss ended a six-game winning streak for the Suns (44-30), who dropped into a tie with the idle Dallas Mavericks (44-30) for the No. 7 spot in the Western Conference playoff race. The Memphis Grizzlies (43-3) trail both the Suns and Mavericks by a half-game after losing Sunday at Portland.
Phoenix, which had won four in a row over the Lakers, lost for the first time in four meetings with Los Angeles this season.
“Our defense was terrible,” said Phoenix guard Goran Dragic, who finished with 17 points, five rebounds and four assists. “They made that run that killed us. We didn’t know how to stop them.”
Kaman, who also had six assists, fell a point shy of reaching his career high, which he achieved against the Houston Rockets in December 2009. Against Phoenix, Kaman shot 13-for-19 from the floor.
“I missed two (shots) early on and I thought ‘Hey, it could go either way,’ and then I hit some more and it felt good,” said Kaman, who scored 18 first-half points.
Guard Jodie Meeks added 22 points on the night, and forward Ryan Kelly came off the bench to score 17 for the Lakers, but Meeks gave much of the credit to Kaman for the win.
“He’s a professional,” said Meeks, who hit six of nine shots from the field and nine of 10 free throws. “Obviously, he hasn’t gotten a lot of (playing) time, and I’m sure he’s been frustrated, but every time his number has been called, he’s played well, especially tonight. He did a great job of leading us to a win tonight against a good team.”
The Lakers (25-48) used a 21-4 run, including a 17-0 spurt at one point, in the second quarter to take a 61-43 advantage at the half. Meeks was the catalyst, scoring 11 points in the quarter. Phoenix went almost five minutes without a field goal.
In the third quarter, Los Angeles continued to hammer away. The Lakers increased the lead to 83-57 after a three-point play by Meeks before the Suns rallied with a 17-6 run to end the quarter trailing 89-74.
Phoenix failed to get any closer than 11 the rest of the way.
“(Kaman) just backed our guys down and shot the ball into the hole,” Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek said. “We didn’t put enough resistance on him, then guys didn’t come to dig it out quick enough, and we were just slow all night.
“These are games for us that are important because our schedule gets a lot harder after this. We play all the top teams now in the next six or seven games, so that’s why this game was (important). You’ve going to have bad nights when things aren’t going right, but for it to happen in a game like this, when you have to win (that’s bad).”
Guard Gerald Green scored 22 points to lead the Suns, while reserve forward Markieff Morris had 16 points and 12 rebounds and reserve forward Marcus Morris chipped in 15 points and six rebounds.
Phoenix had a miserable shooting night on 3-pointers, missing 28 of its 36 attempts. Overall, the Suns shot 38.5 percent (35-for-91) compared to 53 percent for the Lakers (44-for-83).
The Lakers again played without center Pau Gasol, who missed his fourth consecutive contest because of vertigo.
NOTES: Lakers G Xavier Henry missed his second consecutive game due to a sore right knee. … Phoenix shot only 25 percent (7-for-28), including 0-for-9 from behind the arc, in the first quarter compared to 45.5 percent (10-for-22) for Los Angeles. … The Suns, who host the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday, have five of their remaining eight regular-season games on the road, including stops at Portland (Friday), New Orleans (April 9), San Antonio (April 11), Dallas (April 12) and Sacramento (April 16). The game against the Kings is the regular-season finale. … Los Angeles hosts the Trail Blazers on Tuesday. … The Lakers have allowed at least 130 points, including a season-high 143 to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday, five times this month. … Phoenix fell to 9-17 when trailing at halftime.
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