NBA : Bynum blots out Suns : Center returns and scores 26 points to help blow away Nash & Co. while Lakers take over first place. / LAKERS 121, PHOENIX 102


The Phoenix Suns came into town with their flashy record, their rejuvenated point guard and their rekindled run-and-fun offense.

The Lakers didn’t even care.

What was supposed to be a burner turned into a bore, the Lakers yawning and stretching in the fourth quarter of a 121-102 victory Thursday at Staples Center.

Still without Pau Gasol, the Lakers (7-1) led by as many as 27 and passed the Suns (8-2) for the best record in the Western Conference.


The Suns came into the game averaging a league-best 112.3 points and left with an obvious problem on their hands whenever they play the Lakers. It’s about 7 feet tall.

Andrew Bynum came back from a two-game layoff and belted the Suns’ smallish front line, scoring 26 points and taking 15 rebounds, his sore right arm obviously feeling fine as he made 13 of 18 shots, including some alley-oop dunks.

Bynum hadn’t played in eight days, but there was no way to prove it, other than a quick look at his free-throw shooting: 0 for 3.

As if it mattered.

Bynum wasn’t entirely pain free, but he looked fresh.

“It gave me a chance to get my legs, right?” Bynum said of his break. “It gave me some rest. I was practicing the last two days and felt OK, felt good enough to play. I’m in a little bit of pain now. . . . Hopefully everything will be good in the morning.”

Kobe Bryant had 29 points, Lamar Odom came close to a triple-double with eight points, 12 rebounds and seven assists, and Lakers Coach Phil Jackson tied Larry Brown for fifth in career NBA victories. Jackson is now 1,048-436; Brown is 1,048-851.

Tough to argue with any of the numbers in the Lakers’ biggest test to date.

The Suns had been a surprising 5-1 on the road, including a 110-103 victory at Boston last Friday. They were apparently back to their burn-the-scoreboard ways of a couple of years ago, with 35-year-old Steve Nash averaging a league-best 12.6 assists a game.

Then they stalled out on the second night of a back-to-back situation. Nash had 13 points and five assists. Amare Stoudemire had a paltry eight points and five rebounds, while making two of 15 shots.

In the really bad news for Phoenix, Jackson said beforehand that the Lakers weren’t entirely comfortable with themselves.

“I think we’re playing kind of a patch-it-together game,” he said. “We’re not using the full access of our players and our offense right now. Kobe’s just kind of taken the game in hand right now, just putting his imprint on it right from the start, which is OK. That’s all right for this particular period of time, but this is not who we are.”

Whoever they are, they’re pretty solid.

The Lakers had 78 points in the paint and made 57.6% of their shots. The Suns shot 36.5%.

“We kind of disturbed their rhythm a little bit,” Bynum said. “They weren’t just freely passing the ball everywhere. Offensively, we pounded it on the inside. We were able to score 78 in the paint. That’s tough for anybody to combat.”

Josh Powell was again productive off the bench, finishing with 14 points and seven rebounds.

The big story, however, was Bynum.

In the first half alone, he had 16 points and nine rebounds as the Lakers took a 59-45 lead. He finished with his fifth double-double in six games.

Gasol sat out his eighth consecutive game because of a strained right hamstring and will not be with the team for tonight’s game in Denver.

He might not be missed if Bynum keeps playing this way.