LOS ANGELES - What did Leandro Barbosa learn Sunday when it came to guarding Kobe Bryant? “I learned that you can’t touch him,” Barbosa said.
With no Raja Bell around to chase Bryant on Sunday, Barbosa learned his lesson the hard way. He committed three fouls in the first half — all on Bryant — and three more in a 1:41 span of the fourth quarter. He got the last two just four seconds apart and fouled out with 9:33 left in the game.
Bryant went to the line 23 times Sunday and made 20 — one shy of the franchise record for a Suns opponent (Atlanta’s John Drew made 21 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum on April 5, 1977). He went to the line 10 times in the second period alone, when the constant whistles slowed the game to a crawl.
“You touch his hand, it’s a foul. You touch his back, it’s a foul. If he runs you over, it’s a foul,” Barbosa said. “Raja is much better on defense than me, I know that, and I don’t think some of the fouls called on me would have been called on Raja.”
But Bryant’s 43 points is right at the 42.3 he’s averaged all season against the Suns.
Barbosa missed five of his first seven shots from the field but finished 6-for-13 and scored 16 points. Going 6-for-18 from 3-point range over the past two games likely cost him a chance to lead the league in long-distance percentage.
“I feel tired, I’m not going to lie,” he said. “But I’m young and this is good for me because I can learn a lot about what they do and get ready for the playoffs. We’ll be ready.”
Lakers coach Phil Jackson was disappointed that the Suns didn’t field a full lineup Sunday because, since the Lakers’ first three games with Phoenix was on the back end of back-to-back games, he felt his team hasn’t had time to focus on them as an opponent.
“We feel like we haven’t had a legitimate game against them this season to really plot out, plan out and prep out the game,’’ he said. “This is one game we’ve had time to explore. But that’s OK; hopefully we’ll have chances here in the future.”
BACK TO THE RANGE
Brian Grant said he felt good after playing 18 minutes against the Lakers. But his shot — he was 0-for-2 Sunday and 2-for-6 in nine minutes Friday in Oakland — is still in need of rehabbing.
“I have a lot of one-on-one gym time coming up in the evenings over the next week,” Grant said “I have to put up 200-300 shots a night and get my stroke back. From 15-17 feet out, if I get a wide-open shot, I have to know it’s money. Right now I don’t feel that way. Before I went down (to knee surgery in early December), I knew it was going in.”
Bryant’s 43-point effort was the eighth time the Suns allowed a player to score at least 40 points in a game this season Bryant (51 and 43) and LeBron James of Cleveland (46 and 44) have done it twice each while Carmelo Anthony (43), Ray Allen (42), Gilbert Arenas (41) and Paul Pierce (40 ) did it once each. The Suns are 3-5 in the eight games. . . .
Diaw’s four triple-doubles in one season ties him for sixth place in franchise history. Jason Kidd had seven in a season twice (2000-01 and once in the 50-game, strike-shortened season of 1998-99), Charles Barkley had six (1992-93) and Kidd (1997-98) and Alvan Adams (1975-76) had five. Diaw is now tied with Kidd (1999-00) at four. . . .
Diaw shares a birthday with Hall of Famer and Lakers assistant coach Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who celebrated his 58th at Staples Center and was offered a huge round of applause when shown on the video screen. Steve Nash didn’t get the same treatment. He was booed loudly when he was shown sitting on the bench, and reciprocated with a smile and a wave. . . .
Jackson on the Suns’ offense: “We have to find a way to make them play our game. They’re a team that plays at such a high rate of possessions that (consultant) Tex (Winter) ran out of paper in the first quarter. It’s a higher pace and a higher fatigue rate.”