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Suns Strokes: Phoenix rides strong second half to win over Lakers, season sweep
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Suns Strokes: Phoenix rides strong second half to win over Lakers, season sweep

Monday’s game was far from perfect, but as the saying goes, “A win is a win.”

The Phoenix Suns have gone a perfect 4-for-4 against the Los Angeles Lakers, sweeping the season series for the first time in 10 years.

Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas each scored 24 points, while Eric Bledsoe added 17 in a 115-100 victory in front of 17,435 at US Airways Center.

Thomas’ 24 was a season-high.

Leading by 19 midway through the fourth quarter, the Suns (25-18) watched Nick Young hit four straight 3s as the Lakers pulled to within six. But order was quickly restored with a Dragic five-foot floater and fast break layup, jump starting a 9-0 run to close out their third straight win and season-best sixth straight home victory.

It also marked the Suns 100th all-time win against the Lakers (12-30), who dropped their fifth straight, including their second in a row without Kobe Bryant — who was given the night off.

Bryant did not even make the trip to Phoenix.

The Suns three featured point guards combined for 65 points, 15 rebounds, 16 assists and nine steals, helping the team improve to 3-0 on its franchise-record eight-game homestand.

THE GOOD

Alex Len got off to a hot start with four points (all free throws), three rebounds, two blocks and a steal in the game’s first seven minutes. He finished the game with six points, six rebounds and three blocks.

Early foul trouble for Bledsoe and Markieff Morris — who each picked up two in the game’s first eight minutes — forced Hornacek to go deep into his bench, using a 10-man rotation in the first quarter. An all-reserve lineup closed the quarter on a 7-3 run to erase a four-point deficit and tie the game at 26.

Thomas scored 11 of his 13 first-half points in the second quarter, putting him in double figures for the first time in three games. He hit three 3s, the third of which highlighted a 7-3 run — with all three point guards on the floor — to close the quarter and tie the game at 51.

Halftime could not slow down Dragic, who after a 16-point first half, had four points and three assists in the first seven minutes of the third quarter. He accounted for 12 points, assisting on a pair of 3s by Morris and P.J. Tucker.

With the game tied at 60, Bledsoe hit a 3. He made a layup on the very next possession, and the Suns slowly started to pull away. Bledsoe added another 3 and layup plus a pair of free throws for a 12-point third quarter. He also had four assists that accounted for eight points, meaning he had a hand in 20 of the Suns’ 36 total points in the third.

Gerald Green hit back-to-back 3s, which were then followed by 3s from Marcus Morris and Thomas, to push the Suns’ lead to 19, 105-86, with 6:31 to play. The Suns hit five of their 13 3s in the fourth quarter and went 8-of-17 from beyond the arc in the second half.

The Suns shot 50 percent (43-of-86) from the field, improving to 34-1 when shooting at least 50 percent in the last two seasons.

The Suns improved to 13-4 in their last 17 games since implementing the starting lineup of Bledsoe, Dragic, Tucker, Markieff Morris and Len.

THE BAD

An overly aggressive Suns team — or whistle-happy officiating crew — sent the Lakers to the free throw line 13 times in the first quarter. They made nine, which were two more than the Suns attempted as a team.

Jordan Hill and Wayne Ellington took turns hitting back-to-back shots during a 13-5 second-quarter run that saw the Lakers take their largest lead of the half, 46-40, at 3:42. Ellington punctuated the offensive outburst with a 25-foot 3-pointer. He and Ed Davis each scored seven points in the first half.

The Lakers started playing like the Lakers — you know, like the second-worst team in the Western Conference — in the third quarter when they turned the ball over seven times, leading to eight Suns points. And despite shooting 57.9 percent (11-of-19) in the period, they found themselves down 10 after three quarters — 87-77.

Young scored 16 straight fourth-quarter points, hitting four 3s. The fourth made 3 was a four-point play after he was fouled by Markieff Morris, capping a 12-0 run in which the Lakers trimmed a 19-point deficit to seven, 105-98 at 4:05. Young finished the game with a team-high 24 points.

STAT OF THE GAME

65: The number of points scored by the Suns’ backcourt trio, which accounted for 56.5 percent of the team’s total points.

HE SAID IT

“The three guards played tremendous tonight,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “Eric especially in the second half. He got the two fouls in the first, (which) kind of kept him slow. But what did they end up, 25-for-38 from the field? So those three guys were good. Our other guys, we didn’t have great nights by some of the other guys, but they were still solid.”

NOTED

– The first quarter featured nine lead changes and eight ties.

– Boxer — and a good friend of Thomas — Floyd Mayweather Jr. attended the game, sitting courtside near the Lakers bench.

– Bledsoe entered the game as one of just three players this season — along with Houston’s James Harden and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook — to be averaging at least 15.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.5 steals.

– Just hours after he helped the Bakersfield Jam become the first-ever winners of the NBA Development League Showcase Cup, Archie Goodwin, who was named tournament MVP for averaging 23.3 points in three games, rejoined the Suns, sitting second row in street clothes.

UP NEXT

The longest homestand in franchise history hits the halfway point with a visit by the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, Jan. 21. It’s the first of three meetings, including two in Phoenix.

Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

The Suns and Blazers split the season series a year ago, with each team winning two games and the Suns winning the last matchup 109-93 in Portland behind Green’s 32 points and Bledsoe’s career-high 30.

Overall, the Suns have won six of the last eight and eight of the last 11 in the series.