Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 1/31/13
PHOENIX Steve Nash left a loser in his return to Phoenix. The Phoenix Suns, down 13 points in the third quarter, chipped away at the lead, helped by the fumble-fingered Lakers, then pulled the game out at the end with a 92-86 win Wednesday night at U.S. Airways Center. Michael Beasley broke an 86-86 tie with a driving layup with 44 seconds left. Then Kobe Bryant missed on a drive of his own. The Suns (16-30) hit their free throws to seal it. The Lakers (20-26), who committed 20 turnovers, saw their modest three-game win streak broken while extending their road losing skid to eight. Nash's game wasn't the same as when he played with the Suns. Bryant, his Los Angeles Lakers' teammate, continued to do much of the ball distribution in the Lakers' loss. Bryant had 17 points and nine assists. Nash had 11 points and two assists. Nash, asked if he should do more of the ball-handling, said, "I think I can help. Those are thing we still need to work out. "We got stagnant," Nash said. "That caused turnovers." The loss would seem to be crushing for a team desperately trying to generate enough momentum to at least contend for one of the final playoff spots. But Bryant professed not to be overly concerned. "This is not like earlier in the year," he said "This is different. We're playing well." The Lakers' Dwight Howard (nine points, 14 boards) had to leave the game in the fourth quarter with continuing shoulder problems after the ball was slapped out of his hands. Bryant, saying he has had to play with shoulder ailments, said, "When you get banged, you're going to get that stinger sensation. After a while, you get used to playing with it." Beasley, in his best game for the Suns, had a season-high 27 points. "I just did what the team allowed me to do," Beasley said. The Suns now are 3-2 under new coach Lindsey Hunter. Beasley, who had been a disappointment, is averaging 18.2 points and shooting 53 percent under Hunter. "Michael Beasley was incredible," said Hunter, who added he is simply taking a positive attitude toward Beasley. "He wants to please you. He wants to do the right thing. (I'm telling him, "If you make a mistake, don't look to the sideline. On to the next play." The Lakers seemed to break the game open -- the teams were tied, 41-41 at halftime -- in the third quarter, with Metta World Peace and Nash nailing 3-pointers, Howard hitting a pair of inside hoops, then World Peace scored on a layup to give the Lakers a decisive 64-51 lead. The Suns gradually battled back, though, with Jared Dudley hitting a 3-pointer to tie the game, 82-82, with 3:37 left. The Suns, who hadn't played since Sunday night, seemed more energized at the start (the Lakers had won Tuesday night, at home vs. the Hornets). They led, 26-22, after one quarter, led by Beasley's seven points, and managed the halftime tie. Nash played for the Suns for 10 seasons in two stints. He was drafted by them in 1996, but had little future in Arizona after the Suns acquired Jason Kidd late that year. He returned as a free agent in 2004. "A special, special place," Nash said of his former basketball home. Nash got a roar from the crowed, then, during the first timeout, had a video tribute played by the Suns. "Very sweet," he said. NOTES: Nash's 6,597 assists, 1,051 3-pointers made and .907 free-throw percentage are tops in Suns history. His 744 games played are No. 3. His parents live in Phoenix part-time, part-time in Victoria, B.C. ... The game alsomarked Mike D'Antoni's return for his second team (the Knicks, also) since departing the Suns. ... Earl Clark scored, a 2009 first-round draft pick of the Suns, had five points and eight rebounds following a 20-point (8-for-11 shooting) 12-rebound game in a win over Hornets. The 20 points were two short of a career high. ... D'Antoni had strongly supportive words for Alvin Gentry, the recently replaced Suns coach. Gentry was D'Antoni's assistant for the Suns. "Firing a good coach doesn't make any sense," D'Antoni said. "But he's fine. He'll bounce back."
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