Originally Published: March 28, 2002 6:15 p.m.
PHOENIX — Three losses in six games, and a defensive disaster in Phoenix, have the Los Angeles Lakers looking up at the Sacramento Kings again.
Cause for concern?
"Why would we worry?" coach Phil Jackson said after his team's 118-106 loss to the Suns on Wednesday night. "We're like Alfred E. Neuman."
Only the blissful nerd of Mad magazine fame would not be a little concerned about the way the Lakers frittered away the game in the fourth quarter against a Phoenix team that is six games out of the final Western Conference playoff spot.
"With the score almost tied and an opportunity to win, we did just about everything possible to mess it up," Jackson said.
Los Angeles fell a game behind Sacramento in the race for best record in the NBA. The Lakers, especially Shaquille O'Neal, seemed slow in their second game in as many nights.
"We're not going to make excuses for our poor play," O'Neal said. "We realize every team that plays against us is going to be playing above their heads, shooting the ball well and doing everything right. We just didn't match their intensity tonight. Why we wouldn't do that? Who knows?"
Shawn Marion matched his season highs of 32 points and 18 rebounds in the Suns' highest-scoring game of the season.
Stephon Marbury had 26 points and 11 assists, including a fastbreak lob that Marion soared to stuff one-handed to put Phoenix up 114-101 with 1:47 to play.
Jake Tsakilidis, coming off a career-high 23 points against Cleveland two nights earlier, added 19 points and 10 rebounds for Phoenix, fighting O'Neal to a virtual standoff.
O'Neal had 24 points, 10 in the fourth quarter, and 11 rebounds but was just 4-for-15 from the foul line.
"Jake was the MVP again," Marbury said. "He did it against a guy who I believe is the best player in the NBA."
Tsakilidis, who blocked a shot by O'Neal down the stretch, said this one was better than Monday night's performance.
"Yeah, because it's Shaq," Tsakilidis said. "The Lakers are a big team. They've won championships. You feel good after a game like this."