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Lakers Travel To Phoenix To Battle Suns

(Sports Network) - The Phoenix Suns have a tough task ahead of them tonight, when they play their home opener tonight versus the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers at US Airways Center.

The Lakers needed six games to top the Suns in last year's Western Conference finals en route to their 16th NBA crown.

The Suns split the first two games of the 2010-11 season at Portland and Utah, and recorded a 110-94 triumph over the Jazz on Thursday. Suns newcomer Hakim Warrick led the way with 18 points and 11 rebounds and Steve Nash also scored 18 points, as the Suns rebounded from a 106-92 season-opening loss to the Trail Blazers.

Jason Richardson added 16 points, Goran Dragic posted 11 points and six assists off the bench and Grant Hill grabbed 12 boards to go with nine points in a winning effort. Dragic shook off a sprained knee to contribute.

"It was undoubtedly an important game for us," Nash said of logging the first win of the season. "We played pretty well in Portland and just fell apart at the end. Tonight I thought we learned a little bit of a lesson from Portland, we held our composure for longer stretches, and in particular, at the end of the game."

Phoenix will also host San Antonio and Memphis on this homestand. It went 32-9 in the desert a year ago.

The Lakers will play their second game of the season, first on the road, tonight in the Valley of the Sun and opened the new campaign with Tuesday's 112-110 victory versus Houston at Staples Center.

Steve Blake's three-pointer with less than 20 seconds to go in the game proved to be the difference and the scrappy guard impressed his new teammates after spending last season with the Clippers and Blazers.

"A great way to start the season," said Blake, who finished with 10 points as a reserve. "In the third quarter we started playing defense. Shannon (Brown) made big shots. I think the bench did their job tonight."

Pau Gasol had 29 points and 11 rebounds, while superstar Kobe Bryant registered 27 points, seven assists and five rebounds for LA. After tonight's game at Phoenix, the Lakers will return home to face Golden State and Memphis.

In injury news for the Lakers, center Theo Ratliff is questionable for Friday's game with a sore knee and forward Luke Walton is expected to miss the game due to a strained right hamstring.

Los Angeles won three of four meetings with the Pacific Division-rival Suns last season and is 9-3 in the previous 12 encounters.