(Sports Network) - Pacific Division rivals clash in the desert tonight when the Phoenix Suns play host to the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers have been a bit sluggish recently but turned things around last night by routing Detroit, 108-83, in the finale of a three-game homestand. Pau Gasol scored 21 points in that one and Kobe Bryant continued his climb up the NBA's all-time scoring list as Los Angeles breezed by the lowly Pistons.
Bryant totaled 17 points to pass Dominique Wilkins for 10th place with 26,671, while also recording eight assists and seven rebounds. "It's a great honor," Bryant said of passing Wilkins. "It's something you look back on when your career is over. I remember him for his dunks -- he powered through people."
Lamar Odom logged 16 points and nine boards off the bench for the Lakers, who have now steadied the ship by winning three of their last four games. Bryant, a 12-time All-Star, is now just 39 points shy of the legendary Oscar Robertson for ninth place.
The Suns, meanwhile, continue to struggle and are coming off a 94-89 setback to lowly Sacramento on Sunday. Kings rookie DeMarcus Cousins scored five of his 28 points during a 10-point game-ending run in that one. The Suns led by five with three minutes to play, but missed their final three shots and turned the ball over twice to enable the Kings' rally. Cousins, who added eight rebounds and six assists in the game, recorded a three-point play and two free throws during the stretch.
Steve Nash had 20 points and 12 assists to pace the Suns, who blew a 14-point lead and have dropped five of six overall. Vince Carter added 17 points, while Marcin Gortat provided 16 off the bench. "We just stopped scoring," Nash said. "We missed some layups, we missed some open shots, and put ourselves in a tough position."
The Lakers, of course, needed six games to top the Suns in last year's Western Conference finals en route to their 16th NBA crown. So far this season the clubs have split a pair of meetings with each earning a win on the other's home floor.