By Mark Lamport-Stokes
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers gave their fans a taste of the 'Showtime' basketball promised by their new coach Mike D'Antoni with a rousing 114-102 home win over the Phoenix Suns on Friday.
Though D'Antoni was not courtside to take charge of his first game as he recovers from knee replacement surgery earlier this month, his players thrived with the up-tempo approach as they posted their highest score of the season.
Five-time NBA champion Bryant scored a game-high 31 points, center Dwight Howard contributed 18 points and 12 rebounds and Spanish forward Pau Gasol also recorded a double-double, with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Metta World Peace poured in five-of-10 three pointers to finish with 22 points and Jordan Hill, off the bench, also reached double figures with 10.
Guard Goran Dragic led the way for the Suns with 22 points and forward Luis Scola weighed in with 18 but the visitors paid the price after being out-rebounded 48-38.
D'Antoni, appointed as Lakers coach on Monday after his predecessor Mike Brown was fired three days earlier, watched the action from the team locker room.
In front of a sellout crowd at the Staples Center, the Lakers made an encouraging start and a World Peace three-pointer on the buzzer gave them a 35-30 lead after a high-energy opening quarter.
The Lakers briefly moved 10 points clear midway through the second quarter after Antawn Jamison poured in a three-pointer but the Suns surged back to tie it at 50-50 before Los Angeles again pulled away to lead 62-57 at half-time.
Both teams continued to score freely and the Suns again drew level at 82-82 after a Dragic three-pointer but Bryant ended the third quarter with six unanswered points to put the Lakers ahead 92-84.
There was no way back for the Suns after that as Los Angeles maintained control to complete their third win in their last four games and improve their record this season to 4-5.
The Suns, who struggled defensively at home while losing 112-106 in overtime to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, slipped to 4-6.
The Lakers are next in action on Sunday when they host the Houston Rockets at the Staples Center where D'Antoni is expected to take charge of the team for his first game.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by John O'Brien)
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