PHOENIX -- The Los Angeles Lakers' downward spiral continued Wednesday but with a new twist. They lost another game and possibly another player, but not to an injury.
Nick Young faces a possible $35,000 fine and suspension for his role in a brief scuffle in the second quarter of the Lakers' latest loss, a 121-114 defeat to the Phoenix Suns.
With 7:33 left in the second quarter, Suns backup center Alex Len knocked Young to floor as he went up for a layup. The Lakers guard, angered by the hard foul, popped up and shoved Len.
Suns reserve forward Markieff Morris then pushed Young and Young shoved back. Young then took a swing at Goran Dragic, who had joined the fray, hitting him in the head.
After several minutes, Young was ejected for what the referees called a "punching foul" and he stripped off his jersey as he exited the court at U.S. Airways Center. Len was slapped with a flagrant-2 foul and also ejected. Morris received a technical foul.
"Going up for that layup, I didn't think I was going to get ejected," Young said, adding that he didn't throw a punch. "It was a hard foul and I just reacted. I got caught up in the moment like anyone would."
Afterward, Young was upset none of his teammates came to his defense.
"What I'm mad about is it was one-on-five," he said. "I felt like if somebody had gotten in the middle it wouldn't have escalated that much."
The Lakers couldn't afford to lose more players. They already were down to nine healthy bodies heading into their longest trip of the season, a seven-game, 11-day trek. And now, after just the first road game, they could be down to eight without Young.
"For us, the people on the bench, I know we wanted to come out there, but it there's another circumstance that we have to deal with as well," said Wesley Johnson about the Lakers' dwindling roster. "We have to take that into consideration.
"We can't leave the bench, but we wanted to be there for him. I understand because there were a lot of guys swarming him from the other team. But as the players on the bench, we could only do so much."
Young's ejection depleted the Lakers but his absence seemed to inspire the team briefly. The Suns led, 36-35, when he was ejected and the Lakers staged a 21-8 run to open up a 56-43 lead in the first half.
The Lakers, however, couldn't sustain the energy against the up-tempo Suns, who were without point guard Eric Bledsoe. Heavy minutes by starters (44), Jodie Meeks (44) and Kendall Marshall (44) took their toll.
Phoenix, like many opponents this season, was able to breeze through the Lakers' weary defense, scoring 37 points in transition and grabbed an 88-82 lead heading into the final quarter.
The loss leaves the Lakers (14-25) in 14th place in the Western Conference, 11/2 games ahead of last-place Utah.
"It's difficult," said Pau Gasol, who posted 24 points and nine rebounds on a sore toe. "We understand we are in a difficult place.
"You can't really dwell on the record or the amount of losses we have. ... You try to fight, compete as hard as we can as a team. We just have to continue to do that. Hopefully things will turn around at some point."
Marshall has settled in nicely as the Lakers' starting point guard since he arrived from the D-League. In 10 games, he has dished out 82 assists and averaged 9.9 points.
Although Marshall's success hasn't translated into victories, his teammates aren't complaining. Many of them have benefitted from his sharp court vision.
Meeks has been one of those who have benefitted from Marshall's passes. In Wednesday's loss to Cleveland, Meeks scored 28 points, many coming off Marshall's 16 assists.
Meeks said he has had his eye on Marshall since the point guard starred at North Carolina, where he set not only the school's assist record of 351 but the all-time ACC mark of 311.
"He's a great passer, especially in college," Meeks said. "I followed him in college. He's a great basketball player. He sees the court and makes his teammates better. I like playing with him."
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