LOS ANGELES — Not the most aesthetically-pleasing game.
But whether it’s Belle or the beast, it doesn’t matter how it looked. The Lakers had to come back from 12 down entering the fourth quarter and defeated the undermanned Phoenix Suns, 100-95.
On paper, the Lakers probably should’ve ran away from Phoenix here. The Suns didn’t have Bradley Beal and Devin Booker available. Kevin Durant had to take more of the scoring load, something that he has been very used to for his entire career.
It looked like the Lakers were going to bury the Suns early after a quick 7-0 start. But the Lakers offense became a slog once LeBron James sat down. Not that Phoenix was much better but at least, there was more movement with the Suns. The Lakers looked stuck in the mud and Darvin Ham’s experimentation with his line-ups certainly didn’t help.
Still, the Lakers scored 11 straight in the second period. D’Angelo Russell’s first half was much better than his entire game last Tuesday and Anthony Davis was a bit more aggressive finding his spots. But Durant was getting a lot of help in the first half from guys like Josh Okogie, Jordan Goodwin, and Eric Gordon. The Suns led the Lakers, 52-48, in the first half.
The Third Quarter Lakers reared its ugly head as Durant took over and scored all over the lake. Durant had a personal 6-0 run to boost the lead to 84-72.
The Lakers decided to immediately break the restriction of LeBron’s minutes as he didn’t sit a single moment in the fourth quarter. L.A. clamped down on the Suns. LeBron made some plays. Davis was getting better position. Christian Wood played important minutes and was huge on the glass 10 rebounds). Gabe Vincent hasn’t found his shot but he did play some good positional and help defense. The Suns only scored 11 points in the fourth quarter. LeBron took it home with some clutch lay-ups and Davis sealed it with free throws that he didn’t make last season in some games.
Kevin Durant pretty much had to do everything in the second half as his supporting cast was shut down. But maybe the Lakers should’ve put it away early. But games aren’t played on paper and it’s what admirable what the Suns did.
It’s just that the Lakers have a lot to work on. When LeBron James is sitting, the Lakers look like a bunch of trees and just waiting to be cut down. It got better in the second half but Bron played the entire fourth quarter. It’s also a little strange that Austin Reaves isn’t getting the ball as much and Rui Hachimura isn’t playing as much. It could also be, as I mentioned earlier, experimentation with line-ups on Darvin Ham’s part. The Lakers fans are already panicking but that’s how sports is; there’s anxiety in every moment. It’s hard to be logical but it’s a long season. The defense was something in the fourth quarter but it wasn’t anything like the first three quarters.
Anthony Davis had a hell of a game and did much better: 30 points and 13 boards. But the Lakers and the fans want this on a consistent basis. LeBron James played 35 minutes and ended the night with 21-8-9. D’Angelo Russell got off to a fast start and finished with 14 points. On the other side, Kevin Durant did everything as he scored 39 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. In the process, he passed “The Dream, Hakeem Olajuwon, for 12th place on the all-time scoring list. Eric Gordon scored 15 while Jordan Goodwin put in 14.
For the next game, the Lakers go up north to face the now-powerful Sacramento Kings. This should be a high-powered offensive game where shot after shot would have to be matched. So hopefully, the Lakers can bring their defense from the fourth quarter and make the Kings build houses inside Golden One.