Lakers get off to slow start, dooms them in loss to Suns

The Suns dropped 45 on the Lakers in the first quarter and that felt like the game right there.

PHOENIX — The Lakers got off to a very slow start in the first quarter. They did make it a game for a bit before the threes and the rebounds from the Phoenix Suns overwhelmed them. The Lakers fell in the standings and blew a chance to gain ground against Phoenix, 123-113.

Maybe playing in the afternoon was not ideal for the Lakers. Heck, playing their third game in four days sounds like a tiring experience for a professional basketball team. It showed when the Lakers sea legs didn’t seem to be into it compared to the very energetic Phoenix Suns. Los Suns scored 13 straight against the Lakers on their way to a whopping 45-point first quarter. The Lakers scored 28, which obviously paled in comparison.

Still, the Lakers had some juice. The Suns had a 15-point lead before D’Angelo Russell scored 7 quick points in about 90 seconds. His last three cut the deficit down to 72-63 by the half, making it a more manageable 9-point deficit.

We had many runs in the third quarter before the Lakers were actually able to cut it down to a two-point lead. Anthony Davis woke up after the halftime break to score 10 in the third period but Grayson Allen, the league leader in three-point percentage (he’s shooting .485 from three, by the way), made a three to enter the fourth with a Phoenix lead, 95-90.

Suns built the lead back to double figs. Davis did make back-to-back buckets to cut the deficit down to 6. Grayson Allen and Royce O’Neale made consecutive threes to put the lead back to 12. The Lakers couldn’t recover from that and it was game for Phoenix.

We can look at a lot of things where it went wrong for the Lakers. The one that stands out is that 45-point first period for the Suns. Sure, the Lakers came back but teams tend to expend way more energy when down big early. It’s an uphill climb (not to mention the mental game that they have to deal with) and the Lakers just didn’t have enough to end.

I talked about the three-point shooting in the game preview. Well, the Suns went 17 for 40 (.425) against L.A. The Lakers weren’t bad at all (15 for 35, .429) but the Suns’ shooting really kept L.A. at bay. Allen and O’Neale combined for 12 three-pointers. And honestly, the Suns probably wouldn’t make 17 if they weren’t leaving them open, which has been a concern for the Lakers for most of this season.

And then there’s the glass. The rebounds. The boards. Whatever you want to call them, the Lakers got outhustled in that department. Phoenix got 51 while the Lakers only got 34. Jusuf Nurkic (the one that had the last 5×5 before Victor Wembanyama) grabbed 22 of those babies (not literal babies, mind you) and was just a monster inside. What’s even more damning is the offensive glass: Phoenix had an immense advantage, 14-3, and that led to Phoenix getting 22 second chance points (the Lakers had 10).

We were afraid for a Laker game that lacked energy and I guess they were long overdue for one. All joking aside, they can’t let games like this happen again, especially as the season is approaching the homestretch. Lakers blew a chance to gain ground on the Suns as they are now 3.5 games behind them and 10th place in the West. The Warriors are set to play as of this writing and have a chance to solidify their 9th spot after tonight (they do have to play the world champion Nuggets, though; that’s always a tough game).

LeBron James ended with 28-7-12 while Davis came on late to finish with 22 points and 13 rebounds. D’Angelo Russell only scored two of his 20 points in the second half. As for the Suns, four of them scored 20 or more. Grayson Allen had 24, Kevin Durant had 22, Devin Booker had 21, and Royce O’Neale had 20. The other starter, Jusuf Nurkic, went for 18 points and 22 rebounds as well as 7 assists. And Bol Bol, who has been a curiosity in the league with his length, was huge early for the Suns; he ended with 11 points.

The Lakers have two days off before they have to do another back-to-back against the Clippers and then the D.C. Wizards back in Los Angeles. Let’s hope they can end February on a good note.