To say the Lakers outlasted the Suns in Phoenix might be an understatement. The Suns came out firing offensively and torched the Laker defense from wire to wire. The two teams traded blows for the entirety of the game, with neither team able to open up a lead in double-digits. After a grueling 48 minutes, the Lakers were eventually able to pull ahead for a 123-115 win in the final minutes to cap off one of the season’s most exciting matchups so far.
With the win, the Lakers move to 8-2 on the season with a matchup tomorrow night at home against the hobbled Golden State Warriors. With that said, let’s get into the good, the bad, and the ugly from tonight’s win.
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The Good From the Lakers’ Win Over the Suns
Despite suffering a hard shot to the ribs early in the game, Davis was the driving force two-way force for the Lakers – coming up with big momentum-shifting buckets alongside key defensive stops. Davis once again led the Lakers in scoring and posted 24 points and 13 rebounds on an efficient 9-17 night from the field. Davis even flashed his deep ball, hitting a big three-pointer in the fourth as the Lakers looked to hold the surging Suns at bay. Defensively, Davis chipped in a pair of steals as well as a block to round out an excellent overall performance that saw him make some huge plays late to secure a Laker win.
JaVale McGee’s Third Quarter
In a game that saw both teams play little to no defense, JaVale McGee played a huge role in helping the Lakers keep pace with the Suns in the third quarter. Picking up 11 of the team’s 35 points in the third quarter, McGee routinely put himself in perfect positions to receive easy dump-off passes under the hoop leading to high percentage looks. McGee came up with a few nice stops on the defensive end as well and made his presence felt on both ends – though Suns’ big man Aron Baynes was able to hurt him when stepping out beyond the perimeter.
Rondo made his presence felt early on, salvaging what was otherwise a terrible first quarter. Picking up four assists in his first three minutes, Rondo was repeatedly able to find Laker bench players wide open for easy looks, finishing with five points, seven rebounds, and eight assists. The flow of the offense – as well as the actual results – were noticeably better with Rondo manning the second unit in his 15 minutes of play. Should this level of play be an indicator of things to come, the Lakers undoubtedly just got a whole lot better in the long run.
Alex Caruso on Devin Booker
Caruso once again had himself a stellar defensive performance, specifically on Devin Booker. While Booker still got his points, Caruso undoubtedly made him work and played a huge factor in forcing Booker into turning the ball over 5 times – highlighted by a pair of charges that Caruso drew. Caruso’s offensive game has been hit or miss to start the year but his value as a defensive specialist off the bench is tremendously valuable to the Lakers’ success so far. Booker is as good an offensive player as they come and to see Caruso step up to the challenge is big for the Lakers’ lineup options moving forward.
The Bad From the Lakers’ Win Over the Suns
The First Quarter
Once again the Lakers found themselves in an early hole. Early foul trouble forced Vogel to take out JaVale McGee and Danny Green after only three and six minutes respectively and the Suns were able to take advantage. Falling into a 29-26 hole after the first quarter due to the strong play of Devin Booker & Ricky Rubio, the Lakers once again were forced to try and make a number of adjustments on the fly in order to counter the Suns’ fast-paced attack.
Things could have been a whole lot worse had it not been for the unit of Rajon Rondo, Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso, KCP, and Anthony Davis making a late run to close the gap to only three points after being down nearly double-digits.
The Ugly From the Lakers’ Win Over the Suns
Not really too much to say other than the defense struggled to contain the Suns’ up-tempo attack all night. Routinely hurting the Lakers in transition and doing major damage with their stretch big men, the Suns posed an awkward matchup for the Lakers. The Lakers’ defense undoubtedly failed the test. The Lakers gave up 47%/43% shooting splits on the night and against more complete teams, a defensive showing like this one will almost certainly lead to a massive blowout loss.
The refs sent a message early that they were going to let the teams play and the Lakers struggled mightily early to get to the free-throw line. While they shot 21 total free throws, the Lakers weren’t able to expose the Suns’ lack of depth in the frontcourt nor put Devin Booker into an uncomfortable foul situation early. Instead, the bulk of their foul shots came down the final stretch of the game – where they were able to finally open up a lead against the Suns.
Not only did they struggle to get to the line, but they shot an atrocious 50% from the stripe. The officiating was far from ideal but you can’t blame the poor showing on the refs. LeBron started to spearhead a slightly better job of getting to the line late in the game but was a major culprit in the missed free throws, going just 2-7 on the night.
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