After defeating the Philadelphia 76ers 93-84 on New Year’s Day, the Los Angeles Lakers looked to remain undefeated in 2016 as they take on their division rivals in the Phoenix Suns. They will have to do it without Kobe Bryant as he would sit for the second straight game with a sore shoulder.
Meanwhile the Suns were devastated by the loss of their point guard and floor general Eric Bledsoe, who will miss the rest of the season due to a torn meniscus. Phoenix is in the middle of an eight-game losing streak and are desperate for a win over the purple and gold. The Suns won the first matchup between these teams, 120-101, in November.
The Lakers struck first with a couple of jumpers from Roy Hibbert and Larry Nance that hit nothing but net. The Suns answered back with some buckets of their own from Jon Leuer and Brandon Knight to tie the game, 4-4. Los Angeles then went on a 6-0 run capped by a Jordan Clarkson steal, that led to a fast-break dunk by Nance to take a 10-4 lead midway through the first. After trading buckets, Clarkson continued his hot start to the game by hitting an acrobatic jumper on the sideline as the shot clock ran out to extend the lead, 14-8. While the Suns had trouble taking care of the ball, the Lakers made them pay in transition with a 10-0 run, highlighted by a finish from Clarkson on the dish from D’Angelo Russell to take a 22-8 lead with two minutes left. The Lakers were lockdown on defense the entire quarter, as they finished up ahead 25-10.
Phoenix struck first this time with a layup from Archie Goodwin to cut the lead to 13. Brandon Bass got the first two buckets of the quarter with a high-arching jumper on a dime from Russell, followed by the finish in the paint to extend the lead, 29-12. Lou Williams started to heat up with three straight field goals, two of them being three-pointers to go up 37-14. Devin Booker finally stopped the bleeding with a deep jumper, however the Lakers still held a 21-point lead, their largest of the year. Since Booker’s field goal, both teams went ice cold for five minutes before PJ Tucker finally got a putback to cut the lead to 20. The Lakers finished the first half up, 43-22 with a three-pointer at the buzzer from Williams. The 22 first half points were the lowest in Phoenix franchise history.
Lou picked up where he left off with a jumper and a three-pointer to give him 18 points on the game, and the 50-22 lead. Leuer scratched first for the Suns with a jumper, followed by a finish inside by Tyson Chandler for his first field goal of the game. Clarkson answered back with a shot of his own to maintain a healthy 54-26 lead. The Lakers offense got hot as they scored four straight buckets in a row, finished by back-to-back thunderous dunks from Nance and Hibbert to take a 65-32 lead. Lou continued his stellar night with yet another two consecutive field goals to put the Lakers up, 70-34 midway through the third. The Suns got their first three-pointer of the game after 15 attempts thanks to Mirza Teltovic. As good as the offense has been, the defense was even better forcing Phoenix to shoot just 32% from the field and 6% from deep. The Lakers put the stamp on the third quarter with a tomahawk dunk by Clarkson, followed by a three from Lou to go up 81-51 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Suns got off to a quick start in the fourth with a three-pointer by Teletovic and back-to-back buckets from Brandon Knight to slim the lead, 81-59. Marcelo Huertas quickly got involved up his entry into the game with a put-back for his first points of the game. After a three-pointer by the former Laker Ronnie Price, Nick Young answered back with a three of his own to extend the 86-62 lead. Phoenix ominously showed signs of life as they continued to hit shots while making stops on defense, thanks to the combo of Knight and Teletovic to cut the lead to 19 with seven minutes to go in the game. The Suns continued to chip away at the lead, cutting it to 14, before a pair of offensive rebounds from Randle led to him finding Bass for a three-point play to stop the Phoenix run. The Suns would continue to fight, but a crucial steal and dunk from Nance would give keep the Lakers ahead by 17 with just over two minutes remaining. A Hibbert fadeaway was the dagger and a three from Anthony Brown provided the final margin as the Lakers would go on to win their third straight game, 97-77 over the Phoenix Suns.