Lakers News: LeBron James Focuses On Slow Start And Suns’ Role Players As Reasons For Loss
LeBron James, Lakers
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns had little trouble with the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday afternoon, winning 123-113 in a game that they controlled from the jump. Despite 28 points and 12 assist from LeBron James, L.A. could not overcome a balanced Suns attack and a poor performance in the first quarter. Phoenix jumped ahead to a 45-28 deficit after the first and the Lakers could never recover.

Grayson Allen and Royce O’Neale were massive factors in the win, as well. Allen led the way for the Suns with 24 points on 6-for-12 from beyond the arc while O’Neale added 20 points of his own with six made threes on 10 attempts. The Suns got contributions from all over the place, but showed how deadly they can be when those two primary role players are firing on all cylinders.

The first quarter, though, was the biggest hurdle, and James recognized how difficult it is to win games when teams are scoring 45 points in the opening frame.

“Yes, super slow start for us offensively and defensively,” James said. “When you give up 45 points in a quarter, you’re in an uphill battle. Especially if you’re not scoring 45 as well. So, from that point on we played really good basketball.

“Their role players did a great job shooting the ball. Royce O’Neale, Grayson Allen, those boys they shot the ball really well tonight and Nurk (Jusuf Nurkic) had a monster 20-20 game, pretty much. We did a pretty good job on their superstars but that’s what good teams do: they have other players step up at any time. Sometimes when your stars are, I don’t want to say struggling since those guys didn’t struggle, but it’s not like they had monster games that we’re accustomed to seeing from KD (Kevin Durant) and Book (Devin Booker) but a good game from them.”

He focused specifically on O’Neale and Allen, and how regardless of how the two have been playing coming into the game, they are both dangerous role players to have alongside the star-studded Suns team.

“I mean they shot the ball well from the beginning of the game,” James said. “Obviously, with Grayson, you know that for majority of the season, I don’t know if he’s still there but he’s (Grayson Allen) one of those 50-40-90 guys. So, you don’t really want to just let him shoot, he’s been shooting the ball like that all year long. Since Royce (O’Neale) has gotten here, hasn’t shot the ball particularly well but today he did, so it’s always difficult when you play against two guys that just attract so much from you defensively. When they have the ball in the hands of KD (Kevin Durant) and Book (Devin Booker), and it allows the other guys to get good looks and they were able to knock them down.”

James connected the dots between the Suns’ perimeter attack and the Lakers struggles on the boards, boiling it down to L.A.’s perimeter players not covering enough ground defensively.

“They spread your defense out a lot so you’re out on the perimeter a lot, you’re contesting a lot of 3s. We got to do a better job as the guards and forwards of coming back and trying to crash to help AD.

“There’s a lot of long rebounds, a lot of rebounds that went over AD’s head and Nurk was able to push him up underneath the rim and get the majority of his offensive rebounds. Royce O’Neale had a couple crashing in from the corners, I don’t think we talked about that enough before the game and had a point of emphasis of him crashing. So we’ll do a better of that going forward. But we’ve been better with that as of late, today it hurt us. But we’ve been better.”

The Suns exploited a few of the Lakers’ flaws on Sunday afternoon, but L.A. can hang their head high on the fact that they kept it within reason after such a dismal first quarter. James and the Lakers are very aware of what they must fix and how they can avoid a loss like this in the future.

Anthony Davis discusses how Lakers can improve rebounding

Anthony Davis, for one, knows it can’t be all on him to hold down the Lakers’ rebounding. At a certain point, the perimeter players have to do a better job of crashing and fighting for boards.

“I’m trying to do my job of pushing Nurkic out and the ball has a long bounce or goes over my head and obviously he has positioning on the outside,” Davis said. “But I think our guards and forwards have to come back and get those rebounds for us.”

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