It was closer than it should have been, but the Los Angeles Lakers managed to defeat the Phoenix Suns 117-107 and maintain their lead atop the Western Conference.
The Lakers waltzed to an early lead as they were able to score at will against a Suns defense that simply looked overmatched. Los Angeles was able to get nearly anything they wanted on the offensive end while they swarmed and hounded Phoenix defensively into several turnovers that allowed them to extend their lead.
However, the second half was a different story as the Suns were able to climb back and make it a more competitive affair before LeBron James was able to hit some key fourth quarter baskets that put the game away for good. James kept his answer brief when asked how Phoenix was able to come back.
“They made shots, we didn’t get stops. That’s it,” James said.
James was then asked if the Suns turned up the pressure on the Lakers to which he seemed to downplay.
“No, they got in their early offense but they made shots. That third quarter, I think they went for 38 I believe,” James said.
“Book got going, got to the free throw line. Kelly got going as well. Ayton hit some tough shots, but I don’t feel like they turned up the pressure. We didn’t really turn the ball over as much in the second half. I had four personally, but we still was able to get some pretty good things offensively.”
Going up big and allowing teams to go on large runs has been one of the more pronounced problems with this Lakers roster as they have had little success keeping their focus for the entirety of games. Phoenix had absolutely zero business hanging around so late in the game, but Los Angeles has been prone to allowing teams to fight back — a troubling sign that has been brewing during the 2019-20 NBA season.
James recorded a triple-double in just three quarters, but he and Anthony Davis were forced to come back into the game after the Lakers bench was unable to score and maintain their lead. The team’s reliance on the All-Star duo is to be expected, but not to this magnitude and it is a clear issue the front office needs to address in the coming months.
While James and the rest of the purple and gold will happily take a win, they need to have better sustained efforts going forward if they hope to cement their contender status.