The Los Angeles Lakers landed in Arizona and were attempting to salvage their four-game road trip with a victory over Phoenix Suns. They came close in a clash with the Milwaukee Bucks, where Lonzo Ball become the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double. However, he took no pride in the accomplishment, stating that the only thing that matters was winning the contest.
That kind of demeanor is something that head coach Luke Walton hopes his entire team will pick up, going up against another up and coming team in the Western Conference. The battle between the two Pacific Division foes also had another twist, with Jay Triano named the interim head coach in lieu of the Earl Watson firing.
The Suns have also hit their own bumpy road of late, ending a five-game losing streak during their previous game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Triano started out the contest with Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker, T.J. Warren, Marquese Chriss, and Tyson Chandler. The Lakers countered with their usual lineup of Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Brook Lopez.
Coming into the game, the Lakers coaching staff had been displeased with the number of turnovers per game, as the Lakers attempt to clean up their mental mistakes. Los Angeles attempted to exploit the height difference at the point guard position, with the 6’6″ Ball starting in the post against the 5’10” Ulis.
However, in the last game of a week-long road trip, the Lakers started off a bit sluggish from the field. A few quick turnovers gave the Suns some transition opportunities, with Booker starting off hot from the field. They fell down 9-0, until the team responded with a bit of a run of their own. Lopez got things going with a bucket in the paint, while Ball followed with an easy lay-up for his first bucket of the night.
Los Angeles then capped off their own 9-0 run with a Caldwell-Pope three-pointer, a game that would go on to feature plenty of runs. Both teams decided to place rather tall lineups into the game, with Andrew Bogut, Julius Randle, Dragan Bender, and Alex Len all checking in within a matter of a minute.
That gave the second unit of the Lakers a boost defensively, with Bogut claiming five rebounds a help-side block during his time in the game. Caldwell-Pope’s second three-pointer of the game tied the game 19-19, as he called for the ball wide open in transition.
The Lakers were able to hold on for a 21-20 lead to end the first quarter, thanks to a solid defensive end to the quarter. Booker led the way for the Suns with nine points, showing off that deadly shooting touch.
Jordan Clarkson was also able to make an immediate impact to start off the second quarter, getting five straight points and giving the Lakers a 29-23 lead. He was then able to hit a difficult lay-up navigating around Len, finishing with his left hand.
The game then turned into a marathon of sorts, as both teams suddenly drastically increased the pace of play. The track meet did get sloppy, as both teams each made a few blunders that turned into lost possessions. Los Angeles found themselves lost in transition matchups, with Booker nailing a wide-open three from the corner.
Clarkson personally accepted the challenge of leading his team in the second quarter, nailing another mid-range jump shot to give him 14 straight points halfway through the second quarter. However, Booker was just as hot as his counterpart, swishing another three-pointer over the outstretched hand of Kuzma. As the Lakers shifted more towards containing him, the Suns were able to spread the wealth and find their teammates to build a 39-33 lead.
The Lakers were able to bring the deficit down to a point with a Kuzma three-pointer on a beautiful possession filled with plenty of ball rotations. This game was a back-and-forth contest from the getgo, with both teams trying to notch their sixth win of the season.
Caldwell-Pope’s third three-pointer of the first half tied the game at 41 points apiece, with 11 points to pair alongside Clarkson’s strong first half. A last-second shot from Booker driving down the lane gave the Suns a 44-43 lead going into halftime. He was the offensive juggernaut for Phoenix, scoring 22 points, while Caldwell-Pope finished with 11 points, five rebounds, and three assists.
Just like he did in the first half, Caldwell-Pope was able to start off the second half confident with his shot. He knocked down his fourth three-pointer of the game, followed by a Lopez three that gave Los Angeles the 49-46 lead.
Ball then got in on the scoring by using some strength to take Ulis all the way to the rim, followed by an assist to Lopez in the paint for the easy basket. Lopez would go on to hit a pair of nice post moves in the paint, while Ball nailed an impressive 31-foot stepback three-pointer to bring the Lakers within three(64-61).
The Lakers certainly were trying to show more grit defensively in the second half, starting from Caldwell-Pope. He was able to strip Josh Jackson on a dribble, diving for the ball and deflecting it to Corey Brewer for the open dunk. However, the main defensive concern continued to be how to effectively contain Booker, as he reached 29 points on the night with three minutes still left in the quarter.
Bender was also having a career night alongside Booker’s strong performance, reaching a career-high on two free throws after a scary fall in the paint. Luckily for him, Randle’s body was able to cushion the blow midflight, as he took a few minutes to gather himself.
Brewer was able to get his second field goal of the night on a driving lefty lay-up over the interior of the Suns, while Clarkson followed in Brewer’s footsteps with a lay-up that gave the Lakers a 74-73 lead at the end of three. Los Angeles ended the quarter on a 9-3 run to retake the lead, setting the stage for an interesting final quarter.
Clarkson got the Lakers started off with another mid-range jump shot, while Randle gave his team a four-point lead on a straightaway three via a great screen by Bogut. The Australia native was truly impacting the paint in his limited minutes, emphatically swatting Mike James’ shot attempt at the rim.
The teams would continue this see-saw type matchup, with both teams failing to create a sizable lead. Ingram was able to use a Bogut screen to curl around Chandler for a driving dunk, while Brewer finished one of his patented acrobatic lay-ups for an 85-81 lead.
A Booker mid-range shot cut the lead in half, but Ingram was able to find Kuzma wide open for a three-pointer on the left wing. Walton had to have been pleased with his team’s defensive approach to start the fourth, including some spectacular defense from Brewer.
With the task of face-guarding Booker, he was able to force a bad pass, a get clean strip, and tie Chandler up for a jump-ball. However, Booker got the last laugh on that play by nailing a desperation three. Kuzma was able to match Booker with his second three of the quarter, giving Los Angeles the 94-88 lead with less than four minutes remaining.
The Lakers were then able to force to horrendous shots from the Suns, translating to a Clarkson lay-up and a 10-point lead. With the comfortable lead, the Lakers just needed to finish the game smart, as Clarkson, Brewer, Ingram, Kuzma, and Lopez finished out the contest.
A pair of free throws from the Suns brought the lead down to seven, with just under a minute remaining. Things got a little heated when Booker missed a three near the Lakers bench, only to walk up to the opposing team having to be separated. The Lakers would go on to close out a 100-93 victory, limiting the Suns to just 20 points in two of the four quarters(1st and 4th).
Clarkson finished the game with a season-high 25 points, shooting 11-for-19 from the floor. Caldwell-Pope also chipped in 15 points, nine rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Booker finished with a game-high 36 points, but went ice cold from the floor to end the game. The Lakers salvaged the end of their road trip with a victory, now returning to the confines of home.
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