Without Marc Gasol and Kyle Kuzma, the Los Angeles Lakers were not able to extend their winning streak to three games, falling to the Phoenix Suns, 114-104, in the penultimate game before the All-Star break.
The Suns started off hot from the 3-point line as they drained their first three attempts, getting out to a 9-4 advantage. However, the Lakers battled back to take their first lead of the night after LeBron James blocked Deandre Ayton at the rim.
Phoenix responded with a 12-0 run powered by Devin Booker, who was able to break down Los Angeles’ defense to free up their shooters. Although the Lakers forced five Suns turnovers, they went into the second trailing 29-21.
Talen Horton-Tucker was able to ignite the Laker offense in the second, scoring eight quick points, and James flushed a dunk on a fastbreak to force a Suns timeout. Defensively, Los Angeles got a lift from the recently-signed Damian Jones, who recorded a pair of blocks and got the team running in transition.
Both teams had a short stretch where they traded baskets but the Suns had a slight edge after Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was called for a questionable flagrant foul on Booker. Phoenix’s 3-point shooting also remained steady and as a result, L.A. went into the half down 60-53 after Mikal Bridges drained one from deep at the buzzer.
James tried to get the Lakers going at the start of the third by getting to the rim, but he and head coach Frank Vogel earned technical fouls after complaining to the officials. The game continued to get heated, and Booker was eventually tossed after earning two quick technicals himself.
Even without Booker, the Suns were able to gather their composure and get back to executing on offense to keep control of the game. The Laker bench was able to cut into the deficit, but the team still went into the fourth down 86-83.
Phoenix went back up by double digits after they nailed back-to-back 3-pointers, but James did his best to keep L.A. relatively close by cutting to the front of the rim. However, a couple of defensive breakdowns and more hot shooting allowed the Suns to remain up front by 11 late in the fourth.
James gave his best effort to get the Lakers back in it, finishing with 38 points, five rebounds and six assists on 16-of-24 shooting, but ultimately, the Lakers fell short.
L.A. will now close out the first half on the road against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night.
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