LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers sans Kobe Bryant once again fell to the Phoenix Suns 95-90 behind a porous shooting effort.
It was a slow start missing 10 out of their first 11 shots, but able to remained close due to D’Angelo Russell all-around quarter with four points, 4 assists, and three assists.
Phoenix gained as much as a 16-point advantage in the second quarter with Los Angeles shooting 16.7 percent in the period. Things would persist in the second half through to early in the fourth quarter with the Suns holding a double-digit lead.
However, the Lakers would pull to within one point with under a minute left behind Lou Williams scoring 14 out of his game-high 30 points in the period. However, Brandon Knight sealed the deal with a baseline jumper with 30 seconds left in the game and followed it with a pair of free throws.
The Suns finished with four players in double figures, including two with more than 20 points led by Knight’s team-high 22 points.
Los Angeles have lost nine out of their last 11 games against Phoenix. Here are five things we learned from the loss:
With Bryant out of the lineup once again due to a sore right shoulder, the 20-year-old struggled once again scoring just nine points on 2-of-10 shooting with four assists and three rebounds.
Russell got off to a strong start with an all-around first quarter with four points, four assists, and three assists, but was quite in the second quarter putting up zero points on 0-for-3 shooting. However, he struggled in the second missing all three of his shot attempts to put his total at 1-of-7 shooting from the field in the first half.
He remained a non-factor in the second half, including sitting out the entire fourth quarter with Byron Scott electing to go with the second unit through the entire period. Prior to the poor performance, Suns interim head coach Earl Watson had high praise for the Lakers’ rookie guard
“Unique talent,” Watson said. “He reminds me a lot of (Dallas G Deron Williams) his rookie year, where guys thought he maybe wasn’t quick enough, athletic enough, but then all of a sudden it just clicked.”
It was another ugly individual outing for Russell, but it provides another learning experience before his rookie campaign wraps up.
First-half shooting woes
The Lakers continued their trend of slow starts in the first for the third straight game missing 10 out of their first 11 shots. This continued on through the second quarter with the team making just four shots hitting just 16.7 percent from the field.
The young core of Russell, Randle, Clarkson, and Larry Nance Jr. combined for just 3-of-25 shooting from the floor while the team shot 16.7 percent from beyond the arc that helped contribute to the Suns racing out to as much as a 16-point lead in the first half. Los Angeles also had zero players in double-figures scoring at the half.
“They just don’t trust each other,” Scott said of the starters. “They are going to have to figure it out. They’ve got to get to the point where they understand that they have to rely on one anther.”
Randle was also agreed with Scott’s stance on the first unit’s lack of trust in each other.
“It’s true. We’re not moving the ball. Playing too much 1-on-1,” Randle said. “We aren’t locked in defensively as we were before. We just faced a little adversity and we kind of go our separate ways instead of sticking together.”
It has been the Lakers’ slow starts in the first half over the last three games that have forced them to be in comeback mode throughout the rest of the contest. This has resulted too often in the team being down by too large of a deficit to overcome.
Booker continues to roll
Since the calendar changed to March, the Suns’ rookie has been an offensive source of reliability ranking first among rookies with 21.8 points per game and 19th among all NBA players. He’s also third among rookie with 5.1 assists per game.
Prior to Thursday’s game against the Utah Jazz, Booker scored in double-figures in 10 straight games, which was the second streak of at least 10 games scoring 10-points. His latest stretch of games also includes three of his four 30-point outings, which is currently tied for fourth-most in the league since the 2009-10 season.
Booker added to that on Friday night with an all-around night posting 21 points, seven assists, and five rebounds in the win. The 19-year-old got off to slow start but picked it up in the second quarter scoring six points on 2-of-4 shooting with a pair of assists and rebounds.
He also played a huge factor down the stretch knocking down a few critical free throws that kept the Lakers at bay in the waning moments of the game.
Throughout the Lakers’ struggles this season, Randle has been a bright spot since returning to the lineup 26 games ago entering Friday night averaging 13.5 points and 11.2 rebounds with recording 16 of his 29 double-doubles on the season
However, the 21-year-old struggled with his shot scoring just two points with a single made field goal but did manage to grab nine rebounds in the loss. Like the rest of the team, it a difficult shooting night as he couldn’t get anything to go from in the paint or mid-range. The bad outing didn’t appear to shake his confidence one bit.
Na I’m fine,” Randle said. “I’m going to keep working and get back into the gym. That’s the beauty of playing so many games. We have another opportunity to get better and get back on track.”
Although it was a bad overall performance, it something that he can learn from moving forward.
Williams leads the way
Despite everyone else on the team struggling offensively, the 28-year-old was the lone bright spot with 30 points on 10-of-17 shooting including going 6-of-6 from the free-throw line.
Williams picked up the team’s lack of offense in the second half scoring 21 points with most of his damage in the fourth quarter chipping with 16 points that helped erased a once 19-point deficit to trim the deficit to one point with 48 second left in the period.
“It was just one of those nights where we didn’t make shots,” Williams said. “It affected everything that we did on both ends of the court. It is one of those games where I felt like we could win but we dug ourselves in a little hole.”
In his first three games back since missing five games due to injury, Williams has been an efficient scorer averaging 20.7 while shooting 52.6 percent shooting from the field. He has also led the team in scoring in each of the last three games.
Bob Garcia IV
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