Even without three starters, the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Phoenix Suns 116-102 at Staples Center on Jan. 27.
Fresh off a home loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Lakers (26-24) Looked to secure their third series win over their division-rival Suns (11-41). L.A. replaced three regular starters as forward Kyle Kuzma sat out with a hip injury while Lonzo Ball and LeBron James were still out with their own injuries.
It didn’t matter versus the Suns because the Lakers finished with their first wire-to-wire victory since Nov. 18. L.A. converted 43.5 percent of their 23 three-pointers and shot 52.8 percent from the field versus Phoenix.
“I felt like it was a nice team win for us.” Lakers head coach Luke Walton said after the contest.
The Lakers were dominate throughout, including a defensive strategy that included trapping Suns guard Devin Booker throughout. Booker worked for his 21 points on 9-of-18 shooting with six assists in L.A
I just thought we would be better collectively and I think at times we were but most of the time we weren’t,” Booker said about his squad’s slow start after the convincing loss.
Los Angeles led by as much as 12 at the end of halftime. Nonetheless, Phoenix cut the score to 81-90 at the end of the third largely behind a 11-point quarter from Booker.
The Suns carried that third quarter momentum into the fourth. They brought it within six at 90-84, before Lakers reserve guard Lance Stephenson hit a corner three to give the Lakers a nine point advantage again.
Stephenson backed that up with a layup that made the lead 11 on the next possession with under 10 minutes remaining. He would finish the night with 17 points and three rounds in 22 minutes of action.
“I feel like I’m on every night,” Stephenson said about his fourth quarter. “Goals tonight were to get a win, get some positivity.”
At one point, Stephenson had an 8-0 run of his own and scored 11 of the Lakers 13 points in the fourth. Stephenson celebrated with his air guitar after he hit consecutive threes that pushed the Lakers advantage to 13 with the score 88-102 with 8:42 remaining.
“Just having fun out there and trying to get this win.” The Lakers reserve said about stepping up with LeBron, Lonzo and Kuzma all out.
After Stephenson’s run it was all Los Angeles. Shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope contributed his own consecutive three point streak before the game clock hit 6:24. He registered 24 points, six rebounds and two steals in his 10th start of the season.
“We were moving the ball,” K.C.P. said after the game. “Everybody was just playing free.
Caldwell-Pope started with the Lakers four of the Lakers first eight points. It all seemed to be going the Lakers way early when they were up 10-2 and Zubac sent a shot into the first row with 8:42 remaining in the first.
Zubac was big throughout too. He started the game with four points, three rebounds and a block in the first. Zubac finished the first half with 12 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots.
“Every time we play him, he keeps playing at a high level,” Walton said about another good Zubac performance.
Zubac registered a double-double through three quarters with 20 points and 10 boards. The Lakers’ big finished tied for the team-high 24 points along with 16 rebounds and four blocked shots.
Otherwise, veteran point guard Rajon Rondo’s 11 assists impacted the offense as well throughout the game.
“He knows how to lead you where you like to catch it.” Walton said about Rondo’s impact on the rest of the teammates. “That’s why we missed him so much this year.”
Not to mention, Michael Beasley found himself in a bigger spot due to injuries too. He started the game off right by finding KCP for a nice assist in his first start. Beasley chipped in eight points, six assists and four rebounds in the Lakers’ victory.
L.A. also got forward Brandon Ingram going early. He added 17 of his 22 points in the first half. B.I. also added four assists and three rebounds versus Phoenix.
As for the Suns, they got solid bench outings from forward Kelly Oubre Jr. and big Richaun Holmes. Oubre Jr. stuffed the stat sheet with 17 points, five rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal. Holmes added a double-double with 12 points and 10 boards.
Forward Mikal Bridges was also good for the Suns too. Bridges scored 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field.
Prior to this matchup with Phoenix, L.A. sat 2.5 games behind the Clippers for the eighth seed in the Western Conference which would leave the Lakers out of the playoffs if it began today. Now, the Lakers will finish their four-game homestand with the Philadelphia 76ers traveling into town.