The Los Angeles Lakers smothered the Phoenix Suns with sticky defense all season, winning 109-95 on Thursday night at Staples Center and taking a 2-1 series lead in the first round of the NBA playoffs. The Lakers’ first playoff game in Los Angeles since 2013 drew about 7,000 rowdy fans.
Vogel stated, “We want to make everything difficult.” “Clearly, this is a high-powered offense, one of the best in the league….” Our players are simply competing. We have a plan in place to make things difficult for them and to limit certain things. It isn’t always perfect, but our players work extremely hard. They’re playing with that playoff intensity.”
The Lakers led 43-40 at halftime and went on a 16-6 run to take control of the game and the series. Los Angeles took a 13-point lead with just over six minutes remaining in the third quarter and held on to a 76-63 lead at the half.
Los Angeles increased its lead to 21 points with 7:24 remaining on a reverse lay-in by LeBron James, which brought the crowd to their feet and appeared to put the game away.
“It feels good for me personally to be able to make plays for my teammates,” said James, who missed the second half of the regular season and the playoffs due to a right high-ankle sprain. “It’s all I’m concerned with. Outside of our locker room and support system, I don’t care what anyone else thinks. Obviously, it’s been a difficult year for me in terms of dealing with my ankle and trying to get it back to where it was before the injury.
“But every day is a step forward, and I’m continuing to put in the effort with round-the-clock treatment to get it back to where it was before the injury.”
The Suns kept things interesting by cutting Los Angeles’ lead to eight points with 2:40 remaining on a Jae Crowder three-pointer. But they didn’t get any closer. With his second straight dominant performance, Anthony Davis led the way for the Lakers. Davis had 34 points and 11 rebounds in the game. James scored 21 points, dished out nine assists, and grabbed six rebounds. Dennis Schröder chipped in with 20 points and four assists.
Deandre Ayton led the Suns with 22 points, his third game in a row with at least 20. Cameron Payne scored 15 points and Devin Booker added 19 points.
Booker was ejected from the game with 35 seconds left after pushing Schröder to the ground on a drive to the basket. Crowder had followed Booker to the locker room when he was given a technical foul and ejected for yelling at Schröder.
“That just can’t happen,” Davis said of Booker’s performance. “Hard fouls, that kind of thing, playoff basketball. We accept those, but pushing a guy out of the air with two hands is a scary play. It’s a good thing he’s okay, but playing like that is unacceptable.”
Wesley Matthews hit back-to-back three-pointers early in the fourth quarter to help spark L.A.’s run, providing a perimeter threat for the Lakers’ offense. Matthews also contributed on the defensive end, finishing with eight points in 18 minutes. The Lakers suffocated Phoenix defensively, limiting the Suns to 43% shooting from the field. Los Angeles also had a 51-35 advantage in rebounding and a 58-38 advantage in paint points. The Lakers turned the ball over 20 times, allowing the Suns to score 20 points.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope suffered a left leg injury in the third quarter and was forced to leave the game. Caldwell-Pope was diagnosed with a left quad contusion and did not return, according to the Lakers. Phoenix guard Chris Paul appeared to be suffering from the effects of a bruised right shoulder that had limited him in the first two games of the series. In 27 minutes, Paul finished with seven points and six assists. “It’s always an honor to play in front of the Lakers fans. We hope that as the series progresses, our attendance will increase, bringing more and more fans into the building. But it’s a lovely thing.”– LeBron James on playing in front of Lakers fan in the playoffs for the first time.