After a surprising and uplifting victory on Saturday over the Timberwolves, the Suns were unable to maintain momentum tonight at home against the Lakers, losing 100-93.
Devin Booker and T.J. Warren scored the first nine points of the game overall to give the Suns a big lead three minutes in. Their play prompted Lakers coach Luke Walton to call his first timeout early in the half, after which the Lakers responded with nine quick points as part of a 9-2 run. Suns coach Jay Triano called a timeout of his own.
Early on, Triano made life easier for the slight Tyler Ulis by running constant motion behind the play for Booker and Warren. With both guys involved in each play, finding open looks for them became much easier. It also put less pressure on Ulis to create shots by himself.
The Lakers got back into the game by keying in on Warren. Their game plan changed quickly, and they countered Warren’s heavy involvement in the offense off the ball by switching whenever possible. At one point around the middle of the quarter, Lonzo Ball contested a Warren floater in the lane that hit the front of the rim. After scoring 35 on Saturday, Warren quickly fell to 2-9 against Los Angeles.
Marquese Chriss continued his hot streak as a shot-blocker with two in the opening frame, and it was partially because of his play that the Lakers struggled to score outside of transition situations. Yet they finished the frame on a 5-1 run and took a 21-20 lead going into the first break.
As if on cue from Grialou, Booker found Bender in the weak-side corner for an open three that put the Suns back on track. Those two Suns combined for the next two shots after that as well, to put the Suns back within one point of the Lakers as the first timeout of the quarter was called by the Lakers.
Bender with 7 points and 4 rebounds in 8 minutes and has played two straight excellent defensive possessions. Suns on 13-2 run, lead 39-33— scott bordow (@sbordow) November 14, 2017
Booker kept the magic going, scoring 14 points in the second after nine in the first. It has been his best week of basketball ever, dating back to the Heat game last Wednesday. As far as responding to the extra defensive attention teams started sending his way after Eric Bledsoe was sent away, it’s been remarkable.
The Suns led 44-43 heading into the half.
Again, it was Warren and Booker playing excellently off one another who provided the scoring for the Suns. Booker overcame a questionable technical foul call to score seven points in the first six minutes of the quarter, and it was Warren filling in the gaps this time.
Another adjustment that stood out right away in the second half was Triano running more offense through Ulis. He shot three times in the paint right to open the half, and despite making only one put pressure on the interior of the Laker defense that was not there in the first half of the game.
When the starters come out of the game for the Suns, it’s extremely difficult to find points. Mike James hit a tough three in the second and Bender makes shots when he’s open -- and had 10 points through three quarters -- but overall it’s a slog. More and more every game, a big change within the starting lineup looks like the right decision.
After about a minute and a half in which the only bucket came from a James floater, Triano re-inserted Warren into the starting lineup and let him go to work. He looks so nice when there’s space around him. In this case, he was surrounded by Bender, James, Len and Troy Daniels. It worked.
Unfortunately, that meant that once Warren left the floor and Booker was forced to take over that massive load, things got rough again. That your-turn, my-turn stuff is difficult to balance, and as much as the Suns needed a second scorer just a week ago they might already need a third guy to step up.
Booker was at 34 heading into crunch time, while Warren had scored 21. However James, Chriss and Jackson were a combined 4-21 from the field. Guys have to make shots.
Los Angeles’s quietly solid defense really locked down over the last several minutes, forcing mistakes repeatedly out of the young Suns. It’s just tough to learn and still win — we know that by now.