The shorthanded Suns figured to need big nights from Devin Booker and Kelly Oubre with DeAndre Ayton becoming a late scratch, but got the exact opposite.
Booker managed just 10 points on 2-11 shooting and Oubre also struggled with only 10 points of his own, as the Suns role players and reserves outplayed the two for most of the night.
Mikal Bridges led the Suns with 18 points, but only four of those came in the second half.
The Lakers outrebounded the Suns 59-29. That’s not a typo. The Lakers were +30 on the glass.
Points in the paint also went in the Lakers favor 58-38.
Anthony Davis had 25 points and 10 rebounds and Dwight Howard had 14 points and 15 rebounds off the bench for the Lakers, who beat up on a Suns team missing its four best players over 6’8”.
Rajon Rondo also had a season high 23 points, because of course he did.
Kudos to some of the Suns players who fought hard. Not everyone necessarily fit that description.
54 games into the season, and without a trade deadline acquisition, the Suns rolled out their 13th different starting lineup of the season with not one, but two first time starters.
Cheick Diallo made his first start this season, and second of his career, in place of injured DeAndre Ayton, while Cameron Johnson got the nod over Kelly Oubre for the first start of his pro career.
Diallo is technically the Suns fourth string center, but with centers Ayton, Aron Baynes and Frank Kaminsky all out of commission, plus starting power forward Dario Saric sidelined... he was catapulted into first string duties.
All teams have injuries, but this is getting a little ridiculous.
Cam looked pretty pumped to get the start as he threw down a vicious dunk over JaVale McGee in the early going.
The Suns “decision” to go small gave the Lakers the option of trying to pound the Suns with a traditional lineup or compete with their own version of small ball. The Lakers leaned more towards the latter early, and the Suns hung around and only trailed by one (31-30) after the first quarter.
Things started to turn in the second quarter, though, as a lineup with Kelly Oubre and four fringe NBA players gave up an 8-0 run that prompted a quick timeout.
After trailing by as many as 15 the Suns were able to stop the bleeding thanks to a couple of three point bombs by Mikal Bridges. Mikal made his first four three point attempts of the night and led the Suns with 14 points at the half.
It was still tough going for the Suns, who were predictably getting destroyed on the glass. Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard were paired together for a stretch as the Lakers experimented with bullying the Suns inside. The Suns trailed the rebounding battle 25-14 at intermission. The Lakers also doubled the Suns up 32-16 on points in the paint.
The fact that the Suns were able to keep things relatively close, down 61-52, in the first half was even more impressive considering that Devin Booker scored just seven points on 1-7 shooting and Oubre only had two points coming off the bench.
Anthony Davis and Rajon Rondo both scored 15 in the first half for the Lakers.
Neither team was exceptionally sharp to begin the third quarter. It didn’t appear either squad received a gripping pep talk.
After a variety of missteps the Lakers still managed to stretch the lead back to 13 halfway through the quarter. Los Angeles had a relatively comfortable cushion, but was struggling to put the pesky Suns away.
The first iteration of Oubre as a sixth man continued to go horribly wrong. He just didn’t appear to be engaged in the game on a night where the team really needed him. His “contribution” left a depleted bench woefully ill-equipped to combat the Lakers reserves.
The lead ballooned to 19 late in the quarter as the Suns offense stalled. Phoenix shot just 7-21 in the period. A three pointer by Jevon Carter just before the quarter ended got the Suns back within 15 (90-75), but the beating the Suns were taking inside was mounting.
The Suns had every excuse to throw in the towel when the Lakers surged ahead by 21, but Phoenix refused to let the game become a laugher. They continued to plug away and keep things respectable even though it never appeared they had a legitimate chance of making a comeback.
When Cheick Diallo (15 points) and Jevon Carter (11) are scoring more points than Devin Booker and Kelly Oubre (10 each)... something is wrong with Booker and Oubre. Diallo and Carter appeared much more emotionally invested in the game and helped keep it from becoming a complete rout.
Ultimately, the Lakers size and superior talent were too much for a Suns team playing with way less than a full deck.
The final score wasn’t really reflective of the way most of the Suns comported themselves on a night when they could have failed to show up.
The Suns (21-33) close out their pre-All-Star break schedule with a home game against the Golden St. Warriors on Wednesday night. Phoenix, now a season high 12 games below .500, remains behind the Sacramento Kings in 13th place in the Western Conference.