Devin Booker set a Suns franchise record for scoring in his playoff debut (34) and added 8 assists and 7 rebounds. Deandre Ayton scored 21 (making 10 of 11 shots) and grabbed 16 rebounds in his own debut. Mikal Bridges played LeBron James a lot of the night on defense. The kids with no experience were all right!
Suns win, 99-90.
The Suns came in with no playoff experience and lost Chris Paul to a stinger early in the game, then backup Cameron Payne . The Lakers came in with all the playoff experience and had all their players ready to go for one of the few times since they won the NBA Finals eight months ago.
But it was the Suns, led by newbies Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, who took it to the Lakers ALL GAME to win handily. Once they took a 19-17 lead in the first quarter, they just kept their foot on the gas pedal all game long.
The Suns didn’t care that the Lakers got all the calls (19-0 free throw lead until mid-third quarter). They didn’t care that LeBron made a trio of threes in the first half. And they didn’t fold when Chris Paul went down briefly.
Suns: only Abdel Nader mentioned (out, knee surgery), which means Cameron Johnson is back full-go and there’s no lingering Ayton (knee) or Crowder (ankle) issues
Lakers: Anthony Davis (shoulder) and LeBron James (ankle), available but were probable until game time
Huge cheers for Suns, deep boos for Lakers as each team takes the court.
Then, as the players were warming up, they got the crowd into it with some razzle dazzle by setting up Chris Paul for an alley-oop dunk that he finished —- and the pregame crowd went completely NUTS. NUTS, I say!
Suns got the tip and the first (and second) shot but missed threes. Lakers scored first on a Schroder middy, then Booker scored on a three from the corner. Paul had a wide open midrange but gave it to Booker to make sure he got on track.
Early offense went through Schroder who got a jumper, driving shooting foul/FTs and a dish to Drummond for a dunk.
After Mikal Bridges drained a corner three to the delight of 10k fans, LeBron hit a pair of threes from the top of the key to try to quiet the crowd but the Suns did not flinch — Ayton got another inside shot and Paul drained a three to tie it up again. The Lakers had to know they weren’t going to outscore these Suns, and Vogel called a timeout to remind them.
Despite Drummond having 4/4 early, the Lakers went smaller with AD at the five out of the timeout. He got weak side dunk to get going, but the Suns got out to a pair of breakaways for four points and the lead.
After another Ayton score at the basket — he’s so active this game! — he led the team with 10 points, and the Lakers called yet another timeout to regroup when the Suns went up 23-17.
Suns brought in backup and stretched the lead, of course, Cam Payne drove on AD and scored, then Cam Johnson got a three in transition to put the Suns up 30-21.
Suns win first quarter, 32-25.
AD played all 12 minutes, as did DA. AD finished with 4 points, 0 rebounds and DA had 10 points (team lead), 4 rebounds and only 1 foul. Booker had 9 points (4-7 shooting). Chris Paul had 3/3/4 in a great all-around quarter.
All was going well again in the second quarter, Suns up big when.... oof.
From there the Lakers got it back to 38-35 as the wind was totally out of the Suns sails. They suddenly played flat, missed shots. They were shook by Paul’s injury. The crowd went silent too. It’s like there was a funeral — of the Suns playoff hopes, of their dreams. The Lakers smelled blood and brought back the starters, looking to close the gap for good.
They started swiping wildly at the ball and got some uncharacteristic Suns turnovers, but the Suns defense held firm and eventually got a couple of good Booker scores and an Ayton score to get back up 44-35.
And then Paul returned. Not wrapped up at all. Ready to go back in. MAYBE ALL IS NOT LOST. But it’s important to note that Booker, Ayton and Bridges held their ground when Paul went out. They did not lose their cool.
Paul returned, but he was a shadow of himself, and then Crowder and Ayton both picked up their third fouls. With a minute left in the half, the Suns had 0 free throws to the Laker’s 17. 0 to 17. Lots of bail outs. I mean lots. The Suns had 34 points in the paint to the Lakers’ 20 in that half, yet had 0 free throws.
But did the Suns fold? No. They took an 8-point lead into halftime, 53-45 and showed that no matter what, they were going to take it to the Lakers all night.
Book was really good Book — 17 points (8-14 shooting), 3 assists at halftime but has 4 of the Suns 7 turnovers. He’s got to cut down on those.
Ayton has 14 points (7-8 shooting) and 6 rebounds at half, but three fouls. Lakers will really work to get him into more foul trouble as soon as the second half starts. Expect AD on the blocks.
Any thought that the Lakers would just turn it on at halftime was extinguished early as the young Suns, with a hobbling-armed Paul, kept up the pressure and took a 12-point lead to force another Lakers timeout at the 8-minute mark (65-53 Suns).
And then Vogel called another timeout when the Suns went up 71-56 at the 6:04 mark on a pair of Laker turnovers turned into Suns points.
Oh, and Chris Paul seems to be getting the feeling back in that right arm (stinger I guess, like DA earlier this year).
The Lakers only chance in this game is to finish with 30 more free throws than the Suns get, and after they called a ‘jump ball’ on a Booker dunk attempt, I worry that might happen. It’s 21-2 right now.
Cam Payne missed a couple of floaters, and the Lakers clawed their way back to 71-64 with an 8-0 run to force Monty Williams to call his first ‘get it right, guys’ timeout of the game.
And right the ship they did, outscoring the Lakers 10-4 to close the quarter up 81-68. Oh, and Booker finally started getting some foul calls. He finished the quarter with 25 points, including 9-19 shooting plus 5-6 free throws, plus 6 assists and 4 rebounds, HE’S BEEN WAITING FOR THIS!
But then another thing happened. An altercation got Cam Payne ejected, which forced Chris Paul to play out the game with a bum shoulder. Of course, he made the next shot, LOL.
The refs really tried to keep the game close, and finally the Lakers started making headway. A Dennis Schroder three pulled them back to seven down, 90-83, before Booker made a short one in the paint, and then Anthony Davis got more free throws to cut the lead back to 8 at 92-84 with 5:20 left.
Then Deandre Ayton decided to kick some ass. He got points, rebounds and generally made sure the Suns stayed in the lead in crunch time. Mikal Bridges made a big shot, and Devin Booker carried the team too. Such a great great finish by these guys!