LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Lakers tied the series at one game apiece with a 109-102 win over the Suns in Phoenix.
The Lakers came out wanting to play more aggressively right away and the Suns missed both their first two shots. The next time down, we got another taste of how physical this series will be when Davis isolated near the left elbow and kicked at Jae Crowder on a jump shot. Crowder was called for a foul and the officials reviewed the play.
After review, Crowder’s foul remained, which was his second, but a flagrant foul was added for Davis. AD split his free throws, Crowder made both of his, then Crowder left the game a couple possessions later for Dario Saric.
The chippyness continued from there, as Davis quickly fouled Saric on a drive to the rim for his second. The Lakers left Davis in.
LA’s aggressive defense led to Suns mistakes, as Phoenix turned the ball over five times in the first 5 minutes, leading to six fast-break points for the Lakers.
AD TO LEBRON pic.twitter.com/vxoPPmymF9— The Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) May 26, 2021
Then there was this which I am just going to show because it looked cool:
DOMINAYTON pic.twitter.com/026LUKsoDv— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) May 26, 2021
As the Suns struggled with foul trouble and turnovers, the Lakers took a lead. They went jumbo with LeBron, Markieff Morris and Marc Gasol all on the floor at the same time, and controlled the tempo of the game.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope started the game 0-3 and picked up his second foul late in the first, but otherwise the game went the Lakers’ way in the opening period.
LA led 30-24 after one.
Early in the second quarter, Crowder picked up his third foul and we finally saw Torrey Craig. And as expected, Gasol’s size and shooting made a difference right away, as he denied Payne at the rim twice and also made a three while Saric struggled to get out to him behind the arc.
But without LeBron on the floor, the Lakers’ offense sputtered. Neither Davis nor Talen Horton-Tucker could not initiate, and the Lakers didn’t trust Alex Caruso to do it in the halfcourt. Instead, Dennis Schroder checked back in with about 9:30 to go.
Around the 7-minute mark, Chris Paul began to come alive. He made a jumper, then found Craig for a dunk, then made another jumper, and started to look confident again.
CP3 gets the jumper to fall and the Suns are within 2!#RallyTheValley pic.twitter.com/Lwg8eHA24Q— Bally Sports Arizona (@BALLYSPORTSAZ) May 26, 2021
Just pretty basketball #BeatLA pic.twitter.com/FmV8ZtaLSx— Bally Sports Arizona (@BALLYSPORTSAZ) May 26, 2021
Monty got Ayton a moment of rest midway through the second, but with Saric struggling so badly, Ayton came back in at the 4:50 mark despite having already played 15 minutes.
The Lakers kept their lead as everyone besides Booker struggled to create offense and Ayton was effectively the only one making shots. Those two scored 24 of the Suns’ first 38 points, and had 14 of the Suns’ first 29 shot attempts. That’s the effect of Chris Paul being less than 100 percent.
With Schroder playing well and the Suns struggling to find offense, the Lakers went to the locker room at halftime up, 53-47.
LA opened the second half on a 10-1 run with swarming defense and a healthy dose of LeBron-AD pick and roll.
But the Suns responded big time, with six consecutive points from Booker to bring the lead within single digits again. The Lakers started going to Schroder and Drummond for some reason, and Booker solved everything LA threw at him.
No answer for Book!#RalleyTheValley pic.twitter.com/pr5iwWSeEx— Bally Sports Arizona (@BALLYSPORTSAZ) May 26, 2021
The Suns kept their momentum throughout the third, playing great defense led by Cam Payne and then using that pace to generate more open threes. Unfortunately, Crowder in particular remained cold, and the Suns couldn’t convert those threes.
Cameron Johnson did hit two from the corner to close the period, but he was matched by even more incredible shots by LeBron, from the corner then the top of the arc.
THIS SEQUENCE— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 26, 2021
We got a good one pic.twitter.com/iFnX27SwCg
Payne hit a huge three off an offensive rebound to open the fourth. After a couple errant shots from Crowder, Payne then found Saric on a roll to the rim, where Saric drew a foul and cut the Laker lead to 4 with two free throws.
The Suns forced a jump ball then Davis got to the line and went 1-2, leaving the Suns within 5. Crowder redeemed himself with a putback to cut it to 3 and MASSIVE corner three on which he was fouled by Caruso. He made the free throw, cutting the lead to just 1.
LIGHT IT UP, JAE pic.twitter.com/jzPm1IQtAF— Bally Sports Arizona (@BALLYSPORTSAZ) May 26, 2021
Because apparently the Suns are a damn fairytale of a team, Payne then responded with ANOTHER big three, tying the game at 68.
It’s fair to say Payne was the Suns’ third best player all night on Tuesday, behind only Booker and Ayton. They needed every minute he gave them, and he was money.
UNLIMITED RANGEEEEEE!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/oCg019NODa— Bally Sports Arizona (@BALLYSPORTSAZ) May 26, 2021
Phoenix took the lead on a lob from Payne to Ayton, then Gasol responded with a wide open three. The Lakers lost Ayton inside again on the next play and the Suns went up, 90-89.
Another Payne bucket and an LA shot clock violation later, Monty called a timeout with the Suns down, 93-92.
The Laker stars came out of the break determined to win, with both LeBron and Davis hitting big jumpers to stretch the LA lead out to 6. A Payne foul on Davis sent AD to the line, where he made both, giving the Lakers a 100-92 lead.
Booker then turned it over and the game slipped away for good.