No less than five multi-time All-Stars play for tonight’s opponents, so you’d think this matchup between the Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Lakers would be a real barn burner. Except four of those five don’t suit up.
The Suns started the game down half their regular rotation but were still in much better shape than the Lakers, who were on the second night of a back to back and missing their best four players.
The Suns quickly grabbed a 16-point first quarter lead, stretched that to 24 by halftime and won the game going away by a final score 130-104.
“He spaces the floor,” head coach Monty Williams said afterward of Damion Lee in the starting lineup, saying it helped point guard Chris Paul get more room to move. Paul scored a season-high 28 points, many of them by getting to his short mid-range shot.
Without Booker, the Suns needed good contributions from Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges and got them. They each scored 20+ points in a comfortable win that was nearly wire to wire. Paul led the Suns with 28 points and 8 assists. Ayton finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds in just 26 minutes. Bridges added 20 too.
“What got me going was the ball movement and our defense,” Ayton said of what made the game go so well from the jump.
As a team, the Suns made 20 threes — third most of the season — on 39 attempts while shooting nearly 50% from the field. Their 130 points by just four off their most this season (134 on 10/25 vs. Warriors).
LeBron James (rest), Anthony Davis (foot), Russell Westbrook (rest) and Austin Reaves (ankle) all sat out the game, while the Suns were short Devin Booker (groin), Jock Landale (concussion), Cameron Payne (foot), Cameron Johnson (knee) and of course Jae Crowder. Lots of bodies missing.
The Suns opened up the game quickly, taking a 16-point first quarter lead that stretched to 24 at halftime (68-44, Suns). Deandre Ayton had a double-double by half (14 points, 10 rebounds) while Chris Paul led all scorers with 16 points along with 6 assists. Damion Lee, starting for Booker, made three three-pointers.
The third quarter was a study in slog-dom by the Suns, who lost their edge after taking that big lead against a really depleted Lakers team. The Lakers stayed in the game in the third, thanks to the Suns laziness, and even cut the Suns lead to 13 at one point. Dennis Schroder took the opportunity to cook a bit, scoring 14 third quarter points to force a Suns timeout with 2:08 to go in the third and the score 91-77. Coach Williams probably wanted to remind his team to play some basketball.
The Suns closed out the quarter on an 8-0 run to lead 99-77 after three. Ayton now has 21 points (4 free throws, 1 three), 11 rebounds and a block. The Suns have made 14 of 30 threes and 17 of 23 free throws, contributing to their big lead. Mikal Bridges now has 20 points, while Torrey Craig is up to 14 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists.
The fourth quarter was more of the first three, with the Suns easily handling the shorthanded Lakers.
The Suns won by 26 points, 130-104.