The Phoenix Suns started the game a bit off their mark again, but Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton carried the team to a 63-58 lead at halftime, and then the rest of the guys helped blow the game open in the third quarter.
The Suns took a 26-point lead in the 3rd to put the game away, spurred by Devin Booker’s threes, Ayton’s jams and Chris Paul’s dimes.
Ayton finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds. Booker had 32 points (6 threes*), 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Chris Paul had 12 assists, 6 points and 4 rebounds. None of them played in the 4th quarter.
*Booker now has tied his regular-season career high of 6 three-point shots for the 17th time. He’s never made more in a regular season game, but did drain 8 of 10 in the closeout game against these Lakers in round one of last year’s playoffs.
With the win, the Suns have set a new franchise record with 63 wins in a season AND, for good measure, they personally killed off the Lakers playoff hopes at the same time.
The Suns, locked into the top playoff seed for almost two weeks now, finally get to start the playoffs in less than two weeks — just two weekends away, likely Sunday, April 17.
Deandre Ayton won the opening tip over Dwight Howard and the Suns scored their first bucket putting Howard into pick-and-roll defense.
But then the Lakers scored 9 straight points as the Suns missed open shots while the Lakers looked... uncrisp, but effective anyway. Anthony Davis is clearly laboring with that foot — isn’t even running in transition — but is being game enough to stay out there and make some noise. The Lakers started with 4 straight makes and 5 of their first 7 shots, including a trio of threes, to take a 15-8 lead.
The Suns still just could not make easy open shots and the Lakers continued to lead late in the first quarter. Ayton and Booker collected a pair of fouls each and also accounted for 19 of the Suns 23 points on the board. The rest of the Suns were just 2-9 from the field and they were down 26-23 until Mikal Bridges finally made a fast-break layup.
After launching a ton of threes on Sunday in the loss to the Thunder, the Suns here were forcing the ball inside but still having trouble finishing. The Lakers also got a ton of free throws, making 9 of 10 in the first quarter, compared to the Suns mere six attempts.
Suns down 31-28 after one. They haven’t led the game since going up 2-0 on the opening shot. Devin Booker has 11 points, 2 assists and 3 rebounds, while Deandre Ayton has 8 points and 4 rebounds.
Cameron Johnson finally tied the game with a three pointer, 33-33, just under two minutes into the second quarter. But the Suns still couldn’t put together back to back shot-making with defensive stops, and were still down 44-39 almost halfway through the second quarter. They just don’t seem to have any offensive rhythm at all.
But Cam Johnson can cure some ills with his shooting, and he made a three to give the Suns their first lead since the opening possession, 45-44, about halfway through the quarter.
When Ayton came back in, he immediately picked up his third foul defending a hard-driving Russell Westbrook at the rim. Let’s see how he handles these fouls now.
Westbrook is having a good game, up to 14 points on 8 shots to give the Lakers a 50-48 lead.
Then Chris Paul decided to get more involved, and the Suns went on a 8-0 run to force a Lakers timeout. 56-50 Suns now.
The Suns took a 59-50 lead a few seconds later on a Jae Crowder three (his first in four tries), but then surrendered a small run by the Lakers.
Suns up 63-58 at half. Devin Booker has 16 points, Chris Paul has 7 assists and Deandre Ayton has 14 points and 7 rebounds. Lakers are really in this game because they’ve drawn 19 free throws compared to the Suns’ 8.
Weird stat: Booker and Ayton have both made six baskets (12-of-21 shooting), while seven other Suns have made exactly two baskets on just 16-of-40 shooting.
The Suns came out much more focused on running their offense instead of whatever was happening in the first half, and they took a lot more command of the game.
A pair of unlikely threes from Westbrook and Bradley kept the Lakers alive, but the Suns still went up 77-65 looking a LOT more like the Suns that won 62 games this year so far.
The lead got to 26 by the end of three, and this one was over.
See more recap up top.