After playing the Los Angeles Lakers a week ago in their preseason finale, the Phoenix Suns played in the City of Angels, losing after being outscored 28-11 in the fourth.
The Suns were without the services of Bradley Beal for the second consecutive game, and Devin Booker joined him in street clothes as he would not be available to play either. A sore left foot was the culprit, tweaked in the fourth quarter against the Golden State Warriors per Frank Vogel, which left Kevin Durant as the lone member of the Big Three to suit up and face the Lakers.
KD was stellar and could have used some help. He scored 39 points on 14-of-28 shooting, passing Hakeem Olajuwon on the all-time scoring list in the process. Eric Gordon did his best Robin impression to Durant’s Batman throughout the evening, scoring 15 points, but was 37.5% from the field.
LeBron James had 21 points, 9 assists, and 8 rebounds. Anthony Davis had 30 and 13. The Lakers let the Suns run out of gas, attacked in the fourth and won the game.
The early strategy for Phoenix was to shoot the three-ball, which makes sense when Eric Gordon and Grayson Allen are your backcourt replacements for Booker and Beal. Phoenix took three-pointers on 8 of their first 16 shots of the game, hitting three. But it was the early effort on the boards that had the Suns up 17-16 midway through the first, as their focus on rebounding equated to a 10-5 advantage in that metric.
12 of the Suns' first 19 points were second-chance points.
Jordan Goodwin played 5 productive minutes off the bench, going 3-of-3 in the quarter and scoring 7 points. He was a +11. Phoenix put together a 12-0 run in the first quarter, shot 46.2% from the field, held the Lakers to 34.8% shooting, and carried a 30-18 lead into the second.
Kevin Durant, who had 6 points and played the entire first, was spelled by a combination of Josh Goodwin, Eric Gordon, Nassir Little, Yuta Watanabe, and Drew Eubanks to open the second. They were a -5 in three minutes played. The Lakers' defense tightened in the second, which resulted in quality offense, as they opened on a 21-5 scoring run.
Jufus Nurkic picked up his third foul with 5:16 left in the second quarter, which meant that after 12 minutes played and 2 fouls, he would spend the remainder of the half sitting on the pine.
LeBron James, even in year 21, still has “it”. Playmaking, shooting, defense, and physicality; King James still affects the game in numerous aspects. He ended the half with 11 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists.
LeBron and AD locking it down on defense, leading to a powerful slam by LeBron!— OutOfSightSports ™️ (@OOSSports) October 27, 2023
The Lakers are on a 20-5 run.
Durant returned to the game and the offensive fluidity returned with him. Phoenix closed the quarter outscoring the Lakers 17-10, putting the Suns up 52-48 at the half. KD had a game-high 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting, including 5-of-6 from the line. He was a team-high +19 when on the court.
KD picked up where he left off to start the third quarter, scoring 5 quick points in poetic fashion. His mid-range jumper is historically effective. And beautiful. The Lakers were throwing double and triple teams his way, but Durant was still scoring and finding his teammates.
This is how the Lakers have defended KD tonight, and they still can’t stop him. pic.twitter.com/3Uqy3JA23Z— Suns Are Better (@SunsAreBetter) October 27, 2023
Give credit where it is due, Frank Vogel and his staff had the Suns focused on both ends of the floor. They were moving and screening on offense, attacking isolations and post-ups and defense, and strategically dissecting the Lakers. Eric Gordon was confident in his three-point shooting and was a complement to Durant’s offense.
Durant had 15 points in the third, doing so from the inside, outside, and free-throw line. Playing all 12 minutes, he was 5-of-6 from the field, with 4 rebounds, and 1 assist. It was just...wow. Kevin Durant is a Phoenix Sun, fam.
I am very, very happy to have Kevin Durant on the Phoenix Suns pic.twitter.com/pMatgyHjpU— John Voita (@DarthVoita) October 27, 2023
Phoenix outscored Los Angeles 32-24 in the third, expanding their lead to 84-72 after three. Durant was a +27 now.
With KD on the bench to start the fourth — just like the beginning of the second — minutes without him would be vital if Phoenix wanted to win the game. Phoenix began the fourth turning the ball over and allowing the Lakers to score 8 quick points, cutting their lead to 4.
With 9:28 left, Durant reentered the game. And hit a three.
The defensive pressure by both teams led to a fourth quarter with low shooting percentages for both teams. Steals, Turnovers, and blocks filled the period.
KD showing off at the defensive end pic.twitter.com/xF6IEWQn3m— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) October 27, 2023
The Suns were 1-of-12 from the field, and the Lakers were 4-of-15 midway through. With 4:54 left the Suns had scored just those 3 KD points, the Lakers had 12. Jusuf Nurkic had 5 fouls. The game was tied 87-87.
No one outside of Durant could step up and hit and shoot, and after carrying the team for three quarters, KD was gassed. LeBron lay in wait, knowing that his team could support him until the time was right. The time was right late in the fourth.
Durant, who scored all but 2 of the Suns' 9 points in the fourth quarter, passed Hakeem Olajuwon in total career points, moving into 12th all-time with an and-one bucket against Austin Reaves.
Unfortunately, he did it in a 100-95 loss. The Suns shot 25% in the fourth.
The Suns head back to Phoenix to play in their home opener on Saturday, doing so against the Utah Jazz. Utah lost their opener 130-114 to the Sacramento Kings and will be on the second night of a back-to-back, playing the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night.
Speculation remains that they will be without the services of Devin Booker with his foot injury. We shall see, shalln’t we?
Greenberg: Devin Booker (foot) expected to miss 2 games.— Underdog NBA (@Underdog__NBA) October 26, 2023
We will see you on Saturday night, Bright Side! Or sooner if you want to hear our writing team’s reactions to the game we witnessed tonight.