The Phoenix Suns do not have much to play for the rest of the regular season.
Phoenix has secured the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference. It has proven it can be an elite team with Kevin Durant, who has helped them to an 8-0 record when he is in the lineup. Moreover, the Suns are playing their best basketball at the right time, so they might as well preserve it while they can.
The Suns did not play starting guards Devin Booker and Chris Paul, Durant and center Deandre Ayton against the Los Angeles Lakers Friday night. The game was an opportunity for Phoenix’s bench players to prove themselves as the Suns are looking to shore up their rotation for the playoffs.
The Suns put up a very impressive fight against the Lakers, who were at full strength. Los Angeles won the game, 121-107, when it pulled away with a 25-18 fourth quarter at Crypto.com Arena. But Phoenix, which fell to 45-36 against an opponent that improved to 42-39, should have plenty to be proud about.
The Suns led at halftime against the Lakers, 62-61, and for a majority of the first half. Phoenix did not have the best rhythm offensively but it slowed Los Angeles superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, who at one point shot a combined 5-of-18 from the field.
Phoenix had four of its five starters – which were guards Cam Payne and Landry Shamet, forwards Josh Okogie and Torrey Craig and center Bismack Biyombo – score before the end of the first quarter. Meanwhile, Los Angeles looked out of sorts on both ends, as it had six turnovers before the Suns had their first.
Phoenix had a one-point lead at halftime but momentum quickly shifted. Biyombo went down in the second quarter with a right knee injury when he collided with Davis on a drive to the basket. Payne also suffered a lower back injury and did not return.
The Lakers had seven of the final 11 points in the third quarter to take a 96-89 lead. Phoenix went on a 7-0 run to start the quarter and tied the game with 10:20 left after a jumper from backup wing Terrence Ross.
But that was the last time the Suns had a chance. The Lakers went on an 11-0 run, which was capped off by a 3-pointer from James. Los Angeles built its lead to as large as 16 points as the Suns’ seven-game win streak came to an end.
Torrey Craig, who has encouraged the Suns with his play off the bench lately, had a team-best 18 points with six rebounds, four blocks, an assist and a steal. Backup center Jock Landale had a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, and Okogie (16 points) and Payne (13 points) were also in double figures.
The Suns will conclude their regular season Sunday against the Los Angeles Clippers, who they may face in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. The game will tip off at 12:30 PT.
For more on tonight’s game, you can check out what happened through our live updates.