A match-up that, contrary to my pre-game, saw none of the “core four” suit up, the Phoenix Suns found themselves squaring off with a fully loaded Lakers team.
In addition to that, they were up against a team trying to keep up with the Warriors in the standings, making the game also much more meaningful for them.
11 times tied and 11 lead changes speak to how the Suns reserves competed in this one.
They would come out with a ton of energy and activity, captained by Cam Payne and complemented by Bismack Biyombo - leading to a 34-point opening frame, that saw some of the wind taken out of their sails due to both his and Biyombo’s injuries.
"We're grateful that they weren't worse."— Bally Sports Arizona (@BALLYSPORTSAZ) April 8, 2023
Monty Williams provides an update on Cam Payne and Bismack Biyombo's injuries that forced them from tonight's game. pic.twitter.com/7jUorIy22w
Torrey Craig (18 points, 6 rebounds, 4 blocks, 1 steal) and Josh Okogie (16 points, 6 rebounds, 8-8 from the stripe) - both as a tandem back in the starting lineup, again - would compile plenty of their signature stop-and-score sequences that display the grit and chaos-inducing value they bring.
TC & JO stepped up with four starters out.#WeAreTheValley | @SweetJames pic.twitter.com/VxWomc6q0f— Bally Sports Arizona (@BALLYSPORTSAZ) April 8, 2023
The Suns would carry a 62-61 lead into the second half.
What turned into a somewhat messy game where even more bench players were given the opportunity to play freely, Jock Landale would seize the chance with 17 points and 10 rebounds (his third double-double of the season).
On the Lakers end, after also being outrebounded at the half, they’d parlay efforts in the second half along with scoring bursts from the likes of Reaves (22 points), Russell (24 points), Beasley (21 points), to chip away at the Suns lead and momentum, to re-establish themselves in an all-important game pertaining to their postseason standing.
That switch flipped in energy as well as attention to detail would lead to the Lakers outscoring the Suns 60-45, leading to some scoreboard separation.
They would also outrebound the suddenly undersized Suns, 31-16, which was truly the driving force behind the Lakers reversed fortunes (Suns won in the first half 31-23).
52 points in the paint, in addition to 17 points off turnovers helped the Suns to nearly make this one interesting in the end, until a late surge from the Lakers starting group simply proved to be too much.
Suns lose, 107-121.