The Lakers are now above .500 after they beat a very game Phoenix Suns squad, 119-108. They are now 3-0 at Staples Center.
The game wasn’t exactly pretty throughout. The Suns started out of sync as they had 11 turnovers in the first half. But the Lakers were also giving the ball away and ended with 13 of those in the first 24 minutes. Still, the Lakers’ switching and rotating defense gave the Suns fits early. Phoenix only had 15 points in the first quarter and the Lakers carried a double digit lead entering the second half.
In the stretches where they did play good ball, it was a very beautiful sight. Sometimes, you just sit and smile at the Lakers’ passing. You see guys like Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson finding open guys at the last second. And then you see that pretty forward pass by Julius Randle to Timofey Mozgov for the slam. The ball movement is what makes this team go and coach Luke Walton has done a very good job instilling this type of culture.
What’s great about this Laker team is that everyone can contribute (the Lakers bench outscored the Suns, 47-9). Nick Young started out with a steal, a basket, and an offensive board. He ended with 22 points and had that aforementioned big four-point play. Russell (11-5-6 but 2 for 11 FG) struggled with his shot again but he came up big in the fourth with a three and some good defense. Jordan Clarkson and Lou Williams (veteran presence!) combined for 32 points off the bench. Julius Randle continues to play excellent ball (18 points, 5 rebounds). Timofey Mozgov (14 points, 8 boards) put in 22 quality minutes with some cuts to the basket, good passes, and hustle on the glass. And Brandon Ingram and Tarik Black contributed a few good plays.
Still, the Lakers had a tough time stopping T.J. Warren (22 points) and especially Devin Booker (39 points). Booker is going to be a stud and, really, he helped keep the Suns in the game. They cut the lead to 93-92 before the Lakers scored 9 straight. In that middle of that run was a huge four-point play by Nick Young after D’Angelo Russell ripped the ball off of Warren’s hands. Booker was scoreless for nearly six minutes after Walton put Nick Young and Jordan Clarkson on him.
The play of the game was definitely right after Randle got into it with Tyson Chandler. The Suns were within striking distance at 104-97 with 1:38 left. Nearly the entire building was looking forward to a Randle/Chandler one-on-one battle but once Booker cheated off the wing, Randle whipped the pass to an open Clarkson for the clinching three-pointer. It was a clever move by Randle; veteran move, really. I also want to note that the Lakers outboarded the Suns, 51-40, and I noted the hustle of Mozgov. Seven Lakers had five or more boards in this game. That is some scrappiness by the team.
Meanwhile, all the positive vibes and thoughts to Larry Nance, Jr. He bumped his head on the floor in a scrum in the first half. Nance was diagnosed with a concussion; he never returned to the game and is out for their next game on Tuesday.
These baby Lakers are so fun right now and I’m not sure if anyone expected a three-game winning streak this early in the season. They have the chance to extend that winning streak against Dallas, who just won their first game earlier in the night.
It’s easy to love basketball when you’re having fun AND winning, right?