LOS ANGELES, CA-The first time this season the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns did the tango, the Lakers took their Western Conference Pacific Division opponents to the woodshed. The second time around didn’t work out too well for the Suns as well.
The Lakers used a 40-15 second quarter scoring blitz to turn a huge deficit into a 15-point advantage on their way to posting a 120-96 rout of the Suns at Staples Center.
The Lakers had to overcome eight of their game-high 19 turnovers in the first quarter as Phoenix raced out to a 17-point lead (25-8). Phoenix shot 52 percent from the field in the opening period to jump out a 31-21 edge at the end of the period.
The Suns eventually came down to earth during the Lakers’ scoring outburst in that second quarter, shooting 22 percent (5 of 22) from the field. The Lakers were able to flip the Suns’ shooting woes into a 61-46 lead going into halftime. The Lakers committed just two turnovers in the quarter.
“We still had too many turnovers,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “Turnovers are a problem and we gave up too many fastbreak points. Besides those things, I was very happy with our defensive effort again. I thought we came out a little flat. Michael Beasley and the second unit did a really good job of getting us started and then from that point on, the rest of the guys had a pretty solid game. I thought Zo [Lonzo Ball] did a nice job again of picking up [Devin] Booker and turning him and kind of being our first line of defense.”
Part of the defensive success the Lakers had against Phoenix was outrebounding the Suns by double-digits. When the momentum swung their way in the second quarter, the Lakers grabbed 19 of their total 56 rebounds in that period.
With LeBron James having a relatively pedestrian afternoon with 22 points (9 of 17 from the field), eight assists and six rebounds, forward Kyle Kuzman and Beasley stepped up. Kuzman scored 12 of his team-high 23 points in the second quarter.
Beasley added 14 points and four rebounds off the bench in his 13 minutes of action.
“Huge, huge spark,” James said of Beasley’s performance. “[In the] first quarter we were terrible. Our starting lineup got into a slow start. Our second unit came in, Beas [Beasley], he started it along with [Josh] Hart. KCP [Kentavious Caldwell-Pope] and Tyson [Chandler] came in and gave us a huge boost. Beas was great from start to finish.”
Beasley talked about always being ready to play when your number gets called.
“Professionalism,” Beasley said. “I love the game, so whether I’m playing or not playing, tired or not, I play every day. It’s easy for me. My teammates make it easy. [We have] some funny guys to be around, especially [Kyle Kuzma]. You’re just being professional, knowing tomorrow comes, and hoping for it.”
The Lakers’ large cushion allowed for Walton get players down at the end of the bench a chance to play. That meant a Mortiz Wagner sighting. Wagner scored 10 points in his nearly ten minutes of playing time, all in the fourth quarter when the Lakers ballooned their lead to as much as 33 points in the period. That kind of cushion allowed James to take a break and sit out the fourth quarter.
“I played every game last season all the way to the end,” said James. “I felt great throughout the summer and felt great coming into the season. What is more important is I like getting guys who don’t get as many minutes to get out on the floor. When we are able to do our job and push the lead up then guys like Moe [Wagner] and Svi [Mykhailiuk] can get in there. Big Zu [Ivica Zubac] can get in there and get some minutes. That is what is important. I work my body all year round.”
The Suns can’t catch a break. In the defeat to the Lakers, Phoenix lost its lost its fifth game in a row, and is now 4-19 on the season, holding down the worst record in the NBA.
“It’s kind of hard not to fiocus on the record but we still have games to play,” said Phoenix forward Josh Jackson. “And at the end of the day, we’re going to come in here and play all 82 of them. We just have to come in and be ready to play. And just come out and be aggressive.”