Lakers deny Suns with late defensive stand  

LOS ANGELES (The Bulletin/News4usonlline) – There are a couple of takeaways from the Lakers’ win against the Phoenix Suns at Arena. The first thought that comes to mind is why the Lakers let this charade play all the way to the final ticks in the fourth quarter. The Suns played this game without two of the best players in the NBA: Devin Booker and Bradley Beal. 

“I think early in the game we weren’t playing up to our capabilities. We were giving up a lot of extra points, a lot of second-chance points,” Lakers forward LeBron James said.“We know that killed us in Denver a couple of nights ago. It was killing us in the first half. We made the adjustments. We talked about it and we got it done. We knew in order for us to win this game, we had to take the challenge defensively, and we took the challenge and got it done.”  

And yet, Phoenix made it tough on the Lakers all night. Sounds familiar? This is how the Lakers played under former head coach Frank Vogel, who is now the man in charge of running the operations for Booker, Beal, and  Kevin Durant. The Lakers defeated the Suns, 105-100. 

James and Anthony Davis seemed to have taken a page or two from the Vogel pages when they won an NBA title together. That would be to play some defense, which they did in the final quarter of the ballgame. James, Davis, and the rest of the Lakers came alive in the fourth quarter to outscore Phoenix 28-11 to close out the game. 

The Lakers held Phoenix to  5 of 20 from the field in the final quarter, good enough for 25 percent. Durant scored 9 of the Suns’ 11 points in the period. After the game, Durant talked about having to put the Suns’ offense on his back for most of the game.  

“I felt I got some good looks,” Durant said.”It’s hard to maneuver when it’s like everyone is watching me every time, and trying to find the best place for me to be aggressive, be efficient, especially late in the clock. It’s tough to find a good shot, especially with that type of defense. So, just try to be aggressive. I feel like a couple of those shots maybe I could have had better fundaments or threw out an extra pass, but I was trying to help the team win the game.”  

For the Suns, it was Durant and a bunch of other guys on the floor. Durant finished the game with a game-high 39 points in the defeat. But Davis countered with a 30-point performance as well. Davis had help. Durant had very little, and the Lakers managed to come away with their first win of the season after falling to the Denver Nuggets in their season opener.  

If there was a message that Davis wanted to convey to his teammates leading up to the fourth quarter, there were two options, he stated. 

“We just got to get stops and rebounds. That’s it,” Davis said. “We have enough on the floor offensively to score the basketball, but just going off of Game 1, we gave up a lot of offensive rebounds and fastbreak points (versus NBA champions Denver Nuggets). I just wanted to lock in defensively, especially when you got a guy (Durant) like that going, just want to make it tough for him, and then just make sure the other guys don’t beat you. That’s what we tried to do.”     

The Lakers actually won this game where they should: in the paint. Durant and the Suns were no match for the Lakers down low, surrendering 60 points in the painted area. Phoen ix could only muster 36 points of their own.

 In a nutshell that was the ballgame, Maybe, two nutshells. The Lakers held Phoenix to one offensive rebound in the fourth quarter while gobbling up 13 of their total board count of 15 in the period on the defensive end. 

Lakers head coach Darvin Ham was blunt in his assessment of how his team was able to keep Phoenix in check during that final period. 

“Defensive rebounding,” Ham said. “Our activity, obviously, getting back in transition, getting in front of the ball. Our activity behind. Obviously, K.D. (Kevin Durant) was drawing a lot of attention, crowding him, trying to have a guy shifted over with what we call Flood. Some people call it a tilt. But again, like I said, making them see bodies. And then our activity behind that. Guys shifted, denying them, mixing up different things off the ball, and ultimately holding them to one possession, forcing turnovers. 

Top Image: File Photo credit: Mark Hammond for News4usonline