The Phoenix Suns got embarrassed by the Houston Rockets on national television Thursday night. They gave up 90 points by halftime and weren't about to let that kind of thing happen again.
On Friday night, the Lakers were victims of the Suns' best shot with a 122-113 victory at Staples Center. The Lakers fell to 6-10 while the Suns improved to 6-11.
"For whatever reason, even though we mentioned it, we didn't think they were going to come out and play that hard, play that well," Lakers coach Luke Walton said. "A great teaching moment and learning moment for our guys. Everybody in the NBA is good. Just because we beat a team twice doesn't mean we're better than they are."
Devin Booker led Phoenix with 33 points on 13-of-26 shooting while Kyle Kuzma led the Lakers with a career-high 30 points.
Kuzma's points were the most by a rookie this season; the previous high was Lonzo Ball's 29 points against the Suns in October in the second game of the season. Kuzma's six games of 20 or more points rank first among NBA rookies this season.
Although the Lakers shot nearly 50%, they also turned the ball over 19 times, giving up 14 points.
"Just careless with the ball," said Ball, who had six points, six assists, six rebounds and five steals, making three of seven shots. "A lot of those came in transition, which is a double negative because that's a scoring opportunity and we gave the ball right back to them. Just gotta be smarter with the ball."
The Lakers trailed by one point after one quarter, then Phoenix began to pull away late in the second with the help of a 16-5 run to close the quarter.
Booker hit a 30-foot three-pointer at the end of the second quarter to put the Suns up 65-53.
Walton saw an energy shift from the first half to the second, and thought the Lakers played better after the break. One player who showed that was Kuzma, who missed all of his six shot attempts in the first half but came out of halftime energized.
The Suns had their biggest lead of the game at 16 when Kuzma broke off his own little run. First a dunk on an assist from Ball, then a hook shot, a floater and a three-pointer. Kuzma made 11 of 17 shots in the second half and also finished with 10 rebounds.
Kuzma has five double-doubles, four of them in the eight games he has started.
Asked about the difference between the two halves, Kuzma said, "Nothing. I just stayed aggressive. Shots just started falling, I got into a rhythm."
For the first time in three games, Ball played in the fourth quarter. In fact, he played the entire fourth quarter and garnered two assists, a rebound and two steals.
For the third time in three games between these teams, a skirmish broke out between the players. This time it came in tandem with a scuffle in the stands that saw two fans removed by security.
With 3:17 left in the game, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope tangled with Suns point guard Tyler Ulis. Suns rookie Josh Jackson stormed into the fray a few seconds later. All three were assessed technical fouls.
"I think both teams are young. These guys know each other pretty well. I'm sure they all grew up playing AAU against each other," Walton said. "The games have been close.
"I think because of the fact that we played three times in such a short amount of time … it's like a playoff series. By Game 3, 4, 5, it starts to get chippy. I think all those play into it a little bit, why the games have been like that."
The Lakers are 2-1 against the Suns and won't see them again until February. It might be a welcome respite for both teams.