Lakers’ stellar start turns into a cold-shooting finish during win over Suns

Lakers star LeBron James controls the ball in front of Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker.
LeBron James controls the ball in front of Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker during the first half of the Lakers’ 117-107 win at Staples Center on Wednesday.
(Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press)

Early in the first quarter, the Lakers displayed their full power.

First, LeBron James lobbed the ball to Anthony Davis, who caught it with his back to the basket and finished the play with a reverse dunk. Then, James poked the ball away from the Suns’ Jevon Carter, took it the length of the court and delivered another powerful dunk.

It was an early sign that seemed to indicate this would be an easy night for the Lakers. In the end, it wasn’t. On Wednesday night the Phoenix Suns were outmatched by the Lakers for one half. In the second half, though, the Suns made the Lakers work hard for a 117-107 win.

“You can lose games like that, which is the worst feeling in the world,” Davis said.


“You gotta be able to play the same way the entire four quarters. If we’re going to continue to play like that then we’re going to lose games like that. We don’t want to come in and blow a 36-point lead. … When we get leads like that we gotta make sure we continue to play the right way.”

Highlights from the Lakers’ win over the Suns on Wednesday.

James notched 31 points, 12 assists and 13 rebounds, while Davis scored 26 points, 15 of them in the first quarter. Kyle Kuzma added 19 points on five-for-15 shooting while Avery Bradley scored 18 points, making nine of the 11 shots he attempted.

In the first quarter, the Lakers scored 43 points, which made it the highest-scoring quarter the Lakers have had all season. But it wasn’t just on offense that the Lakers overpowered the Suns. The Suns turned over the ball seven times in the first quarter, five of them steals by the Lakers. And while the Lakers made 70.4% of their first-quarter shots, they held the Suns to just 26.1% shooting.

By halftime things didn’t get much better for the Suns. They committed five more turnovers in the second quarter.

After halftime, the Lakers increased their lead to 36 with a 20-footer from James, which was their largest lead of the game.

That’s when the Suns fired back.

David Stern, the longtime NBA commissioner who shepherded the NBA from the edges of disaster to unimaginable success, has died at 77.

“We started playing a lot of one-on-one, we completely stopped playing defense,” Davis said. “They were getting a lot of offensive rebounds, attacking the basket. Nobody was getting open shots.”

Phoenix shot 60.9% in the third quarter and committed only one turnover. They outscored the Lakers in the paint and on second-chance points during that frame. James’ five field goals in the third were more than the rest of his team had combined.

Lakers coach Frank Vogel played Davis and James for the whole third quarter. With a 22-point lead heading into the fourth, he didn’t intend to bring either back the rest of the game.

“He didn’t tell me that he didn’t intend to bring me back into the game, but he kind of gave me a look and I told him I’m going to stay ready,” James said. “I was ready for whatever.”

In the fourth quarter, their shooting went cold. The Lakers scored only eight points in the first eight minutes of the fourth, going one for 16 from the field.

Monday night at his 35th birthday party, LeBron James found another opportunity to bring his teammates together to bond: “We had a heck of a time.”

Now it was Phoenix getting into the Lakers’ passing lanes, and taking advantage of their misses. In all the Lakers went 12 of 39 in the second half.

With 8:11 left in the game and the Lakers’ lead cut to 12, James, Davis and Kuzma returned. James and Davis stayed in until almost the end as the Lakers held on to deny the Suns a third straight win while winning their third in a row after four consecutive losses.

“We have to do a better job throughout the season of holding big leads,” Vogel said. “But with that we had a dominant performance in the first half. I was proud of how we came out and approached the game. … We didn’t play well enough in the third or fourth quarter, but you learn lessons when you win and that’s always a good thing.”