Lakers even series against Suns with physical play in Game 2 win

Lakers guard Dennis Schroder lofts a shot over Suns guard Chris Paul.
Lakers guard Dennis Schroder lofts a shot over Suns guard Chris Paul on Tuesday night in Phoenix.
(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

The Phoenix Suns’ home arena rocked, music blaring during a fourth-quarter timeout, a few more minutes of magic away from a 2-0 series lead against the Lakers.

The momentum the Lakers had built was gone, the Suns riding Devin Booker and Cameron Payne to erase a double-digit lead. It was a one-point game.

Problem was, there was still time on the clock.

“We stayed poised. We stayed comfortable,” Lakers star Anthony Davis said. “…We didn’t overreact.”


LeBron James hit a spinning, one-footed, turnaround jump shot that ended with him nearly in the courtside seats. Alex Caruso and Davis teamed up to turn Suns center Deandre Ayton away in the paint and Davis stepped into a three-point shot, holding his follow-through in the dry, desert air while he screamed in celebration.

In the big moments, the Lakers dominated, knotting the series with the feisty Suns in a 109-102 victory Tuesday night in Game 2 of the first round of the playoffs.

While it was “Beat L.A.” chants that punctuated the final moments of Game 1, the Lakers fans in the building responded with “Let’s go La-kers!” And James, just for good measure, responded to their cheers with one last, deep three, a dagger to ensure Phoenix’s fight wouldn’t be enough.

With the shot through the net, James raised both hands, the Lakers wrapping up a game in which they looked like they’d realized the kind of team they could be — injuries and illness preventing that from happening any sooner.

Four starters scored at least 15 points led by Davis’ 34, as he bounced back from a painfully quiet Game1, going 18 for 21 from the free-throw line. Dennis Schroder helped the Lakers survive the stretches when James sat, scoring 24, including 14 in the second quarter. And James, still working back from a high ankle sprain, had an all-around floor game: 23 points and nine assists with some big baskets down the stretch.


It started, though, with center Andre Drummond, whom coach Frank Vogel elected to keep in the starting lineup despite some difficult minutes Sunday.

After Kentavious Caldwell-Pope accused his team of not being ready for the Suns in the opener, Drummond made it clear that the Lakers would be more physically engaged, his presence on the offensive glass early ensuring that the team wouldn’t squander its size and strength advantages.

Highlights from the Lakers’ win over the Phoenix Suns in Game 2 of the Western Conference quarterfinals on Tuesday.

Drummond quickly flirted with a double-double, the Lakers outrebounding the Suns 39-31 after being minus-14 on the glass in the opener.

“We were the aggressors at the beginning of the game,” Drummond said. “We played the way we’re supposed to play.”

The Lakers built a double-digit lead, and if they had been sharper from the perimeter, they might’ve kept it. Even though Suns point guard Chris Paul clearly wasn’t full strength after bruising his shoulder Sunday, his team wouldn’t go away.

Devin Booker and Ayton continued to give the Lakers’ defense headaches, the young duo not overwhelmed in their first playoff action.

Booker scored 31, leading the comeback during a stretch where nothing the Lakers tried to use against him mattered. And with so much attention on Booker on the perimeter, Ayton worked his way into the clean spaces around the basket. He made 11 of 13 shots and is 21 for 24 in the series — 87.5%.

The Suns, though, needed more from Paul. The veteran point guard clearly still was hampered with a sore right shoulder. He attempted only five shots in 23 minutes. It would’ve been an even bigger loss had it not been for his backup, Payne.

Nearly out of the NBA before the Suns signed him late last season, Payne scored 19 points off the bench, outscoring the Lakers’ bench, and dished out seven assists.

Lakers-Suns schedule for first-round playoff series.
(Tim Hubbard / Los Angeles Times)

“That’s playoff basketball,” Vogel said. “You’re going to make runs. … It’s not going to be easy to knock them out in any game.”

But Marc Gasol, playing backup center instead of Montrezl Harrell, hit a late three. Caruso had a couple of big defensive stops and punctuated the game with a dunk.

Thursday, the Lakers will host their first playoff game at Staples Center since April 28, 2013, one piece of information more important than any other in their pocket.

“We’re still getting better,” Davis said.