The Los Angeles Lakers were reeling late in the fourth quarter Tuesday night. The Phoenix Suns had made a large run, their home crowd was in a frenzy and the defending NBA champions were at risk of going down two games to none in the first round.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis were not about to let that occur.
James made a turnaround 18-foot jumper, Davis followed with a 3-pointer and the Lakers held on for a hard-fought 109-102 win over the Suns in Game 2 of this playoff series.
“This is a must win,” Davis said. “We all came out with that mindset and we could get the task done.”
It was a significant bounce-back match for the Lakers, and notably Davis, who fought in Game 1 and also took personal responsibility for the team’s 99-90 reduction on Sunday. His crucial 3-pointer with 2:15 left on Tuesday put Los Angeles up 98-92 and finished an overdue Suns rally.
James added 23 points and nine assists.
“Those are two of the top five players in the NBA,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel explained. “We now have a formula where those men carry a huge load, especially at crunch time.”
James said he was not amazed Davis bounced back quickly. He explained the Lakers made it a point to get him involved as far as you can.
“Get him the ball early, often and always,” James said. “It is that easy.”
Game 3 is on Thursday at Los Angeles and the Lakers suddenly have a good deal of momentum.
“That is what I came here for,” James said. “To have the ability to play a playoff game in front of the Lakers faithful.”
The Lakers needed a 63-48 lead after a 10-1 run to start the next quarter. James splashed home a 3-pointer to begin the scoring and Los Angeles looked like it may put this one away .
However, the Suns slowly clawed their way backagain. Cam Johnson created two 3-pointers late in the third quarter, including one at the buzzer, to pull Phoenix in 79-72 heading into the fourth.
Jae Crowder made a 3-pointer from the corner and was fouled, converting the free throw to get a four-point drama that pulled the Suns in 84-83 with 8:09 left in the fourth. Crowder had missed his first 11 3-pointers at the show before that attempt.
Deandre Ayton’s dunk off an offensive rebound with six minutes left put the Suns up 88-86, which was their first lead since the opening minutes. But they could not hold on, unable to safeguard James and Davis in the last minutes.
“We’ve got to do a better job of holding leads, but we showed we will keep battling,” Davis said.
Devin Booker led the Suns with 31 points and made all 17 of his free throws. Ayton had 22 points, 10 rebounds and shot 11 of 13 in the field.
Los Angeles is much larger than Phoenix with Andre Drummond, Davis, James and Marc Gasol all standing 6-foot-9 or taller and tipping the scales at 250 pounds or more. The single player on the Suns’ roster near the dimensions is Ayton. Unlike Game 1, the Lakers generally took advantage of the gap.
“LeBron and AD made big plays but we had our chances,” Suns coach Monty Williams stated. “The first quarter hurt us, turnovers in the first quarter.
The Lakers jumped out to a 30-24 lead after the first quarter, scoring 12 points off of seven Suns turnovers.
Drummond was a force before the break with 11 points and 10 rebounds, including five on the offensive glass.
There was a announced sellout crowd at Phoenix Suns Arena, which was capped at 11,919 because of COVID-19 restrictions. That’s about two-thirds of their 18,000-plus capacity.
PAUL’S SHOULDER STRUGGLES
Suns point guard Chris Paul finished with six points and five assists in 23 minutes while still handling a shoulder injury that happened in Sunday’s Game 1. The 11-time All-Star didn’t play in the closing minutes when the Suns tried to make a push for the win.
Paul had some fantastic moments, but clearly wasn’t at 100 percent.
“I took him out,” Williams stated. “That was me looking at him hold his arm the way he had been carrying it, I simply couldn’t watch him run like this. He had been trying to make plays, he battled, he is a warrior. Most of us know that.”
JUST FOR KICKS
The Suns had to make a fast lineup change when Crowder was called for just two early fouls. The second one was debilitating for the Phoenix forward.
Crowder was whistled for a foul on a Davis jump shot, then he took a shot to the groin when Davis kicked out his leg on the follow through. Davis was called for a Flagrant 1 foul. Crowder remained in the game to take the free throws, but was then replaced by Dario Saric.
Lakers: Gasol played 20 minutes later not playing Game 1. He hit a 3-pointer on his first shot. … Schroder completed with 24 points on 8 of 16 shooting.
… Cam Payne finished with 19 points and seven assists after becoming shrouded in Game 1. … Ayton has made 21 of 24 shots during the first two games of this series.