Booker torches Lakers for 33 in Suns’ win
LOS ANGELES — Devin Booker is becoming a household name in the NBA, and Friday night the third-year shooting guard for the Phoenix Suns got comfortable in a hurry inside Staples Center.
Booker scored 22 of his 33 points in the first half and then helped the Suns hold on down the stretch for a 122-113 victory against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Alex Len had 17 points and 18 rebounds off the bench, Tyler Ulis had 15 points and seven assists and T.J. Warren had 13 points and seven rebounds for the Suns (6-11).
Booker scored at least 33 points for the third time in the past four games to increase his scoring average to 23.5.
“You have to pay attention to him, and that creates space for everybody else,” Phoenix coach Jay Triano said.
Kyle Kuzma scored 28 of his season-high 30 points in the second half for the Lakers (6-10) and also grabbed 10 rebounds. Brook Lopez had 19 points and 10 rebounds and Brandon Ingram had 17 points and eight rebounds for Los Angeles, which beat the Suns in Phoenix twice this season.
“A great teaching moment,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “Just because we beat a team twice doesn’t mean that we’re better than they are.”
Phoenix center Greg Monroe scored the first four points of the second half to give Phoenix its biggest lead at 69-53.
Kuzma, who came in second on the team in scoring at 15.5 points, missed all six of his first-half field-goal attempts, but made his first four in the second half to cut the deficit to six. Kuzma scored 14 points in the third quarter and the Lakers got as close as two, but the Suns pushed their lead back to 89-82 entering the fourth.
“When we’re playing the right way, and we’re playing with energy and competing, he’s a matchup nightmare,” Walton said of Kuzma. “But in the first half, he took a bunch of shots that were off-balance and quick and not what we were looking for.”
The Suns went back up by 12 early in the fourth quarter, but the Lakers made another push and pulled within three on the second consecutive basket by Corey Brewer with 7:30 remaining.
Booker would come back with seven points in just over two minutes to stretch the lead back to 112-103 with 5:16 remaining and the Lakers wouldn’t get any closer than eight the rest of the way.
Len was also big down the stretch. He re-entered for Monroe with 7:26 left and grabbed eight rebounds the rest of the way, including four of his six on the offensive end.
“He got an offensive rebound right away and I said, ‘that’s what I put you in for,’ and he went and got three more,” Triano said. “He just knows his role and did a (heck) of a job going to get the ball.”
Booker made his sixth 3-pointer of the first half just before the buzzer to stretch Phoenix’s biggest lead to 65-53.
Booker shot 6-for-9 from 3-point distance in the opening half before finishing 6-for-14
The Lakers were carried early on by Lopez and Ingram, who combined for 21 of the first 23 points for Los Angeles.
Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball, who had an eight-inch height advantage on Ulis, missed his first shot, a fade-away 17-footer with 4:05 left in the first quarter and was replaced about a minute later by Jordan Clarkson.
Lakers reserve power forward Julius Randle checked in with Clarkson with 3:01 left in the first quarter and scored off a spin move at the first-quarter buzzer to cut the deficit to 29-28 entering the second. Randle would score 11 points in his first eight minutes on the floor to keep the score close, but only had two points the rest of the way.
Ball re-entered with 6:56 left in the first half and set up Clarkson for a jumper that kept the Lakers within three, but Los Angeles then committed turnovers on three straight possessions and Phoenix began to expand its lead.
Booker sank a turnaround jumper out of timeout for the Suns’ biggest advantage at 55-48 with 2:17 remaining, and he’d score five additional points before halftime.
NOTES: Suns C Tyson Chandler missed his second consecutive game with an illness. Chandler leads the Suns in rebounding at 9.5 a game and had a season-high 15 rebounds in the loss to the visiting Lakers on Monday. The Lakers had a 49-44 edge in rebounding. ... The Suns came in averaging 56.6 combined free-throw attempts per game (27.3 by Suns, 29.3 by their opponents), the highest average in the NBA this season. Both teams combined for 43 free throws. ... The Lakers came in last in the NBA in 3-point shooting at 28.8 percent and they finished 7-for-25 (28 percent). ... Lakers rookie PG Lonzo Ball finished with six points on 3-for-7 shooting, six rebounds, five assists and five steals.