Kyle Kuzma
(Michael Gonzales/Getty Images)

Lakers show their offensive chops, stay hot in the desert

by Rodrigo Azurmendi
Staff Writer

Get yourself a team capable of diversifying its portfolio of wins.

After going on a 7-game winning streak fueled primarily by its suffocating defense, the Lakers showed Tuesday night in Arizona that they’re also very capable of surviving a shootout.

It was clear from the get-go that this wasn’t just going to be an offensive duel, but one marked by a clash of scoring styles.

Both teams excelled at what they do, with the Suns draining 16 three-pointers and the Lakers dominating the paint to the tune of 70 points, producing a highly entertaining matchup full of lead changes and intrigue.

L.A. had to dig deep, eventually leaving Phoenix with a true team win in the bag, getting contributions from every corner of Frank Vogel’s locker room.

For instance, this outcome doesn’t materialize without Kyle Kuzma. He set the tone early – scoring 13 of his 23 in the first – but saved his best for last, draining a pair of clutch three-pointers that essentially sealed the victory in Phoenix.

“I just got to do me, I got to play like Kuz play,” said Kuzma, who’s been having a rough shooting start to his season after making his debut on November 1st, during his walk off interview.

The Lakers also don’t win this game without Alex Caruso’s defense and Dwight Howard’s rebounding. Ditto for Danny Green’s floor spacing (3-for-5 from beyond the arc) or Avery Bradley’s instincts – he grabbed a key offensive rebound that led to one of Kuzma’s long-range bombs.

“Coach always preaches ‘trust the next man’, and AB did that with me,” Kuzma added. “AB’s a scrapper. He’s a dog. He crashes sometimes when he shouldn’t, when he should get back, but he made a big time play and helped us win the game.”

L.A. finished with 39 assists – its most since 2009 – and Vogel credited it for the win.

“If we truly commit to the extra pass offensively, and playing for each other, we’re going to be near unbeatable”, said Vogel.

Phoenix just kept coming though, with six of their players scoring in double digits. The Lakers did too, with different heroes during different times. This was best illustrated by JaVale McGee’s third quarter, in which he had five dunks and scored all 11 of his points for the night.

McGee was instrumental in making up for the Lakers lack of three-point shooting. So were LeBron James and Anthony Davis, who abused the Suns in the post and lead to the barrage in the paint.

The star duo also had a pair of daggers in the fourth: Davis beating the shot clock mid-way through the period, and James coming off of a timeout with 3:12 to go in regulation – a bucket Phoenix would never recover from:

Don’t worry though, the defense didn’t stay dormant all game. The Lakers held the Suns to just 23 points in the fourth (after giving up 92 through 3), finishing the game on a 13-2 run in the last 3:29.

And about that long-range avalanche? Phoenix missed their last six three-pointers of the game after making 16 of their first 32.

That’s how the Lakers managed to win their fourth in a row on the road, improving to 8-2 on the season to stay atop the Western Conference.

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