Jordan Clarkson vs. Phoenix
Jordan Clarkson dunks against the Phoenix Suns on Jan. 3.
(Ty Nowell/Lakers.com)

Dunks and Defense Define Rout Over Phoenix

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

Thunder struck the rim via violent dunks by Jordan Clarkson and Roy Hibbert, while Phoenix’s basket went largely unharmed.

The duo provided the night’s pyrotechnics, while the Lakers’ defense suffocated the Suns, who scored a franchise-low 22 first-half points in Los Angeles’ 97-77 victory on Sunday night.

Phoenix (12-25) had beaten L.A. five straight times entering the game, but the Lakers (8-27) immediately let the visitors know that there was a different script written for this contest.

The Suns shot just 9-of-46 (19.6 percent) in their historically ugly first half, but the purple and gold weren’t through. They kept the pressure on in the next quarter, leading by as many as 38 points in their third consecutive win.

“We had our hands in all the passing lanes, getting deflections,” said Larry Nance Jr., who collected 15 points and 14 rebounds. “I think we were just playing aggressively defensively. Anytime you can get the opposing team back on their heels a little bit and get them jarred, it’s gonna be good news for us.”

While Kobe Bryant (sore right shoulder) sat out for the second game in a row, Lou Williams engineered the Lakers’ offense with 30 points (11-of-17) and six 3-pointers.

Williams averaged just 6.3 points on 20.6 percent shooting in the three games before L.A.’s streak, but he’s now putting up 24.3 points on a 58.5 percent clip during the surge.

“You just continue to play, even when you don’t make shots,” said Williams, who also hit a pair of 3’s that beat the second- and third-quarter buzzers. “You continue to shoot, and sooner or later you get yourself out of a little rut.”

With both teams’ bench in, the Suns used a 21-5 run to trim the Lakers’ lead to 14 with five minutes left, but they could never come any closer. While the Lakers recorded a season-high 26 assists, Phoenix — which has lost nine straight — missed its first 14 3-point attempts.

“I kept saying to them, ‘I don’t care if you go 1-for-800. You’ve got to shoot like you believe you’re going to make it,’” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said.

Come On and Slam
Clarkson soared over 7-foot-1 Alex Len and cocked back before throwing down his monster jam in the third quarter. But apparently Nick Young was the true victim of the jam, as he laid down and pretended to need resuscitation after Clarkson took flight.

While Clarkson slammed like a big, Hibbert looked like a point guard on his way to the rack for his dunk.

The 7-foot-2 center pump faked his defender and then feigned a pass to the perimeter before shaking the rim.

But his teammate, Williams, joked that this should be routine for someone his size.

“I just feel like he’s tall enough where he should dunk all the basketballs,” Williams said. “So my expectation level for Roy is unrealistic.”

Notes
Nance tied his career-high in rebounds. … Phoenix played its fifth game without Eric Bledsoe, who is out for the season after undergoing knee surgery. … Brandon Knight led his team with 25 points and nine assists. … Between the third and fourth quarters, a fan, David Moya, won $95,000 by hitting a half-court shot. … A sellout of 18,997 filled the arena.

Take flight Mr. Nance!! ✈️

A photo posted by Los Angeles Lakers (@lakers) on

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