Kyle Kuzma drives against the Phoenix Suns on Dec. 2, 2018.
(Ty Nowell/Los Angeles Lakers)

Lakers Storm Back From Slow Start, Blow Out Suns

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

A few minutes into the game, the Lakers were hit by a haymaker from the last-place team in the NBA.

But, after falling behind by 17 points, the Lakers got off the canvas (or hardwood) and started walloping on the Phoenix Suns.

The purple and gold outscored them by 31 points the rest of the way, eventually cruising to a 120-96 victory — their third in a row.

The Lakers (14-9) initially couldn’t get much productivity out of their starting five, so an unlikely source came to the rescue.

Michael Beasley has only played in eight games this season, but he feasted in a matchup against Phoenix’s Ryan Anderson, cooking his way to 14 points in only 13 minutes, hitting several times from his favorite spot: the fringes of the paint.

“Huge spark,” LeBron James said. “First quarter, we were terrible. … Beas was great from start to finish.”

Meanwhile, Josh Hart finished the game with only six points but was phenomenal on the defensive side.

He was the Lakers’ primary defender on the NBA’s 12th-leading scorer, Devin Booker, who struggled against Hart before leaving the game due to a second-quarter hamstring injury.

The Lakers outscored the Suns by 32 in Hart’s 18 minutes.

“He was making winning plays all over the court,” coach Luke Walton said. “And the plus/minus doesn’t always add up. … But tonight I pointed it out to the team, because I thought it was directly related to how he played tonight.

“It was fighting over screens, tagging on the weak side, getting a steal … making the extra pass. Everything we’re always preaching about playing, he was doing those things tonight.”

With Beasley and Hart leading on opposite sides of the floor, the Lakers enjoyed a 40-15 second quarter — entering the frame down by 10 and leaving up by 15.

The Suns shot just 5-of-22 in that second period, as the Lakers’ defense put forth another shutdown effort.

Phoenix (4-19) hit only 39.8 percent on the game, despite a hot afternoon from the 3-point line. Two-point range was locked down by the likes of JaVale McGee and Tyson Chandler, as the Suns hit fewer than half of their shots in the paint and just 1-of-11 from mid-range.

And the Lakers’ starters found their groove later in the game, as they led by as many as 33 points.

LeBron James — who was able to rest the entire fourth quarter — had an even effort with 22 points, eight assists and six rebounds. Meanwhile, Kyle Kuzma flashed a bit of everything, with 23 points, eight rebounds and some strong defense.

“He’s not allowing anybody to just put a cap on him and say he’s a scorer,” James said of Kuzma. “He wants to be more than that. He’s been continuing to get better and better. Not only offensively, but defensively as well. He’s just playing all-around solid basketball.”

Kuzma did a nice job mixing up his scoring, hitting three 3-pointers while mixing in some post-ups and put-backs. But his defense was the talk of the locker room, as he has thrived over the last week.

“Watching film, really just trying to be aggressive,” Kuzma said. “A lot of times I’m really conservative and give guys too much respect. The past few games I’ve just been trying to be ultra-aggressive. Get up in guys, really get amped up and excited to play defense.”

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Notes
Moe Wagner (10 points) scored for the first time in the NBA. … Lonzo Ball had four steals. … The Lakers had large advantages in points in the paint (62-46) and on second chances (24-14). … Richaun Holmes scored a team-high 15 points for the Suns. First-overall pick Deandre Ayton was held to 10 on 4-of-12 shooting. … It was an early, 12:30 p.m. PT tip-off. … Denzel Washington, Will Ferrell and Christina Milian were among the sold-out crowd.

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