The Phoenix Suns’ valiant comeback effort fell just short in a 109-102 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers Tuesday night at Phoenix Suns Arena, which tied their first-round Western Conference playoff series at 1-1.
The Suns clawed out of a 15-point second-half deficit, with a step-back 3-pointer by Cameron Payne tying the game at 86 with 7:04 to play in the fourth quarter. Dunks by Deandre Ayton on back-to-back possessions gave the Suns a 90-89 lead with less than six minutes to play, but the Lakers’ two All-Stars took control in crunch time.
LeBron James’ fadeaway jumper with 2:55 remaining gave the Lakers a 95-92 lead, before Anthony Davis buried a 3-pointer and hit two free throws on Los Angeles’ next two possessions to extend the advantage to eight points.
Ayton finished with 22 points on 11-of-13 shooting and added 10 rebounds. Devin Booker scored 31 points and went 17-of-17 from the free-throw line. Payne added 19 points and seven rebounds off the bench, a needed boost as All-Star point guard Chris Paul only played 23 minutes while fighting through a shoulder injury sustained in Game 1.
Game 3 is at 7 p.m. Arizona time Thursday at Staples Center and will be televised by Bally Sports Arizona. The Suns’ 24-12 regular-season road record was the NBA’s best in 2020-21.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING:
Monty Williams on Payne: “That’s what he does. He got to the basket, made plays. He certainly can step outside and he’s not afraid to take the big shot, especially threes. He fouled out of the game because he was playing with aggression and passion and effort. He’s certainly a weapon and an asset for us off of the bench. With Chris being down tonight, we needed him to step up and he did.”
Jae Crowder: "Everything got to be together. When they go on a run, we've got to bend together. We got to stay together. And just continue to lean on one another and get it done collectively."
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Devin Booker: 31 points (17-17 FT), 3 assists
Deandre Ayton: 22 points (11-13 FG), 10 rebounds, 1 steal
Cameron Payne: 19 points, 7 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 steal
LIVING UP TO THE MOMENT
Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson showed consistent effort all season, preparing them for the bright lights. They lived up to the moment in Game 1 and, in some cases, churned out historic stat lines — even during an intense game complete with the magnitude of the franchise’s first playoff game since 2010, a jarring injury to their Hall of Fame point guard and a scuffle that resulted in a teammate being ejected.
There are enough “Montyisms” for Monty Williams to write a compilation book — which Devin Booker has publicly and privately suggested to his coach. Even while repeating them to players, Cam Johnson said, Williams will preface by acknowledging some might call them “corny” or “goofy” or “coach speak.” Yet Johnson says those mantras are “big-time anchors” that have kept the Suns emotionally centered during the franchise’s emphatic rise to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. They create personal connections with players by instilling belief and relaying constructive advice. They provide reminders that resurface in the head and heart when one least expects it, and can apply to both basketball and life.
RALLY THE VALLEY
Suns.com gathered personal stories from 13 people connected to the organization. Some are longtime fans, and others are long-time employees in behind-the-scenes roles. Some are community partners who work with the Suns to make residents’ lives a little brighter. Some are natives, and some have returned home.
“You look around the league at some teams, and not everybody has a vibe like this or an energy like this throughout,” Booker said. “I always say it’s a great environment to get better in. When you have everybody supporting you, everybody being honest with you — those are the same people that can give me constructive criticism at any point in the game, and I’m listening to them — that’s the name of our group, man.”
Culture, chemistry and overall spirit are intangible qualities that cannot be measured by traditional stats or advanced analytics. But players and coaches know it — feel it — when those attributes have manifested within a team.