The Phoenix Suns looked to earn their fourth consecutive win, following the lead of their star guard in Devin Booker, who’s looked like himself since returning from a hamstring injury.
Booker had 25 points, nine rebounds and six assists in his second game back after missing seven games, center DeAndre Ayton added a double-double with 19 and 11 rebounds and the Suns went on to cruise past the Los Angeles Lakers 108-90 on Tuesday night at Staples Center.
Phoenix improved to 25-5 with the win, while Los Angeles fell to 16-16, losing their third game in a row.
“I feel great, man, and I think every game it’s going to feel better,” Booker said on his recent hamstring injury. “I’m just getting some runs up under me but we have a good team that makes it easy to mesh with and get back with. When you have the support of all 15 guys, plus the coaching staff, it gives you a lot more confidence when you’re out there.”
The Suns had seven players finish in double figures for a third straight game and had 29 assists on the night, compared to the Lakers who only had 14 while struggling offensively.
“We treat every game the same, we respect our opponents, and we come to beat you,” said Ayton.
Guard Chris Paul finished with 11 points and nine assists for the Suns, while guard Mikal Bridges and forward Cameron Johnson both added 14 points. Center JaVale McGee recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Forward LeBron James had a team-high 34 points, guard Russell Westbrook added 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists for the Lakers.
The Lakers were without the service of their head coach Frank Vogel. They were also missing guards Kent Bazemore, Malik Monk, Austin Reaves and Avery Bradley, who all remained out in health and safety protocols.
“Obviously, we are in a rough patch right now with guys in and out of protocol, guys who are injured,” James said. “We just have to stay together until we become whole, or as whole as possible. But I love our fight. I thought we had a good fight tonight, we just couldn’t make enough plays.”
Guard Talen Horton-Tucker had three points on 1-of-13 shooting after returning to the lineup from health and safety protocols. Newly signed guard Isaiah Thomas struggled in his third game as a Laker, scoring only three points on 1-of-11 shooting.
“First game back, I didn’t play to the best of my ability,” Horton-Tucker said. “I’m just trying to get back into the groove of things.”
Los Angeles started the game on a 16-6 run through the first five minutes of play only to see the Suns rally to close the first period out on 18-9 run, trailing 25-24.
Phoenix led 54-52 at the half and saw their lead stretch to 13 in the third. Booker made a three and Ayton converted a jumper to capture a 67-54 advantage with 8:50 remaining.
James landed awkwardly in the third after being fouled by forward Jae Crowder on a lay-up attempt, falling to the ground in pain before being helped up by his teammates.
“I stepped on Jae Crowder’s foot. … I’m going to be ready for the next game,” James said.
Johnson converted a corner three to put the Suns up 20-points with five minutes left in the fourth and the Lakers were unable to spark a comeback, resulting in the 108-90 loss.
“I think a big part of it comes down to our team culture, how guys step into situations and we remain ourselves,” said Johnson. “You can see our identity on the court when we have everybody. It’s a group of guys that likes playing together and we play for each other.”
The Lakers will return to action when they host the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.