The Los Angeles Lakers stepped up their defensive energy against the physical Phoenix Suns to score their seventh consecutive home game 112-93. The team made seven steals and seven blocked shots, Los Angeles also out rebounded the Suns 56 to 48.
Forward Brandon Ingram scored 26 points and rookie Josh Hart led with 11 rebounds. Hart secured his fifth double-double on his 12th career start after scoring 15 points.
Forward TJ Warren scored 24 points with veteran center Tyson Chandler earned 13 rebounds.
The defensive tenacity of Julius Randle was on full display throughout the game, battling with Chandler and forward Dragan Bender. He finished the night with 21 points and eight rebounds.
“I think the biggest thing for us is just trying to stay in front of him,” said Suns forward Marquese Chriss. “He got it going early and he got a rhythm going.”
Los Angeles led by as much as eight points in the first quarter, Hart and Randle led the way with eight points each. Suns forward TJ Warren gave the Lakers troubles, scoring seven points.
NBA veteran Tyson Chandler showed off his acrobatics in the second period, landing two dunks. The Lakers began losing their grip on the game, a seven-point lead turned into a seven-point deficit in a span of seven minutes. Warren scored 10 points in the period.
“They killed us because we got stops and we didn’t finish them,” Hart said. “That’s probably one of the biggest keys on the defensive end is rebounding.”
With the halftime score tied at 57, the Lakers had to reevaluate their approach at besting the Suns.
“In the first half, we weren’t committed to our defense,” Walton said. “As a group they did a great job of turning the focus from offense to defense in the second half. That’s when we were able to get some separation and continue to build on that.”
High flying offense continued into the second half with both teams trading dunks early on. The game remained close with five ties in the third quarter. Within one regulated minute Hart landed a dunk, blocked a shot by Warren and secured a rebound. Caldwell-Pope made two steals and Ingram kept the offense hot with 12 points.
With a 88-79 lead, Los Angeles worked hard to execute a win in the fourth. Caldwell-Pope initiated defensive plays and ultimately earned three steals in the game. The Suns shot poorly in the final minutes; the team scored 14 points while shooting at 22.7 percent from the field.
“We stopped their style, as far as getting up and down and not really trying to play defense,” Randle said. “We just really locked in the second half on playing defense, got stops, and got out.”
Lakers battle the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday at 7:30P.M.