Lakers smash Suns, snap eight-game skid
(TSX / STATS) -- PHOENIX -- Magic Johnson has his first win as the Los Angeles Lakers' president of basketball operations.
And the Phoenix Suns have a better shot at a few more ping-pong balls in the NBA draft lottery.
In a matchup of young, athletic, fast-paced teams who are headed for high spots in the NBA draft, the Lakers pulled away in the second half for a 122-110 win Thursday night.
The Lakers thus broke their eight-game losing streak.
They also broke an 11-game losing streak at Phoenix. Los Angeles' previous victory in Arizona came on Jan. 5, 2011.
D'Angelo Russell had 28 points, three steals and zero turnovers to lead the Lakers.
Lakers coach Luke Walton praised Russell's defense at the game's start and said, "He ended up having a great all-round game for us. That starts with doing things the right way. He started the game doing that on the defensive end. It led to the type of game he had. He definitely was the leader of the group tonight."
Russell said he was trying to run the offense with a minimum of mistakes. He succeeded, and so did the Lakers, who had only nine turnovers to the Suns' 19.
"That was my main focus," he said.
The game had plenty of high-wire action, with Russell saying, "They're a fun team, a young team that's trying to do the same thing we're trying to do as far as rebuilding and getting back to where those programs have been."
Walton sensed his team was sick of losing.
"There definitely was a focus at shoot-around today. It was pretty obvious," he said. "I was expecting the guys to give the effort that they did. But it's one thing to think that's going to happen and it's another thing to maintain it. I was really proud of the group."
Jordan Clarkson scored 19 for the Lakers (20-45), while Brandon Ingram and Ivica Zubac had 14 points apiece. Larry Nance Jr. and Julius Randle both had 13 points and eight boards.
"Everybody did their job," Russell said.
Devin Booker put up 23 points to pace the Suns (21-44), but he scored only six points in the second half. Marquese Chriss added 18 points, while TJ Warren (17 points, 13 rebounds) and Alan Williams (16 points, 10 rebounds) each had a double-double.
"I don't think we brought our fight tonight," Booker said. Pointing to a 36-point Suns win over the Lakers on Feb. 15 -- the largest margin ever for the Suns over the Lakers -- he said, "The Lakers felt like they had something to prove after last time."
Suns coach Earl Watson lamented a poor practice on Wednesday, saying, "The way we played today is the way we practiced yesterday."
But he praised Warren's improving success on the boards, saying, "He's getting big rebounds even in traffic. We want him to continue to grow."
Early on, the Suns put on a running, lobbing, dunking show in jumping out to a 28-20 lead. The Lakers countered by hitting 6 of 10 on 3-point tries in the first quarter, pulling within 33-32 heading into the second.
Booker poured in 13 points in the second period, and the Suns took a 63-61 lead into halftime.
The Lakers held the Suns to just 20 points in the third quarter and took a 90-81 lead.
When Nance, normally a non-shooter, hit a 3-pointer with nine minutes left, the Lakers had a comfortable 102-87 lead.
The Suns and Lakers finished their season series tied, 2-2.
NOTES: Lakers coach Luke Walton (36) and Suns coach Earl Watson (37) are the NBA's youngest coaches. ... Walton said he wants to see C Ivica Zubac play with his starting group more often, but Zubac has been slowed by a leg bruise. In Thursday's game, though, Zubac made 7 of 13 shots in just 17 minutes. ... Suns C Alan Williams got his fifth straight double-double off the bench in just 22 minutes. The only other Suns reserve with a double-double streak of five games was Larry Nance (Feb. 17-22, 1988). ... Williams grew up in Phoenix and was undrafted out of UC Santa Barbara. His mother recently was named Phoenix's police chief. "It's an amazing story," Watson said of Williams' unexpected growth as a player. ... The teams have met 241 times, with the Lakers holding a 136-105 lead.
Updated March 10, 2017
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