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Suns Strokes: Suns lack balance offensively in loss to Lakers

Phoenix Suns guard Mike James (55) tries to drive past Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson during the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Phoenix. The Lakers defeated the Suns 100-93. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — Basketball is a game played with five players at a time.

Unfortunately, at times on Monday, it looked like the Phoenix Suns played with only two.

Devin Booker and T.J. Warren combined for 59 points in a 100-93 loss to the L.A. Lakers in front of an announced crowd of 17,533 at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

Booker had 22 of his game-high 36 in the first half, while Warren finished with 23.

Dragan Bender added a career-high 15, and between the three, they accounted for 74 of the Suns’ 93 points and 29 of the 37 made field goals.

The Suns (5-10) led by as many as nine points, but they were unable to dig themselves out of a 10-point fourth-quarter hole and lost for the sixth time in seven games.

Unlike the Suns, the Lakers received balanced scoring with six different players reaching double figures. No one was better than Jordan Clarkson. His 25 points on 11-of-19 shooting, including three 3s, highlighted a 46-point effort by the Lakers’ bench, which outscored the Suns’ bench by 25 points.

Playing the last game of a four-game road trip, the Lakers (6-8) snapped a season-long three-game losing streak and improved to 2-0 against the Suns this season.

THE GOOD

Picking up where he left off Saturday, Booker nailed a 3-pointer for the game’s first points. He scored five of the Suns’ first seven points and then later in the quarter accounted for six straight points with a layup and 17-foot pull-up jumper sandwiched around an assist to Marquese Chriss for a dunk. Booker shot 4-of-6 with the one 3 for nine first-quarter points.

If it weren’t for Bender, then the Suns would not have had a made field goal off the bench in the first half. Bender made each of his three shot attempts, while Troy Daniels, Josh Jackson, Mike James and Alex Len went a combined 0-of-12 from the field. Bender had seven points at halftime. He added five rebounds in his nine minutes of playing time.

They were the only Suns players in double figures at halftime, and in the third quarter, Booker and Warren shared the load offensively. They each scored seven points. Warren, meanwhile, added three assists, one setting up Booker for a 11-foot fadeaway jumper, and one rebound. His six total boards were second to Tyson Chandler’s 11 through three quarters.

For Booker, who shot 14-of-27 from the field with four 3s and went 4-of-6 from the foul line, this marked his sixth 30-point game of the season, sixth in the last 10 games and second straight. He tied Steve Nash for 15th in Suns history with his 26th career 30-point game. He also tied Charlie Scott for the second-most 30-point games within the first 15 games of a season.

THE BAD

Leading by seven — they led by as many as nine in the period — the Suns played the final 4:02 of the first quarter without a made field goal. They missed eight straight shot attempts (and their first four attempts to begin the second quarter), allowing the Lakers to close on a 9-0 run for a 21-20 first-quarter lead, the eighth straight game in which the Suns had been outscored in the game’s opening 12 minutes.

Twice in the second quarter the Suns trailed by as many as six points, their largest deficit of the first half. Each time it was a Clarkson 3-pointer that put the home team in the hole. He scored 12 points in the period on 5-of-7 shooting, hitting from outside as well as inside the paint. Clarkson had a Lakers-best 14 points at halftime, joining Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (11) in double-figures through two quarters.

The last six points of the third were scored by the Lakers, giving them a 74-73 lead heading into the fourth and final quarter. Julius Randle began the run with a put-back layup, Corey Brewer scored on a layup and Clarkson hit a reverse layup. Sense a trend? The biggest factor in the period, however, was Brook Lopez. He had a game-high nine points, including a 3-pointer, his 20th make of the season.

Whatever hope the Suns had at a comeback faded late in the fourth quarter. After a Chriss dunk at the 3:58 mark to pull the home team within six, 94-88, the Suns missed their next seven shot attempts before Warren’s fastbreak layup with 7.6 seconds left. The only points scored during this stretch were three free throws, one by Chandler and two by Booker. The Suns also turned the ball over once to finish with 17 for the game.

STAT OF THE GAME

14: The Lakers made a season-high 14 3-pointers; they shot 14-of-33 (42.4), while the Suns were 7-of-26 (26.9)

HE SAID IT

“They made seven more 3s than us and that’s a big part of the game, that’s a big number,” interim head coach Jay Triano said. “I thought our defense was decent enough to keep us in the game, but when they make 14 3s and you make seven, it’s going to be a tough hill.”

NOTED

Warren had his seventh 20-point effort in 11 games, during which time he’s averaging 21.5 points on 51.9 percent shooting.

Chandler finished with a season-best 15 rebounds, his seventh double-digit rebounding game; all within the last 11 games.

Booker was called for a technical foul at 7:43 of the third quarter; it was his third this season, which is the most on the team.

The teams combined for 20 turnovers in the first half; the Suns committed seven of their 10 turnovers in the second quarter.

Jared Dudley (right knee contusion) missed his second straight game and Greg Monroe (left calf strain) still is not yet ready.

Brandon Knight, Davon Reed and Alan Williams were listed inactive due to injury and Derrick Jones Jr. was with NAZ Suns.

UP NEXT

One more game on this season-long six-game homestand and it’s against the Houston Rockets coming up on Thursday, Nov. 16. Tip-off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

The Rockets swept the four meetings last season, their first sweep in series history.

Overall, the Rockets have won 11 of the last 13 over the Suns.

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