EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Suns roll past Lakers for 2nd straight win of preseason play

Oct 10, 2021, 10:26 PM

Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers loses control of the ball against Chris Paul #3 of t...

Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers loses control of the ball against Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns in the first half of a preseason game at Staples Center on October 10, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

During the Phoenix Suns’ run to the NBA Finals, the part that gets lost was 16 games in when they were 8-8 and getting carried by their bench.

And those last few words are Devin Booker’s from last year, not mine. While the starters needed time to figure things out, the reserves were there to keep everything afloat.

That’s just one of the many ways a great second unit can lift a team, and another was put on display in the Suns’ 123-94 preseason win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.

After Los Angeles turned it up defensively in the second quarter and went on a 14-0 run, Phoenix closed the first half with an 11-2 counter shot in the last 2:02. Backup point guard Cam Payne scored six of those 11 points and assisted three more of ’em.

That group carried its momentum over to the third quarter, where it was an 18-3 spurt in the remaining 5:21.

JaVale McGee was plus-25, Cam Johnson ended up at plus-21 and Abdel Nader registered a plus-17. Payne shot 4-of-15 but managed four rebounds and seven assists to go with his 10 points and final mark of plus-11.

“Cam Payne did a really good job of mixing in pick-and-roll, hit-ahead passes and taking advantage of our defense,” head coach Monty Williams said.

The starters, by the way, did just fine themselves. This was not a repeat of the opening segment in last season. Chris Paul made seven of his 11 shot attempts for a team-high 15 points and Deandre Ayton added 11 points and nine rebounds.

McGee and Landry Shamet, the two new additions to the bench, continue to stand out in preseason play. Shamet has started all three games in place of Devin Booker as he continues to ramp up his conditioning.

After Shamet showed off his playmaking in the first two games, he was back to his sharpshooting, knocking down a trio of triples and ending the night with 13 points.

McGee in 16 minutes managed 12 points, nine rebounds, two assists, a steal and three blocks.

Williams tightened up his rotation a bit with nine guys in the first half, but once second-year big Jalen Smith got in there for the second half, he looked great. Smith contributed 12 points and nine rebounds in 16 minutes, running the floor and getting active on the glass.

The Lakers were once again without LeBron James for the second straight preseason matchup between the two teams but did play Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis. Davis was the high scorer for LA with 19 points and Carmelo Anthony produced 17 off the bench.

The Suns’ preseason finale is on Wednesday at the Footprint Center. They’ll be hosting the Portland Trail Blazers at a 2 p.m. tip time that got moved up for Game 2 of the WNBA Finals that’ll be at 7 p.m.

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