After opening win, Suns without two stars vs. Lakers.
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Dropping the Los Angeles Lakers to 0-2 became more challenging on Thursday when the Phoenix Suns learned Devin Booker would join Bradley Beal on the sideline.
Booker is out with a left foot injury and Beal, who didn’t play against Golden State in the opener Tuesday night, is also idle against the Lakers. The concern in Phoenix is that Booker played through left toe soreness on Tuesday, and now he’s experiencing left foot pain.
That leaves Kevin Durant, who scored 18 points with 11 rebounds, to lead a cast of relatively new supporting role players against LA. But veterans Eric Gordon and Grayson Allen, who combined to go 4-for-22 from the field Tuesday are in the starting lineup in Los Angeles with a chance to help erase the poor showing in the opener.
Allen started and went 0 for 6.
Booker won’t be easy to replace. He scored 32 points, including the go-ahead score with just inside of five minutes remaining to lift Phoenix to a 108-104 victory Tuesday over the Warriors.
Jusuf Nurkic had 14 points with 14 rebounds for the Suns, who finished fourth in the Western Conference last season and bowed out of the playoffs in the second round when they were overcome by the eventual champion Denver Nuggets.
Durant was moved to the Suns at last season’s February trade deadline but played in just eight regular-season games with his new squad and all 11 playoff games. Nurkic arrived this summer in a three-team deal. Allen also went to the Suns in that trade and started Tuesday but did not score in 21 minutes.
Booker hinted Tuesday that the Suns are learning as they go and have the depth to survive an absence — or, in this case, two.
“Game 1 and we understand that we have the depth, we have the talent all the way around and just using that. … A test like that for us, first game, we can see the energy sway, the game go back and forth. To tighten it up down the stretch was a big win for us,” he said.
With all three All-Star-caliber players healthy, the Suns’ scoring potential is obvious. Defense was also evident on Tuesday, when they held the host Warriors to 18 points in both the second and fourth quarters.
“Going against (the Warriors), in this building, that is exceptional on the defensive end, especially for Game 1 with these guys and learning a new system,” said new Suns head coach Frank Vogel, who is now set to face his former team.
The Lakers were pitted against the champion Nuggets on Tuesday, and while they rallied to within three points in the fourth quarter, they departed with a 119-107 defeat.
LeBron James had 21 points with eight rebounds, while Anthony Davis had 17 points on 6-of-17 shooting. Davis did not score in the second half, shooting 0 of 6 from the field.
“They just didn’t fall,” Davis said of his shots. “But I got to shoot it more.”
The Lakers’ aging core pushed the team into the Western Conference finals last season, but getting that far this season will have plenty of obstacles, with the Nuggets and Suns most prominent in that challenge. James played just 29 minutes, well below the 35.5 he averaged last season.
“I always want to be on the floor … ,” the 38-year-old James said. “But this is the system in place and I’m going to follow it.”
At least the challenging first two games of the season will give Los Angeles an idea of where it stands among the better teams in the West.
“Our biggest thing is meeting aggression with aggression,” Lakers head coach Darvin Ham said. “Some things we definitely could have controlled a little better offensively. But it’s the first game. We’ll get better, trust me.”
–Field Level Media
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This story was originally published October 25, 2023, 5:32 PM.