Devin Booker scored 32 points and the Phoenix Suns won their franchise-record 63rd game of the season Tuesday night, beating a Lakers team minus LeBron James 121-110 to eliminate Los Angeles from the playoff race.
It was a tight game during the first half but Phoenix used a 29-9 run in the third quarter to create separation. The rest of the game was essentially a celebration for the Suns, who danced and dunked their way past the forlorn Lakers.
Los Angeles — playing without James for a second straight game because of a sprained ankle — has lost seven straight. Russell Westbrook scored 28 points while Anthony Davis added 21 points and 13 rebounds.
Deandre Ayton had 22 points for Phoenix (63-16), which avoided its first three-game losing streak of the season.
Even without James, the Lakers led for a big chunk of the first half. But the Suns started to take control late in the second quarter, and two straight alley-oops from Chris Paul to Ayton put Phoenix up 56-50.
The Suns took a 63-58 into halftime. Booker scored 16 points and Ayton added 14. Westbrook had 18 points for the Lakers before the break.
Phoenix pulled away in the third quarter, jumping to an 84-65 advantage in the first six minutes. Booker scored 16 points in the third and finished 12 of 22 from the field, including 6 for 9 from 3-point range.
Once the Suns built their big lead, the Lakers didn’t seem particularly interested in mounting a comeback. Los Angeles finished with 16 turnovers, plagued by the same poor decisions that have hurt the Lakers much of the season.
The Lakers have potentially five future Hall of Famers on their roster — James, Davis, Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard — and still couldn’t find a way to make the playoffs.
Davis and James missed significant chunks of the season with injuries and Westbrook never seemed to mesh well with his new team.
The Suns surprised much of the NBA by making a run to the Finals last season before losing to the Milwaukee Bucks in six games.
Phoenix didn’t sneak up on anyone this season, but has been even better. Paul and Booker were once again All-Stars, Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson and Ayton continued to improve and new additions like JaVale McGee and Landry Shamet solidified the bench.
Phoenix’s 63-16 record is eight games better than the Memphis Grizzlies, who are second in the NBA with 55 wins.
Lakers: Howard had eight points and six rebounds in the first quarter. He came into the game averaging 5.8 points per game. … Austin Reaves scored 18 points off the bench.
Suns: Booker, Ayton and Jae Crowder all played after sitting out Sunday’s loss to the Thunder. … McGee added nine points and nine rebounds. … The Suns topped their previous record of 62 wins in a season. They accomplished it twice, in 1992-93 and again in 2004-05. … The Suns swept the Lakers this season, winning all four games. … The Suns hosted a sellout crowd for a 25th straight game.
Lakers: Visit the Golden State Warriors on Thursday.
Suns: At the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.
Source: NBC Los Angeles