Davis makes statement as Lakers shade Suns

Anthony Davis.
Anthony Davis.

PHOENIX (Arizona) • Anthony Davis and LeBron James delivered down the stretch on Tuesday as the defending National Basketball Association (NBA) champions Los Angeles Lakers bounced back to beat the Phoenix Suns 109-102, tying their play-off series at 1-1.

Davis blamed himself after scoring just 13 points in the Lakers' 99-90 defeat in Game 1 of the best-of-seven Western Conference first-round series. He was not about to let it happen again.

The All-Star was massive at both ends of the court, putting up a game-high 34 points with 10 rebounds, seven assists and three blocked shots.

"I wanted to make sure I made a statement in this game, come out with more energy, more effort on both ends of the floor," he said.

Fellow forward and Finals Most Valuable Player James was just as impressive, contributing 23 points with four boards and nine assists as the Lakers gained the split of two games in Phoenix.

Games 3 and 4 will shift to Los Angeles.

The star duo scored 16 of the Lakers' final 18 points, while teammates Dennis Schroder (24 points, three assists) and Andre Drummond (15 points, 12 rebounds) also came out strong as Los Angeles turned back a late charge from the second-seeded Suns.

James' basket with 2min 55sec to play put the visitors up 95-92 and Davis followed with a three-pointer and a pair of free throws to stretch their lead to eight points.

The Lakers got off to a determined start and led 30-24 after the first quarter and 53-47 at half-time.

With a 10-1 run to open the third period - launched by James' three-pointer - the Lakers threatened to run away with it.

Phoenix fought back, with Deandre Ayton's dunk putting the Suns up 88-86 in the fourth, but their lead was short-lived despite a team-high 31 points from Devin Booker, who also made all 17 of his free throws.

"That's play-off basketball," Lakers coach Frank Vogel said of the Suns' push at the end.

"That's the team with the second-best record in the NBA, so it's not going to be a situation where it's easy to knock them out in any game. But our guys came out strong and were able to hold on."

While Ayton connected on 11 of 13 shots from the field to score 22 points and had 10 rebounds, much of the Suns' hopes will rest on the ailing shoulders of veteran guard Chris Paul if their first play-off appearance in 11 years is to go beyond one round.

The 36-year-old was visibly hampered after picking up an injury in Game 1 and he did not look right again, scoring only six points, before being benched for the majority of the second half.

Suns coach Monty Williams said: "Just looking at him holding his arm the way he was holding it, I just couldn't watch him run like that, trying to make plays.

"He battled. He's a warrior, we all know that. I just made a decision to take him out... We're hopeful it'll get better over the next 48 hours."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2021, with the headline 'Davis makes statement as Lakers shade Suns'. Subscribe