The Suns-Lakers series went to Los Angeles for the first time in Game 3, and the first half contained the energy of the first two games but not the shot-making we’d come to expect. In the first half, no team could break 45 points, and L.A. seized a 43-40 lead. Anthony Davis (12 points) and Deandre Ayton (10 points) were the only two players who appeared engaged and at their best. The fight of the big men was exciting, but neither had the backcourt backup they are used to or expect.
With five points in the first half, LeBron James appeared to be attempting to get everyone else engaged and in a rhythm, which didn’t work out as well as he had planned in a rock war of the first half. In the second half, there was no doubt where LeBron’s mind was at, as he realized it was time to put the Suns away before they could figure out their own offensive woes, scoring 10 points and dishing out three assists in the first seven minutes of the half as L.A. began to pull away with an extended 21-9 run to start the second half.
Anthony Davis took over from there, as he had 18 of his game-high 34 points in the third quarter to help the Lakers separate to a 76-63 lead going into the fourth quarter.
After a Suns run brought them back within single digits, the Lakers once again asserted themselves to take a 21-point lead early in the fourth as the Suns simply had no answers for the Laker defense. Aside from Ayton’s 22-point, 11-rebound effort, the Suns just didn’t have anyone who could consistently put the ball in the bucket. Devin Booker, after a tremendous first two games in the series, had 17 points on 6-of-19 shooting as he went cold in L.A., and Chris Paul’s continued shoulder issues limited him to a 3-of-8 shooting night as he still just does not have the shooting range. With Booker having an off night and Paul unable to be his normal self, the Lakers defense became suffocating, demanding that anyone else beat them and few of the Suns could answer the call.
Chief among the Suns’ role players struggling is Jae Crowder, who is now 1-for-20 in the series from three-point range after an 0-for-6 night. On top of shooting woes, Crowder continues to have to deal with his personal playoff boogeyman, LeBron James, who seemingly lives to feast on him after their many battles over the years.
Despite the best efforts of a late Suns rally, which included a trio of Cam Payne three-pointers in the fourth quarter to make things interesting for a brief moment, the Lakers won 109-95. Booker and Crowder were both ejected in the last minute of the game after Booker shoved Dennis Schröder to the ground, earning a Flagrant 2, and Crowder was ejected for jawing with the Lakers’ point guard.
Los Angeles now leads the series 2-1, and Game 4 will be crucial for Phoenix, as they will need to win to avoid facing elimination at home. They’ll have to recuperate emotionally and physically before Sunday’s Game 4 to get back on track, as they were unsettled and frustrated throughout much of Thursday night.