The solid purple court with the turquoise strip down the middle meant this game was going to mean more. Two of the generation’s biggest stars both healthy, both hungry for wins, trading buckets down the stretch guaranteed it during an in-season tournament game.
LeBron James and Kevin Durant authored a beautiful duel in Phoenix, with James making good on his word from earlier in the week.
James said should the moment present itself, the Lakers needing a big shot and Cam Reddish being open in the corner, he’d make the pass.
He did it in Miami and Reddish missed the potential game-winner. Friday in the Lakers’ in-season tournament debut, late in the fourth quarter, James tossed it to the open man in the left corner.
And Reddish swished it.
The Lakers and the Suns put together a classic, led by James and Durant, with plenty of Lakers role players coming up big in key moments in a 122-119 win to end a three-game losing streak and earn L.A. its first road win of the season.
James scored 32 points and four other Lakers finished with at least 15 as the team found its shooting touch and some rhythm in the final game of a four-game trip. D’Angelo Russell had nine assists and Anthony Davis finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Durant had 38 points and Bradley Beal scored 24 for the Suns, who were without Devin Booker.
In a response to the Lakers’ winless trip and the relentlessly poor starts to games, coach Darvin Ham shook up the starting lineup. Austin Reaves, who started the final 10 games of last season, all 16 in the postseason and each of the first eight this season, moved to the bench with Reddish entering the starting lineup.
The move intended to address some of the Lakers’ size issues with the first five while giving the second unit a playmaker it has lacked, especially with Gabe Vincent nursing a knee injury.
Reddish quickly earned a steal and made a three-pointer — a rarity for the Lakers — before heading to the bench with foul trouble.
After Davis sat out most of the second half against Miami and all of the Lakers’ loss to Houston, he returned to play Friday but struggled on offense. Davis was one-for-six shooting in the first quarter as the Lakers, per usual, found themselves down double digits in the opening period.
James, though, after shaking off a scary landing on a drive late in the first quarter, took over just before halftime, making all five of his shots on his way to 14 points to keep the Lakers within reach.
The Lakers, the way they had for the bulk of their winless trip, whiffed whenever their offense created open shots while the Suns crashed the glass and punished the Lakers on the boards.
But in the third quarter, the Lakers began to get into the paint and to the free-throw line, opening even better looks for their shooters who suddenly couldn’t miss.
Reddish and Reaves, the two players swapped for each other in the starting five, keyed the Lakers’ second-half run alongside James, with Reaves howling at Reddish after he swished one of his five threes. Rui Hachimura, in his second game out of concussion protocol, had a career-high four steals as the Lakers’ defense fueled their suddenly potent offense.
The Lakers return to Los Angeles to host the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday before having their in-season tournament home debut Tuesday against the Memphis Grizzlies.