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Lakers beat Suns to even first-round series at one game apiece

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The Lakers needed a win against the Suns, and on Tuesday, this team played with the requisite effort to deliver it. The first round is all tied up.

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NBA: Playoffs-Los Angeles Lakers at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The We Believe Lakers are alive. After a dispiriting Game 1 loss in which they didn’t put forth the necessary energy, focus or execution to beat the Phoenix Suns, the purple and gold flipped the script in Game 2, a 109-102 victory. And in doing so, these Lakers showed that their promises made will be promises kept.

The team said they needed to bring more effort in this one, and they put their money where their mouth was, flying all over the floor on defense and looking like the havoc-generation engine that is their calling card when they’re at their best.

Anthony Davis said he had to be better, and he delivered with a 33-point, 10-rebound, 7-assist and 3-block performance while displaying a noticeable level of extra aggression as he jawed with Jae Crowder and Suns fans throughout the second half.

The positive trends continued for the whole team. LeBron James (23 points, 9 assists) picked the Suns apart mentally, and got more aggressive going to the basket physically to really spark the team, especially with his two dunks in the first half. Frank Vogel ignored resounding calls to change up his starting lineup and stuck with Andre Drummond (15 points, 12 rebounds), who rewarded him with a dominant effort inside, creating extra possessions for the Lakers with his rebounding while having maybe the best defensive game of his brief career in purple and gold.

Vogel did change up his second unit, however, bringing in Marc Gasol instead of Montrezl Harrell to give Los Angeles’ second units a dose of extra composure and spacing for James to go to work in. Dennis Schröder kept the offense afloat while James sat with 14 second-quarter points, finishing with 24 total.

When the Suns fought back in the second half, it was Davis shutting their water off at the rim down the stretch after Crowder became the latest opponent to make the mistake of poking the bear. Davis shared the load on the other end with LeBron, and with a huge three from Gasol in the fourth and a dunk from Alex Caruso that essentially iced this one, the two stars got just enough contributions from their supporting cast. It was the vision this team — and last year’s title — was built upon, coming to life right before our very eyes.

Or put more simply: THIS was the Lakers team we all believed in. They kept saying they just needed time to gel, patience as they got healthy, and this victory offered plenty of promising signs of progress in both regards.

Now, this game doesn’t win the series. The Lakers need three more victories to do that. But all in all, this was a huge, spirit-lifting win for the purple and gold, who now steal homecourt advantage back from Phoenix and tie the series up at one game apiece. A loss here — even for a team as talented and capable of a rally as this group’s pedigree suggests it should be — would have been devastating.

Instead, the Lakers return to Los Angeles for the next two games with momentum back in their favor, and looking like they’ve at least come up with a few good answers for this Suns squad after winning a hard-fought game in which they were pushed to the limit on the road. Wins like this are how teams come together. The Lakers finally got one, and now will get one day off to rest before hosting the Suns in Staples Center on Thursday for Game 3 with a chance to take their first series lead of this playoff run.

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