The Lakers stayed unbeaten in the In-Season Tournament with their biggest win yet, downing the Suns in the quarterfinals to secure their spot in Las Vegas in the semi-finals, 106-103.
A back-and-forth battle saw the two sides trading buckets with LeBron James and Kevin Durant at the center of it, but it was an Austin Reaves 3-pointer with 15 seconds left that was the biggest shot of the night.
Anthony Davis scored 27 points with 15 rebounds and LeBron James had a special assist night, handing out 11 to go with his 31 points, eight rebounds and five steals. Jarred Vanderbilt’s defensive presence was suffocating for the Suns and he managed to also make an impact on the boards with six rebounds, four of which were offensive.
Reaves’ second-half offensive explosion helped the Lakers keep their energy up. He scored 20 points, six rebounds, and two assists.
LeBron and D’Angelo started the offense off for the Lakers after Kevin Durant bricked the first shot for the Suns. LeBron orchestrated everything, creating different opportunities for his teammates and they converted them. The Lakers were dishing dimes all over the place, getting eight of them in the opening minutes, four by LeBron.
As soon as Vando came into the game, the Lakers' defense went up a million notches and the Suns ended the quarter with 10 turnovers. The Lakers were up 33-23. Anthony Davis had a strong quarter with 14 points.
Carrying on from the first quarter, the Lakers continued their defensive dominance making the Suns struggle to create a consistent offense. Nine minutes in, their lead was up to 13 after a masked Rui Hachimura drained a 3-pointer.
A few Lakers blunders jump-started a run by the Suns to cut the lead down to 10. The Lakers unfortunately cooled off offensively and they went on a brutal stretch of missing every single shot they took.
Vando’s offensive rebounds were essential in helping stop some of the bleeding which turned into a D’Angelo 3-pointer, helping the Lakers eventually build a 59-47 halftime lead.
The Lakers seemed to be imploding offensively for the majority of the third quarter. They lost all the energy they had from the first half and were up to nine turnovers. They also couldn’t defend the three which allowed Grayson Allen to knock down a few to help the Suns offense cook.
Luckily, Austin Reaves converted a few shots to help keep the Lakers' offense alive and a Max Christie three got the Lakers back up by two. The Lakers led, 83-82 at the end of the third and Reaves was up to 17 points.
The start of the fourth quarter was evenly matched with both teams making shots and not playing as much defense. LeBron put the team on his back, hitting threes and making difficult shots.
LeBron James is the first #Lakers player with 20 points, 10 assists, and 5 steals in a game since Kobe Bryant against the Clippers in Nov. 2004, per @ESPNStatsInfo.— Anthony Gharib (@GharibSports) December 6, 2023
LeBron also becomes the oldest player with 5 steals in a game since the stat became official in 1973-74.
The Lakers and Suns continued to trade baskets and the game was close throughout the entirety of the quarter. With three minutes left in the game, Kevin Durant and Devin Booker both had five fouls with the game within three for the Suns.
LeBron once again turned it up and put the team on his back to help gain a five-point lead for the Lakers with the game winding down.
With 15 seconds left in the game, Reaves drilled an incredible three-pointer to give the Lakers a four-point lead. An easy Durant layup got the Suns within two, but it wasn’t enough as AD split a pair of free throws to help seal the win.
LeBron James. That’s it.
Vando is a very important piece to the success of this team. He injects defensive life into them.
They need to create better schemes to keep their offense flowing. And they cannot miss shots they should be able to make.
DEFEND THE THREE. Every game we see at least one opposing player start lighting the Lakers up by draining multiple threes.
The Lakers’ next game is the In-Season Tournament Semifinal against the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday at 6:00 PM PT.
You can follow Karin on Twitter at @KarinAbcarians.