The Los Angeles Lakers opened up their season with a lackluster performance Thursday night, falling to the cross-town rival Clippers 108-92.
Luckily for Luke Walton and his team, they had a chance to bounce back Friday, as they traveled to the Phoenix Suns on the second night of a back-to-back.
Walton decided to go with a change to his starting lineup, as Luol Deng was inactive for the game while Corey Brewer joined Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Larry Nance Jr. and Brook Lopez in the starting lineup.
Starting for Earl Watson’s Suns was Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, T.J. Warren and Tyson Chandler.
The Lakers got off to a much better start that Thursday night, as Ingram got it going early with back-to-back buckets on the Lakers first couple possessions.
Ingram then had an and-one dunk and drilled a three in the first few minutes, giving him 10 points and giving the Lakers an early 16-10 lead.
The two highly touted rookies in the game, Ball and Jackson, both also got off to good starts as Jackson knocked down back-to-back threes midway through the first and Ball led the Lakers offensively, putting up six points, three rebounds and three assists in the first nine minutes of the game.
Neither team could get any stops defensively in the first quarter, and with both teams wanting to play at such a quick pace, the result was a 40-36 first quarter, with the Lakers leading the way in what looked to be a track meet.
Both teams kept scoring at a high pace in the second, but the Suns went on a nice run at the beginning of the quarter to turn a four-point deficit into a six-point lead as the Lakers second unit struggled.
The rookie Kuzma stayed in to play with the starters once they returned midway through the quarter, and he excelled as he knocked down his first four shot attempts for nine points.
The Lakers had trouble containing the Suns young star, Booker. He was putting on an offensive clinic, which resulted in a 17 point, five rebound, seven assist first half. He had a little scare towards the end of the quarter though as he went up for a dunk and was fouled by Lopez and fell hard on his back. He ended up being okay and was able to continue though.
Los Angeles closed the first half on a nice run, and a three by Ingram on the last possession of the quarter cut the deficit to 73-70. Ingram had 17 points in the first half, while Ball had nine points, five rebounds and five assists.
Unlike Thursday night’s game, the Lakers came out of the locker room in the second half ready to play. Ingram came out aggressive just like he did to begin the game, knocking down his first two shots of the second half.
In the first half of the third quarter, the Lakers outscored the Suns 21-10. Booker got into a bit of a scuffle after flagrant fouling Brewer on a dunk attempt. After Nance bumping him, Booker pushed Nance from behind causing a little scuffle that ended in double technicals for Nance and Booker.
For the first time in the game, the Lakers began playing inspired defense after the scuffle and Brewer and Nance both earned steals of Booker due to their hustle. That led to Los Angeles building their largest lead of the game at 95-85 with three minutes left in the third quarter.
A corner three by Ingram put him up to 24 points on the night, which is a career-high for the second-year forward.
The Lakers young core of Ingram, Ball and Kuzma put on a show for the fans in Phoenix in the third quarter. Ball knocked down back-to-back threes at one point, and the Lakers lead was 106-99 after three quarters. Ball finished the quarter with 12 points and had 21 points to go along with seven rebounds and seven assists through three.
The Lakers second unit opened up the fourth and final period, and they kept putting the pressure on Phoenix by attacking the basket. They maintained the lead until the starters got back in, even building it a bit to 10.
Ball and Booker were both on triple-double watch, as with four minutes to go in the game they both were just two assists shy. The Lakers maintained their lead though, with the teams exchanging baskets for much of the fourth quarter and the Lakers led 122-114 with just under four minutes remaining in the game.
The Suns cut the deficit to three with five straight points, but Ball answered with a nice drive and finish at the rim. The Lakers then got a stop and Ball found Kuzma for a layup for his ninth assists of the game. That was followed by another drive and finish by Ball, giving L.A. a six-point lead with two minutes left.
Ball completely took over the game, but with the Lakers leading by six and 24 seconds remaining, Bledsoe completed a three-point play to bring Phoenix within three. They then fouled Lopez, and he knocked one of two free throws to put the Lakers up by four.
Booker then nailed a three at the other end with six second left, putting his team within one. Ingram was then fouled and missed one of two free throws so the lead was at two with 5.9 seconds remaining.
The Suns got a good look at the rim, but Nance blocked the attempt. While everyone was trying to get the ball, a foul was called on the Lakers, Warren missed both free throws and the Lakers came away with a 132-130 win.
Ball finished with 29 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists while Ingram had his career-high with 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting. Lopez finished with a double-double at 19 points and 11 rebounds and Kuzma set his career-high with 15 points off the bench.
The Lakers are now 1-1 on the season and take on the New Orleans Pelicans Sunday night at Staples Center.