With teammate Chris Paul injured, Devin Booker carried the Phoenix Suns offensively, leading his team to a convincing, 99-90 victory over the visiting Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the opening round of the NBA playoffs, taking a 1-0 lead in the series.
Booker finished with a game-high 34 points, along with eight assists. Center Deandre Ayton totaled 21 points and 16 rebounds.
Playing with an injured shoulder he suffered in the first half, Paul finished with seven points and eight assists.
“It was fun,” Booker said. “It was a real entertaining game -- an up-tempo game and we had a lot of fun with it. Chris went down early, and I think that got our team more locked in and understanding that every possession matters.”
LeBron James led the Lakers with 18 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. Dennis Schröder contributed 14 points and three assists. Andre Drummond totaled 12 points and nine rebounds.
Anthony Davis added 13 points but finished just 5-for-16 from the field.
The Suns increased capacity at the team’s downtown Phoenix arena to about 11,000. And the feisty crowd made its presence known with chants of “Beat L.A.” throughout the game.
Things also got testy on the floor early in the fourth quarter when James suffered what appeared to be a left shoulder injury being boxed out by Paul on a free throw.
Phoenix guard Cam Payne knocked Alex Caruso to the ground after the Los Angeles point guard retrieved the loose ball. Caruso took issue with the play, knocking the ball out of Payne’s hand and then Payne threw the ball at Caruso.
Harrell came to the defense of Caruso, grabbing Payne and the two teams had to be separated.
Harrell and Caruso received technical fouls and Payne received two technical fouls for his role in the incident and was ejected for the game. James remained in the game after receiving treatment from trainers.
The Suns jumped out to a 32-25 lead in the opening quarter, shooting 58 percent from the field to start the game. Phoenix upped that lead to an eight-point advantage at the half.
Phoenix led by as many as 16 points in the third quarter and never trailed the rest of the way.
The smaller team, the Suns controlled things inside, finishing with a 52-44 advantage in paint points. Phoenix also got easy buckets by running the floor, finishing with a 16-9 edge in fast-break points.
Top player: Montrezl Harrell added 12 points and three rebounds off the bench in 14 minutes.
What I liked: The good? Los Angeles shot 16 more free throws than the Suns. The bad? The Lakers finished 17-for-28 (61 percent) from the free throw line.
What I didn’t like: James finished 3-for-7 from behind the arc, the rest of the Lakers finished 3-for-19 from the three-point line.
Injuries: Suns guard Chris Paul had to leave the game early in the second quarter, suffering what appeared to be a shoulder injury, reaching for a contested rebound with LeBron James and then running into teammate Cam Johnson. After being attended to by trainers on the floor, Paul was taken to the locker room for further evaluation. Paul was diagnosed with aa right shoulder contusion and returned to the game in the second quarter. Paul started the second half, but later left the game and returned the locker room. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel confirmed a TMZ report that guard Ben McLemore had been in a car accident on Thursday. However, Vogel said that McLemore was not injured and available for Sunday’s game. McLemore did not play in L.A.’s play-in tournament victory over the Golden State Warriors earlier this week.
They said it: “As cities are starting to allow more and more fans, it definitely is a disadvantage to be the road team. One of the adversities that are team was going to have to face is we were likely going to be the road team to start each series in the playoffs. We’ve got a group that’s confident at home or on the road.” -- Vogel commenting on being a road team as the defending NBA champs.