PHOENIX (AP) — The LeBron-less Los Angeles Lakers are off to a predictably slow start.
Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton both had 26 points, Chris Paul had a triple-double with 11 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds and the Phoenix Suns beat the Lakers 111-94 on Sunday night.
Los Angeles played without 17-time All-Star LeBron James for just the second time this season and fell to 0-2 in his absence. James suffered a high ankle sprain in a 99-94 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday and is expected to miss significant time.
Even after the loss, Lakers coach Frank Vogel was optimistic after his team’s performance. Los Angeles is also playing without All-Star forward Anthony Davis, who has missed a big chunk of the season with a right calf strain.
“I think our guys really fought tonight,” Vogel said. “We didn’t shoot the ball that well, but I thought we competed at a very high level. It is going to take a little time as we adjust, figure out where the shots are coming from and what our new identity is going to look like.”
Los Angeles struggled on offense without James, shooting 41% from the field. Montrezl Harrell led the Lakers with 23 points off the bench on 10-of-13 shooting. Dennis Schroder added 22 points.
“Second- and fourth-quarter defense — holding them to 18 points in each. That won us the game,” Suns coach Monty Williams said.
Phoenix entered the fourth quarter with an 88-76 advantage. The Lakers pulled within 96-89 with 6:33 left after Schroder made a free throw following a technical foul on Paul, but the Suns responded with the next seven points and pulled away for their 17th win in 21 games.
“We stayed the course,” Paul said. “That’s a talented team over there.”
The Suns pushed out to a 59-44 lead by halftime. Booker had 14 points before the break, while Ayton had 12. The Lakers shot just 37% from the field in the first half.