Short-handed Lakers no match against talented Suns

The numbers on the scoreboard weren’t predetermined, but they were definitely predictable.

Even when Devin Booker is out with a groin injury, the imbalance between the Lakers and their division rival has always been severe.

Chris Paul, Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton wore the beautiful purple throwback uniforms of the Suns. LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook and Austin Reaves were sidelined in patterned jackets, hoodies and tracksuits, the Lakers wildly undermanned on the second night of a back-to-back against one of the West’s best.

Oddsmakers had the Suns as double-digit favorites even before the Lakers ruled out James, Westbrook and Reaves, and the Lakers spent most of the night trying to keep the game within the doubles.

The Lakers showed moments of competitiveness despite the talent gap, especially in the third quarter when they cut the Suns’ lead into the low teens. But any breaks in the sun were far too temporary, Phoenix holding the Lakers at a comfortable distance for most of the night.

Guard Dennis Schroder took the opportunity to play his way into a tremendous offensive cadence, directing the Lakers offense from the pick-and-roll with smooth efficiency.

He scored 30 points – including 14 in the third – his top scorer game of the season.

Aside from Schroder’s steamy third quarter, there was limited drama – with the exception of Patrick Beverley, who was back on the pitch after suffering a calf injury on Sunday.

Booed at the performance on his first trip back to Phoenix after shoving Ayton, Beverley and Chris Paul predictably engaged in brief drama.

After the Lakers were big in third, Beverley drove and scored over Paul, drawing a foul. He gestured towards the court, signaling that Paul was “too small” to guard him.

The Lakers were 23 points behind after Beverley took a free throw.

Paul led the Suns with 28 points while Ayton added 21 and 11 rebounds and Bridges had 20.

Kendrick Nunn scored 17 points from the Lakers bench and Lonnie Walker IV and Thomas Bryant had 16 points.

With the team on the second night of a back-to-back (after beating Washington on Sunday), the Lakers were wary of James as he struggled with ankle and hamstring injuries. It also wasn’t worth it for Ham to push Reaves back to the ground after twisting his ankle against Washington on Sunday night.

“Obviously we saw Austin pinch his ankle so we just wanted to give him a day to calm down,” Ham said ahead of Monday’s game. “Bron is the same, he’s been pushing a lot more minutes and much needed minutes – but also to allow his thigh to settle down a bit.”

Westbrook was ruled out with a sore foot just before the game.

Davis’ injury is still a mystery, at least by what the Lakers say.

Ham again said Davis was still being evaluated, saying only that he “pinched” his foot. Davis sat on the Lakers bench without protective boots on his injured right foot for the second straight game.

“We’re still working on that in the woods,” Ham said before the game. Short-handed Lakers no match against talented Suns

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