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Devin Booker scored 34 points, Deandre Ayton had 21 points and 16 rebounds, and the Phoenix Suns won their first playoff game in 11 years, beating defending champions Los Angeles Lakers 99-90 on Sunday.
It was the first playoff game for several Suns players including Booker, Ayton and Mikal Bridges, but they didn’t look like postseason newbies against LeBron James and the Lakers. They helped Phoenix level a tough game for veteran all-star point guard Chris Paul, who did not look healthy after injuring his right shoulder in the second quarter.
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The Suns led 86-70 early in the fourth, but the Lakers quickly cut it to 86-77 with 9:02 left.
That’s about the time things got a little noisy. LA’s Alex Caruso and Phoenix’s Cameron Payne got into an argument near the sideline after Payne knocked Caruso down. Montrezl Harrell from LA jumped into the fray and both teams had to be separated. Caruso and Harrell each received a technical foul, and Payne received two technical problems and was thrown out.
But Booker kept making shots and Ayton was a force on the glass who ended up with eight offensive rebounds and shot 10 of 11 off the field. The Lakers never came within striking distance in the final minutes.
James finished with 18 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. Anthony Davis shot just 5 of 16 out of the field and had 13 points. The Lakers shot 7 out of 26 (27%) from 3-point range.
Game 2 is Tuesday night in Phoenix.
It was an eventful first half with the Suns 53-45 taking the lead.
James hit two early 3s, but Phoenix responded with his own excitement from a great distance. Jae Crowder’s 3-pointer made it 24-17 with 4:18 in the first quarter and Lakers coach Frank Vogel called his second time out. Phoenix had a 32-25 lead after the first.
But the festive atmosphere in Phoenix turned to a stunned silence early in the second quarter when Paul ran into teammate Cameron Johnson and fell to the ground in apparent pain while holding his right shoulder. He was downstairs for a few minutes, surrounded by players from both teams, before slowly walking off the floor with a towel over his head.
The 36-year-old star returned to a tremendous roar from the crowd a few minutes later but didn’t look right. He mostly dribbled with his left hand and missed the only shot he made before half-time.
Booker had 17 points before break on 8-of-14 and Ayton added 14.
The Lakers had to beat Golden State in the play-in tournament on Wednesday to reach number 7 in the playoffs. But, according to FanDuel, they still came into the series as easy betting favorites over the second suns.
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Vogel said his team expected to hit the 85% COVID-19 vaccination threshold on Monday. He added that he wasn’t expecting much other than that the team’s dining options could be expanded.
The Suns announced a capacity for Sunday’s game of 11,000, but it seemed like there was more in an arena with just over 18,000 players. It was the first time that more than 10,000 people were admitted to the newly renovated arena.
Lakers: The Lakers shot 19 free throws before the Suns shot their first. The Lakers only finished 17 of 28 free throws. … Vogel confirmed that security guard Ben McLemore was recently in a car accident but was uninjured and available to play on Sunday.
Suns: The suns were essentially perfectly healthy for Game 1. Striker Abdel Nader (knee) was the only player not available but he hasn’t been there for the past couple of months.