In just their second game, the Lakers bricked shot after shot but still found a way to win in Suns coach Frank Vogel’s first game back in Los Angeles.
Then the Lakers put together a fourth-quarter comeback in Phoenix to start the in-season tournament before later knocking the Suns out on their way to winning the title in Vegas.
Beating Phoenix — a team this loaded with talent — a fourth time in as many tries was going to be tough.
But in another, probably more critical way, this loss has been in the works since July 1 when the Lakers built a roster that now has slid below .500 again despite All-Star-caliber seasons from its two best players.
On Thursday, the Lakers looked as listless as ever, mostly wandering their way through a game, that was, in part, a receipt for those three previous wins.
But even with Rui Hachimura still recovering from a minor calf strain, Christian Wood out because of headaches and Gabe Vincent out after knee surgery, the product the Lakers have produced over the last month might have the front office hunting for upgrades.
That, though, is all big picture.
“We’ve got enough in our locker room right now to get some stuff done, to get a lot of stuff done in short order,” coach Darvin Ham said before the game. “Anything long term beyond that, you might want to talk to [general manager Rob Pelinka].”
Thursday, the Lakers didn’t have anyone who could compete with the Suns’ firepower, Bradley Beal scoring 37 and Devin Booker pouring in 31 in pretty easy fashion. Kevin Durant scored 18 on just 12 shots, the stars beating the Lakers so badly that LeBron James and Anthony Davis got the fourth quarter off.
“It’s obvious,” James said. “When you have three three-level scorers on the floor at the same time, it creates so many disadvantages for your defense and always having you on your toes. So, they’re going to be a really good team once they continue to mesh. But those three guys are obviously exceptional.”
Guard D’Angelo Russell, who becomes eligible to be traded Monday, likely would be involved in any move of substance. He led the Lakers with 19 off the bench, his third straight game with at least 11 points after returning from a tailbone injury.
Davis scored just 13 and James had 10 as the Lakers never played with any real juice after winning the previous two games.
“Everybody, no matter what their numbers are, shoots well against us,” Davis said. “If a guy is shooting 10%, he’s gonna shoot 40[%] against us. Just knowing that. There hasn’t been a time where the numbers have told the truth to us when we’ve played guys.
“So we gotta play everybody like they’re Steph [Curry] when they play us because these guys — not just this team — everybody has shot the ball well against us.”
The Lakers play in Utah on Saturday, both teams with 19-20 records.