Lakers win LeBron James’ 1st meeting with Kevin Durant in 5 years with 12-point 4th-quarter comeback

 

LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers beat Kevin Durant's Phoenix Suns in a comeback victory on Thursday at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

LeBron James and Kevin Durant were about as advertised. The rest of the Phoenix Suns, less so.

James and the Los Angeles Lakers erased as 12-point fourth quarter deficit on Thursday to defeat the Suns 100-95 in the first regular season meeting between the two superstars in more than five years.

It wasn’t the prettiest game, though. For starters, the Suns were without Durant’s two most important teammates in Devin Booker (foot) and Bradley Beal (back), which isn’t a great development for a team that was already low on depth.

That didn’t seem to matter for most of the game, as Durant carried the Suns to a double-digit lead by the end of third quarter. It would have been a massive statement for the prospective contenders to take down a full-strength Lakers team in their own house in the second game of the season, but then, well, the Suns’ offense fell apart to an astonishing degree.

From the start of the fourth quarter to the final two minutes, the Suns scored three points. Three, on a Durant 3-pointer. The Lakers did not play their best game, but they didn’t need it. They outscored the Suns 19-3 over that 10-minute span, with Durant going ice cold and none of his teammates looking like NBA-caliber players on offense.

Bad shots, bad turnovers, bad communication. It was a cavalcade of errors, which is not advisable against James and Anthony Davis. Every Suns player not named Kevin shot 1-of-9 from the field in the quarter, with the lone basket coming from Jordan Goodwin in the final 10 seconds.

Durant finally warmed up to keep the Suns in it during crunch time, but that only set up James to get the game-winner.

James finished with 21 points, nine assists, eight rebounds, two steals, two blocks and five turnovers, while Durant had 39 points on 14-of-28 shooting (1-of-4 from 3-point range) and 11 rebounds. The Suns outscored the Lakers by 18 points in the 39 minutes he was on the floor and got outscored by 23 points in the nine minutes without him.

It wasn’t the best night for those who hoped the Suns had built the kind of supporting cast you need to survive off nights from superstars.

Davis came up big throughout the game, finishing with 30 points, 13 assists, three blocks and three steals. That’s a pretty strong answer from a player who caught tons of flak for scoring zero points in the second half of the Lakers’ season-opening loss to the Denver Nuggets, but James insisted after the game that such criticism didn’t faze Davis:

“We don’t give a s*** about criticism about AD. We don’t care. Nothing bothers us. AD doesn’t care. I don’t know if guys have figured that out,” James said. “AD does not care. He’s not on social media so he doesn’t see none of that crap. He rarely talks unless it’s to us. So we don’t give a s*** about it. He definitely doesn’t. Just got out and do his job. We’re happy to have him.”

Davis and the Lakers will see another test on Sunday against the Sacramento Kings, while the Suns have three days to get healthier before facing the Utah Jazz the same day.

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