The Phoenix Suns draw a second consecutive opponent with a revenge motivation when they and the host Los Angeles Lakers seek their first victory of the season Friday night.
The Suns took advantage of an Anthony Davis injury to eliminate the defending-champion Lakers 4-2 in the first round of last season’s playoffs in June.
The clincher in Game 6 of the best-of-seven came on the Lakers’ home floor when Devin Booker bombed in 47 points in a 113-100 Phoenix victory.
The Suns went on to reach the NBA Finals, dispatching of the Denver Nuggets along the way in the Western Conference semifinals.
The Nuggets got first crack at the Suns this season, riding a strong fourth quarter to a 110-98 surprise win at Phoenix on Wednesday.
One night earlier, the Lakers had fallen 121-114 at home to the Golden State Warriors, leaving two of the preseason favorites in the West looking up at the competition in the conference in the early going.
The teams took different paths to their opening-night defeats.
Phoenix’s reserves outscored their Denver counterparts 38-27, but it wasn’t nearly enough to make up for the huge disparity in the starters’ points. Booker was the poster boy for the Phoenix starting five’s problems, limited to 12 points on 3-for-15 shooting.
He wasn’t the only Suns starter off the mark in the opener. Jae Crowder missed all five shots he took, and as a whole, the starting unit connected on just 7-for-25 on 3-pointers.
Phoenix coach Monty Williams wasn’t drawing any long-range conclusions afterward.
“We missed a ton of shots,” he observed. “(We) put them in transition and our transition defense was below our standard.”
The Lakers, meanwhile, got 34 points from LeBron James and 33 from Davis against Golden State. But the revamped Carmelo Anthony-led bench chipped in with just 29 points, 26 fewer than the Warriors’ backups were able to contribute to the win.
Russell Westbrook was one Lakers starter not at the top of his game in his Los Angeles debut. He was held to eight points, five rebounds and four assists, missing all four of his 3-point shots and hitting just 4-for-13 from the field overall.
Davis disclosed Wednesday that he had spoken with Westbrook after the game, informing him that he’d been just 8-for-21 in a 10-point loss to the rival Los Angeles Clippers in his first game for the Lakers two years earlier.
“My first time,” Davis said, “I sat next to LB, he looked at me, and he said, ‘You’re fine, this is Game 1.’ He’s laughing. He’s joking on the phone. And I’m like, ‘Why am I upset then?’ And I kind of just went with the flow.
“It’s the same thing with Russ. And I told him the same thing. ‘I’m the same way you were.’ We said some things to him, and he smiled and things like that, so I expect him to be better in the game Friday.”
Davis responded with 21 points in a home win over the Utah Jazz in his second game as a Laker.
–Field Level Media