The Lakers’ most glaring weakness became their top strength on Monday.
Los Angeles entered the game as the NBA’s worst 3-point shooting team, but left with a season-high 14 triples from seven different players and a 100-93 win over Phoenix.
It all began with the red-hot play of sixth man Jordan Clarkson, who continued to thrive in his role off the bench.
The 25-year-old poured in a season-high 25 points on 11-of-19 shooting, and collected his buckets by a variety of means.
He thrived in pick-and-rolls (particularly with Julius Randle) and seemingly always knew when to slash in for a layup (five times) or pull up for a jumper (three).
He also directly contributed to the Lakers’ fiery night from outside, hitting three 3-pointers and assisting on two more.
“JC came off the bench firing and did a great job for us,” said Kyle Kuzma, who also hit three triples. “If we didn’t have him scoring the way he did and playing, we probably wouldn’t have won this game.”
Clarkson was especially hot in the second quarter, scoring 12 straight points for the Lakers (6-8) during a six-minute stretch.
But the Suns (5-10) wouldn’t roll over, with Devin Booker and T.J. Warren leading the way.
The Lakers’ sixth-ranked defense held Phoenix to 38.9 percent shooting, but Booker put on an across-the-floor shooting clinic toward 36 points and Warren added 23 with his usual diet of layups and mid-range shots.
“That team scores a lot of points, and they’re talented, man,” coach Luke Walton said. “They’ve got some young men there that can really get going. Our guys fought, fought, fought, made them take tough shots.”
Booker and Warren kept their team in the game, as the Lakers led by only two with less than six minutes remaining. But then L.A.’s shooting ignited.
Kuzma and Corey Brewer spotted up for back-to-back 3-pointers. Booker answered with a trey of his own before Kuzma made the Suns pay for lax pick-and-roll defense by pulling up for another triple.
Minutes later, Clarkson pushed the lead to 10 on an isolation layup, silencing the Suns’ hope of a comeback.
Clarkson — who was also turnover-free — played the entire fourth quarter at point guard. Starter Lonzo Ball (seven points, five rebounds, five assists) showed no issue with Walton’s decision as he sat the final period.
“JC was hot,” Ball said. “I would’ve rolled with him, too.”
Brook Lopez also had his moments, finishing with 15 points and 10 rebounds after shooting five-of-five inside the arc, including a trio of hook shots.
While Lopez provided the damage inside, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope spearheaded the perimeter attack. He shot just 5-of-15 from the field, but provided valuable spacing by hitting 4-of-9 3’s. KCP also grabbed nine rebounds and recorded an absurd nine deflections with his renowned off-ball defense.
The result was a much-needed win for the Lakers, who had dropped each of their previous games on the current road trip to a trio of Eastern Conference contenders: Washington, Boston and Milwaukee.
Instead of returning to Los Angeles empty-handed, they grabbed a needed win ahead of a four-game home stand.
“We had three tough games before this,” Clarkson said, “but it’s a nice win and gives us a boost going into this home stretch.”
Brewer scored 13 points (his most as a Laker), including seven in the fourth quarter. … The Lakers committed 14 turnovers in the first three quarters, but only two in the fourth. … L.A. won despite attempting only 13 free throws, making eight. … A crowd of 17,533 was in attendance at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
A post shared by Los Angeles Lakers (@lakers) on Nov 13, 2017 at 6:00pm PST