Lakers aiming for first win at Phoenix
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PHOENIX -- Home losses.
Calling out officials.
The King James Era is off to a sluggish start in the city of Angels, where the Los Angeles Lakers are 0-3 for the third time in five seasons despite raised expectations created by the additions LeBron James and courtiers Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee and Lance Stephenson to a franchise that has not made the playoffs since 2012-13.
The Lakers will attempt to turn things around Wednesday at Phoenix, which has lost two in a row after an impressive victory over Dallas for new coach Igor Kokoskov on opening night.
"I know what I got myself into," James told reporters after a 143-142 overtime home loss Monday to San Antonio, which overcame a six-point deficit in the final 55 seconds.
"It's a process. I get it, and we'll be fine. I didn't come here thinking we were going to be blazing, storming right out of the gate. I like the direction we are going in. Obviously, it is not resulting in wins right now, but it is such a long process."
A James team has not been 0-3 since 2004-05, his second season with Cleveland. The Cavaliers followed that start with a six-game winning streak and finished the season two games over .500.
James, who has averaged 27.4 points a game against the Suns, is averaging 27.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 8.3 assists this season. He had season highs in points (32) and assists (14) against the Spurs, although he missed two free throws and a step-back three in the Lakers' final two possessions.
The Lakers will play their second straight game without starters Brandon Ingram and Rajon Rondo, who were suspended after an altercation late in a 124-115 loss to Houston in the home opener Saturday. Ingram was suspended four games for escalating the fight and Rondo was suspended for three games after throwing a punch at Rockets guard Chris Paul.
Kyle Kuzma stepped in for Ingram and had 37 points and eight rebounds in 45 minutes against the Spurs and Lonzo Ball had 14 points, six rebounds and six assists while starting at the point. Reserve guard Josh Hart had 20 points and 10 rebounds in 39 minutes.
So far, the Lakers have shot 73 free throws to their opponents' 97, and coach Luke Walton questioned the foul discrepancy after the Spurs shot 38 and the Lakers shot 26 on Monday.
"Let's not reward people for flopping 30 feet from the hole on plays that have nothing to do with that possession," said Walton, who was given a technical foul after arguing a no-call on a James drive, "and then not reward players that are physically going to the basket and getting hit.
"It's not right."
The Suns found the right chemistry is their season-opening 121-100 victory over Dallas last Wednesday, when they had 35 assists and made 19 3-pointers, but they suffered through slow starts in losses at Denver and Golden State since.
The Suns trailed by 17 points less than 10 minutes into a 119-91 loss at Denver on Saturday, and they trailed by nine points after one quarter of a 123-103 loss at the Warriors on Monday. The Warriors scored 70 points in the first half, and the Suns gave up 67 fast-break points in the two losses.
"Our transition defense was atrocious," Kokoskov told reporters Monday. "It wasn't any secret. We were talking about it before the game. We know that's a strength. That's who they are. They want to go up tempo."
Devin Booker leads the Suns with a 29.3 scoring average and forward TJ Warren is averaging 20 points a game in his new sixth man role after starting the previous two seasons. Warren had 27 Monday.
Suns rookie center Deandre Ayton is averaging 14.3 points, 10.7 rebounds and four assists after getting 20 points, 14 rebounds and five assists against Golden State. Ayton and Philadelphia forward Ben Simmons are the only players in the draft lottery era with two 10/10/5 games in their first three career games, according to the Suns' research. Ayton had 18/10/6 in his debut against Dallas.
Updated October 23, 2018