Anthony Davis and LeBron James delivered down the stretch on Tuesday as the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers bounced back to beat the Phoenix Suns 109-102 and knot their playoff series at one game apiece.
Davis had said he blamed himself after scoring just 13 points in the Lakers’ 99-90 defeat in game one of the best-of-seven Western Conference first-round series.
He wasn’t about to let it happen again.
Davis scored 34 points with 10 rebounds, seven assists and three blocked shots. “I wanted to make sure I made a statement in this game, come out with more energy, more effort on both ends of the floor,” he said.
LeBron James added 23 points, pulling down four rebounds and handing out nine assists as the Lakers gained the split of two games in Phoenix.
The star duo scored 16 of the Lakers’ final 18 points and Los Angeles turned back a late charge from a Suns team again largely deprived of veteran point guard Chris Paul – who was still clearly feeling the effects of a right shoulder injury suffered in game one and exited early.
James’s basket with 2:55 to play put the Lakers up 95-92 and Davis followed with a three-pointer and a pair of free throws to stretch the lead to 100-92 as the Suns’ challenge dimmed.
The Lakers got off to a determined start and led 30-24 after the first quarter and 53-47 at halftime.
With a 10-1 run to open the third period – launched by James’s three-pointer – the Lakers threatened to run away with it.
But Phoenix fought back. Deandre Ayton’s dunk put the Suns up 88-86, though James and Davis made sure the Suns couldn’t hang on to their first lead since the first quarter.
Devin Booker led Phoenix with 31 points and made all 17 of his free throws. Ayton connected on 11 of 13 shots from the field to score 22 points with 10 rebounds.
“That’s playoff basketball,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said of the Suns’ late push. “That’s the team with the second-best record in the NBA, so it’s not going to be a situation where it’s easy to knock them out in any game.
“But our guys came out strong and were able to hold on.”
Doncic powers Mavs
Elsewhere, the Dallas Mavericks and Brooklyn Nets seized 2-0 series leads.
Star Mavs guard Luka Doncic scored 39 points as Dallas put themselves in a commanding position with their second straight victory over the Clippers in Los Angeles, 127-121.
The Mavericks made 18 three-pointers and connected on 58.5 percent of their shots from the field as they withstood a 41-point performance from Clippers star Kawhi Leonard supplemented by 28 from Paul George.
Tim Hardaway Jr. added 28 points and Kristaps Porzingis chipped in 20 for the Mavs, who host game three on Friday.
In Brooklyn, the Nets ran roughshod over the Boston Celtics, leading by as many as 33 points in a 130-108 victory that put them 2-0 up.
Kevin Durant headed another strong showing for the Nets’ “big three” and Joe Harris excelled from three-point range to power the Nets to an early lead they had no trouble maintaining.
Brooklyn seized control in a first quarter in which they out-scored the Celtics 40-26.
They led 71-47 at halftime with Harris providing plenty of fireworks.
The forward connected on six of eight shots from three-point range in the first half, when his 22 points were already a career playoff high.
He added one more three-pointer in the second half to tie the franchise playoff record.
Durant led the Nets with 26 points, eight rebounds, five assists and four blocked shots.
Harris finished with 25 points, James Harden added 20 and Kyrie Irving 15.
The listless Celtics, meanwhile, never threatened.
Marcus Smart recovered from a slow start to lead the Celtics in scoring with 19 points.
Kemba Walker had 17 but star forward Jayson Tatum had just nine before departing early after taking a poke in the right eye.
The Celtics will try to get into the best-of-seven Eastern Conference series when they host game three on Friday.