NBA 2023-24: LeBron James, Lakers face Suns, eye first win of new season

After the 119-107 defeat to defending champion Denver Nuggets, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers take on Phoenix Suns at home.

Published : Oct 26, 2023 17:35 IST - 3 MINS READ

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James during the second half of the match against the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday in Denver.
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James during the second half of the match against the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday in Denver. | Photo Credit: AP

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James during the second half of the match against the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday in Denver. | Photo Credit: AP

While the Phoenix Suns has a new look, it still is powered by the same engine, and Devin Booker showed on the NBA’s opening night that he is ready to lead the charge again.

Booker and the Suns head into a road matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday after the All-Star guard scored 32 points, including the go-ahead score just inside of five minutes remaining, of a 108-104 victory on Tuesday over the Golden State Warriors.

Kevin Durant scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Jusef Nurkic had 14 points with 14 rebounds for the Suns, which finished fourth in the Western Conference last season and bowed out of the playoffs in the second round when they were overcome by the eventual champion Denver Nuggets.

Durant was moved to the Suns at last season’s February trade deadline but played in just eight regular-season games with his new squad and all 11 playoff games. Nurkic arrived this summer in a three-team deal. Grayson Allen also went to the Suns in that trade and started on Tuesday but did not score in 21 minutes.

“I am just trust-building with the team,” Booker said. “This is Game 1 and we understand that we have the depth, we have the talent all the way around and just using that. ... A test like that for us, first game, we can see the energy sway, the game go back and forth. To tighten it up down the stretch was a big win for us.”

Phoenix also landed Bradley Beal in the offseason, although he did not play on Tuesday because of lower back tightness. The much-anticipated backcourt duo of Beal and Booker appears in line to make its debut on Thursday.

While the Suns’ scoring potential is obvious, they held the host Warriors to 18 points in both the second and fourth quarters during the opener.

“Going against (the Warriors), in this building, that is exceptional on the defensive end, especially for Game 1 with these guys and learning a new system,” said new Suns head coach Frank Vogel, who is now set to face his former team.

The Lakers were pitted against the champion Nuggets Tuesday, and while they rallied to within three points in the fourth quarter, they departed with a 119-107 defeat.

LeBron James had 21 points with eight rebounds, while Anthony Davis had 17 points on 6-of-17 shooting. Davis did not score in the second half, shooting 0 of 6 from the field.

“They just didn’t fall,” Davis said of his shots. “But I got to shoot it more.”

The Lakers’ aging core pushed the team into the Western Conference finals last season, but getting that far this season will have plenty of obstacles, with the Nuggets and Suns most prominent in that challenge. James played just 29 minutes, well below the 35.5 he averaged last season.

“I always want to be on the floor...,” the 38-year-old James said. “But this is the system in place and I’m going to follow it.”

At least the challenging first two games of the season will give Los Angeles an idea of where it stands among the better teams in the West.

“Our biggest thing is meeting aggression with aggression,” Lakers head coach Darvin Ham said. “Some things we definitely could have controlled a little better offensively. But it’s the first game. We’ll get better, trust me.”

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