LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ivica Zubac and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope each scored 24 points and the short-handed Los Angeles Lakers led throughout in a 116-102 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday night.
Brandon Ingram added 22 points as Los Angeles was missing Kyle Kuzma (hip) and Tyson Chandler (rest), along with LeBron James and Lonzo Ball. Still, the Lakers dominated the inside against a small Phoenix lineup as it had a 70-46 advantage in points in the paint.
Devin Booker scored 21 points, Kelly Oubre Jr. added 17 and Mikal Bridges 16 for Phoenix, which has dropped eight straight for its second-longest losing streak of the season. The Suns dropped 10 in a row from Nov. 25 to Dec. 11.
Phoenix’s Deandre Ayton missed his fifth straight game with a sprained left ankle. Ayton, the first pick in the NBA draft, leads rookies in rebounds (10.7 per game) and is second in scoring (16.4 points per game). Rookie guard De’Anthony Melton missed his second game because of a sprained right ankle. While coach Igor Kokoskov is hopeful of having Ayton back this week, he said Melton will miss a significant amount of time.
Richaun Holmes returned after missing the past four games with a sprained right foot and scored 12 points with 10 rebounds.
The Lakers jumped out to a 12-2 lead less than five minutes into the game as the Suns missed eight of their first nine shots from the field. Phoenix found its shooting stroke, though, and went on a 14-4 run, which included three straight 3-pointers, to tie it at 16. It would be tied three more times in the first quarter before the Lakers went on a 6-2 run the final 1:06 to lead 31-27 at the end of the first.
Los Angeles began to steadily pull away in the second quarter and saw its lead grow to 63-46 with 1:15 remaining on Rajon Rondo’s driving layup. The Lakers were 16 of 26 from the field in the quarter as they led 65-53 at halftime.
Phoenix slowly cut into the Lakers’ lead in the second half and got within six at 90-84 with 11:25 remaining on a three-point play by Holmes. But the Lakers put it out of reach again with a 14-4 run, which included 10 points by Lance Stephenson.
Suns: Emanuel Terry, who was signed to a 10-day contract Sunday, made his NBA debut during the second quarter and finished with five points.
Lakers: Los Angeles is 6-10 since James was injured in a Dec. 25 game at Golden State. … Stephenson finished with 17 points and is averaging 11.5 points in the past four games.
Suns: Travel to the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night.
Lakers: Host the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night.
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This story has been corrected to fix Phoenix’s losing streak to eight instead of seven.