Davis stars as Lakers smother Suns to take series lead

Behind another strong defensive performance, the host Los Angeles Lakers smothered the Phoenix Suns for a 109-95 victory on Thursday and 2-1 series lead in the opening round of the NBA playoffs.

Los Angeles had about 7,500 fans in attendance as Staples Center hosted a Lakers playoff game for the first time since 2013.

Anthony Davis led the way for the Lakers with 34 points and 11 rebounds. LeBron James chipped in 21 points, nine assists and six rebounds. Dennis Schroder added 20 points and four assists.

Deandre Ayton led the Suns with 22 points – his third straight game with at least 20 points. Devin Booker added 19 points and Cameron Payne contributed 15 points.

The Lakers opened the second half on a 16-6 run, taking control of the game and the series. Los Angeles took a 13-point lead with just over six minutes left in the third quarter and held onto a 76-63 advantage at the end of the third.

Los Angeles extended that lead to 21 points with 7:24 left on a reverse lay-in by James that brought the crowd to its feet and seemingly put the game away.

The Suns kept things interesting, cutting L.A.’s advantage to eight points with 2:47 left on Jae Crowder’s 3-pointer. But they got no closer.

Booker was ejected from the game for pushing Schroder to the ground on a drive to the basket with 35 seconds left. Crowder followed Booker to the locker room when he received a technical and was ejected for jawing with Schroder.

The Lakers bottled up Phoenix defensively, holding the Suns to 42.7 percent shooting. Los Angeles also held a 51-35 rebound advantage and 58-38 edge in paint points.

The Suns led 28-27 after the first quarter, but the Lakers overtook them in the second and opened a 43-40 lead at halftime.

Davis paced the Lakers with 12 points and five rebounds in the first half.

Phoenix guard Chris Paul still seemed to be feeling the effects from a bruised right shoulder that limited him in the first two games of the series. Paul finished with seven points and six assists in 27 minutes.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope suffered a left leg injury in the third quarter and had to go to the locker room for further evaluation. The Lakers announced that Caldwell-Pope suffered a left quad contusion. He did not return.

According to ESPN, Caldwell-Pope will undergo an MRI on Friday.