PHOENIX — One game after he made history as the youngest ever with a triple-double, Los Angeles Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball watched the fourth quarter from the bench as coach Luke Walton rode the hot hands of Jordan Clarkson and Corey Brewer on Monday night.
With Clarkson and Brewer combining for 24 points in the second half, the Lakers got a much-needed 100-93 win over the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Lakers (6-8) finished a daunting four-game trip by snapping a three-game losing slide.
“We got a win so I got no complaints,” said Ball, who exited the game with 2:47 left in the third quarter for Clarkson. “My teammates got it done in the fourth and we had to at least get one on this road trip.”
“We got the win, everything worked out, so I got no complaints and J.C. was hot,” he added. “I would have rolled with him, too.”
Ball shot 3-for-10 and had seven points, five assists, five rebounds, two steals and four turnovers when he left the game for good in the third quarter with the Suns (5-10) up by four.
Clarkson scored five points as the Lakers closed the third with a 9-4 run to take a one-point lead into the fourth. With the game tied at 81 with 7:25 to play, the Lakers went on a 17-7 run to lead 98-88 with 2:43 remaining with Clarkson, Brandon Ingram, Brewer, Kyle Kuzma and Brook Lopez on the floor.
Walton was faced with the dilemma of getting a couple of his starters — including his franchise point guard — back in, or riding a unit that was winning the fourth quarter.
“It’s tough and it’s a feel thing,” Walton explained. “Brewer and Clarkson were both incredible tonight; they had been out there, they were working hard and obviously Zo’s ability to play the game and run that point spot for us — there were a couple times I was one play away from putting him back in, and one of those guys would make a play.”
Walton has been preaching how the Lakers are prioritizing development of their young players. Walton has been extremely pleased with Ball’s play but also added that on a night like this, the rookie can learn from watching veterans when they’re going good. Clarkson scored a team-high 25 points and knocked down 11 of 19 shots, including three 3-pointers to help the Lakers keep pace offensively with Devin Booker, who had 36 points. Brewer gave the Lakers some much-needed energy and defense and even provided 13 points, hitting 5 of 7 shots.
“Part of the development is that, though,” said Walton, who also noted how he played starter Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for only three minutes in the fourth. “The way the NBA’s supposed to work and has worked, as long as I can remember, is young players come in and sit. And they watch vets do it, and they watch how vets do it. And they watch how vets train, how they take care of their body. And, they get hungry.
“As they get opportunities, they’re more professional because they’ve learned from people who have done it before them. For any of our young guys to sit there, and if a vet’s having a good game like Brewer was tonight, seeing how hard he works and seeing how he stayed ready even though he hadn’t been playing big minutes, is part of the developmental plan for them.”
On Saturday in a loss at Milwaukee, Ball became the youngest ever to record a triple-double with 19 points, 13 assists, 11 rebounds, three blocks and three steals. Ball’s triple-double came at 20 years and 15 days old, passing LeBron James for the record.
James congratulated the rookie on Monday and told reporters in New York that Ball will be a “really, really good point guard in our league, probably a great point guard if he continues to work on his craft.”
Ball’s second game in Phoenix did not go offensively the way it did the last time he was here. During the Lakers’ second game of the season, Ball lit the Suns up for his best pro game with 29 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.
However, the end result was the same with the Lakers coming away with a win, which is all Ball cares about.
“My teammates got it done in the fourth and we had to at least get one on this road trip,” said Ball, whose Lakers lost at Boston, Washington and Milwaukee on this trip. “Corey must like playing in Phoenix, this is the second time he came through for us out here, and J.C. is going to do what he does every time, so those two guys picked us up, especially down the stretch.”