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NBA Wrap March 3rd


IMAGE: Philippine Star


SUNS BEAT LAKERS DESPITE BOOKER’S EJECTION


When Devin Booker was ejected with 7:10 left in the third and the game evenly balanced, it could have deterred the rising Suns.


Not to be, it galvanised a growing team who are easy beats no more.


Dario Saric put together his best performance of the season leading with a team-high 21 points, and the rapidly improving Mikal Bridges scored 19 as the Phoenix Suns toppled the Los Angeles Lakers 114-104 at Staples Centre.


LeBron James did his best to carry the load for the Lakers scoring 38 points, handing out 6 assists, while Dennis Schroder had 17, now 3-5 since Anthony Davis strained his calf in a February 14 loss to the Denver Nuggets.


On top of Davis’ absence, the Lakers were without starting Centre Marc Gasol (Health and Safety Protocols) and Kyle Kuzma (heel) with Montrezl Harrell coming in to fill for Gasol.


From the tip, the Suns were switched on against last season’s Champions, playing with a poise of a veteran outfit rather than a young emerging group, led by the excellent court vision play of veteran Point Guard Chris Paul.


Phoenix took a 60-53 into the main break capped off by Bridges’ buzzer-beater. After an opening half where there was minimal skirmishes, the intensity heated up with the Suns applying an aggressive stance whenever LeBron or his teammates had the ball.


LeBron and Lakers Coach Frank Vogel were assessed technical fouls, while moments later Booker was given two technicals: the first for disagreeing with the referee’s call and the second for using profane language.


Booker’s ejection, would not impact on the Suns who answered every challenge thrown by the Lakers during the third. The biggest story for Phoenix was the play of Saric, who was dealt with a right ankle injury for a good portion of the campaign, but when called upon he delivered.


The Croatian began by hitting his first shot of the game from deep, there he was unstoppable using his versatility down on the low block against the undersized Markeiff Morris and Jarred Dudley, with the Lakers exploited without the defensive prowess of Davis.


Phoenix kept their poise and execution in the fourth, despite the Lakers getting as close as five (98-93) with 7:43 left, making timely buckets mainly from Saric scoring 10 points in the final period to put the game away for good.


The Suns leapfrog the Lakers into second spot in the Western Conference, registering its best start to the season in 34 games since going 33-13 during the 2007-2008 Season.


Phoenix returns home for a matchup with the Golden State Warriors: the teams second meeting this season. The Lakers have a short turnaround making the trip to Northern California for a match against the reeling Sacramento Kings.

WALKER AND CELTICS WIN THIRD STRAIGHT BEATING CLIPPERS


Matched against one of the top teams in the League. The contest would provide a barometer were the Celtics stack up against the best.


They fared with enough conviction.


The Boston Celtics won its third straight to move back over .500 defeating the Los Angeles Clippers 117-112 at TD Garden.


Kemba Walker led the green team with 25 points and 6 assists, while Jaylen Brown contributed 18 points, despite the team’s leading-scorer Jayson Tatum being shut down to only 14 points on 5 of 16 shooting.


Paul George had a game-high 32 points for the Clippers, while Reggie Jackson coming into the starting lineup for superstar Kawhi Leonard who was out (back spams) had 25 points and 7 assists.


Boston got out to the game’s biggest lead of 11 with 4:23 left when Tatum who could not land a bucket found his range at the right time scoring seven consecutive points. Though with plenty of time remaining, the Clippers hit back with Patrick Beverley and Jackson both making threes all part of 9-2 spurt to reduce the deficit to four.


Hopes of rally were still a possibility when Tatum was charged with an offensive foul for palming off George to crate space to get past. After missing a contested three, George redeemed himself burying a corner three to make it only on a one possession game with 10.2 seconds left.


However, any chance of pulling out a win were dashed when Daniel Theis sunk both free throws to hand the Celtics a springboard to use from in a crowded Eastern Conference with only three games separating fourth to eleventh at the Season’s midway point.

In other results around the Association:


Ja Morant had 35 points, 10 assists, while Dillon Brooks and De’Anthony Melton each scored 20 as the Memphis Grizzlies beat the Washington Wizards 125-111 for its third win in four games.


The Atlanta Hawks celebrated new interim Coach Nate McMillan with a victory grinding down the Miami Heat 94-80, in the process snapping Miami’s six-game winning streak.


Trey Lyles had a season-high 18 points, while Dejounte Murray scored 17 points, along with 7 assists as the San Antonio Spurs handed the New York Knicks its worst-loss of the Season running away 119-93 winners.


Nikola Jokic registered his 50th career triple-double posting 37 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists, while Jamal Murray had 24 points and the Denver Nuggets won its third straight hammering the Milwaukee Bucks 128-97.


By Juri Bilcich