Player grades for Game 3 win vs. Suns


The Los Angeles Lakers claimed a 2-1 series lead on Thursday night after defeating the Phoenix Suns in Game 3, with a lead that blossomed to 21 in the fourth quarter.

Despite Los Angeles shooting just 7-of-28 from the perimeter, they scored 58 points in the paint and made 26 free throws to offset their shooting woes.

They outscored Phoenix by 20 in points in the paint and by 12 in made free throws. The Lakers showed how dominant they could be on both ends of the floor with their size advantage and overall solid defense.

Anthony Davis scored 34 points for the second-straight game to lead all scorers while LeBron James scored 21 and Dennis Schroder added 20.

Here’s how Los Angeles graded after the 109-95 win:

Dennis Schroder: A

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Schroder continues to prove he can be the third scoring option for Los Angeles behind James and Davis. He finished the game with 20 points on 6-of-11 shooting, but his free-throw rate stood out the most. He went 7-of-8 from the charity stripe. Schroder added four assists, three rebounds and two steals to his total. His defense on Devin Booker and Chris Paul was tremendous, and his toughness was on display as well. After landing hard on a layup attempt that was called a foul, Schroder immediately grabbed his left ankle. The Lakers let out a huge sigh of relief when he got up and attempted both free throws. He went to the bench shortly after but would return to close the game, moving just fine.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: B

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After scoring zero points in Game 2, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope found the net twice in Game 3. However, his makes came on layups and he converted a technical free throw, as he missed both of his 3-pointers. The overarching concern now is his health, as he went down with a left quad contusion in the third quarter and didn’t return. He provided excellent defense on Booker again, but those shots need to fall eventually.

LeBron James: B+

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James’ aggression to start the third quarter ignited the Lakers’ offense, but he didn’t look great for much of the game despite that. He had just five points on 2-of-6 shooting in the first half along with four turnovers, which played a huge role in the game being close. Though he ended with 21 points, he turned it over seven times and went 1-of-5 from beyond the arc. The Suns took advantage of jumping passing lanes when James played passively, and it reflected with his turnover numbers.

Anthony Davis: A

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Davis has responded tremendously following a dismal Game 1. He scored 34 points again and grabbed 11 rebounds, with six coming on the offensive end. He looked to attack the chest of his defenders, knowing he’d draw fouls with his size advantage. The Suns tried playing Frank Kaminsky for additional size but that experiment lasted only seven minutes. If Davis can replicate these performances for two more games, the Lakers have a good chance of progressing to the next round.

Andre Drummond: B+

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Andre Drummond played just 20 minutes, the least amount of any starter, but still performed well in his role. Though he scored only six points on 3-of-6 shooting, he grabbed 11 rebounds to go with one steal and one block. He’s garnering extra possessions for the offense and giving Phoenix fits with his size advantage. The major knock is his hands. He’s been mishandling simple passes that should result in easy points down low, but that hasn’t been the case.

Kyle Kuzma: B

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The saying usually goes: “A for effort.” Though Kyle Kuzma didn’t earn an A for tonight’s performance, the effort was prevalent on both ends of the floor. He’s still struggling with his shot, going 2-of-8 from deep, but his hustle deserves praise. He grabbed 10 rebounds on the night and kept fighting for the ball on both sides of the glass, even if he didn’t always maintain possession. The Lakers can live with these types of games from Kuzma even if the shot doesn’t drop at the same rate.

Alex Caruso: B

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Alex Caruso is just a solid player. He didn’t jump out in any specific way in this game, but he supplied the consistent defense L.A. is accustomed to. He made two baskets for four points while blocking two shots and adding a steal. Caruso made backdoor cuts at the right time and bothered Phoenix’s guards in all the 20 minutes he played.

Wesley Matthews: A

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The Lakers desperately needed someone, anyone, to make a 3-point shot. When Caldwell-Pope left the game due to injury, Wesley Matthews answered the call. His two 3-pointers came in the fourth quarter during Los Angeles’ game-changing run and his defense both on and off the ball was fantastic.

Marc Gasol: B

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Similar to Game 2, head coach Frank Vogel utilized Marc Gasol as the center off the bench. Gasol attempted only one shot, which was a 3-pointer that went in. He added three rebounds, two assists and two steals, making the impact he often does in short stints. His grade dropped because he had three personal fouls and two turnovers that flattened his efficiency.

Ben McLemore: N/A

Vogel exhausted all his shooting options when he brought Ben McLemore off the bench to see if he could knock down a 3-pointer. It was McLemore’s first minutes in the series, but he only played for four. The only 3-point attempt McLemore got off was a contested shot from the right wing. The shooting guard didn’t have sufficient time to make an impact.

Montrezl Harrell: N/A

Montrezl Harrell didn’t log any playing time for the second-straight game, but he makes an appearance here for making what could’ve been a costly mistake. Referees called a technical foul on Harrell for jawing at the Suns off the bench. Phoenix missed the free throw, but Harrell can’t afford to give Phoenix freebies like that considering how close the first two games were.

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