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Booker Gets Frustrated In Suns' Second Straight Loss To Lakers

Each time Anthony Davis sprawled to the ground after a tough foul or a difficult finish, he felt the cheers of about 7,000 frenzied Los Angeles Lakers fans lifting him back up.

The big man can't wait until a full Staples Center has got his back. In the meantime, his Lakers intend to keep pushing their way past the Phoenix Suns, who pushed back too late — and a bit too zealously — in Game 3.

Davis had 34 points and 11 rebounds, LeBron James added 21 points and nine assist and Los Angeles celebrated its first home playoff game in more than eight years with a 109-95 victory over Phoenix on Thursday night.

Dennis Schröder added 20 points and the seventh-seeded defending NBA champs took a 2-1 lead with their second straight victory in the first-round series — and the first postseason game for this championship core in front of its home crowd.

Buoyed by both their fans and Davis' second straight stellar game, the Lakers pulled away from erratic Phoenix in the second half again, much to their fans' enjoyment.

A fierce late rally by the Suns came up short — and when it did, Phoenix came unglued. Devin Booker and Jae Crowder both were sent to the locker room early, with Booker tossed for a flagrant foul on a two-handed push to an airborne Schröder that Davis called “a dirty play.”

Game 4 is Sunday in Los Angeles.

Deandre Ayton had 22 points and 11 rebounds for the second-seeded Suns, who are in an early hole in their first postseason series in 11 years.

Booker scored 19 points on 6-of-19 shooting, but the star guard was ejected with 35.4 seconds to play after committing his flagrant foul against Schröder. Moments later, Crowder got a technical foul, following Booker off the court after apparently trying to confront Schröder.

Booker explained his frustration curtly: “We were losing the game. We want to win.”

“Can't happen,” Davis said of Booker's foul. “Can't do that. They've been chirping, it's playoff basketball, but you don't push a guy out of the air like that, two hands. It's a dirty play. Dennis could have really got hurt right there. ... That just can't happen. Hard fouls, things like that, playoff basketball. We accept those, but just to blatantly push a guy with two hands out of the air, it's a scary play. Good thing he's OK, but plays like that, it's unacceptable.”

Phoenix also got another quiet game from Chris Paul, who played just 2 1/2 minutes in the fourth quarter even though coach Monty Williams said the star point guard's bruised right shoulder had healed. Paul had seven points and six assists in 27 minutes, and he spent part of his postgame interview bemoaning the presence of referee Scott Foster, a frequent target of his ire in recent years.

Davis scored 18 points in the third quarter while staking the Lakers to a 17-point lead, and Wesley Matthews hit back-to-back 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter while Los Angeles pushed its margin to 21.

Cameron Payne hit three 3-pointers in a late rally, but the Suns couldn't get closer than eight points.

“It wasn’t a close game, but we got it in reach,” Williams said. “And in those moments, all of our guys know we have to be better, and our guys agree.”

Phoenix won the series opener in impressive fashion, but the Lakers answered with much-improved play in a 109-102 victory in Game 2. The Suns were the NBA's best road team during their outstanding regular season, but the Lakers are proving to be the nightmare matchup most expected when the champs slipped to the bottom of the bracket due to injuries.

King Vs. Jae

James had another yet lively meeting with Crowder — his former Cleveland teammate, his opponent in last year's NBA Finals against Miami, and the Lakers fans’ least-favorite Phoenix player, as evidenced by numerous derogatory chants of his name.

James got a standing ovation when he drew an offensive foul on Crowder with seven minutes to play.

Crowder also struggled from the field, to Staples Center's delight: He missed his first seven shots, including six 3-pointers, before finally hitting a jumper with 6:43 left.

Big Switch

Torrey Craig and Frank Kaminsky effectively bumped Dario Saric from the Suns' rotation for Game 3. Saric, who scored six points in 26 minutes and occasionally got roasted on defense by James in the first two games, didn't play.

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An Arizona native who grew up in central Phoenix, Bruce Drummond briefly decamped for the East Coast to earn a degree in international relations at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.After spending 10 years at the Arizona Attorney General's Office as a civil rights investigator, Drummond landed at KJZZ's sister station, Sun Sounds, where he hosted the weekly classical music program. This led to a job at KBAQ, where he realized a lifelong dream to play classical music on the radio.When he's not hosting or running the control-room board at KJZZ, Drummond can usually be found watching old movies and listening to public radio or one of its podcasts.