LeBron James, Lakers beat Suns after controversial call, clinch tourney spot

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James nearly logged a triple-double in a win over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday in Los Angeles. File Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI
1 of 5 | Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James nearly logged a triple-double in a win over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday in Los Angeles. File Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 6 (UPI) -- LeBron James scored 15 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter, leading the Los Angeles Lakers past the Phoenix Suns in the quarterfinals of the NBA's in-season tournament in Los Angeles.

"I surprise myself still with what I'm able to do, for as long as I've been in this league and for as many miles I've put on these tires," James told reporters after the 106-103 victory Tuesday at Arena in Los Angeles.


The Lakers outscored the Suns 54-42 in the paint, 31-20 off the bench and led by as many as 15 points. They won the game despite shooting just 37.3% from the floor, compared to the Suns' 49.3% clip.

The Suns also shot 48% (12 of 25) from 3-point range. The Lakers shot just 30% (9 of 30) from downtown.


A controversial call from referees in the finals seconds also injected drama into the contest.

The Lakers led the Suns 83-82 through three quarters, but the Suns kept the game tight, tying the score several times and even taking a brief lead.

Suns star Kevin Durant made a reverse layup with 11 seconds remaining, cutting the Lakers' lead to 105-103. Referees then allowed a Lakers timeout during what appeared to be a loose ball to start the next possession, sparking controversy.

James threw in inbound pass to guard Austin Reaves. Reaves attempted to dribble up the right flank, but lost control while defended by Durant and Suns guard Devin Booker. Referees then recognized a Lakers signal for a timeout, instead of giving the ball to the Suns, who appeared to recover it.

Lakers forward/center Anthony Davis made a free throw when play resumed for the final 3-point advantage. Durant followed by air-balling a deep 3-point attempt just before the final buzzer.

"It's a loose ball, and you can't call a timeout on a loose ball," Suns coach Frank Vogel said. "The whistle blows. I don't know why. Everything in the league is reviewable. I don't know why that can't be reviewable."


Davis scored 14 of his 27 points in the first quarter, helping the Lakers carry a 33-23 edge into the second. The Lakers held a 59-47 lead at halftime. Durant and Suns guard Grayson Allen scored 12 and 11 points, respectively, in the third quarter. The Suns outscored the Lakers 35-24 in the frame to cut the deficit to a single point to start the fourth. The Lakers outscored he Suns 23-21 over the final 12 minutes.

Durant scored 22 of his 31 points in the second half. Allen and Booker chipped in 21 points apiece.

Davis logged 15 rebounds, in addition to his 27 points. Reaves scored 20 off the Lakers bench. James nearly logged a triple-double, with 11 assists and eight rebounds, in addition to his 31 points. He also picked up five steals.

The Lakers (13-9) will host the New Orleans Pelicans (12-10) at 9 p.m. EST Thursday in Los Angeles. The Pelicans beat the Sacramento Kings 127-117 in another tournament quarterfinal Monday in Sacramento.

The Milwaukee Bucks (15-6), who have the top seed in the Eastern Conference, beat the No. 4 New York Knicks (12-8) in another tournament quarterfinal Tuesday in Milwaukee. They will host the No. 2 Indiana Pacers (11-8) in the other semifinal at 5 p.m. Thursday in Milwaukee.


The Pacers beat the No. 3 Boston Celtics (15-5) on Monday in the other Eastern Conference quarterfinal.

Players who make the quarterfinals of the in-season tournament will receive $50,000 apiece. They will get $100,000 for reaching the semifinals and $200,000 for making the final. Players on the title-winning team will get $500,000 apiece.

The Bucks-Pacers game will air on ESPN. The Lakers-Pelicans semifinal will air on TNT/truTV. The final will air at 8:30 p.m. Saturday on ABC/ESPN2.

LeBron James: a look back at the NBA's all-time leading scorer

LeBron James when he was a high school senior playing basketball at the James A. Rhodes Arena in Akron, Ohio, on February 14, 2003. Photo by Tom Cammett/UPI | License Photo

Latest Headlines