Chris Paul scored his 20,000th career point on the way to 23 points and 14 assists, and Devin Booker added 14 points in the Phoenix Suns' 115-105 victory over the winless Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night.
Paul became the first player in NBA history to pair 20,000 points with 10,000 career assists while the defending Western Conference champions carved up the Lakers, who trailed by 32 points in the third quarter.
LeBron James scored 25 points and Russell Westbrook had 22 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists as Los Angeles dropped to 0-2 so far in its reboot season despite playing decently in the first and final quarters.
During the middle quarters, the Lakers showed more fight off the court than on it while getting outscored by 30 points. There was a confrontation between Dwight Howard and Anthony Davis, and a later confrontation between Rajon Rondo and a heckling fan.
Davis had 22 points and 14 rebounds, and Carmelo Anthony added 16 points in a nominal rematch of the first-round playoff series last summer won by the Suns on their way to the NBA Finals. While the Suns kept their winning core together, the Lakers have 12 new players — and a very long way to go, even though they trimmed their massive deficit to nine points in a strong fourth quarter.
The Lakers were incapable of defending Paul or running any effective offensive plays for long stretches, but they lit up social media when Davis and Howard had a confrontation in the bench area during a first-half timeout. The veteran big men's teammates separated them right after Howard fell back to the bench from a physical exchange.
A fan was then ejected from a courtside seat in the third quarter after he exchanged words with Rondo. The veteran point guard pointed out the fan to security, and the fan slapped away Rondo’s hand before security led him out.
Davis and Howard appeared to make up during the game, but the Lakers clearly have a long way to go after their offseason decision to rebuild around just three players from a roster that won a championship a year ago this month.
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Suns: Landry Shamet played despite right foot soreness, scoring three points in 15 minutes. ... Mikal Bridges scored 21 points and Jae Crowder had 13.
Lakers: Rookie Austin Reaves got his first career basket and his first 3-pointer in the fourth quarter. ... Four players on the NBA's oldest team are already sidelined by injuries, although Talen Horton-Tucker (thumb) and Kendrick Nunn (knee) are among the youngest guys on the roster. Trevor Ariza (ankle) and Wayne Ellington (hamstring) are also out.
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Paul got his milestone 20,000th point on a free throw in the second quarter. The 36-year-old point guard is the 47th player in NBA history to hit that scoring mark, and he is currently fifth in league annals with 10,299 assists. He should pass Mark Jackson (10,334) and Steve Nash (10,335) for third place in assists within the next few games.
Suns: At Portland on Saturday night.
Lakers: Host Memphis on Sunday night.