PHOENIX — With 3:55 remaining within the Lakers’ 115-105 loss to the Phoenix Suns at Footprint Center on Tuesday, Austin Reaves tried a layup. Devin Booker contested the shot and struck Reaves within the face, knocking him to the bottom because the whistle blew.

Booker, one of many sport’s infamous trash talkers, flexed and strutted previous Reaves, mean-mugging him and muttering one thing as Reaves lay on the bottom. A couple of seconds later, Deandre Ayton, who collected the dead-ball rebound after the miss, additionally walked towards Reaves, then stood over him and smack-talked.

“I really didn’t see much after I got hit in the nose,” Reaves mentioned. “I thought I was bleeding, so I was on the ground.”

Out of nowhere, Patrick Beverley charged Ayton from behind and body-checked him together with his left shoulder, inflicting Ayton to topple over the ground-bound Reaves. Teammates from each side rushed into the fray. Ayton stood up and tried to push towards Beverley. Anthony Davis then stepped in in opposition to Ayton, and finally, the melee was damaged up.

“When I did turn around, I saw Pat have my back, which I love,” Reaves mentioned. “Everybody on the team, s—, is the same way. If it was him, we would’ve done the same thing for him.”

After a video overview, Booker was assessed a flagrant foul 1, Beverley was issued a technical foul and ejected, and Ayton was given a technical foul. At the time, the Suns led 106-96.

“From my point of view, I felt like … obviously, very unprofessional,” Beverley mentioned. “(The push) shouldn’t have happened, first and foremost. But I’m a big fan of protecting my teammate, especially teammates that I go to war with every night. I kind of felt like the play kind of got out of control after the stare-down at Austin Reaves by Book and then another stare-down by Ayton. The refs didn’t really come in and kind of break it up.

“I’m not going for that s—. That’s what I saw. Obviously, it’s unfortunate that it happened on national TV, but you know me; regardless of what’s going on, I’m a big fan of protecting my teammates. … I’m a foxhole guy. Very unfortunate situation, though.”

Beverley’s forceful response was a galvanizing second for the Lakers, as head coach Darvin Ham and a number of teammates shared postgame.

“I love it, personally,” Russell Westbrook mentioned. “Protecting and understanding we have each other’s back is the most important thing as a team.”

The Lakers dropped to 5-11, snapping their three-game win steak, however the group confirmed that its current improved play isn’t a fluke. They hung with probably the greatest groups within the league in a hostile street surroundings with out LeBron James (left groin pressure), who missed his fifth consecutive sport. They have been dominated on the 3-point line (minus-36), however they discovered a technique to partially offset that huge deficit with free throws (plus-26) and factors within the paint (plus-10).

Over the previous week and a half, the Lakers have proved they’re significantly higher than their horrific 2-10 begin.

“We got each other’s backs,” Davis mentioned. “Pat is known for that: having his teammate’s back. … We’re never gonna let anyone stand over our teammate or make them feel like they’re not a man. That’s disrespectful.”

Reaves mentioned he instructed Beverley he appreciated the gesture “four or five times” afterward.

“He’s a team player,” Reaves mentioned. “He rocks with who he rocks with. Whoever is on his team, you respect him. You love him. You’re glad he’s on your team. When he’s not, he’s a pest (and) does all that stuff, all those little things. But I just respect him for who he is and standing up for me.”

The dangerous blood between the 2 groups, which Davis acknowledged has been brewing since their 2021 first-round playoff sequence, seeped into the postgame press conferences.

During his walk-off TV interview with TNT, Booker mentioned, “Pat gotta stop pushing people in the back, man. Push them in the chest. That’s all I got to say.”

When relayed Booker’s feedback, Beverley mentioned, “I’m not going back and forth with all of that.”

Ham acknowledged that Beverley may’ve executed a greater job of dealing with issues throughout the league’s guidelines whereas additionally making it clear he helps his place to begin guard’s motives.

“At the end of the day, I’m not mad at him,” Ham mentioned. “He’s there protecting his teammate, and I’m sure he’ll probably go through some type of consequence for that, but at the end of the day, that’s what we have to be as Lakers. We gotta be together. … Teams have to know that they can’t just push us around.”

Beverley mentioned he’s “for sure” involved in regards to the NBA punishing him — he’ll possible be fined and probably suspended — however he mentioned he takes full accountability and would do it once more if an analogous scenario arose.

“Very unprofessional by myself,” Beverley mentioned. “Definitely could have reacted in a different way. So, yeah, I’m a big boy. I’ll take my lumps however they come.”

The incident overshadowed what had been a historic efficiency by Davis. He completed with 37 factors on 11-for-17 taking pictures and 15-for-16 free-throw taking pictures, 21 rebounds, 5 steals and 5 blocks in 38 minutes.

Davis turned the primary participant in NBA historical past to have at the very least 35 factors, 20 rebounds, 5 blocks and 5 steals in a sport. The outing additionally marked his fourth straight sport with 30-plus factors and 16-plus rebounds, which is a profession first for him. The Lakers haven’t seen numbers like this from an enormous man since prime Shaquille O’Neal.

“It’s fantastic to watch,” Ham mentioned. “I’m happy for him. He’s caught a lot of flak over the last couple of years in regards to him being available and him being able to sustain a high level of play. … He’s pushing through those (injury) issues and really performing at a high, high level for us.”

“We’re going to do everything in our power to make sure it continues.”

When requested if he’s been motivated to show one thing to himself not too long ago, Davis mentioned, “I don’t need any motivation.”

“I think I finally just caught a rhythm,” he mentioned. “And also, dealing with the back. It was kind of limiting movement. The back feels totally fine, back to normal, so I’m able to move a little bit more and just play free and not have to worry about moving and if I move this way, I move that way, I might feel my back. I feel really good. … There’s no motivation, no need to prove anyone wrong.”

Late within the first half, Davis landed awkwardly on his left arm after colliding with Booker whereas rolling to the rim and attempting to catch a lob cross. He was writhing in ache on the bottom for a few minutes earlier than getting up throughout a Lakers timeout.

“I don’t know if I came down on (Booker’s) shoulder or something, but I hit, I think, my funny bone and just lost feeling in my arm, my fingers, my hand,” Davis mentioned. “It’s still a little numb right now, my left hand, so I didn’t really need it much tonight.”

Davis, who mentioned on media day that he wished to play all 82 video games however has already missed a sport as a consequence of again tightness, refused to exit Tuesday’s sport regardless of vital discomfort in his off-hand.

“My mindset was, ‘It’s your left hand,’” Davis mentioned. “‘Just get up, make your two free throws and figure it out at half. And then, get ready to play in the second half.’”

Davis is playing like a top-five player currently, and is back to being a no-brainer All-Star and All-NBA selection. This is the best he’s performed in Los Angeles outdoors of his run within the Bubble through the Lakers’ championship 12 months. One may argue he’s been even higher than he was then, although his jumper has but to return. Still, this model of him, paired with a wholesome James, may help the Lakers get into the postseason as a scary underdog — particularly if the group makes a commerce to improve the roster within the close to time period.

James will return quickly. A report on the telecast mentioned that he’ll play Friday in San Antonio, although Ham maintains that James is day-to-day and the group shall be cautious together with his restoration.

“It’s a fluid situation,” Ham mentioned. “The amount of work he’s put in over these 20 years, we just can’t be that careless. We have to be cautious with him and just take our time.”

There have been a number of factors from Tuesday by which the Suns started to drag away, main by 10 to 14 factors, just for the Lakers to shortly reply and get the deficit again to single digits. They competed and defended at a excessive stage, at the same time as they reverted to their early-season kind and couldn’t make a leap shot. They confirmed grit and resilience that wasn’t current earlier within the season.

Most vital, once they felt their teammate was being disrespected, the group had his again, irrespective of the consequence.

“To see everybody rally around one another, rally around Austin and just the team in general and guys having each other’s back, that’s a huge step in the right direction,” Ham mentioned. “Because that’s who we have to be. On the court, off the court, we have to be unified, we have to be together.

“(Tuesday), although disappointing, it was great to see some of the things we saw that’s letting us know, again, we’re starting to see the fruits of our labor.”

(Photo: Rob Schumacher / Arizona Republic)

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