A soft hum passed through the crowd midway through the third quarter, the kind you might hear at a moderately busy bus station, not the noise that fans make for an NBA title contender’s first home game of the season.
But you can’t blame people for how they react to what they’re seeing, and the Lakers weren’t exactly putting on a show.
By the end of the night, however, the Lakers’ home arena jumped as the team forced turnovers that fueled a run toward its first win of the season.
Read more: Five takeaways from the Lakers’ season-opening loss to the Nuggets
Staring down the Phoenix Suns’ defense with the score tied, LeBron James drove right at the rim and scored. Then he did it again.
The baskets injected life into the game, and ultimately led to a 100-95 win on a night when the Lakers didn’t have their best stuff.
“We know when it’s money time or when it’s a close game, we know we have a few actions that we can get to where we know we’re going to at least get a good look or a good shot,” James said.
After offseason moves made to create continuity, the Lakers looked like a group of basketball strangers, any semblance of identity sticking for a possession or two before it disappeared.
“It’s not where I want it to be but that’s OK because it’s only the second game of the season,” James said of his team’s cohesion. “I’m not looking for it to be where we want it to be going down the stretch. We have new pieces that we’re trying to integrate into the system so it’s going to take time.”
But fourth-quarter stops — the Suns shot 26.3% from the field and turned it over seven times in the quarter — allowed the Lakers to erase a 12-point deficit and overcome Kevin Durant’s 37 points.
Anthony Davis scored 30, including 13 in the fourth, and James added 21. James played 35 minutes, five more than the informal goal the coaches and medical team set going into the season.
Heading into the fourth quarter, Lakers coach Darvin Ham and James talked about the 21-year veteran’s minutes, with Ham asking him how he felt.
“I looked at the time and the score and what was going on in the game, and it was an easy answer for myself,” James said. “I know how much work I’ve put in to be able to play quarters or whatever the case may be. And I understand that we definitely have a system put in place, but tonight called for me to go outside the box.”
While the Nuggets’ togetherness was the culprit for the Lakers’ opening-night loss in Denver, more troubling issues, like effort and toughness, nearly brought down the Lakers in Game No. 2.
The Lakers got killed on the glass, Phoenix quickly scoring a dozen points off offensive rebounds. And even with Devin Booker and Bradley Beal sidelined because of injuries, the Suns still weathered a slow start by Durant while the Lakers’ outside shooting clanked shot after shot.
It wasn’t until the fourth quarter when the Lakers’ defense, keyed by effort from reserves Gabe Vincent and Christian Wood, began to get enough stops to get momentum and begin a run.
“C. Wood did a great job being physical with him and making him take tough shots,” Davis said. “And then it’s our job when he miss, to get the rebound and not give them second-chance opportunities.”
The Lakers play again Sunday in Sacramento.
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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.