May 20, 2024

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.

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 hoops 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.

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.

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.

Lakers guard Austin Reaves and Suns guard Grayson Allen battle for loose ball in the second quarter Thursday.

Lakers guard Austin Reaves, top, and Suns guard Grayson Allen battle for loose ball in the second quarter Thursday.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

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.

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.

The Lakers play again Sunday in Sacramento.

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