PHOENIX – The Phoenix Suns took a unique approach to guarding LeBron James, giving him the 7-foot-1 center, Deandre Ayton.
James had his numbers, but the Suns frustrated the Lakers star and were able to back down when he attempted to carry a late charge.
Ayton had 26 points, 10 rebounds and main defensive duties against James, helping the Suns resist the Los Angeles Lakers 118-109 on Saturday night.
"It was a fun game," Ayton said. "I'm going to sleep well tonight."
Phoenix lost the first three games of the season against Los Angeles in double digits, but the Lakers were a little disconcerted for three quarters in the final series.
The defense of the Suns against James, led by Ayton, helped.
The most valuable player in the league four times has been frustrated by the Phoenix defense and the team's inability to stay with the NBA's worst team.
But, as he often did, James tried to bring back the Lakers.
With Los Angeles 14 seconds to 6:06, James scored on a three-point game, hit a 3-pointer and kicked Brandon Ingram for a 3-corner break. He followed a hard blow on a baseline to get the Lakers between 112 and 109.
Los Angeles could not get closer, losing a game he could not afford to lose while fighting for a playoff spot.
"We needed this game for obvious reasons," said James, who has 27 points, 16 assists and nine rebounds. "It's a shame with the opportunities we had that we could not grasp."
The Suns appeared as if they were withering, as they had done so many times.
Instead, Phoenix closed the Lakers and made six free throws in the last 52 seconds to win for the second time in three games, after a 17-game losing streak.
Devin Booker added 25 points for the Suns.
"We showed that we could close the matches, run in critical times, having enough discipline," said Suns coach Igor Kokoskov. "They came hard to us."
Both teams were in the second game of a back to back.
The Lakers lost 131-120 to Milwaukee after the Bucks closed the match on a 15-2 record.
The Suns followed their first win in six weeks with a 130-136 loss to New Orleans, allowing the Pelicans to hit 16 three-point shots and shoot 67% in the second half.
The Lakers won the last game against Phoenix 116-102, despite their clashes without James, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma.
The Suns took a better start in the final of the series against the Lakers, with a 10-point lead and 13 shots out of 19 in the first quarter.
Phoenix tipped 14 points early in the second quarter, but Los Angeles used a late shot to score 66-59 at half-time.
The Suns continued to frustrate James and the Lakers in the third quarter, widening the lead to 95-78 behind Booker's 12 points.
In the middle of the fourth quarter, James gave a push, but the Suns pushed back.
"We must be better. We must be much better, "said Lakers coach Luke Walton. "I'm happy with the fight we played in the fourth quarter, but where we are in the season, it's the desperation with which we have to start the game."