In the latest game of the madness that we call the NBA playoffs, the Lakers have drawn level with the Phoenix Suns after two games to continue a series that remains balanced on the knife-edge, setting aside late fourth-quarter nerves and taking advantage of Chris Paul playing injured.
Lakers Need Focused Davis To Dominate Smaller Suns
Anthony Davis played terribly in Game 1, unable to replicate the 42-point, 12-rebound effort he delivered in the final regular-season meeting between these Pacific Division rivals on May 9. With LeBron James not 100 percent and Dennis Schroder continuing to struggle, it was up to Davis to help everyone settle in by dominating. Instead, he shot 5-for-16, finishing with just 13 points.
Reports are that an angry Davis set the tone in practice to open the week and he bounced back nicely in Game 2, scoring 34, grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out seven assists. As Davis goes, so go the Lakers, which may be good news since he’s been more efficient at home than on the road, averaging 22.5 points and 9.0 rebounds. Despite that, the Lakers are just 8-6 in the 14 home games he’s suited up in.
This will be the first home playoff game at Staples Center for every Laker not named Montrezl Harrell, and he suited up for the Clippers for the past three seasons. Due to the pandemic, James and the Lakers won last season’s title in a bubble and no one is left from the last team to reach the playoffs alongside Kobe Bryant back in 2013. Unfortunately, L.A.’s home arena has been the most conservative in increasing attendance, so roughly just over 6,000 are expected to be in the building for Game 3, similar to the amount that watched the Lakers’ rousing comeback win over the Warriors in the play-in last week.
Phoenix finished with the NBA’s top road record in 2020-21, winning 24 of 36 games. The Suns need Deandre Ayton to continue excelling efficiently in the paint since he’s made 21 of 24 shots. Devin Booker has made 22 of 23 free throws in the series and is averaging 32.5 points, but tag-team partner Chris Paul appears to be limited by a shoulder injury suffered in the series opener. He looked like a shell of himself on Tuesday, taking just five shots, missing half of his four free throws and gutting it out through just over 22 minutes of action. Cameron Payne ended up with more playing time and helped fuel a comeback that eliminated a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
Staring an 0-2 deficit in the face, James nailed a crucial turnaround jumper with 2:55 left and the Lakers never looked back, but it’s still surprising that the opening line of 5.5 points has been largely scoffed at with the opening number of 5.5 points being bet up to seven points at BetRivers, Westgate, William Hill, DraftKings and FanDuel. The total is set at 210 or 210.5 depending on where you shop, coming down from the opening number of 211. Tuesday’s game snuck ‘over’ the posted total by a single free throw in the final seconds as the teams combined for 60 points due to game extension.
The halftime score in both games were 53-45 and 53-47, both landing under the first-half number. It might be worth riding the under again given Paul’s shoulder and the venue change. Both of these teams are sound defensively, ranking in the top five in 3-point percentage defense.
Lakers look amazing on defense down the stretch. Part of it has to do with CP3 being out but the Lakers are making it tough for the Suns
— LegendOfWinning (@LegendOfWinning) May 26, 2021
When it was time to win, LeBron and AD dominated the Suns on both offense and defense! AD was aggressive from the very beginning, going down low and punishing the smaller Suns defenders.
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) May 26, 2021
This Suns vs. Lakers series is going to be a rollercoaster every game.
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) May 26, 2021