Last season, the Lakers won the championship after losing their first playoff game. They're hoping that history will repeat itself this time around, but they have a far steeper challenge ahead of them now. Devin Booker's 34-point explosion game the Phoenix Suns the Game 1 victory, and as a No. 2 seed, they rarely lost at all during the regular season. Now, the Lakers will need to beat them four times in six tries in order to escape this series. That will be no easy task.
If they hope to turn this around, they're going to need more out of their two superstars. Booker outscored Anthony Davis and LeBron James combined as the two posted a meager 31 points in the loss. Neither are at 100 percent right now, but in this condensed season, few players are. No matter the excuse, the Lakers can't have James and Davis perform at anything less than their peaks if they hope to win the title. Here's how you can tune into Game 2 as they attempt to right the ship.
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(2) Phoenix Suns vs. (7) Los Angeles Lakers
- Date: Tuesday, May 25 | Time: 10 p.m. ET
- Location: Phoenix Suns Arena -- Phoenix, Arizona
- TV: ABC | Live stream: WatchESPN
- Odds: PHO +110; LAL -130 | O/U: 208 (via William Hill Sportsbook)
Lakers: What can the Lakers do to get James and Davis going? Introducing some more spacing would be a nice start. The Lakers gave non-shooting centers 34 minutes in Game 1. Andre Drummond and Montrezl Harrell have their functions, but if James and Davis don't have their superhuman athleticism, their presence does more harm than good by clogging the paint.
The question then becomes what the Lakers can do at center to make things easier on James and Davis. The obvious answer is to play Marc Gasol more, but Markieff Morris is another viable option. Davis played 14 minutes at center himself on Sunday. The Lakers will be cautious with that look early in the playoffs to prevent Davis from wearing down, but it's clear that the Lakers aren't generating enough space with these double-big lineups. Something has to change here.
Suns: How healthy is Chris Paul? He left Game 1 for only a short time due to a right shoulder contusion, but he clearly wasn't himself when he returned. He scored only seven points on eight shots and clearly couldn't get much distance on his jumper.
Still, the Suns won the minutes Paul played by six points. He doesn't have to be a high-end scorer to be effective. He's still a valuable defender and excellent table-setter. But we're talking about beating the defending champions here. The Suns are ultimately going to need points out of Paul if they're going to win the series, so how he shoots in Game 2 will be one of the game's most important storylines.
The Lakers are playing with their backs against the wall. Last season, that led to far more aggressive lineup decisions that ultimately won the Lakers the title. Hopefully, the same will happen this time around, and with Paul compromised, the Suns just aren't a safe bet at anything close to even money. They'll put up a fight, but do you really want to bet on a team whose best player is injured against LeBron freaking James? Pick: Lakers -2