Lakers vs. Suns score: LeBron James, Los Angeles grab Game 2 victory, but Chris Paul's shoulder is the story

The Los Angeles Lakers escaped, in every sense of the word, with a 109-102 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday, bringing their first-round series to 1-1 as the scene shifts to Los Angeles for Game 3 on Thursday. Anthony Davis led the way for L.A. with 34 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Dennis Schröder was superb. LeBron James was strangely deferential throughout most of the night before sticking two filthy fadeaways and a 3-pointer to essentially ice the game late in the fourth quarter. 

But Chris Paul is the story. 

Or should I say, Chris Paul's shoulder is the story. They're calling it a contusion, but it doesn't really matter what you call it. What matters is Paul is basically playing with one arm. He looked a smidge more right-hand capable on Tuesday than he did after the injury in Game 1, when he could hardly keep control of the ball, but not by much. He took just five shots. Scored six points. Played just 23 minutes. Paul is one of the best clutch players in the world, and Monty Williams couldn't even afford to have him in the game to close the fourth quarter. 

Somehow, the Suns were still right there. It's a credit to Devin Booker, who had a poor shooting night but muscled his way to 31 points on 17-of-17 free throws. Props to Cameron Payne, who posted 19 points and seven assists and looked, dare I say, pretty Paul-esque in crunch time. Deandre Ayton is coming of age in front of our eyes. He finished with 22 points on Tuesday and has made 21 of his 24 shots in this series. 

Phoenix can still win this series, though it does feel like the Lakers wrangled the momentum heading home. Perhaps Paul will make significant progress by Thursday, or at least by Game 4 on Saturday. But to this point, it's hard not to qualify most every piece of analysis pertaining to this series with the effective absence of one of the league's most valuable players. 

The Lakers played championship defense on Tuesday, but surely that was an effort aided by Paul's limitations. When Paul was on the floor, the Lakers were afforded the luxury of basically ignoring him as a scorer/playmaker. They got a major contribution from Andre Drummond, who would, under normal circumstances, be an exploitable Paul pick-and-roll target. They were able to double-team Booker, who looked out of sync trying to assume Paul's normal half-court initiator role. 

For the life of me, I can't figure out why the Lakers aren't taking extreme measures to force Paul right when he has the ball. To be honest, they're often shading him left, which is the only way he can really take his dribble right now. They were better about leaving Paul to help on other Suns penetrators and shooters, or not leaving their assignments to help on Paul, on Tuesday than they were in Game 1, but still, one could argue they're actually taking it kind of easy on Paul, who is nonetheless a shell of his normal self. 

It stinks. There's no other way to say it. Paul's postseason injury luck, or lack thereof, has ventured into the realm of cruelty. Over the course of his career, Paul has suffered an injury during a playoff series that either significantly limited his abilities, or took him out entirely, four times. The worst was in the 2018 Western Conference finals, when he ripped his hamstring at the end of Game 5 and was forced to miss Games 6 and 7. The Rockets lost those games, squandering their 3-2 series lead and Paul's best shot at a title. 

This season, Paul and the Suns enjoyed an extraordinarily campaign, but the bug has bitten Paul again. It's brutal, but it's the card he and the Suns were dealt. We'll all hold out hope that Paul's condition will improve before the series potentially slips away, but right now, it doesn't look good. Unless you're a Lakers fan. 

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TUE 10:00 P
PHO +2, o210.5
TNT
PHO 2, O/U 210.5

Season Leaders

points
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L. James 23.3 PTS, 8.0 AST, 7.2 REB
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L. James 23.3 PTS, 8.0 AST, 7.2 REB
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D. Booker 27.3 PTS, 4.5 AST, 5.6 REB
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D. Booker 27.3 PTS, 4.5 AST, 5.6 REB
assists
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L. James 23.3 PTS, 8.0 AST, 7.2 REB
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L. James 23.3 PTS, 8.0 AST, 7.2 REB
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C. Paul 19.2 PTS, 8.6 AST, 3.5 REB
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C. Paul 19.2 PTS, 8.6 AST, 3.5 REB
rebounds
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A. Drummond 9.0 PTS, 0.0 AST, 11.0 REB
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A. Drummond 9.0 PTS, 0.0 AST, 11.0 REB
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D. Ayton 15.8 PTS, 1.1 AST, 11.8 REB
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D. Ayton 15.8 PTS, 1.1 AST, 11.8 REB
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@Suns via Twitter
May 26, 2021, 5:38 AM
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@Suns via Twitter
May 26, 2021, 5:33 AM
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That's that. Lakers 109, Suns 102.

May 26, 2021, 4:42 AM
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Two more for Davis. That's 34. Lakers lead by seven.

May 26, 2021, 4:41 AM
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The Suns really won't say die. They fouled Davis with 5.6 seconds remaining down five.

May 26, 2021, 4:40 AM
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More free throws for Booker as the Lakers struggle to end this thing. They're up eight with under eight seconds to go, but the Suns are extending the game.

May 26, 2021, 4:39 AM
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Caruso with the dagger dunk. The Lakers are gonna win this one somewhat comfortably.

May 26, 2021, 4:37 AM
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LeBron calls game! That 3 puts them up nine with under a minute to go. Checkmate.

May 26, 2021, 4:33 AM
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Booker's going to the line. He has a chance to get his first points on the quarter, but with 1:08 left, is there enough time for the Suns to mount a real challenge?

May 26, 2021, 4:32 AM
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Timeout Suns, down eight with 1:16 remaining.

May 26, 2021, 4:30 AM
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Booker turns it over off his own leg. He hasn't scored in the fourth.

May 26, 2021, 4:29 AM
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Davis gets fouled on the rebound. The Lakers have a chance to push the lead to eight on the free throws. Crisis averted.

May 26, 2021, 4:28 AM
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DAVIS FOR 3! THE LAKERS LEAD BY SIX!

May 26, 2021, 4:27 AM
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LeBron! WOW what a shot!

May 26, 2021, 4:27 AM
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DAVIS WHAT A BLOCK!

May 26, 2021, 4:26 AM
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The Lakers are closing with Davis at center.

May 26, 2021, 4:26 AM
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The Lakers overpassed there, and it cost them. That's a 24-second violation because Gasol made that last pass.

May 26, 2021, 4:22 AM
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Gasol getting attacked in space again. Payne pushes the lead back down to one.

May 26, 2021, 4:22 AM
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Davis pushes the lead up to three!

May 26, 2021, 4:22 AM
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