“It’s an unbelievable feeling, man. This city has been waiting on this for a very long time and you could feel that tonight.”— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) May 23, 2021
Everything you need to from our Game 1 victory! 👇
Lakers vs. Suns score, takeaways: Phoenix proves ready for the moment with win over LeBron James, Los Angeles
The Suns own a 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven series
The 2021 NBA playoffs have provided fans with some thrilling games to this point, and that continued Sunday afternoon in the Game 1 matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Phoenix Suns. In a game that featured just about everything including apparent injuries to star players, multiple technical fouls issued and even an ejection, it was the Suns that came out on top on their home court in a 99-90 win.
With Chris Paul certainly not looking like himself after suffering a right shoulder contusion during the second quarter, it would have been understandable if Phoenix would have given up its lead and ultimately dropped Game 1. That didn't happen, though. Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker were masterful as the two combined for 55 points and 23 rebounds.
Phoenix now takes a 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven series with Game 2 scheduled for Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on TNT. We'll just have to wait and see what sort of shape Paul's shoulder is in after the quick turnaround. Here are the biggest takeaways from Game 1.
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The kids are growing up
Entering Sunday, Chris Paul had played in 109 playoff games. The next nine most-used players on Phoenix's roster this season had played in 100 combined. This was a genuine concern for the Suns entering the postseason. Could such a young team really be expected to keep up with the defending champions?
Well, one game in, we have our answer, and it's about as resounding a yes as you possibly could have imagined. The young Suns couldn't lean on Paul to carry them to the finish line after he hurt his shoulder, so it was up to the youngsters to lead the way. They did just that. Devin Booker scored more points (34) than LeBron James and Anthony Davis combined (31). Ayton had more rebounds (16) than Davis had points (13). Mikal Bridges held James below 20. Cameron Payne was an important supplementary ball-handler before his ejection.
The Suns had every excuse to lose this game. For most of them, it was their playoff debut. The Lakers shot 16 more free throws. Paul got hurt and could hardly shoot. It didn't matter. Phoenix did what it has done all season. It took care of business, and if there were any doubts about how this team would hold up in the postseason, those should now be gone. The Suns are ready for this moment.
What's up with Anthony Davis?
If Anthony Davis was just hurt, that would be one thing, and hey, he might still be dealing with the nagging effects of his calf injury to some extent. But Davis played against the Suns two weeks ago today. He had 42 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, three steals and three blocks. The Lakers won that game without James or Dennis Schroder. They lost this one, and Davis was a major reason why. Davis had a game-worst minus-18 point-differential. He shot 5 of 16 from the field and wasn't his typically destructive self on defense.
The Lakers can live with a sub-peak LeBron. His basketball IQ is so high that he can still find ways to impact the game at a superstar level. He did that today with his passing, and sure enough, the Lakers had a positive point-differential with him on the floor at plus-2. But Davis has to be at his athletic best for the Lakers to win the title. So much of their defense relies on him blowing up multiple actions in a single play, and so much of their offense relies on him making his jump shots, as he did last postseason, rather than missing them, as he has for most of this season. If his jumpers aren't falling, opposing defenders won't respect the shot and will sag into the paint. That's the last thing the Lakers need given their overall shooting woes. They'll need a far more aggressive Davis in Game 2 if they hope to turn this thing around.
More Game 1 woes
The Lakers lost Game 1 of their first two series last season. They went on to sweep the next four games in each of them. This has been a frequent bug in LeBron's career. He entered Sunday with a 29-20 record in Game 1's. Not bad, but it's the only point in a given playoff series in which his winning percentage is below 60. If you only count series that didn't end in sweeps, James was below .500 entering Sunday at 17-18. LeBron tends to get stronger as series go. So do the Lakers.
But last year's team got away with it in large part because of their competition. The Blazers were a No. 8 seed and dealt with injuries throughout that series. The Rockets didn't have a fully healthy Russell Westbrook and lost Danuel House midway through the series. The Lakers were heavy favorites in both matchups. That's not the case right now, unless Paul's injury is more serious than we know.
The Suns won 51 games this season. They were the No. 2 seed in the West for a reason. This is a very, very good team, one that likely would have finished near the Lakers in the standings even if the defending champions had been healthy all year. The Lakers could afford to mess around for a game against last year's opponents. They can't this year. They have to take the Suns seriously, because if they don't, they're going to reach the end of this series and realize that even if they're the better team, they've dug themselves too big a hole to climb out of.
Suns fans, you were 𝘌𝘓𝘌𝘊𝘛𝘙𝘐𝘊 tonight.— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) May 23, 2021
Bring that same energy Tuesday!
🎟 https://t.co/W5EnG5KuCo pic.twitter.com/Ske2kGGZzT
Let’s keep this energy going @FanDuel | Stat line of the Game pic.twitter.com/1bpfNll5le— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) May 23, 2021
Playoffs + Wings = ❤️— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) May 23, 2021
Download to Suns app to claim your 3 free wings and head to an @ATLWingsAZ wings in the next 24hrs!
📱 https://t.co/NPb98rBxUp pic.twitter.com/R4bD1QiaHu
Assists FTW! 🍔— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) May 23, 2021
Get a free Western Bacon Cheeseburger® at a valley @CarlsJr tomorrow with the purchase of a fountain drink! pic.twitter.com/Gn6prOdah9
Most rebounds by a Suns player in playoff debut.— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) May 23, 2021
🔥 @DeandreAyton 🔥 pic.twitter.com/1UrvXJv7CA
Game 1 ✔️— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) May 23, 2021
Gotta stay focused and keep climbing!#RallyTheValley 𝐓𝐎𝐆𝐄𝐓𝐇𝐄𝐑. pic.twitter.com/8uULuWHzob
Short memory. Game 2 on Tuesday. pic.twitter.com/dBAZK1GdvM— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) May 23, 2021
SUNS WIN!— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) May 23, 2021
SUNS WIN! #RallyTheValley 𝐓𝐎𝐆𝐄𝐓𝐇𝐄𝐑.
Caruso for 3 again, but too little, too late. The Suns take Game 1, 99-90.
#99 hit the 99th point 💯— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) May 23, 2021
With the lead at 10 with under two minutes to go, it looks like Phoenix is going to win Game 1.
Caruso makes a 3. It probably won't change anything in this game, but probably helpful for him to see that shot go in.
📈 Devin Booker: most points in a playoff debut in Suns history pic.twitter.com/Pq0plRRH5x— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) May 23, 2021
LeBron has gone cold from 3 after making three long-range shots earlier in the game.
Big putback there for Phoenix to keep the lead at double digits.
Davis makes one of two, and the Lakers trail by eight with 5:22 left
Man, Bridges might regret that one. That missed putback would've put the Suns up 11. Now Anthony Davis is going to the line with a chance to cut the lead to seven.
Booker over Davis! Gorgeous floater. He's carrying the Suns with Chris Paul hobbled.
Schroder for three and the lead is down to only seven for the Suns.
The Lakers have gone to Anthony Davis at center down 10 in the fourth quarter.
As you would expect, things are getting a bit more physical down the stretch. After being knocked to the floor by Wesley Matthews, Chris Paul received a pass and hit a contested fallaway jumper over Kyle Kuzma to extend the Suns' lead.
Here is video of the incident that resulted in multiple technical fouls and an ejection.
Cam Payne & Caruso getting into it then Harrell comes in pic.twitter.com/spLJilM9Ft— CJ Fogler #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) May 23, 2021
After the review, there have been two technical fouls called on the Lakers with Alex Caruso and Montrezl Harrell receiving those penalties. In addition, Suns guard Cam Payne has been ejected from the game.
There is an official review going on following the scrum that broke out after Chris Paul's foul on LeBron James.
We have a brawl.
LeBron is down now.
LeBron misses two of his free-throw attempts but immediately makes it up with a steal leading to an and-one layup.
Phoenix is not happy with that call. LeBron is getting three free throws off of it.
Saric blocks Kuzma into oblivion and that feels like a pretty solid encapsulation of what this game has been thus far.