The Los Angeles Lakers will advance to the first round of the NBA Playoffs after beating the Golden State Warriors 103-100 in a play-in game for the No. 7 seed on Wednesday. Their next opponent? The No. 2 seed in the West, the Phoenix Suns.
It’s been 11 years since the Suns’ last playoff game, which, ironically, was against the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. The Lakers won that series 4-2 behind a string of impressive scoring displays from Kobe Bryant, who, in six games, averaged 33.7 points per game on 52.1% shooting from the field and 43.2% shooting from behind the arc.
The Lakers will be hoping to outshine the Suns again this year, but unlike their last series against Phoenix, they won’t have home court advantage. In fact, they won’t have home court advantage for the rest of the playoffs unless they play one of the lower-seeded teams in the Eastern Conference in the Finals.
What the Lakers will have in most of their games is two of the three best players on the court, and that will almost certainly be the case in their series with the Suns. There’s no denying that Devin Booker is an elite scorer, but Chris Paul is the only player on the Suns’ roster that is in the same stratosphere as LeBron James and Anthony Davis in terms of impact.
Paul, in his first season with the Suns, has averaged 16.4 points, 8.9 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game while averaging just 31.4 minutes per game. Suffice to say, he’s efficient with his minutes and those minutes are only going to go up in the postseason.
Outside of Paul and Booker, the Suns don’t have anyone on their roster that stands out as a star but, similar to the Lakers, they have a handful of guys that are stars in their roles on both ends of the floor. Mikal Bridges has been especially valuable to the Suns in that regard this season, but he will be put to the test in a way it hasn’t before: in a playoff series against James, one of the greatest playoff performers of all time.
Bridges and James actually only saw each other once this season because James missed the Lakers’ two most recent games against the Suns. Anthony Davis also only played against the Suns once, but his only appearance was encouraging, to say the least.
Earlier this month, when the Lakers beat the Suns, Davis tallied 42 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks. The Suns just didn’t have an answer for him, and they still don’t.
The one area that the Suns have a clear advantage — at least on paper — is their offense. This season, the Suns have posted the seventh-best offense in the NBA, which is 17 spots higher than the Lakers. The Suns are also ranked second in field goal percentage and seventh in 3-point percentage. The Lakers are ranked 12th and 21st, respectively.
Perhaps there wouldn’t be such a large disparity if James and Davis had played more this season, but the Suns had the same offensive rating as the Lakers last season, before they had Paul. They’re legit offensively, and their defense is great too, but again, that’s all on paper. In terms of head-to-head matchups, the Lakers may have a slight edge.
The Lakers and Suns will play their first game on Sunday Phoenix and it will be nationally broadcast on ABC at 3:30 p.m. PT.
Here is the schedule for the Lakers-Suns first round series pic.twitter.com/fkr6RNHerA— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) May 20, 2021