In order to get into the NBA Playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers had to get past one of the purest scorers in the league, MVP finalist Stephen Curry. If they’re going to advance further, they’re going to have to slow another bucket-getter in Phoenix Suns All-Star Devin Booker. That is easier said than done, as they found out on Sunday.
In Game 1, Booker scored 34 points on 13-26 shooting from the field and 3-7 shooting from behind the arc in 45 minutes over the course of his playoff debut. It didn’t matter who the Lakers put on him; he got to his spots with ease and made the most of the good looks he got, because that’s what All-Star scorers do.
“I think it’s just Devin Booker being Devin Booker,” Andre Drummond said after practice on Monday. “The shots he was taking were contested. We defended him well. I think earlier in the game we allowed him to get a lot of easy shots, which is what got him into that rhythm to where he could hit those push shots at the end of the game. I think we just need to do a better job of being more physical on him.”
Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope spent more time than any other Laker (eight minutes) defending Booker, and although his final matchups stats weren’t great, he agreed that he and his teammates did a good job of trying to stop Booker. However, he didn’t agree that Booker had “a lot” of easy shots.
“He just made a lot of tough, contested twos,” Caldwell-Pope said. “I didn’t think he had an easy shot besides the one he had at the top of the key.”
“We made it tough for him. He had to take tough twos, and he’s a great player. All-Star. He’s going to knock down some of them shots, we’ve just got to be more physical with him,” Caldwell-Pope continued. “Try to take him out of his game as much as possible.”
There are arguably more pressing issues the Lakers need to address ahead of Game 2, starting with their transition defense, but Frank Vogel acknowledged that Booker is someone that they have to be more mindful of on Tuesday.
“He had a good game, and we all have to be better on the ball,” Vogel said. “It’s a five-man assignment. We have coverages in place, and KCP is as good as anybody at sticking with a guy like Devin, an elite scorer.”
The Lakers and Suns will tip-off Game 2 at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. The game will be broadcast nationally on TNT, and locally on Spectrum SportsNet.
Notes and Updates
- Anthony Davis (right shoulder sprain) and LeBron James (right ankle sprain) have been listed as probable for Game 2. Chris Paul, who suffered an injury in Game 1, wasn’t on the Suns’ injury report.