The Los Angeles Lakers evened their series with the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night with a 109-102 victory in enemy territory. While they weren’t perfect throughout the game, they stepped up when it mattered most.
Here are three takeaways from Game 2.
AD is reliably inconsistent
When Anthony Davis struggles, this whole Lakers team struggles, and that was clear for all to see in Game 1. However, when Davis is aggressive, the Lakers are an absolute nightmare to play against.
Yes, it’s true that Davis took a few of the same the head-scratching shots that he took in Game 1, but he mixed those attempts in with some aggressive play at the rim. Eighteen of the 34 points he scored came as a result of him drawing fouls at the rim and making free-throws. He missed a couple, but he was still able to end the night with playoff career-highs in both free-throw makes (18) and attempts (21).
AD's 18 made free throws and 21 attempts were both career playoff highs for him, per Lakers PR, who also note that they were the most by any Lakers player since Kobe Bryant in 2008.— We Believe Faigen (@hmfaigen) May 26, 2021
It may be frustrating that Davis doesn’t always tally 34 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 blocks and a steal, but you can guess when he’s going to have those nights based on how he played in the last game.
Say what you will about Davis, but he’s consistent with his inconsistency, and it works for him and the Lakers more often than not.
Defense is still the key
A casual fan couldn’t have guessed that the Lakers were the best defensive team in the NBA based solely off of their performance on Sunday. That’s true even when you consider the fact that they held the Suns to under 100 points.
On Tuesday, there was no doubt who the most dominant defensive team on the floor was. In the fourth quarter, when the Lakers needed to pull away, it was their defense that won them the game. That’s not to say that the tough shots LeBron James hit down the stretch meant nothing — after all, you need to score more than the other team to win — but when the Lakers were locked in defensively, they were able to get stops pretty comfortably and, as a result, buy their offense some time to get something going.
DeAndre Ayton and Devin Booker may have gotten theirs on Tuesday, but not when it mattered. Hopefully that’s a trend that continues.
The centers can shape the series
At long last, Marc Gasol got some run on Tuesday and it was ... fine. Gasol provided some steady playmaking in the non-LeBron lineups, and he hit big a 3-pointer when no one on the Lakers was making their shots, but overall, he was just okay. The good news is that “okay” is all that he needed to be.
With his shift on Tuesday, Gasol showed the situations that he is and isn’t valuable in, and that knowledge is important for a coach trying to manage three centers that provide very different skillsets. Granted, this might not be the best series for Gasol, but at least Vogel knows that he’s not completely useless against the Suns. In other words, he should have some comfort playing all three of Andre Drummond, Montrezl Harrell and Gasol. Just maybe not all together.