If the Los Angeles Lakers made a statement with their win over the Phoenix Suns in Game 2, their statement in Game 3 was bigger and better. With a 109-95 victory over the Suns on Thursday, the Lakers took a 2-1 lead in the series with at least one more game to play at home.
Here are three takeaways from Game 3.
DeAndre Ayton is a problem
Until time comes to an end as the universe folds in on itself, the Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings will be criticized for passing on Luka Doncic in the 2018 NBA Draft, and rightfully so. Doncic was a star before he came into the league, and now he’s an even bigger one.
However, through three games, Ayton has shown why the Suns thought he was worthy of the No. 1 pick. Even with a deep center rotation that features Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond and Marc Gasol, Ayton has averaged 21.7 points on 82.1% shooting from the field. He’s also been dominant on the glass, grabbing 12.3 rebounds per game, including 4.7 offensive ones. It hasn’t mattered who the Lakers have put on him; he’s performed.
Fortunately for the Lakers, their talent and sheer size in the front court was enough for them to keep up with Ayton on both ends of the floor. That wasn’t the case in Game 1, but it has been in the last two games. Hopefully it stays that way for the rest of the series.
LeBron James is fine
LeBron James hasn’t been himself since he returned from injury earlier this month, and it cost the Lakers in Game 1. In Game 2, he was better, but he still didn’t attack the rim with regularity like he’s been known to do throughout his career. Game 3 looked like it was going to be more of the same from James, and if that ended up being the case, the Lakers probably would have been fine.
But that’s not how things went. In the third quarter, James bullied the Suns in the post and got to the basket at will. Then, in the fourth quarter, he let Jae Crowder, who’s six years his junior, know that he doesn’t have to be at 100% to get by him.
James may not be fully healthy again until next season, but if he plays like he did on Thursday, the Lakers can live with that.
Kuz has to keep shooting
In the last three games, Kyle Kuzma has scored 4 points on 2-10 shooting from the field. He’s had good looks, but he’s hardly made any of them.
Kuzma has managed to be impactful in spite of his shooting woes because of the things he does on the defensive end, but if the Lakers are going to punish teams for double-teaming LeBron James and Anthony Davis as the playoffs progress, Kuzma is going to have to be a bigger threat from behind the arc.
It may take a little while longer for Kuzma to figure it out, but when he does, it will be worth it for the Lakers. Keep shooting that thing, Kuz.