LeBron James’ Game One status was completely up in the air early Saturday afternoon after news broke that the Lakers star broke health and safety protocols earlier in the week. Reports surfaced pinning James at a function with world-renowned rapper Drake before the Lakers play-in matchup with the Warriors.
Many feared James would be unavailable for Game One of the first round with this news coming to light. Those thoughts were put to rest shortly after the NBA announced James, in fact, would be available for Sunday’s matchup with the Phoenix Suns. The nature of the event and setting were the main reasons for the breach not sidelining James.
Lakers lose another Game One with James/Davis Duo
Despite James and Davis’ practically flawless playoff resume as a duo, they have experienced Game One struggles frequently. Flashback to last year’s Bubble the Lakers fell behind in their first round matchup with Portland and then again in round two against the Houston Rockets. Fast forward back to today and the Lakers Game One struggles continued.
The #7 seed Lakers traveled into Phoenix looking to take down the #2 seed Suns. The Suns had other plans, however, as they defended home-court in front of what seemed to be a sold-out crowd. The Suns smothered Davis and James and took a wild Game One with plenty of action, 99-90.
Davis struggles, takes accountability for loss
Anthony Davis after a disappointing opening performance in this year’s playoffs said his teammates can put this one on him. Davis after the loss: “There’s no way we’re winning a game, let alone the series, with the way I played today. It’s on me.”
AD in the Lakers Game One loss put up only 13 points on 31% from the field and seven rebounds in 39 minutes of action. The Lakers star also has the worst plus-minus rating of any player today at -18. Lakers fans have to feel somewhat at peace, however. Davis has held himself accountable in the past after sub-par performances and Davis tends to deliver on his promise moving forward.
Personally, AD’s Game One struggles should not worry Lakers fans too much, in my opinion. The star big man boasts a strong individual playoff resume. Davis in 34 career playoff games has averaged 28.8 PPG and 10.9 RPG while shooting 55% from the field. AD is still trying to find his groove after an injury-riddled season, but I expect The Brow to figure it out, and log a very strong performance in Game Two.
Remember in the final week of the regular season, Davis posted his season-high 42 points in a win against the Phoenix Suns. Take the over-point total for AD in Game Two.
Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton impress in their playoff debuts
One storyline no NBA fan expected to come out of today’s matchup was Deandre Ayton’s stellar performance in Game One. In fact, the third-year pro dominated AD all game long. In his first career playoff game, Ayton was practically flawless. The Suns’ center came out of the gates cooking scoring 10 points in the first seven minutes.
Ayton, in total, (37 min) finished with 21 points on 10-11 from the field and 16 rebounds. Out of his 16 rebounds, eight of them were offensively surpassing Davis’s total for the game (seven). Ayton also posted the highest plus-minus rating of the game at +16.
Devin Booker did not disappoint in his first playoff action either. The Suns’ franchise player has been waiting six years to play on this stage. Having said that, Booker was poised and the best player on the floor today for either team. The 24-year-old scored a game-high 34 points to go along with his seven rebounds and eight assists.
Booker took control of the game at many points using his ability to score at all three levels on the court. The young All-Star guard has always drawn attention for his explosive offensive game and effortless scoring ability, but now he finally gets to showcase his talents under the playoff lights. Expect much of the same from Booker moving forward in the series. Someone defensively for the Lakers is going to have to take that matchup personally.
What to expect in Game Two
Game One was a wild one. The playoff atmosphere we all missed last year was on full display today in Phoenix, both from fans and players. Tempers flared throughout and the play became chippy at many points. Technicals were administered and Cameron Payne of the Suns was ejected after he scuffled with Lakers guard Alex Caruso.
LeBron James and Chris Paul alike left the arena today with a few more bumps and bruises than coming into today. Both players seem poised to play in Game Two, but it will be interesting to see if any fatigue shows in Game Two.
I expect the Lakers to bounce back as they did both times in last year’s playoffs after falling behind 0-1. I expect the lakers to look to feed AD early and often to get him going offensively and LeBron to look to facilitate a lot early. Expect the Suns to be scrappy and keep things close behind Booker’s scoring and CP3’s play-making abilities.
James will be more aggressive offensively in Game Two, as he knows the importance of avoiding a 0-2 series deficit. James was very passive in Game One offensively after scoring eight points in the first five minutes of action. Look for AD and LeBron to combine for 60+, a number that tends to lead to many wins for the Lakers. After Game Two, the series will be headed to LA tied at one game apiece.