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FSM Essential Recap: Lakers vs. Suns – 1st Round Playoff Series

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Los Angeles Lakers (2-4) | Phoenix Suns (4-2)

 

Game 6:

 

The Los Angeles Lakers needed to beat the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 to keep their season alive and unfortunately were unable to, falling 113-100.

 

Lakers vs Suns
Photo Credit: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Anthony Davis and Marc Gasol were inserted back into the starting lineup, but the Suns got out to a 14-5 lead thanks to Jae Crowder’s hot outside shooting. Davis was clearly laboring out on the floor and eventually left the game after just five minutes as he was struggling to play through his groin injury.

Things got out of hand quickly as Devin Booker caught fire from the outside, draining jumper after jumper and opening up a 17-point Phoenix lead. Booker continued to torch the Lakers from behind the arc and they found themselves looking at a 36-14 hole.

LeBron James tried to force his way to the rim on several occasions but came up empty, while the Suns moved the ball around well to extend their lead to 27. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope injected some desperately-needed life into the team with a quick 8-0 spurt but Booker answered with a mid-range jumper to quell the run.

 

Los Angeles picked up the intensity midway through the quarter on both ends, with James leading the charge. Things got chippy when Caldwell-Pope was called for a Flagrant 1 on Torrey Craig, and the Lakers would eventually go into the half down 62-41.

 

Lakers vs Suns
Photo Credit: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Before the third quarter began, Davis was officially ruled out for the remainder of the night. Alex Caruso was also ruled out after suffering a left ankle strain in the first half.

The Laker guards got off to a solid start as Dennis Schroder, Wesley Matthews, and Caldwell-Pope were able to score at the rim. The backcourt’s play got the Staples Center crowd into it but Booker responded with tough midrange jumpers quiet them.

Los Angeles showed signs of life as they played with more energy and pace, with a Matthews 3-pointer cutting Phoenix’s lead to 12. James got ultra-aggressive forcing his way to the rim, and the Lakers went into the final period down 89-76.

Markieff Morris floater briefly cut the deficit to 11, but the Suns were able to answer and push it back to 16. Although L.A. responded and got it back down to 10, Chris Paul took his turn cutting the momentum by knocking down his patented mid-range jumper.

 

The Purple and Gold made a late-gasp effort to get back into the game as Talen Horton-Tucker and Schroder managed to get shots to go down. However, as was the case the whole night the Suns managed to answer and the Lakers would see their playoff run end earlier than expected.

 

 

Game 5:

 

The series between the Los Angeles Lakers and shifted back to the desert all tied up at two, making Game 5 a pivotal one. Unfortunately for the Lakers, they were without one of their stars in Anthony Davis after suffering a strained groin in Game 4.

 

Lakers vs Suns
Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

The result was a Suns win, which could have been expected. The fashion in which they got the win was unexpected though as the Lakers rolled over from the jump and were blown out in embarrassing fashion, losing 115-85.

Markieff Morris got the start in place of Davis and hit a 3-pointer to start things off, while LeBron James scored the next five points to give the Lakers an 8-5 lead. However, Los Angeles’ offense began to bog down as role players passed up open looks while Phoenix and Devin Booker went on a 14-0 run to take control.

Alex Caruso ended the scoring drought with a corner 3-pointer, and a Kyle Kuzma runner cut the deficit to six. However, Booker torched the Lakers from every spot on the floor and as a result, they went into the second trailing 34-26.

Even with Booker on the bench to start the second, Los Angeles failed to make up any ground as Cameron Payne took his turn burning the defense. Everything then went wrong for the Lakers as they could not buy a call from the officials, hit an open shot, or stop the Suns offense.

 

Looking for a spark, head coach Frank Vogel turned to Ben McLemore and Talen Horton-Tucker but nothing seemed to work. In what turned into their worst half of basketball of the 2020-21 season, the Purple and Gold would head into halftime down 66-36.

 

Marc Gasol and Caruso started the second half in place of Drummond and Morris, respectively, but the Suns continued to pour it on from beyond the arc. To make matters worse, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was ruled out for the remainder of the game due to the left knee injury he has been nursing.

Chris Paul then exited the game when it looked like he re-aggravated his right shoulder after Wesley Matthews attempted to box him out on a missed shot. James tried to jumpstart the Lakers with his outside shooting, but the team still stared down a 92-63 hole going into the final period.

With L.A. down big, Vogel turned to the end of the bench as Alfonzo McKinnie and Montrezl Harrell got their first minutes of the night. Despite the reserves still battling, the Lakers walked out of Phoenix Suns Arena with an embarrassing loss.

 

The series now shifts back to L.A. for Game 6 in what will be the Lakers’ first elimination game. Regardless of if Davis plays or not, everyone will have to come out with a lot more intensity if they want to force a winner-take-all Game 7.

 

 

Game 4:

 

Already without Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the Los Angeles Lakers’ injury woes worsened when Anthony Davis was ruled out for the second half with a groin injury which resulted in a 100-92 Game 4 loss to the Phoenix Suns.

 

Lakers vs Suns
Photo Credit: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

It was a slow start for the Lakers as they failed to get anything to go from the perimeter, though LeBron James was able to get all the way to the cup. James added to his point total, nailing a 3-pointer over Deandre Ayton and finishing another layup to give Los Angeles a 12-8 advantage.

Anthony Davis finally got a bucket to go after hitting a floater and later assisted on a Marc Gasol three. Dennis Schroder also saw shots start to fall in the final stretch of the first and Gasol tipped in a Kyle Kuzma miss to give the Lakers a 24-23 lead heading into the second.

Kuzma opened the quarter with a lob to Drummond and followed it up with a three, while James made a slick pass to Ben McLemore from deep that forced a Phoenix timeout. James electrified the crowd with a spin and dunk over Cameron Johnson, but Devin Booker was able to keep the Suns within striking distance with his shotmaking and ability to get to the free-throw line.

Perhaps the highlight of the half was a fastbreak for the Lakers that ended with Alex Caruso throwing one off the backboard to James for a dunk.

 

Phoenix recaptured the lead though thanks to Booker, who was able to bait several foul calls. Caruso answered with a corner 3-pointer and it was a back-and-forth finish to the half, but the Lakers found themselves trailing 54-50.

 

Lakers vs Suns
Photo Credit: Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News

Kuzma got the start for Davis, who was dealing with a groin injury and was ruled out for the game, allowing the Suns to take advantage by racing out to a 10-point lead. Deandre Ayton torched the Lakers on the boards, and things got worse as the team could not get anything right on either end.

Los Angeles found some life with Schroder and Markieff Morris playing hard but had trouble cutting into the deficit. The Lakers bench could not jumpstart the team and as a result, they went into the final period down

Montrezl Harrell got his first minutes since Game 1 but struggled to guard Chris Paul and Ayton. James breathed some life into L.A. with his attacks to the basket, but Phoenix maintained a double-digit lead.

Gasol provided a spark with his play on both ends, while James seemed fired up after taking a hard foul from Jae Crowder. The Lakers looked like they could make a last-gasp run, but a Crowder three ended up being the dagger.

 

Lakers vs Suns
Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports

“For me, it’s putting our team in a position to be successful. It starts with my approach,” James said. “It starts with my accountability and trickles down to everybody else. These shoulders were built for a reason and if it takes for me to put more on top of it then so be it. Win, lose or draw. I’m ready for the challenge.

“I don’t know the severity of his groin injury. I have no idea. I haven’t talked to him, so I’m not quite sure. I tore my groin on Christmas Day in Golden State and rehabbed, rehabbed, and rehabbed until I was able to get back on the floor and still wasn’t where I was before I tore it my first year with the Lakers. I worked my tail off in the offseason just to get back to an unrestricted level. I can only speak from my experience and like I said, I don’t know the severity of his injury. Until we know, I’m not going to comment on it.”

 

The Lakers and Suns resume their series Tuesday night in Phoenix. Game 5 will be tipping off at 7 p.m. and can be seen on Spectrum SportsNet or on TNT nationally.

 

 

Game 3:

 

In their first home playoff game in eight years, the Los Angeles Lakers took a 2-1 series lead after winning Game 3 against the Phoenix Suns, 109-95.

 

Lakers vs Suns
Photo Credit: Los Angeles Lakers

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel surprisingly burned his challenge 15 seconds into the game after Anthony Davis was called for a questionable 3-point foul on Jae Crowder, although it was unsuccessful. Andre Drummond got the fans in Staples Center roaring after coming up with a highlight block on Devin Booker and later getting a dunk after a nice drop step.

The Suns tied up the game after Mikal Bridges knocked down a pair of threes, but Kyle Kuzma found Davis for a lob to put the Lakers back up two. Booker was able to carve up the Los Angeles defense, and they would go into the second down 28-27.

LeBron James was able to help the Lakers recapture the lead after finding Alex Caruso on a cut and later Drummond for a lob. After Phoenix re-tied the game, both teams then struggled to score as the defenses picked up and several turnovers were forced.

Kuzma was able to break the Lakers drought from outside as he knocked down his first 3-pointer of the series, but the Suns clung to a one-point lead as each squad failed to generate much offense.

 

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope finally got something to go from the field as he hit two layups and the Lakers would take a slim 43-40 lead into halftime.

 

Lakers vs Suns
Photo Credit: Los Angeles Lakers

It was a good start for the Purple and Gold atop the third as James keyed a quick 6-0 spurt to push the lead to nine. The Lakers defense was also much more active, forcing misses and turnovers that ignited their transition attack, which eventually led to their first double-digit advantage of the night.

Los Angeles continued to execute well on both ends, with James and Davis leading the way to put the team up 16 but saw Dennis Schroder and Caldwell-Pope come up limping on separate plays. Davis dominated the final minutes of the third by scoring nine consecutive points, and the Lakers took a 76-63 lead into the fourth.

Los Angeles extended their lead to 18 after Wesley Matthews was able to hit consecutive threes, forcing a Phoenix timeout. The Staples Center crowd got even more into the game, and the Lakers fed off their energy, with James taking delight in taking on Jae Crowder in isolation situations.

Cameron Payne tried to bring the Suns back into the game after hitting three consecutive triples, cutting the Lakers lead to 12. It was a sloppy finish for Los Angeles as late turnovers and poor decision-making gave Phoenix life, but they ultimately sealed the game at the line.

There was some late-game theatrics as Booker earned an ejection with a flagrant two foul on Schroder, while Crowder quickly followed him by being ejected himself after jawing with Schroder before he shot his free throws.

 

The Lakers host the Suns in Game 4 of their first-round series Sunday at Staple Center. The game can be seen on ABC with tip-off at 12:30 pm as the Lakers look to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.

 

 

 

Game 2:

 

The Los Angeles Lakers were able to tie up their series 1-1 against the Phoenix Suns, winning Game 2 by a score of 109-102 in a game that the led most of the way but was close.

 

Lakers vs Suns
Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Davis came out on fire in Game 2, but he set the tone when he was called for an early Flagrant 1 after making contact with Jae Crowder on a jumper which led to the Suns taking an early 5-1 lead. Andre Drummond was active around the glass, fighting for several offensive boards while LeBron James showed his ankle was feeling fine with two emphatic transition dunks.

Defensively, Los Angeles was able to force several steals, and they capitalized on their fast break opportunities to take a four-point lead. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel turned to Marc Gasol and Markieff Morris, who sparked a late first quarter to give the Lakers a 30-24 advantage heading into the second.

It was a rough offensive start to the second period as L.A. was unable to convert on any perimeter shots, though Davis remained aggressive trying to get to the hoop. The Lakers failed to knock down several open 3-pointers while Phoenix was able to cut into the deficit by working the ball in the middle to Deandre Ayton, which was also an issue in Game 1.

 

Dennis Schroder warmed up from the field, knocking down pair of 3-pointers and driving to the rim for a layup to give the Lakers some breathing room. Ayton was able to swing things in the Suns’ favor with his play around the basket but L.A. still went into the half ahead 53-47.

 

Lakers vs Suns
Photo Credit: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

The Lakers got off to a great start in the third, opening up with a 10-1 run ignited by James and Davis. However, Devin Booker started to heat up, scoring a quick seven points to bring Phoenix within single digits.

Davis was able to re-settle the team by taking control of the offense, though Cameron Payne and the Suns continued to battle to stay within striking distance. James was able to drain tough jumpers in the final minute, but Cameron Johnson nailed consecutive threes to whittle the Lakers lead to 79-72, heading into the fourth.

Despite L.A.’s defensive activity picking up, Phoenix was able to pull closer thanks to their offensive execution. The two teams then began to toggle the lead, each hitting shots midway through the period.

The Lakers clung to a one-point lead as Schroder was able to earn free throws and find Davis underneath for a dunk. James and Davis asserted themselves down the stretch, carrying the Purple and Gold on both ends of the floor and willing them to a Game 2 victory.

 

Laker News and Notes

 

Lakers vs Suns
Photo Credit: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Anthony Davis had an unusually bad performance in the Los Angeles Lakers Game 1 loss to the Phoenix Suns. While everyone in Frank Vogel’s offense did not have a good night, Davis was especially bad given what he can and should be doing on a nightly basis.

Davis finished the night with just 13 points and seven rebounds on 5-of-16 shooting and 3-of-5 from the free-throw line. This is a stark difference from his showing the last time these two teams met in the regular season when he finished with 42 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, three steals, and three blocks. To go from dominant in that game to disappearing on Sunday is not something Vogel or the Lakers want to see.

Vogel credited the Suns defense for their game plan around Davis and detailed the ways they can improve.

“Phoenix brought a lot more attention to him obviously because of that game, so they did a great job,” Vogel said. “Give them credit, they did a good job limiting his touches and then bringing the double teams when he did get it and making things difficult for him. But there’s ways we can be better to take advantage of him, and like I said, we’ll look at the tape and be better in Game 2.”

Vogel also explained how the Lakers could be better when LeBron James is on the bench, minutes they particularly struggled in during Game 1 when Davis was the main focus offensively.

“You said it right there. We were minus 11. We’ll look at the tape. We’ll see if there’s things we can do in all ways. Both sides of the ball, rotations, and things like that. We’ve been pretty good of late with him out. We played obviously half of our season seemed like without him, so we can be better there.”

A lot of the talk surrounding the Lakers has been the success of Davis at the center position and what that unlocks for their offense. Vogel didn’t think that lineup was successful in Game 1, though and doesn’t think it’s always as simple as moving Davis over to center to get him going.

“There are a lot of factors that go into it. I’m hesitant to really dive into what drives my decision-making on that because I don’t want to tip my hand on what lineups we’re going to play tomorrow night, but there’s a time where size makes more sense on both sides of the ball, and there’s times where being more agile and mobile defensively and having more space offensively makes more sense.

“Statistically, I don’t think AD at the five last night was as good as it was, definitely wasn’t as good as it was against Golden State, and I’d argue what metrics you are looking at in terms of saying it was our best lineup in Game 1.”

The Lakers have plenty to look at in their day off before the second game of the series. Offensively, they need to find ways to make their shots and get Davis more involved. On defense, they must figure out a way to put pressure on Devin Booker without leaving DeAndre Ayton open under the basket.

If Davis can return to his normal form, the Lakers should be at an advantage the rest of the series. However, it’s up to him to get past the scheming that the Suns are doing to stop him.

 

 

Game 1:

 

The Los Angeles Lakers dropped Game 1 of their first round playoff series against the Phoenix Suns, 99-90, after another disappointing performance on both ends of the floor.

 

Lakers vs Suns
Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Dennis Schroder started things off for the Lakers, knocking down a pull-up jumper and earning an early trip to the free-throw line. LeBron James followed with a pair of 3-pointers. After scoring back and forth, the Lakers took a slight lead, but Deandre Ayton and the Suns responded to tie the game at 15.

Chris Paul and Devin Booker started to carve up the Lakers defense as they pushed the basketball in transition, resulting in an 11-0 Suns run. James was able to find Montrezl Harrell twice in the final minute of the first quarter for easy baskets, but Los Angeles found themselves trailing 32-25 after one.

The Lakers continued to struggle defensively as they had little answer for the Suns early offense. Things took a turn for the worse when Paul looked like he injured his neck/shoulder area. After Paul left the game to get checked out, Harrell went right back to work, dominating the paint as he finished through traffic and earned foul calls to get Los Angeles within three.

 

Paul did eventually return to the game, but Ayton committed his third personal foul that sent him to the bench. Lakers star Anthony Davis finally started to get more involved as the team downsized, but the Lakers would go into the half down 53-45.

 

 

Lakers vs Suns
Photo Credit: Ross D. Franklin/AP

Much like the first half, Los Angeles struggled to contain Phoenix’s offense as they allowed them to hit open threes and could not make up the difference on the other end. The Suns were able to execute the same actions to perfection, and with the Lakers failing to adjust, they went down 15.

L.A. went on an 8-0 run after stringing together a few stops and brought the deficit back to single digits. However, the Lakers went cold from the field and, as a result, found themselves staring at an 81-68 hole going into the final period.

Things got heated on the floor after Alex Caruso took exception to a bump from Cameron Payne, while James appeared to hurt his shoulder after being held down by Paul. Payne was ejected, but L.A. had trouble containing Paul and Booker, who kept Phoenix well ahead.

Ayton was also a problem for the Lakers as he outworked them for offensive rebounds that led to the Suns increasing their lead to 13 before a Caruso three. But Los Angeles could not buy an open look down the stretch, and a Jae Crowder jumper put the game away.

 

Lakers News and Notes:

 

Lakers vs Suns
Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

Game 1 of the first-round series between the Lakers and Suns was a physical affair, and that all came to a head in the fourth quarter of the game. LeBron James and Chris Paul got tangled up following a missed free throw, leading to James hitting the floor hard. Cameron Payne would then get into it with Alex Caruso and Montrezl Harrell, leading to Payne’s ejection from the contest.

Payne was the only player who was ejected, while Caruso and Harrell each received technical fouls but remained in the game. Neither Paul nor James were assessed anything on the play.

Unfortunately for the Lakers, this moment did not spark a comeback, and they would eventually lose the first game of the series to the Suns, 99-90. The Lakers were obviously disappointed in the loss, but that scuffle also did not sit well with Lakers head coach Frank Vogel.

“My view was an overly aggressive boxout, dangerous play where LeBron [James] was in the air and got undercut, and some guys stood up for him, I guess,” Vogel said. “I didn’t see the exact exchange in terms of what happened with the altercation, but that’s why they have the video, they look at that and figure out what happened.”

Chris Paul dismissed those accusations from Vogel, telling NBA Insider Chris B. Haynes of Yahoo Sports, “I don’t know anything about that. I have absolutely nothing to say about that. We’re just playing basketball and competing, I’m just thankful we got the win, and I’m looking forward to Game 2.”

 

The Lakers will try and even the series against Suns in game 2 on Tuesday night. The tip-off is at 7:00pm and the game can be seen on TNT.

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