LOS ANGELES (News4usonline) – The first impression is usually a lasting impression. With that said, upon further review, the first impression about the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns playoff series is that the defending champs have too much size and are just too big around the basket.
More importantly, the Lakers are playing big. And it seems there is nothing that the spunky team from Phoenix can do about it. For the second game in a row, the Lakers utilized their frontline to their advantage. For the second consecutive game, the Lakers made Phoenix pound sand while outrebounding the Suns.
“We want to make everything difficult,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said. “Obviously, this is a high-powered offense, one of the best offenses in the league over the last 15, 20 games. I think No. 1 rated over the last 15, 20 games. Our guys are just competing. We have a scheme in place to try to make things difficult for them and limit certain things. It’s not always perfect but our guys are playing so hard with that playoff intensity that worked for us last year.”
— NBA (@NBA) May 28, 2021
Make that two games in a row that Anthony Davis dropped 34 points on the Suns. The narrative of this series has now been clearly identified. Even with Montrezl Harrell not playing, LeBron James. Anthony Davis. Andre Drummond. and Marc Gasol are proving to be too much of a headache down low on the blocks.
The Lakers and Suns have played three games in this series. In those three games, the Lakers have held the Suns to less than 100 points. So when you combine size and defense that could spell for a long night for any team, let alone the No. 6 scoring offense in the NBA.
In Game 3 of the best-of-seven playoff series, the Lakers registered 58 points in the paint and smashed the Suns on the glass with a 51-35 rebounding edge. As a result, the Lakers now lead their first-round playoff series against the No. 2 in the Western Conference, 2-1, after beating the Suns 109-95 at STAPLES Center.
“The last five minutes of the third and most of the third, we lost…we didn’t out with the energy that we needed to start the third and the last five minutes really hurt us,” Phoenix head coach Monty Williams said. “We got smashed on the boards tonight. They had 15 offensive rebounds. They got to the line. when you look at the shooting percentages, neither team shot the lights out of the ball. But [they] got 58 points in the paint. There was a segment in the second half where it was just paint drive after paint drive, and we didn’t show a ton of resistance.”
In Game 2, Davis rebounded from a weak Game 1 in which he scored just 13 points to have a dominant performance. He was just as dominant in Game 3. But this time Davis had a little help from No. 23. James, who, up until this point in the series, had not shown off his slashing, thundering pathways to the basket in the first couple of games, decided to put on his hard hat and went to work.
James scored 10 of his 21 points in the third quarter in which the Lakers outscored the Suns, 33-23, to create space between themselves and visitors. It wasn’t what James did, but rather how he did it. Instead of settling for pretty jump shots and being the team’s leading ball distributor, James put his head down and did what he does best: finish.
Lakers to have back-to-back 30+ point, 10+ rebound #NBAPlayoff games:
Elgin Baylor, Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant, and now, Anthony Davis. pic.twitter.com/mPyVoncTB4
— NBA History (@NBAHistory) May 28, 2021
“He said he still has another gear,” Davis said. “We’re finding our groove. We’re finding our groove at the right time. But he set that tone for us, and guys followed his lead started attacking, you know, making shots. Wes [Matthews] came in. Huge, defensive and offensively…especially when Kenny [Kentavious Caldwell-Pope] went down. AC [Alex Caruso]. So guys stayed ready, but he came out on his mind to attack the basket to kind of get some separation in that third quarter, and guys kind of followed suit and was able to extend that lead.”
After Game 1 in which the Suns held the rebounding advantage, James and the Lakers appear to have made the adjustments they needed to take back homecourt advantage. The message after Game 1 was that James, Davis and the rest of the team needed to go big. They needed to so strong. And they needed to go hard. Driving to the basket works, especially in the postseason.
So after just scoring five points in the first half on 2 of 6 shooting from the field, James flipped the switch from facilitator and bystander to a player forcing the issue on the offensive end in Game 3’s pivotal third quarter. James said it was a matter of going into intermission and refocusing.
“Just making adjustments,” said James after the game. “I was reading the game. I wasn’t reading the game like I would like to in the first half, so came back into the locker room, [I] made some mental adjustments, you know, for me individually that I felt would work for our team and we were able to spark a run in the third.”
James and Davis put on a clinic on how to demoralize another team’s mojo with several thunder-clapping plays of basketball in that third quarter. Davis scored 18 of his game-high 34 points in the third period. James dropped the hammer on a couple of mouth-loosening dunks to punctuate the Lakers’ scoring push in the third quarter.
Right now it appears that Phoenix has no answers for James and Davis. Then again, does anyone? As a result of their shock and awe dominance, James and Davis have the Lakers on the verge of taking a commanding 3-1 series lead should they prevail with a victory in game 4.
Besides getting outrebounded by the Lakers, Phoenix also shot poorly from the field, converting only 42 percent of their shots from the field. Suns guard Devin Booker, who scored 34 points in Game 1 and 31 points in Game 2, made only 6 of his 19 field goal attempts to score 19 points. Booker said success for the Suns begins not on the offensive end but on defense.
“Offensively, that’s not our problem. Our offense always starts when we guard when we defend better,” Booker said. “I have to look back and watch the film, but just thinking about the third quarter when they got it going. for taking the ball out the net every play, it’s tougher for us to get out in transition, you know, get to our advantages.”
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, center, scores past Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder, right, during the second half in Game 3 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Thursday, May 27, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)