Anthony Davis and the LA Lakers kick off defense of their title in Phoenix against the Suns in Game 1 on Sunday.(Photo by PI/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire)
- The Phoenix Suns host Game 1 of their playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers (ABC, 3:30 pm ET)
- Sunday will be the first time that Chris Paul and LeBron James face off in the post season
- Read below for a full breakdown and pick on the game
The Phoenix Suns came out of nowhere to surprise as one of the NBA’s top teams this season, but it’s time to see if that success will continue in the playoffs against the defending NBA champions.
The Los Angeles Lakers begin their title defense in Phoenix after narrowly beating Golden State in their play-in matchup on May 19. The Suns kick off Game 1 as 2.5-point favorites and were 2-1 outright and against the spread versus the Lake Show this season. The last time Phoenix was in the playoffs came in 2009-10 when it advanced all the way to the conference finals before losing to the Lakers, who went on to win the championship against Boston.
Lakers vs Suns Game 1 Odds
|Team||Spread at DraftKings||Moneyline||Total|
|Los Angeles Lakers||+2.5 (-109)||+114||O 213.5 (-112)|
|Phoenix Suns||-2.5 (-112)||-136||U 213.5 (-109)|
Odds as of May 22nd.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel led Los Angeles to a title in the bubble last year, and has a 31-30 career playoff record. Phoenix’s Monty Williams was recognized as the NBA Coach of the Year this season, but has a far more modest 2-8 playoff record as head coach in two appearances with New Orleans.
Is Suns Success Smoke and Mirrors Against LA?
Phoenix won each of its first two games against LA this season by double digits, but did so with a full roster. In their first matchup on March 2, the Lakers were without Anthony Davis, who also missed their next meeting on March 21 — as did LeBron James.
Anthony Davis points against the Suns as a Laker
24 PTS | Nov 12, 2019
26 PTS | Jan 1, 2020
25 PTS | Feb 10, 2020
35 PTS | Dec 18, 2020 | Preseason
42 PTS | May 9, 2021 pic.twitter.com/YYFfIbjT8Q
— Lakers Empire (@LakersEmpire) May 22, 2021
In their most recent game on May 9, Los Angeles won without James and point guard Dennis Schroder in the lineup, but a healthy Davis scored 42 points in the 123-110 win. Against the Warriors, Davis started the game 2-for-12 in the first half, but got his act together in the second and made 4-of-5 from the field in the fourth quarter.
Vogel could look to try and recreate that late game success with Davis on Sunday, as Davis was productive playing at center, Phoenix center Deandre Ayton missed the final three games of the regular season with soreness in his left knee, but is expected to resume his normal workload against LA.
Still, the Lakers have more players in the frontcourt to throw at him than Phoenix has to counter. In two games against the Lakers this year, Suns forward Cameron Johnson has made 5-of-6 three-pointers, but he will also be returning to action on Sunday after missing some time with a wrist injury to his shooting hand.
DraftKings Promo for NBA Playoffs Gives Bettors Crazy 40-1 Odds on Any Team to Win
Which Version of Chris Paul Shows Up?
Paramount to the Suns chances is the play of point guard Chris Paul. He’s scored at least 16 points or had at least 10 assists in four of the final five games to close out the regular season.
LeBron James on matching up against his long time friend Chris Paul in the postseason.
#7 Lakers vs. #2 Suns – #NBAPlayoffs First Round Game 1 Sunday: 3:30pm/et on ABC pic.twitter.com/QoN5bSj8er
— NBA (@NBA) May 20, 2021
Paul’s best game against the Lakers this season came in the May 5 loss, when he had 13 points, 10 assists and four steals, but that was also without James or Schroder on the floor for Los Angeles.
In the teams’ first two meetings, he had a combined 19 points, shot 26% from the field, but had 23 assists. Considering Paul is the Suns’ second-leading scorer this season behind Devin Booker, he is going to need to provide better than those numbers in the series, but especially in Game 1.
The Suns finished the regular season with the best home record in the NBA. Phoenix has also shot 51% from the field at home over its last three and its bench has been the league’s most productive over the final five games of the regular season.
Although the thought of the Lakers playing with a full deck for the first time against the Suns is a daunting scenario, the flip side is that Phoenix has the benefit of playing more minutes as a cohesive unit. This series could very well go the distance, and things could turn when things head back to the Staples Center, but in Game 1, the Suns should still have just enough depth and energy to kick things off with a win at home.
- The Pick: Phoenix Moneyline (-136)
Nick Krueger has over a decade of experience in sports media, covering a wide range of events including two Olympic Games for Yahoo Sports. Other areas of focus for Nick throughout his career have included college football recruiting, NCAA athletics and Major League Baseball Spring Training.