Now that the Phoenix Suns — making their first playoff appearance in 11 years — have shown they are not afraid of the playoff spotlight, they will try to maintain that edge as they move forward in their first-round Western Conference series against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Game 2 takes place Tuesday in Phoenix, two days after the Suns set the tone with a 99-90 victory in Game 1, when the Lakers wouldn’t even give themselves credit for scoring as many points as they did.
“I missed a ton of shots … we missed a ton of shots as a team,” said Lakers forward Anthony Davis, who scored just 13 points while shooting 5 of 16 from the field. “We scored 90 points … really 87 after that (Alex Caruso) 3 (pointer).”
Caruso’s late launch with 6.7 seconds remaining on the clock was merely window dressing. Or perhaps, the Lakers can use it as a starting point while moving toward Game 2.
With plenty of playoff experience in the roster, especially from four-time champion LeBron James, the Lakers are well aware that one loss, or even one poorly played game, does not make a series.
Los Angeles needs only look back as far as the first-round opener last season when they fell in similar fashion. The Lakers dropped a 100-93 decision to the Portland Trail Blazers and went on to win the next four games and advance.
Less than eight weeks after that lackluster playoff-opening defeat, the Lakers were holding the championship trophy.
James’ 18 points Sunday were a Lakers high as he shot 6 of 13 from the field. Afterward he reacted to the defeat with somewhat of a shrug and a nod to being in this position before.
“It gives me a real advantage to be able to dissect a team; you know what we did wrong in the previous games,” James said. “Game 1 has always been a feel-out game for me.”
Both James and the Suns’ Chris Paul came away with shoulder injuries in Game 1. Paul left the game for a stretch, and when upon returning he appeared to be less aggressive as a scoring threat. James played through his shoulder ache after a hard box out by Paul and said he’s good to go on Tuesday.
The fourth-quarter collision that left James with the sore shoulder led to a skirmish between the teams that led to the Suns’ Cameron Payne ejected, and technical fouls on the Lakers’ Caruso and Montrezl Harrell.
Paul figured to set a scoring tone for the Suns, just as he has done all season in big games. His three highest-scoring games in the past three months have come against the Utah Jazz, Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Clippers, three of the top six teams in the league. But Paul ended up with just seven points on eight shots Sunday.
Devin Booker, though, looked comfortable in his first career playoff game, leading Phoenix with 34 points on 13 of 26 shooting from the field, including 3 of 7 from 3-point range.
Suns big man Deandre Ayton, also in his first career playoff game, had 21 points and 16 rebounds.
“We did well, but it’s one game,” Booker said. “No matter how much we won by, no matter how we played, Game 2 is going to be a whole different opportunity. It’s obvious what they are capable of and we just try to make it tough on them.”
–Field Level Media