The 2021 first-round playoff matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Phoenix Suns sent the two franchises in completely opposite directions. With the Lakers holding a 2-1 series lead, Anthony Davis suffered a leg injury in the first half of Game 4.
From that moment, Devin Booker and the Suns skyrocketed upwards, winning three straight en route to an NBA Finals run and being the stand-alone best team in basketball in 2022. Meanwhile, the Lakers entered a free-fall, as Davis’ injury and the first-round loss caused L.A. to re-evaluate their entire team.
So when the juggernaut Suns met the dismal Lakers on Sunday night in what could be a first-round rematch, Davis had plenty to say about what that matchup could look like, according to Matthew Barrero of Lakers.com:
“Obviously we owe [Phoenix]. The got us last year so, anytime a team knocks you out, out of the playoffs especially, you always look forward to those games and if we have a chance of a possible playoff series with [Phoenix], we know it’ll be a lot more electric than it was last year. From the standpoint of, we feel like we owe them and they feel like they have our number. That would be fun and hopefully we’ll be able to get that matchup, or whatever the matchup is.”
Davis then looked back to last season and the injury that caused the Lakers’ downfall. But the Lakers star caused controversy within the Suns’ locker room when he made his comments:
“Of course. I think they know that. Me going down kind of changed the whole series and they had that confidence. My groin was killing me in Game 6, and I just feel they got away with one.
By Davis essentially suggesting that the Lakers win that series without his injury, he stirred up the Suns, who feel as though they’ve earned every bit of their recent success. So after the Suns ran the Lakers out of the building with a 140-111 win, Booker had some comments of his own, according to Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports:
“No, this was going to happen anyways. I just think it’s funny. It’s just all the what if’s. If ‘if’s’ were a fifth, we’d all be drunk. There’s a lot of if’s in this game, and you look at history, there’s something that comes up for every team during every season. So instead of just taking the high route and going on, you have to make a comment like that. It’s kind of funny.”
Following his words on Davis and the Lakers, Booker laughed and shrugged when a reporter brought up Chris Paul’s injury during that same first-round series.
Davis is not completely wrong to say what he said. The Lakers were in the driver’s seat of that series when he went down, and they were simply unable to pick up the pieces after he left. It’s very possible they win the series if Davis is healthy throughout.
However, given where the two teams are in the standings this season — and the Davis is out with another injury — it doesn’t make much sense for the Lakers to rehash that. The Suns are already perhaps the best team in basketball, and there is no need to give them more motivation.
Booker says that the 140-111 blowout would have happened anyway without Davis’ comments, but as it has been all year, the Lakers aren’t doing themselves any favors.
Malik Monk throwing Suns loss out the window
In sports, sometimes there are losses that a team simply cannot learn anything from. Sunday’s blowout absolutely represents one of those situations for the Lakers. And that’s exactly what Malik Monk advocated for after the game.
“The game is over with, so we got to focus on tomorrow now,” Monk said. “We got to throw that one out the window because we know what went wrong, everybody does. Just like every time we lose like that, you got to throw it out the window.
“There’s bad things that happened, but you really just got to throw it our the window because you got the next game and you can’t worry about what you did last game so we just got to focus on tomorrow and Toronto.”
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