Despite being the first-ever No. 7 seed to be a favorite in a first-round matchup, the Los Angeles Lakers cannot afford to take things lightly against the No. 2 seeded Phoenix Suns. Anthony Davis — after an inconsistent showing during the Play-In Tournament game against the Golden State Warriors, knows he will need to bring his best every night against the team with the NBA’s second-best record.
Defeating the Suns is no longer just about stopping Devin Booker, which is already an incredibly difficult task. With the acquisition of Chris Paul and the improvement of No. 1 overall pick DeAndre Ayton, it’s a much more complete team than the Suns teams that have been out there the past few years.
Davis recognized this and spoke about what it will take to defeat the Suns in a seven-game series. “They got two guys who are the head of the snake, you got Steph (laughs), I mean Book and CP, and those two guys run their team offensively. They make sure that these guys play right. You got a scoring machine in Book and a guy who has a very, very high IQ and can run a team in Chris Paul.
“Great coach and coaching staff, they got a lot of players around them that make their team a great team. So what we did in Game 3, our last game against them, we just came out the gates defending and rebounding and running and playing our style of basketball. If we’re able to do that and hold their free-throw attempts, their the best mid-range shooting team, the best shooting team but also the best mid-range shooting team and 3-point shooting team and free-throw shooting team so we got to be able to limit those free throw attempts, those mid-range attempts and if they are mid-range then make them contested. If we do all those things then we should be able to grab Game 1.
The Lakers played the Suns three times during the regular season, although there isn’t much to take away from any of the matchups. The Suns went 2-1, although the Lakers never had both Davis and LeBron James at the same time. They went 0-1 with James and not Davis, 0-1 without either, and 1-0 with Davis and not James.
Davis stressed the importance of coming out with more urgency than they did against the Warriors, and even pointed to the final game against the Suns a couple of weeks ago as a model to follow when it comes to that.
“Just come out with more urgency on both ends of the floor,” Davis said. “We missed a ton of layups and easy shots, we didn’t have that juice on the defensive end that we need to not put ourselves in a hole throughout the game. So if we come out like we did against Phoenix the last time we played them, bring that type of energy, that type of juice on both ends of the floor then we should be good.
“But we can’t allow ourselves to be in a hole like we did against Golden State in that first like five, six minutes. Because it’s tough to turn that around, we did it against Golden State but you can’t do it every time. You can’t put yourself behind the eight ball and try to have that perfect storm to get up out of that and ultimately try to win a game. So we want to make it as less stressful as possible, control what we can control and that’s coming out with a lot of energy and effort.”
This series will be a relatively fresh slate for both teams, as it will be hard to analyze those prior matchups and get anything legitimately helpful. But Davis is right that the Suns are a good team that must be taken seriously.
If the Lakers act as if they’ve already won this series and don’t put full effort into every minute, the Suns are more than capable of beating them. However, L.A. can and should have the advantage.
Davis on importance of taking Game 1
Davis has been the lower seed in a couple of series’ while he was with the New Orleans Pelicans, and although he was unable to do so then, he understands the importance of winning Game 1 to take home-court advantage.
“You got to steal Game 1. You got to steal home-court advantage. Wasn’t able to do it in either of those other times I went to the playoffs but I think if you’re on the road it puts a lot more pressure on the higher seed, on the team who has home-court advantage. And if you’re able to steal that then it’s a better sign for you and you just got to take care of business at home. So our mindset is to take Game 1 and take that home-court advantage and it can benefit us in the end.”
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