The NBA In-Season Tournament continues on Tuesday night as the Los Angeles Lakers face the Phoenix Suns with a trip to Las Vegas and a spot in the semifinals on the line. The Lakers have already defeated the Suns twice this season — once in the group stage of the tournament — but it remains an important game nonetheless, and one that will require superstar outings from players like LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Davis, in particular, has been effective in two matchups against the Suns this season. He’s averaging 24 points and 11.5 rebounds on 48.4/50.0/94.4 shooting splits and is arguably the Lakers greatest mismatch over the Suns. The Suns are severely lacking in interior defense and big man depth.
But as Davis looks ahead to Tuesday’s meeting with the Suns, he is focused on what they do well and how they match up in their third meeting of the season in early December.
“Yeah. For sure. Especially this early… We play them five times, so that’s kind of weird. But it’s a good team so it will be some good basketball, for sure.”
The Lakers star certainly knows that more eyes are on the In-Season Tournament quarterfinal, comparing it to a stand-alone NFL game.
“Yeah, we don’t get that feel when we’re playing. But like you said, it kind of reminds me of Sunday Night Football or Monday Night Football or even the playoffs in the later rounds where it’s the only game on TV and everybody is watching. So it gives you that feel, for sure.”
Despite the extra attention though, Davis is not treating it differently than a normal game.
“Nah, I don’t think we’re really looking at it that way. Obviously it’s a big game as far as the tournament goes, but we’re taking it as another game. Obviously you want to get to Vegas and win it all, but we’re not putting too much stress on ourselves. This isn’t the end-all, be-all type of game. But obviously we want to go out and win.”
Davis reiterated that as long as the focus is on getting a win, then there should be no added pressure for the Lakers because of the tournament-style nature of the game.
“I think they’re all regular season games, some are just the tournament games, that’s how we look at it. I think the only difference you can see if like the court, the funky courts they got going on. But outside of that, we look at it more so as a regular season game, it just counts as an In-Season Tournament game. So we haven’t been too stressed about wins and losses as it comes to the tournament, even the point differential thing. We’re more so focused on winning basketball games and the rest will take care of itself.”
The Lakers have been dominant during In-Season Tournament play thus far, and perhaps a part of that success has been viewing the games as nothing more than regular season games to avoid unnecessary pressure. But with another matchup coming against a talented Suns team, L.A. must focus on the task ahead if they want to find themselves in Las Vegas with a chance at winning the individual prize money.
Davis credits Devin Booker for orchestrating Suns offense
Devin Booker — who missed both matchups against the Lakers this season — is back in the lineup and has been playing more point guard of late. Bradley Beal remains sidelined, giving Booker an opportunity to distribute. Davis, for one, has been impressed with what he’s seen in that regard.
“Yeah, we mentioned that, talked about it. He’s averaging like eight assists now, doing a really good job of orchestrating their offense and getting guys in position to be successful. Even with his shot attempts, his 3s going down, which is different for him and different for a lot of guys in the league as far as having to guard him, he’s getting everybody involved. We still got to do our job of making it tough for him, making it tough for [Kevin Durant], and making sure that it’s gonna be a group effort. Not just TP or Cam or whoever else guards him on an island, all of us have to contribute and make it tough for those guys.”
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