The Los Angeles Lakers face perhaps the most important game of their season on Tuesday. With a 2-2 series tie, the Lakers are heading to the Valley of the Sun to take on the Phoenix Suns in Game 5, and it’s more than likely that head coach Frank Vogel will need to fully rely on LeBron James with Anthony Davis potentially out of the lineup.
Davis suffered a Grade 1 groin strain just before halftime in Game 4, and the Lakers’ lackluster response to his injury caused them to lose that game and the Suns to tie the series. On Tuesday, the Lakers will have a chance to see what they look like when they have time to prepare to play without their second star.
James is more than capable of handling a game of this magnitude, having done so many times throughout his storied career. However, Vogel turned his focus to the rest of the team when asked how Davis’ injury will affect James’ role. “The first thing is we have to win the minutes that he’s off, that’s the first thing,” Vogel said.
“There’s a lot of things that we look into to try to create the right environment for those guys to succeed and in terms of the minutes, we’re gonna do whatever we have to do to win this game. That’s the simplest way to put it. If he plays 48 minutes, he’s not gonna be fresh in crunch time, you know what I mean, we need him fresh in crunch time. So we’ll manage it accordingly and we’ll do everything possible to win this game.”
The Lakers superstar has been dealing with an ankle injury of his own, but said that it shouldn’t be a factor in Game 5. “I feel pretty good. Continue to work on my body, continue to work on my ankle. Continue to work on my pace and continue to work on everything that held me out for so long.
“Every day I’m putting in timeless work on my body, especially my ankle. Just trying to get it back to full strength and being able to test it out on the floor helps a lot. It’s been a roller coaster for us all year, especially with injuries and we hope this one isn’t a big one, but like I said, it’s next man up. We look forward to the challenge.”
Even without Davis, there is still a formula for the Lakers to win Game 5. It’s not quite as simple as it would be with Davis, but L.A. can still get it done. That formula starts with James being the most aggressive he’s been all season on the offensive end.
Defensively, the Lakers maintained dominance throughout the season even when Davis and James were out. However, if James is not in attack mode on offense, their scoring ability may implode.
James being forceful and decisive will put pressure on the Suns’ defense and make them adjust to him. Once that has happened, James can utilize his all-time passing ability to get his teammates involved. If they can knock down open shots, the Lakers will be in control.
Gasol believes faster pace will help Lakers avoid scoring droughts
Marc Gasol will play a pivotal role in keeping the Lakers’ offense afloat with his passing and shooting. In his mind, picking up the pace will be a huge benefit for L.A.
“I think it was the opposite, right? We need to be a little more sped up offensively, have a little bit more pop, the ball has got to move better, screeners have to be better, separation from the action once the screen happens,” Gasol said.
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