The Phoenix Suns caught an unlucky break during Game 1 when All-Star point guard Chris Paul suffered a shoulder injury that left him in serious pain.
Although he played through it in Games 1, 2 and 3, he was very obviously not the same player. Lakers coach Frank Vogel never changed the game plan, however, as he knows how dangerous Paul can be.
He showed it in Game 4, as his shoulder had improved range of motion and he was able to get back to the things that have made him successful for years in the NBA. Paul finished with 18 points, nine assists and three steals as the Suns stole a win on the Lakers’ home floor to tie the series 2-2.
Vogel spoke about Paul’s breakthrough performance in spite of his injury. “Obviously, it hurts us. Chris competing through his injury played his best game of the series, so obviously, that was the difference in that third quarter.”
Even though Vogel never changed how he attacked Paul defensively, him being less than 100% clearly had an effect on the game. Now, that is out the window, and the Lakers can really treat him as though he’s fully healthy.
Obviously, this puts more pressure on players like Dennis Schroder, Alex Caruso and Wesley Matthews, who do a lot of the perimeter work against Paul and Devin Booker. It also changes how the post players — Andre Drummond and Marc Gasol — defend the pick-and-roll, as Paul and Deandre Ayton have been a deadly duo in that action all season long.
Game 5, whether it’s with or without Anthony Davis, is extremely vital to the Lakers’ survival this season. If they can make the necessary adjustments to make life difficult for the Suns and steal a win on their home floor, they can come back to L.A. needing just one more win.
However, if Davis either not playing or being at less than full strength proves too much, then it becomes two do-or-die games in a row.
James discusses adjustments
Lakers star LeBron James spoke about how the Lakers can improve their chances to win in Game 5 even without Davis. “Sometimes it comes down to knocking down shots. We’re getting some great looks. Obviously, I’m going to take a look at the film when I get back home as I wake up from a nap. See other ways maybe we can exploit the defense, but they’re giving us some good looks we’re just not knocking them down.
“We’ve had this happen before in the past, but we always trust each other. We gonna trust the past. Get the ball moving from side to side and trust our shots and get up there and knock them down.”
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