LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers had no answers for Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker in Game 1 of their first-round matchup. Despite Frank Vogel being one of the best defensive coaches in the league, Booker simply rose above any scheme he could come up with.
Booker finished with a game-high 34 points, seven rebounds and eight assists while shooting 13-of-26 from the field and 3-for-7 from three. It was an all-around great game from Booker, who had to overcome the loss of his running-mate — Chris Paul — due to a shoulder injury that left him hobbled for much of the game.
Vogel discussed how Booker was able to dissect them with the help of center DeAndre Ayton. “He’s a scoring machine and puts a lot of pressure on our defense to cover him in a lot of ways. When we double team, they’ve got [Deandre] Ayton in there on the glass, so we didn’t do a good enough job, but if we hold this team to 99 points again in Game 2, I feel good about our chances. We have to score the ball better offensively.”
James echoed Vogel’s sentiment about being better offensively and doing a better job of focusing on Ayton. “At the point of attack, Book was exceptional with the pick-and-roll today. Coming full steam against our bigs and against our smalls in the midrange. Also, making great passes to his bigs and things of that nature.
“I thought we did a heck of a job. Book got off some, but we did a heck of a job containing everybody else besides [Deandre] Ayton. But as far as the midrange game, we did pretty damn good. We got to be much better offensively.”
Going into the series, Booker and Paul were the major points of emphasis because of their ability to pick apart a defense with scoring and passing from the pick-and-roll. The Lakers failed to contain Booker and also allowed Ayton to get whatever he wanted despite a significant size advantage in L.A.’s favor.
Obviously, the offense must improve from Game 1, but that cannot be the only adjustment. Changing the way they defend Booker may allow them to force more misses and turnovers, which will lead to easy baskets on the other end of the floor.
James explains how he can bounce back in Game 2
As has always been the case, James is going to make significant adjustments before Game 2. He explained why he approaches a playoff series that way and what he can do moving forward.
“It gives me more time to dissect a team, know what we did wrong in a previous game. Especially Game 1, it’s always been a feel-out game for me. So I’m looking forward to breaking down the film tonight and then as a team tomorrow and even get some more on the day of the game I believe Tuesday and get ready for that challenge again.”
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