There was no love lost during the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns in their first-round series in the 2021 NBA playoffs as things got chippy almost immediately in Game 1.
The two franchises have had several playoff battles between them and even with a new cast of players the tension between them was palpable. The upstart Suns were eager to prove they were better than a Lakers squad that was the odds-on favorite to win the series and they accomplished that albeit with some injury luck.
Los Angeles was without Anthony Davis due to a knee and groin injury, while players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Alex Caruso were forced to miss games. Still, Phoenix did what was it supposed to do and take advantage of the situation and ultimately won in six games.
In the Game 6 finale, Jae Crowder was ejected for picking up a technical after salsa dancing on the court, a reference to LeBron James’s commercial with Mountain Dew. Lakers fans and personnel took exception to this, with Lakers assistant coach Phil Handy particularly annoyed with the taunt. Handy commented on an Instagram post of Crowder dancing and the two got into it, via Tomer Azarly of ClutchPoints:
Jae Crowder getting into it with Lakers assistant Phil Handy and Draymond Green over his salsa dance and 'rabbit got the gun' IG comments after the Suns beat the Lakers ???? pic.twitter.com/0fggMeRIBM
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) July 23, 2021
Crowder’s caption is in reference to the Lakers’ dominance of the past two decades, so the forward relished the opportunity to eliminate them and prevent them from defending their crown. It is natural for someone like Handy to be offended by the antics, but it comes with the territory in the NBA.
For what it is worth, Crowder later admitted that James is the greatest player in the world and explained he wanted to guard him and frustrate him as much as he could. Still, Crowder was very much a villain in the eyes of Lakers fans and that feeling will likely never go away.
Kuzma believes Suns had better chemistry
The Lakers’ chemistry is what helped them win the 2020 NBA Championship in the bubble, but this time around it was the Suns who looked like the better overall team. Kyle Kuzma believes Phoenix had more chemistry than Los Angeles did, which would help explain their first-round exit.
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