The Los Angeles Lakers took control of their first-round series against the Phoenix Suns with a dominant performance in Game 3 at Staples Center to take a 2-1 series lead.
They now look to essentially put the series out of reach by winning Game 4 on Sunday afternoon. LeBron James-led teams have never blown a 3-1 lead so a Game 4 win would put the Suns in a very tough spot to come back needing to win three straight.
One of the main reasons that would be so tough is that Chris Paul clearly isn’t at 100%. Paul hurt his left shoulder in the first half of Game 1 and hasn’t looked the same since, averaging just 6.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 6.3 assists while shooting 38.1% from the field in 28.8 minutes per game in the series.
The Lakers are dealing with some injuries of their own as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was forced to leave Game 3 after hyperextending his knee. Caldwell-Pope hasn’t gotten going offensively this series but his defense on Devin Booker has been invaluable.
Unfortunately, Caldwell-Pope’s status hasn’t progressed enough to be ready for Game 4 as he was ruled out. In his absence, both Wesley Matthews and Alex Caruso should see increased minutes and will play a pivotal role in defending Booker.
A big key for the Lakers in this series has been the play of Anthony Davis. He had just 13 points and seven rebounds in the Game 1 loss before bouncing back and scoring 34 with double-digit rebounds in each of the next two games, which the Lakers won.
Phoenix doesn’t have much size to throw at Davis so if he is in attack mode and getting to the free-throw line the way he did in Games 2 and 3 then it should mean more success for the Lakers. Davis was listed as questionable with a left knee sprain he suffered in Game 3 although there was never a doubt that he would be playing.
James was also more aggressive in Game 3 compared to previous games and it led to a huge third-quarter run to put the game out of reach. He spoke about the condition of his ankle, which is improving each time he takes the floor and his play has reflected it.
If the Lakers have a healthy James and Davis then it will be hard to beat the Lakers four out of seven times in a series. That is why winning Games 4 and 5 to close out this series are so important in order to get them some extra rest and recovery time.
Lakers (2-1) vs. Suns (1-2)
12:30 p.m. PT, May 30, 2021
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Dennis Schroder
SG: Wesley Matthews
SF: LeBron James
PF: Anthony Davis
C: Andre Drummond
Key Reserves: Alex Caruso, Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Talen Horton-Tucker, Marc Gasol, Markieff Morris, Ben McLemore
Projected Suns Starting Lineup:
PG: Chris Paul
SG: Devin Booker
SF: Mikal Bridges
PF: Jae Crowder
C: DeAndre Ayton
Key Reserves: Dario Saric, Cameron Payne, Cam Johnson, Torrey Craig
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