The Los Angeles Lakers are gearing up for an immensely important Game 5 against the Phoenix Suns on the road on Tuesday night with the series tied at two.
It’s been a stalemate through four hard-fought games thus far between these two teams. The Suns took Games 1 and 4, with the latter being the game in which Davis suffered the groin strain holding him out on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Lakers asserted their dominance in Games 2 and 3 through their defense.
Game 5 figures to be a difficult tiebreaker for L.A. and it looks like they will be doing so without their star forward Anthony Davis.
According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, Davis is expected to sit out as he continues to nurse a groin strain suffered in Game 4:
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) June 2, 2021
Frank Vogel said in his pregame presser that Davis would be a game-time decision after testing out his groin and that he would be held out if there’s any sort of re-injury risk by playing. It appears that was the case so he is sitting out in hopes of being ready for Game 6 back at Staples Center.
Because of Davis’ absence, more weight is on LeBron James and the Lakers role players to play one of their best games of the year. The good news is that the team is welcoming back starting shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope after he sat out Game 4 with a knee issue.
On defense, the key to victory for the Lakers is simple: do exactly what they did the first four games. Even without Davis, this shouldn’t be a massive issue, as the Lakers had the No. 1 ranked defense in the NBA with Davis missing 36 games. Through four games, the Suns are averaging 99.0 points per game, despite averaging an absurd 115.3 during the regular season.
It’s the offense that is going to have to be a focal point if the Lakers hope to have a chance. During the first four games, their offensive attack ranged from average to downright atrocious. They’re averaging 100.0 points per game while shooting 43% from the field and 29.1% from three.
In order to fix this and be competitive on that end of the floor, James and Dennis Schroder must be in attack mode as much as possible. This forces the defense to collapse and opens things up for players like Caldwell-Pope, Wesley Matthews, and Alex Caruso, who simply have to hit open shots. If the defense doesn’t collapse, then the Lakers can take free layups for 48 minutes.
Without Davis, shot creation is going to be a team effort with James and Schroder leading the way. They are down one of the best shotmakers in the NBA and need to find ways to make up for that elsewhere.
Because they’re on the road, the Lakers must rely on each other to bring up the energy level. The Suns are going to be riding the excitement of their fans, and the purple and gold have to match that. A 3-2 lead going back to L.A. is much better than needing to win two consecutive games to stay alive.
Lakers (2-2) vs. Suns (2-2)
7:00 p.m. PT, June 1, 2021
Phoenix Suns Arena, Phoenix, Arizona
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Dennis Schroder
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: LeBron James
PF: Markieff Morris
C: Andre Drummond
Key Reserves: Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso, Marc Gasol, Wesley Matthews
Projected Suns Starting Lineup:
PG: Chris Paul
SG: Devin Booker
SF: Mikal Bridges
PF: Jae Crowder
C: Deandre Ayton
Key Reserves: Cameron Payne, Cameron Johnson, Dario Saric, Torrey Craig
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