Game 1 of the first-round series between the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns is taking place on Sunday afternoon. And at the very least, the Lakers are going to be fully healthy for the opener.
While LeBron James may still be a bit hobbled, he is going to be out there to try and steal home-court advantage from the Suns.
While Game 1’s are usually a source of excitement for fans, last year showed that they don’t necessarily mean a whole lot for a series. The Lakers lost Game 1 in both their first and second-round series’, only to win four straight both times. This is because James has become known over his career for using Game 1 as a “feel-out game” to try and figure out what the other team’s plan of attack is.
James is unlikely to stop viewing Sunday’s matchup as nothing more than a feel-out game, but he said that the Lakers as a team must take it more seriously than that. “Game 1 has always been like a learning experience for me,” James said. “Just kind of set the table to know what to expect to know what to look for for the rest of the series and obviously, there’s going to be adjustments. Coaches and players and everyone makes adjustments, but it kind of sets the table.
“For me, it’s kind of a feel-out game for me personally. For our team, it’s not a feel-out game. We want to come in and play in the second half of this last game against the [Golden State] Warriors. We don’t want to have a feel-out game, but for me, it’s a mental thing for me. I’m breaking down the team, breaking down the personnel. Then getting on the floor in that Game 1 and how I can be better in Game 2.”
James then said he’s going to need a few games to rev things up physically, even if he’s mentally ready for the series to begin. “Well, obviously I had a lot more time to rev up and build my body over the course of the season in the past. With this six and a half, seven weeks or whatever, I didn’t get the opportunity to rev up, sharpen my sword, but I was able to mentally I guess disconnect as much as I could.
“Obviously for me, it’s very stressful watching our games knowing how much I can help our ball club and not actually being out there. So as far as a mental break, I didn’t get much of that because I just wanted to be available to my guys and I couldn’t, but I’m ready. I’m prepared mentally. My game will continue to improve as the games go on and hopefully we can play more than four games. That will get my game going more and more and more. Looking forward to seeing what’s in store for me.”
James is right in that the Lakers absolutely cannot take the Suns lightly in Game 1. They need to have their foot on the gas from the get-go, especially if their goal is to take back home-court advantage. As the No. 7 seed, the Lakers must give their opponent their best effort immediately.
This is especially true against a younger team like the Suns. As has always been the case, younger players play better when they have confidence. A Game 1 win for the Suns would give them that confidence, while a Game 1 loss would send them home with some doubt.
Anthony Davis stresses urgency against Suns
James is not the only one to say that the Lakers cannot come out lazy against the Suns. Davis also stressed urgency against the Western Conference’s No. 2 seed. “Just come out with more urgency on both ends of the floor,” Davis said. “We missed a ton of layups and easy shots, we didn’t have that juice on the defensive end that we need to not put ourselves in a hole throughout the game.”
“So if we come out like we did against Phoenix the last time we played them, bring that type of energy, that type of juice on both ends of the floor then we should be good.”
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