In the Los Angeles Lakers’ Game 1 loss, they failed to keep either of the Phoenix Suns’ young stars in check. Devin Booker’s 34-point, 8-assist performance was outstanding, but arguably more impactful was the play of big man Deandre Ayton.
Ayton hit 10 of his 11 shots to finish with 21 points, but more importantly, he also grabbed 16 rebounds including eight on the offensive glass. This also played a role in the Suns outscoring the Lakers in the paint 52-44 and Lakers superstar LeBron James understands that his team will need to figure out a way to contain Ayton’s impact, especially on the glass.
“[Deandre] Ayton is a big body and we knew that coming into this series that he does a hell of a job in the offensive rebounding and we got to control that,” James said following the Lakers’ 99-90 loss to the Suns.
“You put a lot of attention on Chris [Paul] and Book and that allows him to be down in the paint with a lot of smalls trying to box them out with two guards and points and things of that nature and he’s just big, he’s able to jump over them and use his athleticism and his length and his strength.”
On paper, the Lakers would seem to have the players capable of keeping Ayton off the glass. Andre Drummond, who grabbed seven offensive rebounds himself, and Anthony Davis, in addition to potentially Marc Gasol, who did not see the floor in Game 1, should collectively be able to contain Ayton.
Unfortunately, the Lakers were too often caught in switches on the Suns’ big man and, as James pointed out, he’s simply too big for most guards. As for what the Lakers can do to counter Ayton, James offered his thoughts there as well.
“We got to do a much better job of sandwich rebounding and not allowing him to get second-chance points for their team because they just shoot it extremely well.”
The Lakers were able to hold Phoenix to just 99 points including 32.1% from 3-point range so there were positives on that end of the floor. But if the Lakers continue to lose the war on the glass to Ayton it will be extremely difficult for them to turn things around in this series.
Drummond echoes James’ thoughts on controlling Ayton
Lakers center Andre Drummond is the one that’s tasked with guarding Ayton for a majority of the time he’s on the floor, and he echoed James’ thoughts about keeping him from getting offensive rebounds.
“Just keep him off the offensive glass. Don’t let him get into a rhythm earlier in the game. I think I did a pretty good job on him at the start of the game and throughout the rest of the game he got a good rhythm going.”
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