The first-ever playoff matchup between close friends LeBron James and Chris Paul ended with the Los Angeles Lakers suffering a loss to the Phoenix Suns in Game 1 of their series.
There were numerous momentum swings throughout the afternoon matchup, including when Paul and James each appeared to suffer a shoulder injury. Paul left the court during the second quarter when his right shoulder went into teammate Cameron Johnson.
He quickly returned, later went to the locker room for a second time, but still logged 36 minutes in the Suns’ Game 1 win. As he continued to play through apparent discomfort, Paul got tangled up with James in the fourth quarter.
Following a missed free throw, Paul went to box out James, undercutting him a bit as they locked arms. James fell to the ground and while he was down in pain, Cameron Payne got into an exchange that saw Montrezl Harrell and Alex Caruso get involved.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel and Anthony Davis had pointed criticism of Paul, who largely brushed off the incident, via Chris Hayens of Yahoo! Sports
“I don’t know anything about that. I have absolutely nothing to say about that. We’re just playing basketball and competing,” Paul told Yahoo Sports after the Suns’ 99-90 victory to take a 1-0 series lead. “I’m just thankful we got the win, and I’m looking forward to Game 2.”
Paul told Yahoo Sports that he walked by multiple Laker players after the game, including Anthony Davis, and no one said a word to him about the play.
James was checked on by a trainer as officials broke up the scuffle between the two teams, and he continued to rub his left shoulder for multiple minutes. However, James didn’t appear to feel any lingering affects once play resumed.
Both James and Paul assured they would play in Game 2 on Tuesday night.
Davis: Paul created ‘dangerous play’
Like Vogel, Davis put the blame on Paul for going into James’ legs.
“It’s playoff basketball. I didn’t necessarily see that play. Only what ‘Bron told me, but it’s always tough. He missed the free throw and jumps up to get the ball. Any time you hit somebody in the legs, it’s always a dangerous play,” Davis said.
“That’s what you don’t want. You don’t want to be injured from plays like that, so but the intensity is where it’s supposed to be. Guys getting into it. Chirping. That’s playoff basketball.
“We have to get better as a team. I feel like they were the more physical team tonight from the gate. We have to be better in that department, but with A.C., Cameron Payne and Trezz. That’s all sticking up for their teammates. It’s basketball. It’s supposed to be that way.”
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