The Los Angeles Lakers’ first-round series will shift to Staples Center Thursday for their first playoff game there since April 28, 2013.
While the Lakers treated last Wednesday’s play-in game “like a playoff game,” this Thursday’s game “will be pretty special for our fans,” Lakers star LeBron James said. “That’s what I came here for — to be in a playoff game in front of the Laker faithful.”
The Lakers missed the NBA playoffs for a franchise-record six consecutive seasons after 2013. Last season’s playoffs were played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Lakers tied the best-of-seven first round series against the Phoenix Suns at one game apiece with a 109-102 victory Tuesday in Phoenix, with Anthony Davis scoring 14 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter as they held off Phoenix’s attempt to rally from a 15-point third-quarter deficit.
Dennis Schroder added 24, James 23 and Andre Drummond 15 for the Lakers before a sellout crowd of 11,919 at Phoenix Suns Arena.
Davis made seven of 15 shots, including two of four 3-point shots, and 18 of 21 free throws, both playoff career highs. His 21 free throws were the most by a Laker in a postseason game since May 4, 2008, when Kobe Bryant had 23, making 21, against Utah.
Davis’ 24 second-half points marked the 10th time he has scored 20 or more points in a half in a playoff game.
Lakers coach Frank Vogel said Davis played with “great assertiveness” two days after making five of 16 shots and three of five free throws and scoring 13 points in Sunday’s series-opening 99-90 loss.
“He does it in so many ways,” Vogel said. “He didn’t settle much for the jump shot … drilled the ball hard, attacked the paint, was able to pick up a lot of fouls, get himself to the free throw line. That always helps a great player get going.”
Devin Booker led the Suns with 31, making all 17 of his free throws, Ayton added 22 and Cameron Payne 19 and a team-high seven assists in 32:54 off the bench in relief of 11-time all-star guard Chris Paul, who suffered a right shoulder bruise in Sunday’s series opener.
Booker joined Paul and Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and George Mikan as the other players to score more than 30 points in their first two playoff games. He scored a game-high 34 points Sunday.
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