Both LeBron James and Anthony Davis said the Los Angeles Lakers “will be better” Tuesday when they face the Phoenix Suns in Game 2 of a Western Conference first-round series at Phoenix.
The Lakers lost their 2021 NBA playoff opener to Phoenix 99-90 Sunday with the Suns outrebounding the Lakers by 14, limiting Davis to 13 points and getting 34 points from guard Devin Booker.
Phoenix’s 47-33 lead in rebounds included a 16-10 edge in offense rebounds the Suns converted to 21 second-chance points to 10 for the Lakers.
Phoenix’s 16 offensive rebounds matched the second-most in a playoff game in team history, one short of the record. The NBA began recording offensive rebounds as a statistic in the 1973-74 season.
Davis made five of 16 shots 14 days after scoring 42 points in a 123-110 victory over the Suns when James was sidelined because of a sprained right ankle.
“Phoenix brought a lot more attention to him because of that game,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “They did a good job limiting his touches and bringing double teams when he did get it making things difficult for him.”
Davis said he thought “nothing changed” about the way the Suns defended him.
“I missed a ton of shots,” Davis said. “We missed a ton of shots as a team, missed a lot of free throws.”
The Lakers made 33 of 76 shots, 43.4%, including seven of 26 3-point shots, 26.9%. Phoenix made 40 of 86 shots, 46.5%, including nine of 28 3-point shots, 32.1%.
The Lakers made 17 of 28 free throws, 60.7%. The Suns made 10 of 12, 83.3%. Phoenix did not attempt a free throw in the first half while the Lakers made 11 of 17, 64.7%.
The Lakers were outscored by 18 in the 38 minutes, 48 seconds Davis was in the game for the worst plus-minus ratio.
The Lakers never led after the midway point in the first quarter following a 10-0 run in 1:52 by the Suns. They trailed 32-25 at the end of the first quarter, 53-45 at halftime and 81-68 after three quarters before a sellout crowd of 11,824 at Phoenix Suns Arena.
“We just got to execute a little better on the offensive side of the ball, we got to rebound a little bit better defensively and we got to make shots,” Vogel said.
Phoenix took its biggest lead, 86-70, when Booker made a 3-point basket with 11:04 left in the fourth quarter. The Lakers scored the next seven points, cutting the deficit to 86-77 with 9:02 remaining.
The Lakers pulled within seven, 90-83, on Dennis Schroder’s 3-point basket with 6:58 to play but were unable to get any closer, missing six of their next seven shots and one of two free throws over the next 5:20.
James led six Lakers in double figures with 18 points, his 109th consecutive playoff game scoring in double figures, tying Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the eighth-longest streak in NBA history, according to Stathead Basketball.
The Lakers outscored the Suns by two in the 38:48 James was in the game but were outscored by 11 in the 9:12 he was on the bench.
Deandre Ayton added 21 for Phoenix in its first playoff game since May 29, 2010, when it lost to the Lakers, 111-103 in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals.
The 55 points by Booker and Ayton tied the fourth-most combined points in NBA history by a duo of teammates each making their postseason debuts, according to Elias Sports Bureau, the league’s official statistician.
The record is 63 by John Williamson (38) and Bernard King (25) of the New Jersey Nets in a 122-114 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on April 11, 1979.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series will be played Tuesday, also in Phoenix.
Teams winning Game 1 of a best-of-seven series go on to win the series 76.2% of the time, 425 of 558. Teams winning Game 1 at home win the series 85.2% of the time, 346 of 406.
Before the start of the series, 17 of ESPN’s 18 NBA experts surveyed predicted the Lakers would win the series while the ABC News-owned data prediction website FiveThirtyEight gave the Lakers a 64% chance of winning. The site now gives the Lakers a 49% chance of winning.
The Lakers lost the openers of both of their first two series in the 2020 playoffs, then won the next four games in each series.
The Suns’ 11-time all-star guard Chris Paul suffered a right shoulder contusion 9:24 before halftime. He swiped for the ball with his right hand after James leaped over him for a putback layup, lost his balance and his head knocked against the right arm of teammate Cameron Johnson.
Paul returned to the game with 5:32 left in the second quarter. He said “absolutely” he will be ready for Game 2.
Phoenix reserve guard Cameron Payne was called for two technical fouls with 9:01 remaining in the fourth quarter, resulting in a mandatory ejection, for his scuffle with Laker guard Alex Caruso and forward-center Montrezl Harrell, who were both assessed with technical fouls.
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