LeBron James layup vs Phoenix Suns

Lakers at Suns, Game 5, Three Things to Know: June 1, 2021

by Mike Trudell
Lakers Reporter

The Lakers (2-2) face the Suns (2-2) in Game 5 of their first round series in Phoenix on Tuesday evening. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on Spectrum SportsNet.

Below are three things to know ahead of the matchup:

The biggest storyline out of Sunday’s Game 4 loss was the groin injury to Anthony Davis, which happened in the final minutes of the second quarter and kept him out for the rest of the game. Davis had already been carrying a sprained knee suffered in Game 3 on the same left leg.

Without the ability to go through Davis on offense, or to match his interior production (34 points apiece in Game 2 and Game 3), L.A. struggled on offense against a packed-in Suns defense. L.A. were already shorthanded before Davis went out, as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who’s been an iron man since being signed in 2017, missed the game with a knee contusion suffered in Game 3.

Where does that leave the Lakers for Tuesday’s game? It’s still unclear. After Monday’s practice, KCP said he’s been feeling better every day and that he hopes to play in Game 5, but he’ll be evaluated at the arena before a final decision is made. Meanwhile, Davis is listed as questionable after an MRI confirmed the strained groin; he’ll be evaluated daily.

Should Davis not be able to play, it goes without saying that Frank Vogel and the Lakers will need a big performance from LeBron, who's had so many of them on the road in playoffs past.

Clearly struggling with a shoulder injury in the first three games, Chris Paul was considerably more impactful on Sunday, going for 18 points on 7 of 15 FG’s, nearly doubling his previous high in attempts (eight), while adding nine assists, zero turnovers and three steals. The one thing he didn’t do was find the range from 3, where he went 0 for 3, but he was consistent from mid-range, and got to the rim for a few layups.

The fact that Paul appears to be gaining in health as the Lakers have gone the other way represents a major change in the series to the advantage of the Suns.

With Davis out, Frank Vogel turned to Marc Gasol for increased minutes in the second half, and he answered the bell with his most productive night of the series: 12 points on 4 of 6 FG’s (3 of 5 3’s) plus eight boards, three assists, three blocks and one steal.

In a 9-point loss, Gasol was a +1, third to LeBron’s +6 and Alex Caruso’s +8 (Montrezl Harrell was +2 in 5 minutes). The Lakers may need the spacing he creates on offense with Deandre Ayton otherwise spending much of his time helping his teammates in the paint, especially because Gasol’s been shooting the three really well going back to April 1.

Gasol is one of several options Vogel can turn to in Game 5 and beyond depending upon Davis’ availability, though the Spaniard already established himself as a key part of the rotation for this series.


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