LeBron James dunk vs Suns

Lakers vs. Suns, Game 2, Three Things to Know: May 25, 2021

by Mike Trudell
Lakers Reporter

The Lakers (0-1) take on the Suns (1-0) in Phoenix on Tuesday evening. Tipoff is at 7:00 p.m. on Spectrum Sportsnet.

Below are three things to know ahead of the matchup:

There are a number of explanations for L.A.’s Game 1 loss that matter less than what they’ll do to adjust ahead of Game 2. Some things are very fixable based on what we know about the Lakers, starting with the gap on the glass.

Indeed, the visitors were outrebounded 47-33, including 16-10 on the offensive glass. PHX averaged 8.8 O boards in the regular season, ranking 28th, to LAL’s 9.7 (16th), with LAL ranking 10th overall on the glass to PHX’s 29th. The discrepancy helped the Suns to a 21-10 gap in second chance points, where the Lakers should have an advantage based on personnel. This is one of many areas Anthony Davis (seven boards) is expecting to flip for Game 2.

Another area where L.A. should be much better: transition defense. Phoenix outscored LAL 16-9 in fastbreak points, compared to the 12.2 L.A. typically give up, while scoring 13.2*, and those numbers include all the games their two best transition players (LeBron and AD) missed.
*LAL averaged 17.6 fastbreak points per game in 2019-20, when LeBron and AD were healthy.

Phoenix punched first in Game 1, riding an excited crowd that hasn’t been to a playoff game since 2010 – when Kobe Bryant and the Lakers sent them packing in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals – to an early double-digit lead. Several Lakers played below their typical level, including LeBron and Davis.

In taking responsibility, Davis acknowledged that he can be more aggressive early in the game to set the tone, as he did in his 42-point domination of the Suns earlier in May. And when he’s aggressive, that leaves more space for LeBron and Dennis Schroder to operate, and to more open looks from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who struggled in Game 1 (1 of 7 from 3). The Suns don’t really have a matchup answer for Davis on the inside, but he mostly operated on the perimeter, taking only three of his 16 shots at the rim.

That should shift in Game 2 regardless of lineup configurations.

While the Lakers, owners of the NBA’s best regular season defense, can do a better job all over the floor than they did on Game 1, they’ll have to be much better against Suns center Deandre Ayton, who hit 10 of 11 FG’s for 21 points plus a game-high 16 rebounds. In LAL’s 123-110 win on May 9 (when Davis exploded for 42 points), Ayton scored only six points with six boards in 33 minutes.

More of those nine FG’s than the Lakers coaches appreciate came on put-backs, or run outs in transition, areas that LAL need to clean up. Ayton was able to take advantage of some switches when Laker guards like KCP were tagged out by Andre Drummond or Davis popping out to the perimeter, and the Bahamian took advantage.

Devin Booker (34 points in 45 minutes) is going to get his, but simple attention to detail and energy from L.A. should limit Phoenix’s one true big man, which in turn should limit the Suns.

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