Anthony Davis battles for the rebound against the Suns

Lakers vs. Suns, Game 3, Three Things to Know: May 27, 2021

by Mike Trudell
Lakers Reporter

The Lakers (1-1) take on the Suns (1-1) in Game 3 of their first round series in Los Angeles on Thursday evening. Tipoff is at 7:00 p.m. on Spectrum Sportsnet.

Below are three things to know ahead of the matchup:

After a subpar Game 1, Anthony Davis pledged to respond in Game 2, and that he did, to the tune of 34 points, 10 boards, seven assists, three blocks and a steal with just one turnover. AD flexed early and often, forcing Phoenix to foul him so often that he attempted 21 free throws, of which he hit 18. His biggest of seven made field goals was a three with 2:15 on the clock to put the Lakers up six.

The Lakers are now 24-4 in the last two years when Davis attempts at least 10 free throws, a good barometer for his level of aggression. The Suns don’t have an individual matchup that can handle Davis; we’ll see if they start to bring a more frequent double team his way in Game 3.

In the first half of Game 1, Chris Paul hurt his shoulder, causing him to head to the locker room for an evaluation. He was able to return in the second half, but he wasn’t himself, scoring four points with two assists, though he did play 20 of his 36 minutes. In Game 2, CP3 played only 23 minutes total, including just 2:38 in the fourth quarter, towards six points with five assists and three turnovers.

Backup PG Cameron Payne stepped up in Paul’s absence with 19 points and seven assists off the Suns bench before fouling out late, though he wasn’t able to orchestrate good looks for PHX down the stretch, which was dominated by LeBron and AD.

Speaking of LeBron … he attempted only three FG’s in the paint all game, which could speak to his level of health as he continues to build back up from the high ankle sprain. And yet, he drilled a pair of late jumpers, including the final dagger, a triple with 49.8 seconds left that put LAL up 9, and had nine assists to one turnover while helping to get AD going. His defense was also strong, reflected in his +14 for the night.

The Suns didn’t practice on Wednesday, so the most recent update we have on CP3 came from Monty Williams after the game.

“I took him out,” he said. “That was all me looking at him hold his arm the way he was holding at it. I just couldn’t watch him run like that. He was trying to make plays. He battled. He’s a warrior, we all know that. I just made a decision to take him out.

“It’s pretty obvious – he’s not able to make the passes he wants, that’s one. He was laboring tonight. I don’t want to get into too many details … but we’re hopeful it will get better over the next 48 hours.”

The Lakers created a number of wide open threes in the first two games. They just missed a bunch of them. While LeBron and AD went a combined 6 of 13 from 3 in Game 2, the rest of the squad made only 4 of 20, with Dennis Schroder and Marc Gasol converting two apiece. But Kentavious Caldwell-Pope went 0 for 4 before passing up a few open looks in the second half, while four reserves all went 0 for 2.

With so much defensive focus on LeBron and AD and keeping the Lakers out of the paint, there will continue to be open looks, and Frank Vogel simply wants them to keep working for the open shots, trusting the law of averages will come around for LAL’s role players.

“I’m concerned about shot quality,” he said. “If we generate the right shot quality, and our guys stay true to their work and remain confident, we’re going to make plenty of shots to win basketball games. It’s really not a great concern of mine other than to continue to work for great, quality shots.”

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