Anthony Davis dunk vs Suns

Lakers vs. Suns, Game 4, Three Things to Know: May 30, 2021

by Mike Trudell
Lakers Reporter

The Lakers (2-1) take on the Suns (1-2) in Game 4 of their first round series in Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon. Tipoff is at 12:30 p.m. on ABC, with the Spectrum SportsNet pregame show starting at 11:30 a.m.

Below are three things to know ahead of the matchup:

After attempting just seven combined field goals in the Phoenix paint in Games 1 and 2, LeBron James attacked relentlessly in Game 3, going 8 for 12 inside to propel the Lakers to a victory and a 2-1 series lead. He did much of his damage early in the third quarter, setting the tone for an aggressive Lakers squad that finished with a 58-38 margin in the paint.

“He changed the whole game,” said Frank Vogel of that stretch from LeBron. Whether or not James is feeling better with his ankle is an unknown, as he’s not one to discuss injuries in the postseason. But the pressure he put on the rim opened up the whole floor for L.A., after they’d really struggled to convert open threes in the first half in particular.

Phoenix coach Monty Williams spoke after the game and after Saturday’s practice about the importance of limiting L.A.’s opportunities at the rim in Game 4, which is easier said than done considering their personnel, which is rather small aside from Deandre Ayton, who’s averaging 40.0 minutes in the series.

The Lakers defense was very effective against Phoenix in Game 3, or at least up until they put the game out of reach by taking a 19-point lead with 6:18 to play, the score 93-74. The Suns managed a late flurry of threes and FT’s with the Lakers basically in a prevent defense, before falling by 14. The No. 1 option for Phoenix on offense is Devin Booker, who faced relentless pressure from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Wesley Matthews, not to mention help from L.A.’s bigs that invaded any space he managed to create around the guards.

Booker hit only 6 of 19 FG’s towards 19 points (6 of 7 FT’s), plus six assists and four turnovers, after scoring 34 points in Game 1 and 31 in Game 2 (though 10 of those came on garbage time free throws). He was 1 for 4 from 3, and 3 for 12 in the paint, making 3 of 5 shots at the rim but missing all of his deeper paint shots. LAL were also all over Jae Crowder, who missed his first six 3’s before a final make that has him at 2 for 20 for the series from distance. Booker and Crowder were barking at several Lakers throughout the game and especially in the fourth quarter before both got ejected, Booker for a flagrant two foul, and Crowder for a tech.

L.A. have been able to focus more on Booker in part due to Chris Paul’s shoulder. Monty Williams weighed on his PG’s status after Saturday’s practice: “He didn’t do anything today … we gave him some rest today with the hopes that he’ll feel better tomorrow. We’ll just see how it goes when he wakes up tomorrow.”

Kyle Kuzma has yet to find a rhythm on offense in this series, scoring only 10 points, eight of which came in Game 3 on 2 of 12 FG’s. And yet, he’s finding ways to contribute towards winning, with solid defense and a relentless attack of the backboards. Kuzma had 10 boards in his 24 Game 3 minutes, plus three assists - including a beautifully-lofted alley-oop to Davis - and he’s only committed 1 turnover in the series. Only AD and Drummond (11 boards apiece) grabbed more as the Lakers dominated the backboards 51-35.

Meanwhile, Frank Vogel sounded optimistic about both of his players that tweaked their knees in Game 3.

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