2021 Playoffs: West First Round | Suns vs. Lakers

Numbers preview: Suns (2) vs. Lakers (7)

Breaking down deep stats that could shape the series between Phoenix and Los Angeles.

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann

The Suns are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2010.

If the Los Angeles Lakers are going to defend their title, they’re going to do it as a 7 seed, having escaped their Play-In game against the Golden State Warriors with a three-point victory. The Lakers’ reward is a first round series against a team that ranked in the top seven on both ends of the floor. The Phoenix Suns don’t have the collective postseason experience that the Lakers do, but they’ve had a lot of success in big games this season.

Here are some statistical notes to get you ready for 2-7 series in the West, with links to let you dive in and explore more. Game 1 is Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC.


Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions


Phoenix Suns (51-21)

Pace: 98.0 (24)
OffRtg: 116.3 (7)
DefRtg: 110.4 (6)
NetRtg: +5.9 (3)

Regular season: Team stats | Advanced splits | Player stats | Player shooting | Lineups

vs. Lakers: Team stats | Advanced splits | Player stats | Player shooting | Lineups

Suns notes – General:

  1. Ended a 10-year playoff drought, tied for the fifth longest in NBA history.
  2. One of four teams that ranked in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
  3. Had the league’s best road record (24-12), but just its sixth best road point differential (+2.7 per game).
  4. Had the best record (26-10, 0.722) in games played between the 15 teams that finished the season with winning records. Were the only team with a better record against that group than they had against the 15 teams that finished at or below .500 (25-11, 0.694).
  5. Saw the league’s third biggest drop in pace, from 101.7 possessions per 48 minutes (ninth) last season to 98.0 (24th) this season.
  6. Trailed by double-digits in just 24 games, four fewer than any other team. Also had the league’s best record (11-13, 0.458) after trailing by double-digits.
  7. Had the league’s second best record (25-12, 0.676) in games that were within five points in the last five minutes, having seen the biggest jump in clutch winning percentage from last season (16-21, 0.432).

Suns 2020-21 shot profile

 Area FGM FGA FG% Rank %FGA Rank
Restricted area 1,054 1,560 67.6% 3 25% 30
Other paint 578 1,156 50.0% 1 18% 15
Mid-range 546 1,152 47.4% 1 18% 4
Corner 3 302 692 43.6% 2 11% 5
Above-break 3 638 1,786 35.7% 16 28% 21

%FGA = Percentage of total field goal attempts

Suns notes – Offense:

  1. Saw the league’s fourth biggest jump (+4.9) in points scored per 100 possessions, from 111.3 (12th) last season to 116.3 (seventh) this season.
  2. Only team that ranked in the top five in both effective field goal percentage and turnover rate. One of three teams – Brooklyn and Denver were the others – that ranked in the top 10 in field goal percentage in the paint (60.1%, first), mid-range field goal percentage (47.4%, first), and 3-point percentage (37.8%, seventh).
  3. Saw the league’s biggest drop in the percentage of their shots that came in the restricted area, from 33% (13th) last season to 25% (30th) this season.
  4. Assist/turnover ratio of 2.15 led the league and was the second highest mark in the 44 seasons for which turnovers have been counted.
  5. Shot a league-best 49.0% on pull-up 2-pointers. Ranked second in effective field goal percentage on pull-up jumpers (49.9%).
  6. Free throw percentage of 83.44% ranked second, both this season and in NBA history. They joined the Clippers in breaking the record the Suns set last season (83.39%).

Suns four factors

 Own/Opp. eFG% Rank FTA Rate Rank TO% Rank OREB% Rank
Own 56.4% 3 0.212 29 12.6% 4 24.8% 25
Opponent 53.4% 10 0.250 15 13.7% 16 25.9% 11

eFG% = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA
FTA Rate = FTA/FGA
TO% = Turnovers per 100 possessions
OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds obtained

Suns notes – Defense:

  1. Ranked 28th, 30th and 29th defensively in the three seasons before hiring Monty Williams. Ranked 17th last season and sixth this season, just the second time in the last 15 seasons that the Suns have been a better-than-average defensive team.
  2. Had the league’s biggest differential between opponent field goal percentage in the paint (57.0%, eighth highest) and opponent effective field goal percentage from outside the paint (50.2%, seventh lowest). Ranked fifth in opponent 3-point percentage (35.4%).
  3. Allowed just 0.84 points per possession, the league’s second lowest rate, from pick-and-roll ball-handlers.
  4. Opponents took only 2.6 times as many 3-point attempts as mid-range attempts. That was the league’s third lowest ratio. Were the only team with a winning record (16-13) when their opponent shot 40% or better from 3-point range.
  5. Allowed just 0.88 points per possession when playing zone, according to Synergy tracking. That was the best mark among the 23 teams that played at least 100 total possessions of zone defense, though their 130 possessions of zone was just the 22nd highest total.

Suns notes – Lineups:

  1. Starting lineup – Paul, Booker, Bridges, Crowder and Ayton – played 706 total minutes, most in the league. It outscored opponents by 4.7 points per 100 possessions, a mark which ranked 24th among 30 lineups that played at least 200 minutes.
  2. Starting lineup played 58 clutch minutes, second most in the league. The lineup with Cam Johnson in Jae Crowder’s place played the third most (36 clutch minutes).
  3. Led the league in aggregate bench point differential per 100 possessions (+2.8).

Suns notes – Individuals:

  1. Deandre Ayton saw the second biggest jump in effective field goal percentage (from 54.8% to 62.9%) among 110 players with at least 500 field goal attempts in each of the last two seasons.
  2. Ayton scored 1.39 points per possession as a roll-man, the second best mark among 37 players with at least 100 roll-man possessions.
  3. Ayton had 25 clutch offensive rebounds, 11 more than any other player.
  4. Ayton defended 153 isolation possessions, 39 more than any other player, according to Synergy tracking. The 0.99 points per possession he allowed on isolations ranked 66th among 87 players who defended at least 50.
  5. Devin Booker shot 28-for-85 (32.9%) on clutch shots, the worst mark among 33 players who attempted at least 50.
  6. Booker shot 49.9% on pull-up 2-pointers on just 30.8% on pull-up 3-pointers. That was the second biggest differential among 54 players who attempted at least 100 of each.
  7. Mikal Bridges scored 1.39 points per possession in transition, the best mark among 29 players with at least 200 transition possessions, according to Synergy tracking. He shot 76.3% in the restricted area, the fifth best mark among 97 players with at least 200 restricted-area attempts.
  8. Bridges tied for second with 86 corner 3s. The 44.6% he shot from the corners ranked 16th among 60 players with at least 75 corner 3-point attempts.
  9. Bridges ranked fifth in the league in total miles traveled (180.3).
  10. Jae Crowder took 77.2% of his shots from 3-point range, the fifth highest rate among 250 players with at least 300 field goal attempts. His 39.6% on catch-and-shoot 3s ranked 44th among 86 players who attempted at least 200. Bridges (40.5%) and Cameron Johnson (36.2%) ranked 32nd and 72nd, respectively.
  11. 92.1% of Johnson’s baskets, the third highest rate among 177 players with at least 200 total field goals, were assisted.
  12. Chris Paul led the league in free throw percentage at a career-high 93.4%.
  13. Paul (3.99) and Cameron Payne (3.62) ranked second and fifth, respectively, in assist/turnover ratio. Paul saw the third biggest jump (from 2.93) among 182 players who played at least 1,000 minutes in each of the last two seasons. He led the league with six games of zero turnovers and at least 10 assists, with no other other player having more than two.
  14. Only 15.9% of Paul’s baskets, the second lowest rate among 177 players with at least 200 field goals, were assisted. Paul was the only player with at least 100 assists to three different teammates (Ayton, Booker and Bridges). His 143 assists to Ayton were the second most from one player to a single teammate.
  15. Paul (6.9) and Booker (6.5) ranked second and third in pull-up 2-point attempts per game. Paul’s 52.5% and Booker’s 49.9% on pull-up 2s ranked second and seventh, respectively, among 35 players who attempted at least 200.
  16. Dario Saric had an effective field goal percentage of 58.9% at home and just 43.6% on the road. That was the biggest home-road differential among 235 players with at least 150 field goal attempts both at home and on the road.

Inside the NBA: Lakers must be better to beat Suns

Chuck, Ernie, Kenny and Shaq discuss why the Lakers' effort in their Play-In win won't be enough against the second-seeded Suns.

Los Angeles Lakers (42-30)

Pace: 98.9 (21)
OffRtg: 109.8 (24)
DefRtg: 106.8 (1)
NetRtg: +2.9 (8)

Regular season: Team stats | Advanced splits | Player stats | Player shooting | Lineups

vs. Phoenix: Team stats | Advanced splits | Player stats | Player shooting | Lineups

Lakers notes – General:

  1. Saw the league’s sixth biggest drop in winning percentage (-0.149) and its eighth biggest drop in point differential per 100 possessions (-2.7).
  2. Including their Play-In win over Golden State, they’re 31-15 with LeBron James and 12-15 without him.
  3. Only team with a top-five mark in clutch winning percentage in each of the last two seasons. Were 21-14 (fifth best) in games that were within five points in the last five minutes (13-6 with LeBron James) this season. That doesn’t include their Play-In win over Golden State.

Lakers 2020-21 shot profile

 Area FGM FGA FG% Rank %FGA Rank
Restricted area 1,391 2,074 67.1% 7 33% 6
Other paint 407 982 41.4% 21 16% 22
Mid-range 333 895 37.2% 28 14% 10
Corner 3 213 585 36.4% 24 9% 11
Above-break 3 581 1,652 35.2% 19 27% 23

%FGA = Percentage of total field goal attempts

Lakers notes – Offense:

  1. Saw the league’s fourth biggest drop (-1.9) in points scored per 100 possessions, from 111.7 (11th) last season to 109.8 (24th) this season.
  2. Saw the league’s second biggest drop in fast break points per game, from 18.4 (second) last season to 13.3 (11th) this season.
  3. For the second straight season, they had the league’s biggest differential between their field goal percentage in the paint (58.8%, seventh) and their effective field goal percentage on shots from outside the paint (48.7%, 26th).
  4. 79% of their 3-point attempts, the league’s highest rate, were catch-and-shoot attempts. Ranked last in effective field goal percentage on pull-up jumpers (40.5%).
  5. Ranked third with 4.1 secondary assists per game. Rank last in average dribbles per touch (2.05).
  6. Were the league’s slowest moving team on offense, averaging 4.24 miles per hour. Ranked fifth in ball movement (345 passes per 24 minutes of possession), but 30th in player movement (10.5 miles traveled per 24 minutes of possession).

Lakers four factors

 Own/Opp. eFG% Rank FTA Rate Rank TO% Rank OREB% Rank
Own 53.6% 18 0.271 6 15.2% 28 26.9% 14
Opponent 52.6% 5 0.237 11 15.2% 4 25.2% 7

eFG% = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA
FTA Rate = FTA/FGA
TO% = Turnovers per 100 possessions
OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds obtained

Lakers notes – Defense:

  1. Led the league in points allowed per 100 possessions for the first time in 21 years (since the 1999-00 seasons). Were the first LeBron James team to the rank first defensively.
  2. Were just a few opponent free throw attempts from ranking in the top 10 in all of the four factors on defense. The last team to do so was the 2016-17 Spurs.
  3. Allowed a league-low 1.04 points per possession in transition, down from 1.10 (13th) last season.
  4. Allowed just 180 corner 3-pointers (2.5 per game), tied for the second fewest in the league.
  5. Drew a league-high 1.21 charges per game.

Lakers notes – Lineups:

  1. Were 19-8 with both LeBron James and Anthony Davis and outscored their opponents by 11.2 points per 100 possessions with both on the floor, better than their mark of +8.0 (in more than twice as many minutes) last season.
  2. The Lakers were 11.1 points per 100 possessions better with James on the floor (+9.2) than they were with him off the floor (-1.9). That was the tied for the fifth biggest differential among 233 players who played at least 1,000 minutes for a single team.
  3. 37% of their scoring, the league’s second highest rate, came from reserves.
  4. Only team that didn’t play a rookie this season.

Lakers notes – Individuals:

  1. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was assisted on 89.0% of his baskets, the fifth highest rate among 177 players with at least 200 total field goals.
  2. Among 230 players with at least 100 field goal attempts in the paint and at least 100 field goal attempts from outside the paint, Anthony Davis had the third biggest difference between his field goal percentage in the paint (64.1%) and his field goal percentage outside the paint (31.8%). LeBron James had the fourth biggest difference (68.0% vs. 36.5%).
  3. Andre Drummond led the league in defensive rebounding percentage, grabbing 33.6% of available defensive boards while he was on the floor. He’s ranked in the top four in total rebounding percentage in each of his nine seasons in the league.
  4. Marc Gasol is the only player who played at least 400 total minutes (378 players total) without registering a single fast break point.
  5. Montrezl Harrell scored 1.43 points per possession as a roll-man, the best mark among 37 players with at least 100 roll-man possessions.
  6. Harrell tied for the league lead with 22 drawn charges.
  7. James shot 75.6% in the restricted area, the second best mark among 54 players with at least 250 restricted-area attempts. He took less than half of his shots in the paint (47%) for the first time in the last six seasons and, for the third straight season, he set a new career high for 3-point rate (34.6% of his shots).
  8. James was one of five players with at least 100 pull-up 2-point attempts and at least 100 pull-up 3-point attempts (54 players total) and shot better on the 3s (37.7%) than on the 2s (37.5%). He’s is one of three players who shot better than 40% (13-for-32, 40.6%) on at least 30 clutch 3-point attempts. He shot just 3-for-8 on clutch free throws.
  9. James and Davis averaged 3.58 and 3.67 miles per hour, the slowest and fourth slowest rates among 251 players who played at least 1,000 minutes.
  10. Kyle Kuzma averaged just 0.8 deflections per 36 minutes, fifth fewest among 251 players who played at least 1,000 minutes.
  11. Kuzma shot 43.2% from 3-point range in the first half of games and just 29.2% in the second half. That was the second biggest half-to-half drop among 137 players with at least 100 3-point attempts in each half.
  12. Ben McLemore was one of six players who shot 48% or better on at least 25 3-point attempts from each corner.
  13. Markieff Morris saw the sixth biggest drop in 3-point percentage (from 38.6% to 31.1%) among 202 players with at least 100 attempts in each of the last two seasons.
  14. Dennis Schroder led the league with 1.4 secondary assists per game.

First look at Suns-Lakers first round series

GameTime previews the first round matchup between the Suns and Lakers.

Regular season matchup

Phoenix won, 2-1
Mar. 2 @ Lakers – Suns 114, Lakers 104
Mar. 21 @ Phoenix – Suns 111, Lakers 94
May 9 @ Lakers – Lakers 123, Suns 110

Pace: 97.0 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes
Phoenix OffRtg: 114.3 (3rd vs. Lakers)
Lakers OffRtg: 111.1 (15th vs. Phoenix)

Total points scored, season series

Area PHX LAL Diff.
Restricted area 88 102 -14
Other paint 50 38 12
Total in paint 138 140 -2
Mid-range 28 30 -2
3-point range 108 87 21
Total outside paint 136 117 19
Free throws 61 64 -3
Fast break points 26 24 2
2nd chance points 32 35 -3

Matchup notes:

  1. The Lakers didn’t have both LeBron James and Anthony Davis for any of the three meetings. James played in only the first one, while Davis played in only the third one. They were without Dennis Schroder in the third meeting, which was the only one for which they had Andre Drummond. Cameron Johnson missed the final meeting for the Suns.
  2. None of the three games were within five points in the last five minutes. The winner of the first quarter won all three games, the Lakers never held a lead in the second meeting, and the Suns never held a lead in the third meeting.
  3. In the game that James played (Mar. 2), the Lakers were a +2 in his 37.6 minutes on the floor (scoring 87 points on 74 possessions) and a -12 in his 10.4 minutes on the bench (scoring 17 on 20). In the game that Davis played (May 9), the Lakers were a +26 in his 40.8 minutes on the floor (allowing just 81 points on 83 possessions) and a -13 in his 7.2 minutes on the bench (allowing 29 on 16).
  4. Davis’ 42 points (which came with a season-high 17 free throw attempts) on May 9 were tied for the second highest scoring game for any player against the Suns this season. He was defended by both Deandre Ayton and Frank Kaminsky.
  5. James’ 38 points on Mar. 2 were his second highest scoring game of the season and came with 10-for-10 shooting in the restricted area. He was defended by both Jae Crowder and Mikal Bridges, though he scored 19 of those 38 points against Ayton and Dario Saric.
  6. The Suns grabbed just 8.8% of available offensive rebounds on May 9, the sixth lowest rate for any team in a game this season.
  7. The Lakers’ five fast break points on Mar. 2 and two fast break points on May 9 were two of their six lowest totals of the season.
  8. Bridges’ effective field goal percentage of 72.2% was the ninth best mark among 84 players with at least 25 field goal attempts against the Lakers this season. Ayton (66.7%) and Crowder (65.4%) had the 15th and 17th best marks, while Saric (38.5%) and Chris Paul (39.3%, 4-for-13 from mid-range) were both in the bottom 10.
  9. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s effective field goal percentage of 38.0% was the ninth worst mark among 75 players with at least 25 field goal attempts against the Suns this season.
  10. Caldwell-Pope was the primary defender on Devin Booker, who shot 10-for-16 with that matchup.

* * *

John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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