The Phoenix Suns meet the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of playoffs and this also leads to the first playoff duel between LeBron James and Chris Paul. Even more than the two geniuses, the focus in this series is on the duel on the major positions.
SPOX looks ahead to all series of the first round. Here is an overview of all previews.
Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Lakers: The starting point
It rarely happens that the seventh-placed team is favored by all bookmakers in the first round, but this is the season for the Los Angeles Lakers, who only qualified for the playoffs via the play-in tournament. The season of the champions was turbulent, the season of the opposite was the exact opposite.
While almost the entire league struggled with injuries and corona, Phoenix was one of the healthiest teams ever and was able to perform more consistently than almost any other team. The start was mixed with some teething problems (8-8), since then the team got used to each other better and better and dominated at both ends of the court (43-13).
The Sun’s recipe for success? Last year, the bubble already showed that the young players are slowly getting ready for more than all eight games have been won. In the offseason came Jae Crowder and especially Chris Paul, two seasoned veterans who should take Phoenix to the next level. That this would work so well in a moment came as a bit of a surprise.
Paul only gave two games and a new coat of paint to his team over the entire season. From the start, Point God dictated one of the slowest teams in the league, which is defined by a methodical, variable offense and strong defense. Almost the entire squad got better with his arrival, which is why the 36-year-old even appeared in the extended MVP conversation despite “moderate” statistics (16 points, 9 assists on average).
Thanks to Paul and Devin Booker, Phoenix has two elite options at the end of close games, both of which can create throws for themselves and their colleagues, the team has a deep bank and can defend. 2018 # 1 pick Deandre Ayton has also taken a big step in this regard. However, it will now be particularly important to him.
With the Lakers, Phoenix is facing a great challenge in the truest sense of the word. After a successful offseason with the engagements of Dennis Schröder, Montrezl Harrell, Marc Gasol and Wesley Matthews at the beginning of the season, the champions were just as dominant as in the previous year, before injuries to Anthony Davis and then LeBron James turned things upside down .
LA retained its dominance in defense, but broke offensively and lost more and more ground in the table. Schröder was also missing in the meantime and the mid-season reinforcements such as Andre Drummond and Ben McLemore could not turn things around; the Lakers even tried to trade for Kyle Lowry, but a deal didn’t go through.
So the Lakers fell into the play-in tournament, but all top performers reported fit just in time. The team is not yet in the rhythm and several top performers are also not, but the point has already been reached where no one wants to play against the Lakers. Even if Golden State almost showed in the play-in how the champions can be beaten.
Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Lakers: Facts and Figures
|Bilanz Regular Season
|Offensive rating (place)
|Defensive rating (place)
NBA Playoffs 2021: How the Suns win the series
Don’t be afraid of big names or big players. Three out of five starters of the Suns will make their playoff debut, in terms of experience Phoenix cannot even begin to compete with Los Angeles with Paul and Crowder. It will be particularly exciting with Ayton, after all he will primarily have to deal with Anthony Davis.
Phoenix ‘squad has a clear weak point and that is the center position behind Ayton: So against the physically strongest team in the league, the young Big Man must not allow himself any foul problems. For him, the duel is like a baptism of fire. “I don’t know what to expect”, Ayton recently admitted himself, but also said: “I am ready for the next step.”
The Lakers were a bad offensive team in the regular season, but the ratings should be treated with caution due to the failures. Especially with the points in the zone, the champion (6th place) is quite dangerous. Can Ayton, Crowder and Dario Saric protect the ring reasonably well?
Up front it’s good that Paul is there, because thanks to him no team in the league is better looking after the ball. This is particularly important against the Lakers, because their defense usually forces a series of turnovers (as seen against Golden State in the play-in), from which simple transition points arise. Phoenix has the better half-field offense, so the Suns must try to create a half-field duel.
The Phoenix Suns roster
NBA Playoffs 2021: How the Lakers win the series
In the second half against the Warriors, the Lakers showed their potential especially defensively when everything clicks. They have to take this momentum with them: Guard defense is particularly important, with Alex Caruso and Schröder there are two players who can defend Paul in an ultra-aggressive manner. The security behind it is finally given with Davis.
In general, the Lakers should try to turn all Suns except Paul and Booker into playmakers. They have the defensive resources, as they demonstrated in the last regular season duel (the only game with Davis). They have economies of scale in almost every position, even if they put up their strongest offensive lineup with Davis as the only “real” Big Man.
Speaking of Davis: In the regular season, his jumpshot wobbled noticeably in contrast to the playoff run last year. If it stays that way, he has to demonstrate a stronger will to aggressively get to the basket via pick’n’roll than he did last. The Lakers don’t have too much time to play themselves offensively in a rhythm. It also depends on Schröder, who is weak in the play-in.
The Los Angeles Lakers roster
Suns vs. Lakers: who will win the series?
Phoenix played a great regular season and one of the deepest and most variable ranks in the NBA. Phoenix also got the worst possible match-up and has to play against what may be the only team to which you don’t have a really good answer defensively and, above all, physically.
Paul has never played his good buddy LeBron in the playoffs, so the duel between the two basketball geniuses should be very interesting. Even without a home advantage, the king has the better cards in hand. His team is more experienced, physically superior and has much more potential for improvement compared to the regular season. Forecast: Lakers in 6.