EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — The Phoenix Suns sat back and listened to all the pity parties they’d allegedly be attending.
The Suns had an amazing regular season and finished with the Western Conference’s second-best record after their headline-snaring trade for perennial all-star Chris Paul last November.
What You Need To Know
- The Los Angeles Lakers lost the Phoenix Suns in game 1 of their playoff series on Sunday, 99-90
- LeBron James finished with 18 points, 10 assists and 7 rebounds
- Anthony Davis shot just 5 of 16 from the field and had 13 points
- Up next: Game 2 is scheduled for Tuesday night in Phoenix
But alas, Phoenix drew the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.
Everyone knows the Lakers aren’t really a seventh-seeded team after the defending champions, now healthy, endured an injury-plagued regular season.
And yet, the Suns looked like the dominant team in a 99-90 victory Sunday in a first-round playoff opener, stifling the Lakers defensively while Devin Booker’s 34 points set a team record for a player in his playoff debut.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Tuesday in Phoenix. The Lakers will need to pack some more offense.
In a battle of big men, the edge surprisingly went to Phoenix. DeAndre Ayton was numbingly effective, scoring 21 points on 10-for-11 shooting. Defensively, he bothered Anthony Davis on plenty of possessions, helping limit the Lakers' all-star to 13 points on ragged 5-for-16 accuracy.
Davis pointed the blame in one direction: at himself.
“There is no way we’re winning a game, let alone a series, with me playing the way I played. This is on me,” Davis said. “I take all the responsibility for sure. We’ll be ready in Game 2.”
The Lakers didn’t help themselves by shooting only 26.9% from three-point range and 60.7% from the free-throw line.
In the big picture, it wasn’t overly surprising that the Suns won. They were coming off a week of rest — and favored by 2.5 points — while the Lakers had to outlast Golden State on Wednesday to officially earn the seventh seed.
The Suns didn’t necessarily escape unscathed. Paul didn’t seem like himself after sustaining a shoulder contusion in the second quarter.
Paul was injured after running into teammate Cam Johnson and stayed down on the court for several minutes, writhing in pain. He returned to the game after a trip to the locker room but didn’t play with his usual spark and was short on a lot of his attempts. He finished with only seven points and eight assists, preferring to let Booker and Ayton damage the Lakers.
The 36 minutes Paul played, however, seemed to motivate the Suns.
"Him playing today gave us a lot of juice," said Phoenix coach Monty Williams. "It was inspirational."
LeBron James scored 18 points and handed out 10 assists — but had 5 turnovers and missed 3 of 6 free-throw attempts.
Reserve Kyle Kuzma was scoreless for the Lakers in 19 minutes, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed seven of nine shots and had seven points for the Lakers.
“They’re second in the West for a reason, right?” Lakers guard Alex Caruso said. “You don’t do that without having a good basketball team.”