Devin Booker Powers Suns to Game 1 Win over LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Lakers

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVMay 23, 2021

PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 23: Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns dribbles the ball against the Los Angeles Lakers during Round 1, Game 1 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs on May 23, 2021 at Phoenix Suns Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)
Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome back to the postseason, Phoenix. 

The Suns returned to the playoffs for the first time since the 2009-10 season and didn't disappoint, beating LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers 99-90 in Game 1 of their Western Conference first-round series. 

This one had a bit of everything. An electric Phoenix crowd. Both Chris Paul and James battling through shoulder injuries suffered during the game. A wild sequence in the fourth quarter that saw multiple technical fouls and a Cameron Payne ejection. Deandre Ayton playing like a wily old veteran.

SportsCenter @SportsCenter

Chris Paul was shaken up after this play and headed to the locker room. pic.twitter.com/qvr79pSG1J

SportsCenter @SportsCenter

Players had to be separated after a CP3 loose ball foul on LeBron. pic.twitter.com/KpFxOPco6r

Oh, and Devin Booker going off in the first half:


Game-high 17 for D-Book at halftime has @Suns up on ABC!#WeAreTheValley #NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/nqI4tfUrxB

And this is just a first-round series. After Sunday's fantastic and dramatic contest, it's looking like it could be an all-timer. 

Key Stats

Devin Booker, PHX: 34 points, eight assists, seven rebounds

Deandre Ayton, PHX: 21 points, 16 rebounds, one block

Chris Paul, PHX: Seven points, eight assists

LeBron James, LAL: 18 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, three steals

Anthony Davis, LAL: 13 points, seven rebounds, three blocks

Andre Drummond, LAL: 12 points, nine rebounds

Devin Booker Was the Best Player on the Court

There were so many storylines for Phoenix from Sunday afternoon. Paul's struggles after the shoulder injury. The huge free-throw disparity (28-12 in favor of the Lakers). Ayton coming up huge for the Suns on the low block. Phoenix's excellent defensive effort. Cameron Johnson giving the team a scoring boost off the bench. 

But in a game featuring some of the NBA's brightest stars, Booker was incandescent. 

Jovan Buha @jovanbuha

What a playoff debut from Devin Booker.

Dan Favale @danfavale

i look forward to people coming around on devin booker ~four years too late and thinking it's a high-ground hot take

Hardwood Paroxysm @HPbasketball

My biggest takeaway today is that Devin Booker is ready for the stage. So impressed. The playoffs are f’ing HARD and he’s matched the intensity, made plays, been on-point defensively.

There's an argument to be made that the Lakers have the two best players in this series in James and Davis. But Booker was the man Sunday. 

If he continues to play at this level, Phoenix is going to be a tough out, even for the defending champs.

The Lakers Need More from Anthony Davis

The Lakers have a center conundrum. Playing with Davis at the 5 is clearly L.A.'s best option, though the team justifiably doesn't want him getting beaten up constantly in the post.

Fair enough. But the Lakers are generally clunkier with Andre Drummond on the floor and worse on defense with Montrezl Harrell. Marc Gasol has become the forgotten man. 

Granted, Davis was just poor no matter where he played Sunday, finishing 5-of-16 from the floor. Whether at the 4 or 5, he needs to be better, especially when it continues to appear as though James just isn't quite fully back up to speed after missing 26 games with a high ankle sprain this year. 

bomani @bomani_jones

anthony davis having another one of those weird games where he's a nonexistent rebounder.

Chris Herring @Herring_NBA

I've had moments where I forget AD is even out there today

Nate Jones @JonesOnTheNBA

Ayton has been killer through 3 quarters. Outplaying AD https://t.co/2ChlzsI461

Ry @JustRyCole

AD getting treated like a little boy by Ayton. This is a game he’ll have to look himself in the mirror.

The Lakers need more from Davis. They need him to play like a superstar. They need him to outplay Ayton. Phoenix is too good for the Lakers to overcome mediocre performances from their stars.

What's Next?

Game 2 will be in Phoenix on Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on TNT.