Anthony Davis, LeBron James Power Lakers to 2-1 Series Lead over Chris Paul, Suns

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIMay 28, 2021

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) celebrates with teammates after scoring against the Phoenix Suns during the second half in Game 3 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Thursday, May 27, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the visiting Phoenix Suns 109-95 in Game 3 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series on Thursday in Staples Center.

Lakers forwards Anthony Davis and LeBron James and point guard Dennis Schroder combined to score 75 points. They were at their best in the third quarter, when L.A. outscored Phoenix 33-23 to take a 76-63 lead into the fourth.

The Suns were largely ice cold outside Deandre Ayton (22 points on 11-of-15 shooting) and Cameron Payne (15 points on 6-of-11 shooting). Outside that duo, Phoenix shot just 18-of-56.

L.A. has now taken a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven matchup.


Notable Performances

Lakers F Anthony Davis: 34 points, 11 rebounds

Lakers F LeBron James: 21 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds

Lakers G Dennis Schroder: 20 points, 4 assists

Suns C Deandre Ayton: 22 points, 11 rebounds

Suns G Devin Booker: 19 points, 6 assists

Suns G Cameron Payne: 15 points, 6 assists, 4 steals


Davis, James Carry Lakers To Victory

On a low-scoring night that brought back memories of late-1990s playoff basketball, James and Davis did more than enough offensively to put L.A. over the top.

James got things going early with a three-pointer:

Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers

King set from the first shot. #LakeShow pic.twitter.com/jubU249Q1D

AD got up for a Kyle Kuzma lob late in the first half that ended with L.A. up 43-40:

Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers

Kuz with the lob, AD with the jam 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/q9kHiWT6u0

James got the Lakers started on the right foot in the second half with this dunk:

Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers

First play of the second half. Bron’s got it. pic.twitter.com/SejqIJAxh7

That began a dominant third quarter, with the Lakers excelling on both ends.

That was most evident on this play, which started with a Schroder steal that James corralled. The ball found its way back to the point guard, who found Davis running in transition for an easy two:

Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers


Another theme was the Lakers' paint dominance, with James asserting his authority in the third thanks to this slam:

Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers

Welcome to the Jam<br><br>(📺: @SpectrumSN ) pic.twitter.com/TZFEowZHMf

He kept that trend going with a pair of layups:

Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers

LeBron James 👑 pic.twitter.com/mqxmRoAkHw

Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers

LeBron James doing LeBron James things. pic.twitter.com/EyZvO0yQb7

Ultimately, James and Davis led a Lakers team that outscored the Suns 58-38 in the paint and held Phoenix to just 35 points over the second and third quarters.

L.A. got a brief scare late when Phoenix whittled a 21-point lead down to eight following a Jae Crowder three-pointer with 2:47 remaining, but Davis and James had already given the Lakers enough breathing room to survive the rally.


Phoenix's Season on Brink as Paul Guts His Way Through Injury

Suns point guard Chris Paul deserves tremendous credit for playing through a clearly painful right shoulder contusion that he suffered in Game 1.

Unfortunately, that injury may end up dictating this series' result.

The man who is arguably the most responsible for the Suns improving from 33-39 last year to 51-21 this season is clearly not 100 percent, and it shows.

Suns head coach Monty Williams notably held out Paul for much of the second half of Game 2 as he was held to 23 minutes and scored just six points on 2-of-5 shooting.

In Game 3, Paul didn't play much more (27 minutes) as he finished with a minus-20 while scoring just seven points on 3-of-8 shooting.

Now the No. 2 seed Suns are two losses away from their season ending prematurely.

Granted, there's more to the Suns' last two losses than Paul's injury, namely the fact that Phoenix has not been hitting its shots. Devin Booker had a poor Game 3 (6-of-19 shooting), and so did any Sun outside Ayton and Payne.

John Gambadoro @Gambo987

Not going to win games when your two best players are Deandre Ayton and Cam Payne. Book gave Phoenix nothing tonight and neither did Chris Paul. Jae Crowder is now 2-20 from three point range in the series. The Suns bench (7) made more three pointers then their starters (4).

That poor offense has been a multi-game trend: Only three Suns players had more than two made field goals in Game 2.

A healthy Paul would likely have the Suns' offense clicking, leading to better shot opportunities. He's the heart and soul of the Suns, who go as he goes. Right now, he's struggling due to injury, and the effect is noticeable to everyone.

Taylor Rooks @TaylorRooks

Also, I hate this for Chris Paul. Healthy Chris Paul and this is a different series. Impossible to overestimate his impact on this team. They need him out there to have a chance

Marc J. Spears @MarcJSpears

With his shoulder injury, Suns star Chris Paul has attempted fewer than 10 shots in all 3 games of this series. Paul's three straight games with fewer than 10 FGA is tied for the longest streak of his career (regular season and playoffs). @ESPNStatsInfo

Tony Jones @Tjonesonthenba

Because Chris Paul was that good. And now he’s at about 10 percent. Thus, Phoenix as a whole will suffer when their all nba point guard isn’t himself https://t.co/K5qhAHUuLq

The Lakers and Suns have only had one day off between games in this series but will now have two days of rest before Game 4. Perhaps that helps Paul a bit as the Suns look to tie the series at two games apiece.

If Paul looks more like his old self, then that would go a long way toward Phoenix getting back in this series.

What's Next?

Los Angeles will host Phoenix for Game 4 on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.