Lakers Snap Judgments on 2021 Playoff Fate After Game 2 vs. Suns

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMay 27, 2021

Lakers Snap Judgments on 2021 Playoff Fate After Game 2 vs. Suns

0 of 3

    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    The sky isn't falling.

    But maybe confetti will be in a couple of months.

    The Los Angeles Lakers are back, recovering from a rocky 2021 NBA playoff debut to score a muscle-flexing 109-102 triumph over the second-seeded Phoenix Suns on Tuesday. The Lakers, who were critiqued ad nauseam after Game 1, are heading back to Staples Center having swiped home-court advantage to put all the momentum on their side.

    In the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately spirit of modern, well, everything, let's rush into some sweeping snap judgments from the afterglow of L.A.'s Game 2 glory.

Anthony Davis Is Back

1 of 3

    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    When Anthony Davis sauntered through a 13-point performance in Game 1, shooting just 5-of-16 overall and taking five free throws, he became the basketball world's most popular punching bag. Everyone had two fingers pointed at the Brow, including him.

    All eyes were on Davis and his response in Game 2, and his performance was so thoroughly dominant it made you think the Lakers had rediscovered their championship swagger in one night. This time around, he erupted for 34 points (on 7-of-15 shooting and 18-of-21 at the line), 10 rebounds, seven assists, three blocks and a steal, showing exactly the kind of urgency the Lakers desperately needed.

    "This was a must-win," Davis told reporters afterward. "We all came out with that mindset, and we were able to get the job done."

    Davis doesn't always impose his will on opponents. Playing alongside LeBron James, he doesn't always have to. But this iteration of the Lakers needs the dominant Davis to help them escape the West and defend their throne. After a choppy debut, he looks up to the challenge again.

Dennis Schroder Will Be the Difference-Maker

2 of 3

    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Because the Lakers are a two-star squad, you can basically argue for anyone not named James or Davis as being their X-factor. From the outside shooting of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to the instant offense (and improving defense) of Kyle Kuzma to the myriad options at the center spot, there are a lot of quietly key ingredients in L.A.'s championship recipe.

    But of all the support players, no one means more to this team's success than Dennis Schroder.

    He controls the most offensive possessions that don't run through James or Davis. He sets the tempo defensively. He challenges opposing teams off the dribble. He punishes clubs for not giving him enough attention.

    That's what the good version of Schroder does, at least, and that's the player who burned the Suns for 24 points (on 50/50/100 shooting) and a plus-16 in 34 minutes of Game 2.

    "After the first game, I talked to coaches and watched film. They told me to just be aggressive," Schroder told reporters. "End of the day, I just did that. Tried to be creative getting into the lane, just putting pressure on the rim. And I think it worked out really well."

    When Davis and James are clicking, the Lakers are almost unbeatable. When Schroder is on top of his game, too, they are unstoppable.

The Lakers Are Winning the West Again

3 of 3

    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    If you bought into overreaction Monday following the first weekend of the playoffs, the Lakers were hobbled and vulnerable.

    But if the first game made them seem vulnerable, the second showed how powerful they can be. The Suns are a good team (albeit one with an injured Point God), and the Lakers kept them at arm's length for much of their critical road win.

    L.A. took control of the series with this victory. It just might have seized control of the West too.

    Granted, we're getting way ahead of ourselves here, but who else would be considered the favorite to win the conference? The top-seeded Utah Jazz lost their playoff opener. So did the third-seeded Denver Nuggets. The fourth-seeded Los Angeles Clippers have already fallen into an 0-2 hole. The fifth-seeded Dallas Mavericks are on the other end of that advantage, but they don't have a great defensive answer for James or Davis.

    Some will disagree, but the Lakers suddenly look very much like the favorites in the West again.