The first-round NBA Western Conference Playoff series between the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers has been nothing short of a war through four games. Physical play on both sides and injuries for both teams has made this an unpredictable series that still could go either way. Here, these teams meet in Phoenix as they look to move just one game away from advancing to the second round.
Los Angeles Lakers
It looked like the Los Angeles Lakers might be on their way to crushing the Phoenix Suns in this series through three games. They took a 2-1 lead after Game 3, and had the Suns on the ropes thanks to their size and physicality. But an injury to Anthony Davis in Game 4 has shifted the momentum away from the Lakers again, and they will have to wrestle it back from a Phoenix team with plenty of fight in it.
Outside of LeBron James, there wasn’t a single Laker who could be relied on to score for Los Angeles. James was the only member of the Lakers to score more than 12 points on the game, while Davis shot just 2-9 before he was sidelined. If a second scorer doesn’t step up in Game 5, the Lakers could be staring at two elimination games against the second-seeded Suns.
The Phoenix Suns will come into this pivotal game happy to be in a position to take a 3-2 series lead after how things looked following Game 3. The Suns relied on their defense to even this series up, in spite of the fact that their shooting was not up to its usual standards. Phoenix shot just 28% from three-point range in Game 4 but still did more than enough to collect a second win against the defending champions.
A big reason for the success of the Suns in spite of their woeful three-point shooting has been the offensive output of DeAndre Ayton. Ayton has shot the ball at an 80% clip through the first four games of this series, as the Suns have helped him get plenty of good looks at the rim. If Anthony Davis is more injured than the Lakers are letting on, Ayton could have another extremely productive night for Phoenix.
Also encouraging for the Suns is the fact that Chris Paul played well in Game 4. The Phoenix point guard has been battling a shoulder injury but looked more like his old self on the offensive end. Paul will need to be in good enough physical condition to facilitate the offense for the Suns again in Game 5 if Phoenix is going to pull ahead.
The Pick: Suns -5
The longer this series goes on, the more the Lakers resemble one of LeBron James’ Cavaliers teams. James has looked like the only real threat for most of this series, and that should continue if Anthony Davis is not at 100%. Expect the Suns to use their much-longer list of scoring options to beat the Lakers and take a 3-2 series lead.