The Los Angeles Lakers won’t get any sympathy from her Phoenix Suns or any of the remaining playoff teams after losing the striker Anthony Davis to a groin injury during a 100-92 loss Sunday afternoon at the Staples Center.
After all, the Suns played this first-round Western Conference playoff series with a very limited version of Chris Paul (Shoulder).
And of course the Lakers still have it Lebron James – A 36-year-old is still working his way back from an ankle injury that cost him more than a third of the seasonal version of LeBron James.
Still a LeBron James who has never lost in the first round of the playoffs.
“When I went up against them intense heat, and either [Dwyane] Calf or [Chris] Bosh was out, which meant more touching for Bron, “said Lakers coach Frank Vogel.” And that wasn’t always good for my Pacers teams. “
That version of James was in his late twenties, however, and he didn’t have a serious ankle injury. The version of James released in the mid-30s has so far halted or countered the effects of age in order to remain one of the most dominant players in the NBA.
But the Lakers’ title defense now depends on whether that version of James can lead them through a Suns team that tied the series 2-2 when they return to Phoenix for Game 5 on Tuesday.
Everyone else will say that James’ supporting cast also needs to be strengthened. The Dennis Schroder Must do better than his dud in game 4 when he scored eight points in 3v13 shooting. The Kyle Kuzma has to transform himself into a goalscorer again after focusing on his all-round game throughout the season.
But that’s just everyone who is polite.
“We’ll see,” said James when first asked how his role might change over the course of the series if Davis misses the time with his last injury. A source told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that Davis’ status is commonplace.
However, a few minutes later, James acknowledged the obvious.
“Those shoulders were built for a reason,” he said. “Well, if I have to go a little further, then that’s the way it should be. Win, lose or draw, I’m ready for the challenge.”
Anthony Davis lands awkwardly after a missed layup and limps a little late in the first half.
James led the Lakers on Sunday on points (25), rebounds (12) and assists (6), making him the oldest player in NBA postseason history.
The Suns saw their own version of this movie last week, starring Paul, their own 36-year-old defying age. He has been a shell to himself ever since injure his shoulder in the first half of the opening game on May 23, to the point that Phoenix manager Monty Williams wanted to put him in Game 4.
During a 20-minute pre-competition meeting with Williams and General Manager James Jones on Sunday, Paul finally persuaded the team to give him the chance to compete.
“I have to trust his will and his experience and the things he’s done throughout his career. He’s trained to be in those moments,” said Williams. “My last thought was, ‘I don’t want to be the one to take that away from him.’ That was the lasting thing I thought about like, who should I take this away from him? He’s been pulling his tail for years to be in this moment and I don’t want to be the Doofus trainer taking that away. “
“I said to the boys, ‘I don’t know how long it will take,'” Paul recalled. “‘If you all feel like I look like trash out here, just tell me and I’ll get out.’
“But at least I had to see what I could do.”
Paul was able to do a lot more in Game 4 – 18 points, 9 assists, 3 steals – than in the previous three games when Williams had to remove him in the second half.
Chris Paul confidently knocks out the midfielder over Andre Drummond and mocks for being back when the Lakers call for a timeout.
But perhaps most importantly, Paul didn’t turn in nearly 32 minutes on Sunday against the Lakers’ top-rated defense. According to ESPN Stats & Information Research, it was the sixth playoff game of his career that Paul had more than nine assists and zero turnovers, overtaking Magic Johnson for most of those games in NBA history.
That is a symbol for the veteran influence Paul had on that young Suns team that set the second-best record in the league that season. And it was crucial in a tough street game against the defending champions on Sunday, with the prospect of a 3-1 deficit if the Suns were to lose.
The suns were ready on Sunday and they competed hard. According to ESPN Stats & Info data, Phoenix made 58 of the Lakers’ 81 field attempts (72%), a far higher percentage than the Suns, who played 57% when they lost Game 3 on Thursday.
The Lakers, on the other hand, only contested 40 of the Suns ’85 field goal attempts (47%), Los Angeles’ lowest postseason mark since ESPN began tracking all postseason games in 2014.
Now it’s a best-of-three series in which two future 36-year-old Hall of Famers – who happen to be good friends – duel each other for the chance to keep their season and championship hopes alive.
“The best teacher in life is experience,” said James. “Personally, I’m looking forward to the challenge. Whichever hand is dealt, I’m ready to play.”