Playoff basketball is back. The first weekend of the post-season has delivered and showed precisely how the intensity and stakes rise this time of year. The series opener between the Suns and the Lakers was the prime example, with both teams exchanging some psychical blows in an exciting game. Nevertheless, the Suns managed to get an impressive 99-90 win, showing they have no fear of LeBron and the Lakers, proving they deserve to be in the 2nd seed.
The first playoff battle of two old friends Chris Paul and LeBron James, showed how these two competitors are ready to do anything to win no matter who is in the way and how they have to do it – especially CP3. The Suns started hot and controlled the game from the start, but when Chris Paul went down with an apparent shoulder injury after colliding with LeBron, things weren’t looking too bright for the Suns.
Paul returned to the game but was obviously protecting his right shoulder. Suns fans won’t sleep well after CP3 said he “heard a crack” and are eagerly awaiting the medical report from the team. With nine minutes left in the game, the two stars got tangled up again, with Paul boxing out LeBron after a free-throw and undercutting him. LeBron fell to the floor instantly and grab his shoulder as tensions between the two teams spilled over. Cameron Payne and Alex Caruso got into it, as both teams jumped into it and had to be separated.
Payne got ejected, while Caruso and Harrell received technicals on the other end. LeBron got a short treatment from the trainer and was good to go. Another proof of his durability or flair for overacting – you decide for yourself. But, the Lakers coach Frank Vogel had no doubt in his mind and went as far as speculating Paul maybe even tried to hurt Lebron.
“My view was a really aggressive box out, a dangerous play where’ Bron was in the air and got uppercut.”Frank Vogel, The Athletic
— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) May 23, 2021
Paul has a reputation as a pesky and aggressive defender and competitor that often goes beyond the limits to help his team win, even if it means playing dirty. Still, in this particular sequence, I think there’s nothing dirty here. Paul was just trying to box out a much bigger and stronger player in LeBron. Considering the two are really close friends, the possibility CP3 tried to hurt LeBron is pretty far-fetched.
All the intensity didn’t help the Lakers comeback as the Suns took command of the series with an opening win, led by Booker’s 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists, alongside Ayton’s 21 point-16 rebound performance. LeBron James had a decent(ish) all-around game with 18 points, 10 assists, and 7 rebounds. But he didn’t have too much help, as his sidekick Anthony Davis struggled. So if the Lakers want to pick it up and beat this hungry Suns team, they will need AD and the rest of the team to be on point from here on out. Game 1 showed we have a fun and exciting series ahead of us.