PHOENIX, Ariz. (AP) – Chris Paul, the All-Star guard, was grinning in pain early in the fourth quarter, virtually playing with one shoulder. Cameron Payne had just been thrown out of the game. Players had to be separated, and feelings were running high.
Coach Monty Williams had cautioned his youthful Suns that situations like this will come up in the NBA playoffs, particularly against the reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers.
It’s safe to say they passed the first test with flying colours.
The Suns trounced the Lakers 99-90 on Sunday, with Devin Booker scoring 34 points and Deandre Ayton adding 21 points and 16 rebounds as the Suns won their first playoff game in 11 years. Booker’s long-awaited playoffs debut lived up to the expectations.
Booker explained, “The intensity is different, the physicality is different.” “Plus, it’s just one game.”
Several Suns players, including Booker, Ayton, and Mikal Bridges, were making their first playoff appearances, but they didn’t look like postseason novices against LeBron James and the Lakers. They helped Phoenix overcome a difficult game for Paul, who didn’t appear to be fully recovered after suffering a right shoulder injury in the second quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Suns led 86-70, but the Lakers swiftly narrowed the lead to 86-77 with 9:02 remaining.
That’s when things started to get a little boisterous. After Payne knocked L.A.’s Alex Caruso to the ground, the two got into an incident along the sideline. Both teams had to be separated after L.A.’s Montrezl Harrell entered the fray. Caruso and Harrell were both given a technical foul, while Payne was dismissed after receiving two technicals.
Williams remarked, “It’s something we’ve been talking about as a team and as a staff.” “There will be a point in the game where you will have to moderate your emotions.”
“When things become rough, we don’t separate,” Bridges added. We’ll work together to get through it.”
It was the Suns that accomplished it. Booker kept hitting jumpers, and Ayton was a force on the glass, with eight offensive rebounds and a 10 of 11 shooting percentage. In the waning minutes, the Lakers never got within striking distance.
“(Booker) is a scoring machine, so our defence has to cover him in a variety of ways,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “He has Ayton in there when we double team him. We didn’t do a good enough job in Game 1, but I’m optimistic about our prospects in Game 2 if we limit this team to 99 points.”
James had 18 points, 10 assists, and seven rebounds in the game. Anthony Davis had 13 points on 5-of-16 shooting from the field. The Lakers made 7 of 26 3-point attempts (27 percent).
“I made a lot of mistakes and missed a lot of strokes. As a team, we missed a lot of shots,” Davis said. “With the way I performed, there’s no chance we’re going to win a game, let alone a series. This is entirely my fault.”
The second game will be held in Phoenix on Tuesday night. The Lakers have been in this situation before, losing Game 1 in each of the first two series last season before rallying to win and go on to win the NBA title.
The Suns took a 53-45 lead after a tumultuous first half.
After the first quarter, Phoenix led 32-25. However, early in the second quarter, the celebratory atmosphere in Phoenix was replaced by a stunned hush as Paul collided with teammate Cameron Johnson and collapsed to the floor in obvious discomfort while gripping his right shoulder. He laid on the floor for a few minutes, surrounded by players from both sides, before slowly going away with a towel draped over his head.
The 36-year-old celebrity reappeared a few minutes later to a thunderous applause from the audience, but he didn’t seem quite right. He primarily used his left hand to dribble and missed his sole shot before halftime.
Before the halftime, Booker had 17 points on 8-of-14 shooting, while Ayton had 14.
To secure the No. 7 seed in the playoffs, the Lakers needed to beat Golden State in the play-in tournament on Wednesday. However, according to FanDuel, they entered the series as small betting favourites over the Suns, who were seeded second.
THE SHOULDER OF PAUL
When Paul suffered his shoulder injury, he said he “heard a crack,” but he believes he’ll be ready for Game 2.
After the game, Williams claimed he spoke with Paul for a minute about his shoulder. According to the coach, the point guard promised him that he would be fine moving forward.
“He was fine and will be OK in the future,” Williams said, adding that he was “pretty sore” when he returned. “His performance today provided us with a lot of juice and enthusiasm. It was a inspirational
GETTING VAXXED is a term that refers to the process of getting a
Vogel expects his team to reach the COVID-19 vaccination goal of 85 percent on Monday. He went on to say that he didn’t expect anything to change, except that the team’s dining options may be enhanced.
A LARGE NUMBER OF PEOPLE
The Suns announced a capacity of 11,000 for Sunday’s game, but it felt like more in an arena that holds just over 18,000. It was the first time the freshly refurbished arena had been authorised to hold more than 10,000 people.
“I was like, ‘Holy smokes,'” she says. Williams remarked, “This is very cool.” “It was necessary for me to regain emotional control.”
The Lakers made 19 free throws before the Suns even attempted one. The Lakers only made 17 of their 28 free throw attempts. … Vogel acknowledged that guard Ben McLemore was involved in a car accident recently, but that he was OK and would play on Sunday.
Suns: For Game 1, the Suns were essentially healthy. The only player that was unavailable was forward Abdel Nader (knee), who has been absent for several months.