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NBA: Lakers face robust problem vs No. 1 Suns

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Lakers LeBron James NBA

LeBron James #6 and Talen Horton-Tucker #5 of the Los Angeles Lakers rejoice in opposition to the Washington Wizards within the fourth quarter at Crypto.com Enviornment on March 11, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. Ronald Martinez/Getty Photographs/AFP

The Los Angeles Lakers and the host Phoenix Suns every will probably be with out a key member of their lineup once they play Sunday evening in what might be a first-round matchup within the NBA playoffs.

The Suns have dominated the primary two video games this season, getting 23 factors and 14 assists from Chris Paul in a 115-105 win in Los Angeles on Oct. 22, then 19 factors and 11 rebounds from Deandre Ayton in a 108-90 triumph on Dec. 21, additionally in L.A.

Anthony Davis scored 22 factors and grabbed 14 rebounds for the Lakers within the first assembly. Davis didn’t play within the December sport, when Russell Westbrook put up 22 factors and 10 rebounds in defeat.

Neither Paul nor Davis will probably be obtainable Sunday, however every group is hoping to have its standout again when the Lakers return to Phoenix on April 5.

Paul is much less more likely to be again by then. He broke his proper thumb on Feb. 16, and his restoration interval was estimated at a minimal of 6-8 weeks. Six weeks would have him prepared on or round April 1 — 4 days earlier than the Lakers come to city. Eight weeks would make him a query mark for the Suns’ playoff opener in mid-April.

The Suns have assured themselves a spot within the postseason and sure will enter the playoffs because the No. 1 seed within the Western Convention. The Lakers are ninth within the West, which might imply having to win two video games within the play-in occasion with the intention to declare the ultimate Western playoff spot and a first-round matchup in opposition to the Suns.

The golf equipment met within the first spherical final yr because the Nos. 2 (Suns) and seven (Lakers) seeds. Phoenix overcame a house loss in Recreation 2 to win the best-of-seven sequence in six video games en path to the NBA Finals.

Devin Booker Suns NBA

Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns handles the ball within the second half of the NBA sport in opposition to the Toronto Raptors at Footprint Middle on March 11, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. Kelsey Grant/Getty Photographs/AFP

The Suns are nonetheless comfortably forward within the West, however they’re simply 5-4 with out Paul, with three of the losses having come at house. The newest occurred Friday, when the Toronto Raptors got here to city and left with a 117-112 victory.

The Suns turned the ball over 16 occasions, and the Raptors turned the miscues into 25 factors. Three of essentially the most three crucial errors got here down the stretch.

Devin Booker, who had a team-high-tying three of the turnovers, accepted duty afterward.

“I had just a few turnovers that have been pricey,” he mentioned. “(They allowed) them to get out in transition and get some simple ones.”

The Lakers rallied behind LeBron James’ 50 factors to beat the visiting Washington Wizards 122-109 at house on Friday. It was their second victory in eight video games since Davis sprained his proper foot; coincidentally, the harm got here on the identical evening Paul acquired harm.

Nonetheless, Davis’ restoration time is anticipated to be shorter — he might be as little as every week away from rejoining the membership.

For now, the Lakers are milking James for all the things he’s acquired.

“He’s actually good at basketball, that LeBron James,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel joked after Friday’s sport. “Simply an unimaginable, unbelievable, epic efficiency.”

James, who scored 56 factors in a win over Golden State final Saturday, has averaged 43.0 factors in his final three video games.

James averaged 29.5 factors within the two earlier conferences with the Suns, however had a complete of simply 9 rebounds and 7 assists.

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