PHOENIX SUNS

Phoenix Suns to face Los Angeles Lakers in the 1st round of playoffs

May 19, 2021, 9:42 PM | Updated: May 20, 2021, 9:01 am
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, left, shoots as Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton defends ...

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, left, shoots as Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The Los Angeles Lakers will face the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the playoffs after winning the play-in game Wednesday over the Golden State Warriors, 103-100.

That sets up a Sunday matchup for Game 1 at Phoenix Suns Arena.

Though the Lakers (43-30) had a five-game winning streak heading into the play-in game, they struggled in the second half of the season due to injuries to stars LeBron James (high ankle sprain) and Anthony Davis (calf/heel).

Davis missed a stretch of games from Feb. 14 through April 22.

James played only four games since suffering a March 20 ankle injury, two of which came in the final two games of the regular season. He tweaked the ankle in the Lakers’ season finale and did not return but shrugged off that it would be a concern heading into the play-in game against Golden State.

The 36-year-old James is averaging 25 points, 7.8 assists and 7.7 rebounds per game while shooting 51% from the field this season in 45 games.

While James voiced his displeasure about the introduction of a play-in game during his time off, the reigning champions were lucky to hold down the fort without he and Davis for so much of the season.

Los Angeles fought thanks to a defense under head coach Frank Vogel that ranked atop the league by allowing 106.8 points per 100 possessions for the season.

While the Lakers finished eighth with a 2.9 net rating, the 24th-best offense (109.8 points per 100 possessions) through a choppy season leaves much to be desired.

On paper though, Los Angeles looks like a deeper team from its title run in the 2020 Disney World bubble.

The Lakers added point guard Dennis Schroder, who provides ball handling and pesky defense. It also added undersized yet athletic big man Montrezl Harrell, veteran center Marc Gasol and the double-double machine Andre Drummond in the middle, giving Los Angeles the versatility to play a number of different ways.

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