Doug & Wolf 3-pointer: Biggest matchups for Suns vs. Lakers

May 21, 2021, 10:41 AM
Phoenix Suns' Mikal Bridges, left, is congratulated by Chris Paul, right, during overtime of an NBA...

Phoenix Suns' Mikal Bridges, left, is congratulated by Chris Paul, right, during overtime of an NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks Monday, April 19, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

(AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

The Phoenix Suns’ first-round meeting with the Los Angeles Lakers is just days away.

While the Suns hold the better record and seed, the Lakers are still considered favorites to upend Phoenix’s magical season.

With so much at stake, Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf gave their three biggest matchups to watch in the opening round of the NBA playoffs. It’s Suns 3-pointer territory.

First point

Doug Franz: “Deandre Ayton vs. himself. I’m not necessarily worried about [Anthony Davis] and Andre Drummond in the matchup vs. Deandre Ayton. Here’s why: If Deandre Ayton is the New York Knicks version of himself, I actually think Ayton will beat Drummond and compare favorably to Anthony Davis. If he is the checked out Deandre Ayton or the confused Deandre Ayton, this thing’s over in five.”

Ron Wolfley: “LeBron James vs. Devin Booker. … In the fourth quarter in a close game, you know here it comes. LeBron James on D-Book. How will that go? What kind of matchup will that be? And how, most importantly, will it finish?”

Second point

Franz: “Suns bench vs. the pressure. [The Lakers] got Alex Caruso, they’ve got Wes Matthews, they’ve got a lot of guys on their bench that they use. I’m not necessarily saying you have to outdo their bench, but Torrey Craig has to be a monster on the glass that the Lakers can’t handle off of their bench. Cam Payne has to be the Cam Payne that he’s been all year, but he’s got to mix in creativity and distribution as well as his drive to the lane. Cam Johnson, you’ve got to hit the open three in this series. When you’re looking at the bench role for the Suns, can they handle their role in a pressure environment? If they do, I think Suns win it in six.”

Wolfley: “Devin Booker vs. Kobe Bryant. Devin Booker has to be the Suns’ best player. There’s a lot of pressure in that truth right here. The playoffs are for legends and D-Book needs to be at the top of his game if the Suns want any chance at beating the Lakers. You can’t be legendary in the regular season. You can only be legendary in the postseason. Your best players need to play their best when it matters the most. And right now, nobody knows that better than Devin Booker.”

Third point

Franz: “The penetration into the lane by the Lakers vs. the defense of CP3, D-Book and Bridges. Are those three men going to keep their man in front of them or are they going to go ole DA? If they’re turning around … hoping DA saves them, this series is over fast.”

Wolfley: “DA vs. AD. This is going to be one of those moments where this either gets the attention of Deandre Ayton or nothing will get the attention of Deandre Ayton. The physicality underneath the basket, the Suns need that most of all from Deandre Ayton. Of all people that can actually match up with Anthony Davis from time to time, it’s Deandre Ayton. We need him to play like he did against Joel Embiid. Even though Joel Embiid went up and lit it up, he played well against Embiid. Same thing with Rudy Gobert. … It didn’t mean that Gobert didn’t score points or rip down rebounds, it just meant they were contested the whole time. That’s what they need from Deandre Ayton against Anthony Davis.”

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