Good buddies and future first-ballot Hall of Famers LeBron James and Chris Paul both were injured in Game 1 of the Lakers-Suns Western Conference first-round playoff series Sunday, won by Phoenix at home 99-90. To no surprise, however, both will play in Game 2 Tuesday. So apparently will Suns center Deandre Ayton. There was some concern he could be suspended for leaving the bench in the opener during a scuffle. The Lakers are 2-point favorites on the William Hill Sportsbook NBA odds.
Oddsmakers clearly don't respect the Suns much in that despite being up 1-0 and the No. 2 seed in the West, they are dogs for Game 2 with both clubs are -110 on the series line. The favored exact result is the seventh-seeded Lakers winning in six at +340.
Paul had to come out of the game for a spell after a first-half right shoulder injury and didn't look 100 percent the rest of the way, basically playing left-handed. He finished with just seven points and eight assists in 36 minutes. Paul took five shots after injuring his shoulder, making two, with no three-point attempts.
In the second half, Paul grabbed LeBron's shoulder while boxing out, which eventually led to James writhing in pain on the floor for several moments – "LeFlop" was trending on Twitter with many thinking that LeBron was flopping. After all, James is nine inches taller than Paul and outweighs him by 75 pounds yet went flying like a ragdoll.
"My view was an overly aggressive box out, dangerous play where Bron was in the air and got undercut and some guys stood up for him," Lakers coach Frank Vogel said.
That led to a bit of a scuffle, with the Lakers' Alex Caruso and Montrezl Harrell each getting a technical foul, while Suns guard Cameron Payne was ejected after receiving two technicals. Ayton was on the bench during that play but did put one foot on the court during the scuffle. By the letter of the law, he could have been suspended.
In 2007, then-commissioner David Stern infamously suspended the Suns' Amare Stoudamire and Boris Diaw for barely stepping onto the court in Game 4 of the West semifinals against the Spurs when San Antonio's Robert Horry committed a hard (dirty) foul on Steve Nash. That Suns team was good enough to win a title but lost Game 5 without those two and then the series in six.
Ayton was arguably the best player on the court in Game 1 in shooting 10-for-11 for 21 points along with 16 rebounds in 37 minutes. Ayton became the first Suns player ever with at least 20 points and 10 boards in his playoff debut. He had more offensive rebounds (eight) than Lakers All-Star Anthony Davis had rebounds (seven). At William Hill, Ayton is -150 for another double-double. In addition, Devin Booker's 34 points were the most by a Suns player in their postseason debut. Booker is given an Over/Under of 28.5 points in Game 2.
The last time a LeBron-led team was down 2-0 in the playoffs was Cleveland in the 2018 East Finals vs. Boston. The Cavs won that in seven but were swept in the NBA Finals by Golden State.
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