LeBron James has never lost the first two games of a playoff series in his epic NBA career, and he still hasn't after the Lakers won Game 2 of their first-round Western Conference matchup over the Suns in Phoenix on Tuesday, 109-102, to even things at 1-1. The big storyline going forward is the shoulder injury of Chris Paul, a good buddy of James and also a future first-ballot Hall of Famer. The Lakers opened as 7-point home favorites for Thursday's Game 3 on the William Hill Sportsbook NBA odds.
That rather big spread – the Suns were -2.5 in Game 1 and the Lakers -2 in Game 2 – tells you that oddsmakers clearly believe Paul is not close to 100 percent with his right shoulder that was injured in Game 1. Paul was not much of a factor in Game 2 as he played just 23 minutes overall, 6:15 in the second half and 2:38 in the fourth quarter of a close game. It's reportedly a "stinger," which is a nerve injury that causes pain and numbness.
CP3 took a career-playoff-low five shots in the game – none in the second half -- and zero from three-point range. He finished 2-for-5 for six points, five assists, three rebounds, three turnovers, two fouls and a minus-2 rating. That game would have been a rout if backup Cameron Payne (19 points, seven assists in 33 minutes) didn't play so well off the bench. It's simply unrealistic to expect that much out of Payne in every game.
Phoenix coach Monty Williams said it was his decision to limit Paul's minutes: "It's pretty obvious. He's not able to make the passes he wants. He was laboring." There's zero chance Paul sits in Game 3, although his minutes may have to be limited again. Getting injured in the postseason is starting to become a trend for a guy yet to reach the NBA Finals.
Paul's most notable injury was a hamstring while with Houston in Game 5 of the 2018 Western Conference Finals against the superpower Golden State Warriors. The Rockets won Game 5 to take a 3-2 lead but without Paul dropped Game 6 and 7.
As of this writing, William Hill isn't even listing Chris Paul props for Game 3. For LeBron, the site is giving him an Over/Under of 24.5 points with a double-double at -125 and no DD at -105. James clinched Game 2 by making a three-pointer with 49.8 seconds left to put L.A. up nine. He finished with 23 points after scoring 18 in Game 1 when he did have a double-double. LeBron hasn't had a triple-double since returning from his long injury absence and is +625 for one Thursday.
The Lakers and Suns had both been -110 on the series line entering Game 2, but now Los Angeles is -360 with Phoenix at +280.
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