The Los Angeles Lakers punched their ticket to the 2021 NBA Playoffs with a thrilling win over the Golden State Warriors in the Play-In Tournament.
The Lakers will now commence their title defence with a first-round matchup with the Phoenix Suns.
NBA.com is your destination for complete coverage of every series from now through the end of the NBA Finals.
The 2021 NBA Playoffs will begin on Saturday, May 22.
- Game 1 - Sunday, May 23 at 3:30 p.m. ET
- Game 2 - Tuesday, May 25 at 10:00 p.m. ET
- Game 3 - Thursday, May 27 at 10:00 p.m. ET
- Game 4 - Sunday, May 30 at 3:30 p.m. ET
- Game 5 (if necessary) - Tuesday, June 1 (Time TBD)
- Game 6 (if necessary) - Thursday, June 3 (Time TBD)
- Game 7 (if necessary) - Saturday, June 5 (Time TBD)
Result: Suns won 2-1
Best game: March 2, 2021 - Suns 114, Lakers 104
Best performance: Anthony Davis (May 9, 2021) - 42 points (13-27 FG, 15-17 FT), 12 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks, 3 steals
The Suns won the season series, but there's only so much you can take away from it because the Lakers were short-handed in each contest.
In the first meeting, Los Angeles was without Anthony Davis. LeBron James went for 38 points, six assists and five rebounds, but it wasn't enough to overcome a balanced attack from Phoenix that saw four of its five starters score in double figures and Dario Saric go for a team-high 21 points off the bench.
No shot exists outside of the King's bag 💼 pic.twitter.com/l5nKWtDtlp- Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 3, 2021
In the second matchup, the Lakers were without LeBron and Davis. The Suns cruised to a 111-94 victory behind an 11-point, 13-assist, 10-rebound triple-double from Chris Paul and 26 points each from Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton.
🙌 @CP3 drops a triple-double and becomes the 6th player in NBA history with 10,000 career assists in the @Suns win!- NBA (@NBA) March 22, 2021
11 PTS | 10 REB | 13 AST | 3 STL pic.twitter.com/TBoofW92Uk
The Lakers picked up their lone win against the Suns in the final meeting between the two teams this season.
Los Angeles didn't have LeBron, who was sidelined after reaggravating his ankle injury a few games prior, but Davis stepped up in a big way, exploding for 42 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, three blocks and three steals to keep the Lakers in the race for the No. 6 seed.
Based on Game Score, which gives "a rough measure of a player's productivity for a single game," it was Davis' best game of the season.
What a night for @AntDavis23... @Lakers move back within 1 game of #6 Portland! #LakeShow- NBA (@NBA) May 10, 2021
42 PTS | 12 REB | 5 AST | 3 STL | 3 BLK pic.twitter.com/sEupafrROX
Key Storyline: Are the young Suns ready for this?
The Suns have been one of the best stories in the NBA this season.
In posting a 51-21 record, the Suns earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference and are returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2009-10, ending the second-longest active postseason drought in the league.
Paul has been at the forefront of Phoenix's turnaround, leading the Suns with 16.4 points, 8.9 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Not only is he an All-NBA candidate, our NBA.com Staff had him in third place in our MVP ladder heading into the final month of the season. Booker, who averaged a team-high 25.6 points per game, is also an All-NBA candidate, while Mikal Bridges is an All-Defensive candidate.
The Suns finished the season with the league's seventh-best offence and sixth-best defence. The only other teams to finish in the top-10 in both categories were the Utah Jazz, LA Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks.
Phoenix's two-way dominance earns them a first-round matchup with the Lakers, who enter the playoffs as perhaps the scariest No. 7 seed in NBA history.
It will be a big test for a Suns team that is short on postseason experience. Paul is no stranger to the big stage, having played 109 playoff games in his career. Ditto for Jae Crowder, who has appeared in 72 playoff games and played a key role in the Miami Heat's run to the Finals last season, but this will mark the playoff debuts for three of Phoenix's starters in Booker, Bridges and Ayton.
With how important each one of them has been to Phoenix's success this season, the Suns can't afford for the moment to be too big for them against the defending champions.
Three Players to Watch
LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron was spectacular in last season's title run, averaging 27.6 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game in the playoffs. He was having an MVP calibre start to this season, but he only recently returned from an ankle injury that sidelined him for 26 of the team's final 30 games. The Lakers are going to need him to be firing on all cylinders to take down the Suns in the first round and have a chance of repeating.
LeBron's performance in the team's win over the Golden State Warriors in the Play-In Tournament was an encouraging sign for the Lakers.
👑 WILD Game-Winner- NBA (@NBA) May 20, 2021
👑 22 PTS, 11 REB, 10 AST@KingJames lifts the @Lakers in the #StateFarmPlayIn! #LakeShow
#7 Lakers vs. #2 Suns - #NBAPlayoffs First Round Game 1: 3:30pm/et Sunday on ABC pic.twitter.com/CFN1xpFOpz
Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
The No. 13 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, Booker has developed into one of the league's best scorers. He's averaging 26.2 points per game over the last three seasons, putting him behind only seven players - a list that includes the likes of James Harden (32.8), Damian Lillard (28.0) and Kevin Durant (26.3) - for most in the league. With this being his postseason debut, all eyes will be on Booker.
Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns
The Suns are much more than just Paul, but he's still their heartbeat.
Like LeBron, Paul continues to defy Father Time, proving himself to still be one of the league's best players this season. He's looking to bounce back from a Game 7 loss to the Houston Rockets in the opening round of last season's playoffs and make a run to the Finals to compete for his first championship.
This will mark the first time Paul and LeBron have ever played against each other in the postseason. They've faced each other 28 times in the regular season in their careers, with LeBron coming out on top in 15 of those matchups.
Picks and Predictions
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): Lakers in six
Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): Lakers in five
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): Lakers in six
Yash Matange (@yashmatange2694): Lakers in six
The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.