Antetokounmpo, Jokic, Doncic headline First-Team All-NBA

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker and Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum have been selected to the 2021-22 All-NBA First Team, the league announced Tuesday.

The All-NBA Second Team consists of Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, and Chicago Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan.

The 2021-22 All-NBA Third Team is composed of Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns, Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James , Suns guard Chris Paul , Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young, and Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam.

Antetokounmpo was the only player to receive All-NBA First Team votes on all 100 ballots (500 total points), earning his fourth consecutive selection to the First Team and sixth All-NBA Team honor overall (First Team, Second Team and Third Team).  This is the third All-NBA First Team selection each for Doncic and Jokic, the 2021-22 NBA Most Valuable Player.  Booker is making his debut on the All-NBA Team, and Tatum joins Booker as a first-time selection to the All-NBA First Team.

With the selection of Antetokounmpo (27 years old), Doncic (23), Jokic (27), Booker (25) and Tatum (24), the All-NBA First Team is made up entirely of players age 27 or younger for the first time in 67 years (1954-55 season).

Embiid, the 2021-22 NBA scoring champion, has been named to the All-NBA Second Team for the fourth time in the last five seasons.  Morant, the 2021-22 NBA Most Improved Player, is an All-NBA Team honoree for the first time.  This is the 10th All-NBA Team selection for Durant, the eighth for Curry and the third for DeRozan.

This is the second All-NBA Team honor for both Towns and Siakam and the first for Young.  James has extended his NBA record for most All-NBA Team selections to 18.  Paul has been voted to the All-NBA Team for the 11th time, the second-most selections among active players behind James.

Shaq talks relationship with Kobe, Penny, more

 NBA legend and NBA on TNT analyst Shaquille O’Neal brought his larger-than-life personality to the latest episode of “The Pivot Podcast” as he opened up for the first time about two regrets in his life: his divorce and not sufficiently reaching out to Kobe Bryant before his tragic death. Those topics and much more are examined in the new episode available now on the show’s YouTube channel.

After O’Neal praised the show for its ability to bring out new sides of its guests, O’Neal begins the episode by telling podcast co-hosts and former NFL stars Ryan Clark, Channing Crowder and Fred Taylor about how he tailors his life based on the same disciplined principles he was raised with by his stepfather Phillip Harrison.

“I was a high-level juvenile delinquent,” said O’Neal. “My dad’s only mission was to teach me to be a leader, not a follower. I started playing basketball because I watched the movie ‘The Fish Who Saved Pittsburgh’ and I loved Julius Erving in it. My dad saw that I wasn’t doing well in school, so he said, ‘if you do better in school, I’ll take you to see Dr. J.’ So we’re at Madison Square Garden, and Dr. J went up and dunked and the crowd went crazy. It was like the basketball gods entered me right then. I knew that was what I wanted to do.”

O’Neal also makes sure to praise his mother Lucille throughout the episode, using her hard work while raising them as motivation and her happiness as his measuring stick for success.

“My definition of being rich is seeing a beautiful black woman, Dr. Lucille O’Neal, wake up, cook a hell of a breakfast, make sure we were fresh, take us to and pick us up from school, and make a hell of a dinner,” said O’Neal. “We would go buy a nice house and I could see in her eyes, that’s what she wanted. So my definition of being rich is being able to buy my mama whatever she wants…She’s the woman who sacrificed everything for me when we didn’t have nothing. Being able to get her whatever she wants, it’s the best feeling in the world.”

The conversation stays on family, giving O’Neal a chance to open up for the first time about his 2011 divorce from his ex-wife Shaunie, including the blame that he shoulders for the situation and how he eventually was able to motivate himself to move forward with his life.

“I never talked about this and I’m glad you guys asked, but I was bad,” explained O’Neal. “She was awesome and I was really bad. I wasn’t protecting her and I wasn’t protecting those vows. She did exactly what she was supposed to do.

“The best feeling was coming home and hearing five or six different voices. I was just being greedy. I had the perfect situation. Wife was finer than a mug. I had it all. I don’t make excuses. I know I messed up. I was lost. In a 76,000 square foot house by myself. Lost…I said to myself, you’re not married, but you still need to provide for this family. Get your ass up and man up. What are you going to do next?”

O’Neal was able to find that next step through his many ventures outside of basketball, including numerous investments that take up his time outside of his TNT duties. For O’Neal, he took a similar motivation from the basketball world into those business ventures.

“I like proving people wrong,” said O’Neal. “I like doing good business. I like meeting outstanding people and I just try to navigate positively in the world. I realized that if you started winning, you could walk into any restaurant and eat for free and do anything you want.”

Naturally, the discussion turns to basketball and specifically his early career with Penny Hardaway and the Orlando Magic. O’Neal initially tells a story of how he pushed Magic management to draft Hardaway, before explaining how the Hardaway situation turned into one of his few regrets.

“Penny and I were two young superstars who let other people get into our heads,” said O’Neal. “I was thinking we were the next Magic and Kareem. The problems started happening when people started say ‘who’s shit this was?’ Instead of being about the team…So when I got the Lakers contract, my agent told me Orlando wasn’t going to match, so I signed right there.

“I think if I slash we, didn’t have those egos, we could have worked that out. Because Penny was Kobe before Kobe. That’s something I always think about, because I could have stayed there, ended up there long term and owned a piece of the team.”

After O’Neal moved on to the Los Angeles Lakers, he endured a higher profile, more obligations and pressure. He tells the hosts about the unlikely source that helped him learn how to tune out the criticism that came with his high-profile position.

“When I was losing in L.A., I would get all of the flack and it made me go crazy,” said O’Neal. “The team had me meet with a nuclear physicist, his name was Burt, and he made me watch the movie ‘The Fan.’ The whole thing in that movie is that Wesley Snipes’ character just doesn’t care. So, Burt asked me why I cared so much what other people wrote and said? Once I stopped caring, I took off.

“He told me that I should have one hand stress. I only care about what my mama says, what my kids think, if it’s going to mess up the money and what my boys think,” continued O’Neal, while counting fingers. “If the nobody can influence the somebody, then the nobody wins.”

In discussing his time in Los Angeles, the group pushes O’Neal into talking about his time with Bryant, and how their rocky relationship was maintained enough for them to win three championships before O’Neal’s Lakers career ended in 2004.

“We’ll always go down as the most enigmatic, most dominant and controversial one-two punch, big and little, ever,” said O’Neal. “Let’s talk about it in street terms. I had the block for a long time, but there’s another kid with the potential to run the block and he wants your block. He always kept me on my toes. If he got 25 points, I have to get 40.

“Our relationship was perfect and not perfect. It was perfect because we made each other play at a certain level and we were able to win three titles. Did we get along all the time on the court? No, but that’s how it is in sports…As a leader, you either focus on the task or the relationship. As a leader, I focused on the task.”

That task led to those three-straight championships and legendary status as a team and as a duo. Despite the accomplishments that many predict they would have achieved had they stayed together longer, O’Neal claims that he wouldn’t have changed anything he did during their careers.

“People thought it was worse than it was, but it was just two brothers with differences of opinion. I always tell people, watch after we won that first championship. When I have my arms raised, who’s the first person that jumps into my arms? If we hated each other, how’d we have that moment? The thing that kept us going was the respect.”

For O’Neal, the regrets regarding his relationship with Bryant stem from after their playing careers. Never fully squashing the beef between the two legends is something that still haunts O’Neal to this day, exacerbated by Bryant’s untimely passing coming just days after his sister passed away.

“I wish we could have communicated more, because I still have sleepless nights,” said O’Neal. “I was hit with a double whammy, because my sister passed away first, right before Kobe. I’m quick to say, I have to go do this podcast, I’ll call him later, and then never do it.

“I called my guy at the sheriff office, he confirmed it, and I started crying. I’m like goddamnit, I didn’t even holler at him. We did the sit down that everyone was waiting for, and that’s the last time we talked. I didn’t get the number, I didn’t call him, I didn’t text him, and that still haunts me. All the shit we went through, we could have shook hands and put it aside…I think about it all of the time, I have pictures of him in my house that I see and…I just can’t sleep.”

As one of the most famous Lakers of all-time, O’Neal is also asked about the recent struggles of the team, who missed the playoffs this past season. Despite sporting superstars in LeBron James and Anthony Davis, O’Neal believes there is much work that needs to be done to return the team to the Shaq and Kobe Lakers era glory.

“The only knock on LeBron is that they don’t fear him anymore,” said O’Neal. “He’s older, so these young guys like a Ja Morant, they don’t fear him. Then you have a guy like Davis, who’s supposed to be carrying them, and he’s in street clothes. You have to look at the people at the top. I really think they need to get some younger guys in there around LeBron.”

After some more conversation on the current state of the game, the podcast hosts ask a similar question to what they pose to all of their guests. Clark asks what O’Neal has learned from a defining moment or “pivot” in his life, ending the episode on another poignant note that goes beyond surface level with one of sports’ biggest stars, as O’Neal once again gives his mother props for being his guiding light morally.

“You just have to realize that just because things you do make you seem perfect, you’re not perfect,” said O’Neal. “That was a big mistake in my relationship with Penny, big mistake in my relationship with Kobe and a horrible mistake in both marriages. Other than that, I don’t really dwell on a lot…I’m glad that I’ve lived my life and I’ve done it my way.

“I’ll know that I’ve made a mistake when I get the call from the woman of my dreams, Dr. Lucille O’Neal. Then I’ll correct it. If she calls me and says ‘baby, don’t do that,’ I’ll correct it. But if I don’t get that call, it doesn’t matter to me.”

Bertans on Doncic: ”Everybody understands what he’s doing right now is incredible’

The Dallas Mavericks keep on winning at home, and for the sixth time this season, they led from start to finish as they defeated the LeBron James-less(ankle) Lakers 128-110 Tuesday night at American Airlines Center.

The Mavericks improved to 19-4 in their last 23 games at home. 

Dallas, who shot 52% from the floor, improved to 19-0 when they shoot 50.0% or better from the field. In addition, the Mavericks also had seven players score in double figures.

Luka Doncic made history Tuesday night as he recorded his 21st career 30-point triple-double, tying Wilt Chamberlain for the fifth-most in NBA history, with 34 points, 12 rebounds, and 12 assists. 

After the win over the Lakers, Doncic reacted to tying Chamberlain for fifth-most 30-point career triple-doubles.

“I just hope there are many more,” Doncic said post-game. “I don’t know what to say. I am just grateful to be here. I remember on draft night; I just wanted to be picked in the NBA. I never anticipate, I just keep working and hopefully, one day, will win a championship.”

Doncic has led the Mavericks in points, rebounds, and assists in the same game 29 times this season, and Davis Bertans, who had 14 points, including four threes against the Lakers, says Doncic’s play is making everyone better.

“Of course, everybody understands what he’s doing right now is incredible,” Bertans said. “But at the same, he’s kind of spoiled everybody on this team, but I think all the fans and everybody that loves his game. The game comes to him; it just seems to come so simple. Which is more important, he’s actually making everybody around him better. It’s one thing to put up stats, but the other thing is because of him he’s going to score thirty, but because of him probably guys score another forty, fifty points in a game.”

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel added on Doncic: “The Luka Doncic pick-and-roll is as tough to prepare for and to slow down as any in the league.”

The fourth-seeded Mavs(47-29) are now two games up on the fifth seed, the Utah Jazz(45-31), and one game behind the third-seeded Warriors(48-28), so with six games left, Dallas wants to at least stay at the fourth spot and, if things work out, get as high as three in the West.  

Dallas starts a four-game road trip in Cleveland against the Cavs Thursday night. 

Watch below as Bertans talks win over Lakers, Doncic, and more:

 



 

 

Cavs had no answers for ‘The King’

There was a familiar face back in Cleveland Monday as LeBron James, and the Lakers were in town to battle the Cavaliers.

Cleveland got the start they wanted as they had their largest lead of 14 points in the first, but the Lakers have a King, and behind a James’ triple-double of 38 points, 11 rebounds, and a season-high 12 assists, the Lakers defeated the Cavs 131-120 to sweep the season-series.

James even had this vicious dunk on his former teammate Kevin Love:

Cleveland(41-31) finished their five-game homestand 3-2, while the Lakers(31-41) went 2-2 on their four-game road trip.

Here’s the Great, Not So Great, and the Bottom Line of the Cavs’ loss to the Lakers.

The Great for the Cavs:

-Darius Garland played at an elite level Monday night. He had 29 points and 17 assists, with only one turnover. This was Garland’s third straight game of 24-plus points and 12-plus assists, which ties a team record held by James.

-Lauri Markkanen had 18 points and nine rebounds. Markkanen has been in double figures in seven of the last eight games.

-For the second consecutive game, Lamar Stevens was in double figures as he had 16 points and six rebounds.

-Cavs’ Offense: Cleveland had six players in double figures, including all five starters. In addition, the Cavs shot 52% from the floor. Cleveland had 52 points in the paint and scored 120, which would probably equate to a victory on most nights.

The Not So Great for the Cavs:

Fourth Quarter: Cleveland took a 97-96 lead into the fourth, but the Lakers dominated from there. Los Angeles got 13 points from James and 12 points from Stanley Johnson in the quarter. Also, the Lakers shot 65% from the field, and they got anywhere they wanted on the floor. The Lakers outscored Cleveland 35-23 in the final stanza.

Defense: According to Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, the defense was “terrible.” The last time the Cavs allowed over 130 points was when they lost to Memphis(132) in the season-opener. The Lakers scored 64 points in the paint and shot 56% from the field. Just like the Cavs, they had six players in double figures.

Coming into this game, Cleveland was third in points allowed, but the defense was lacking Monday night. 

Second Quarter: Cleveland led 35-28 after the first quarter, but the Laker stormed back in the second. Los Angeles shot 71% from the field, including 57% from downtown in the quarter. After the Cavs pushed the lead to eight, Los Angeles went on a 16-7 run to take their first lead of the game(46-45). Cleveland struggled from deep in the second as they shot 3/14 from behind the arc. Los Angeles outscored Cleveland 39-27 in the second and took a 67-62 lead at the break.

Bottom Line:

LeBron James was on another level Monday night, which often happens when he returns to Cleveland. In addition, the Cavs’ defense was just not very good.

This was a very winnable game for the Cavs. Coming into this contest, the Lakers had dropped six of eight and were 10-24 on the road, so again, Cleveland should have won.

With the loss, the sixth-seeded Cavs are now one game up on the seventh-seeded Raptors(40-32), who they will battle in a big one Thursday night.

What’s Next:

Cleveland heads to Toronto to battle the Raptors Thursday night.

Best of the Rest:

-Isaac Okoro was 4/4 from three-point range and scored 12 points for Cleveland; Caris LeVert had 13 points off the bench.

Russell Westbrook had 20 points and 11 assists; D.J. Augustin was 7/7 from the field, including 6/6 from three-point range and finished with 20 points off the bench.

-James, who spent 11 seasons in Cleveland and led the team to their only NBA title, is now 17-1 against the Cavs in his career. In those 18 games, he’s averaging 29.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 7.4 assists per contest.

Watch below as Garland and Stevens react to the loss to Los Angeles:

 

 

 

Steph Curry puts on a show in Cleveland

Steph Curry put on a show Sunday night and put a bow on All-Star Weekend in Cleveland. Curry had 50 points on 17/30 shooting from the floor, including 16/27 from three-point range as Team LeBron defeated Team Durant 163-160 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

Cleveland fans booed Curry throughout All-Star Weekend, but he turned to jeers to cheers after this special performance.

The 16 threes are an All-Star game record, and he fell two points short of the All-Star record of 52 points, which Anthony Davis set in 2017.

Curry has done a lot during his NBA career. He’s won two regular-season MVPs, three NBA titles, but he’s never won an All-Star MVP. After his fantastic performance, Curry became the first recipient of the Kobe Bryant Trophy as he was named All-Star MVP.

“This is definitely special,” Curry said. “The first year you got to honor Kobe and his life and his legacy with this trophy. All the thought that went into it. I can’t spit it off the top I my head, but I know that everything on this trophy means something in terms of his life and what he represented, accomplishments on the court, and to have it be an All-Star MVP trophy and for it to be the first one, it definitely makes it special. I’ve only won one, and to have this one, it will have a special place at my house.”

Both Curry and LeBron James were born in the same hospital in Akron, Ohio, and it was fitting that James, who spent many years with the Cavaliers, would be the guy that hit the game-winner, which Curry discussed postgame.

“Yeah, I told him on the court after the game it was kind of a perfect ending,” Curry said. “I was chasing that extra two or three points. I think DeMar(DeRozan) hit a big shot, and then he came out and hit the game-winner. It was kind of a perfect ending. Obviously, I got the MVP; I played well the whole night. He hit the game-winner. All the history of our series and the Akron ties, and all that kind of going into how the night went, so it was pretty — can’t really draw it up any other way. It’s right on the nose of how it should go.”

At halftime, the NBA, which is celebrating its 75th season, honored the top 75 players in league history, and Curry, who was on the list, enjoyed being around some of the greats of the game.

“It definitely took me back to just growing up watching the game,” he said. “There was a moment we were out there; we didn’t want to leave the stage. I don’t know if anybody saw. I was just enjoying the moment. With me, D-Wade, CP, Bron, Giannis. Somebody else was over there. We were all kind of just acknowledging how we were like kids in a candy store laughing and just what was actually happening and what that accomplishment actually means, and you look around and see all-time greats that we looked up to coming up in the game.

“I couldn’t stop smiling. I don’t think I will for a while. You see the names on the list, and you understand and appreciate when the announcement came out that you made the team and all that, but when you see them in person, and you feel like the aura of what they were and are in terms of history of the game, it’s just a whole different experience. That was special.”

The Warriors(42-17) are 6.5 games behind the Suns(48-10) for the top spot in the Western Conference. Golden State is expected to get back All-Star Draymond Green and James Wiseman, and Curry is excited about what the Warriors could be going forward.

“All we can do is control what we can control, and I feel like we’ve done a pretty good job of that so far,” Curry said. “Like you said, we’ve had a lot of injuries, and we haven’t been whole in a very long time. When Klay(Thompson) came back, Draymond was out the same night—still waiting on the three of us to take the floor again. But it’s all kind of shaping up to try to peak at the right time. Hopefully, Draymond is back quick. Still got Wise (James Wiseman) on the burner, ready to make his appearance this year, and then figure out what our rotation is going to look like going into the best part of the year. But to be in that conversation again after last two years that we’ve had, I’m pretty rejuvenated and excited to be back in that atmosphere.”

The Suns will be without Chris Paul for the rest of the regular season, so maybe the Warriors could make a push for the top spot in the West in the final seven weeks of the season. No matter what happens with Phoenix, Golden State is a legitimate contender for an NBA title.

Cavs’ Mobley: ‘I feel like I’m pretty ahead of schedule so far’

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ three-game winning streak was snapped on Friday night as they fell to LeBron James and the Lakers 113-101 at Staples Center.

The game was tied at 54 at halftime, but the Lakers(3-3) pulled away in the fourth quarter to get the victory.

Here’s the Great, Not So Great, and Bottom Line of Cleveland’s loss to the Lakers.

The Great for the Cavaliers:

-Evan Mobley is the real deal. The rookie had a team-high 23 points and snatched six rebounds, and three assists in a team-high 36 minutes of action. This kid does not appear to get rattled, and according to him, he’s ahead of schedule, which could be scary for the rest of the league.

“I feel like I’m getting adjusted to the NBA pretty fast,” Mobley said postgame. “I feel like I’m pretty ahead of schedule so far.”

-Darius Garland had a double-double with 18 points and 11 assists(six turnovers). It was Garland’s second double-double of the season. 

-Lauri Markkanen had a season-high 17 points(7/14 FG) on Friday night, which included a season-high three three-pointers. Markkanen has struggled with his shot(30.5 FG%) thus far this season, so it’s good to see him put the ball in the basket.

-Ricky Rubio continues to bring it every night. He had 18 points, six rebounds, and four assists off the bench. What an acquisition for this team.  It’s early, but if Rubio keeps playing at this level, he could be in the discussion for Sixth-Man of the Year.

The Not so Great for the Cavaliers:

-Fourth-quarter: Cleveland trailed 88-85, heading into the fourth quarter. However, they went completely cold in the fourth. They shot 4/18(22%) from the field and were outscored 25-16 in the quarter. The Cavs took their last lead of 91-90 with just under eight minutes left, but the Lakers would go on a 10-0 run, and Cleveland never threatened after that.

-Defense: One of the reasons Cleveland won three straight was their defense. The Cavaliers held teams below 90 points and below 410% shooting from the floor in those three wins. However, the Lakers scored 113 points with 55% shooting. Los Angeles also had 60 points in the paint.

-After scoring 26 points against the Clippers on Wednesday night, Collin Sexton, the team’s leading scorer, was a non-factor against Los Angeles. He scored 9 points on 2/9 shooting.

Bottom Line:

This was not a bad loss for the Cavs. They competed against the Lakers, who you knew would be tough to beat after their loss to the Thunder on Wednesday. In addition, Cleveland kept it close and even had a lead in the fourth. The Cavs can hold their heads up high after this loss.

What’s Next:

Cleveland(3-3) continues their five-game road trip as they travel to Phoenix to battle the Western Conference Champions, the Suns(1-3), on Saturday night; Phoenix, who has lost two straight, is 0-2 at home this season.

Best of the Rest:

In his return from an ankle injury, LeBron James led the Lakers with 26 points, eights assists, and three rebounds; Carmelo Anthony added 24 points, including six three-pointers off the bench.

Watch below as Mobley, Rubio, and Markkanen react to loss against Lakers:

Lakers’ Howard on altercation with AD: ‘We squashed it right then and there’

The Los Angles Lakers added a few pieces to their team in the offseason. They brought in guys like Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, DeAndre Jordan and brought in two guys from their 2020 championship team in Dwight Howard and Rajon Rondo, but they have gotten off to a slow start.

On Friday, the Lakers(0-2) dropped their second straight game as they were defeated by the Suns(1-1) 115-105 at Staples Center.

The loss is not too concerning when you consider it’s only the second game of the season. However, what might be more concerning is what transpired on the team’s bench between Howard and Anthony Davis.

The two got into a shoving match in the second quarter after a Suns timeout. 

Watch below:

After the game, both Howard and Davis said it was squashed.

“We squashed it right then and there,” Howard said. “We just had a disagreement about something that was on the floor… We’re grown men, things happen. But we are going to squash this little issue between me and him, and that’s my brother, that’s my teammate.”

Davis, who had 22 points and 14 rebounds on Friday night, added: “After the situation happened, me and DH, we talked about it, and we left it at that.”

According to Davis, the argument started over an issue with their pick-and-roll defense.

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel says stuff like this happens when you’re losing:

“When you’re getting your a** kicked, sometimes those conversations get heated,” he said. “They talked it out, and that’s going to happen from time to time.”

Howard did not play in the second half, but Vogel said it had nothing to do with the incident with Davis.

In an 82-game season, stuff like this does happen. This could bring the Lakers closer, and we’ll see the impact this altercation may have on Los Angeles going forward.

Howard talks altercation with Davis:

Listen to Go4it! Guest: Ex-NBA player C.J. Watson

Former NBA player C.J. Watson talks Chris Paul, Trae Young, can the Bucks win the Finals without Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Watson believes that Derrick Rose is Hall of Famer, Ben Simmons has to shoot if he wants to be better, Dame Lillard’s future in Portland, can LeBron James win another title, and who is the best player in basketball?

C.J. talks Foundation and children’s books:

quietstormfoundation.org

cjpens.com

Listen below:

James on Davis: ‘My mindset is that he’s not going to be able to play in Game 6’

The Phoenix Suns are one game away from advancing to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs after routing the Lakers 115-85 in Game 5 at Phoenix Suns Arena on Tuesday night.

The Suns lead the series 3-2 with a chance to close out the defending champions on Thursday night at Staples Center.

Devin Booker led the Suns with 30 points, and Cameron Payne, who continues to play well in the series, added 16 points off the bench.

Phoenix led by eight after one quarter and took a 66-36 halftime lead. The Suns led by as many as 36 points in this contest.

Phoenix got a little scare in the third quarter when Chris Paul appeared to re-injure his shoulder after trying to box out Wesley Matthews. Paul would leave the game and did not return. 

However, after the game, Paul seemed pretty confident that he would be good to go for Game 6.

‘It’s a little banged up, but I’ll be all right,” Paul said about his shoulder.

The Suns are clearly a better team with Paul on the court, while the Lakers are clearly a worse team when Anthony Davis is not on the court. Davis, who missed most of Game 4 and all of Game 5 due to a groin injury, is hoping to get back on the court for Game 6. 

But, according to LeBron James, who led the Lakers with 24 points on Thursday night, he’s going to prepare for Game 6 like Davis will not be there.

“My mindset is that he’s not going to be able to play in Game 6,” James said. “If something changes, then we’ll go from there. But I’m preparing as if he’s not.”

The Lakers cannot win this series with Davis in street clothes, so they need him on the court to beat the Suns, especially if Paul is healthy. However, never underestimate the heart of a champion. Expect Los Angeles to get a big-time effort out of James and the rest of the Lakers, but it might not be enough without Davis.

Notes:

Lakers’ Dennis Schroder struggled on Tuesday night. He finished 0/9 from the field with zero points and one assist.

Lakers use big third quarter to defeat Suns in Game 3

The Los Angeles Lakers had their first home playoff game in eight years at Staples Center, and they took full advantage of it. Behind Anthony Davis’ 34 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists, and LeBron James’ 21 points, nine assists, and six rebounds. The Lakers defeated the Suns 109-95 in Game 3 of their first-round best of seven game series.

Deandre Ayton led the Suns with 22 points and 11 rebounds, and Booker scored 19 points.

The Lakers lead the series 2-1. Game 4 is Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles. This game turned in the third quarter. The Lakers outscored the Suns by 10 points and led by as many as 17 points in the third. Davis scored 18 points in the quarter, while James added 10 points. The Lakers never looked back, and now they have control of this series.

There were a lot of interesting subplots in this game. In the fourth quarter, LeBron James went head-to-head with Phoenix’s Jae Crowder and scored on a reverse layup, which excited the Lakers bench and the Staples Center crowd. Crowder would be ejected in the fourth. Also, late in the fourth, Booker would get ejected after being called for a Flagrant two foul. Booker shoved Dennis Schroder, who had 20 points in Game 3, while he was in the air. 

“That wasn’t a basketball play, and regular season, it’s probably a suspension as well,” Schroder said after the game.

“It’s a dirty play,” Davis said. “Dennis could’ve really gotten hurt right there.”

James added: “I thought the play wasn’t a basketball play.”

Suns PG Chris Paul, who is battling a shoulder injury, came into Thursday’s action 0-10 in playoffs games refereed by Scott Foster. After losing to the Lakers, Paul is now 0-11 in games officiated by Foster.

Paul never mentioned Foster by name, but at the end of his post-game interview, Paul had this to say:

“11 in a row.”

Watching Paul, who had seven points, six assists, and five rebounds in Game 3, struggle is brutal. Phoenix may have to make a tough decision and sit Paul down because right now, he has been ineffective. In his place, Cameron Payne has played well. Payne scored 15 points and dished out six assists on Thursday night and had a strong Game 2, so it might be time to turn to Payne.

It should be interesting to see how Paul and the Suns respond in Game 4 on Sunday, which is a must-win situation for this team.