The Los Angeles Lakers looked lethargic and hesitant in the first half of the team’s play-in tournament victory over the Golden State Warriors earlier this week.
But after some strong words during halftime from veteran teammates like Markieff Morris and Jared Dudley, the Lakers turned things around in the second half, overcoming a 13-point deficit for the victory.
Lakers big man Anthony Davis said his team can’t afford to start tentative again in Game 1 of L.A.’s first-round matchup against the Phoenix Suns on the road Sunday.
“We have to come out with more urgency on both ends of the floor,” Davis said. “We missed a ton of lay-ups, easy shots (vs. Golden State). We didn’t have the juice on the defensive end that we need, to not put ourselves in a hole to start the game.
“If we come out against Phoenix like we did the last time we played them, bring that type of energy and that type of juice on both ends of the floor, then we should be good. But we can’t allow ourselves to be in the hole like we did against Golden State in the first five or six minutes, because it’s tough to turn that around.”
As the No. 7 seed, the Lakers are technically the underdogs heading into the series against the No. 2 seed in Phoenix. However, the Lakers are the defending champs with perhaps the best player in the game in LeBron James.
James said on Friday that his right ankle feels fine and is not a concern.
Davis said it will be important to try and steal Game 1, re-gaining homecourt advantage with a win on road against Phoenix.
“When you’re on the road, it puts a lot more pressure on the higher seed -- on a team that has home-court advantage,” Davis said. “If you’re able to steal that, it’s a better sign for you, and you just need to take care of business at home. Our mindset is to take Game 1, take that home-court advantage and it can benefit us at the end.”
While James agrees with Davis on the need to play with more urgency on Sunday, Game 1 also provides some important intel for the 36-year-old at the start of a series.
“Game 1 has always been like a learning experience for me,” James said. “It kind of sets the table to know what to expect, to know what to look for, for the rest the series. Obviously, there’s going to be adjustments with coaches and players. Everyone adjusts, but it kind of sets the table.
“It’s kind of a feel-out game for me, personally. But for our team, it’s not a feel-out game. We want to come and play how we played in the second half of this last game against the Warriors.”
James will face good friend Chris Paul for the first time during the postseason. While James holds four NBA titles and Paul has yet to win one, he doesn’t use his rings to trash talk the 36-year-old point guard when they are hanging out in the offseason.
“I think that’s very shallow, beneath me personally,” James said.
James hold Paul in high regard when it comes to battling it out to see if the Lakers or the Suns will move on, comparing Phoenix’s crafty point guard to facing veteran, high-level competitors like Rajon Rando and Draymond Green
“You have those out-of-this world, high IQ guys that are fierce competitors at the same time,” James said. “Every time I face Rondo in the past, I knew I had to be on my ‘A’ Game -- not only for my game but for my mind as well. And it’s the same for Draymond every time you’re going against those Warriors’ teams.
“So, I’ve had experience with those two guys, so that will definitely help me in matching up with CP (Paul) because I know the competitor the IQ of a basketball player he is.”