LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers will be seeing the Phoenix Suns and Chris Paul in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, marking the first postseason meeting between the two friends and future Hall of Famers.
James called the matchup with Paul, one of his closest friends in the NBA, a “beautiful thing.”
“Our journeys, we’ve been playing this game at such a high level for a long time,” James told reporters on Wednesday after dispatching the Golden State Warriors in the play-in game. “I’ve always rooted for him, for D-Wade, for Melo to succeed. Got an opportunity to play against Melo in the playoffs a few times. I never got the opportunity to play against D-Wade in the postseason … obviously had a great four-year run (together) in Miami. It’s going to be pretty cool just to be on the same floor competing. One of the most fierce competitors this game has had over his career. Looking forward to the matchup.”
Paul has helped lead the shift in Phoenix, which went from a sub-.500 squad to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. Paul is averaging 16.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 8.9 assists this season, playing 36 minutes per game.
Chris Paul Knows the Western Conference is a Gauntlet
Paul hasn’t spoken directly about the matchup with the Lakers, although he was asked about the possibility of seeing the defending champs early in the playoffs previously.
“I’ve been in the West my whole career,” Paul said. “West ain’t never been easy. I don’t care who you playing, or what series it is, or what game it is. When I played in New Orleans I was in a division with Memphis, Houston with Yao and T-Mac, and Dallas when they were nice with Dirk and Stackhouse and all them. The West has always been a beast. When you try to match up with someone else, you can get it handed it you. You can’t duck nobody if you really think that you can win it all. You got it go through it.”
The Lakers are an especially scary No. 7 seed, with James and Anthony Davis finally getting healthy after a rough regular season that was riddled with injuries. The odds have the defending champs as -220 favorites to win the series against the Suns, per The Action Network.
Lakers, Anthony Davis Prepared to go With Smaller Lineup
The Lakers have a good problem, in that some quality players sometimes do not see the court as much as they should due to the team’s depth.
While Andre Drummond started at center against the Warriors, he played just 17 minutes, a low since his first game with the Lakers. Davis logged the majority of minutes at center and said there are no hard feelings in the locker room over the rotation.
“The good thing about our team is everyone knows their role,” Davis told reporters. “If we make an adjustment mid-game where we go small and I’m at the five, no one is complaining. No one is upset because at the end of the day it’s all about winning. So he understood that. [Drummond] understood, had no problem, he was up on the bench cheering for us and helping us out with his perspective on the floor and we was able to get the win.
“The locker room is great. We’ve got a great group of guys who understand that, same way as last year. So there might be other games where we do the same thing. There might be games where we go big with Drum at the five and I’m at the four. It’s all about matchups, and tonight was one of those nights.”
The Lakers and Suns tip off their series on Sunday in Phoenix.
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