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Lakers vs. Suns Game 1: Live stream info, watch online, TV channel, odds, start time, prediction

LeBron James and Chris Paul have been close friends since their NBA careers began, but in their first 15 years together in the league, they never once faced off in the postseason. That is about to change. Now that James has joined Paul in the Western Conference and they both play for contenders at the same time, they can lead their teams against one another in one of the most anticipated first-round series in quite some time. 

Despite having the second-best record in basketball and home-court advantage, the Phoenix Suns have opened the series as underdogs to the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. Now that James and Anthony Davis have returned to the floor and the Lakers are starting to look healthy, their title defense will begin against one of this season’s best teams and one of this generation’s best floor generals. Here’s how you can tune into Sunday’s action

(2) Phoenix Suns vs. (7) Los Angeles Lakers

  • Date: Sunday, May 23 | Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Location: Phoenix Suns Arena — Phoenix, Arizona 
  • TV: ABC | Live stream: WatchESPN
  • Odds: LAL +125; PHO -145; O/U 213 (via William Hill Sportsbook) 

Featured Game | Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Lakers

Storylines

Lakers: How healthy is James? That’s a loaded question. He’s healthy enough to play. He even posted a triple-double in the Lakers’ play-in victory over the Golden State Warriors, but he scored only six points in an ugly second half. Aside from a few highlights, he didn’t look nearly as explosive as he typically would be at this point in the season. How many times have you seen LeBron blocked twice in the same half?

He’ll be put to the test right away by a Phoenix team that boasts one of the best collections of wing defenders in basketball. Possible All-Defense selection Mikal Bridges will likely get the assignment early on. Longtime playoff opponent Jae Crowder will also see time on James, and Torrey Craig will get a look as well if he can stay in the game offensively. LeBron can’t ease his way back into shape against this team. The Lakers rely on him so heavily for offensive shot-creation that a compromised version of him against these defenders could be disastrous. He’ll need to look mostly like his old self from the start for the Lakers to put away such a strong Suns team.

Suns: Can Phoenix overcome its inexperience? Paul has seen it all in the playoffs, and Crowder has been through his share of battles as well, but after those two? This is going to be new to the bulk of the Suns’ roster. Bridges, Deandre Ayton, Devin Booker, Jevon Carter and Cam Johnson will make their playoff debuts on Sunday. Cam Payne, Frank Kaminsky and Dario Saric have all played token minutes in the postseason, but are hardly experienced there. 

Literally, every member of the Lakers roster has played in the playoffs before. Many won championships in purple and gold last season. Even if James isn’t at full strength yet, there isn’t a player in basketball you’d want to see less in your first playoff game than LeBron, and when you factor in the matchup advantages Anthony Davis gives Los Angeles, the Suns are going to have to jump from zero to 60 very, very quickly.

Prediction

The Lakers lost Game 1 of their first two series last season, and with James still not back to 100 percent, they’re likely going to get stronger as this series progresses. That’s not particularly rare for LeBron anyway. He tends to struggle in Game 1’s, at least relative to his typical greatness. 

The Lakers are fair favorites in the series as a whole, but they’re vulnerable in these first two games in Phoenix. The Suns are the right pick for Game 1. Suns -2.5.



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