Healthier Suns, hurting Lakers make for 1st-round intrigue

Chris Paul is feeling better and looking much more like the "Point God" that’s helped make the Suns one of the NBA’s best teams this season.

Anthony Davis is hurting and it’s unclear if the Lakers star forward will be available for a crucial Game 5 on Tuesday night in Phoenix.

The Suns-Lakers series has lived up to the hype as one of the most intriguing matchups of the first round of the NBA playoffs. But instead of focusing on the stars on the floor, the chess match between Suns coach Monty Williams and Lakers coach Frank Vogel is having a bigger impact than expected.


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"It’s a roller coaster," Williams said. "When you’re in the playoffs, and you have time in between games, you can’t even imagine the thought processes that go into what your rotation is going to be like, how it’s going to affect the team, making the right decision on who to fill those minutes for that particular player. There’s a lot that goes on.

"We just don’t take health for granted."

Coming into the series, the Suns were relying on an All-Star backcourt of Paul and Devin Booker while the Lakers countered with All-Stars LeBron James and Davis.

But Paul hurt his shoulder in Game 1 and was obviously limited for the next two games. Only on Sunday in Game 4 did the 36-year-old start to look like himself, scoring 18 points and dishing nine assists in an 100-92 win in LA. Other Suns players — like Cameron Payne and Deandre Ayton — have had to step up.

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For the Lakers, Davis didn’t return in the second half because of a left groin strain. If he can’t go in Game 5, it will be up to others like Kyle Kuzma, Andre Drummond and Marc Gasol to pick up the slack.

Of course, there’s always the chance that LeBron could just will the Lakers to victory, as he’s done so many times in his career.

"It’s next man up, and obviously if (Davis) is not ready for Game 5, it’s going to be a tough boat for our ballclub, but it’s next man up, and we’re going to have to be that way in a hostile environment," James said.