Would you believe me if I told you that the upcoming matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns was the first time friends Chris Paul and LeBron James collided? I mean, I guess you can considering James has only been in the west for three seasons now while Paul has been there his entire career.
After James and the Lakers beat Curry and the Warriors in last night’s thriller play-in game, the two 36-year-olds will be facing off in the postseason for the very first time of their illustrious careers.
The Lakers played the Suns three times this season. James was only active for one of those contests due to his unusual ankle injury. In that lone game, James dropped 38 points, six assists, five rebounds, two steals and one block. Paul had obviously seen better performances statistically with eight points, five rebounds, 10 assists and one block, but like the floor general normally does, he controlled the game and got the victory.
James, in 28 games against his buddy, averages 24.9 points, 7.4 dimes, 6.7 boards and almost two steals at a shooting clip of 49.4/33.6/68.9%. Paul averages 16.5 points, 9.4 assists, 4.9 rebounds and also almost two steals versus James while shooting 42.9/33.7/90.8. James has the slight edge record-wise in the head-to-head matchup at 15-13.
Before James’ injury back in March, the four-time champion was one of the main candidates for MVP. In year 18, at this point, do we expect anything less than 25 points, 7.7 rebounds, 7.8 assists and a steal on 51.3/36.5/69.8? Arguably the greatest player in the history of basketball is about to enter the toughest path he’s had to go through en route to his 11th Finals appearance.
The, “Chris Paul effect,” was certainly on full-display for the Suns this year as they definitely exceeded expectations, finishing 51-21 (second in west). CP3 put up 16.4 points, 8.9 assists, and 4.5 boards with a steal. Only missing two games on the season, Paul shot about 50% from the field, 39.5 from three and 93.4 from the free-throw line.
The NBA posted this prior to the March 2nd matchup between the two leaders.
It is extremely difficult to bet against James, especially with the championship experience that some of the Laker roster has has so therefore, I will not. Los Angeles should take down Phoenix in six or seven, but with how the Lakers looked last night and how this season has gone, don’t be surprised if the Suns are out for blood.
“It’s a beautiful thing,” James said. “Our journeys, we’ve been playing this game at such a high level for a long time and I’ve always rooted for him, for D Wade, for Melo to succeed. It’s gonna be pretty cool just to be on the same floor competing. One of the most fierce competitors that this game has had over his career.”
Photo: (Jesse D. Garrabrant – NBAE via Getty Images)