Week 2 of the NFL saw a number of star players from across the league go down to injuries, including season ending ones for Saquon Barkley and Courtland Sutton.
With so many fantasy relevant players going down in both the short and long term, FindBet hopes to give you some ideas on replacing your battered and bruised. Last week we rounded up the highlights and fantasy tips from Week 1. This week we're splitting the Week 2 slate into two pieces, but let's get started with the Thursday Night Football game in the Battle of Ohio.
Cincinnati Bengals - 30 vs. Cleveland Browns - 35
The Thursday night game featured Joe Burrow and Baker Mayfield, both Heisman Award winners and first overall selections in their respective NFL Drafts. Neither disappointed; however, it was the two-headed monster in Cleveland's backfield of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt that stole the show.
Chubb ran for 124 yards and 2 scores on 22 carries, while Hunt contributed 86 rushing yards, a rushing touchdown, and also caught a touchdown from Mayfield. Mayfield finished with 219 yards, 2 touchdowns, and a pick. Odell Beckham also bounced back from a poor Week 1 performance and posted 74 yards and a touchdown on 4 catches. Beckham led the team in targets for a second consecutive week. Chubb and Hunt, though, are proving that fantasy owners of either back should feel confident starting them on a weekly basis, as Kevin Stefanski looks determined to get them both involved in any game script.
On the other side, Joe Burrow had 316 passing yards and threw 3 touchdowns while looking very poised as he attempted to bring his Bengals back from a big deficit late in the game, which he nearly accomplished. As Joe Mixon was largely kept in check by the Browns defense, he finished with 46 yards on the ground and 40 receiving yards on 4 catches, it was up to Burrow and the passing game to make the comeback. AJ Green was targeted 13 times but only managed to haul in 3 catches for 29 yards. Tyler Boyd led the team with 72 yards and a receiving TD. Tight end CJ Uzomah went out with an achilles injury and is out for the season. Drew Sample replaced him and played well catching 7 balls for 45 yards.
New York Giants - 13 vs. Chicago Bears - 17
The Bears have somehow started the season 2-0, despite Mitch Trubisky's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde performances in the first two weeks of the season. Last week against the Lions, Trubisky overcame a rough first half to lead Chicago to a comeback victory with a game winning throw to Anthony Miller. Week 2 saw the Bears build up a 17 - 0 lead at halftime with Trubisky tossing 2 scores, one to David Montgomery and the other to Darnell Mooney.
In the second half, however, the offense stalled, and the Bears didn't manage a single point, almost allowing the Giants to make a comeback. Nobody on Chicago stood out from a fantasy perspective outside of Montgomery, who finished with 82 rushing yards and added 45 yards through the air with the aforementioned receiving TD. Even their lead wide receiver, Allen Robinson, struggled to get anything going as Trubisky struggled; he saw 9 targets but only produced 33 yards on 3 catches. Anthony Miller, last week's hero, had zero catches on three targets.
Saquon Barkley tore his ACL and is out for the season, the Giants confirmed. https://t.co/MFXukEyjZG— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter)1600704426.0
Daniel Jones nearly brought his team all the way back to erase that 17 point halftime deficit, but he came up just short as the offense scrambled to find its identity after the injury to Saquon Barkley early in the game. New York's only touchdown came from Dion Lewis, who replaced Barkley but wasn't efficient as a runner averaging only 2 yards per carry. Evan Engram led the Giants in targets (8), receptions (6), and yards (65). Barkley led the team in rushing yards with 28.
The real story here is the injury to Barkley, and it's been reported that he will miss the remainder of the season due to a torn ACL. There have been rumors about the Giants and Devonta Freeman being in contact and would be a decent landing spot for him considering the opportunities that are left.
San Francisco 49'ers - 31 vs. New York Jets - 13
The game started off with Raheem Mostert breaking an 80 yard touchdown run for the 49'ers and the points continued to add up; but unfortunately for San Fran, so did the number of players on their injury list. The 49'ers saw star defensive lineman Nick Bosa carted off, starting running back Raheem Mostert left with a knee injury in the first half, and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was forced out with an apparent high ankle sprain. This adds to existing injuries to Dee Ford, Richard Sherman, Deebo Samuel, and George Kittle.
Luckily for them, they faced the Jets, who were without their star running back Le'Veon Bell, and who we saw struggle against Buffalo in Week 1. Garoppolo was very effective when he did play, completing 14 of 16 attempts for 131 yards and 2 touchdown throws. Mostert also did well in his limited action and led the team in rushing with 92 yards over 8 attempts, but Jerick McKinnon filled in nicely as a home run hitter for the Niners going for a 55 yard scamper and ended his day with 77 yards and a rushing touchdown.
McKinnon looked far better than Tevin Coleman, who was given opportunities (14 carries) but was only able to muster 12 yards on the ground and 28 receiving yards on 2 catches. Speaking of catches, Jordan Reed has resurrected himself in the Bay and caught 7 balls for 50 yards and 2 scores. Depending on the health of George Kittle, Reed has shown he is a solid fit in this offense, and provides some depth at the position for the team.
Me celebrating the 49ers win after all of the injuries https://t.co/Kt4zaeRvh5— Tessa (@Tessa)1600632040.0
The Jets have looked underwhelming for the second consecutive week, but the most concerning thing about the Jets' performances has been Sam Darnold not looking like a starting quarterback in this league. Outside of hitting Braxton Berrios for a 30 yard touchdown with only 1:33 left in the game, long after the game had already been decided, Darnold would have finished with 149 passing yards and zero touchdowns. Considering the number of starters that were missing from the opposition's defense, combined with the Jets needing to pass more in the second half to catch up, Darnold needed to be better and he was unable to rise to the occasion.
Tight end Chris Herndon was getting rave reviews and compliments during the offseason camps, but he has been nearly invisible on the stat sheet, finishing this game with only 1 catch for 5 yards. The Jets should look to get him more involved off of play action to take some pressure off of Frank Gore and their running game until Bell is able to come back. Until further notice, fade everyone on the Jets offense.
Detroit Lions - 21 vs. Green Bay Packers - 42
Most rushing yards in Week 2: 🔹 Aaron Jones - 168 🔹 Nick Chubb - 124 🔹 Aaron Jones AFTER CONTACT - 116 🔹 James Con… https://t.co/Oq5wLVwT0P— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF Fantasy Football)1600696923.0
The Packers have scored over 40 points in both of their games so far in the 2020 season, and they've shown the ability to do it in a number of different ways. While Coach Matt LaFleur and the Packers front office made some questionable decisions during the draft and ignored bringing in more ancillary talent around Aaron Rodgers, the talent that they already had in Rodgers, running back Aaron Jones and wide receiver Davante Adams seems good enough to carry the rest of the team.
Rodgers was the star from Week 1 throwing 4 touchdowns; but not to be outdone, the NFL TD leader from 2019 Aaron Jones, showed up in Week 2 on a mission to put up a signature game early in the year. Jones finished with 168 yards on the ground and added 68 receiving yards to go along with 3 combined touchdowns on the day. As Davante Adams struggled to get looks (3 receptions for 36 yards), Jones also paced the team in targets and looked like the second best receiving option on the team next to Adams.
Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling have been given the chance to step into the number two role in the Green Bay offense, but both have been too inconsistent and unable to capitalize on their opportunities. If Aaron Jones is able to stay healthy, it looks as though he will have a repeat of last year's success and doesn't appear to have much competition from any of his teammates outside of Adams for scooping up fantasy points the rest of the season.
In Week 1, Detroit had the chance to win late into the game and took a lead into the closing moments of the fourth quarter, only to see Mitch Trubisky hit Anthony Miller for the game winner. Week 2, however, never saw Detroit in it after half time, and by the end of the third quarter the Packers lead grew from 3 points to 20. Matthew Stafford has been pretty good, considering he's been missing his primary receiver Kenny Golladay all season. He finished the day with 244 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, and a pick.
But it was the running game that worked so well in Week 1 that never got going against the Packers defense. Matt Patricia's backfield split carries pretty evenly amongst Adrian Peterson, who exploded last week only got 7 carries for 41 yards, Kerryon Johnson rushed for 32 yards on 8 carries and scored a touchdown, while rookie D'Andre Swift carried 5 times for just 12 yards however added 5 receptions for 60 yards receiving. The Lions will hope to get Golladay back for Week 3, and early reports are that is the expectation. That might be enough to get them back on track against the Arizona Cardinals.
Denver Broncos - 21 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers - 26
Since returning under center, Ben Roethlisberger has led the Steelers to a 2-0 record and looks to be picking back up where he left off when he was knocked out due to injury early in 2019 as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. The complement of receivers at his disposal have proven to mesh well with the veteran QB, as we've seen solid performances now out of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and Chase Claypool who now all have touchdown catches after Week 2.
Benny Snell Jr. rushed for 113 yards in Week 1 and Coach Mike Tomlin had insisted that both Snell and James Conner would get equal work heading into the match up with Denver; however, Snell only received 3 carries and 1 passing target for a cumulative 1 yard on Sunday. Conner had a rushing touchdown and rumbled for 106 yards, marking the second week in a row the Steelers offensive line has produced a 100 yard rusher, but Conner made up most of that late in the fourth quarter on a 59 yard breaker to seal the game for Pittsburgh. Conner still seems to be the running back to own in this backfield, but they may decide to go with the hot hand depending on how games play out. Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and Chase Claypool should all be owned and a case can also be made for James Washington.
The Broncos lost starting quarterback, Drew Lock, to injury in the first quarter and was replaced by Jeff Driskel. Driskel went on to throw for 256 yards and 2 scores on a stout Pittsburgh defense, and Melvin Gordon pitched in with 70 rushing yards and 2 catches with a receiving TD. Denver also saw Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton endure injuries in Week 2. Sutton is expected to miss the remainder of the season and Jeudy, if healthy, will slide into the primary role with Tim Patrick, DaeSean Hamilton and rookie K.J. Hamler fighting for reps now that Sutton will be out.
Noah Fant has also positioned himself as an important piece to the Broncos offense; he snagged 4 balls for 57 yards and touchdown on Sunday. Lock is expected to miss 2-6 weeks, Driskel is expected to fill in as starter, and running back Phillip Lindsay is also expected to be out for a few weeks. This Denver team is in serious danger of being one of the first teams eliminated from playoff contention if they cannot figure out a way to get more out of their replacement players.
Source: #Broncos WR Courtland Sutton tore his ACL.— Ian Rapoport (@Ian Rapoport)1600707334.0
Jacksonville Jaguars - 30 vs. Tennessee Titans - 33
The Titans have found themselves on the winning end of two close games to start the season, and Ryan Tannehill has been great early on. Sunday he finished with 4 touchdown passes and helped carry his team to a walk off victory on a Stephen Gostkowski field goal. Derrick Henry impressed with 84 yards rushing, and Jonnu Smith erupted for 84 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns on the day. Tannehill has been spreading the ball around with 4 different receivers receiving 4 or more targets, including Adam Humphries who also caught a touchdown.
In Week 3, the Titans will match up with the Minnesota Vikings, who have started 0-2 and will be looking to come out firing to get their first win of the season. Tennessee will need to continue their late game heroics to keep their winning streak going. Look for King Henry to have a big game against a run defense that just gave up 151 rushing yards to the Colts including 101 of them to rookie Jonathan Taylor.
Some glorious Gardner Minshew for your timeline... you're welcome 😎 https://t.co/ScW3oalioO— FOX Sports: NFL (@FOX Sports: NFL)1600620383.0
Jacksonville may have to trade quarterback Gardner Minshew in order to successfully complete their tank job this year. Apparently Minshew didn't get the memo, as he has been spectacular thus far. With very little around him, Minshew has been able to keep the Jaguars competitive in their first two games and was just a couple plays away from coming out of this week 2-0. Minshew had 339 passing yards to go with 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. James Robinson has also been better than projected, impressing with 102 rushing yards and a touchdown. Minshew's ability to extend plays and throw with accuracy downfield will keep DJ Chark fantasy relevant all year, and guys like Keelan Cole or Laviska Shenault could be viable options later in the season if they prove to be able to put up consistent performances. Pick up James Robinson if he's still available, but with the expectation that he may have just had his best game of the season in Week 2.
Kansas City Chiefs - 23 vs. Los Angeles Chargers - 20
This was a wild ride, and we nearly saw Patrick Mahomes outdueled by a rookie quarterback making a spot start, but we'll get to that later. When the dust settled, the Chiefs took care of business and disposed of the Chargers with an overtime field goal, but it took a few quarters of football for the reigning Super Bowl Champs to wake up and start playing. You wouldn't be able to tell by looking at the box score, however, as Mahomes finished with 302 yards and 2 touchdowns and Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce both ended their days with 90+ yards and a touchdown each.
Rookie back Clyde Edwards-Helaire came back down to earth this week and only managed 70 yards from scrimmage with no scores after an outstanding debut in Week 1. Although they struggled early, Andy Reid's group got it together in the second half and took care of business. Continue to expect these guys to roll offensively throughout the season.
Before the game even started, Tyrod Taylor injured himself during warmups, and rookie QB Justin Herbert was forced to make a spot start in the second week of his NFL career. Widely considered a "project quarterback" that would need time to develop before being ready to play, he was thrown into the frying pan against the World Champs. Herbert responded with an impressive performance. Herbert finished with 311 passing yards and a touchdown to go with a rushing touchdown was impressive; but more impressively, he looked calm under pressure and ready to handle the task at hand much like Joe Burrow in Cincinnati.
We saw a heavy dose of Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley in this game with 261 combined yards from scrimmage. We don't know for sure how long Taylor is expected to miss, but Chargers' Coach Anthony Lynn has already stated that if healthy, Taylor is still the team's starting quarterback. After getting a look at how well Herbert responded in an emergency start, however, one has to wonder how long Lynn can hold off putting his rookie QB back in.
New England Patriots - 30 vs. Seattle Seahawks - 35
Prior to their game with the Seattle Seahawks, Bill Belichick spoke about Russell Wilson and had positive things to say about his competition on Sunday night, "Honestly, I think he's in a way underrated by the media or the fans, I don't know. But I don't really see anybody better than this player," the coach continued, "This guy is a tremendous player." Russell justified the compliments from Coach Belichick during the game, throwing for 5(!) TDs, proving to be too much for the Patriots to handle.
Chris Carson led the team with 17 carries and had 3 receptions one leading to a touchdowns–which marks the second week in a row he had a touchdown in the pass game. It seems safe to assume Carson will continue to be the bell cow for this dynamic offense with Carlos Hyde serving as primary backup. When Wilson is playing this well he makes the entire offense fantasy relevant but D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Carson are must-starts every week.
Cam Newton had the Patriots fighting for the win all the way down to the last second in prime time. Newton on a designed quarterback run was stuffed on the goal line to end the game, and Seattle's defense provided an exclamation point on a back and forth classic. Cam has been the focal point of this offense this season; expect that trend to continue as long as he's healthy. His production is proof of it accounting for 5 touchdowns to 1 turnover in the first two weeks.
Julian Edelman had a huge game with 179 yards on 8 catches. Both N'Keal Harry and Damiere Byrd had 72 yards receiving. Newton has helped elevate this offense with his ability to run the ball, and that seems to have unlocked the potential in his young receivers.
If you have needs at wide receiver following a savage week of injuries across the league, take a chance on Harry or Byrd. As of Monday N'Keal Harry was only rostered in 27% of Yahoo leagues, Damiere Byrd in 0% of Yahoo leagues. I know it's a stretch, but by now we should know that 2020 is not a normal year. Let's get weird.
Cam Newton was willing to target N'Keal Harry and Damiere Byrd in big moments Sunday, which is a positive developme… https://t.co/pdJvyw1sYw— Doug Kyed (@Doug Kyed)1600776060.0
In a must win game for the Los Angeles Clippers, Paul George was finally able to look like the best player on the floor in a playoff game.
After a slow start, George poured it on in the second half on his way to a game high 41 points in Game 5. The performance elevated the Clippers over strong outings from the likes of Devin Booker and Chris Paul as L.A. outlasted Phoenix 116-102.
The Clippers don't have much time to bask in their win however as they have to turn around and play two more elimination games just to make it out of the West. The Suns jumped out to a 3-1 series lead as Los Angeles struggled to find their identity without Kawhi Leonard. If the Clippers are to stave off elimination any longer, George has to continue this level of play.
It should also be stated that Reggie Jackson has been really good for Los Angeles throughout the playoffs and is someone that the team leans on to take and make tough shots in crunch time. His fearlessness attacking the rim provides a lot of space for his teammates.
Reggie Jackson after getting his free agency bag this summer https://t.co/kgR7AUeQZ5— Josiah Johnson (@Josiah Johnson)1624936925.0
The Suns have dropped two of the last three games, and their win came in Game 4 which saw a final tally of 84-80 so it's tough to gauge how much stock to take in that victory. What I'm trying to say is the Clippers have definitely looked the part of a Western Conference Champion the past three games, and the Suns are at risk of flaming out.
Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac (MCL sprain) will not play tonight in Game 5 of the WCF against the Phoenix Suns.— Chris Haynes (@Chris Haynes)1624923130.0
The Clippers' starting big man, Ivica Zubac, was out with a knee injury while Los Angeles out scored the Suns by 26 in the paint. So far in every game but one (Game 3 when L.A. beat Phoenix 106-92) the team that has scored the most points in the paint has ended up winning. Both teams are good from the free throw line and it gets the opposition into foul trouble so it is a sound strategy for either side. But Deandre Ayton wasn't able to get much going offensively in Game 5 finishing with only 10 points in 37 minutes.
For the Suns, they were quick to point out their own shortcomings following the loss. Coach Monty Williams noted, "It's just unacceptable the way we started the game," he continued on to compare the Suns and Clippers in Game 5, "We showed up in the first quarter, and they played with desperation."
Monty Williams: “Leadership is tricky - if you can’t get people to follow you, you’re just walking by yourself”— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel Nichols)1624922492.0
Chris Paul who had 22 points and eight assists talked about Phoenix's inability to hold onto advantages, "We've got to close quarters better," Paul goes on to say, "that's been a problem for us all series long."
Paul has been a leader both on and off the court helping this young team to play far above the level anyone expected them to this season, but he's also been a part of many teams that fell short in the playoffs.
A championship run is the one knock on his hall of fame resume, and it seemed destined to happen this year especially after the Suns jumped out to a 3-1 series lead. But he isn't the only player who has had their reputation affected by playoff performances.
The nickname Playoff P isn't an endearing one. It has become synonymous with Paul George and his failures in the postseason up to this point. Any success that the Clippers were going to have this year was always likely to be attributed to Kawhi Leonard, but now that he is sidelined it's all on PG to carry the load.
George entered rarified air Monday night joining the likes of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Durant as players who scored 20 or more points in each of the first 18 games in a postseason. All of their teams reached the Finals. George is hoping to follow suit as the Clippers are headed back home to host Game 6.
Following a Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the Philadelphia 76ers and coach, Doc Rivers, are questioning if Ben Simmons is the right guy to be running their offense through moving forward.
Offense being the key word here.
Simmons is an all-world defender possessing the ability to guard virtually any opponent on the court from the perimeter to the rim. But it was his lack of offensive help throughout this playoff season that stood out beyond any accomplishments this year. Simmons joined Rudy Gobert as unanimous selections for the NBA's All-Defensive First Team this year and also finished fifth in the NBA in assists per game with 8.8 per contest.
For a player that relies so heavily on driving to the basket to get shots off close to the hoop, it's expected for that player to draw plenty of contact resulting in a lot of free throw opportunities. That was certainly indicative of what we saw from Simmons in the first two rounds of the 20-21 playoffs.
He got to the line 45 times against the Hawks in their second round matchup, but only converted 15 freebies which equates to a 33% free throw percentage in the series. Simmons shot just 34.2% from the stripe if you include their first round games against the Wizards, which accounts for the worst free throw percentage by a player with at least 70 attempts in a postseason in NBA playoff history.
With a minimum of 70 attempts, Ben Simmons' 34.2% free throw percentage this postseason is the worst in a postseaso… https://t.co/EvEcQxEe8m— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPN Stats & Info)1624244835.0
In the four games that Atlanta beat Philly in this series, they lost by a combined 17 points. If Ben Simmons shoots just 70% from the line and makes 31-45 during this series, that adds 16 to Philadelphia's series point total. Obviously, the attempts might not directly impact the losses, but from a very broad overview, it would draw the series significantly closer — especially taking into account that three of the four losses the 76ers took in the series were lost by four points or fewer.
Also let's not allow people to say that the free throw stat is overblown and out of context. It's not. Shaquille O'Neal, who is notoriously one of the worst free throw shooters in league history, still managed a career playoff free throw percentage of 50%. That's why we saw the conception of "Hack-a-Shaq" where teams would intentionally foul O'Neal to put him on the line rather than allowing him to hurt them in other ways.
We've begun to see teams adopt this practice now with Simmons, which is just flat out embarrassing for a player of Simmons' pedigree. We have seen what he's able to do with the ball. He flies down the court on fast breaks, is a brilliant creator for teammates, and is one of the better finishers at the rim that we have in the league today.
We've already touched on his defensive prowess that has elevated him to becoming NBA All-Defense multiple times and a three time All-Star. But what do the Sixers do with Simmons before next season?
The 24-year-old point-forward still has plenty of time to work on his game. We've seen other players add a jumper later in their careers to great success; just ask Vince Carter how that works. But, usually, in order to develop a perimeter shot, there is at least a solid foundation to build on — that being the ability to consistently hit free throws.
Simmons is a career 60% free throw shooter, and he shot right around the mean during the regular season. The decline in made shots from the charity stripe in this postseason is cause for concern that this isn't the beginning of a trend.
Add to that Simmons' reluctance to take shots further away from the basket, and defenses have the luxury of ignoring Simmons in the half court set. We have seen teams (like the Jazz and 76ers) that rely heavily on the pick and roll get shut down in these playoffs, and it's teams like Atlanta and Phoenix that are able to spread defenses thin by putting multiple shooters on the court at one time succeed.
In 34 career playoff games, Ben Simmons has made 5 shots outside of 10 feet (from the basket).— Paul Hembekides (@Paul Hembekides)1624277710.0
Joel Embiid was phenomenal in the postseason, so let's not ignore that fact. Also, he was playing on one knee and still almost willed the Sixers to a win. But again, Embiid was not 100% in the playoffs, which limited his abilities.
Doc Rivers answers a question whether Ben Simmons can be the point guard of a championship team https://t.co/8xL35u98RC— Rob Perez (@Rob Perez)1624244460.0
Following their loss, Doc Rivers was asked if he thought Ben Simmons could be the point guard of a championship team, to which he responded, "I don't know that answer to that question right now," which doesn't provide a whole lot of confidence in Simmons' status with the team next year. Trade rumors have already begun to circulate, and it would make sense for this Philly team to hit the reset button now.
If Simmons continues to be exploitable in big moments, as we've seen him be so far in his career, his value is only going to go down. Adding further complications into the situation is the team just agreed to a new contract extension with Simmons and is due to make between $33 and $40 million per season over the next four years.
As the two cornerstone pieces of The Process appear to be two Scotties without a Mike, the early departure for the East's top seed will likely mean a big shakeup in the near future. If Embiid is healthy, he is elite without question. Maybe Philadelphia will go out and add around their two stars, but unless the organization is confident that Simmons can avoid another atrocious offensive performance in future playoff series, all they have is a really good regular season team.
The Phoenix Suns are just a win away from sending LeBron James home in the first round of the playoffs for the first time in the King's illustrious career.
After stating that "These shoulders were built for a reason," James referring to facing the challenge of taking on added responsibilities after Anthony Davis was ruled out for Game 5, the Lakers and LeBron disappointed in a big way Tuesday night. L.A. started off hot jumping out to a 10-5 lead behind a couple shots from James and a three from Davis' replacement Markieff Morris. But it didn't take long for the wheels to completely fall off for the defending champion Lakers as they spent most of the first half trying to remember how basketball works.
LeBron looking on during Game 5Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Two numbers stick out in the Game 5 loss for the Lakers and those are 34.5 and 12. Los Angeles shot 34.5% from the field on Tuesday night and were minus 12 in turnover ratio. No matter who's on your team, if you can't shoot and you can't protect the ball, the outcome is already determined.
The Suns weren't simply beneficiaries of a poor performance however as the Suns put it on the Lakers early and often and they never let their foot off the pedal for 48 minutes. Phoenix ended with 15 more assists, had seven more combined steals and blocks, and outscored L.A. in the paint by 12 points. Devin Booker and Cameron Payne were spectacular and they seemed to hit big shots every time the Lakers appeared to threaten a comeback. Mikal Bridges was effective on both sides of the ball adding three steals and two blocks to help electrify his team with the defensive effort.
🗣 DEVIN BOOKER— Phoenix Suns (@Phoenix Suns)1622601795.0
The idea of effort is something that was lacking on the purple and gold side last night though. It didn't take long after Booker started hitting everything that the Lakers team started playing sloppy and launching up bad threes in a failed attempt to not let the game get out of hand. Well it did.
The two teams were among the best defensive teams in league this season, the Suns finished seventh in overall team defensive rating and the Lakers first. The Lakers typically like to use their defensive prowess to control pace and work in the half court with their combination of speed on the wings and their combination of big men down low that includes Andre Drummond, Marc Gasol, Anthony Davis (when healthy), and former Sixth-Man of the Year winner Montrezl Harrell. Incase you forgot Harrell does in fact still play for the Lakers, but before last night if you blinked for too long you would've missed him on the court.
WHY ISN’T MONTREZL HARRELL GETTING PLAYING TIME?????@MONSTATREZZ #FreeMontrezl https://t.co/j55u9zg9kN— NBALakersReport (@NBALakersReport)1622603465.0
For some unknown reason Trez has been an afterthought in Frank Vogel's rotations, not only in this series, but throughout parts of the regular season. With AD being ruled out for Game 5, it would've been logical to think that we'd see an uptick in minutes for the high energy reserve, and we did. But not until the game was far out of hand in the second half. While the Suns were building a 30 point lead we saw Phoenix's guards cooking the slower big men of the Lakers off pick and rolls.
30 points is the largest lead at half in Suns playoff history. 🔥🔥🔥 https://t.co/UoozhMf6Io— Phoenix Suns (@Phoenix Suns)1622604230.0
It's understandable to want some size to limit Deandre Ayton, but when it's Booker, Payne, and Bridges hurting you offensively why not see how a quicker and more agile defender like Harrell might fare slowing down the pick and rolls? We saw Jae Crowder having success doing that on the other side for the Suns all night!
It's not fair to just talk about how bad the Lakers were, in fairness it looked like they were getting open looks and were just collectively having an unlucky shooting night. Maybe they all got it out of their system now? But the Suns would have beat anyone on that home court last night. Let's give all credit to them by playing one of the best games ever seen against a LeBron James-led playoff team. Devin Booker is an absolute star and this team plays with a very focused chip on their shoulder which has been manicured by Chris Paul. His leadership has made ALL the difference for this Phoenix team and it can be seen most on the defensive side of the ball. The Suns players have adopted Paul's attitude and intensity on that end and it all paid off last night.
We've seen LeBron actively frustrated during playoff games on the court, and last night is one of the most cringe-worthy to have seen. James spent way too much time talking to officials about calls, and not just between whistles. It would be interesting to know how many possessions the Lakers played four on five because James never made it back on defense before the Suns put more points on them. LeBron was seen leaving the court with about five minutes left in the fourth quarter, and sure it could be to start receiving treatment on the injured ankle. But we know the real reason he left. We can only hope he didn't punch anything on the way to the locker room.
While the teams will travel back to L.A. for Game 6, the Lakers know they are in a must-win situation. We saw the rest of the team around LeBron scrambling because they felt the pressure. James was the only Laker in the second half that kept the team functioning. When we've seen a visibly dejected James like we did last night, it's been because he knew his team didn't have it. I don't think that's the case with this Lakers team.
There's plenty of talent on the roster even without Anthony Davis. Maybe Game 6 is when we get to see Harrell getting some meaningful minutes. Maybe Vogel can devise a way to get Andre Drummond more involved offensively. Maybe AD plays and isn't slowed by the groin injury. Or maybe you should've listened to us back in January when we told you the Suns were a pretty good basketball team.