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Key to Lakers forcing Game 7 vs. Suns: LeBron James’ turnovers

Lakers forward LeBron James defends Suns guard Chris Paul during Game 4.
Lakers forward LeBron James defends Suns guard Chris Paul during Game 4 of their first-round playoff series.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Allow yourself to imagine the ways the Lakers can pull this off, the ways they can extend their season to a Game 7 on Saturday night in Phoenix. Think about how that can happen with Anthony Davis, at best, limited by a groin injury and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope limping after Devin Booker at Staples Center on Thursday night.

It can happen because the Lakers have LeBron James. That’s the path.

Maybe because we have a vision of dominance so fresh in our minds after Dallas guard Luka Doncic’s single-handed win against the Clippers on Wednesday, it’s best to remind everyone that if James does the same, it’ll probably look a little different.

If James dominates, it’ll be more than just in the scoring column — a place where he’s been moderately quiet in recent years.

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After scoring 30 or more three straight times to close out Portland in last season’s first round, he’s done that just five times in the subsequent 31 playoff games — and the Lakers lost James’ lone 40-point game in last year’s postseason.

LeBron eclipsed 40 points just once this season — in Cleveland — and the Lakers actually went 5-5 in his 10 highest-scoring games this season.

The better indicator, at least statistically, could be James’ turnovers. In the playoffs, when he’s kept them low, his teams have been even harder to beat.

When James has turned the ball over six or more times in a playoff game, his teams are 22-30. When he has two or fewer turnovers, they’re 75-18. The Lakers won James’ one-turnover performance in Game 2.

So what seems like the clearest way the Lakers can get a win? It’s not too complicated.

The Lakers need James to play well, limit turnovers and be an aggressive scorer. They need supporting players to make some open shots and they need to defend Booker and center Deandre Ayton better.

If the Lakers do most of those things, they should force a Game 7. If they don’t, their season ends Thursday night.

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Lakers-Suns schedule for first-round playoff series.
(Tim Hubbard / Los Angeles Times)


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