Roundtable discussion: Where do Lakers and Clippers stand two games into playoffs?

Lakers forward LeBron James dribbles past Phoenix Suns forward Cameron Johnson
LeBron James goes around Suns forward Cameron Johnson during the Lakers’ 109-102 win May 25 in Phoenix.
(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

Times reporters covering the Lakers-Suns and Clippers-Mavericks playoff series give some insight and analysis into what happened during Game 2 on Tuesday night.

Here’s their conversation:

Andrew Greif: It has been said that playoff series are long and can turn quickly. But after two games in the Lakers’ series against Phoenix, and the Clippers’ matchup against Dallas, each team certainly feels like it’s at a pivotal point already. The Lakers are tied with the Suns after splitting games on the road. The Clippers are down 0-2 to the Mavericks with the series headed to Dallas. Dan and BT, what is the sense you get from the Lakers right now?

Dan Woike: The Lakers played one of their best games since coming back together whole late in the season, sort of unlocking the best ways to use Andre Drummond and Dennis Schroder, using Marc Gasol instead of Montrezl Harrell and riding LeBron James and an aggressive Anthony Davis late. The latter of the two was crazy aggressive after sleepwalking through Game 1, living at the free-throw line because he put so much pressure on a Phoenix defense that’s going to struggle to guard him. The Lakers jump shooting was mostly a disaster — there’s confidence that will flip — and their bench scoring was mostly absent, but they know something for sure that gives them a ton of confidence. “We’re getting better,” Anthony Davis said.


The Lakers won Game 2 against the Phoenix Suns because Anthony Davis flipped the script. The goat in opening loss was stellar in evening the series.

AG: You can’t say the same about the Clippers. There are a lot of reasons for concern, but for me, it’s how little changed from Game 1, despite two days for adjustments. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George played like their best selves during the first half — forceful when the Clippers couldn’t generate any other offense. But Luka Doncic again made tough shot after tough shot. His teammates — this time it was Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Maxi Kleber — again couldn’t be contained, either. And just as in Game 1, the Clippers’ late-game offense wasn’t reliable in the final minutes. This is all the more striking because all season the Clippers had been excellent at not only making adjustments but rarely losing consecutive games. “We gotta get stops,” Kawhi Leonard said. “We have to get stops. You’re not gonna make every shot, it’s the NBA... We gotta make them miss shots. We gotta play defense. Shooting 58% from the field, 53% from 3, that’s just not gonna cut it.”

DW: I didn’t get to watch any of Game 2 because the Lakers and the Suns were playing at the same time, but I think you hit on something Andrew — it’s the supporting guys and Luka that are just killers. The tippy-top of great players elevate those around them, and Luka’s been able to do that here in this series for the Mavs. Chris Paul is a guy who can do that, too. And I’m not sure what his status will be in this series moving forwards. He barely played late during Game 2 and is clearly affected by the shoulder injury he suffered. Like, he wasn’t even really looking to shoot. Without him, the Suns don’t have a chance.

Dallas guard Luka Doncic takes a fallback shot while defended by Clippers' Patrick Beverley.
Dallas guard Luka Doncic takes a fallback shot while defended by Clippers’ Patrick Beverley on Tuesday at Staples Center.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

AG: For me, in Clippers-Mavericks, the first two games can be explained by two complementary pieces who have had completely different fortunes. There is the way Clippers forward Marcus Morris has gone from lights-out shooting to hesitant and Dallas’ Tim Hardaway turning into a real-life “he’s on fire!” NBA Jam character. Hardaway in this series: 24.5 points per game on 63% shooting, including 64.7% from three. Morris: 6.5 points on 29.4% shooting, including 18.2% on threes.

Broderick Turner: Got to say it was a crazy night with both L.A. teams playing, but the defending champion Lakers showing their championship mettle and the Clippers going down 0-2 in their series vs. Dallas.

AG: As I left Staples Center tonight, I was almost to the top of the lower bowl when I turned around to take a picture of the court. I truly can’t predict whether I’ll cover another game here this season. While I would be stunned if the Clippers didn’t win a game in Dallas to stave off elimination and force at least a Game 5 return trip to L.A., Luka now gets to play two games at home in an arena that will be nearly filled — and has been waiting a decade to see Dallas win a playoff series. The Mavericks’ shooting feels unsustainable. But so does the Clippers’ defense.

After a Game 2 loss to Dallas put the Clippers in an 0-2 hole in the playoff series, they downplayed any worries. At least they can’t blow a 3-1 lead this time.

BT: The Lakers showed why they are so good on defense. The Lakers made the Suns work hard for everything. With Games 3 and 4 at Staples Center, I’ll be interested to see how Anthony Davis plays in those two games. He was outstanding in Game 2. The pressure is on the Clippers now for real-real. They face a must-win in Game 3 in Dallas. We are going to see what the Clippers are made of now, how mentally tough they really are.

AG: What’s interesting to me about these two series is that before the playoffs started, it was Phoenix that fit the profile of a young (Chris Paul aside) team on the verge of its playoff breakthrough. They still might. But Paul’s injury seems worrisome. Now it looks like Doncic, who is all of 22, and Dallas could be on their way to an ahead-of-schedule playoff moment. Speaking of young guys, one of the most effective adjustments Clippers coach Tyronn Lue made in Game 2 was finally turning to wing Terance Mann off the bench. He stayed composed in crunch-time minutes, and Lue said he will have a role in Game 3.