Ugly NBA playoff melee after 'dangerous' LeBron James moment

·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
LeBron James was left shaken up after an 'overly aggressive' box-out from veteran Phoenix guard Chris Paul. Pictures: Getty Images/Twitter
LeBron James was left shaken up after an 'overly aggressive' box-out from veteran Phoenix guard Chris Paul. Pictures: Getty Images/Twitter

The Phoenix Suns stunned LeBron James and the reigning NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers with a 99-90 victory in the first game of their playoff series.

The win was punctuated by a somewhat chippy coming together between the two teams in the fourth quarter after James went down holding his shoulder after an aggressive box-out by Suns guard Chris Paul.

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Lakers coach Frank Vogel later described Paul's move as 'overly aggressive and dangerous'.

As James lay on the floor in pain, Phoenix's Cameron Payne became involved in a scuffle with Lakers players Alex Caruso and Montrezl Harrell, resulting in Payne getting tossed from the game and technical fouls assessed to both Lakers players.

Earlier in the game, Paul suffered a shoulder injury of his own.

He left the floor in the second quarter but returned after half-time, albeit noticeably troubled by the injury throughout.

Both James and Paul are expected to play in game two.

The Lakers made the playoffs after unexpectedly having to fight their way past the Golden State Warriors in the play-in tournament last week, having started the season as hot favourites to win back-to-back championships.

While Phoenix made the playoffs for the first time in 10 years after a thrilling regular season saw them finish as the second seed in the Western Conference, many tipped the Lakers to give them a run for their money considering it was the first playoff series for Phoenix's young core of Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton and Mikal Bridges.

Instead, Booker took control of the game after veteran guard Paul's injury and former number one draft pick Ayton convincingly outplayed Lakers counterpart Anthony Davis.

The Lakers and Suns had to be separated early in the fourth quarter of the first match in their NBA playoff series, with Suns guard Cameron Payne getting tossed from the game as a result. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The Lakers and Suns had to be separated early in the fourth quarter of the first match in their NBA playoff series, with Suns guard Cameron Payne getting tossed from the game as a result. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

“We went to the bench, we huddled up, and said, ‘We know we all have to give a little bit more,’" Booker said of Paul's injury.

“Obviously Chris has carried us this season, helped us to a lot of wins. 

"We rallied behind him as brothers, and it worked out well for us.”

Booker outscored James and Davis combined, with his 34 points, eight assists and seven boards powering the nine point win.

Reigning Finals MVP James finished with 18 points and 10 assists to lead the Lakers, while Davis had a poor shooting night to finish with just 13 points of his own.

NBA fans stunned as Phoenix outclass Los Angeles Lakers

Basketball fans weren't necessarily surprised that Phoenix took game one over the Lakers, but the uncharacteristically below-par play from LA's biggest stars didn't go unnoticed.

James in particular was criticised by some fans for his theatrics on the play that sparked the brief melee between the two teams.

It came after James was also chided for exaggerating the poke to the eye he copped after he was fouled by Golden State's Draymond Green during the play-in game last week.

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Phoenix won despite the Lakers holding a significant edge at the free-throw line. 

Los Angeles went to the line 28 times, while Phoenix shot just 12 free throws playing in front of its home crowd. 

But the Suns (83.3%) outperformed the Lakers (60.7%) once they got to the stripe, like they did in almost every facet of the game.

The Sun also bested the Lakers from the field (46.5% to 43.4%) and 3-point distance (32.1% to 26.9%) while out-rebounding the reigning champions 47 to 33. 

They did so while veteran leader Paul struggled through injury in a seven-point, eight-assist effort. 

Paul was able to finish the game, but was clearly affected by his injury. He told reporters after the game he'll "absolutely" be ready for Game 2.

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