After last seeing each other in the Western Conference Finals in 2010, the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns will meet in the first round of the 2021 NBA playoffs. Los Angeles will be the No. 7 seed after beating the Golden State Warriors in the play-in tournament while Phoenix has home-court advantage as the No. 2 seed. It’ll also be the first time LeBron James and Chris Paul will face each other in the playoffs in their storied NBA careers.
It’s no surprise James and Paul haven’t met in the playoffs given they spent the majority of their careers in separate conferences. James reigned the Eastern Conference while Paul bounced around numerous organizations in the West. Three seasons after James’ decision to switch conferences and join the Lakers, the two will meet in the postseason.
The Lakers are favored the win the series, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. Based on an early look at the lines, the series is expected wrap in about six games. Los Angeles is also favored to win the West and second-favorite behind the Brooklyn Nets to lift the title. The Suns, on the other hand, rank fourth to win the West and seventh to lift the title. The last time a No. 7 seed beat a No. 2 seed in the NBA playoffs was 2010 when the Spurs took down the Mavericks in six games, but the Lakers are not your typical No. 7 seed. So how will this first postseason showdown between James and Paul play out?
The two have met 28 times in the regular season, according to Land of Basketball. James has won 15 games while Paul has 13 victories. In the pair’s seven meetings with James as a member of the Lakers, the head-to-head record is 4-3 in favor of Paul. The Suns beat the Lakers twice in three regular-season games in 2020-21, with James featuring in one of the losses.
It’ll be interesting to see the contrast when James and Paul lead their respective teams in the first round. The Lakers are an experienced group coming off a championship run last season while the Suns feature an up-and-coming core with Paul providing a strong leadership presence. Game 1 of the series is Sunday at 3:30 PM ET.