LeBron James started in his 50th career playoff series Sunday as he looks to reach his 10th NBA Finals in 11 seasons and capture a fifth championship. The No. 7 seed Los Angeles Lakers fell to the No. 2 seed Phoenix Suns 99-90, making it the 21st time James’ team has lost Game 1 of a playoff series. How does James fare after dropping the opening game of a series in his playoff career?
Including Sunday’s loss, James is 29-21 in Game 1 of a playoff series. In the previous 20 series where his team lost Game 1, James is 12-8 for the series. Two of those wins came in last season’s Orlando bubble after the Lakers went down to the Trail Blazers and Rockets in their respective Game 1s before winning four straight to close out the series. What does this mean for Game 2 Tuesday night?
James is 12-8 in Game 2s following a Game 1 loss, but a closer look provides some numbers trending in the Lakers’ favor. Four of the last eight Game 1 losses came in the Finals against the Golden State Warriors, a team no longer in the postseason. Only three of James’ 21 career Game 1 defeats came in the first round, including Sunday’s loss. In both the previous series, James’ team went on to win. Here’s how he performed in those series after losing the opener.
James vs. Pacers in 2018 NBA Playoffs Round 1 (James wins 4-3)
James in Games 2-7: 36.2 points, 7.0 assists, 10.0 rebounds, 57.1 FG%, 40 3P%
James vs. Trail Blazers in 2020 NBA Playoffs Round 1 (James wins 4-1)
James in Games 2-5: 28.5 points, 8.8 assists, 8.5 rebounds, 65 FG%, 52.2 3P%
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Sunday’s result has shifted the series odds considerably in Phoenix’s favor. The Suns are now -103 in the series, a serious climb from the +140 next to them before Game 1. Experts are still predicting a deep series and the Lakers winning 4-2 is still being tabbed the most likely outcome, but the Suns have narrowed the gap.
James is still the NBA’s ultimate obstacle and his team has bounced back the last two times after losing Game 1 in the first round of the playoffs, including last year against the Blazers in the bubble. The Lakers have not been able to practice much together and their superstars have been in and out of the lineup, but history favors James and Los Angeles in Game 2.