Anthony Davis-less Lakers routed in Game 5, one loss from elimination
LeBron James glared quickly over at the Lakers’ bench, where Anthony Davis wore a T-shirt honoring Kobe Bryant instead of a uniform.
Andre Drummond had just worked for an offensive rebound and, in the tightest of quarters, fired a pass
off James’ knees, and the Phoenix Suns were heading the other way.
After Game 4, James spoke about his broad shoulders. During Game 5, he spent more time shaking his head in shock and disbelief to how things could go so wrong so fast.
The Lakers lost 115-85 Tuesday night, a disastrous effort and performance in the series’ biggest game to date.
“We got our ass kicked,” James said. “Just that simple.”
After two wins in three games, the first-round series belonged to the Lakers. In the eight quarters since, things couldn’t have changed more, the Lakers standing close to elimination.
With Davis unable to play because of a strained groin and the Lakers’ offense stuck in a rut, just having James clearly isn’t enough.
Devin Booker scored 18 points in the first quarter, bouncing off of defenders and displaying why he’s one of the most creative shot-makers in the NBA. Cameron Payne, the speedster backup guard, flew by whatever defender was in front of him.
And with the crowd chanting “Beat L.A.,” the Suns leader, Chris Paul, stepped into a top-of-the-key three pointer, the 16,000 fans in the building roared at the injured guard’s first bucket of the game.
They didn’t even need him — the shot put the Suns up 21.
All of the Lakers’ warts were exposed Tuesday, the lack of cohesion, the late-season injuries, the wonky shooting and the inconsistent offense.
Dennis Schroder, acquired to help provide offensive punch, missed all nine shots and dished out just one assist. James had 24 points, but Kyle Kuzma with 15, was the only other Laker in double figures.
The dreadful three-point shooting that heated up just at the right time last season in the bubble was the only cold thing in Phoenix Tuesday, with each miss making the Lakers’ less and less likely to willingly shoot them next time they were open.
James made six of 10 from distance, the bulk coming during a 17-point third quarter, but by then, none of it mattered.
Their passing was a mess, James firing passes to places where teammates weren’t — the Suns turning those mistakes into buckets, sometimes with James walking behind the play.
He smiled and playfully slapped his hand against his head as a layup rimmed out in the third quarter, yet another mistake that ended with a Booker basket on the other end. Booker scored 30 in 33 minutes, with Payne adding 16 off the bench. Combined, the two Suns guards made 20 of 33 shots.
Davis appeared to try to play, going through multiple on-court workouts before tipoff. And while people in and around the team believed Davis probably was not going to play, the Lakers didn’t officially rule him out until 30 minutes prior to game time.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the other Lakers starter sidelined with an injury, was able to return to the starting lineup. But as he was clearly still bothered by his knee injury, Caldwell-Pope was ineffective on both ends of the court, playing only 15 minutes.
The Lakers allowed a 16-0 run in the first quarter, scored only 10 points in the second and trailed by 30 at the half, one of the all-time bad playoff performances in Lakers history.
“Once we got punched in the mouth, we just kind of took it,” Kuzma said. “Didn’t respond.”
In response to the performance, Vogel started Marc Gasol and Alex Caruso in the second half instead of Andre Drummond and Markieff Morris, who was replacing Davis in the lineup. Like James’ shooting, that didn’t matter either.
Neither, it turned out, did Paul re-aggravating his injured shoulder positioning for a rebound with Wesley Matthews.
Even with Paul not at his best, the Lakers’ season is only guaranteed two more days, their future tied to whether Davis can find his way back onto the floor. The Lakers aren’t optimistic, James saying he’s planning like Davis will be out once again.
“If something changes, we’ll go from there,” James said.
Even James isn’t going to be enough, and Phoenix can sense it.
In the final minute as the clock mercifully ticked down, a new chant broke out — “Suns in six.”
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