Lakers facing elimination with many questions, few answers

LeBron James argues call
Lakers forward LeBron James argues a call with a referee during Game 5 on Tuesday night in Phoenix.
(Matt York / Associated Press)

LeBron James was bent over, his chest heaving, injured teammate Anthony Davis by his side, the two of them talking on the court at the end of another dismal quarter that had left the Lakers down by 29 points entering the fourth quarter.

James held a towel with both hands on his hips. Davis was next to him wearing a mask, his night never getting started because his groin injury kept him out of Game 5 on Tuesday against the Phoenix Suns.

The two of them made eye contact and started their signature handshake, slapping hands several times before they went their separate ways, with the Lakers’ season on the brink of ending and their aspirations of repeating as NBA champions in jeopardy.

James went and sat at the end of the bench while Davis left the court and walked to the locker room before the fourth quarter started.

Then, with 5 minutes 30 seconds left in what became a 115-85 beat-down by the Suns, James got out of his seat and walked to the Lakers’ locker room to join Davis.

They had plenty to talk about with the Lakers now trailing the best-of-seven series 3-2 and needing a victory in Game 6 on Thursday night at Staples Center to extend their season and force a deciding game on Saturday afternoon here.

Highlights of the Lakers’ 115-85 loss to the Suns on June 1, 2021, in Phoenix.

“What was going through my mind was, ‘They kicking our ass.’ But at the end of the day, it’s one game. It’s one game and they did what they supposed to do,” James said of the Suns during his postgame videoconference. “They held serve at home, and we go back and we have an opportunity to even the series back out again.


“That was really the two things that was going on in my mind. And then the conversations between me and AD stay between me and AD, but definitely back in the back getting treatment for myself, getting ready for Game 6.”

Davis has been listed on the injury report as day-to-day, so uncertainty remains over whether he will play in Game 6.

If he does, he’ll likely be limited physically.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who missed Game 4 because of a bruised left knee, was unable to play through the recurring pain in Game 5.

“My mindset is that he’s not gonna be able to play in Game 6,” James said of Davis. “That’s my mindset. I got into it prepared that’s who’s gonna be in the lineup. KCP tried to give it a go tonight as well. It didn’t work out for him as well. He had to leave the game as well. So, my mindset for me is as if AD won’t be in Game 6, and if something changes, then we go from there. But I’m preparing as if he’s not.”

When the Lakers returned to the locker room after the loss, Markieff Morris had some choice words for his teammates. He had started in place of Davis, but Morris had just four points.

The Lakers, with Anthony Davis sidelined, score 10 points in the second quarter and fall behind by more than 30 in a Game 5 loss to the Phoenix Suns.

He had told his teammates the Suns were “just disrespecting us.”

“They’re punching us and we ain’t punching back,” Morris said in his postgame news conference. “That’s how it felt all night.”

Dennis Schroder, who was acquired to be the starting point guard to help provide offense, missed all nine of his shots and had only one assist. He said the Lakers should just throw this game away and not look at the tape of Game 5.

Morris paused for several seconds when told about Schroder’s comments.

He disagreed.

“No, I think we got to watch the tape because the tape doesn’t lie. It’s going to show our [lack of a] sense of urgency, our lack of not caring, our lack of fight,” Morris said. “I think we need to show that just to know that, the next game we play like this, this [game] is over. All we worked for, all we’ve been through all year, it’s over.

“I think we have to, just to put it in our heads that this is it. There’s no more. If we lose another one, talking about what we could’ve [done], what we should’ve done. This is it.”

Lakers-Suns schedule for first-round playoff series.
(Tim Hubbard / Los Angeles Times)