LeBron James hits another milestone as defenseless Lakers lose by 29 to Suns
So the Suns are supposed to fear this team?
That’s been the prevailing logic, the reason to keep trudging through the final month of the NBA schedule with a squad that’s this flawed. The Lakers last year, remember, had a 2-1 lead over Phoenix in the first round of the playoffs before Anthony Davis got injured.
And before the game Sunday night, the Lakers received news that should have enhanced their beliefs. Davis, their star big man who has been out injured since last month, will begin on-court activities Monday, putting him on track for a return before the postseason.
But the line between hope and delusion is thin and the first quarter Sunday made it clear on which side the Lakers’ postseason beliefs land.
The Suns scored 48 points in the opening quarter, a reminder of which team is at the top of the league and which is left to hope that things will get better. After embarrassing the Lakers in the first 12 minutes, Phoenix dominated for the rest of the night, easily beating the Lakers 140-111 in a possible playoff preview should the Lakers win their way into the postseason via the play-in tournament.
Lakers guard Talen Horton-Tucker had three big dunks and 15 points off the bench in the win over Washington on Friday while dealing with ankle injury.
“Nothing we did tonight was good enough,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said, calling his team’s play “unacceptable.”
In the first quarter, the Lakers allowed the Suns to shoot 20 for 33 from the field, so many of the shots coming uncontested either at the rim following a turnover or at the three-point line after a botched coverage.
The Lakers, who actually opened the game leading 6-2, went ice cold — struggling to find signs of success on either side of the court. And their mistakes — bad shot selection and turnovers — led to the Suns easily heating up.
Phoenix scored 17 fast-break points in the first quarter.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that before,” Vogel said.
And even though LeBron James would heat up to score 31 points, it didn’t come close to mattering — the Lakers never getting close after the miserable start. James spent the fourth quarter on the bench with the Lakers facing the Toronto Raptors on Monday night at Crypto.com Arena.
James said he was unsure whether he will play in the second half of a back-to-back set.
The loss spoiled another historic achievement for James. With his second assist of the game, a pass to an open Carmelo Anthony, he became the only NBA player ever to have at least 30,000 points, 10,000 rebounds and 10,000 assists in his career.
“It’s pretty, like, a loss for words any time things like this happen to me,” James said, the game ball in his hands.
Davis might have added fuel to the matchup before the game, speaking for the first time since he suffered a nasty mid-foot injury Feb. 16 against the Utah Jazz. Asked about the Lakers’ 2-1 lead in the first round last year and how his groin injury affected the rest of the round, Davis didn’t hesitate in saying the series was the Lakers’ to win.
“It was. It was,” he said. “I think we know that. I think they know that. … Me going down kind of just changed the whole series.”
The Suns went on to reach the NBA Finals and have been one of the best teams this season, flexing that fact with a lopsided win Sunday — even with star guard Chris Paul out because of a thumb injury. Devin Booker led Phoenix with 30 points.
The Suns (54-14) know they can win without Paul. The Lakers (29-38) can’t stop losing without Davis.
It’s part of the reason why he’s trying to return, the Lakers in a fight for a playoff berth that would include a trip through the NBA’s play-in tournament.
“I’m very optimistic about it,” Davis said of a return. “... I’m trying to get back on the court as soon as possible.”
Vogel termed Davis’ return this season as “100% maybe.”
“We’ll see,” he added. “He’s got to test it and he’s got to increase his workload and see how the injury responds.”
That begins Monday with Davis doing shooting drills, his first on-court activity in nearly four weeks.
It’s the Lakers’ best hope — hope that the Suns easily squashed Sunday. But even Davis’ return can’t fix everything.
“It puts a band-aid on some things, but, I mean, we just haven’t had enough chemistry, enough time with our group to be able to know exactly who we are and who we can become,” James said. “… It’s going to be challenging for us. AD definitely helps, but it’s not the answer to all the questions.”
Up next for the Lakers: Monday vs. Toronto
When: 7:30 p.m.
On the air: TV: Spectrum SportsNet; Radio: 710, 1330
Update: The Raptors (37-30) come to Crypto.com Arena with a three-game road winning streak, including victories at Phoenix and Denver on back-to-back nights. Toronto is one game behind sixth-place Cleveland in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
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