The Lakers are one game away from elimination and LeBron James’ dream of catching Michael Jordan as the GOAT is fading away.
Tuesday night was not just a pathetic performance in a critical game five of their series against the Phoenix Suns, it was a total no-show. Just a few minutes into the first quarter, it was clear the Los Angeles Lakers just didn’t have it without star forward Anthony Davis — sitting out game five due to a groin strain, as he watched the Lakers get blown out 115-85.
The Lakers held a 10-5 early lead, and then it all came crashing down. Phoenix went on a 16-0 run to take a 21-10 lead and never looked back. The Suns were scorching hot in the first half, shooting 54.2% from the field and outscoring the Lakers 32-10 in the second quarter to take a 66-36 lead heading into halftime. According to ESPN, it was the largest halftime deficit of James’ postseason career and the second largest halftime deficit in Lakers playoff history.
“We got our a** kicked. It’s just that simple,” James said. “They got to whatever they wanted to get to in this game. We got to be better, obviously, if we want to force a Game 7.”
Davis’ absence was clearly felt, and the rest of the Lakers supporting cast were woeful in their attempt to pick up the slack. James finished with 24 points, but did so on 19 attempts, and point guard Dennis Schroeder was horrendous — 0 points on 0-9 shooting with just one assist.
Dennis Schröder on how his Game 5 performance (0 points, 0-9 shooting, 1 assist) contributed to the loss: "I think everybody can do better, but it starts with me, for sure."
— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) June 2, 2021
“They just took the fight to us, man,” Markieff Morris said. “I feel like we started the game off a little hesitant. We needed everybody to be aggressive without AD in the game. I feel like we were really passive early on. I feel like we weren’t attacking them. They were attacking us.”
Devin Booker led the Suns with 30 points on 13-23 shooting, shouldering the offensive load and proving that he’s up for his first playoff challenge. “There’s nobody that’s scared of the moment,” Booker said. “We’re a confident team.”
The Lakers will try to avoid becoming just the sixth defending champion to lose in the first round the following season on Thursday in Los Angeles, and James will attempt to avoid a career first — a first-round playoff exit.
James — who was obviously frustrated from the start — didn’t even stick around to see the end of the loss.
LeBron bailing early on his teammates after getting humiliated by the Suns is exactly why his legacy will never touch MJ’s or Kobe’s. What a joke.
— Tyler Cardon (@TyCardon) June 2, 2021
It was the action of a man fully aware of the precarious situation in which he sits — on the verge of losing ground in his pursuit to be the greatest of all-time.
James has made it clear that he longs to catch Jordan and his six championships, but a first-round exit — and with James entering his 19th season — would make that feat hard to fathom.
It’s not time to put James out to pasture just yet. The man has avoided father-time for this long — but his inevitable decline appears to be creeping closer.
“I mean, it’s literally win or go home at that point,” James said after the loss. “So, you shoot all the bullets you got and throw the gun too. So, I look forward to the environment.”
“Obviously, our Laker faithful are going to give us a lot of energy, and I look forward to the moment, look forward to the challenge, and we’ll see if it brings out the best in me and my teammates.”
Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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