Well, that went about as poorly as it possibly could have. With Anthony Davis sidelined with. a groin strain, the Los Angeles Lakers got steamrolled by the Phoenix Suns, 115-85, in Game 5 on Tuesday, setting things up for an elimination game on Thursday.
The Lakers looked like they were ready to make a statement without Davis at the start of Tuesday’s game while taking a 10-5 lead to start, but the energy and effort they showed in those opening minutes waned with every open shot they passed up, every ball they turned over and, of course, every basket the Suns scored in transition. As Chris Rock put it: “grand opening, grand closing.”
The most discouraging about Tuesday’s game isn’t that they lost, though; it’s how they lost. The turnovers the Lakers had weren’t a result of stifling defense from the Suns; it was due to a lack of effort and concentration as early as the first quarter. When you’re a No. 7 seed on the road, you can’t afford to play without a sense of urgency. The Lakers did just that, and they paid the price for it.
The other thing that was worrisome is that it didn’t seem to matter who the Lakers put out on the floor; the Suns had an answer for everything Frank Vogel threw at them. At one point, all Vogel could do was look down the sideline and ask “what is going on?!” — and if your head coach is asking questions like that in the second quarter, you know you’re in big trouble.
Dennis Schroder:— StatMuse (@statmuse) June 2, 2021
— 0 points
— 1 assist
— 0-9 shooting
— 0-4 from three
— 84 million dollars turned down
He is the first Laker to go scoreless in a playoff game while attempting 9+ shots since the franchise moved to LA. pic.twitter.com/XbVHD3nVCT
The Lakers will try and force a Game 7 when they host the Suns at Staples Center on Thursday, but that all seems dependent on the health and availability of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Anthony Davis. Davis missed Tuesday’s game with a left groin strain, while Caldwell-Pope exited the game in the second quarter due to a sore left knee.
James’ record in elimination games normally speaks for itself, but Game 5 was as close to a must-win as they’ve had all season and he and his teammates didn’t rise to the occasion. We’ll see how they respond on Thursday, but this did not look like a team that’s ready to fight for their playoff lives. We’ll see if that changes in two days.