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Lakers officially eliminated from play-in game contention

What once felt impossible has now become reality as the Lakers will not be in the play-in game, or postseason in any form this year.

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NBA: Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Lakers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

With the Lakers’ loss to the Phoenix Suns tonight paired with the Spurs win over the Nuggets and Pelicans' win over the Kings, the Lakers have officially been eliminated from play-in contention.

It brings an official end to a season that has felt doomed for weeks. As the Lakers continued losing to close the year, the Spurs and Pelicans continued winning. The result was the Lakers not only slipping out of the ninth seed in the Western Conference, but eventually the 10th seed and the play-in game entirely.

Key losses along the way knocked the Lakers further and further back, no two more damaging than must-win games against the Pelicans over the final weeks of the season that both went the way of New Orleans. Those were more than clear signals of how much trouble the Lakers were in to close the season.

Injuries played their role in the season ending up this way, especially down the stretch. LeBron James and Anthony Davis played together just once — against the Pelicans on April 1 — in the final 48 days of the season including Tuesday’s game in Phoenix. But trading for Russell Westbrook was supposed to be insurance for the Lakers against injuries to either James or Davis.

However, Westbrook’s struggles have been a microcosm of the Lakers all season long. Despite some brief moments of impressive play, there has been nothing consistent about this Lakers season other than their inability to be the title-contending team they were expected to be in the preseason.

And now they’ll be left picking up the pieces of a disastrous year. After winning the title in 2020, the Lakers have followed it up by having to win the play-in game to make the playoffs in 2021 and missing the play-in game entirely in 2022. To consider this season as anything other than a franchise-wide failure would be putting things too kindly and not accepting this season for what it was.

No team with LeBron James should be missing the postseason, and the Lakers have lots of shortcomings that need to be addressed over the long offseason. With this result, that work officially begins now.

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