The Los Angeles Lakers labored through a 115-85 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday and now face a 3-2 deficit in their first-round playoff series. Here are three takeaways from Game 5:
The Lakers are in serious danger of being bounced in the first round
Technically, the Lakers can rectify things in Game 6 on Thursday at Staples Center. They could then win a Game 7 in Phoenix on Saturday. But I can’t see it. The Lakers ruled Anthony Davis out for Game 5 because of his left groin injury, and I can’t see how an extra day will suddenly make Davis available for a Game 6, unless the Lakers and Davis are willing to seriously risk his health. Even in a potential elimination game, I’d be very surprised if he returned. And if he does, he’ll be extremely limited.
In Game 5, the Lakers did not offer many convincing signs they can win without Davis.
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The Lakers’ stat line was ugly all across the board. The Lakers shot 29-of-84 from the field (34.5%) and committed 16 turnovers. The game was essentially over at halftime as the Lakers entered the break down 66-36.
Without Davis’ rim protection, the Suns feasted on everything. Suns guard Devin Booker scored 22 of his 30 points in the first half. Phoenix also shot 8-of-18 from deep to jump out to a big lead.
LeBron James failed to dominate the game
As soon as Davis suffered his injury in Game 4, questions emerged asking if James could carry the Lakers onward – including if he would be more dangerous as a scorer or facilitator?
Lakers forward LeBron James reacts during the second half of Game 5 against the Suns. (Photo: Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports)
“He can do both,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said beforehand. “Simplest way to put it. He can do both obviously at the highest level. He’ll strike that balance the right way.”
At first, it looked like James could pull it off. He began the game playing aggressively and made the right basketball plays. He took five of the Lakers’ first seven shots. But soon enough, James’ shots stopped falling. And his supporting cast were largely unreliable with making open shots, let alone even taking them.
While James finished with 24 points on 9-of-19 shooting – including a 6-for-10 mark from 3 – with seven assists, the rest of his teammates shot a combined 6-of-25 from 3-point range.
In fairness to James, he does not deserve all the blame. He would have racked up plenty of assists if his teammates hit open shots and would have received credit for running the offense the right way. But James also failed to impose his will. He settled for too many outside shots instead of attacking downhill. When James did so, he quickly adjusted when he met double teams.
Was James making the right basketball play? Sure. But with his teammates not helping him, James should’ve taken matters into his own hands.
The Lakers’ supporting cast missed an opportunity to have their playoff moment
In the Lakers’ storied championship history, they always have dependable role players that have their playoff moment. Think Michael Cooper, Derek Fisher, Robert Horry and Ron Artest.
On this current Lakers’ team? Nearly everyone shrank from the moment.
Dennis Schroder was beyond awful (0 points on 0-of-9 shooting and 0-of-4 from 3-point range). Markieff Morris was a non-factor as he started in Davis’ place (four points). Kyle Kuzma passed up open shots (6-of-13 overall; 1-of-5 from deep). Wesley Matthews and Alex Caruso missed too many open shots. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who rose to the occasion during last year’s playoff run, lasted only 15 minutes before sitting out because of lingering issues with his left knee contusion.
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