The LA Lakers suffered an embarrassing Game 5 loss to the Phoenix Suns, putting them away from playoff elimination. Star forward LeBron James is on the verge of succumbing to his first-ever first-round postseason exit. With that in mind, James aired out his mentality before Thursday’s all-or-nothing contest.
Lakers suffer blowout Game 5 loss against the Suns
The Lakers headed into a pivotal Game 5 shorthanded without star forward Anthony Davis due to a groin injury.
Phoenix took advantage of that massive absence by taking complete control of the contest in the first half. In the first two quarters, the Suns shot 54.1% from the floor and drilled eight 3-pointers to garner a 66-36 halftime lead.
The contest entirely shifted in the second quarter, with the Phoenix holding a 32-10 scoring advantage. Meanwhile, Devin Booker (22 points), Cameron Payne (14 points) together tied the Lakers’ entire first-half scoring output.
It marked the Lakers’ largest halftime deficit since trailing the Utah Jazz by 26 points in the 1998 playoffs. Phoenix cruised the rest of the contest to a convincing performance, placing them a win away from eliminating the defending champions.
James scored 24 points, while Kyle Kuzma and Talen Horton-Tucker were only the other Lakers players to record a double-digit offensive output with 15 and 11 points, respectively. Meanwhile, Dennis Schroder notched zero points on 0-for-9 shooting, including missing all four of his 3-point attempts.
LA finished shooting 34.5% from the floor, 34.3% from 3-point range, and committed 16 turnovers.
The Lakers didn’t play with anywhere near the same energy and effort that helped the Suns cruise to a dominating victory. After the crushing loss, James voiced a singular message.
LeBron James reveals his mindset ahead of win-or-go-home Game 6 against the Suns
The four-time league MVP is a loss away from bowing out in the first round of the playoffs in his illustrious NBA career.
The Lakers’ lackluster performance shined a tremendous light on LeBron James as it puts him in unfamiliar postseason territory. After Tuesday’s defeat, James shined a light on his mind frame heading into Game 6 concerning Davis’ availability.
“My mindset is that he’s not going to be able to play in Game 6,” James said via Spectrum Sportsnet. “ My mindset is as if AD won’t be in the game. If something changes, then we’ll go from there. But I’m preparing as if he’s not.”
James also voiced some other quite telling comment airing that he views Tuesday’s loss as a lone game outcome and nothing more. The 36-year-old is well aware of the scenario ahead, requiring him to put forth a strong performance for LA to force a Game 7 regardless of whether Davis plays or not on Thursday.
James holds an impressive resume in elimination playoff games, averaging 34.1 points, 10.8 rebounds, 7.4 assists, and 1.7 steals in 22 such contests. According to Sports Illustrated, his points per contest average are the most of any player in NBA history who has played in at least three elimination games, ahead of Hall of Famers Michael Jordan (31.3) and Wilt Chamberlain (31.1).
The pressure is on James’ shoulders to elevate his performance to keep the Lakers’ championship hopes alive.
LA needs the supporting cast to step up
The win-or-go-home Game 6 thrusts James directly into the spotlight.
However, it will need to be more than the star forward’s performance that forcing a Game 7. Schroder is coming off his worst career playoff performance after going scoreless in 26 minutes.
Meanwhile, it’s been nothing short of a struggle for Kuzma to find his footing in postseason action. He’s coming off his best performance, but he’s averaged 7.2 points on 24.9% shooting and 13.0% from 3-point range.
If Davis doesn’t play or is anything less than effective if he takes the floor, the Lakers will need Kuzma to provide a jolted offensive outing.
Beyond that, it’s an all-or-nothing game that will see if LA has the mental fortitude to keep its season alive.