Lakers eliminated by upstart Suns in first round of NBA playoffs

The Los Angeles Lakers labored through a 113-100 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Thursday at Staples Center and lost their first-round series in six games. While the Lakers failed to defend their NBA championship as a seventh seed, the second-seeded Suns will face the third-seeded Denver Nuggets in the second round.

Here are key takeaways from the game from the Lakers’ end.

1. Anthony Davis deserves credit for trying to play, but he clearly was not ready.

With a frustrated look on his face, Davis sat down on the floor adjacent to the Lakers’ bench. He had received clearance to play in Game 6 after missing the second half of Game 4 and all of Game 5 because of his strained left groin. But after struggling to defend, attack the rim or even move at all, Davis finally had enough.

With only 6:35 left in the first quarter, Davis sat down on the floor and struggled to process everything. He soon stood up and went to the locker room. Davis returned to the bench about four minutes later in warmups, and the Lakers technically considered Davis questionable to play. But there was no question that Davis would sit out the rest of the game. The Lakers officially made that decision after trailing 62-41 at halftime.

Point God speaks after Suns take care of Lakers pic.twitter.com/ek0iCpZOuQ

2. LeBron James failed to rise to the occasion.

No hot takes here. LeBron’s legacy is perfectly fine, even if he won’t win his fifth NBA title and lost in the first round for the first time out of 15 appearances. The loss doesn’t fall solely on him, either. But let’s be real. The Lakers showed in their Game 5 loss and plenty of times during the season an unfortunate reality about their supporting cast. They could not be trusted on a consistent basis.

So the only way the Lakers had any smidgen of a chance in this game? If James just tried to take over the game, team chemistry be damned. Instead, James tried to thread the needle again. Even if James decided to hog the ball, the Lakers still may have lost. The Suns’ Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and Chris Paul are that good. But that strategy likely would have worked better than his approach with trying to thread the needle between scoring and setting up his teammates.

James has usually mastered how to play the right way. And the criticism he occasionally received for not taking the final shot was usually misinformed. But after seeing that team-first approach not work in Game 5, why would James think it would work in Game 6?

Devin Booker poured in 47 points for the Suns. (Photo: Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports)

3. Lakers fought valiantly in the second half

That being said, James and everyone else on the Lakers deserve credit for chipping away at a 29-point deficit in the second half. They easily could have just packed it in. Instead, the Lakers whittled the Suns’ lead to 13 entering the fourth quarter.

That happened because James went into attack mode, his supporting cast made shots and the entire team made defensive stops. But every time it looked like the Lakers were within striking distance, any combination of Booker, Paul or Cameron Payne answered right back.

If nothing else, at least this shows that the Lakers’ efforts this season had more to do with the compressed season, overlapping injuries and new personnel than any attitude or locker room issues.

4. Where do the Lakers go from here?

The Lakers’ finish might not be surprising considering the team’s overlapping injuries in a compressed season only 72 days after winning the NBA championship. It is understandable why the Lakers made tweaks to their roster instead of keeping some core players from last year’s title run in hopes of having a younger and fresher roster. But expect the Lakers to make changes this offseason.

No, James and Davis won’t and should not go anywhere. But can’t see why the Lakers would have any interest in keeping Dennis Schroder, Andre Drummond and Montrezl Harrell. The Lakers should keep Alex Caruso and Talen Horton-Tucker since they’re mostly reliable role players. But expect Kyle Kuzma to be attached in trade talks considering his team-friendly extension and his failure to have season-long consistency.

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