Lakers Blown Out, One Game From Elimination

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:

The defending champion Lakers had to get into the playoffs via the play-in round. They are the seventh seed. They showed a number of cracks during the regular season, including several physical breakdowns. Yet they began their series with the No. 2 seed Phoenix Suns as the betting favorite to win the NBA Finals.

That belief that a dominant LeBron James and his supporting cast would turn it on in the postseason is now in serious doubt of being exposed after the Suns won Game 5 by a score of 115-85. Suns backers cashed even at the worst of the number, laying 5½ points with a never-in-doubt cover.

Devin Booker was fantastic for Phoenix, scoring 30 points on 13-for-23 from the floor. So to be fair to the Lakers, even a healthy Anthony Davis wouldn’t have made much difference. But the rest of the Lakers that needed to step up were total no-shows, with only LeBron making it to double figures in scoring.

LeBron had 24 points in 32 minutes and was his usual steady self. But in the second quarter, the entire team came undone, and it was incredible to see from a team just nine months removed from an NBA title.

L.A. was down eight points after a sluggish first quarter. They looked like a YMCA pickup team in the second quarter, hitting just 2-of-17 shots and getting outscored by 22. From that point on, it was cruise control for Phoenix.

The Anthony Davis Factor

Parsing the numbers for LeBron James in Game 5, it’s eye-opening to see that he didn’t attempt a single free throw. And of his 24 points, 18 of them came on three-pointers. He was missing in action in the paint, and it is largely because, without the presence of Davis inside, Phoenix could pack it in.

LeBron James is the most powerful player on the court, and he was unable to do anything to show off that power, and it in no small way was because of the absence of A.D.

At another time in LBJ’s career, he could have overcome the loss of Davis. With the Cavs, he was able to drag his team to the NBA Finals, even when Kyrie Irving was injured. Now he is one loss away from failing to make it out of the first round.

Game 6 is Thursday night in Los Angeles. Anthony Davis’s availability is still unknown but oddsmakers installed the Lakers as three-point favorites to win Game 6. The Lakers still stand roughly a 28% chance to advance, based on their series-price odds of +240.

Damian Lillard Shows Greatness

As much as the story from Tuesday night was the Nuggets thrilling 147-140 double-overtime win over Portland, giving Denver a 3-2 series lead, it was more about the transcendent play of Damian Lillard. He’s an absolute freak on the court.

Lillard scored 55 points and had a postseason record of 12 three-pointers, and even that line doesn’t fully explain just how great he was. First, down by three, Lillard drained the three that tied it with less than 10 seconds left in regulation. Then, down by three with less than 10 seconds left in the first overtime, Lillard drained the three that tied it.

It was inexcusable that the Nuggets didn’t foul him in either instance, but clutch doesn’t begin to describe Lillard in either of those moments.

Watching from home, Kevin Durant said that it was a “spiritual experience.” He also tweeted out the only two-word descriptor of the performance that seems appropriate: “God mode.”

Steph Curry, who knows a thing or two about clutch three-pointers in the playoffs, wrote: “Dame Lillard. That’s all I have to say.”

Not much else can be said.

Series Looks like 2019

Denver has a pretty good player in Nikola Jokic, who finished the game with 38 points. Monte Morris added 28, and Michael Porter, Jr. finished with 26. And no one at all is surprised that this series is turning into a fight of two heavyweights going toe-to-toe. This is exactly how this series played out two years ago.

In the Western Conference Semifinals that year, the Nuggets were up 3-2, had won a multiple overtime game, and Lillard was spectacular. Then Portland rallied to take the series with a thrilling three-point Game 7 win.

Just because the world deserves at least two more games from Lillard, let’s hope this series is also destined for a seventh game.

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