nail was finally put into the Los Angeles Lakers’ coffin on Tuesday night in Phoenix, as the purple and gold’s postseason hopes are no more following the team’s 121-110 loss to the Suns.
Even after a splashy offseason, headlined by Hollywood’s newest Big Three in LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook, it was an unmitigated disaster on multiple levels in L.A. Due to injuries, the Lakers’ star trio only played 21 total games together; it’s far too little time to have an extended viewpoint on the subject, but even the small glimpses occasionally provided nightmare fuel.
Westbrook turned out to be an extremely poor fit next to Davis and LeBron, because none of them could adequately space the floor at a consistently above-average clip. Also, the role players for Los Angeles simply didn’t get it done. The all-in bet on veterans backfired for Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka.
Now, the pressure cooker has turned up to a whole new level for the Lakers entering an offseason with massive long-term ramifications.
At points during the 11-point loss to the Suns on Tuesday, the Lakers looked shell-shocked, which eventually turned into a complete lack of energy once hit with a massive counter run in the second half. Just like that, Los Angeles folded at the first sign of resistance.
Already knowing of their postseason fate at halftime when the San Antonio Spurs upset the Denver Nuggets on the road, the Lakers’ effort turned into an all-out embarrassment. Devin Booker was easily getting whatever shot he pleased. Chris Paul was bending the Lakers’ defense to his will, as the future Hall-of-Famer usually does.
Overall, the sense throughout was a team knowing its season was already over. Without James, the 2021-22 Lakers were toast long before their latest shellacking.
“Extremely disappointed,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said postgame. “Disappointed for our fan base. Disappointed for the Buss family, gave us all this opportunity. And we want to play our part in bringing success to Laker basketball. We fell short, we were eliminated tonight. I can say it’s not due to a lack of effort. We have all put in the work. All of our guys stayed fighting right until the end.”
Reminiscing on one of the most disappointing seasons from any title contender in recent memory, the Lakers’ main theme was how injuries mangled a team with NBA Finals hopes.
“You can’t take the injuries out, but championship,” Davis said of the Lakers’ potential entering this season. “When we first put the team together our goal was to win a championship. I feel like we had the pieces, but injuries got in the way of that. That’s the difference in our season.”