The Lakers were eliminated from the playoffs

The Los Angeles Lakers’ last hope for this season is gone.

With LeBron James watching from the bench, the Lakers lost to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night, ending their chances of reaching the playoffs. The San Antonio Spurs ’victory over the Denver Nuggets in the early hours of the evening made the Suns game a must-see math win for the Lakers to stay in contention for the postseason.

The Lakers lost seven games in a row in late March, which allowed the Spurs to eclipse them for the 10th best Western Conference record and a place in the NBA play-in tournament, which will decide the seventh and final game. eighth seed in the playoffs. starting April 16th.

During the Lakers’ seven games, James and Anthony Davis played together only once, highlighting a problem they have faced throughout the season.

Davis returned on April 1 after missing 18 games due to a sprain in the middle of his right foot. James has been managing pain in his left ankle, which has caused him to miss five of the team’s last seven games.

Since the league All-Star break in mid-February, the Lakers have the second-worst record in the West, after winning just four games. Only Portland has been worse.

This is the seventh time in the last nine years that the Lakers have missed the playoffs, a stretch previously unthinkable for the organization. Prior to the 2013-14 season, the Lakers had missed the playoffs just five times since the Minnesota franchise was created in 1948.

It’s also the second time James has lost in the playoffs since joining the Lakers in 2018, when he arrived in Los Angeles after eight consecutive NBA Finals with Miami and Cleveland.

During his first season with the Lakers, James joined a young team that featured Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, all players who became productive elsewhere.

James injured his groin in a Christmas game that season and played only 55 games. The Lakers went 37-45 and finished 10th in the West, which, before the arrival of the play-in tournament, did not give them post-season hopes.

They switched to Davis that summer and immediately won a championship in 2020, when the league ended its season in a bubble environment at Walt Disney World in Florida due to the pandemic.

Last season, which was shortened by the pandemic, Davis was injured and played only 36 of the 72 games. The Lakers went 42-30 and lost to the Suns in the first round as the seventh seed.

In the offseason, the Lakers tried to become league contenders again. They traded young players to the Washington Wizards for new All-Star baseman Russell Westbrook, his $ 44 million salary making him the highest paid player on the team this season. They expected Westbrook’s playing ability to help the Lakers when they were without James, who usually directs the Lakers’ attack.

“I’m selling to a championship-caliber team and my job is to make sure I can make the game easier for him,” Westbrook told his introductory press conference when asked how he would fit in with James. “And I’ll find ways to do that throughout the game.”

When the season started, very little went as planned.

James missed 11 of the Lakers’ first 19 games due to injury, the first suspension of his career and a false positive coronavirus test.

Davis has only played 40 games this season, missing several weeks with two different injuries: first a knee injury and then a sprained foot.

Westbrook has struggled to find his starting point. That caused Lakers coach Frank Vogel, who has been experimenting with lineups all season, to get away from Westbrook in the final minutes of games.

Westbrook’s 18.4 points per game is his lowest average since the 2009-10 season, his second year in the NBA. His rebounds per game (7.5) and assists per game (7.1) also fell sharply from last season.

Still, with James in the league’s top-scoring title, the Lakers had the ninth-best record in the West at the All-Star break and a chance to force themselves into the playoffs. But they were unable to make the necessary push at the end of the season.

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