The last glimmer of hope for the Los Angeles Lakers this season is gone.
Watching LeBron James off the bench, the Lakers lost to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night, ending their chances of making it into the playoffs. The San Antonio Spurs ’win against the Denver Nuggets early tonight made the Suns game a mathematical must-win for the Lakers to stay in contention for the postseason.
The Lakers have lost seven consecutive games since late March, allowing the Spurs to surpass them for the 10th best record in the Western Conference and a spot in the NBA play-in tournament, which is will rule the seventh and eighth seeds in the playoffs starting April 16.
During the Lakers ’seven games, James and Anthony Davis only played once, highlighting the problem they faced throughout the season.
Davis returned on April 1 after losing 18 games to a sprained right half. James suffers from pain in his left ankle, which is why he hasn’t played five of the team’s last seven games.
Since the league’s All-Star break in mid-February, the Lakers have the second-worst record in the West, winning just four games. Only Portland is worse.
This marks the seventh time in the past nine years that the Lakers have not played in the playoffs, an unthinkable arrival in the organization. Prior to the 2013-14 season, the Lakers had not played in the playoffs just five times since the franchise began in Minnesota in 1948.
It’s also the second time James hasn’t played in the playoffs since he joined the Lakers in 2018, when he came to Los Angeles after eight consecutive NBA finals appearances with Miami and Cleveland.
During his first season with the Lakers, James joined a young team featuring Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope-all players who have been productive elsewhere.
James injured his groin in a Christmas Day game that season and has only played 55 games. The Lakers advanced 37-45 and finished in 10th place in the West, which, before the arrival of the play-in tournament, gave them no hope in the postseason.
They traded for 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 pandemic.
Last season, shortened by pandemic, Davis was injured and only played 36 of 72 games. The Lakers advanced 42-30 and lost to the Suns in the first round as the seventh seed.
In the off-season, the Lakers are looking to make themselves into championship contenders again. They traded the young role players to the Washington Wizards for old nine-time All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook, whose $ 44 million salary makes him the highest-paid player on the team this season. They hope Westbrook’s ability in playmaking will help the Lakers when they don’t have James, who often oversees the Lakers ’offense.
“I’m going to be a team of championship caliber and my job is to make sure I can make his game a lot easier for him,” Westbrook said at his introductory news conference when asked how he would fit in with James. . “And I’ll find ways to do that throughout the game.”
At the start of the season, very little happened according to plan.
James missed 11 of the Lakers ’first 19 games due to injuries, the first suspension of his career and a false-positive coronavirus test.
Davis has only played 40 games this season, missing a few weeks due to two separate injuries – first a knee injury then a foot sprain.
Westbrook had a hard time finding his foot. That’s why Lakers Coach Frank Vogel, who has been experimenting with lineups throughout the season, stepped away from Westbrook in the closing 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 dropped sharply from last season.
Still, with James in contention for scoring the league title, the Lakers have the West’s ninth-best record at the All-Star break, and a chance to force their way into the playoffs. But they won’t get the necessary push late in the season.