Lakers season on the brink

image via fivethirtyeight.com

When the Lakers needed to play their best last night, they actually ended up doing the opposite. It was probably one of their worst performances of the season. The Lakers started the game well with good energy and were aggressive from the start. All of a sudden it changed in a heartbeat when the Phoenix Suns started collapsing the paint and building a wall so that LeBron James could not attack. Instead the Lakers just started shooting perimeter shots , and most of them could not fall in. Lakers ended up just shooting 35% from the field and 34% from 3-point range. The Suns started building momentum when the Lakers could not attack inside. What seemed like a 10 point lead for the Suns, grew into 20, and then into 30. From that point on , the Lakers looked deflated and just couldn’t get anything going both offensively and defensively. There was not much ball movement, body language looked down, and the Lakers dug themselves into a gaping hole.

LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma, and Talen Horton-Tucker were the only Lakers that finished the game in double figures .The Lakers needed much more from everybody else. Dennis Schroder combined for 0 points in 26 minutes of play. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope combined for 0 points as well with 15 minutes of play, but had to leave due to injury. The Lakers starters combined for just 35 points total for the game, while the bench did much better with 50 points combined. With the starters struggling mightily, the Suns took immediate advantage. The Lakers did well in the rebounding department , but did extremely poor giving up way too many points in the paint to the Suns . The Suns had 44 points in the paint compared to the Lakers 32. Also, the turnovers did not help the Lakers one bit as they ended up16. while the Suns only had 4 total. A lot of things went awry for the Lakers.

image via CBS Sports

By the second quarter, the Phoenix Suns took complete control and the game felt like it was over for the Los Angeles Lakers at that point . The Suns were led by Devin Booker who scored 30 points, Cameron Payne who scored 16 points, McHale bridges scored 13 points, and Cameron Johnson scored 11 points. A key to the series was to try and limit Booker to 20 points or under. It has not worked lately. The Lakers defense was poor and allowed Booker to get whatever he wanted. The Lakers head back to Los Angeles for Game 6 and their season on the brink of elimination. For coach Frank Vogel and the coaching staff, they will have to lay all options on the table even if it means getting out of normal rotations for certain guys. Montrezl Harrell, who hasn’t played much all series finally got playing time in the second half, but it was too little too late. They will have to give him minutes if things feel like the energy is down next game. Although Harrell can be a liability defensively due to his height, he can give the Lakers a spark with his hustle and energy. Right now, they have got to try anything and play with some sense of urgency.

There is no word whether or not Anthony Davis will give it a go. A groin strain is not something that heals in a short period of time, and could further make things worse. If the Lakers have to go without Davis, others will have to start hitting shots. That is one way to draw the Suns out of the paint. If the Lakers can knock down shots, the Suns will have to honor that and will eventually have to start playing perimeter defense, opening up a chance to attack down low. Lakers have been abysmal when it comes to making perimeter shots all series. The Suns will likely have the same strategy come Game 6. They know they Lakers have been struggling with their shots all series, and will dare them to try and beat them that way. They will pack the paint and double LeBron when needed. Of course, this is only contingent if Davis is not playing. T I’ve said that before the series started, that Davis was the key. Unfortunately, with nagging injuries he could be done for the season. Without Davis, the Lakers will have a tall task with their season on the line. Can they do it? Yes they can, but it all starts with LeBron James and the others stepping up to make shots.