It is do or die for the Los Angeles Lakers as they get set to host the Phoenix Suns for an elimination matchup in Game 6 at Staples Center.
The Lakers were dealt a crushing blow in Game 5 with Anthony Davis sidelined due to the groin injury. It did not take long for the Suns to take full advantage after a 16-0 run in the first quarter put them in the driver’s seat for the rest of the game.
The onslaught left few silver linings for the Purple and Gold to hang their hat on heading into what could be their final game of the season. To make matters worse, it still remains to be seen whether the Lakers will be at full strength with Davis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope listed as questionable.
If L.A. hopes to keep their title defense going, LeBron James is going to need plenty of help from the other key members of the supporting cast. This primarily includes Dennis Schroder, who went 0-for-9 from the field in Game 5. However, Alex Caruso, Wesley Matthews and Ben McLemore will also need to step up after they combined to shoot 3-for-18.
Although Schroder took responsibility for his abysmal performance last game, he did not feel it was necessary for the team to harp on any game film from the blowout loss. While Markieff Morris did not necessarily agree with his assessment, it will be interesting to see if the Lakers can regain the sense of urgency they had when falling behind earlier in the series.
L.A. was notably hesitant to shoot right out of the gate and this uncertainty resulted in them failing to establish any kind of rhythm on offense as they shot 3-for-15 from 3-point range. Bad decisions also led to eight turnovers that were easily converted into 15 points for Phoenix.
It was only a matter of time before their shortcomings on defense when containing the pick-and-roll would put the game out of reach. While there is no question that the Suns benefitted from a hot night on all fronts, them shooting 8-for-18 from deep is indicative of a lack of effort on the Lakers’ part.
Phoenix is now in a position to capitalize off the current state of flux that L.A. finds itself in at the moment. Even if Chris Paul may have aggravated his shoulder injury during a routine box-out from Wesley Matthews, it is hard to imagine him being restricted in any fashion for what could be his biggest playoff win yet.
The Lakers are now at risk of becoming just the sixth defending champion in NBA history to be eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. Not only that, but James’ 14-0 career record in the first round is also at stake.
Fortunately, history indicates that he is poised to kick things up a notch for the remainder of this series. James’ 33.7 points per game average in elimination games is good for the highest mark in league history.
Lakers (2-3) vs. Suns (3-2)
7:30 p.m. PT, June 3, 2021
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Dennis Schroder
SG: Wesley Matthews
SF: LeBron James
PF: Markieff Morris
C: Andre Drummond
Key Reserves: Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso, Marc Gasol, Ben McLemore, Talen Horton-Tucker
Projected Suns Starting Lineup:
PG: Chris Paul
SG: Devin Booker
SF: Mikal Bridges
PF: Jae Crowder
C: Deandre Ayton
Key Reserves: Cameron Payne, Cameron Johnson, Dario Saric, Torrey Craig
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