NBA earthquake: courageous but powerless, like LeBron James orphaned by injured Anthony Davis, the Lakers were taken out in the first round of the play-offs, beaten (113-100) in match N.6 by Phoenix who will face Denver, defender of Portland, in the semifinals in the West.
This is the fifth time in the history of the league that a defending champion has taken the door at this point the following season. San Antonio had twice suffered this failure (2000, 2015), just like Miami in 2007 and Dallas in 2012.
James, he had never known elimination in the first round of a final phase. The last time he was ruled out by a team from his own conference was in 2010, in the lost Eastern semi-final with Cleveland against Boston.
At the time, this had the consequence of seeing him leave his Ohio heart to bounce back in Miami, with two titles to the key. It is very unlikely that this underperformance will be followed by the same effects, as he is linked to the Lakers until 2023, but the frustration is immense to end this season where nothing but a « back-to-back » « (doubled) seemed promised in LA Until injuries kicked in.
The three months cumulative absence of Anthony Davis (Achilles tendon) and the « King » (ankle) in the spring, had already caused the fall of the Lakers from 2nd to 7th play-off place. The pain in the groin of the first, contracted in match N.4 will have been too much.
“I think form played a big role in the position we ended up in,” said Davis after the elimination.
« Me who missed 30 games, Bron who missed a lot of games … We just weren’t in good shape. We were in really good shape last year, it wasn’t the same this year. And we could not express ourselves fully on the floor, « said the 28-year-old.
– Untenable Booker
The winger tried to play in match N.6, but the pain was insurmountable and he only lasted five minutes on the floor. Overwhelmed, his team then took a huge hail in the 1st quarter (36-14), conceding ten three-point shots, so six by the only untenable Devin Booker (47 pts in the end, 11 rebounds).
The Suns’ lead thus peaked at 29 units in the first period, but LA could not be humiliated in front of its Staples Center audience, as had been the case 48 hours earlier in Phoenix (115-85).
And his reaction of pride, driven by James (29 pts, 9 rebounds, 7 assists) was admirable, since he glued to ten lengths in the 4th quarter. Moment at which Chris Paul (8 pts, 12 assists), however also diminished (shoulder), was responsible for cooling the Californian pressure cooker with two important shots, which reassured the Suns suddenly become small school children in the face of adversity growing.
“We knew we wouldn’t get to where we want to go, without going over them, and it just happened to be in the first round. It was tough until the end. Personally, I worked my whole time. life for now, so now was not the time to deprive me of it, ”Booker commented.
He and his Suns will have a hard time facing Denver, again carried by the indispensable Nikola Jokic (36 points) during his decisive victory (126-115) in Portland.
The Nuggets, who were 14 points behind in the middle of the third quarter, pushed a big boost in the last, winning 28-14.
– Jokic detonator
Favorite for the MVP trophy, their Serbian pivot (8 rebounds, 6 assists) was the detonator for Denver with ten points scored in the last minutes, assisted by Monte Morris, author of 9 of his 22 points in the money-time, just after a shot from behind the arc at the buzzer of the 3rd quarter which hurt the morale of the Blazers.
Previously, it was Michael Porter Jr who had contained on his own the start full of envy of Portland by making six three-point shots in the 1st quarter (26 pts in total).
Without Jamal Murray, the second offensive weapon behind Jokic, the Colorado franchise has shown it has resources, also embodied by Aaron Gordon, whose long-range shooting at 52 seconds from the end (124-115) has definitely extinguished the Blazers’ hopes for survival.
Admittedly author of 28 points (13 assists), their star Damian Lillard was less lively than 48 hours earlier, when he had single-handedly snatched two extensions with his 55 points scored including 12 banderillas behind the arc (new NBA record in play-offs). A vain feat since there was a third defeat at the end.
This time there was no « Lady Time », that very moment of his own during which he reverses compromised situations. The fatigue was too obvious, despite the support of CJ McCollum (21 pts), and the Denver defense had the last laugh.