Blowout loss puts Lakers 1 loss from early exit

  • Lakers and NBA reporter for ESPN.
  • Covered the Lakers and NBA for from 2009-14, the Cavaliers from 2014-18 for and the NBA for from 2005-09.

PHOENIX — The Los Angeles Lakers’ repeat title hopes are on life support after Tuesday’s 115-85 shellacking by the Phoenix Suns in Game 5 of their Western Conference first-round series, putting L.A. one loss away from elimination.

“We’ll find out what we’re made of and we’ll find out how bad we want this,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said afterward when asked how his team will respond in Game 6.

With Anthony Davis sidelined with a strained groin, the Suns used a 16-0 run in the first quarter to take control of the game and kept the floodgates open from there.

The Lakers were outscored 32-10 in the second quarter and trailed 66-36 at the half. The 30-point margin represented the largest halftime deficit of LeBron James’ postseason career and the second-largest halftime deficit in the playoff history of the Lakers franchise.

It is also the first time in James’ career that his team has lost two consecutive games in a first-round series. His 14-0 record in first-round playoff series is in peril, unless L.A. can win two consecutive games to close things out, starting with Game 6 on Thursday at Staples Center.

Tuesday was out of reach even before halftime, as the Suns opened up the second quarter with a 21-2 spurt to pile on their eight-point lead after the first.

By the time the second quarter was over, the blowout was in full effect, with Devin Booker already single-handedly outscoring the Lakers’ starters 22-16; Phoenix outrebounding L.A. 23-18; the Lakers coughing up eight turnovers, leading to 15 Phoenix points (compared to just one turnover for the Suns); and L.A. shooting 3-for-15 from 3-point range (20%) compared with Phoenix shooting 8-for-18 (44.4%).

James finished with 24 points on 9-for-19 shooting (6-for-10 from 3) and seven assists, scoring 17 of those points in the third quarter when he played all but 17 seconds, and L.A. outscored the Suns 27-26. James and the rest of the Lakers’ first unit did not play in the fourth.

James and Davis didn’t even finish the game on the bench, heading to the locker room to begin their treatment about midway through the final quarter.

Outside of James, many of the Lakers struggled mightily. Dennis Schroder went 0-for-9 (0-for-4 from 3) for zero points, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed the only shot he took in 15 minutes of action before his sore left knee ended his night prematurely. Alex Caruso, Wesley Matthews and Ben McLemore combined to shoot 3-for-18.

L.A. will look to avoid becoming the sixth defending champ in league history to lose in the first round of the playoffs the next season — a group that includes the 2015 Spurs, 2012 Mavericks, 2007 Heat, 2000 Spurs and 1984 76ers.

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