For the first time in his NBA career, LeBron James has been knocked out of the playoffs in the first round. The Lakers lost the series in six games to the Phoenix Suns.
The result comes as a surprise, as many were claiming that the Lakers should be considered title favourites at the beginning of the season. Such is the acclaim of a player of LeBron’s magnitude, whose legacy is one of continued playoff success.
This comes a year after the Lakers took home the championship in the much publicized NBA Disney bubble. Though it was widely believed that the Lakers have only improved their roster since last season, their title defence was stopped short by a young and talented Suns team.
LA’s season was wrought with injury, and LeBron pointed to that continued struggle as one of the biggest deterrents to their success. Even in this first round playoff matchup, the team was plagued with injuries, as co-star Anthony Davis suffered a strained groin in game four.
“We never really got an opportunity to see our full team, at full strength because of injuries, COVID,” LeBron said at his post-game press conference. “We could never fully get into a rhythm and see the full potential of what we’re capable of.”
The Phoenix Suns, and their veteran leader Chris Paul, are now set to move onto the second round of the playoffs and face off against the Denver Nuggets. This is the first time the Suns have advanced past the first round of the playoffs since their run to the Western Conference Championship in 2010.
“After our game three loss, I just kept telling the guy ‘stay focused’,” said Paul. “There’s no better feeling than that last 30 seconds, dribbling the clock out in a close-out game.”
Sources: THEATHLETIC.COM, FOXSPORTS.COM, BASKETBALL-REFERENCE.COM, SPORTSNET.CA