Tuesday’s 121-110 loss to the Phoenix Suns — coupled with a 116-97 win by the San Antonio Spurs over the Denver Nuggets — officially eliminated L.A. from play-in contention with three games remaining in the regular season.
“Extremely disappointed,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “Disappointed for our fan base. Disappointed for the Buss family, who gave us all this opportunity and we want to play our part in bringing success to Laker basketball and we fell short.”
Phoenix blew the game open with a 35-22 third quarter, and the Lakers limped to the finish line from there. The Suns’ Devin Booker (32 points on 12-for-22 shooting) and Jae Crowder let their opponent’s bench hear it, relishing the chance to bury the Lakers after Anthony Davis suggested last month that Phoenix’s 2021 playoff win over L.A. was a fluke.
Ultimately, it was just another rough night for the Lakers in a season that their fans would just as soon forget.
“We just didn’t get it done,” said Carmelo Anthony. “We had the tools. Some things were out of our control — some things we could control, some things we couldn’t. And it’s nothing else more than we didn’t get it done. You can’t make no excuses about it. We just didn’t get it done.”
Injuries sabotaged the season, with L.A.’s new-look Big Three of LeBron James, Davis and Russell Westbrook combining to play just 21 games together through Tuesday. The Lakers went 11-10 in those games — hardly dominant, but certainly not cellar-dwellers, either.
Injuries played a factor again Tuesday, with James sitting out for the fourth time in the past five games because of soreness in his left ankle. It was his 23rd missed game of the season. Joining James on the visitors bench at Footprint Center in street clothes was Kendrick Nunn, missing his 79th game of the season because of a bone bruise in his right knee yet, curiously, still not simply ruled out for the season by the Lakers.
Even Davis, who was on the court playing in his third game back after a six-week absence because of a right midfoot sprain, was also dealing with plantar fascia pain in his right foot that has afflicted him since his return, according to Vogel.
The rash of poor health — including COVID-19 running through the locker room in December — led to a ridiculous total of 24 different players suiting up for L.A. at some point this season. And it left Vogel no choice but to constantly tinker with the players available to him as he tried out 39 different starting lineups through Tuesday — second most in the league behind the Brooklyn Nets.