The Los Angeles Lakers were eliminated by the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, marking the first time LeBron James has ever been bounced in the first round. Credit the Suns. They have had an incredible season, and they were fantastic in this series despite Chris Paul playing with one fully functional arm.
That said, we still don’t know whether Phoenix could’ve beaten a fully healthy Lakers team. LeBron wasn’t 100 percent, and most importantly, Anthony Davis wasn’t even able to finish the series. Davis strained his groin in Game 4, when he only played 19 minutes. He missed Game 5 entirely. He tried to give it a go in Game 6, but he lasted less than half the first quarter.
“I just wanted to be out there for the team in the situation of win or go home,” Davis told reporters. “I obviously didn’t want to just lay down and not be able to do what I can. I just wanted to go out and help the team as best I could, and my body didn’t agree.”
Davis’ inability to stay on the floor in this series was in keeping with a season-long theme. He played just 50 percent of the Lakers’ regular-season games. He missed two months with a calf strain that crept into Achilles territory. LeBron missed 27 games himself, suiting up just four times over the regular season’s final seven weeks. Dennis Schroder, the only playmaker besides LeBron that could be consistently relied upon, missed time.
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The Lakers dropped into the play-in tournament. They barely escaped the Warriors in the 7-8 matchup. They were fighting uphill the whole way, collectively hobbled and trying to rush back into rhythm. It didn’t go well, and Davis recognizes that his inability to stay healthy this season (he’s kind of always had this problem) played a big part in the Lakers’ once-promising season ultimately ending in disappointment.
“Before my [calf] injury, we were 21-6. We were rolling,” Davis said. “We had the pieces, we just couldn’t stay healthy. A lot of that is me. When you have a main guy that’s not on the floor, and then you have another guy [LeBron], two main guys who’s not able to participate, it’s just tough for an extensive amount of time. That’s all it really was. I think the team we built this summer, we had the right pieces.”