LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers are rapidly running out of time to make a playoff push.
Saturday’s rough loss didn’t help one bit.
The Lakers fell to the last-place Phoenix Suns 118-109 on Saturday night at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, marking their sixth loss in eight games.
“We need to be better. We need to be a lot better,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said, via the Associated Press. “I am happy with the fight we showed in the fourth quarter, but where we are at in the season, that is the desperation that we need to start the game with.”
One play in the fourth quarter, however, seemed to sum up the Lakers’ struggles perfectly.
James, after a Suns’ made basket, went to inbound the ball. As he tossed it, it hit the bottom of the backboard and sailed out of bounds again, handing Phoenix the ball right back.
It was a careless turnover rarely seen at the NBA level.
“That was just silly on my part,” James said. “I thought I had a little bit more room to get it to (Ingram). JaVale was kind of right there. I tried to throw it over JaVale’s head, and I hit the foam on the backboard. That’s just stupidity on my part.”
The rest of the game wasn’t any better, either. The Suns, after giving the Lakers the early lead, quickly surged ahead in the first quarter to a 10-point lead. From that point on, they never fell behind and even built up a 19-point lead early in the fourth quarter.
While the Lakers rallied back and cut it to four points late, that was the closest they could get. A pair of James missed free throws, along with six made free throws for the Suns, allowed Phoenix to fly ahead and take the win.
‘We needed this game for obvious reasons,” James said. “It’s just unfortunate with the opportunity we’ve had, and we haven’t been able to seize the opportunity.”
James led the Lakers with a near-triple-double, finishing with 27 points, 16 assists and nine rebounds. Brandon Ingram finished with 25 points, and JaVale McGee added 21 points off the bench.
Deandre Ayton led the Suns with 26 points and 10 rebounds, shooting 8-of-11 from the field. Devin Booker added 25 points, and Josh Jackson finished with 16 points.
The Lakers are now 4.5 games outside of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with just 19 games left in the regular season. Despite the immense struggles lately, James said the fix is simple — and it starts with another critical matchup against the eighth-place Clippers on Monday night.
“We can’t keep looking at the standings. The standings are going to be what they are on matter what, win or lose. I’ve never been one to look at the standings ... you just have to go out and do your job and try to do it at a high level through 48 minutes and see what happens after that.”
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