Coming off a tough loss to the Bucks, the Los Angeles Lakers desperately needed a win against the fledgling Phoenix Suns. The Suns came out strong and put the Lakers in an early hole that they would not find their way out of. Despite battling back and making the game close at the half, the Lakers would fall apart in the 3rd quarter and let the Suns open up a massive lead. They would mount another late comeback at the end of the 4th quarter, pulling at one point to within three points of the Suns. Unfortunately, big nights from LeBron James and Brandon Ingram weren’t enough to overcome some tough breaks (and missed LeBron free throws) late.
Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker would team up to do most of the damage for the Suns. Ayton dominated in the scoring column to the tune of 26 points. The Suns as a whole were an extremely effective unit shooting the ball and took advantage of a tired and struggling Laker defense.
With the loss, the Lakers fall to 30-33 and take a major step back with regards to their playoff prospects. The Lakers end the year with an incredibly tough stretch of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Utah Jazz, and Portland Trail Blazers so they can ill afford to lose games to sub .500 teams like the Suns.
Updated Lakers Playoff Chances
Coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Bucks and still facing one of the tougher remaining schedules in the NBA, most projections were rightfully low on the Lakers. FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO projection estimated that the Lakers had a 14 percent chance to make the playoffs while FiveThirtyEight’s ELO forecast gave the Lakers an even bleaker five percent chance to make the playoffs.
After the loss, the Lakers chances according to the CARMELO projection dropped to just 12 percent while the pure ELO forecast took the Lakers down to merely a three percent chance to make the NBA playoffs.
LeBron James Explodes for a Monster 16 Assist Effort
Despite having 19 points in the first half, LeBron wouldn’t score again until the 5:58 mark of the 4th quarter. However, LeBron stole the show with a game-high 16 assists to go alongside his 27 points. Unfortunately, LeBron missed some clutch free throws down the stretch during the Laker comeback that would wind up being the dagger in the effort.
Brandon Ingram had another big night for the Lakers, going for 25 points on another efficient night from the field. Ingram has now gone for more than 20 points in every single game since the break and has proven to be a reliable second scoring option to LeBron James. Many were low on Ingram after he failed to impress in his rookie and sophomore years, but the young wing has put on some muscle and is once again playing with the confidence that helped him dominate at Duke.