The Los Angeles Lakers received a beatdown in Game 5 of their first-round Western Conference playoff series against the Phoenix Suns and LeBron James didn’t stick around to see the final score.
The Lakers star headed to the locker room with over five minutes remaining in the contest, drawing the ire of internet pundits for bailing on the game early.
“Here we go again. The Drama King leaves the bench with 5:40 left in this blowout and walks quickly up the tunnel to the locker room,” Undisputed host and consistent LeBron-hater Skip Bayless tweeted. “Guess he doesn’t want to sit through the rest of this embarrassment like his teammates have to. Guess he doesn’t want to be associated w this shame.”
“LeBron walked off the court and into the locker room with 6 minutes left. I don’t care if you’re losing by 100, you stay on the bench with your team,” another critical tweet read. “You win as a team and lose as a team.”
Lakers coach Frank Vogel explained James’ early departure after the game.
“LeBron had to start his treatment. It doesn’t do any good for him to sit over there without getting worked on and beginning the treatment as soon as possible to help him get ready for Game 6,” Vogel told reporters.
It’s a good reminder that James is still not 100% healthy from the ankle injury he sustained back in March. He put up 24 points, seven assists and five rebounds but looked like he was missing that final gear that has allowed him to take over games during his career.
LeBron on Elimination Game: ‘I Look Foward to the Moment’
James is now in unfamiliar territory, facing elimination in the first round. With the loss to the Suns, it was the first time James had lost consecutive first-round games. It’s also the first time in his career that he trails a first-round series after Game 5 or later, per ESPN Stats & Info. He’s 14-0 all-time in the first round of the playoffs.
The Lakers have to win Game 6 to keep their hopes of defending their title alive.
“It’s literally win or go home at that point, so you shoot all the bullets you’ve got, and throw the gun too,” James said. “I look forward to the environment. Laker faithful is going to give us a lot of energy. I look forward to the moment and the challenge.”
LeBron James on Game 5 Loss: ‘They Kicked Our Ass’
Things got out of hand in a hurry in the desert, with the Suns building a 30-point lead in the second quarter that the Lakers were never able to rebound from. James kept his breakdown of the game simple.
“I don’t know. We got our ass kicked. It’s that simple,” James said. “We’ve got to be better obviously if we want to force a Game 7. They pretty much just kicked our ass.”
The Lakers shot 34.3% from beyond the arc and a terrible 34.5% from the field in the game, a fairly non-competitive second half boosting those numbers. The starting lineup outside of James totaled just 11 points, and point guard Dennis Schroder was 0-for-9 with zero points in the game.
“I thought he found a perfect balance,” Vogel said of James, who was finding open shooters early. “He attacked to score and he was finding people for open shots all night long while he was in there. You have to knock down shots.”
The Lakers will look to keep their season alive at Staples Center in Game 6 on Thursday.