It was the first matinee matchup of the season for the Lakers, which veteran forward Markieff Morris took exception to. He called out the NBA following the loss, calling it a classic “trap game.”
“They set us with a trap game, whatever you want to call it. I don’t care how the NBA feel about it,” Morris told reporters after the game. “It was a trap game playing 20-year-olds at 12 o’clock in the afternoon. They trapped us. We just couldn’t really find it. Me, personally, I find all my shots were short. I end up making some late in the game, but throughout the game just really can’t get over the hump.”
The Lakers’ roster features the oldest average age in the NBA at 29.3. The Hawks come in at 25.7, although that may be skewed by 35-year-old Rajon Rondo and 32-year-old Danilo Gallinari.
Lakers Gearing Up for Life Without LeBron James
What probably played a larger factor in the loss was a scary injury to superstar LeBron James, which happened in the second quarter. When the Lakers came out from the half, they managed just 12 points, allowing the Hawks to take control.
James will be sorely missed. The Lakers MVP candidate is averaging 25.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and 8.0 assists this season and orchestrates much of what the team does on both sides of the court.
James has reportedly escaped any major damage, with MRI coming back negative on his ankle. However, he did suffer a high-ankle sprain and will be out indefinitely, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who added that James could be out an “extended period of time.”
What won’t make Morris happy is that the Lakers had to travel for a back-to-back against the Phoenix Suns, who are currently tied with LA for the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference.
The team will be a bit shorthanded, with James, Anthony Davis and Jared Dudley all out. The Lakers also made the decision to not bring back Damian Jones, leaving another open spot on the roster, although veteran Marc Gasol is expected to return to the lineup.
Next Man Up Mentality for Lakers
There’s little room for error in the Western Conference when it comes to the standings, with just six games separating second place and eighth place. With the Lakers’ two superstars on the sideline, it’s “next man up” time for the defending champs, which will mean a larger workload for guys like Dennis Schroder, Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell.
“That’s what it is,” point guard Dennis Schroder told reporters on Saturday following the loss. “That’s what it is. Exactly. “We just got to stay together as a team. That’s about it. Next-man-up mentality, and that’s it. I mean, we’re going to talk to him and see what’s going on, but at the end of the day, it’s next-man-up mentality. So, whoever comes in, be ready to play and we still got to get some wins.”
Morris echoed the sentiment from Schroder.
“It’s next man up,” Morris he said. “We been dealing with injuries and the COVID all year, so we got to figure out how to get wins and figure out how we’re going to play, players in different positions, be team players and be aggressive.”
The Lakers are 10-point underdogs against the Suns on Sunday, per Odds Shark.