Time to 'shoot the bullets'

James warns Lakers it is 'win or go home' in Game 6 today as Suns go 3-2 up in play-offs

LOS ANGELES • LeBron James made no excuses after the Los Angeles Lakers were left facing elimination from the National Basketball Association play-offs on Tuesday, following a humiliating 115-85 defeat by the Phoenix Suns.

"We got our ass kicked - it's that simple," the reigning Finals Most Valuable Player said, after being asked to sum up what had gone wrong as the defending champions were mauled in Phoenix.

Their Game 5 loss leaves the Suns 3-2 ahead, meaning the Lakers must take the first-round series to Game 7 to extend their Western Conference post-season.

But the manner of the blowout loss left James admitting the Lakers' pride was at stake in Game 6 at the Staples Centre today.

He had a team-high 24 points, but aside from reserves Talen Horton-Tucker (11) and Kyle Kuzma (15), no other Laker got into double figures.

Three of their starting five, Dennis Schroder, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Markieff Morris, combined for a measly four points which were all scored by Morris.

On whether they can keep the series alive against a team playing in the post-season for the first time in 11 years, James said: "A lot to cover and see what we can do better in Game 6, but they pretty much just kicked our ass, there's nothing else really to say."

The forward hopes the high-stakes nature of today's game will bring out the best in his teammates.

"It's literally win or go home at this point," he added.

"You shoot all the bullets you got and throw the gun too.

"I'm looking forward to the environment. Obviously, the Laker faithful will give us a lot of energy. I look forward to the moment and the challenge, and see what brings out the best of me."

The Lakers will likely have to do battle without All-Star Anthony Davis. The forward suffered a groin strain in Game 3, which subsequently ruled him out of Tuesday's game, and he is not expected to recover in time for today.

Chris Paul driving to the basket while LeBron James tries to defend. The Suns won 115-85, with Game 6 to be played in Los Angeles.
Chris Paul driving to the basket while LeBron James tries to defend. The Suns won 115-85, with Game 6 to be played in Los Angeles. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

"My mindset is he's not going to play in Game 6," James said.

"If something changes we'll go from there, but my mindset is that he's not going to be playing."

The Suns have injury concerns too, with Chris Paul looking just as doubtful for Game 6 after taking a shot to his injured shoulder in the third quarter, which forced him off the court for the rest of the game.

He again did not look his normal self, scoring only nine points before departing, but fellow All-Star Devin Booker stepped up, sinking a game-high 30 points.

The guard had been relatively quiet the previous two games - scoring a total of 36 points - but exploded on Tuesday, with 18 coming in the first quarter.

Booker feels that the Suns, seeded second in the West but still considered underdogs in this contest, can put away the seventh-seeded Lakers today, with or without Paul.

"There's nobody that's scared of the moment," the 24-year-old said. "We're a confident team."

In the East, James Harden had a triple-double - 34 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists - as the Brooklyn Nets wrapped up their first-round play-off series over the Boston Celtics with a 123-109 victory on Tuesday.

The 4-1 series win set up a semi-final meeting with the Milwaukee Bucks. Game 1 will take place on Saturday.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 03, 2021, with the headline 'Time to 'shoot the bullets''. Subscribe