Let the five stages of grief begin.
Postseason elimination for the Los Angeles Lakers was bent on a loss to the Phoenix Suns and the San Antonio Spurs winning over the Denver Nuggets.
Both occurred on Tuesday night, as the Lakers traveled to Phoenix and lost on the road, 121-110.
And with that, the obituaries on this Lakers’ season began to roll out.
What was destined to be a rebound campaign from the nuclei of the 2020 championship squad ended in disappointment on Tuesday.
Instead, the story was about as predictable as a Michael Bay flick, with Phoenix dominating beyond the arc and underneath the nylon to handily snatch that play-in opportunity out of the Lakers’ hopes.
A significant factor appeared on the boards as LA was outmatched with size and, frankly, talent.
Booker was in playoff mode: scoring 32 points and recording seven rebounds and four assists. He shot 55 percent from the field and made 6-of-9 three-pointers — all done in 29 minutes.
No communication, errant turnovers, seriously uneven matchups and a lousy shooting night encapsulated the loss for LA.
However, adding to the Lakers’ seismic gut-punch of a loss was an awkwardly-early departure by James.
A palpable early, too.
As LeBron seemingly succumbed to the failed year, with some arguing he ‘gave up’ by not playing on Tuesday, calling it a night before his teammates could walk off the court appeared damning as it played onscreen.
While not necessarily a pastiche of the infamous LeBron jersey pull at the end of his first tenure in Cleveland, the early exit did feel like the precipe of a new chapter in LeBron’s winding career.
Should he never play in a Lakers uniform again, the Twitter receipts will always come to haunt King James.
“Keep talking about my squad, our personnel ages, the way he plays, he stays injured… Do me one favor PLEASE. Keep the same narrative ENERGY when it begins,” LeBron tweeted in late February.
— Freezing Cold Takes (@OldTakesExposed) February 28, 2022
Leading LA on the stat sheet were Davis with 21 points and Russell Westbrook with 28.
Already looking ahead to the offseason, the Lakers are expected to be in the hunt for a new head coach, solve whether LeBron or AD will stick around and eventually sever their tie with the leased Westbrook.
And just like a lease, any fruits produced by Westbrook this season were ultimately futile to a supposed long-term strategy by Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka.
While losing Kendrick Nunn for the year with a bone bruise had its hap and circumstance, Pelinka’s whiffing with a near-$40 million a season hit for Westbrook to play a round peg in a square hole should be an indicator for Jeannie Buss to start clearing up desks in the front office.
And the best part is, there are still three games left in the regular season.
Golden State, Oklahoma City and Denver remain on the 2021-22 docket for the Lakers: poised to end with the 11th overall spot in the Western Conference.
Still, the Lakers couldn’t help but give their departing sentiments for the year.
His response to the loss was solemn.
“This is a season we just didn’t get it done. We had the tools,” Anthony said. “We can’t make no excuses about it. We just didn’t get it done.”
As the Southland still processes the L, so does the NBA, as watching a dynasty team lose out on a postseason spot will indeed affect its bottom line.
The 2021-22 season hauls on, with the Lakers arriving at their stop shortly.