October 2, 2022


Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Lakers lack offensive punch minus LeBron James, fall to Suns

LeBron James sat a few feet away from the Lakers’ bench, his hoodie over his head, a mask covering his face, a walking boot stabilizing his high right ankle sprain that kept him out of the game and unable to help his teammates against the Phoenix Suns.

The Lakers’ entire starting frontcourt of James, Anthony Davis (strained right calf) and Marc Gasol all sat on different parts of the bench agonizing over seeing their brothers struggling to find some offensive rhythm in Phoenix during a 111-94 defeat.

They watched the Lakers fall into a 15-point hole at the half, their 37.2% shooting and 16.7% on three-pointers (two for 12) a sign of how difficult it was for them to score with their top two offensive weapons in James and Davis sidelined.

And since there is no timetable for James or Davis to return, the Lakers will have to find wins and offense from wherever they can. Lakers coach Frank Vogel reiterated before the game that James is out “indefinitely” and that high ankle sprains usually “take awhile to heal.”

So, the Lakers pressed on Sunday night, going with the usual starting backcourt of Dennis Schroder and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to go along with Markieff Morris moving to center and with Kyle Kuzma and Wesley Matthews as the forwards.

In past games that he missed, Davis would take the iPad from the coaches and show his teammates something. During this game against the Suns, Davis walked backed to James to display something to him on the screen.

But no strategy was going to help the short-handed Lakers on this night.

The size of the 6-foot-11 Deandre Ayton (26 points, eight rebounds) and skills of All-Star guard Devin Booker (26 points and nine rebounds) was just too much for the Lakers to handle.

When the two of them made back-to-back baskets late in the fourth — Booker a jumper and Ayton inside — the Suns opened a 107-91 lead that the Lakers could not overcome.

Chris Paul chipped in with a triple-double for the Suns with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists.

Schroder and super-sub Montrezl Harrell did all they could to keep the Lakers in the game.

Harrell had a double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds, his sixth double-double of the season.

Schroder had 22 points.

The talented Talen Horton-Tucker had a strong game with 17 points and six rebounds.

Kuzma also had a nice all-around game with 13 points, six rebounds and six assists.

The Lakers play at the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night.

Three observations

1. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had another night in which he struggled with his offense. He was two-for-seven shooting from the field and one of four from three-point, scoring just seven points. He was a minus-17 in the plus-minus department.

2. In order for the Lakers to give themselves a chance to win, they had to take care of the basketball. For the most part they did. The Lakers had zero turnovers in the first quarter, five in the second and 11 for the game.

3. The Lakers shot just 20% from three-point range, going five for 25. Kyle Kuzma had a bad night, going two of eight from three-point range.