LOS ANGELES: Devin Booker scored 30 points as the Phoenix Suns left LeBron James and the depleted Los Angeles Lakers facing elimination from the NBA playoffs on Tuesday with a crushing 115-85 victory. Phoenix took full advantage of the injury absence of the Lakers’ Anthony Davis to dominate the defending NBA champions from early in the first quarter before romping to a comfortable win.
The Suns victory leaves Phoenix 3-2 ahead in the best-of-seven Western Conference first round series, meaning the Lakers must win in Los Angeles in game six on Thursday to keep their season alive. Even with a win tonight, the Lakers would face a trip back to Arizona for a decisive game seven, an assignment that looks even more daunting after Tuesday’s blowout loss.
“I feel like every game in this series, the next game is the biggest game,” Booker said afterwards. “I think this was a real pivotal game for us. We wanted to protect home court and we came in here and showed that.” The Lakers took a 10-5 lead early in the first quarter, but trailed for the remainder of the contest, with Phoenix turning the screw with a dominant 21-2 run to start the second quarter. Phoenix led by 36 points in the third and a disconsolate James left the court well before the end of a grim night for the Lakers.
James led the Los Angeles scoring with 24 points, with Kyle Kuzma adding 15 from the bench. No other Lakers player made double figures. “We got our a** kicked — it’s that simple,” James said afterwards. “We’ve got to be better if we want to force a game seven. A lot to cover and see what we can do better in game six, but they pretty much just kicked our ass, there’s nothing else really to say.”
Lillard gem in vain
Elsewhere Tuesday, Damian Lillard produced a record-breaking 55-point display but it was not enough to prevent the Portland Trail Blazers from slipping to a 147-140 double overtime defeat to the Denver Nuggets. Blazers talisman Lillard once again lived up to his reputation as a supreme clutch competitor, single-handedly keeping the Blazers alive with a string of crucial three-pointers. The game five defeat leaves Denver 3-2 ahead in the best-of-seven playoff series.
Lillard’s final points tally included 12 threes, a record for the NBA playoffs and only two behind the all-time record of 14 in a game held by Klay Thompson. The 30-year-old Portland star forced overtime with just 3.7 seconds remaining, draining a 27-footer to make it 121-121.
Lillard struck again at the end of overtime with a 26-foot three-pointer to make it 135-135. His final points of the night came with a 30-foot three-pointer that put Portland 140-138 ahead in double overtime, but a costly late blunder by CJ McCollum — stepping out of bounds — allowed Denver to snatch victory. Lillard declined to dwell on his dazzling performance following Portland’s loss. “It don’t matter, we lost the game,” Lillard said. “At this point all that matters is that we can’t lose another game in this series.”
Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets scorers with 38 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, while Monte Morris added 28 points. Michael Porter Jr finished with 26 points. In Tuesday’s other game, James Harden scored a 34-point triple-double as the Brooklyn Nets advanced to a series against the Milwaukee Bucks with a 123-109 win over the Boston Celtics.
An impressive showing from Brooklyn’s “Big Three” saw Harden add 10 rebounds and 10 assists while Kyrie Irving (25 points) and Kevin Durant (24 points) also weighed in with big contributions as the Nets completed a 4-1 victory in the best-of-seven series. “We’ve dealt with so much adversity through the regular season, it felt good to get some meaningful games in,” Harden said. “It’s time to lock in now.”
“They’re a tough Boston team. They were down a few players. But they kept fighting and fighting and made it tough for us,” he said. “We’re a special group, especially when we lock in defensively. If we can get three or four stops in a row — we can get it going offensively because we’ve got that much firepower.” – AFP