LeBron James, Lakers Suffer Disappointing 118-109 Loss to Last-Place Suns

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 3, 2019

PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 2: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers dribbles the ball during the game against the Phoenix Suns on March 2, 2019 at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The Los Angeles Lakers' season reached a new low point as they fell 118-109 to the NBA's worst team, the Phoenix Suns, on Saturday at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix.

The Lakers have now dropped four of their last five games and eight of their last 11 to slip further back in the Western Conference playoff race.

With Saturday's win, Phoenix avoided a season sweep at the hands of Los Angeles.

Devin Booker had 25 points for the Suns, while 2018 No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton posted 26 points and 10 rebounds, his third double-double in four games.

LeBron James filled out the stat sheet with 27 points, nine rebounds and 16 assists.


Listless Lakers Don't Look Up for Playoff Challenge

Following a 13-point loss to the Anthony Davis-less New Orleans Pelicans on Feb. 23, James essentially issued a challenge to his teammates, questioning whether basketball was their top priority at the moment. The team is now 1-3 since those comments.

Los Angeles made things a little interesting in the fourth quarter, but that can't obscure the Suns' 17-point lead entering the final frame.

Shane Young @YoungNBA

What a pathetic Lakers performance Scheduled tweet

Even James looked out of it at times. In the third quarter, he threw an inbounds pass off the bottom of the backboard.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Bron just turned the ball over on a routine inbounds play after Lakers gave up another layup... https://t.co/x5PAKq7gVS

The Lakers are fighting an uphill battle to earn a top-eight seed in the Western Conference, and they were sleepwalking through three quarters. Technically speaking, Los Angeles still has a shot at reaching the postseason. But this game felt like a death knell of sorts.

Shahan Ahmed @shahanLA

The Lakers, regardless of whether they come back to beat the (12-51) Suns, don't look/feel like a playoff team. They don't belong there...they're down by 17 points to the SUNS entering the 4th quarter. The Lakers have had some bad losses, but this takes the cake.

Things started going badly for the Lakers when James got injured on Christmas Day. The lingering effects of team's public pursuit of Anthony Davis may have also counteracted the momentum L.A. received when James returned to the lineup at the end of January.

More than anything, the Lakers might be an example of Occam's razor in action.

Take out the LeBron injury and the AD drama and look no further than the fact the roster was seriously flawed when the front office failed to add another star alongside James. Over time, those flaws were going to be exposed, which is exactly what's happening.

The only real surprise is how little passion the Lakers players seemed to have in a game that should've been an easy win.


Luke Walton on Borrowed Time with Postseason Window Slowly Closing

One could argue about Luke Walton's level of blame for the Lakers' current situation. The head coach is an easy scapegoat for any team that's falling short of expectations.

But Walton isn't exactly lighting a fire under his players, which is part of the job description.

Arash Markazi @ArashMarkazi

A coaching change likely wouldn't make much of a difference at this point in the season with 19 games left but if the Lakers lose to the 12-51 Suns, there's no reason to delay the inevitable. It would be in everyone's best interest to let Luke Walton go.

It might be inaccurate to say Walton is coaching for his job at this point because his fate might already be sealed. The Cleveland Cavaliers reached the NBA Finals in James' first year back, and that only bought David Blatt 41 games into the 2015-16 season before Tyronn Lue took over.

The Lakers also have an even higher level of urgency than the Cavs. James is 34, and L.A. has to be able to sell potential free agents on the long-term direction of the franchise.

If Los Angeles misses the playoffs altogether or reaches the postseason and suffers a first-round exit, then luring marquee players will be difficult with Walton at the helm.


What's Next?

The Suns welcome the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday, and the Lakers have an important matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers, also on Monday. Following Saturday's defeat, the Lakers are 4.5 games back of the eighth-place Clippers.