After the Lakers lost to the Suns on Tuesday night and the Spurs beat the Nuggets, the Lakers were officially eliminated from the Play-In Tournament. The Lakers entered their road game against the Suns in 11th place and two games back for the Spurs’ final playoff spot.
The 121-110 loss was the Lakers’ seventh straight, with four of the last five coming without injured LeBron James on the court while he recovers from an ankle injury. James will miss the playoffs for the fourth time in his career, missing the postseason in 2004, 2005, and 2019.
The 2021-2022 campaign has been a debacle, from various injuries to key pieces like James or Anthony Davis, the front office adding Russell Westbrook over DeMar DeRozan or Buddy Hield, allowing key pieces to leave or not working the trade deadline, to the scrutinization of Frank Vogel’s job security. The season just plain hasn’t gone the way the Lakers and their fans thought it would, with many expecting the Lakers to contend for their 18th title.
“Extremely disappointed,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said per The Athletic. “Disappointed for our fan base. Disappointed for the Buss family, who gave us all this opportunity, and we want to play our part in bringing success to Laker basketball, and we fell short. We were eliminated tonight, and I can say it’s not been due to a lack of effort. We have all put in the work. Our guys stayed fighting right until the end.
“In terms of being eliminated, we brought integrity to the process. We just fell short through a disjointed season. So, we’re all disappointed.”
The trio of James, David, and Westbrook only played 21 games together this year, and the Lakers went 11-10 with their Big 3 playing together. Westbrook has been the most available out of the three, playing 78 games and averaging 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 7.1 assists per game on 44.4 percent shooting from the field.
This season the criticism has been higher than ever for Mr. Triple-Double. He’s been benched during the closing minutes of close games, criticized for his poor shooting and defense, and has felt concerned for the physical well-being of his loved ones after fans harassed his family. Westbrook has a $47 million player option that he can sign this summer, and he’s been publicly optimistic about running it back with Bron and AD.
“Yeah,” Westbrook said. “I mean, that’s the plan. But nothing is promised. You kinda gotta take one day at a time, each day. And like I’ve said all season long, you gotta play the cards you’re dealt. Yes, we want to be able to see what that looks like, what that entails over the course of an 82-game season. But we’re not sure if that’s guaranteed, neither. So I just hope that we have a chance to be able to do something.”
The Lakers have three games remaining on their schedule, ending the regular season against the Nuggets.