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LeBron James, 36, suffers his FIRST opening-round playoff defeat as Lakers are eliminated by Suns


Game Over! LeBron James suffers his FIRST opening-round playoff defeat as defending-champion Lakers are eliminated by Devin Booker and the sharpshooting Suns

  • The Phoenix Suns advanced to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs with a 113-100 win over the defending-champion Lakers in Los Angeles
  • The Lakers are the fifth reigning champion to be eliminated at home in the first round. This marks the first time a LeBron James team suffered a first-round loss
  • Phoenix’s Devin Booker hit his first six three-pointers and finished with 47 points
  • James overcame a bad ankle to finish with 29 points and nine rebounds
  • Lakers star Anthony Davis aggravated a groin injury and played only five minutes
  • Second-seeded Phoenix advances to face the Denver Nuggets in the second round. The Nuggets eliminated the Portland Trailer Blazers on Thursday night  
  • The Suns’ Jae Crowder taunted James at the end of the fourth quarter by doing a brief salsa dance – a reference to a TV commercial starring the four-time MVP 

It may have taken 15 playoff appearances over 18 NBA seasons, but LeBron James has finally suffered a first-round postseason defeat.

Beset by injuries, the defending-champion Lakers were overwhelmed by Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night, dropping Game 6, 113-100, at Staples Center in Los Angeles. James & Co. threatened to engineer a valiant second-half comeback, but Booker proved to be too much, dropping 47 points while draining 8 of 10 3-point attempts.

With the season-ending loss, the Lakers became only the fifth reigning title holder in NBA history to be eliminated on their home court in the first round.

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, Suns veteran Jae Crowder taunted James at the end of the fourth quarter by doing a brief salsa dance – a reference to a popular commercial featuring the four-time NBA MVP. Crowder was immediately ejected, but the game was already in hand, and he jogged off the court and into the locker room. 

LeBron James reacts during the second quarter of the Lakers’ season-ending loss on Thursday

Suns veteran Jae Crowder taunted James at the end of the fourth quarter by doing a brief salsa dance - a reference to a popular commercial featuring the four-time NBA MVP. Crowder was immediately ejected, but the game was already in hand, and he jogged off the court and into the locker room

Phoenix's Devin Booker (pictured) hit his first six three-pointers and finished with 47 points

Phoenix’s Devin Booker (right) hit his first six three-pointers and finished with 47 points. Suns veteran Jae Crowder taunted James at the end of the fourth quarter by doing a brief salsa dance (left) – a reference to a popular commercial featuring the four-time NBA MVP. Crowder was immediately ejected, but the game was already in hand, and he jogged off the court and into the locker room

James overcame an ankle problem to finish with 29 points in a losing effort for the Lakers

James overcame an ankle problem to finish with 29 points in a losing effort for the Lakers 

Marc Gasol #14 and LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers argue a Gasol foul in the third quarter during against the Phoenix Suns game six of the Western Conference playoff series

Marc Gasol #14 and LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers argue a Gasol foul in the third quarter during against the Phoenix Suns game six of the Western Conference playoff series

For the Lakers, the fall from atop the NBA’s hierarchy was fast.

Back in October, James and his Lakers teammates were celebrating the franchise’s 17th NBA title with a Finals victory over the Miami Heat inside the league bubble in Orlando.

But the realities of pro sports in the pandemic dictated that the 2020-21 season start in late December, and the quick turnaround may have contributed to the Lakers’ injury problems that continued into the postseason.

James entered Thursday’s Game 6 with a bad ankle, and running mate Anthony Davis was returning from a groin injury after missing 30 regular season games with calf and heel issues.

On Thursday, Davis logged only five minutes before aggravating the groin injury. He returned to the locker room soon after before re-emerging with a freshly wrapped leg.

And that was only the beginning of the Lakers’ first-quarter problems.

Not only did Booker make his first six three-point attempts, but teammate Jae Crowder started 3 for 4 from deep as Phoenix jumped pout to a 36-14 lead that proved insurmountable for LA.

Phoenix advances to face the Denver Nuggets in the second round.

Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3), forward LeBron James (23) and coach Frank Vogel react in the second half

Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3), forward LeBron James (23) and coach Frank Vogel react in the second half

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