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Lakers D Let them Down in the 2021 Playoffs
By Justin Hilbert

After looking like the most dominant team in the NBA for the better part of the season, the Lakers started to slump mid-season and entered as the 7th seed in the Western Conference.

The perennial favorite got smoked by the Phoenix Suns, a small market team that has had a rough run of it since … well, since Charles Barkley and crew were bruising and bashing back in the 90s.

So, what happened? The Lakers 328-277 over the last three games.

Plainly put, they played crappy defense.

LeBron put up 32 points in Game 5, but they let the Suns score 115 to their 85. And it wasn't like one guy on the Suns really had a great night. No. The Lakers couldn't stop anyone. The entire suns team got into the scoring action.

  • Devin Booker put up 30
  • Cameron Payne put up 16
  • Cameron Johnson put up 11
  • Mikal Bridges put up 13
  • Jae Crowder put up 9
    And so on, and so on.

    But it's funny because the Suns pounded the Lakers like prison $%#$es and then turn around and enter their series with Philadelphia 76ers as underdogs at DraftKings Betting and other top sites.

    This alone goes to show that the expert handicappers in Vegas didn't have much faith in the Phoenix Suns' ability and that it has much more to do with the Los Angeles Lakers sucking in the series than the Suns playing extraordinarily well.

    I'm sure you saw the LeBron memes and comments on feeds all across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and even TikTok. "LeBron's a baby …" but not in such nice words.

    Is the above rumor posted on Twitter perhaps because... he doesn't play defense?

    Well, the Los Angeles Lakers did have the best defensive efficiency for the 2020-2021 season at 1.042. However, over the last three games, they averaged 22nd in the NBA, falling to 1.228.

    The issue wasn't down the stretch, in the 3rd or 4th quarter when defenses tend to get tired. No. The LA Lakers' collapse came in the 1st half, where they went from allowing 54.9 points per game throughout the season to a much heftier 60.7 points in their last three against Phoenix and 62 in Game 6.

    Although AD wasn't there for Games 5 and 6, he wasn't playing his usual level of defense in the first four games. He did put up a lot of points and snagged double-digit rebounds in three of the first two games. But you still could see and feel AD's absence from the moment he stepped out in Game 4 through to the Lakers getting ousted in Game 6 of the 1st round.

    I am being overly harsh, and extremely critical. It just wasn't their year, or week, or whatever. After all, the Lakers lead the league in most pertinent defensive stats for the 2020-2021 season. So, yeah. Their defense let them down. They entered their June 3rd tilt against the Suns with the No. 2 overall scoring defense in the NBA. But you can't have a great defense all year long, then a subpar defense for multiple games in a row during the playoffs.

    Why?

    Because you'll end up leaving early and getting made fun of by all the haters.

    LeBron is getting older. Now at 36, he'll be 37 by the subsequent playoffs. But maybe next year will be different. Perhaps LeBron won't be so exhausted after playing through the "bubble play-ins and play-offs' just two months later. Maybe LeBron and AD won't be limping around, out of sync towards the end of the 2021-2022 season.

    Maybe...