Suns eliminate Lakers, LeBron suffers first first-round loss


Jun 3, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) reacts in the second quarter against the Phoenix Suns during game six in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The King has fallen in the first round.

LeBron James entered the postseason having won all 14 first-round matchups he had played in during his career. That streak came to an end on Thursday as the Phoenix Suns defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 113-100 to win their first-round matchup with the defending champions, 4-2.

The Suns move on to the second round for the first time since the 2009-2010 season, when they advanced to the Western Conference Finals and lost to the Lakers. That was the Suns' last playoff appearance until this season. 

They came back from a 2-1 series deficit by winning three straight games, sending the Lakers home as the first defending NBA champion to lose in the first round since the 2015 San Antonio Spurs.

The Suns punched their ticket to the second round early in Game 6, jumping out to a 22-point lead in the first quarter. Devin Booker made all six of his attempts from deep in the first, tying an NBA postseason record for 3-pointers in a quarter, and had 22 points. The Suns shot 68.4 percent in the quarter, going 10-for-13 from 3, and led 36-14 after one. 

Anthony Davis started the game for the Lakers after missing Game 5 with a strained groin, but exited just 5:25 in after aggravating the injury. 

Without Davis, and with the Lakers struggling from the field (28.6 percent in the first quarter), Booker nearly singlehandedly outscored the defending champs in the first half. Booker had 33 points at the half, making 7 of 8 3-point attempts, as the Suns' lead grew to as many as 29 and they took a 62-41 lead into the half. 

The Lakers came out more aggressive in the second half, trimming the deficit to 10 with just over eight minutes remaining in the fourth. Chris Paul responded with a pair of buckets during a 7-0 Suns run that pushed the lead back to 17 and sealed the victory.  

Booker finished with 47 points (going 15-for-22 from the field and 8-for-10 from three) and 11 rebounds. James had 29 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists.  

The No. 2 Suns advance to face the No. 3 Denver Nuggets in the LeBron-free second round. The top-seeded Utah Jazz await the winner of the series between the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers. 

That means the Western Conference will have a new representative in the NBA Finals. The Mavs have made the Finals most recently of the five remaining West teams, beating LeBron's Miami Heat in 2011. The Jazz last made the Finals in 1998, the Suns in 1993, the Nuggets in 1976 while in the ABA and the Clippers, well, never.

It will be the first NBA Finals without either LeBron James or Steph Curry since 2010 when the Lakers played the Celtics.

After LeBron's first first-round knockout, the next time we'll see him on the court will be in July when he takes on the Monstars in "Space Jam: A New Legacy."     

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