There are many amazing statistics about LeBron James' Hall of Fame career, but one that certainly stands out is that his teams are 14-0 all-time in first-round playoff series. That unbeaten record is in major jeopardy Thursday night in Game 6 of the Lakers' Western Conference series vs. the Phoenix Suns, who are up 3-2. Even though both Anthony Davis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope could sit as game-time decisions, William Hill Sportsbook oddsmakers list L.A. as a 2-point home favorite to force a Game 7.
Davis missed Tuesday's Game 5 in Phoenix with a groin strain, and the Suns clearly smelled blood immediately. They led by eight after one and then smothered the Lakers by outscoring then 32-10 in the second quarter for a 66-36 halftime lead. The game was over then, with the final score 115-85.
That 30-point halftime deficit was the largest ever for a LeBron team in his playoff career. James had played 71 first-round games in his career entering Tuesday and had never lost consecutive games, which obviously ended. That was by far the most first-round games without consecutive losses to begin a career since the NBA went to a four-round format in 1975. The next-longest streak was 34 in a row by Spurs star Tim Duncan.
Pope was in question for Game 5 after missing Game 4 with a left knee contusion. He tried to gut it out Tuesday did not return after playing just 15 minutes. KCP was scoreless and had a minus-19 rating trying to play through the pain.
"My mindset is that he's not gonna be able to play in Game 6," James said of Davis. "That's my mindset. I got into it prepared that's who's gonna be in the lineup. KCP tried to give it a go tonight as well. It didn't work out for him as well. He had to leave the game as well. So, my mindset for me is as if AD won't be in Game 6, and if something changes, then we go from there. But I'm preparing as if he's not."
The Lakers have been outscored 161-127 since Davis' injury in Game 4. Even if Davis can play, he's clearly going to be less than 100 percent. Markieff Morris started in his place and had four points in 10 minutes. And what the heck has happened to Dennis Schroder? He's a good player who will be an in-demand free agent but missed all nine of his shots and had only one assist.
On the series line, the Suns are -300 and Lakers +240. L.A. has dropped to a +475 second favorite to win the West, yet still ahead of Phoenix (+500).
William Hill is giving an Over/Under of 31.5 for James, easily his highest total of the series. LeBron hasn't scored more than 25 points since returning from injury late in the regular season but does have an average of 33.7 points per game in postseason elimination games is the highest in NBA history.
Suns point guard Chris Paul re-injured his right shoulder on Tuesday but there's no question he plays. Not sure why he was even in the game midway through the third quarter with the Suns up 30-plus when Paul tweaked it as fought Wesley Matthews for a rebound.
Should the Lakers win, Game 7 would be Saturday in Phoenix.
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