There will be a new NBA champion crowned, now that the Los Angeles Lakers have been knocked out of the playoffs. Devin Booker’s hot hand ensured the Lakers an early exit and handed LeBron James his first-ever first-round exit.

The Lakers entered Thursday’s game on the brink of elimination. The defending champions had to win at all cost to stay alive. Anthony Davis, who was sidelined in Game 5, played just five minutes before leaving after re-aggravating his injury. The loss of Davis proved to be a big blow for Los Angeles, as they were unable to answer Booker’s explosive offense.

The Phoenix Suns started the game with Jae Crowder draining a three-pointer to get the offense going. From there, Crowder connected for two more three-pointers, and Booker added a three-pointer to keep the Suns in the lead. It was a sign of things to come from the Suns’ offense.

Five minutes into the game, Davis was sidelined after seeming to re-aggravate his groin injury while contesting a Booker drive to the basket. Davis checked out of the game and watched from the sideline as his team was barraged by the Suns.

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In just the first quarter, Phoenix outscored the Lakers 36-14. Phoenix shot 68% in the first quarter, making 13 of their 19 field goal attempts (10-for-13 from long range). Meanwhile, the Lakers converted just 6 of 21 field goals, including 2 of 8 from beyond the arc.

Booker recorded 22 of his 47 points in the first quarter alone. Most of his 22 points came from beyond the arc. He made all six of his three-point attempts in the first quarter. The All-Star’s six threes tied the NBA Playoff record for most threes made in a quarter.

The Suns continued to trounce the Lakers with their offense as the game wore on. By the end of the first half, Phoenix led 62-41. Phoenix continued to maintain a double-digit lead throughout the game. The closest the Lakers came was cutting the Phoenix lead to 10 with 8 minutes left in the fourth quarter. Los Angeles was unable to cut the lead within single digits as time dwindled and the end approached. The Suns held on for a 113-100 win. They advance to the second round for a matchup against the Denver Nuggets.

James, the Lakers’ leading scorer, finished with 29 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. It was the first time in his 15 playoff appearances that he was eliminated in the first round.

“It doesn’t matter to me as far as not making it out of the first round,” James said when asked about the streak. “What matters to me is getting this team back healthy. Me not being able to be at my full strength throughout this series, that’s my main focus.”

James expressed frustration that the Lakers were never healthy enough in the playoffs. “The one thing that bothers me more than anything is we never really got an opportunity to see our full team at full strength,” said James, who had a high right ankle sprain that still limited him in the playoffs. “Either because of injury or COVID or something going on with our ball club this year, we could never fully get into a rhythm. And never really kind of see the full potential of what we could be capable of.”

Nevertheless, Los Angeles will prepare for an early offseason. But for James, the early playoff exit will allow him to fully rest and prepare for the next season.

“I get like three months to recalibrate, get my ankle back to 100% where it was. … That’s the most important thing for me,” the Lakers’ star said.

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