LakeShow Takes: Lakers hit rock-bottom with loss at Phoenix

Kelly Oubre Jr. (left) of the Suns dives for a loose ball in front of Brandon Ingram of the Lakers on Saturday night in Phoenix.

In honor of No. 23, 23 LakeShow Takes after the Los Angeles Lakers dropped a 118-109 verdict to the Phoenix Suns…

1. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. The Lakers are a mess, headed toward becoming a train wreck… and it’s getting worse. Here’s how many, especially those in Northeast Ohio, feel about the very real possibility of Los Angeles not reaching the playoffs:

2. This third-quarter play is the perfect example of what’s going on in Hollywood, though Phoenix provided the backdrop last night… playoff mode, activated, my… :

3. That’s the self-proclaimed greatest player of all-time, LeBron James, throwing a sidearm inbounds pass — off the bottom of the backboard after a Devin Booker (25 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists) bucket.

4. “That was just silly on my part,” James said of hitting the backboard with the inbounds pass. “I thought I had a little bit more room to get it to BI [Brandon Ingram]. JaVale [McGee] was kind of right there. Tried to throw it over JaVale’s head and it hit the foam on the backboard. That was just stupidity on my part.”

5. Then, there’s this — Lakers down five, 47 second to play, James steps to the free-throw line:

6. The Suns (13-51), who came in losers of their last 19 games and owning the NBA’s worst record, connected on six of their first seven shots, blazed away at a 68.4-percent clip in the first quarter, settling for 59 percent in the first half.

7. Speaking of the first half, it culminated with James dribbling the length of the floor and into the paint into a group of Phoenix players. Richaun Holmes rejected James’ shot, which was rebounded by Kelly Oubre Jr., who sped up the floor and lofted an alley-oop pass to Josh Jackson.

8. The Lakers, who trailed by 19 points in the fourth quarter, bowed to 30-33 and find themselves 4.5 games out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference, where the Los Angeles Clippers and the San Antonio Spurs are tied for the seventh and eighth playoff spots. LA has 19 games left to play. Its next five games? The Clippers, the Nuggets, the Celtics, the Bulls and the Raptors. Good luck with that.

9. Los Angeles fought back to within three points down the stretch, but could not get any closer. After Josh Hart was called for a questionable foul, Deandre Ayton (26 points, 10 boards, 2 steals, 1 block) made two free throws to push the Suns’ edge back to five, setting the stage for James missing the two free throws with 47 seconds to go. Here’s the obvious missed call:

10. Lakers coach Luke Walton, all but a dead man walking in terms of coaching this team, said the Lakers waited too long to “engage.”

11. “Until the fourth quarter we didn’t engage ourselves,” he said.

12. Fighting for a playoff spot, how is that possible?

13. “I don’t try to explain it,” he said. “I just know we gotta be better. I know our group has worked really hard all year so I’m gonna continue to believe in them. But I don’t have an explanation for it.”

14. The defeat was just the latest in a season which has provided plenty of embarrassing losses for the Lakers. The Lakers — with James in the lineup — have managed to lose to Minnesota, Kawhi Leonard-less Toronto by 14 points, Orlando twice, Memphis twice, at Victor Oladipo-less Indiana by 42 points,  Atlanta, Anthony Davis-less New Orleans by 13 points.

15. But Phoenix is at even another level of ineptness. It was ranked 28th in offensive efficiency going into the game and 29th in defensive efficiency.

16. Walton isn’t the only one at a loss for an explanation for what’s going wrong. With James in the lineup, the Lakers are only 24-21.

17. “Obviously, there’s something wrong with this team, and it’s up to us to try to fix it,” Kyle Kuzma said. “But not really sure right now.”

18. Nor is Hart.

19. “We have the talent, we have the ability, we have the leadership to pile up wins and to make a run for the playoffs, but we have to do that as a collective unit,” he said. “And if we don’t believe in each other, we don’t trust each other, offensively or defensively, we’re gonna fail. That’s not how you win.”

20. How about James (27 points, 9 rebounds, 16 dimes), whose string of 13 consecutive trips to the playoffs is on fumes?

21. “I mean, listen, we obviously, we needed this game for obvious reasons,” he said. “We wanted to play well. At times, we played well. I think we was always together at times as well. Had the right mind frame of what we were trying to accomplish tonight. It’s just unfortunate with the opportunity that we had, and we haven’t been able to seize that opportunity.”

22. More James, who passed Kobe Bryant (11,719) for fifth on the NBA’s all-time field goals list. He made 10 against the Suns, giving him 11,726.

23. “I’m not here to harp on the negativity or the negative. We had opportunities,” he said. “Yeah, we could’ve played better here, played better there. That’s been throughout the whole season. But right now, it’s a tough loss.”