LOS ANGELES – Heading into a must-win Game 6 at home on Thursday night, the NBA champion Lakers are hoping star Anthony Davis will be on the court after sitting out Game 5 with a groin injury.
The Lakers were completely outclassed by the Phoenix Suns for 48 minutes Tuesday night, losing 115-85 on the road in front of 16,000 fans.
“We didn’t play well enough on either side of the ball early in the game,” said Frank Vogel, who is facing his first elimination game as Lakers head coach. “They built a big lead, we didn’t respond.”
Suns guard Devin Booker stole the show, pouring in 18 first quarter points to help build a 30-point halftime lead.
“They got to whatever they wanted to get to in this game. We got to be better, obviously, if we want to force a Game 7,” small forward LeBron James told reporters after the blowout loss in Game 5.
It’s not clear whether the Lakers can recover from the loss of Davis, who is recovering from a strained groin that occurred at the end of the first half of Game 4 on Sunday afternoon.
“A groin strain is an overstretch or pull of the adductor muscles that attach to the pelvis and more specifically the pubic bone,” said Rick Rafael, a Los Angeles doctor of physical therapy and owner of Sports Fit physical therapy and fitness. “There are different grades of groin strain, depending on the injury.”
Although he has not attended Davis, Rafael was watching closely how Davis was moving before the tip in Game 5 and believes that Davis’ injury is not severe.
“In my opinion, seeing AD practicing on the floor (Tuesday), he has a lower grade strain,” Rafael said. “But I did see him grimace with pain while practicing when he was moving laterally and shooting the ball on the court.”
The Lakers, meanwhile, are preparing to play Game 6 without Davis.
“My mindset for me is as if AD won’t be in the game in Game 6,” LeBron told reporters after Tuesday’s loss. “If something changes, then we go from there.”
That’s a realistic assessment when you think about groin strains, which Rafael said typically needs four to six weeks to heal.
But that doesn’t mean there’s no hope for a Davis return.
“Depending on pain and overall functional strength of the athlete,” Rafael said, “if the strain is minimal, there is likelihood of being able to play, although it does increase chances of reinjury.”
A Davis return would be an enormous boost to a team who needs better scoring output from its starting lineup in Game 6.
On Tuesday, James was the only LA starter to score in double digits, with 24, while the other four combined for 11 points in 73 minutes.
“We’re struggling to shoot the ball, our shooters got to figure it out,” Vogel told reporters after Tuesday’s blowout. “We got to continue to work on our execution offensively.”
The Lakers are looking forward to their return to the Staples Center.
“It wasn’t a good one,” said Dennis Schröder, who was 0 for 9 from the field in Game 5. “I think we just got to flush that one and try and get ready for the next one.”
One player they will have in Game 6 is James, the leading scorer in NBA history when facing elimination – he has never been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
“It’s literally win or go home,” James said Tuesday. “You shoot all the bullets you got and throw the gun, too.”
The Lakers take the court at home at Staples Center at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.