For the first time in an incredible career LeBron James has been eliminated in the first round of the Playoffs after the Phoenix Suns were inspired by young superstar Devin Booker to a decisive 113-100 road win to finish the series in Game 6.
The Lakers were wracked by injury throughout, with James and his co-star Anthony Davis both battling injuries as their nightmare championship defence came to a premature end.
In uncharacteristic scenes, the 36-year-old LeBron actually asked to be substituted midway through the fourth quarter, with the champion seemingly out of gas even as his Lakers mounted a brave fightback.
In a move that copped plenty of attention on social media, the man dubbed The King also walked straight out of the arena after the game was finished, rather than hanging around to shake hands with the victorious Suns players and congratulate them for getting the better of a hard-fought series.
While he was clearly upset about his team’s efforts on their home floor, even with 29 points, seven assists and nine rebounds, LeBron was outplayed by the emerging megastar on the opposite side of the court, with Booker raining down three-pointers on his way to an astonishing game-high 47 points.
The Suns will meet Denver in the second round, after the Nuggets ended Damien Lillard’s Portland Trailblazers’ Playoffs series with their own hard-fought Game 6 victory.
Booker scored 22 of his 47 points in a phenomenal first quarter, going off from behind the arc to put the champions on the back foot early and they were never able to recover.
Jae Crowder scored 18 points for the second-seeded Suns, who won their third consecutive game to send the Lakers packing and hand LeBron an unwanted 18-season career-first.
Chris Paul had eight points and 12 assists for the Suns, who jumped to a huge early advantage in the opening minutes of Game 6 while Davis struggled and eventually left due to his groin injury.
Although the Suns lost much of their early 29-point lead, they patiently held off the Lakers and James.
Dennis Schröder scored 20 points and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 19 for the Lakers.
– additional reporting by AP
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