The Los Angeles Lakers Are Eliminated In The First Round Again

The Los Angeles Lakers were eliminated in the first round for the second consecutive year by the Denver Nuggets. Barely escaping another first-round sweep, the Lakers staved off elimination in game four by beating the Nuggets at home 119-108. They only prolonged the inevitable until last night. Denver ended the Lakers’ season with a 108-106 victory in Game 5 on Monday. Jamal Murray‘s 14-foot jumper with four seconds remaining pushed the Nuggets into the conference semifinals, where they will face the Minnesota Timberwolves. Denver’s Nikola Jokic had 25 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists, Murray had 32 points and seven assists and Michael Porter Jr. added 26 points.

The NBA playoffs are a teaching moment. Lessons given, lessons learned. Among the chief takeaways from the Denver Nuggets-Los Angeles Lakers series: the Lakers do not have a championship roster compared to the Nuggets, and the gulf is wide over the course of a best-of-7 series. The evidence is in the results. The Nuggets swept the Lakers in last season’s Western Conference finals and a similar result unfolded in Denver’s 4-1 series victory over the Lakers this season.

Now the Lakers enter another offseason in search of answers that can make them contenders in the deep West where the top teams — Denver, Oklahoma City and Minnesota — are set up for future seasons. The Lakers did not make a move at the February trade deadline, though they explored potential trades. “You can’t buy a house that’s not for sale,” Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka explained nearly three months ago. “My job is to always look for ways to upgrade our roster, but you can’t buy a house that’s not for sale. We spent a lot of time looking for ways to use assets to make our team better.”

However, this summer, the Lakers could have three first-round picks and that opens up their ability to improve the roster. “This summer, in June, at the time of the draft, we’ll have three first-round draft picks to look for deals, which I think will really unlock an access to potentially a greater or bigger swing,” Pelinka said in February after the trade deadline. “We didn’t want to shoot a small bullet now, that would only lead to very marginal improvement at the expense of making a much bigger and more impactful move potentially in June or July. Sometimes no move is better than an unwise move.”

Where do the Lakers go from here?

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