The defending champions Los Angeles Lakers have been fighting an uphill battle since their defeat in Game 1 of the series, but in truth, the Lakers’ struggles began much earlier in the season.

The tight turnaround from last season’s title-winning exertions in the NBA Bubble in Orlando, which finished on October 11, when they beat Miami to lift the Larry O’Brien trophy, to the new campaign tipping off on December 16 left the Lakers with little time to rest and get fully healthy.

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That has meant a season where the team has been constantly fighting injury and LeBron admitted as much after the game.

However, the 36-year-old LeBron James also reserved special praise for Devin Booker whose 47-point performance confirmed the Lakers’ season is now over, and fielded questions about the future of the team, and his plans for the summer with the US team heading to the Olympics.

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“The season started so fast after leaving the bubble obviously. I think I was talking to Wes(ley Matthews) in the locker room. The one thing that bothers me more than anything is we never got an opportunity to see our team at full strength because of injury, because of COVID, or because of something going on with our ball club this year

“We could never fully get into a rhythm and never see the full potential of what we were capable of. We obviously fell short of our goal but we tried to do everything to be as good as we could be under the circumstances.

“I also want to shout out Phoenix too. Monty Williams, Book and that team were excellent throughout the series, all of them, so much respect.”

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