Shaquille O’Neal calls Lakers ‘soft’ after Game 5 loss to Suns: ‘They played with no heart’

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The defending champion Los Angeles Lakers are one loss away from being eliminated in the first round of the NBA playoffs after the Phoenix Suns‘ thoroughly dominating 115-85 Game 5 win on Tuesday. The Lakers never cut the lead to fewer than 25 points after midway through the second quarter, as Phoenix went up 3-2 in the series.

The Lakers were without Anthony Davis due to a groin injury, and LeBron James received little help on the offensive end from his remaining teammates. James finished with 24 points on 6-for-10 3-point shooting, while the other Lakers starters combined to score just 11 points. Excluding James, the Lakers shot 6-for-25 from 3-point range in the blowout loss.

Facing an uphill battle without Davis, the Lakers’ loss isn’t all that surprising — but the way they lost certainly turned some heads. Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal ripped his former team on TNT after the game, saying the Lakers played “soft” and “with no heart.”

“As a former Laker, I have G-14 classification to say what I’m about to say. They played soft. They played with no heart. Played with no pride, and they played with no sense of urgency,” O’Neal said. “… When it comes to the Lakers and great championship teams, they play with pride. We always ain’t have all our players healthy, but we still played with pride. The stars played well. Stars played when they were hurt. And the others stepped up.”

While acknowledging that James didn’t have his best performance, O’Neal derided the supporting cast’s failure to step up with more opportunity coming their way due to Davis’ injury. Only two Lakers besides James scored in double-figures: Kyle Kuzma with 15 points and Talen Horton-Tucker with 11, most of which came with the game well out of hand.

Davis has hinted at a possible return for Thursday’s Game 6, but he and the training staff will have to see how he looks leading up to tipoff. With or without Davis, the Lakers will need to come out with much more energy and aggression in order to avoid elimination.

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