The LA Lakers continue their discouraging tumble south in the Western Conference playoff picture. The franchise is in danger of falling into the play-in tournament as the regular season nears a close. The focus now lies on troubling concerns regarding LeBron James‘ health.
Lakers fall to another disappointing loss
The Lakers entered Sunday’s contest against the Toronto Raptors with an opportunity to finally get back on track.
Instead, LA struggled again on their home floor, falling convincingly to the Raptors. Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam lit up the scoreboard for 78 of Toronto’s 121 points.
Their stellar combined production erased an early 12-point deficit by pushing the Raptors to outscore LA 40-21 in the second quarter. The Lakers struggled to close the gap in the second half, falling to their sixth loss in the last seven games.
Beyond that, the Lakers now have a more significant concern on their hands with LeBron James’ health.
LeBron James suffers a discouraging setback that should concern Lakers fans
The biggest storylines coming out of Sunday’s loss to the Raptors concerned James’ health.
The four-time league MVP exited midway through the fourth quarter due to soreness in his right ankle. The Lakers elected to keep him out of the rest of the game due to precautionary reasons.
With that in mind, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that James will miss Monday’s home game against the Denver Nuggets. It marks the second leg of a back-to-back set that will give him three days off before Thursday’s contest facing the LA Clippers.
James voiced after the contest that he wasn’t too concerned about the situation but stated that he would wait to see how his ankle would respond. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that LA is taking this route given his importance to their NBA title chances.
Since returning to the floor, James has repeatedly discussed that he is dealing with stiffness in his right ankle. In his first two games back in the lineup, James showed expected rust as he averaged 17.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 6.5 assists, and 5.0 turnovers in 29.5 minutes per contest.
His absence will shift Kyle Kuzma back into the starting lineup, while Anthony Davis will become the central focus of the Lakers’ offensive approach.
Continued stumble toward NBA playoffs should raise red flags
Since the Lakers became riddled with significant injuries this season, the franchise hasn’t looked the part of a title-contending team.
LA stumbled without their two superstars falling from the second-best record in the Western Conference to on the verge of being in the play-in tournament. The team has struggled to find their identity, while their lackluster play defensively as of late raises more red flags.
There is still time for the Lakers to get back on the right track, but the clock is ticking with only eight games left in the regular season. Meanwhile, Davis is still getting his legs under him, while James is on the mend again from a nagging injury.
On top of that, Dennis Schroder will miss the next 10 to 14 days due to the health and safety protocol. His absence leaves a gaping hole in their backcourt.
The question becomes whether there are enough games left for the Lakers to turn it around before the playoffs. That task won’t be easy as their remaining regular-season schedule features matchups against the Nuggets, Portland Trail Blazers, LA Clippers, and New York Knicks.
The table is set for the Lakers to find their rhythm to push toward a deep playoffs run.