It came as no surprise that the Los Angeles Lakers struggled without LeBron James in the lineup as they were defeated by the Phoenix Suns, 111-94, in the second game of a back-to-back on Sunday night.
James was diagnosed with a high ankle sprain and is out indefinitely, adding to the stable of injuries the Lakers are currently dealing with. Los Angeles is also without Anthony Davis as he continues to rehab a calf strain, while Marc Gasol works his way through the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
A loss against the Suns was expected because of how much talent and depth was missing, but the Lakers’ starters and reserves put up a good fight for most of the night. There were several instances where Los Angeles was in a position to tie or take the lead but just could not get over the hump.
Head coach Frank Vogel praised his team for their effort and expressed optimism that they will be able to get by for the time being without James and Davis.
“I’m optimistic. I think our guys really fought tonight. We didn’t shoot the ball that well, but I thought we competed at a very high level and it’s going to take a little time as we adjust to figure out where the shots are coming from or what our new identity is going to look like. But we’re going to play within our system,” Vogel said.
“I’m just proud of how our guys competed on the second night of a back-to-back in a tough circumstance.”
The Lakers lost by 17 points, but they were actually well within striking distance in the fourth quarter as Dennis Schroder ignited a stretch where they brought the Phoenix lead down to single digits. However, Chris Paul and Devin Booker proved to be too much as the guard tandem took over late and closed the game out.
Fortunately, the Purple and Gold’s next few games appear winnable on paper as they will draw teams like the New Orleans Pelicans, Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic. However, after that, the schedule gets considerably more difficult and that could be when they tumble down the Western Conference standings.
It was encouraging to see the Lakers battle back multiple times against Phoenix, but they will need to pull out victories if they hope to stay afloat until James and Davis arrive.
Lakers could look to trade deadline for immediate help
With the injuries to James and Davis, the Lakers may need to be more aggressive in the trade market. While they have little in terms of draft capital, Los Angeles could dangle players like Talen Horton-Tucker and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for immediate help.
A deal does not appear to be on the horizon, but things could change rapidly in the coming days leading up to the March 25 deadline.
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