The Los Angeles Lakers lost to the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday despite LeBron James’ return from an ankle injury — just five days after the 37-year-old forward got hurt.
Even though he had missed the previous two games, James chalked up 38 points, eight rebounds and four assists upon his return. In addition, he had Anthony Davis by his side, who came back from a foot injury after a six-week break and put up a 23-point double-double against the Pelicans.
After the loss, the L.A. fell 1.0 games behind the San Antonio Spurs in 10th, the last spot granting Play-In Tournament qualification. The Lakers host the Denver Nuggets on Sunday in one of their last five games of the regular season.
James said his ankle felt “pretty sore” after the clash with the Pelicans but added he hopes to play the Nuggets later this weekend.
“For me personally it’s to get started working on this ankle,” he said. “It’s pretty sore right now, so early start on Sunday, hopefully, it reacts the proper way for me in the morning when I wake up and I have no setbacks. For me, that’s the most important thing for me.
“For us as a team, obviously it’s a tough loss for us so we get an opportunity tomorrow to decompress with the day off and then get back out on Sunday.”
The Lakers need to finish with a better record than either the Pelicans or the Spurs to qualify for the Play-In Tournament, as both teams own tiebreakers over the Purple and Gold.
James won’t give up on 2021-22 until Lakers are officially eliminated
James said he realizes the matchup against the Pelicans was a “must-win” for the Lakers. However, he promised L.A. will keep trying to qualify for the Play-In Tournament until they are officially eliminated from the playoffs race.
“The big picture is that it was pretty much a must-win for us and we didn’t get the job done. We had great opportunities throughout the night and we didn’t make enough plays down the stretch while they did. So that’s the big picture,” James said.
“Until it says we are eliminated then it doesn’t. When that happens then we’ll know what our destiny is, but until then, we just keep pushing forward.”
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