The Los Angeles Lakers dropped a pivotal tiebreaker to the Portland Trail Blazers and things will not get any easier as they prepare for a showdown with the second-seeded Phoenix Suns on Sunday night.
Unfortunately though, they will be without star LeBron James again as he continues to work his way back from an ankle issue.
The Lakers’ backcourt will be shorthanded once again without James and Dennis Schroder, their two best point guards. Schroder remains out under the league’s health and safety protocol while James continues to recover from the ankle issue that has been hindering him.
The four-time NBA champ was sidelined for six weeks due to a sprained right ankle. Despite being able to make his return, he suffered a setback in his second game back against the Toronto Raptors.
The Purple and Gold have understandably taken a cautious approach with his recovery this time around in order to avoid any possibility of further aggravation. Unfortunately, the team is running out of time to make up the ground they lost after their recent skid with just five games left in the 2020-21 NBA season.
The loss to the Trail Blazers took the Lakers out of the driver’s seat to avoid a potential play-in situation for the playoffs. Since they no longer own the tiebreaker, they will need to do their part to win out and hope that Damian Lillard & Co. can slip up down the road.
Of course, this will be much more challenging with James still on the mend leading up to the start of the postseason. The team is already severely undermanned when it comes to primary ball handlers and having one of their star players back will surely pay some dividends.
Regardless, it is clear that the Lakers have prioritized getting James as healthy as possible for playoffs even if it does mean having to take part in a play-in. It is certainly understandable since his health would be a deciding factor in whether or not the team is able to defend its title.
James will only have a few games upon returning
With James missing Sunday night’s game against the Suns, he will only have four regular-season games left to get ready before a potential play-in game.
Of those four games, there will be two sets of back-to-backs, which isn’t exactly ideal for a playing coming back from injury.
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