Lakers News: LeBron James Tips Suns And Warriors As Favorites In Western Conference
(Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images )

Despite a heroic effort from LeBron James, the short-staffed Los Angeles Lakers didn’t have enough firepower to stand up to the Western Conference-leading Phoenix Suns for four full quarters in Thursday’s 108-90 loss.

James scored 34 points, adding seven rebounds, two assists and two steals to keep the game a fairly close contest until halfway through the third quarter. L.A. folded after the four-time NBA champion twisted his ankle and the officials ejected Carmelo Anthony with the Suns quickly building a 20-point lead to seal the win.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in the NBA and the many injuries on the roster limited the Lakers’ options off the bench when Anthony left the game and James needed time to get his hurting ankle going again. That couldn’t have hurt the team more than against the side with the league-best 25-4 record.

After the game, James admitted the Suns — and Stephen Curry’s 25-6 Golden State Warriors — have emerged as the two Western Conference teams to beat after following a strong start to the 2021-22 season.

“In the Western Conference, you’ve got some really good teams right now,” the 36-year-old All-STar said.

“Obviously, right now Phoenix [Suns] and Golden State [Warriors]. They’re just playing extremely good basketball and for the majority of the season, they’ve been extremely healthy. So that definitely helps as far as the chemistry and things of that nature. Both teams pretty much brought back the same teams, so when it comes to camaraderie and chemistry they have that.

“Obviously, we want to continue to work our habits and for me, I obviously watch basketball games on off days every day. I’m watching and seeing what’s going on in our league, but what’s most important is how we can continue to get better and what we can do, especially in this tough stretch right now.”

Asked whether L.A. has shown it could eventually catch up with the West’s most competitive sides, James reiterated L.A. can’t assess the team’s potential until it has a healthy roster available for the first time this year.

“I feel like that’s a question you ask me after every game,” James said. “I don’t know. I don’t think so. No, we have no idea what this team can be. We have Trev, who it’s his second game back. No KNunn. I missed a bunch of games. Now AD is out. A bunch of guys in protocol. Our head coach is out, so how can we fully assess what we have. We haven’t been whole.

“I can’t remember the last time we played the same starting lineup and had the same rotation coming off the bench. It’s been a long time. So it’s hard to assess that.”

David Fizdale unsure when Frank Vogel can rejoin Lakers

The COVID-19 outbreak led to David Fizdale taking charge of the Lakers until head coach Frank Vogel tests out of the health and safety protocols. Vogel has already missed two games since entering the protocols — and Fizdale still doesn’t know when his principal would return.

“I don’t. I think we’re just waiting to see what happens next with Frank’s test and then we’ll go from there,” he said.

“But I don’t care … it’s not about me. I’m ready if they need me to step in that seat and I’m ready if I need to be there to support Frank.

“It’s a day-to-day situation and we’re not gonna get caught up in how unfortunate all of this is or how disruptive it is because all we can control is our response to it and my response is to serve.”

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