The Los Angeles Lakers are already in a rough spot as long as Anthony Davis is out, but ahead of their showdown with the Phoenix Suns, they were put in an even more difficult position.
Prior to the contest, it was announced that center Marc Gasol would be out due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Then, just before the contest was set to begin it was revealed that Kyle Kuzma wouldn’t be playing due to a right heel contusion.
This obviously puts more pressure on Lakers superstar LeBron James to produce without three major rotation pieces and he did that with 38 points and six assists, but it wasn’t enough as the Lakers still fell to Phoenix, 114-104. With a pair of major role players down, others needed to step up and James believes a handful of Lakers did just that.
“It’s no AD, no Marc and no Kuz. So that’s three of our top six rotational players,” LeBron said after the game. “Major pieces, so difficult challenge for us, but we had some good contributions tonight. I thought Dudz gave us some great minutes, I thought Talen gave us some good minutes and also [Damian] Jones gave us some good minutes too in the little amount of minutes that he played. We’re just trying to pick up for guys when guys are out.”
Though Dudley didn’t score, he was a team-high +9 in 11 minutes and did make a positive impact in the first half. Likewise, the Lakers’ latest signing, Damian Jones, played well with four points and a block in seven minutes, making the argument for more minutes with the team down three frontcourt players.
Horton-Tucker provided a major boost with 16 points off the bench including 12 in the second quarter to get the Lakers back in the game. Unfortunately, the Lakers just weren’t able to overcome the losses which came at an unideal time. After playing so well the last two games, James believes the Lakers were deflated by the loss of two more rotational players.
“Even though we’ve been prepared all season, knowing the COVID rules and things of that nature, you can be hit with some spontaneous, I guess guys being out very rapidly and things of that nature,” LeBron noted. “But it’s always tough, we played so well the last two games and were getting back into a rhythm, then we find out today two of our big guns are out. So it’s definitely deflating, especially when you’re playing poorly and then you get a good rhythm and then you’re hit with that. So definitely hurts our ballclub.”
The Lakers won’t have much time to adjust as they have one more game against the Sacramento Kings before a much-needed All-Star break. Things will only get more difficult as according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, James is expected to miss the game:
Lakers’ LeBron James will sit out his first game of the season on Wednesday at the Sacramento Kings on the back-to-back, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. The absence won’t impact his All-Star Game appearance Sunday in Atlanta.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 3, 2021
This will mark the first game James has missed all season, which is extremely impressive considering he is in the 18th year of his career and coming off the shortest offseason in NBA history.
With all of their recent injury issues, the break seems to be just what James and the Lakers need to get everyone back and ready to go for the home stretch of the season. They still have one more game to go though, and other players will have to step up in James’ absence.
LeBron focused on abiding by COVID rules
The Lakers have been one of the least affected teams in the NBA when it comes to losing players due to COVID. The team has had no games suspended and only just had their third player placed in the league’s health and safety protocols with Marc Gasol.
Unlike many other teams, the Lakers have yet to have multiple players out at the same time and James continued to stress that he and the rest of the team focus on what they can control by abiding by their rules.
“We have our COVID rules, and we have our COVID restrictions and guidelines and things of that nature, so you just try to abide by them and try to stay healthy, try to stay safe,” LeBron said. “Take care of what you can take care of. What you can’t control, you don’t worry about.”
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!