The Los Angeles Lakers fell 129-118 in an important matchup against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday afternoon without All-Star forward LeBron James, who sat out because of an ankle sprain. James missed two games last week with the injury but did play Friday in a loss against the Pelicans. The loss was the sixth straight for the Lakers.
L.A.’s chances at the play-in tournament took a big hit with the loss to Denver as the team is now a full two games behind the San Antonio Spurs for the final spot in the tournament. LeBron has been dealing with this nagging ankle injury for quite some time, and he’s mostly played through it. Lakers coach Frank Vogel didn’t take any chances and sat him despite the crucial need for wins.
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With a brutal schedule to end the season that includes matchups against the Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors and another meeting with the Nuggets, the Lakers’ play-in odds seem incredibly grim. And because the Spurs own the season tiebreaker over them, the Lakers are actually in an even bigger hole. In order to move up to 10th, they’ll basically need to win out and hope for some Spurs losses.
Though their playoff chances aren’t officially dead, they certainly don’t look great, and their current status has Anthony Davis wondering what could have been had the team been afforded better health.
“I think the biggest thing that I think about personally is what we could have been, had we stayed healthy all year,” Davis said after the game, via ESPN. “What could we have been?
“Guys feel like, ‘OK, what could we have been if I was healthy all year, [LeBron James] was healthy, [Kendrick] Nunn was healthy?’ You think about those things. We put this team together and it looked good on paper, but we haven’t had a chance to reach that potential with guys in and out of the lineup. So the most frustrating part of this season is not being sure of what we could have been.”
This season has certainly not gone the way the Lakers had hoped, and injuries to key contributors like James and Davis have played a major role in that. James has played in 56 games this season, while Davis has appeared in just 39. Plus, Russell Westbrook’s overall fit on the team has been an issue.
Hailed by many as legitimate title contenders at the start of the season, it’s still pretty shocking to see the team fighting a losing battle for the final play-in spot. But despite their relatively dire circumstances, the Lakers are keeping their spirits up.
“There’s no moral victories in this league. Especially with us,” Davis said. “The whole world wants to see us lose, to be honest. But my job is to be on the floor and help these guys win and I think our spirit is very high in the locker room and we’re going to continue to fight.”
If the Lakers miss the playoffs, which feels like a real possibility at this point, then the organization will enter the offseason with some major questions regarding the roster and the direction of the team.