Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James will miss the team’s matchup with the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night due to a lingering ankle injury. James also missed L.A.’s 129-118 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Sunday with the injury. The Lakers are currently in the midst of a six-game losing streak and on the brink of postseason elimination.
The game against the Suns is an important one for the Lakers, who enter the evening two full games behind the San Antonio Spurs for the 10th seed in the Western Conference standings — and the final spot in the NBA‘s play-in tournament. The Spurs also hold the season tiebreaker over the Lakers.
At this point, L.A.’s hopes of qualifying for the play-in tournament are grim, and they could come to an end on Tuesday night. If the Lakers lose to the Suns, and the Spurs beat the Nuggets, the Lakes will be officially eliminated from postseason contention. Without James’ services, it will be very tough for the Lakers to walk away from Phoenix — which is locked in to the No. 1 seed in the West — with a win.
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This season has certainly not gone the way the Lakers had hoped, and injuries to key contributors like James and Anthony Davis have played a major role in that. James has played in 56 games this season (and averaged a league-leading 30.3 points per game in those contests), while Davis has appeared in just 39. Though their playoff chances aren’t officially dead, yet, they certainly don’t look great. The Lakers have just three games remaining after Tuesday’s tilt with the Suns, and their current status has 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 loss to the Nuggets on Sunday. “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.”
If the Lakers miss the playoffs, which feels like a likely possibility at this point, then the organization will enter the offseason with some major questions regarding the roster and the direction of the team.