In his second game only after an extended absence, James was forced off the floor against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday after experiencing pain in his right ankle. The Lakers have given up on both games James has played since returning to action and with just seven games left on the schedule, each loss becomes more crucial to playoff positioning. Los Angeles currently holds a half-game lead over the Dallas Mavericks for fifth place in the West, and they are one game ahead of the Blazers, who are seventh.
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With LeBron’s status unknown going forward, it puts more pressure on a Lakers team trying to avoid the play-in tournament, which includes teams ranked No.7-10 to finalize the final two spots in playoffs of each conference. James has previously expressed his distaste for the tournament following Sunday night’s loss, saying anyone who came up with the idea should be fired. “It’s wacky,” James said of the play-in tournament. “You have to earn your spot to be in the playoffs. No consolation for having finished last. It’s corny. James might not like the idea, but having to qualify through the play-in tournament is a real possibility for the Lakers now.
As well as not having LeBron for at least a few more games, the Lakers will also be without point guard Dennis Schroder, who is sidelined for 10 to 14 days due to league health and safety protocols. Schroder has kept the Lakers afloat during the absence of James and Anthony Davis, and with him until potentially the playoffs, that will mean the Lakers will need more of the other players on the team. How the Lakers fare for their next series of games will go a long way in determining where they end up in the playoff picture, and now they won’t have their best player for at least two of them.