While the Los Angeles Lakers managed to pick up an important win against the Denver Nuggets on Monday night, the focus remains on LeBron James’ health, as he was held out of that game with soreness in the same ankle that just caused him to miss 20 games. James will also sit out L.A.’s next two games against the Clippers on Thursday night and against the Blazers on Friday, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. In just his second game back after an extended absence, James was forced to leave the floor against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday after experiencing soreness in his right ankle. The Lakers dropped both games that James played in since his return to action and with just seven games left on the schedule, every loss becomes more crucial for playoff positioning. L.A. currently holds a half-game lead over the Dallas Mavericks for the fifth spot in the West, and they are one game ahead of the Blazers, who sit seventh.
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With LeBron’s status unknown going forward, it puts more pressure on a Lakers team that is trying to avoid the play-in tournament, which includes teams ranked Nos. 7-10 to finalize the last two playoff spots in each conference. James has already expressed his distaste for the tournament after Sunday night’s loss, stating that whoever came up with the idea should be fired. “That’s wack,” James said of the play-in tournament. “You’ve got to earn your spot to be in the postseason. No consolation for finishing last. That’s corny.” James may not like the idea, but having to qualify via the play-in tournament is a real possibility for the Lakers now.
In addition to not having LeBron for at least a couple more games going forward, the Lakers will also be without point guard Dennis Schroder, who is sidelined for 10-14 days due to the league’s health and safety protocols. Schroder kept the Lakers afloat during James’ and Anthony Davis’ absence, and with him out until potentially the postseason, it will mean that the Lakers will need more from other role players on the team. How the Lakers fare over their upcoming stretch of games will go a long way toward determining where they finish in the postseason picture, and now they won’t have their best player for at least a pair of them.