Each and every time the Lakers take one step forward in their progress this season, they inevitably end up taking two steps backwards.
That was the case again on Sunday when after victories against Eastern Conference playoff teams in the Toronto Raptors and Cleveland Cavaliers, they lost back-to-back games against the Philadelphia 76ers and the New Orleans Pelicans.
The loss to the Pelicans on Sunday night was especially damaging. Entering the game the Lakers had a half-game lead over New Orleans for the 9th seed in the Western Conference. That seed would determine who would have home court advantage in a likely win-or-go home play-in game. The Lakers loss allowed the Pelicans to leapfrog Los Angeles, who are now just a single game ahead of the San Antonio Spurs from missing the postseason entirely.
"Time is running out for us to turn our season around," admitted Lakers' head coach Frank Vogel after the loss.
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If the loss wasn't bad enough for the Lakers, things went from bad to worse late in the game when NBA scoring leader LeBron James injured his left ankle going up for a rebound.
After the game, a visibly limping LeBron described his ankle as "horrible." He did not practice on Monday, and instead received around the clock treatment on the ankle. He is currently listed as "doubtful" for the team's game against the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday.
“I have no idea how I finished the game," said James of the injury. "It's horrible right now."
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LeBron's ankle injury is just the latest in a slew of injuries that has befallen the Lakers this season. James has battled injuries throughout the season, the team's backup point guard Kendrick Nunn has yet to step on the court, and superstar Anthony Davis has missed multiple months with knee and foot injuries as well.
All of those injuries, plus some peculiar roster construction, has led to the Lakers lackluster season. The 2020 NBA Champions are a paltry 31-43 this campaign and could miss the playoffs entirely.
The only silver lining for the Lakers is news that Davis has returned to practice and was recently upgraded from "out" to "doubtful" for the game in Dallas on Tuesday. Davis suffered a foot sprain on February 16, and has not played since.
The Lakers and Mavericks will meet for the third time this season and will have to find a way to stop Luka Doncic without their two best players. Doncic ranks fifth in the NBA in scoring with 27.9 points per game, just 2.2 points behind James.
Dallas (33-16), also leads the Western Conference in team defense and opponents shooting percentage. The Mavericks are 6-4 over their last 10 games, and the Lakers are just 3-7. The two teams tip-off at 4:30PM PT on Tuesday.