The LA Lakers took back the fifth seed in the West on Monday night despite playing without LeBron James in a tough matchup against the Denver Nuggets. Anthony Davis led the Lakers with 25 points and 7 rebounds in what was a defensive masterclass, holding Denver to only 89 points in the contest.
LeBron James was sidelined for the game after limping out of the LA Lakers’ loss to the Toronto Raptors on Sunday, and it doesn’t appear that he will be back straight away. Per the latest reports, James is expected to miss the Lakers’ tough back-to-back at the end of the week against the LA Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers.
How LeBron James’ continued absence could affect the LA Lakers going forward
The LA Lakers certainly impressed on Monday night in what was a surprising win against the red-hot Denver Nuggets. Their backcourt trio of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso and Talen Horton-Tucker combined for 31 points, while Marc Gasol had an efficient 13 minutes off the bench with 10 points and 7 rebounds.
The Lakers will have to continue those performances for the remainder of the campaign if they are to keep hold of their current seeding.
The biggest factor in the Lakers’ previous run without LeBron James was their strong defense – it was the most stifling in the league and conceded the fourth-fewest points.
However, the Lakers also scored the fourth-fewest points in that time, which resulted in a record of 8-12. Therefore, they are certainly going to miss James’ 25 points and 7.8 assists per game against the Clippers and Trail Blazers – two sides with a top-seven offense this year.
Both games are on the road for the Lakers, where they went 5-7 without LeBron James. The LA Clippers took home a wire-to-wire 18-point win and held the LA Lakers to just 86 points in the reigning champions’ last outing without James in the lineup.
Six of the LA Lakers’ remaining seven opponents – including the Clippers – have something to play for, whether that be a higher seeding or a play-in tournament berth.
Without LeBron James’ leadership on and off the court, the Lakers could be facing a play-in tournament battle. The Trail Blazers are currently only a game behind, while the Dallas Mavericks trail by only half a game too.
Lakers fans will be anxious ahead of Thursday night and will be hoping Anthony Davis can carry the offensive load left by LeBron James.