The playoff fate of the Los Angeles Lakers will largely depend on the health and performance of LeBron James, who missed 26 of the team’s final 30 regular-season games after suffering a high ankle sprain against the Atlanta Hawks in late March.
Instead of being eased into the postseason with a seven-game series against what is traditionally a lesser opponent, the No. 7-seeded Lakers have been thrown into a high-intensity play-in matchup with the No. 8 Golden State Warriors on Wednesday. James hasn’t played more than 32 minutes in a game since his injury, but you’d have to imagine he’ll be called on to exceed that against Golden State.
Please check the opt-in box to acknowledge that you would like to subscribe.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox.
There was an error processing your subscription.
Prior to the game, Lakers coach Frank Vogel was asked about James’ health, and he said that his superstar is “not full strength” as of yet.
“It’s a tough question. I would say he’s not full strength, but he’s getting there,” Vogel said on Wednesday. “It’s really tough for me to put a number on it or percent or anything like that. He looked pretty good in the last two games, but obviously we would have loved to have a couple more weeks to get him where he wants to be.”
James played in the final two games of the regular season, wins over the Pacers and Pelicans, averaging 24.5 points, seven assists and four rebounds in 28 minutes per game. He made headlines a couple of weeks ago when he said, “I don’t think I will ever get back to 100 percent in my career,” later stating that the quote was taken out of context and that he was referring to his body as a whole, not just his injured ankle.
We all know what LeBron James is capable of doing in the postseason — his resumé speaks for itself — but at 36 years old and pushing through a lingering injury, he’s going to have to get to work right away. A loss to the Warriors on Wednesday would set up an elimination game on Friday against the Grizzlies. Even with a win in one of those games, the Lakers would then face a best-of-seven series with the top-seeded Utah Jazz or the No. 2 Phoenix Suns, who finished with the two best records in the NBA.