Lakers forward LeBron James was triple-teamed when he turned and fell, clutching his leg. His yell of anguish and pain echoed off the empty seats of the Staples Center. James got up to score a three-point shot but soon left the game.
The All-Star forward was diagnosed with a right ankle sprain and will be out indefinitely. One could perceive that the odds will be stacked against the reigning champions moving forward.
With both forward Anthony Davis and James out, the Lakers will now be missing around 49 points per game. However, the squad is used to battling through the unforeseeable.
“That’s one of those things that happens, that’s one of those uncertainties that we got to deal with just like anything else,” said center Montrezl Harrell. “It’s gonna become another task to where it becomes another step-up moment, we’ve been through that before.”
Harrell was an example of the Laker’s depth, scoring 27 points and 11 rebounds. He led the team in both categories coming off the bench.
“We need him throughout the whole game,” said guard Dennis Schröder. “I think we all got to take more pride now, starts with me individually, to be better.”
Back on March 3, the Lakers fought with valor without their two superstars against the Sacramento Kings. Three players scored over 20 points; forward Kyle Kuzma and Harrell got double-doubles in their 120-123 loss.
“I think the way we played at Sacramento … shows that we have enough offensive firepower and we have the defensive mentality with our group,” said Lakers head coach Frank Vogel. “To me, we have enough to win.”
It was tough for the Lakers to adjust, especially with Hawks forward John Collins scoring any chance he could get. Nate McMillan became the interim head coach of the Hawks on March 1, Atlanta has won eight straight games since.
“They’re doing a really good job of packing the paint,” Kuzma said. “The core is much more smaller up there within the scheme, he’s always been a great defensive coach.”
Atlanta held the Purple and Gold to 12 points in the third quarter. However, the Lakers outscored the Hawks 29-25 in the fourth quarter. Despite the win, McMillan observed his team’s shortcomings.
“I thought we started to settle for long jump shots and not continue to keep pressure on their defense attacking the basket,” he said. “We don’t want to settle; we want to attack.”
The Lakers know they must adjust to their new challenges. Despite the injuries, the leadership of the team has not changed, according to Harrell. Like Davis, LeBron can find ways to be of help to the team from the sidelines.
“[Davis] hasn’t been on the floor for us for a numerous amount of games and you still see him on the sidelines still communicating, breaking down film with guys, multiple different things,” Harrell said.
The Lakers travel to battle the Phoenix Suns on March 21 at 7 pm.