Winners of 4 in a row and boasting a wholesome roster for the primary time in months, the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers sound assured regardless of how their repeat title bid begins, play-in event or not.
“Let the chips fall the place they could,” LeBron James stated after enjoying for the primary time in almost two weeks in a 122-115 win over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday. “So simple as that. We’re able to go.”
James missed the earlier six video games whereas strengthening his proper ankle after a short two-game return following the longest injury-related absence of his profession (20 video games). He appeared sharp Saturday, scoring 24 factors on 11-of-22 capturing in 28 minutes, with eight assists and 7 rebounds.
When L.A.’s 14-point fourth-quarter lead was reduce to 3, James went on a private 7-2 scoring spurt to offer the Lakers sufficient respiratory room to carry on for the win.
“He is LeBron James, so he is positively going to alter our crew dramatically,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel stated. “We have been with out him for an extended stretch, and the opposite guys have carried out admirably. However having him again in there, it is only a difference-maker — his I.Q., his potential to make performs in each method you may make a play — and helped us shut the sport out.”
The Lakers are hoping to shut the common season out with a win over the New Orleans Pelicans. That, combined with a Denver Nuggets win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday, would give L.A the No. 6 seed, thus avoiding the play-in tournament.
Vogel would not commit to how much he would play his key pieces on the second leg of the back-to-back just yet. Anthony Davis was also returning from a one-game absence because of tightness in his groin, and Dennis Schroder played his first game in 15 days because of a stint in the health and safety protocols.
“We’ll meet with the medical team and see where everybody’s at, in terms of the guys coming back from injury,” he said. “And we’ll make a decision on who’s in and who’s not in tomorrow.”
Before the Pacers game, Vogel let it be known that he doesn’t intend to manipulate his lineup to end up with a lower seeding against a preferable opponent.
“My opinion is, win as many games as you can and let the seeds fall where they may and be unafraid of any matchup,” he said. “I believe in the basketball gods.”
Davis — who put up 28 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and two steals — shared the same steely eyed resolve, even though L.A. is just 13-16 since March 20, even with its current win streak.
“We’re ready to play whatever game,” he said.
While the Lakers’ confidence level was clear, Schroder’s situation is murkier. The point guard, who had 14 points on 3-for-9 shooting and four assists, was evasive when asked about his recent absence.
Schroder said he did not test positive for COVID-19 and revealed that he is the only player on the Lakers’ roster to have not received the coronavirus vaccine.
However, he also said that, after going through his second mandatory quarantine of the season (the first was because of contact tracing), he would not have to go through that again.
“At least I can’t get it no more in the playoffs,” he said. “So that’s probably the best thing.”
Another thing is certain when it comes to the Lakers: Having James on the court opens up all sorts of possibilities for the days and weeks to come.
“It will take a few games to get it all the way back,” James said, “but I like where I am today.”