Do the Lakers miss LeBron James? Los Angeles Should Be Worried They Can’t Win Without Injured Talisman | NBA News

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In a dismissive tone, Russell Westbrook declined to detail an expensive turnover and missed the triple that played a key factor in the Lakers’ 107-104 defeat to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday at the Staples Center.

“Don’t ask me a question you know the answers to,” Westbrook said. “You saw it. Watch the game and see what happens. I lost the ball. I missed a 3. Nothing to be done.”

Calmly, Anthony Davis expressed confidence in his sprained right thumb even though it remained wrapped in duct tape.

“Okay,” Davis said.

But the Lakers definitely don’t.

For the second time in the past week, the Lakers (5-4) have wasted a double-digit lead to rebuild the Thunder team (2-6) that only beat them this season.

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Highlights from the Oklahoma City Thunder visit to the Los Angeles Lakers in week 3 of the NBA

Perhaps the Lakers wouldn’t have wasted a 19-point lead against the Thunder on Thursday if LeBron James hadn’t suffered a stomach strain near the end of Tuesday’s win in Houston. Perhaps the Lakers wouldn’t have wasted a 26-point lead last week in Oklahoma, James hadn’t lost the second straight game due to a sprained right ankle.

Still, this misses the point completely. The Lakers shouldn’t need James babysitting a veteran-laden All-Stars team to make sure they don’t waste a double-digit lead on a team destined for the NBA Draft lottery.

“It’s a big key for our team, but we still have to play,” Davis said. “We have yet to find ways to win basketball games. We can’t control him while he plays or not. But what we can control is to go out there and win basketball games with the boys we have. We have enough pieces to win basketball again. games, even if it brings a huge part to both ends of the field with what we do. “

Yes, the Lakers should have enough pieces to win games.

Russell Westbrook sits down on the Lakers bench during the defeat to the Thunder
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Russell Westbrook sits down on the Lakers bench during the defeat to the Thunder

Westbrook (27 points, six rebounds, five assists) can still record triple-doubles. Davis (29 points, 18 rebounds, two blocks) can still dominate on the inside. Carmelo Anthony (21) can still score almost any time he wants, even on the bench. However, the Lakers also have some serious flaws.

They have 12 new players who have yet to get used to playing with each other with and without James. They’ve been treating key wing injuries all season (Trevor Ariza, Talen-Horton Tucker) and just integrated one against Oklahoma City (Wayne Ellington). The Lakers have a learning curve on defensive schemes that manager Frank Vogel oversaw, a staple that secured an NBA title just two years ago. The Lakers have barely picked up a win against another rebuilding team without James (San Antonio). Even when James was healthy, the Lakers barely racked up two wins against another rebuilding team (Houston).

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Los Angeles Lakers ‘Carmelo Anthony in action during the first half of the Lakers’ clash with the Cleveland Cavaliers

“We can’t get through. We’re fine. We’re fine,” Anthony said. “It hurts to lose to the same team twice in a week in the same way. This is something we have to assume and hold each other accountable as players and teammates. But other than that, our modality is the same. . We know It’s a long journey and a long year. But the games we should win along that road, we should win. “

If the Lakers can’t beat a rebuilding team twice without James, how can they absorb his absences this season? With James expected to miss at least another week due to his latest injury, how can the Lakers expect to win in Portland on Saturday, followed by a home game that includes playoff-level teams in Charlotte, Miami and Chicago?

The Lakers earn a 19-point lead at home and fall to the Thunder.

In theory, the Lakers’ chemistry will improve throughout the season as they play more games, lose their learning curve, and kick injured players out of the manager’s room. Just like when they won an NBA title (2020) and experienced a blaze in the first round (2021), the Lakers ‘championship fortunes will depend primarily on James’ health. Fortunately for the Lakers, they don’t expect James’s injury to be serious.

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel watches from the sidelines at the Staples Center
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Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel watches from the sidelines at the Staples Center

“Whenever LeBron is out and wasting time, there is obviously a concern,” Vogel said. “But hopefully this is something minimal.”

But even though the Lakers argue that James’ latest injury has no correlation with his injured left groin in 2017-18 and his high right ankle sprain (2020-21), the Lakers intend to remain cautious with the body of 36 years old of James.

Therefore, it seems inevitable that the Lakers will have to learn to navigate parts of the regular season without James. Small champion size aside, the Lakers have already shown warning signs that their roster building could leave them ill-equipped to take on that challenge.

The Lakers faced an up and coming young player (Kyle Kuzma), a decent long man (Montrezl Harrell), a reliable shooter and defender (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope) and a No. 22 choice for the Washington Wizards because they believed in Westbrook’s worth in moments like those facing the Lakers.

“One of the reasons we traded for Russell is to be able to stretch where we don’t have better LeBron or AD than we did last year,” Vogel said.

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Inside The NBA crew discuss what role Russell Westbrook will play for the Los Angeles Lakers this season

However, one of the reasons the Lakers have lost twice to Oklahoma City is Westbrook’s inability to get out of the way.

Last week, Westbrook committed 10 turnovers and became an emotional wreck both when the Lakers squandered a double-digit lead and Thunder striker Darius Bazley took down a dunk in recent seasons. Westbrook had shown some incremental progress with reducing his turnovers while maintaining his aggression. But on Thursday he made three costly mistakes.

With 21 seconds left, Westbrook jumped on the break only to lose control of the ball as he went for the basket. In the next play, Westbrook helped too much and left Lu Dort open for an unchallenged dunk. And then on the last possession, Westbrook pulled up for a contested triple that prompted Vogel to admit “we wanted a better shot than that”. If Westbrook’s space had been better, perhaps Anthony would have opened for a 3 as Vogel had hoped.

“I just have to figure it out. As simple as that,” Westbrook said. “You can’t do much about it but understand it and find the best way to play for the team and figure out the best way to be effective.”

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The highlights of the Los Angeles Lakers’ trip to the Oklahoma City Thunder in week 2 of the NBA

Of course, the Lakers’ troubles don’t fall entirely on Westbrook. DeAndre Jordan offered little rim protection. Anthony’s productive attack was offset by his shoddy defense. The Lakers have missed nine consecutive shots, including four from reserve Rajon Rondo, during a five-minute spell without Davis and Westbrook on the field. Despite Davis’s insistence on feeling good, one can’t help but wonder if his injured thumb negatively impacted both his play in the second half and his readiness for Saturday’s match in Portland.

But Anthony and Davis seemed to thrive on offense primarily for their talent than any director Westbrook has offered. Despite all the understandable learning curves Westbrook faced playing alongside James, Westbrook had the opportunity to return to a more comfortable role without him.

“We have to keep learning what we are asking them to do within our system,” Vogel said. “One of those things is keeping turnover low, which he did a better job of. We need to keep him touching the paint and creating as much as possible.”

If only Westbrook could have done it more accurately twice last week against Oklahoma City. Instead, they are left with questions about when and if Westbrook will become the player they had envisioned and will specifically help them whenever James has to sit on the bench.

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