Sunday was not kind to the Los Angeles Lakers and their fans. Not only did the purple and gold suffer a loss at home that evens up their first-round series against the Suns and gives Phoenix home-court advantage once again, but they also saw Anthony Davis go down with a groin injury just before halftime, putting his availability for game five -and the rest of the series – in doubt.
Without Davis, it will be a tall task to defeat the Suns who showed they are not backing down after a blowout loss in game three. Chris Paul appears to be getting over his own injury and they took a 21-point lead over the Lakers on Sunday before a late surge gave the Lakers a chance to steal the game away in the closing minutes.
However, the Lakers are better suited to survive without their All-NBA big man than most teams and that’s because of the presence of LeBron James. The superstar declined to comment much on his co-star’s injury after the game but made it very clear that if he had to carry the team in AD’s absence, he is up to that challenge:
“These shoulders are built for a reason,” James told the media after the game (h/t to Harrison Faigen of Silver Screen and Roll). “If it takes me putting some more on top of them, so be it. Win, lose or draw, I’m ready for the challenge.”
You wouldn’t expect to hear anything else from LeBron in this situation but it still feels calming to hear the words from his mouth. LeBron has been in these situations before: back against the wall, needing to perform at the highest level just to keep his team afloat. He has almost delivered on an individual level and for a talented Lakers team, that might just be enough to get them past this giant hurdle. It’s only a matter of LeBron’s own aggression, his teammates delivering when he needs them to, and Vogel placing him in the situations that maximize the team.
There will rightfully be some doubt about a 36-year-old LeBron James carrying a team in the playoffs without his sidekick the way he did in Cleveland or Miami at times. But James has drawn motivation, especially late in his career, from these types of doubts – even the ones that are more self-created. So while a pivotal game five might be stressful and potentially disastrous for the Lakers if Davis is indeed out, it could also give us a chance to see something truly special from LeBron in what will amount to be his first major playoff challenge in purple and gold. That should get you excited and confident.