NBA

LeBron back to face Pacers as Lakers boosted by Schroder return

By Sports Desk May 15, 2021

LeBron James is to return to action on Saturday for the Los Angeles Lakers, while Anthony Davis and Dennis Schroder are also set to play against the Indiana Pacers.

James has missed the previous six games for the defending NBA champions due to a high ankle sprain.

However, head coach Frank Vogel confirmed to the media that the four-time MVP will be involved against the Pacers in the Lakers' penultimate game in the regular season.

A win over Indiana, as well as in Sunday’s clash with the New Orleans Pelicans, and Los Angeles can rise to sixth in the Western Conference, provided the Portland Trail Blazers lose to the Denver Nuggets.

If they finish as the seventh seed, though, then they will have to go through the play-in tournament to have a chance of defending their title.

James initially missed 20 games earlier in the campaign with the injury to his right ankle that he suffered against the Atlanta Hawks on March 20.

He briefly made a comeback earlier this month, only to be sidelined again after feeling pain in his second outing back.

In the 2020-21 season, James has averaged 25 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.8 assists.

Davis sat out Wednesday's win over the Houston Rockets due to a groin issue but is available again, while Schroder has cleared the NBA's health and safety protocols put in place amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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    Brooklyn Nets stars Kyrie Irving and James Harden will both miss Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals against the Milwaukee Bucks due to injury.

    Irving sprained his right ankle in the Nets' 107-96 loss in Game 4 on Sunday and underwent an MRI which confirmed he would not be available for Tuesday's clash, with the NBA playoff series in tied at 2-2.

    Nets guard Irving joins former MVP Harden on the sidelines, with the latter still absence because of a hamstring he re-injured in Game 1.

    Brooklyn head coach Steve Nash said the length of Irving's absence remains unknown.

    "I have to wait and see how it progresses, I think," Nash said.

    "And then the experts would have to wait and see how it progresses and give you a clearer picture on what the window would be for his return."

    Nash added that Harden was "working out right now" but was unclear on his return to play timeframe.

    The second-seeded Nets – eyeing their maiden championship – have battled injuries throughout the 2020-21 campaign, with Harden missing 21 games late in the regular season due to his troublesome hamstring.

    "It's tough to lose great players but we've lost guys all season," Nash said. "If there's any silver linings, it's that we've continued to win games regardless of who's been available.

    "We've been able to adapt on the fly which is difficult to do sometimes. That's something we have some experience with. We should have some comfort and belief."

    The absence of two-thirds of the 'Big Three' puts a heavy burden on Kevin Durant, although Nash insisted it was not just about him.

    "This does not fall on Kevin, this falls on the Nets," Nash said. "We've got to find a way together to play great basketball on both ends of the floor. We've proven we can do it.

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    The Phoenix Suns are waiting.

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    In the East, meanwhile, the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks are serving up a prime example of how a seven-game series can ebb and flow throughout. At 2-2 and with injuries taking a toll, it is tough to predict who will progress.

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    Chris Paul

    Paul set an unusual record as the Suns completed a 4-0 sweep of the Nuggets on Sunday. In contributing 37 points, the 36-year-old became the oldest guard in NBA history to outscore his age in a playoff game.

    It capped a memorable week for the 11-time All-Star, who averaged 25.5 points per game in the series. Since the playoffs expanded to 16 teams in 1984, Phoenix are the only team to knock out both the previous year's conference finalists in the first two rounds, having also accounted for the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Donovan Mitchell

    Through three games against the Clippers, Mitchell has been an offensive juggernaut for the Jazz. He has scored a combined total of 112 points to average out for the week at 37.33 per outing.

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    Bruce Brown

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    Joe Harris

    Having been pivotal at the start of the Nets-Bucks series, Harris has cooled off since the teams travelled to Milwaukee. His opening two outings saw him manage 19 and 13 points, but since then just 11 combined in back-to-back defeats.

    Harris landed only one of his 11 field goal attempts in Game 3 before fouling out, while Sunday’s Game 4 performance was only marginally better. Perhaps a return to Brooklyn for Game 5 will help him find his scoring touch again.

    Bobby Portis

    Just like Harris on the opposing roster, Portis is in a slump. The 29-year-old has averaged just 2.0 points per game across the past week, a major drop from his regular-season average of 11.42. He is also contributing less in terms of rebounding too, dipping down to 3.0 per outing.

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    Marcus Morris Sr and Patrick Beverley

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