Adam Silver is concerned by what he sees as "a trend" of the NBA's best players spending too much time on the sideline.

NBA commissioner Silver was speaking at a news conference following a two-day meeting with the league's board of governors.

Last year's NBA MVP Nikola Jokic was one of 11 players to play every game in the shortened 72-game 2020-21 regular season.

But only five players are on course to complete the full 82 games this year – and none of them could be considered superstars.

While Jokic has still played a good number in 73, MVP rivals Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo have been limited to 66 and 65 games respectively.

Stephen Curry has played in 64, Luka Doncic and James Harden in 63, LeBron James in 56, Kevin Durant in 53 and Kyrie Irving, chiefly due to the vaccine protocol that was in place in New York for much of the season, in 27.

Harden (37.2 minutes), James (also 37.2), Irving (37.5) and Durant (37.1) have at least seen plenty of time on the floor when they have been available, although the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers have spent much of the season hovering around the play-in line.

While Silver acknowledged injuries were a factor, he suggested this sort of motivation was key to seeing the best of the league's stars.

Antetokounmpo (32.9 this year) has long played limited minutes in the regular season, while Kawhi Leonard – prior to the injury that has kept him out of this season – was allowed regular periods of rest with the Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Clippers in order to prepare for the playoffs.

"The greater concern to me is a trend of star players not participating in a full complement of games," Silver said.

"I think that's something we, together with the Players Association, need to address. I'm not standing here saying I have a great solution.

"Part of the issue is injuries. One of the things we have focused on at the league office and we had begun to spend a lot of time on pre-pandemic [is]: are there things we can do in terms of sharing information, resources around the league to improve best practices, rehabilitation?

"The other way we can get at it, in terms of player participation, is creating other incentives.

"The play-in tournament, I thought, was a beginning of creating renewed incentives for teams to remain competitive and be fighting for playoff position. It might be through in-season tournaments and changes in format where we can get at it."

Russell Westbrook hopes he will get the chance to play an 82-game season alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis next year, but he added: "Nothing is promised."

Westbrook signed for the Los Angeles Lakers at the start of this season in a trade with the Washington Wizards that has since been widely criticised.

The Lakers traded away three key players in exchange for Westbrook and his huge contract, which contains a staggering $47.1million player option for 2022-23.

Having also given up their draft picks for the coming seasons in acquiring Davis, the Lakers may have little option but to run it back with the core of a team who have missed out on the postseason this year.

For all the Lakers' problems – their elimination confirmed by Tuesday's defeat to the Phoenix Suns – Westbrook hopes that will be the case.

He has played only 21 games alongside both James and Davis this season, with each suffering from injury troubles.

"That's the plan, but nothing is promised," Westbrook said. "You've got to take one thing at a time each day and play the cards you're dealt.

"Yes, we want to be able to see what that looks like, what that entails over the course of an 82-game season.

"But we're not sure if that's guaranteed, either. I just hope that we have a chance to be able to do something in the future."

Westbrook described the season as "obviously disappointing on many levels" and said "so many different things" had gone wrong.

However, he added: "It's a situation that I was just blessed to be able to be in.

"I learned a lot about a lot of different things within myself. I was able to just stay real faithful and true to what I believe in, regardless of what was ever thrown our way, my way. We continued to fight through it regardless of results.

"I'm covered. What I mean by that is I am super blessed and grateful. Regardless of whatever is thrown my way, I'm covered by the protection of faith. Whatever is thrown my way, I can always prevail and get through it."

Head coach Frank Vogel added: "I'm extremely disappointed, disappointed for our fan base, disappointed for the Buss family, who gave us all this opportunity.

"We want to play our part in bringing success to Laker basketball, and we fell short.

"We were eliminated tonight, but I can say it's not been due to a lack of effort. We have all put in the work, our guys stayed fighting right until the end, we brought integrity to the process; we just fell short through a disjointed season."

Vogel also pointed to the Lakers' injuries, suggesting they were the main difference between this season and the team's title-winning campaign of 2019-20.

"It's just a different team," he said. "Without getting into a lot of the details why, that was a very different team than we have this year.

"I would say if LeBron and AD played 15 games together that year, we would have had a similar year to what we're having right now."

LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers will be missing from the NBA playoffs.

Defeat to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday combined with a win elsewhere for the San Antonio Spurs meant the Lakers can no longer reach even the play-in tournament.

It is less than two years since the Lakers won the title in the 'bubble', but that championship was followed by one mishap after another, leading to this painful season.

Stats Perform seeks to break down where it all went wrong.

Ageing LeBron limited

This could and perhaps should have been remembered as a great year for James, who has scored 30.3 points per game. At 37, he is on course to become the oldest player ever to win the scoring title – a mantle he will take from the great Michael Jordan.

However, for a second straight year, injuries have limited James' involvement.

Already with more than 63,000 minutes in his legs across the regular season and playoffs, James has continued to push himself to try to save the Lakers' season. He has played 37.2 minutes per game – his most in five years, the most of any Laker and the third-most in the entire league. Again, he is 37. Ultimately, unsurprisingly, this has meant more wear and tear, with James playing in just 56 games.

Although James has scored more than 35 points in each of his past five games – a streak bettered only by DeMar DeRozan (eight) this season – he has also missed five games in that span. The Lakers have lost all five.

AD also absent again

Given James' age, it was to be expected his body might start to let him down. That he needed to play so many minutes when he was available, though, was due to injury issues for Anthony Davis – eight years his junior.

Davis was outstanding in helping James to win a title in their first season together in 2019-20 but has played only 76 games since across two regular seasons. After an Achilles strain hampered his 2020-21 campaign, Davis has missed time this year with knee and foot injuries. He played on Tuesday but revealed his foot was "a little more sore than normal" and had "swollen up a bit".

Whether Davis can ever get back to playing a full 82-game season remains to be seen, for he has appeared more cumbersome than in years past even when he has been available, having bulked up coming into this year. That is evident in the numbers, too, with Davis shooting a career-high 73.5 per cent at the rim but just 18.6 per cent from three-point range.

Derailed by Russ trade

Of course, even with James and Davis kept on the sideline for periods of the 2020-21 season, the Lakers still made the play-in tournament and then the playoffs. However, the Lakers then allowed almost their entire supporting cast to leave.

Their four most-used players in terms of minutes in 2020-21 departed, including three of them in an ill-fated trade for Russell Westbrook. On his fourth team in four years, there was hope Westbrook could form a 'big three' with James and Davis – "our goal was to win a championship," Davis said on Tuesday – yet the trio have played just 21 games together.

And Westbrook has been far less effective than the men he replaced in carrying the team in the absence of the Lakers' superstar duo. LA are 6-17 when Westbrook plays but James does not.

Having averaged a triple-double in four of his prior five seasons, Westbrook is down to 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists. One of 10 triples this year came in perhaps the worst individual performance of the campaign, in which Westbrook also had a league-high 10 turnovers and was ejected against former team the Oklahoma City Thunder.

What next?

"Who knows?" That was Davis' response after the Suns loss. The Lakers have very little room to manoeuvre in this coming offseason, even if James, Davis and Westbrook can each rediscover form and fitness – highly unlikely in itself.

As part of the deal with the New Orleans Pelicans for Davis, the Lakers traded away an unprotected first-round pick in 2022, a potential first-round pick swap in 2023 and either their 2024 or 2025 first-round pick. The 2022 pick is sure to be a big loss following this season, while the Lakers would have to turn their fortunes around dramatically for the subsequent picks not to also represent significant assets.

And yet the Lakers' cap situation is arguably even worse, headlined by Westbrook's player option for a staggering $47.1million in 2022-23. Only a league-low seven players are signed for next year, yet the team are already above the luxury tax threshold.

It is no secret James and Davis were hugely influential in constructing this roster, but whether the extortionate cost was worth it for a single title is up for debate. Another championship surely will not follow for some time.

Anthony Davis still believes the Los Angeles Lakers could have won the NBA title this season if not for injury.

Defeat to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday combined with a win elsewhere for the San Antonio Spurs meant the Lakers can no longer reach even the play-in tournament.

It is a remarkable fall from grace for a team who were champions less than two years ago, although both Davis and LeBron James have struggled with injuries.

Davis has played only 40 games following knee and foot injuries, while James has been limited to 56 as he has attempted to overcome an ankle sprain.

James was absent as the Lakers' playoff hopes were ended against the Suns, with Davis on the floor but acknowledging his foot was "a little more sore than normal" and had "swollen up a bit".

"We haven't had the chance to have our full team, with myself out, LB out, other guys," Davis said. "It's the most disappointing thing. I'm not sure how good we could have been.

"For myself personally, it's two unfortunate injuries that kept me out for a while, a significant part of the season.

"I was one of the leaders on the team, especially on the defensive end of the floor. When guys needed me most, I wasn't able to be out there.

"For me, for our team, for our organisation, we've got to recap now and see what's next."

Considering what that might mean for next season, Davis said: "Who knows?"

He added: "We've got to recap the season, what worked, what didn't work and go from there. I truly think we could have done something special if Bron and myself, mainly me, were healthy for the entire season.

"I think you would love to see, the world would love to see, we would love to see what this team could be if we were healthy for the full 82."

The Lakers' trade for Russell Westbrook has been widely criticised, with the point guard's return of 18.5 points per game his lowest since 2009-10.

Even when the Lakers had Davis, James and Westbrook all in the lineup, their record was a relatively mediocre 11-10.

However, Davis believes they would have improved with time, explaining: "Our goal was to win a championship. We had the pieces, but injuries got in the way of that. That was the difference in our season.

"Even though we lost games where all of us were on the floor – me, Bron, Russ – I think we're three great players and we would have figured it out if we logged more minutes together.

"We weren't able to do that, which makes it tough to be able to compete for a championship."

However, team-mate Carmelo Anthony, while agreeing with Davis' assessment of the team's potential, refused to point to injuries as an excuse.

"We just didn't get it done," he said. "We had the tools. Some things were out of our control – some things we could control, some things we couldn't.

"It's nothing else more than we didn't get it done. You can't make excuses about it. We just didn't get it done."

Anthony Davis pondered "what could have been" this season after Sunday's 129-118 loss to the Denver Nuggets, and admitted he feels like "the whole world wants to see" the Los Angeles Lakers lose.

The Lakers' loss means they are now two games behind the San Antonio Spurs in the race for the last Western Conference Play-In Tournament spot, with just four games to play.

Favourite to win his second consecutive MVP award, Nikola Jokic starred once again for the Nuggets, scoring 38 points on 15-of-22 shooting, with 18 rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks.

Davis also played well, with 28 points (11-of-25 shooting), nine rebounds, eight assists, two steals and three blocks, but when speaking to post-game media he wondered what his team could have accomplished if healthier.

"We never [got a chance to get continuity] all year," he said.

"I think us three – being me, LeBron [James] and Russ [Westbrook] – have played… 21 games together?

"We didn't expect to only have 21 games together, but it's just kind of been that year. Either I'm in, or [James is] in, and the times we do play together we look really good – and then somebody's out of the line-up.

"It's been tough not being able to fully reach our potential, as far as us three being on the floor and seeing what we really could be.

"But that being said, we also have enough to win basketball games, either when [James] doesn't play or when I don't play. 

"You saw tonight, we fought extremely hard, and we were there, there were just some costly plays in the last four or five minutes that cost us the game."

That thought about what the Lakers could have been was not a passing one for Davis, who admitted it weighs on his mind.

 "I think the biggest thing that I think about is 'what could have been'," he said.

"If we stayed healthy all year, what could we have been? 

"Of course you have to figure out the kinks early on, but after that 10, 15, 20 games to figure it out, and you get close to All-Star [Weekend], or after All-Star, and you're rolling, you feel like 'what could we have been' if I was healthy all year, or LeBron was healthy all year, if [Kendrick] Nunn was healthy.

"You think about those things. When we put this team together, it really looked good on paper, but we haven't had a chance to reach our potential."

While there is plenty of reflection happening, Davis insisted his side is not going to roll over in the last few games of the season, but admitted he feels like people enjoy watching the Lakers struggling.

"We know with the situation we're in, especially with losing today, it's another must-win – a must-must-win – in Phoenix [against the Suns on Tuesday]," he said.

"[Phoenix] is playing well, but also can be beat. But [our] spirits are high, we're not a team that's going to fold until it's all the way over.

"We've got four games left, and it's our job to try and compete and go out and win every one of those.

"There's no moral victories in this league. Especially with us – the whole world wants to see us lose, to be honest."

LeBron James acknowledged the Los Angeles Lakers lost a "must-win" game at home to the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday but insisted their season is not over yet.

The Lakers, who are 11th in the West, went down 114-111 to the ninth-placed Pelicans. With the San Antonio Spurs also winning in 10th, LA fell a full game outside the play-in tournament.

It was a fifth defeat in a row for the Lakers and came despite the team hurrying James and Anthony Davis back from injuries.

James scored 38 points in a mammoth 40-minute shift, yet an air ball from three-point range at the buzzer sealed the loss.

Afterwards, the four-time MVP – still in pole position for the scoring title with 30.3 points per game – was understandably disheartened.

"The big picture is that it pretty much was a must-win for us," James said, "and we didn't get the job done.

"We had great opportunities throughout the night, and we didn't make enough plays down the stretch. So that's the big picture.

"It just feels like you can't catch a break. No matter what's going on on the floor, it just feels like the ball bounces the other way, the ball doesn't always bounce in our favour, or a call doesn't go in our favour.

"It's just like when it rains, it pours for our year. It's just the way it's been going."

However, he added: "Until it says we're eliminated, it doesn't. Until that moment, we'll know what our destiny is, but right now, we don't. So we keep pushing forward."

If the season ended today, the Los Angeles Lakers would not even make the play-in tournament after a painful 114-111 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.

The loss moves the Lakers' record to 31-46, and 4-16 in their past 20 games.

The Lakers built this game up as a must-win, re-inserting Anthony Davis to the line-up from a lengthy absence and LeBron James from an ankle sprain, but ultimately could not get stops down the stretch.

James was terrific, scoring 38 points on 13-23 shooting, while Davis was also strong, scoring 23 points (eight-of-17 shooting) to go with 12 rebounds and six assists. During Davis' 37 minutes on the floor, the Lakers were plus four.

But the Pelicans' duo of C.J. McCollum and Brandon Ingram would not be denied, as McCollum led the way with 32 points (12-of-23 shooting), while Ingram chipped in with an efficient 29 on 10-of-17 shooting to go with eight rebounds and seven assists.

The Lakers' five remaining games are at home against the Denver Nuggets, away at the Phoenix Suns, away at the Golden State Warriors, at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and away against the Nuggets.

The San Antonio Spurs currently lead the race for the 10 seed by one game.

 

Fill-in Grizzlies fill it up

Another game without Ja Morant, and another win for the Memphis Grizzlies as they got the better of the full-strength Phoenix Suns 122-114.

As well as Morant, Memphis was without center Steven Adams, Defensive Player of the Year candidate Jaren Jackson Jr and emerging shooting guard Desmond Bane, but in front of their home fans the replacement Grizzlies were up to the task.

Dillon Brooks top-scored for the Grizzlies with 30 points (11-of-28 shooting) and seven assists, while Devin Booker had 41 points on 17-of-28 shooting for the Suns.

Memphis are now 20-2 in games Morant has missed.

 

Celtics win a shootout, Covington goes bananas 

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown both surpassed 30 points in the Boston Celtics' 128-123 win against the Indiana Pacers.

Tatum finished with 31 on 10-of-24 shooting, while Brown had 32 on 12-of-18, but the Celtics had to withstand a sharpshooting display from Tyrese Haliburton, who had 30 points on 10-of-11 shooting, including six-of-six from long range.

Meanwhile, Robert Covington played the game of his life as his Los Angeles Clippers beat an undermanned Milwaukee Bucks side 153-119.

Covington finished with 43 points, going 11-of-18 from three-point range, setting a new franchise record for threes made in a game, beating J.J. Redick and Caron Butler's previous joint-record of nine.

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel felt his team's struggles in their defeat to the New Orleans Pelicans reflected a "disjointed" season after they lost 114-111 in a "playoff game".

The Lakers were beaten despite strong performances from their two biggest stars, as LeBron James racked up 38 points and eight rebounds while Anthony Davis returned from injury with 23 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in 37 minutes.

C.J. McCollum and Brandon Ingram combined for 61 points for the Pelicans, who are now almost assured of their place in the play-in tournament.

The Lakers' play-in tournament chances took a massive hit with the loss – which moved their record to 4-16 in their past 20 games – sitting one game behind the San Antonio Spurs in the race for the 10 seed, with a difficult remaining schedule.

Speaking with post-game media, Vogel said he had no choice but to play James and Davis for extended minutes and cut down the rotation.

 "I think potentially [they were affected by fatigue down the stretch], but this was a playoff-mindset type of game, so those guys want to be in there," he said.

"We're communicating constantly throughout the game. I think both of them would say [they did not play too many minutes] – it's a playoff game, you got to be in there, you've got to compete. 

"This was a playoff game for us, so you use the roster however you see fit, given that matchup.

"C.J. McCollum and Brandon Ingram as a tandem, and with [Jonas] Valanciunas, those three guys are as good as just about any three you can put together in the league. That's why they're one of the hottest teams in the league.

"It's why we liked what Avery [Bradley] could bring to the table, and using Dwight [Howard] on Jonas as much as possible, but the guys who fell out of the rotation [including Talen Horton-Tucker and Austin Reaves] was just due to matchup."

Vogel felt the Lakers' issues scoring down the stretch were a microcosm of their campaign.

"I think it's the nature of the disjointed season that we've had – these guys haven't been on the floor in six weeks together," he said.

"We played last night – it was a tough travel situation getting in late and having to play an important game today, we just fell short. Those are the little things that are the difference between winning and losing.

"I won't look at [10th seed] San Antonio at all – obviously we'll find out what their scores look like, but our focus has to be on what we can control, and that's winning the next game."

If the season ended today, the Los Angeles Lakers would not even make the play-in tournament after a painful 114-111 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.

The loss moves the Lakers' record to 31-46, and 4-16 in their past 20 games.

The Lakers built this game up as a must-win, re-inserting Anthony Davis to the line-up from a lengthy absence and LeBron James from an ankle sprain, but ultimately could not get stops down the stretch.

James was terrific, scoring 38 points on 13-23 shooting, while Davis was also strong, scoring 23 points (eight-of-17 shooting) to go with 12 rebounds and six assists. During Davis' 37 minutes on the floor, the Lakers were plus four.

But the Pelicans duo of C.J. McCollum and Brandon Ingram would not be denied, as McCollum led the way with 32 points (12-of-23 shooting), while Ingram chipped in with an efficient 29 on 10-of-17 shooting to go with eight rebounds and seven assists.

The Lakers' five remaining games are at home against the Denver Nuggets, away at the Phoenix Suns, away at the Golden State Warriors, at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and away against the Nuggets.

The San Antonio Spurs currently lead the race for the 10 seed by one game.

 

Fill-in Grizzlies fill it up

Another game without Ja Morant, and another win for the Memphis Grizzlies as they got the better of the full-strength Phoenix Suns 122-114.

As well as Morant, Memphis was without center Steven Adams, Defensive Player of the Year candidate Jaren Jackson Jr and emerging shooting guard Desmond Bane, but in front of their home fans the replacement Grizzlies were up to the task.

Dillon Brooks top-scored for the Grizzlies with 30 points (11-of-28 shooting) and seven assists, while Devin Booker had 41 points on 17-of-28 shooting for the Suns.

Memphis are now 20-2 in games Morant has missed.

 

Celtics win a shoot-out, Covington goes bananas 

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown both surpassed 30 points in the Boston Celtics' 128-123 win against the Indiana Pacers.

Tatum finished with 31 on 10-of-24 shooting, while Brown had 32 on 12-of-18, but the Celtics had to withstand a sharpshooting display from Tyrese Haliburton, who had 30 points on 10-of-11 shooting, including six-of-six from long range.

Meanwhile, Robert Covington played the game of his life as his Los Angeles Clippers beat an undermanned Milwaukee Bucks side 153-119.

Covington finished with 43 points, going 11-of-18 from three-point range, setting a new franchise record for threes made in a game, beating J.J. Redick and Caron Butler's previous joint-record of nine.

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel slammed his side's performance in Tuesday's 128-110 loss to the Dallas Mavericks as they slipped out of the play-in spots.

The Lakers, who were without LeBron James (ankle) and Anthony Davis (foot), slumped to 11th spot in the Western Conference with a 31-44 record.

In the race for the final play-in spot in the west, the Lakers are behind the San Antonio Spurs, who have the same record but are ahead on the tie-breaker.

The Lakers trailed by as many as 37 points in the Mavs defeat where Luka Doncic (34 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists) recorded a triple-double.

Vogel labelled the performance as "not good enough in any way" and refused to be drawn into discussing their slide outside the play-in positions.

"The standings are the results," Vogel told reporters. "We have to keep our focus on the process and the work and the things that are going to lead to our next win. That's the only place that our focus will be."

He added: "We always learn from every game. It won't be any different despite the huge deficit in this game."

James has been outstanding on an individual level this season, leading the NBA for points per game at 30.1 ahead of Giannis Antetokounmpo (29.9) and Joel Embiid (29.9).

The four-time MVP's absence was felt against the Mavericks, with the Lakers slipping to 4-13 since the All-Star Break.

"With those guys [James and Davis] out, we're at a talent deficit, so the focus and execution has to make up for it," Vogel said.

"This is just the latest dose of adversity that this year's team has faced. We've been playing some really good basketball of late.

"When you lose Bron, okay, you have to adjust yet again throughout a season of setbacks. We have to find footing. We didn’t find it in the second half the other night and we certainly didn't find it."

LeBron James was ruled out of the Los Angeles Lakers' game against the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday with an ankle injury. 

The news was first reported by The Athletic's Shams Charania. 

Four-time NBA MVP LeBron had been listed as doubtful after rolling his left ankle in the 116-108 defeat to the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday. 

The 37-year-old did not practice on Monday and the decision was subsequently taken for him to sit out the matchup at the American Airlines Center. 

Anthony Davis had also been listed as doubtful after he on Monday came through his first full practice session since suffering a foot injury on February 16. 

The Lakers (31-43) went into the Mavs (46-29) game 10th in the Western Conference and hold a half-game lead over the San Antonio Spurs for the final play-in spot.

Playing a role in managing LeBron James' legacy has contributed to this being the toughest season Frank Vogel has experienced as an NBA coach. 

The Los Angeles Lakers have significantly underperformed in 2021-22 and sit 10th in the Western Conference – the final play-in spot – with eight regular season games to play. 

Injuries have limited Anthony Davis to just 37 appearances, while LeBron James has missed 19 games and they have only played together 21 times. Russell Westbrook has also struggled to show why LA paid such a high price to acquire him from the Washington Wizards. 

The Lakers were considered one of the favourites to win the championship this season but are in very real danger of missing out on the playoffs entirely. 

Although Davis, who has been out with a foot injury since February 16, was a full participant in Monday's practice, James sat out due to an ankle injury sustained in Sunday's defeat to the New Orleans Pelicans – a game in which the Lakers blew a 23-point lead. 

Vogel felt the injury situation was typical of the team's season and cited having a part to play in ensuring James enjoys a strong finish to his career as a factor in making it so tough for him to navigate. 

Asked if it had been his hardest year as a coach, Vogel replied: "I would say probably, just because of the expectations we've had. 

"We've had too many really difficult nights and I think there's an element of being a part of managing LeBron's legacy in these final years of his career. 

"You wanna just give him the best opportunity to have team success throughout that, so when we haven't won at the level that we wanted to it's been challenging. And the losses have been heavier. But we've been able to continue to mend and rebuild our team psyche and keep a belief in what we can be. Obviously this last injury [to James] hurts that. 

"But we had a good day today. We came in and we got really positive feedback and work on our film session, had a live practice session which we haven't had in quite some time, and hopefully we can still get a W tomorrow [Tuesday, against the Dallas Mavericks] and finish strong." 

Anthony Davis completed his first full practice since sustaining a foot injury last month and is listed as doubtful for Tuesday's game against the Dallas Mavericks. 

Lakers star Davis went down with three minutes remaining in the second quarter of the 106-101 victory over the Utah Jazz on February 16 and has not played since. 

Los Angeles have gone 4-12 in their 16 games since then but head coach Frank Vogel revealed Davis is nearing a return to the floor – though he expects it to take him some time to get back up to speed. 

"Positive sign. He went through full practice. Did all of our drill work and some live scrimmaging," said Vogel. 

"We're at a point now where it's really about how he responds to that and the level of soreness he has coming out of his first live work. He'll also be listed as doubtful for tomorrow. 

"He's got to get his legs under him – that's the biggest thing. When you have a foot injury like this it's not as easy to do all your running and stay in shape like if you had a wrist injury or something like that, so that's definitely going to take time. 

"And because of that you have to be more cautious with the return to play. Because if you throw him out there and he doesn't have his wind, then the injury becomes compromised or you overcompensate in some way and you don't want that. 

"So there's definitely going to be a stretch here when we get him back where he's still getting his legs under him." 

LeBron James, who was absent for two of the games Davis missed, is also doubtful to face the Mavericks due to a left ankle injury sustained in the 116-108 defeat to the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday, which saw the Lakers blow a 23-point lead. 

"He definitely has some swelling from the ankle sprain and we'll list him as doubtful tomorrow. He stayed back from practice today to get some treatment on it," said Vogel. 

Davis and James have only played together 21 times this season and Vogel said it was typical of the campaign that the wait to pair them may be prolonged by the latter's injury. 

"It's been that type of year. Definitely snakebitten with trying to get those guys on the floor together. I think it's 17 or 18 games for the season [that James has missed] and it looks like it could be more than that now," said Vogel. 

"It's out of our control. It's unfortunate, but we have to lock in and again, like we've done all season, shift our identity on the floor with regard to who's in and who's out." 

The Lakers are 31-43 on the season and occupy the final play-in spot in the Western Conference with eight regular-season games remaining.

After scoring 11 points in the first quarter of the Los Angeles Lakers' 116-108 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, LeBron James suffered an ankle injury early in the second term that he called "horrible".

James ended up staying in the game, and went on to score 39 points on 14-of-27 shooting, but he admitted after the game that it was more serious than he hoped.

After scoring 69 points in the first half, the Lakers were a different side after the break, scoring just 39 points over the final two quarters while the Pelicans scored 41 in the third quarter alone.

Speaking to post-game media, James said he would have "probably not" finished the game if he did not feel it was a crucial fixture for his side.

"I have no idea how I finished the game after watching the replay, it was pretty nasty," he said.

"I lost all explosiveness… a lot of my game was on the perimeter after that. It's horrible right now.

"From the time that I turned my ankle I felt a sharp pain run up my leg and get hot, and I've been there with ankle sprains before, but I didn't want to come out of the game.

"I understood how big of a game it was for us."

James was blunt when describing how it felt to come up short in a game that was built up as a near must-win internally.

"It feels like sh** – excuse my language, but that's what it feels like," he said.

"I came in with the mindset understanding that it was a playoff-type atmosphere with playoff implications.

"We also have a lot of guys in our ball club who haven't played in playoff games as well… [New Orleans] have guys who have been in the postseason.

"It feels like a wasted opportunity."

Also speaking with post-game media, head coach Frank Vogel preached urgency as the playoffs rapidly approach.

"Time's running out on us – we came out with the proper urgency for this game, but weren't able to close it," he said.

"It's over, this game is over, and we have to turn the page to the next one.

"It's not good – it hurts, this was a big game – but we have to regroup and find a way to beat Dallas and get some wins down the stretch here."

On James' injury, Vogel said it was a brave effort to stick it out until the end.

"It's tough – it has been that kind of season, and [James] was in an incredible groove when it happened," he said.

"Credit to him for toughing it out – you could see that he was limited on it somewhat the rest of the way, but he battled through it."

After some results fell their way, the new Eastern Conference one seed Philadelphia 76ers went head-to-head with the Western Conference one seed Phoenix Suns in a potential NBA Finals preview.

Unfortunately for the 76ers, their time on top was short-lived as the Suns' 114-104 home win sent the away side toppling down to fourth in the Eastern Conference standings.

MVP favourite Joel Embiid was enormous for the 76ers, scoring 37 points on 14-of-27 shooting to go with 15 rebounds, three steals and two blocks, but it was not enough to beat a Phoenix team that has now won 61 games this season – one short of their franchise record of 62 set in 1992-93 and 2004-05.

For the Suns, Devin Booker was the star, scoring an efficient 35 points on 13-of-22 shooting (three-of-five from long range), while Chris Paul dished out 14 assists to go with his 19 points.

As a team, Phoenix shot over 51 per cent from the field, and 48 per cent from three-point range.

 

Boston takes the one seed – for now

As Philadelphia fell from the top spot, the Boston Celtics took the opportunity to assume the position atop the Eastern Conference musical chairs, beating the Minnesota Timberwolves 134-112.

Boston's two centrepieces were both at the top of their game, with Jayson Tatum scoring 34 points on 12-of-21 shooting and dishing six assists, while Jaylen Brown had 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting with his 10 rebounds.

Boston, Philadelphia, the Miami Heat and the Milwaukee Bucks are all separated by just a half-game in a four-way race for the one seed and home-court advantage throughout the Eastern playoffs.

 

Lakers lose again despite LeBron heroics

As has become a theme this season, a terrific LeBron James performance was not enough to carry the Los Angeles Lakers to victory, going down 116-108 to the New Orleans Pelicans.

James had 39 points on 14-of-27 shooting, including seven-of-13 from long range, to go with nine rebounds and five assists in the loss.

In his first game back from a 10-match absence due to injury, Brandon Ingram was the man for the Pelicans, scoring 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting with seven rebounds and five assists, while rookie sensation Herb Jones claimed six steals.

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