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7;s Jeff Silkitt splits two teams at the top of the Eastern Conference who are under pressure to run deep into the NBA playoffs.

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LOS ANGELES – The Lakers Star Delays Father Time With His Blessed Genes impeccable talent and disciplined working habits With the same feature, could LeBron James keep the Lakers’ championship window open without Anthony Davis?

“These shoulders are made for a reason,” James said. “If I have to wear more, then go, win, lose or draw. I’m ready for the challenge.”

Neither the Lakers nor James were certainly ready for the challenge with an immediate adaptation without Davis, who missed the entire second half of the Lakers’ 100-92 Game 5 defeat to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday at the Staples Center after contracting his left groin. The Suns clinched a 2-2 win over the series after the Lakers battled it out in the third quarter. They only collected 15 points from their 3-of-16 shootouts during that period.

If the Lakers fail to win Game 4 without Davis, it’s fair to wonder if the Lakers can win the rest of the series in their first round against Phoenix, let alone the NBA champions. There’s one reason James’s support is so loud. for the Lakers to buy Davis from New Orleans two years ago. There’s a reason why the Lakers quit a key item on their young roster with a draft pick to buy Davis, so James admits. “If he’s not ready for the fifth game, it’s going to be difficult for our clubs.”

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The Lakers had no immediate response about Davis’ health either. Davis did not speak to reporters afterward, adding that Lakers coach Frank Vogel was “in the process of further medical evaluation”.

It is therefore unclear whether Davis’ latest injury matches the level of seriousness James suffered when he missed a total of 27 games during his first season with the Lakers following a left groin sprain. Or if Davis was able to be available almost as quickly as he did after returning from a left knee injury that hampered his play in Game 4 (six points on 2-v9 shooting), after failing. Limit him in game 3 (34 points) in 11v22 shootouts).

Regardless of Davis’s availability The Lakers still have to contend with the overall question, can the Lakers win without him?

“It’s about putting our team in a position to be successful,” James said. “It started with my approach. And it started with my responsibility. It started with someone else.”

It might be tempting to roll their eyes at the Lakers to convince their “next one”. Remember when the Lakers total 7-10 without James and Davis? Remember when the Lakers still didn’t play well enough when they came back that they dropped into play-in tournaments? And now that the Lakers are playing against a play-off quality team in the Phoenix Suns, should we believe they are ready to take on this challenge after failing in a less crowded regular-season game?

every fair point But considering the context, the Lakers went 7-6 when James played without Davis. But they won six of the last eight after a 1-4 start, which caught the Lakers experiencing an initial hiccup before Vogel figured out a turnover and his players improved their chemistry. The Lakers’ battle continued only because James suffered an injury on his own.

A similar improvement occurred in Game 4 itself. The Lakers recovered from a dreadful third quarter with more performance in the fourth quarter (27 points on 52.6%). James also scored 11 of his 25 points, and became more aggressive with both scoring and attacking Had it not been for Marc Gasol circulating at the top of the Keys and James and Dennis Schröder missing two open layups while trailing with five with around 90 seconds remaining, the Lakers would have likely won Game 4.

Prior to that, James also played, saying he had a right ankle injury that cost him a total of 26 games. James gave Ben McLemore a nice behind-the-scenes pass, then James gave a good spin before the end. with a dunk

“I feel great,” James said. “I continue to work on my body. I’m still working on my ankle. I work at my pace and keep working on everything that holds me back for a long time. Every day, I’m doing timeless work on my body. especially to make the body strong again. Testing on the floor helps a lot.”

So the 36-year-old James may be prepared to play to his best as he is about to miss out on his star team-mates. And of course, he has enough credentials to show he’s ready for the moment..

James leads the Cleveland team. The Cavaliers without all-stars reached the 2007 NBA Finals when Vogel coached the Indiana Pacers, while James won two NBA championships in Miami. Vogel noted that game planning for James was even more difficult as he took on additional responsibilities for Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosch injuries. The only person in NBA history to beat a 3-1 finals deficit. while defeating the Golden State Warriors, who set a record for the most wins in the NBA regular season.

James couldn’t win against the Lakers in his first season before they had Davis. But consider that the Lakers missed the playoffs during James’ first season largely due to his injury. In a game where he suffered a groin injury, the Lakers defeated the Golden State Warriors on Christmas and had a respectable 20-14 record. At the time, the Warriors thought internally they would face the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, then the young core. James and Lakers both have major illnesses.

“The best teacher in life is experience,” James said. I look forward to the challenge. No matter how the hand is handled I am ready to play.”

Unlike when other NBA stars are upping their game in high stakes games, James’ priority is more than just getting more shots. All of James’ games indicate the right way to play basketball. So even though the Lakers’ supporting cast experienced some inconsistencies James will put them in the right position to succeed with an open shot at the basket or from behind the perimeter. Expect James to score more points and help his teammates do the same.

“It’s not about throwing it into the ‘Bron all the time,” said Lakers striker Kyle Kuzma. But we have to play basketball.”

Will that be enough for the Lakers to win Game 5 against Phoenix, let alone survive the first round in the playoffs and beyond, who knows.

The Suns defender Chris Paul has 18 points and nine assists in what Vogel called his “best game of the series” after being previously restricted with an injury to his right shoulder, The Suns. There is promising depth with Devin Booker (17 points, 5 assists), Jae Crowder (17 points), Deandre Ayton (14), Cameron Payne (13) and Mikal Bridges (11).

But for those who are ready to announce the Lakers’ season is over because they have injured star players? The Lakers still have another star to remain one of the NBA’s best players, in part due to their ability to thrive in difficult situations.

“We’ll see,” James said of his upcoming role. The tone is more interesting than the uncertainty of what lies ahead.

Follow USA TODAY NBA Writer Mark Medina on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Sign up for USA TODAY’s various subscription offers.

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