The Los Angeles Lakers have lost a season-worst four straight games and now will likely have to wait until game time to determine whether LeBron James will be able to play when they visit the host Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night.
James aggravated a groin injury during the Lakers’ 111-106 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Christmas Day. He is hoping the two full days without a game will be enough time for the ailment to heal so he can play against the Trail Blazers.
“I’m always around the clock with my body, getting my treatment,” James told reporters after the loss to the Clippers. “If I’m feeling great, I’ll be in the lineup. If I’m feeling well, I’ll be in the lineup.”
On Friday, the Lakers called the injury a groin contusion and listed James as questionable. He did travel with the team. James has recently been bothered by the groin injury and a thoracic muscle strain in his back. The latter injury caused him to miss Sunday’s 128-104 loss to the Denver Nuggets, the first game he has missed this season.
James’ groin was reinjured when he took a knee from Pat Beverley of the Clippers on Wednesday. Beverley became more of a pain later when he blocked James’ 3-point attempt with 3.6 seconds left and the Lakers trailing by three points.
James finished with 23 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds but was just 9 of 24 from the field. Power forward Anthony Davis also shot less than 50 percent, making 8 of 17 while scoring 24 points.
Forward Kyle Kuzma scored a team-high 25 points in the loss to the Clippers and he is averaging 20.5 points in two games since returning from an ankle injury.
“This is the Kuz that we envisioned throughout the summer and since I’ve been here,” Los Angeles first-year coach Frank Vogel told reporters. “Someone that can just fill it up. He’s working hard on the defensive end, he gives us a long body on that end that plays extremely hard and changes the energy of the group. He was terrific (against the Clippers) and it’s good to see him get going.”
Both Davis (knee) and Kuzma (ankle) are also banged up, though both are listed as probable for Saturday.
The Trail Blazers have lost back-to-back games after putting together a season-long four-game winning streak.
The first setback was Monday’s humbling 102-94 home loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. The second occurred Thursday when Portland fell 121-115 to the host Utah Jazz.
The Blazers trailed by 20 entering the final stanza before scoring 39 points to close the gap.
“It was just a tough game,” Portland star point guard Damian Lillard said afterward. “I thought (the Jazz) were the better team, but I was really proud of how we fought. Having adversity in pretty much every quarter, we just kept fighting.”
Lillard was back on the mark with his long-range shooting as he connected on 7 of 13 3-point attempts while scoring 34 points and recording eight assists against Utah. Lillard missed all 10 of his 3-pointers against the Pelicans.
Shooting guard CJ McCollum added 25 points for Portland and has scored 20 or more in six straight games. McCollum is averaging 27 points per game during the stretch.
The team’s strong finish left Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts feeling a little bit better about the setback.
“I was really proud of the way we competed in the fourth quarter,” Stotts said afterward. “First three quarters were pretty discouraging. Utah did a nice job of moving the ball, making their shots, scoring in the paint. We didn’t have a lot answers for them early but we just made some shots and got really competitive defensively and put ourselves in a position to win.”
Davis recorded 39 points and James added 31 as the Lakers posted a 136-113 win in Portland on Dec. 6. Los Angeles has won three of the past four meetings after the Trail Blazers won the previous 16.
–Field Level Media