Late Tuesday night in the first quarter, LeBron James emerged from the Lakers locker room wearing a baseball cap backwards and a knee-high hiking boot on his right foot, the first tangible evidence of the dire situation the Lakers are in during the NBA. the last quarter of the season.
While no one is specifying the exact nature of his injury, what the treatment plans are or if a return can be secured this season, the mystery surrounding James and his foot is pretty limited.
He’s out now. No one can say for sure if or when he will return.
And the Lakers? They have to work this out without him.
With the player best able to star-gaze and go hoop for hoop with one of the NBA’s best unavailable, the Lakers couldn’t do enough against Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies, lose 121-109 to snap a three-game winning streak.
Morant scored 39 more with 10 rebounds and 10 assists, but he did the most damage in a sublime third quarter as he relentlessly attacked a rotation of Lakers defensemen with his unmatched speed and athleticism.
Possession after possession Morant dodged the yellow jersey in front of him and flew past or over the defense with a mixture of floaters and layups that made him totally unstoppable for 12 minutes.
In the quarter, Morant made 10 of 12 shots from the field and eight of nine free throws to score 28 points. He had three assists that led to another eight Grizzlies points.
In a perfect world, the Lakers would have had James to shoot back – to work his way to the basket and move to the line to slow momentum.
He could only watch.
The Lakers’ remaining superstar Anthony Davis anchored the defense for most of a messy first half, hitting his offensive basket straight at Jars Jackson Jr.
Davis would finish with 28 points, 19 rebounds and five blocked shots, but the Lakers never got closer, the Grizzlies fired straight back with an 11–3 run to close out the Lakers.
Memphis was helped by 26 Lakers turnovers leading to 41 Grizzlies points, the frustration among guards like Dennis Schroder was evident as the Lakers were unable to pull off a win as they embarked on an uncertain final path without James.