The Lakers had a 19-point lead at one point in the third quarter, but saw it whittled down to as little as two before a mini-run stretched their advantage back to 9 points before the start of the fourth quarter, appearing to leave the game in jeopardy.
Coinciding with the Warriors’ comeback was an injury to James, who left the game midway through the third with what the team called a strained left groin. James was initially listed as questionable to return and ultimately did not, finishing with 17 points and had 13 rebounds and 5 assists in the 21 minutes before he went down.
The Lakers will probably have a hard time moving forward without their star if he’s gone for any extended stretch, but for one night they were able to hang on, with Rajon Rondo (15 points, 10 assists, 6-11 shooting) showing the value of his veteran presence and hitting a few big shots in addition to making some huge plays in order to help L.A. roll the Warriors in James’ absence.
Ivica Zubac was the other star of the game for the Lakers, stepping up big for the third straight contest as JaVale McGee missed another game while recovering from a bout with pneumonia.
Zubac dropped 18 points and 11 rebounds on 9-10 shooting as he continued to make a convincing case for more playing time even when McGee returns to the lineup. An active roller with soft hands made for catching passes out of the pick and roll with solid defensive instincts is a valuable piece for the Lakers, and Zumania is in full effect. He even got a Halsey shoutout!
Ok zubac— h (@halsey) December 26, 2018
“Ok zubac,” indeed, and the team will need all the help they can get with James appearing set to miss at least a little time.
Overall, the game was an incredible performance for the Lakers — both with James and without — that offered hope that if this team gets rolling, they can compete with anyone. That’s a small positive to take away on a night Lakers fans all collectively had a near heart attack at the sight of James on the ground. As long as he can get healthy, this team will probably be okay.
The Lakers will next play on the road against the Sacramento Kings on Thursday, by which time we’ll probably know a lot more about James’ situation. Stay tuned to Silver Screen and Roll for more details as they become available, and happy holidays to all of you even if the day was a bittersweet one for the purple and gold.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. All stats per NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.