ESPN NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Tuesday that Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James will miss Thursday’s game against the LA Clippers, as he recovers from a reaggravation of his right ankle sprain.
James will also miss the following game against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday.
This news could potentially play a huge role in determining the Western Conference playoff bracket. As it stands now (prior to the games played on May 4), the Clippers and Lakers are set to play each other in the first round as a 4-5 matchup. While it is unclear who the Clippers would prefer to play in a seven-game series, it’s not unreasonable to assume they would like to avoid the reigning champions in the first round if possible. The Lakers are only a half-game up on the no. 6 seed Dallas Mavericks, who own the tie-breaker over Los Angeles. Behind the Mavericks are the Trail Blazers, who sit just one game back of the Lakers. Los Angeles could not only fall out of the Clippers’ bracket, but might also fall into the Play-In tournament should both the Mavericks and Blazers jump them in the standings.
From the Clippers’ perspective, the Lakers falling to the no. 7 seed would be ideal if they do not wish to face them early. The Clippers could easily move back into the no. 3 spot, which means they could play the Lakers in a 3-6 matchup as well. The Lakers finishing seventh would insure the Clippers would not have to play them in round one, regardless of where they finish (it is essentially impossible for the Clippers to fall below fourth).
It’s hard to envision James’ injury coming at a worse time. Wojnarowski stated in his story that it is not out of the question that James could miss more games beyond the initial two.
With seven or eight games remaining for each team in this Western Conference morass, the standings are still extremely fluid.