The Lakers were without LeBron James due to groin soreness as Los Angeles fell to the Warriors 115-101, and coach Luke Walton revealed James’ absence threw off the team.
Los Angeles had prepared one game plan to face the Warriors with James in the lineup, but they had to make adjustments right before the game when they found out the four-time MVP wouldn’t play against Golden State.
“I thought it probably threw us off a little bit early,” explained Walton. “Just because our pregame shootaround was one game plan and once we found out he wasn’t going to play we switched some of that.
“So I think it’s tough to play at this level when you’re thinking. It took us to time to adjust to what the new game plan was. And because of that we were a little late on rotations, things of that nature. But our guys, they do a heck of a job competing … they did a nice job of getting better as the game went on.”
Walton said his players did a “nice job of getting better as the game went on,” and pointed to the defense as a reason why the Lakers were able to stay in the game.
“Our defense turned it up a lot, really,” said Walton. “I felt like we got engaged on the defensive end first and we started to find a rhythm offensively, making some shots. Really, really competing. Just getting lost in the competition, which we talk about all the time, but I think it started with our defensive engagement.”
James initially injured his groin during the Lakers’ Christmas Day matchup against the Warriors and he was sidelined for five weeks, missing 17 games. He made a return Thursday against the Clippers, but sat out Saturday’s game reportedly due to “load management.”
James admitted after Thursday’s game he’s not back to 100 percent. He said, “I’m not there all the way, as far as physically.”
The Lakers, however, need their star back and healthy. With James out, the team is now 6-12 and 10th in the Western Conference.