Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James missed Wednesday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers because of left knee soreness. The Lakers lost the game, 126-121, to drop to 31-42 this season and assure them of their first sub-.500 season since 2018-19.
James missed his 19th game this season, scuttling a potential showdown between the NBA’s leading scorer and Sixers center Joel Embiid, who was a fraction of a point behind him. The 37-year-old James is averaging 29.96 points per game to Embiid’s 29.83 ppg while also averaging 8.2 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game.
The ninth-place Lakers are still in the Play-In Tournament picture, but they are now guaranteed to finish with their seventh losing record in nine seasons. That’s the same number of losing seasons they had in the previous 53 years, starting after they moved from Minneapolis to Los Angeles in 1960.
“We’re making progress,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “We’re building habits that are going to win for us in the postseason, and we’re continuing to grow. We’re disappointed we lost, but without Bron, without AD [Anthony Davis], the group that played showed everyone we’ve still got a whole lot of fight left in us.”
In James’ absence, Stanley Johnson became a part of the Lakers’ 35th starting lineup of the season, the franchise’s most since the 2013-14 season.
James had played in the Lakers’ last eight games despite the persistent soreness in his knee, averaging 33.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists during that stretch while trying to carry Los Angeles into the playoffs. James also became the second-leading scorer in NBA history during that span.
And while Vogel said James didn’t sit out strategically, the decision gives him five consecutive days off before Sunday, when the ninth-place Lakers visit the 10th-place New Orleans Pelicans in an improbably massive game for the Lakers’ playoff hopes.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 24, 2022
James was honored with a tribute video after the first quarter for passing Karl Malone on the NBA’s career scoring list. James, who watched from the bench in street clothes, acknowledged the ovation with a wave.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.