LeBron James, Lakers Eliminated from Playoff Contention After Loss to Nets

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistMarch 23, 2019

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 22: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers stands for the National Anthem prior to a game against the Brooklyn Nets on March 22, 2019 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

For the first time since 2004-05, there will be an NBA postseason without LeBron James.

On Friday night, the Los Angeles Lakers were officially eliminated from playoff contention with a 111-106 loss to the Brooklyn Nets at Staples Center. 

It marks the sixth consecutive year the team will miss the postseason, a franchise record.

Given Los Angeles had lost four in a row and nine of 10, this was a long time coming. But until Friday, the team was mathematically alive.      

The latest loss drops the Lakers to 31-41 on the season and ensures the team will not finish above .500.

Los Angeles' season started off promisingly enough after it signed James during the offseason. It was in fourth place in the Western Conference after improving to 20-14 with a Christmas Day victory over the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors.

However, that win proved costly.

James suffered a groin injury during the game and missed a career-long 17-game stretch. The Lakers went just 6-11 without the four-time NBA MVP—and they were never able to recover.

James was hardly the only player to miss time because of injury, though. Rajon Rondo has been limited to just 38 games because of hand and finger injuries, and he too missed nearly a month after being hurt on Christmas Day. The Lakers have already shut down Lonzo Ball (ankle) and Brandon Ingram (deep venous thrombosis) for the season.

Los Angeles has dealt with no shortage of adversity this season. Not only has it had to overcome injuries, but the team was also engulfed in trade rumors following New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis' public trade request back in late January.

Approximately half of the roster found itself in the rumor mill, and team president Magic Johnson later alleged New Orleans did not negotiate in good faith. ESPN's Brian Windhorst told Rachel Nichols on ESPN's The Jump last month that the Pelicans leaked trade talks in order to sabotage the Lakers.

Well, Los Angeles was 26-24 prior to the Davis fiasco. It is 5-17 since.

As the Lakers' playoff drought continues, James will see a couple of noteworthy streaks come to an end. While he will miss out on the postseason for the first time in 14 years, his run of eight consecutive NBA Finals appearances is also snapped.

The last Finals without James came back in 2010, when the Lakers repeated as champions with a seven-game victory over the Boston Celtics.   

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