Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James said the team will have to "find ways to get better" after a 109-98 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday night.
James believes the absences of Anthony Davis and Dennis Schroder were a factor but added that the Lakers still need to play better, especially against a squad with as much talent as the Nets:
The four-time NBA MVP did his part to carry the team's shorthanded roster, tallying 32 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in 33 minutes. He became the third player in NBA history to reach the 35,000-point threshold during the contest, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone.
He didn't get much support, though. The rest of the Lakers shot a combined 43.3 percent from the field with 14 assists and 13 turnovers.
"Obviously AD is an MVP-caliber player, and then Dennis, he's our engine," Lakers guard Quinn Cook told reporters. "He makes everything go with his pace and his defense. Guys have to step up, but to lose [Schroder] right before tipoff, it's something we definitely haven't dealt with all season."
Schroder missed the game because of COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
Meanwhile, L.A. head coach Frank Vogel announced Davis will miss an estimated four weeks with a calf injury and Achilles tendinosis in his right leg.
"We want to try to put this fully behind him and be conservative with it, just to make sure that it's fully healed before he's back," Vogel said.
The seven-time All-Star last played Sunday, so it's unlikely he will return before the NBA's midseason break, which runs March 5-10.
Although Los Angeles is comfortably in a playoff spot, sitting second in the Western Conference with a 22-8 record, it can't afford any extended losing streaks given the close nature of the standings. Only six games separate them from the eighth-place Denver Nuggets (15-13).
So the Lakers' depth players must step up during the their final seven games of the first half and perhaps for the first week or so in the second half before the team is back to full strength.
L.A. returns to action Saturday night in a 2020 NBA Finals rematch with the Miami Heat at Staples Center.