1620017742 LeBron James exits early as Lakers lose to Toronto Raptors

LeBron James exits early as Lakers lose to Toronto Raptors

The Lakers began the final two weeks of the regular season in a fight they thought they had avoided, the prospect of a play-in tournament an increasingly frightening possibility. They had just suffered a shameful loss to the Sacramento Kings, who beat them without two of their best players and another scoring just two points.

The Lakers had just learned that yet another of their key players, Dennis Schroder, wouldn’t be available, forcing the Lakers to lock in a little more, to play a little sharper and a little harder Sunday night as they make a real push for the postseason.

A response was required. The one issued was a surprise.

Kyle Lowry, the guard they decided not to trade for, ran up the sideline letting out a Ric Flair “Woooo” after a bucket. The Raptors’ bench bounded with life and energy. And the Lakers, well they were just kind of there, a passive participant in their own demise.

After leading by 12 points early, the Lakers just looked bad, falling behind by as many as 21 and greeting the deficit mostly with a shrug.

That the score tightened at times almost irrelevant. That the Lakers, a team that won a title on the backs of chemistry and effort, played for so long without either, is very much a problem.

The 121-114 loss Sunday, their sixth in the last seven games, dropped the Lakers into a three-way tie with Dallas and Portland for fifth place in the West. And LeBron James was forced back to the locker room in the fourth quarter, unable to return because of his sore right ankle.

A game with Denver awaits the Lakers on Monday, another tough challenge for a team that isn’t consistently meeting them.

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