Things have proved insanely difficult for the Los Angeles Lakers this season. Amid a shortened offseason, and condensed schedule, both LeBron James and Anthony Davis have missed significant chunks of time, and neither looks to be 100% entering the 2021 playoffs.
While Wednesday's play-in victory against Golden State was a much-needed win, it wasn't exactly a good look for L.A., who struggled throughout the night to handle a clearly inferior team.
On First Take, Stephen A. Smith questioned the status of LeBron in this postseason before explaining why they could be in for their most challenging stretch yet.
(start at 4:25)
"When it pertains to injury, we have never seen LeBron James come to a postseason looking this way," Smith said. "Yeah, he turned it on in the second half, but in the first half, he was awful, and Anthony Davis was awful too.
I think their health, and the absence of rhythm because they've been compromised by health and had to miss so many games, has really been a challenge for them. Against the Golden State Warriors, you could get away with it. Against other teams in the playoffs this year, I don't think so."
It's hard to see a scenario where the Lakers capture a second-straight Championship without LeBron being at close to full strength.
Not only is he their best scorer, but he's also their best playmaker, and L.A. will have trouble offensively if he is not carrying the load.
Of course, it all depends on Anthony Davis as well. If he can step up and produce in the wake of a compromised LeBron, it might be enough to get them deep into the West bracket.
Until then, however, doubts will continue to be the story for this hobbled team.