How Warriors could be impacted by LeBron's high ankle sprain

LeBron James holding right ankle

Before Klay Thompson's Achilles injury in November, Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers fans were dreaming about the potential for a real rivalry between the two teams at the height of their powers.

Klay, Steph Curry, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green vs. reigning NBA champions LeBron James and Anthony Davis duking it out for the top seed in the West seemed like a perfect scenario.

Thompson's injury changed that thinking. Instead of the Warriors returning to the top of the Western Conference standings, they likely would be fighting for a bottom-four seed.

That set up another scenario, where a No. 1 or 2-seeded Lakers would take on the No. 7 or 8-seeded Warriors in the first round of the NBA playoffs (assuming the Warriors survive the play-in round).

Now that option might be off the table with LeBron sustaining a right high ankle sprain Saturday in the Lakers' loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski first reported, citing a source, that LeBron is out indefinitely.

The fallout from LeBron's injury -- combined with the uncertainty surrounding Davis' foot injury -- could change the landscape of the Western Conference standings.

The Lakers (28-14) currently sit in third place in the West, a tiebreaker behind the Phoenix Suns (27-13) for the second seed, 2.5 games behind the Utah Jazz (30-11) for the top seed and two games ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers (26-16) in the fourth seed. The Denver Nuggets (25-16), who lost to the Lakers in the West finals in the bubble last season, are half a game behind the Clippers.


It's conceivable, with LeBron and AD both missing time, the Lakers could slide behind the Clippers and Nuggets in the standings and go into the playoffs as the fourth or fifth seed.

As for the Warriors, they entered Saturday's game in Memphis with a 22-20 record, good for the ninth seed in the West. Seeds No. 7 through 10 will participate in a play-in tournament to see who gets the No. 7 and 8 seeds.

With the Lakers potentially tumbling to the fourth or fifth seed and the Warriors ticketed for the seventh or eighth seed, it now appears the two teams meeting in the first round of the playoffs is off the table.

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Of course, a number of things could blow up this scenario, including more injuries and the COVID-19 pandemic. And LeBron and AD could return in time to salvage one of the top two seeds in the West.

But for the moment, it looks like the Warriors and Lakers no longer are on a collision course to face each other in the playoffs.

Maybe they can meet in the second round? Wishful thinking.

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