The Los Angeles Lakers have seemingly been reborn following multiple trades they made just prior to the trade deadline.
They immediately started playing much better, especially on the defensive end, but they quickly experienced a scare when LeBron James suffered a right foot tendon injury in late February.
Some feared he would be lost for the balance of the season, but he returned after a month, and even without him, Los Angeles won 8 of 13 games.
Since coming back, James has played relatively well, however, he hasn’t had any of the big-time performances that fans have come to expect from him in critical contests.
Brian Windhorst says it’s because he has been measuring his effort and conserving his energy, and he noted how the Lakers’ newfound depth and versatility have allowed them to get away with James not being 100 percent (h/t Lakers Daily).
“He’s not playing the way we’ve ever seen LeBron play,” said Windhorst. “He is moderating his energy, sort of going full out, resting while he’s playing. Really, one of the most important things that’s happened in this series is D’Angelo Russell because LeBron has been able to sort of move off the ball, let [Austin] Reaves and let D’Angelo Russell — almost the most important thing that goes on tonight is whether Russell is playing well or not. When Russell is making his shots and LeBron doesn’t have to try to force it, it gives the Lakers so much bigger margin for error.”
The Lakers currently have a 2-1 series lead over the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference semifinals. Given the Warriors’ championship pedigree and history of winning critical games with their backs against the wall, James may need to have his first 30-point game of the playoffs if his team is to advance.
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Story originally appeared on LeBron Wire