LOS ANGELES — A collision with Patrick Beverley in the first quarter of the Lakers’ 111-106 loss Wednesday night to the Clippers caused LeBron James to aggravate a nagging groin injury and could cause the Lakers star to miss some game time moving forward.
“I felt healthy going into the game,” James said after finishing with 23 points on 9-for-24 shooting, with 10 assists and 9 rebounds. “I got kneed in the groin taking a charge from Pat Bev and it kind of set me right back to where I was five days ago.”
Last Christmas, James suffered a torn left groin against the Golden State Warriors — the first major injury of his career — and it derailed both his and his team’s season.
The injury that James is currently dealing with is on the right side of his groin and is far less dire than the injury he sustained to the left side of his groin last season, but it could worsen with overuse. James told ESPN the contact with Beverley caused the groin area to “flare up,” and James’ play clearly suffered from there — 10 of his 15 misses were on 3-pointers, the most 3s he’s ever missed in a game in his 17-year career, and he attempted just four foul shots as his drives to the lane were limited.
James was coming off both the groin discomfort and a thoracic muscle strain — a pull in the rib cage area — which caused him to miss his first game of the season in Sunday’s 128-104 loss to the Denver Nuggets.
Even though the Lakers are now riding a season-worst four-game losing streak, several members of the organization have already approached James about the urgency to sit out and rehab his groin injury until he feels fully recovered, sources told ESPN.
The Lakers have a back-to-back set coming up on the road against the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday followed by the Dallas Mavericks at home on Sunday. James, who has repeatedly rejected the notion of load management already this season, is officially listed as day-to-day by the team.
“To be honest, I haven’t even thought about Portland just yet,” said James, who turns 35 next week. “I’m always around the clock with my body, getting my treatment. If I’m feeling great, I’ll be in the lineup. If I’m feeling well I’ll be in the lineup. … We’ll see what happens.”
The Lakers are anticipating needing him for six more months of basketball should they make a deep postseason run, and their priority is the big picture.
“It’s still another game,” forward Kyle Kuzma said after the loss. “We’re in December. We got a couple more months of basketball.”
Not that the Lakers were completely comfortable with the defeat, of course.
After leading by 12 points at the half and by as many as 15 in the third quarter, there was a sense that they’d blown a golden opportunity to even up the season series with their Staples Center cohabitants 1-1.
“We gave that one away,” Anthony Davis said after putting up 24 points, six rebounds and two blocks. “We had the game, we were in control of the entire game, even though we let them get back in it we were still leading by, I think, seven with six minutes to go. That’s a game you’ve got to close out so, like I said, we gave that one away.”
Indeed, James’ 22-foot step-back jumper with 6 minutes, 39 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter put the Lakers up by seven, and the Clippers responded with a 13-2 run in the next four minutes to take control.
“We just beat ourselves, plain and simple,” Kuzma said. “Obviously credit to Clippers for making shots down the stretch. But we just beat ourselves.”
The Lakers had possession with 19.2 seconds left, trailing by 3 with a chance to tie it, but James lost the ball out of bounds after Beverley poked at the ball during James’ shooting motion with 3.6 seconds on the clock.
The ball was originally called out on Beverley. But after an officials’ review, the call was overturned and the referees determined that the ball was last touched by James. The play was registered as a missed shot by James rather than a turnover.
“I was surprised by the overturn,” James said. “I didn’t feel like the ball went off my hand. But that’s the way it went.”
While James preached about the Lakers’ need for the team to “just be better” as the season progresses, there was still major confidence coming from another corner of the locker room.
“We’re still the best team,” center Dwight Howard said. “After tonight, let it go. It’s just another game. Of course we all wanted it. I think everybody in L.A. that’s a Lakers fan wanted to see us win tonight. But like I told you guys a couple days ago, we want to be the best team in June. We want to be the team that’s holding up the trophy and I think when we do that, nobody will remember the game that we lost on Christmas.”
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