NBA Basketball

LeBron easing back; Pacers tinker to survive loss of Oladipo

(Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

LeBron James is expected to be back in the lineup Tuesday night as the Los Angeles Lakers attempt to take advantage of the absence of Victor Oladipo for the second time this season when they duel the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis.

James felt the effects of 40 minutes of action in Thursday's return from a 17-game layoff when he sat out Saturday's 115-101 loss at Golden State.

The hero of last season's playoff-series win for Cleveland over Indiana plans to return for the first of four Eastern games that will cap six straight on the road for the Los Angeles.

Lakers coach Luke Walton noted to reporters that his team should benefit Tuesday from knowing that James will be playing, as opposed to learning after Saturday's shootaround that he'd be taking the night off to soothe general soreness.

"I thought it probably threw us off a little bit early," he observed. "Just because our pregame shootaround was one game plan, and once we found out he wasn't going to play, we switched some of that. It took us to time to adjust to what the new game plan was."

A schedule that includes Boston and Philadelphia this week should require the Lakers' full attention, which might not be possible with the trade deadline approaching.

Rumors of a beefed-up trade offer to New Orleans for Anthony Davis swept through the team Monday.

One of the guys mentioned -- young forward Brandon Ingram -- insisted he's doing his best to just play basketball.

"We kind of let you guys take care of that end," he said of the media-driven speculation. "We don't discuss it. Whatever happens, happens. We can only control what we can control."

The Lakers (27-26) got the better of the Pacers (34-19) 104-96 in Los Angeles in November, with James contributing 38 points, nine rebounds and seven assists to the win. Oladipo missed that game with soreness in his right knee.

It was the first time Indiana had seen its longtime rival since he was leading Cleveland to a 4-3 series win over the Pacers in the first round of last year's playoffs.

The Pacers had Oladipo for that series. He averaged a team-leading 22.7 points in the seven games.

But he has missed Indiana's last six games with a season-ending ruptured right quad tendon, with the Pacers having lost four of those contests.

However, they have rebounded with consecutive wins, including an exhausting effort in a 109-107 triumph at New Orleans in the opener of a back-to-back sequence on Monday night.

Pacers coach Nate McMillan has tried three different starting lineups in Oladipo's absence, with Cory Joseph inserted into the last three.

The veteran guard has shot just 4-for-15 and contributed a total of just nine points to the Pacers' two-game win streak, but he's accumulated a plus-19 plus/minus in games Indiana has won by a total of nine points.

It's working now, but McMillan has indicated more tinkering could be in the team's Oladipo-less future.

"We keep talking about Vic; it's about us," he expressed to reporters after Saturday's win over Miami. "It's going to take some time."

--Field Level Media

Updated February 5, 2019

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