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LeBron James out for Lakers against Bucks on Tuesday night

Philadelphia 76ers v Los Angeles Lakers
Philadelphia 76ers v Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers have been managing LeBron James' ankle issue — left ankle peroneal tendinopathy, if you want the medical term — since before the All-Star break. Remember he missed the games before and after that break to give him more time off his foot.

That maintenance will have him out on Tuesday night against the Milwaukee Bucks in a nationally televised game.

The Lakers, at 39-32 and sitting ninth in the West, desperately need wins. Los Angeles is 2.5 games back (two in the loss column) of the No. 8 seed Phoenix Suns (the Lakers have already clinched the tiebreaker.) That means if the Lakers go 7-4 over their final 11 games, they still need the Suns to go 4-6 or worse. If Los Angeles can go 8-3 and the Suns go 5-5, Los Angeles jumps to the eighth seed.

But for any of that to happen, the Lakers must rack up wins.

It's hard to do that without LeBron James who, at age 39 and in his 21st NBA season, remains the energy barometer for this team. When he is playing his best, the Lakers are a dangerous team, but if he's just good, the Lakers play flat and become very beatable. LeBron is again playing at an All-NBA level this season, averaging 25.4 points, 8.1 assists, and 7.2 rebounds a game while shooting a career-best 40.6% from 3.

Without LeBron, a lot more falls on the shoulders of Anthony Davis, as well as D'Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie as shot creators. That will be a challenge for all of them against a Bucks team that has become more stout defensively under mid-season replacement coach Doc Rivers.