Hard for James not to play full games

TORONTO • With the Los Angeles Lakers virtually out of National Basketball Association play-off contention, they have decided to limit LeBron James to between 28 and 32 minutes per game as there is little reason to risk his health.

The forward, however, claimed that it was tough for him not to be in "play-off mode" after he played 31min 47sec on Thursday in the 111-98 loss at the Toronto Raptors.

"It's challenging for me mentally because I'm so accustomed to being out on the floor, especially when I'm healthy," said James, who still scored a team-high 29 points with four rebounds and six assists.

"You know, but it's a conversation between myself and my trainer and the coaching staff and the front office, and this is the direction that they wanted to go for the remainder of the season, given the lack of success we've had with our ball club. So I trust the people in charge, and that's what it is."

The Lakers (31-37) are now eight wins behind the Los Angeles Clippers, who hold the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference.

The Raptors (49-20) are in the hunt for the top seed in the East behind the Milwaukee Bucks. And they played like it on Thursday, leading for nearly the entire game without the injured Kyle Lowry and the suspended Serge Ibaka.

Although the Lakers made a push in the second quarter and took a two-point lead, that was the only time they truly threatened.

At half-time, they trailed 65-54 and Alex Caruso was the Lakers' leading scorer with 14 points. He finished with 16 points.

Kawhi Leonard scored 25 points with eight rebounds and four assists to lead the Raptors, while Norman Powell scored 20 points.

The Raptors have won three of their last four games, while the Lakers have lost six in seven.

James said: "You can't dictate if you can make shots from the perimeter or not… but some of the things that you can control are turnovers, we had 20, and some of the offensive rebounds we gave up."

DPA, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2019, with the headline 'Hard for James not to play full games'. Print Edition | Subscribe