While Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James progresses toward his return from a high ankle sprain, guard Dennis Schroder is helping to pick up the slack.
Schroder collected his third straight double-double in the Lakers' 114-103 road victory over the Orlando Magic on Monday. The win ended a three-game losing streak and, coupled with a Dallas loss, put the fifth-place Lakers 2 1/2 games ahead of the Mavericks in the Western Conference. The Mavericks were set to play the Golden State Warriors later Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the Lakers (36-25) are set visit the Washington Wizards (27-34), occupants of the final play-in spot in the Eastern Conference.
Schroder, who has averaged 17.9 points and 8.5 assists in the Lakers' past 10 games, scored 13 points in the fourth quarter Monday against the Magic.
"He's really growing (in) particular with his floor-general mentality and running the team," Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. "Ten assists, two turnovers and 21 points -- seemed in control and comfortable in the pick-and-roll game and getting everybody involved."
Anthony Davis, in his third game back after missing 30 due to a right calf strain, added 18 points and eight rebounds in 31 minutes.
More help may be on the way. James, who has been out since injuring his ankle in a game March 20, posted a clip to Instagram on Monday of him jogging in an empty arena and then making a layup. The caption began with: "Coming soon to a city near you."
"It's probably the Lakers organization who is going to tell you guys," Schroder said of James. "I mean, he's close. I can tell you that much."
Vogel and the Lakers have not offered a timetable for James' return.
Meanwhile the Wizards saw their eight-game winning streak end one shy of tying the franchise record when they lost a shootout to the San Antonio Spurs 146-143 in overtime on Monday.
Washington is battling the Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors for 10th place in the Eastern Conference and the final play-in tournament spot. The Wizards hold the 10th spot.
"We didn't guard worth a damn," Bradley Beal said. "It's tough. They made a lot of tough shots down the stretch. We were up nine during the course of the fourth. I kind of blame myself for that. We didn't get anything generated on either end. But more or less, we were still in the game and we just didn't defend."
Beal, who missed a 3-pointer at the overtime buzzer, led the Wizards with 45 points, his 32nd game of the season with 30 or more points. Russell Westbrook had 22 points, 14 assists and 13 rebounds for his 29th triple-double of the season.
In his return after missing four games due to left knee soreness, Rui Hachimura scored 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting in 32 minutes.
The Wizards are sixth in the NBA in scoring (114.9 points per game) but are allowing the second most points per game (118.2). During their winning streak, the Wizards allowed 110.9 per game, while scoring 121.4.
Westbrook said after the loss that the Wizards can get back to that kind of outcome.
"Just do what we've been doing," he said. "(Monday) wasn't that great but, you know, there's nights like that sometimes. Just continue to defend like we've been doing the past month or so and we'll be alright."
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