James was ruled out of Tuesday night's game against thePhoenix Sunswith left ankle soreness, the team announced. It was James' fourth missed game out of the Lakers' past five.
The Lakers, who have lost six games in a row, are 2.5 games behind the Spurs for the final spot in the Western Conference play-in tournament after San Antonio beat Denver earlier Tuesday night. The Lakerscan be eliminated from the play-in tournament contention with a loss to Phoenix.
Phoenix had plenty of motivation against the Lakers. A victory would set the franchise record for wins in a season with 63, eclipsing the 1992-93 team led by Charles Barkley and the 2004-05 team led by Steve Nash, which both won 62 games. The Suns came into Tuesday's game on a two-game skid, having blown their past two chances to set the win mark in Memphis and Oklahoma City.
The Suns are also cognizant of Anthony Davis' comments made last month, asserting that Phoenix "got away with one"in the first round last season by beating the injury-riddled Lakers to advance.
Davis was in the lineup Tuesday.
"I'm sure his comments will only add some fuel," a Suns source told ESPN.
James is averaging 30.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 6.2 assists this season.
James leads the NBA in scoring this season, fractions of a point ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo (30.1) and the Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid (30.0). However, in order to qualify for the scoring title, a player must play in a minimum of 58 games; James has played in 56 this season.
He would have to play in two of the Lakers' final three games after Tuesday -- at Golden State on Thursday, home against Oklahoma City on Friday and at Denver on Sunday -- in order to qualify.
It would be the second scoring title of his career, coming 14 years after his first one in 2007-08.
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