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Los Angeles Lakers guard Dennis Schroder (17) drives to the basket as Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) defends, during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, April 8, 2021, in Miami. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)
Lakers guard Dennis Schroder drives to the basket as Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic defends during the first half on Thursday in Miami. (Marta Lavandier / Associated Press)

Before missing his 10th consecutive game Thursday in Miami because of a sprained ankle, Lakers star LeBron James posted a photo of himself alongside injured co-star Anthony Davis.

“The weatherman says the weather is changing soon and it predicts a thunderstorm is coming,” James wrote in an Instagram caption. “Folks prepare and take the proper caution measures to stay safe.”

Maybe it means James and Davis are closer to returning than the Lakers are letting on — they say both players are progressing but there’s no timetable for either to return. Maybe it means James got hacked by Dallas Raines. It’s all a bit murky.

But every day they’re out, the Lakers are one day closer to getting them back, their absences especially felt with the team playing in an NBA Finals rematch with another new starting lineup and yet another injury to deal with.

Forward Kyle Kuzma, playing some of the best all-around basketball of his career, was scratched because of a calf strain, a diagnosis confirmed by a MRI exam on his left leg. It forced the Lakers to roll out Dennis Schroder, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Markieff Morris, Wesley Matthews and, in his return from an injury in his debut, Andre Drummond against the Heat.

But all along, Lakers coach Frank Vogel maintained that the short-handed Lakers would benefit them long term without prohibiting them from winning now. It’s been pretty lofty and mostly unrealistic, but on nights like this, you get the optimism, where even during a 110-104 defeat, you can see why James is so defiant in his prediction.

Some late-game misses, a couple of defensive miscues and Morris’ ejection in the final three minutes knocked the game out of reach — the final score not totally indicative of 48 minutes where the Lakers never let the Heat get separation.

If the Lakers can continue to muck up games like this, putting themselves into positions to win against playoff-caliber teams like full-strength Miami without four members of their regular rotation — Talen Horton-Tucker was serving a one-game suspension for his part in the scuffle Tuesday — things should be OK whenever James and Davis return.

With so many people out, the Lakers needed players to fill the massive void, and the reality is no one can be sure on a nightly basis who it’ll actually be.

Thursday, it was Caldwell-Pope scoring a season-high 28 points. Drummond, playing his first full game after returning from toe injuries, finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds and two steals. Even though Schroder missed 10 of his 11 field-goal attempts, he dished out 14 assists.

But against the Heat, it wasn’t enough — too many good players in their beachwear instead of their uniforms.

Kuzma’s injury happened against the Raptors on Tuesday in Tampa Bay, perhaps the result of a greatly extended workout in the absence of Davis and James. Before James’ injury, Kuzma was averaging around 26 minutes per game. Since the injury, that number has rapidly climbed to 30 minutes.

And for now, cryptic social media posts will have to suffice for updates on James and Davis. But eventually, the Lakers will be whole, and when they are, the problems that cost them Thursday will be easy enough to overcome.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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