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LeBron James finally activated Playoff Mode, and the Lakers suddenly have hope

Just in the nick of time, The King showed why he’s The King.

New Orleans Pelicans v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images

The Lakers picked up a much-needed win over the New Orleans Pelicans, 125-119, in a game Anthony Davis played just 20 minutes. LA had just come off two brutal road losses to the Grizzlies and the Pelicans, the latter of which were without Davis for the entire game that time.

LeBron James and crew are running out of time to right the ship. Sixty-one games into the season, they’ve won just 30, leaving them in 10th place in the West, three games behind the No. 8 Clippers.

Wednesday night showed a number of reasons for Lakers fans to feel optimistic despite what they’ve seen in the up-and-down season. The chase for a playoff spot isn’t over yet.

Finally, James’ playoff mode was actually activated

Last week, James said his playoff mode was activated. In the first few games since, that had proven to be more talk than show, but there was a noticeable change in James’ demeanor in crunch time this time around.

With 70 seconds to go and the Lakers up three points, James got low in a stance and shuffled around the top of the key to lock down Jrue Holiday, eventually forcing a turnover that’d prove vital in the narrow win.

This was a game-changing play — the type we’re used to seeing James make in big moments.

That’s not the type of defense we’ve seen from him recently, though. In last week’s loss to the Grizzlies, James had an entire lowlight reel on that end of the floor.

Maybe the narrow playoff race is finally getting to him.

James showed why he’s considered the best ever, too

That defensive stop wasn’t enough, as New Orleans came back within one possession again. James took control of LA’s very next play, dribbling out the clock into what looked like a desperation look in the corner.

But this is James, after all. The King lifted one leg, and hoisted an off-balance moonshot that swooshed to clinch the game.

Anthony Davis’ reaction to the shot was hilarious:

If the game is close, James can will any team to victory.

Meanwhile, the Kings lost a heartbreaker, and Marvin Bagley III might be hurt

Sacramento is just a game ahead of LA in the standings now, after falling short, 141-140, against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Lakers hold a 2-1 series lead in the event of a tiebreaker, but the teams play once more on March 24. Of course, both teams also have to worry about the Clippers and Spurs ahead of them, too.

But LA could catch somewhat of a break if Kings’ rookie Marvin Bagley III is seriously hurt. Bagley banged knees off a hard screen from Malcolm Brogdon on Wednesday. He left the game and didn’t return with a knee sprain and is getting an MRI on Thursday.

This didn’t look good:

Bagley has been stellar in February, averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds. His loss for any extended time would be critical.

The Lakers have six weeks to pull out an unlikely playoff seed, but we’ve seen crazier from James. It’s much too early to write them off.