We’ve all got to take our moments of joy where we can find them right now, and folk-hero-in-the-making Austin Reaves draining a game-winning 3 to beat the Mavericks on December 15 sure felt like one for the Lakers and their fans. Sure, Luka Doncic wasn’t playing in that game, and yes, the performance still fell far shy of the type of dominance that Los Angeles supporters had hoped to see from the superstar troika of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook. But with the chips down on the road in Dallas, the Lakers found a lineup that worked—a small-ball group with the newcomer Reaves and veteran Wayne Ellington flanking the big three—and rode it to a rare feel-good W that put the team a season-best three games over .500.

It seemed like a spark: the kind of moment the Lakers might look back on as the catalyst of a run that lifted them out of the injury- and illness-marked morass in which they’ve been mired for much of the season. Instead, it was just a brief respite before even more illnesses—seven Lakers (Reaves, Talen Horton-Tucker, Dwight Howard, Avery Bradley, Malik Monk, Kent Bazemore, and injured guard Kendrick Nunn, who has since tested out) and head coach Frank Vogel landed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols last week—and a massive injury. A frightening collision during Friday’s loss to the Timberwolves put Davis on the shelf for at least the next four to six weeks with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee.

It’s hard to find silver linings in the Lakers losing Davis—an eight-time All-Star who ranks second on the team in minutes played and points per game, and who leads it in rebounding and shot blocking—for what could be 15 to 20 games. (And potentially longer, depending on what the scans turn up when AD gets reevaluated.) That any return this season is possible seems like a pretty good one, considering Davis said he “heard something pop” when Minnesota forward Jaden McDaniels fell into his leg. And maybe having some time off to rehab and rejuvenate will ultimately benefit Davis, who was averaging more minutes per game than he has in four years and just under 38 minutes per contest in his past 10 appearances before going down, allowing him to come back fresh for the stretch run as the Lakers look to peak heading into the postseason.

They’ll have to get there first, though. And given both Davis’s absence and what we’ve seen from L.A. so far this season—a 16-15 record heading into Tuesday’s game against the West-leading Suns, a bottom-10 efficiency differential, and the NBA’s sixth-worst offense—that proposition is getting dicier by the day.

As much respect as the LeBron-AD combo deserves and gets, and as much as the Lakers have shown glimpses of being a good team when healthy, they haven’t really been good or healthy for most of this season. The lack of margin for error created by that underwhelming early start might catch up to them: The predictive models at FiveThirtyEight, Basketball-Reference, and ESPN’s Basketball Power Index all now project them to finish below .500, making the playoffs in fewer than 50 percent of their simulations. Inpredictable and PlayoffStatus are more bullish, giving L.A. better than 75 percent odds of reaching the postseason. But even they see it as far less likely that LeBron and Co. finish in the top six than as a seventh, eighth, ninth, or 10th seed, needing to scrap it out in the play-in tournament.

That’s the same road the Lakers had to take last season, after injuries to James and Davis submarined their title defense. The result? A first-round loss at the hands of the Suns, who carved up L.A. after Davis was hobbled by a hyperextended left knee and a groin strain. While a Lakers team led by a healthy LeBron and AD can take down anybody, a version without its superstars at full strength, or with its superstars absent entirely, doesn’t have enough talent or firepower to go toe-to-toe with the best of the best.