LOS ANGELES — LeBron James continues to redefine the standard of what a star is capable of at such a late stage in his career.
James, 37, scored 50 points for the second time in his last three games as he lifted the Lakers to a well-deserved 122-109 win over the Washington Wizards on Friday.
The win came six days after James scored 56 against the Golden State Warriors, which was also a win for LA. points, they are 0-6 in the rest of their games and are still only No. 9 in the Western Conference at 29-37.
In a season where the Lakers didn’t give fans much reason to want to pay for tickets to see them, James received a rare chant “MVP! MVP!” from a sold-out crowd at the Crypto.com Arena. He said he appreciated the reception, given how often boos were heard in the building.
“Listen, the Lakers faithful know when bad basketball is being played and they know when good basketball is being played. They are entitled to any response they want,” James said. “They’ve seen so many great teams, so many great individuals. … So for me, being part of this franchise, I feel like I’m just trying to give them the opportunity to have some memorable nights. also.
“Try to give them something to cheer for, give them something to feel good about every night, and I know it hasn’t been as good as they would have liked this year, but you take the little ones victories when They come.”
LA appeared to be heading for another loss, down nine early in the third quarter, when James turned red. Midway through the period, in a streak that took less than two minutes of playing time, he scored 12 straight points for the Lakers to put them in control of the game and stir the crowd into a frenzy.
And he did it in different ways, starting the flurry with a fadeaway from 18 feet, followed by a lay-up and one, then a pull-up 3 from 31 feet. before neatly removing it from the glass, and finally a fastbreak dunk when he tried to remove the edge of his screws.
“What strikes me is that the league has never seen a player at this point in his career do what he does,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “I think that’s the most important thing that needs to be recognised. It’s just amazing the level he’s playing at.”
James finished the game shooting 18 of 25 from the field (72%), including 6 of 9 from 3-point range and 8 of 8 from the free throw line.
And he did in one game when he started at center against a Washington team that had 7-foot-3 Kristaps Porzingis in the middle for the first tip.
“Maybe after all these years the fact that he played in the middle was really the best way to use him,” Vogel said. “Because that’s where he was doing it, playing center with [Anthony Davis] Do whatever the team needs to win games. And just an amazing, amazing, epic performance from LJ.
It was James’ 14th career 50-point game, tying Rick Barry for sixth all-time, and his teams have now won their last 12 games while he has scored 50 or more. at 37 and in his 19th season, consider James became the first player in NBA history over the age of 30 to score 50 points in consecutive home games.
He has now scored 20 or more goals in 30 straight games, raising his scoring average from 29.3 points per game to 29.7 per game to edge Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid for the top spot in the scoring race. the league.
“I always try to stay present,” James said when asked what has worked for him offensively lately. “And when game day is here, I’m here five hours before the game and I prepare – I prepare individually, I prepare on what I have to do to help this team win, preparing everything that I can do what I can to try to help this team be as great as possible that night. So that’s what’s happening.
James’ night overshadowed the main storyline of Friday’s game – the trade between the Lakers and Wizards to acquire Russell Westbrook in exchange for Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and other parts.
Westbrook had five points on 2-for-11 shooting with nine assists and one turnover. Vogel fired him with 8 minutes, 37 seconds left and kept him on the bench the rest of the way. LA is now 3-1 this season when Vogel benches Westbrook late.
Vogel went with a closing lineup consisting of James, Malik Monk (21 points), Talen Horton-Tucker (15 points), Austin Reaves (12 points) and Stanley Johnson who scored a 29-20 run from the time where Westbrook was replaced until the final bell.
Kuzma, meanwhile, led Washington with 23 points and Caldwell-Pope had four points, going 1-for-6 on the ground.
“It was just about having these guys there to win,” Vogel said of his closing lineup. “It wasn’t more than that.”
Horton-Tucker snagged the assist when James reached 50 from a 3-pointer with 1:41 remaining and let out a cheery celebratory shout in the direction of former teammate Kuzma to bask in the moment.
“It’s the second time he’s scored 50 points this year and I was, ‘Damn it.’ was going to get 50, that’s why I went to try and get him the 3. So just seeing that, it’s like, it’s motivation, like I always say.
James, who scored 19 points in the third quarter and 33 overall in the second half, said his hot shot reminded him of the 1990s “NBA Jam” video game, in which players would be “on fire” after performing three shots in a row. , bringing in their subsequent shots from virtually anywhere on the pitch.
“I was able to hit a good streak at one point,” James said. “I just tried to stay in that zone as long as possible and hit a few shots.”