The Los Angeles Lakers needed a win on Wednesday to get back to .500 after a long and difficult road trip. LeBron James was back in the lineup after serving a one-game suspension, but the team would be without Anthony Davis for the first time this season, putting even greater strain on Frank Vogel to make quality lineups.
They needed to beat the Indiana Pacers, who the Lakers have historically struggled against while on the road. And without Davis, defending the team’s frontcourt duo of Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner would be even more challenging.
But James stepped up, scoring 39 points to go along with five rebounds, six assists, a steal and two blocks. He led the Lakers to a 124-116 overtime victory, bringing the team back to .500 at 10-10.
Vogel had profuse praise for James following the win. “Obviously, the big fella took us home. What LeBron did tonight was just a performance for the ages. I know these fans and how much they love their hoops here in Indianapolis and he put on one hell of a show. Obviously, he gets the game ball.”
Where James was particularly dominant was in overtime, where he had eight of the team’s 12 points. This led to even greater praise from the Lakers head coach. “It takes a lot of energy. I know he wanted to get this W,” Vogel said of James. “He really wanted to play in that Knicks game in Madison Square Garden. He looks forward to that every year and it was very disappointing for him to not be in that game, so bounced back tonight.
“To quarterback the defense and carry that load offensively, it’s just a special performance. A performance for the ages and just something else.”
The Lakers desperately needed this type of performance from their superstar. Without Davis, James knew this was not going to be an easy victory, and falling to 9-11 after a 1-4 road trip would have been hugely disappointing.
Now that L.A. is 10-10, they can build some serious momentum heading into December. Their final games of November are against the Sacramento Kings, Detroit Pistons, and Kings again. Davis should be back in the lineup on Friday night, giving James a chance to take his foot off the gas pedal after carrying the Lakers against Indiana.
Vogel amazed at James’ 3-point shooting
Of all the remarkable things James has done over his career, one of the things Vogel is most impressed with is the development of his 3-point shot. “It’s remarkable. It’s a remarkable sort of adjustment to the late years of his career. Obviously, MJ and Kobe, they both developed that unguardable fadeaway jump shot, which by the way, LeBron has that, too.
“But the adjustment to the modern era of NBA basketball to be a volume deep 3-point shooter is just one of those things that you’re going to look at LeBron’s overall career and marvel at how he was able to do that because that wasn’t part of his game early in his career.”
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