Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James is continuing to look unlike any player has ever looked in their 19th season. His latest performance, a 30-point, 11-rebound, 10-assist triple-double in leading the Lakers to a victory over the Orlando Magic was just the latest in a run of outstanding showings.
Adding to things on this night was LeBron’s defense as he added three blocks, each one seemingly more devastating than the last as he seemed to be sending a message to the Magic that there would be no easy shots at the rim. James has now posted two triple-doubles in the last three games and reached the 30-point mark in six of his last eight outings.
Following the contest, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel had nothing but praise for the 36-year old, noting how he is truly embracing the other parts of the game and inspiring his teammates by doing so.
“He was spectacular again,” Vogel said of his performance. “He’s exemplifying, to find the right words, finding joy through hustle and how it’s really fun to pour it all out there on the floor and inspire your group. The effort that he’s playing with is inspiring our whole group. Our team is playing extremely hard and defending and running the floor and we’re making strides with playing extra-pass basketball, but we’re still not quite where we need to be yet. But LeBron is leading the charge in all those things and he was terrific again tonight.”
Things were looking dicey for the Lakers in the first half and they went into the locker room trailing by three. But LeBron led the charge in the third quarter as the Lakers went on a 23-0 run and ultimately outscored them by 26 in the quarter.
In terms of James’ scoring barrage over the last few games, Vogel pointed to the improved floor spacing of the smaller lineups.
“It’s tough to say. I think we were playing a lot more bigger lineups early in the season, which can be more imposing defensively but there’s less space offensively to go to work and to attack the basket. I think that’s one of the adjustments we’ve made, we’ve played with more space with either one big or no bigs for a lot of stretches of these games and it’s just opened up the lane for him and for Russ and for all of our guys.
“It’s a stylistic change offensively, this doesn’t happen automatically. You got to put guys in certain spots and know when we’re gonna cut because five on the perimeter doesn’t always give you great space to attack the basket. So there’s an adjustment period with all that, and other than, Bron is just getting his legs under him and finding a rhythm.”
It was always known that the Lakers going to those smaller lineups with a single big man would help to free up the paint. That goes even more when Vogel turns to the super-small lineups with LeBron himself at the center position. The balance, however, is that the Lakers must still be able to keep up a certain defensive level and rebound the basketball in those lineups, which has been a bit of a struggle at times.
For the most part, however, those small lineups have brought about positive returns more often than not for the Lakers and anything that keeps LeBron performing at this level is likely the right move.
James says he is getting ‘healthier and healthier every day’
Another reason for LeBron’s recent play is that the Lakers superstar is simply getting healthy. The early-season injury undoubtedly had an impact, but James believes he is getting closer to being completely healthy.
“For me personally, I’m just getting healthier and healthier every day,” James said. “Obviously, my injury played a big part of me getting out of game shape. The dynamics of how I move, how I play left me kind of hampered at times not to be full stride and things of that nature. I’m able to see plays before they happen, but not be able to actually make them.
“As I continue to get stronger and stronger, my injury continues to get closer and closer to 100 percent. I’m able to go out there and do a lot of things I’ve been able to do over the course of my career that benefits our team. I’m happy the way I’m feeling as of late.”
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