Even in the 19th year of his career at age 37, Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James has been proving in recent weeks that he’s still one of the premier players in the NBA.
Not only is James averaging 28.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 6.6 assists while shooting an impressive 52.3% from the field and 37.4% from three in 26 games this season, but he also has 15 30-plus point games, which is the most in the NBA despite him missing 12 games.
In addition to James’ offensive greatness, he is also proving that he can still be elite on the other end of the floor as well, as was evident in the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday night.
Utilizing their small-ball lineups, the Lakers got killed on the glass and in the paint for most of the game. Overall, the Timberwolves had 20 offensive rebounds and out-rebounded L.A. 56-28, also outscoring them in the paint 58-32.
A lot of the damage was done by Naz Reid, who had 23 points and 11 rebounds in the game with six coming on the offensive end. All 23 of his points came in the first three quarters though as James accepted the challenge of guarding him in the fourth and came up with some steals and a number of other big defensive plays to seal the victory.
After the game, James spoke about his willingness to accept those kinds of challenges defensively to help his team, especially while Anthony Davis is out.
“I believe so. Obviously, that has always been part of my objective or who I am as a basketball player to be able to take on matchups that help our ball club,” James said.
“We were extremely balanced offensively tonight. We got a huge push from Melo off the bench and Malik has been amazing ever since he got out of protocols and into the starting lineup. Avery was great with his shooting ability and also his back cuts. He was spectacular on the offensive end. It gave me an opportunity, even with the scoring I was doing, I was still able to focus more on the defensive side tonight and just take the challenge which I was able to do late in the game.”
If this type of two-way play continues from James then wins should come with it as the Lakers look to turn their season around after a mediocre 19-19 start.
With James leading the way, other players should follow and raise their level of play on both ends to get L.A. back into championship contention.
James finds silver lining in poor rebounding game
Even though the Lakers were thoroughly outworked on the glass by the short-handed Timberwolves, James was able to find a silver lining in that they only allowed 20 second-chance points on 20 offensive rebounds and ultimately were able to come away with the win.
“We’re playing good basketball as of late. Even with some of the losses we had, we were still trending in the right direction and I believe we continued to do that tonight,” James said after the game.
“Obviously giving up 20 offensive rebounds is a lot. We have to do a better job of that. But we did a good job of we gave up one point per offensive rebound which is really good. They had 20 second-chance points off 20 offensive rebounds. So we were at least making an effort to get back out and get stops, so that’s good.”
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