By Terrance Turner
March 5, 2022
The Los Angeles Lakers are 9th in the Western Conference. Their 27-35 record is dispiriting, after numerous injuries among an aging roster. They’ve lost four in a row and gone 3-11 in their last 14. But tonight, their star player shined as bright as he ever has. LeBron James lit up L.A. tonight with 56 points — his most ever as a Laker — and dragged the Lakers to a thrilling win.
It was James who scored the first points of the game for the Lakers; Russell Westbrook assisted with James’ three-foot layup, tying the game at two. The Lakers and Golden State Warriors tied again, at six points apiece, before the Lakers went on a 9-0 run; Russell Westbrook made a driving layup, Malik Monk makes 24-foot three-point jumper, and James made a four-foot two-pointer. Hah followed that up with two free throws, making it 20-11.
The Lakers concluded the quarter on a 32-25 lead. But that lead slipped away in the second, as the Golden State Warriors’ shooting began to heat up. Stephen Curry and Jonathan Kuminga combined forces to overtake the Lakers, gaining a ten-point lead. That advantage swelled to 14 points in the second quarter, thanks to help from Otto Porter Jr. and Moses Moody. The Lakers countered to pull within five; Austin Reaves and Malik Monk were able to carry some of the scoring slack with back-to-back threes, and another 3-pointer from James at the buzzer left Los Angeles only down 67-62 at halftime.
Another slow offensive start to the third put the Lakers back down 12; this time it was Curry and Klay Thompson, along with Porter, who pushed the Warriors ahead. It was Porter’s assist that gave Curry the chance for a three-point shot, which put the Warriors up by twelve. But Russell Westbrook nailed a corner three to stop the bleeding. The two teams traded baskets, but James got out in transition for an and-one to once again get L.A. within striking distance. He followed that up with a 27-foot running pullup jump shot.
Golden State again went on a tear that again built a 12-point lead. But LeBron chipped away at that lead with a solid dunk and (after a foul) two free throws. At the end of the third quarter, the Lakers trailed by just five.
That third-quarter ending gave way to a thrilling fourth quarter. The Lakers trailed 91-97 early on when James went on a tear. The Lakers went on a 9-0 run — all James — and his stellar three-pointer put them up 100-97. That three-point Lakers’ lead was their first lead since early in the second quarter. Even Rams QB Matthew Stafford was impressed by that monster dunk:
Then the game turned into a shootout; the Lakers and Warriors traded basket after basket in the home stretch of the fourth quarter, with both teams nailing one shot after another. The Lakers went on another run — this one 8-0 — in the last 1:51 leading up to the two-minute mark. That surge was capped by a wild sequence in which Andrew Wiggins forced James out of bounds with the ball. That turnover could’ve proved costly. But on the Warriors possession, Monk stole the ball and lobbed a pass to James, who riled the crowd with a one-handed slam.
As the clock ticked under one minute, James drove to the basket, then suddenly passed to Carmelo Anthony, who drained a three-pointer to electrify the crowd. Golden State called a timeout with 33.5 seconds remaining. The Lakers were up 122-116. Wiggins fouled James shortly afterward, with LeBron making both free throws. He scored a total of 56 points tonight — his most EVER as a Laker. The Lakers won, 124-116.
After his electric performance, James was asked how he would describe tonight’s game. He answered: “Desperation. Four-game losing streak. Obviously, our season’s been up and down. But desperation can breed inspired basketball.” Indeed. LeBron James is now the oldest player in NBA history to score at least 50 points and 10 rebounds in a game.
UPDATE: LeBron James has now passed Karl Malone to rank No. 2 on the all-time NBA scoring list. According to Complex, James achieved the feat in tonight’s game against the Washington Wizards. “James secured the slot with a layup in the first half, giving him a total of 36,930 career points in 1,363 games. Malone has remained at the No. 2 spot since December 2000, when he passed Wilt Chamberlain with 36,928 points in his 19-year career.” LeBron had been at No. 3 since early 2020.
“I know I’ve said this over and over, but it’s just the truth of the matter it is,” LeBron told Spectrum SportsNet. “Anytime I’m linked with the greats it’s very humbling. It doesn’t make sense to me. You know, from where I come from and watching this league, watching this NBA logo, and so many great players to play this game. To hear my name ranked up there with the best, it’s a true honor for me and for my hometown of Akron, Ohio.”