To this point of the season, a topic of conversation many in the Los Angeles Lakers fan base kept going back to was when they might see LeBron James really take over and dominate a game.
Wednesday night against the Portland Trail Blazers, they saw it. It was amazing, and it allowed Los Angeles to beat the Blazers 126-117 as James passed fellow Lakers legend Wilt Chamberlain for fifth all-time in NBA history in scoring.
In the third quarter alone, James totaled 16 points and 5 assists, but really started to take over as the second quarter was in its waning moments. He put up a barrage from deep that helped the Lakers take a lead after playing the entire half to that point from behind. This kicked off quite the run:
From our great statistician Doug Mann:— John Ireland (@LAIreland) November 15, 2018
Portland led the Lakers 45-32 with 6:29 to go in the 2nd quarter.
Since then, the Lakers have outscored the Blazers 73-44.
James is obviously a supremely talented offensive player, but it was his effort on defense that really signaled the kind of game he was going to play. One play in particular put Staples Center in a frenzy: A block at the rim of Nik Stauskas.
Can we just spend a quick second on the level of confidence Nik Stauskas must have if he’s challenging LeBron James at the rim? That’s the thing of legend. Anyway, here’s the play.
James finished with 44 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists and 3 blocks.
LeBron’s 44 points on the night he surpassed Wilt for 5th on the all-time scoring list were the most by a Laker since Kobe’s 60-point finale. (Via @JoeyARamirez)— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) November 15, 2018
One potentially monumental development was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope playing considerably better than he has to start this season. As it stands, the Lakers only really have one true shooting guard on the roster anyone has any confidence in (Josh Hart), which has led them to playing Brandon Ingram out of position. If KCP can get his stuff together and this is the start of that, the rotation starts to make a lot more sense.
Speaking of rotations, Luke Walton stuck with the same starters again and still doesn’t seem to have figured out how best to stagger lineups rather than rolling with hockey line changes. Still, the Lakers are now on a four-game winning streak, so something is working.
Down the stretch, the game really got mucked up by a combination of hard or flagrant fouls, and once again awkward play between James and his teammates where both kind of try to defer to each other and essentially wind up standing around on the perimeter. Fortunately for the Lakers, Portland wasn’t able to get anything going either and L.A. was able to close it out all the same.
The Lakers will take their win streak on the road to Orlando as they take on the Magic Saturday night.