In year 19 at 37 years old, LeBron James continues to carry the load for the Los Angeles Lakers, turning in another monster performance against the Sacramento Kings.
In 36:28 minutes, he led the way with 31 points, five rebounds and five assists, taking over in the fourth quarter to help the Lakers win 122-114.
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Despite the already heavy miles on his legs, LeBron is currently second in the NBA in minutes per game (36.9), behind only Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, who is a whole decade younger than him. Of the top 10, only three other players are north of 30 with Kevin Durant tied with LeBron, followed by James Harden (5th) and Damian Lillard (6th).
Los Angeles has been shorthanded this season with Anthony Davis’ extended injury absence, compounded by multiple players in and out of the lineup due to health and safety protocols, meaning the Lakers have had to rely on LeBron of late more than they would have liked, however, he says he’s more than prepared for the extra court time, with this season the most minutes he’s averaged in a Laker uniform.
“I’ve always put myself in a position where I can play heavy minutes and do whatever it takes to help this team win,” he said post-game
“Coach has done a good job, either through Frank [Vogel] or when Fiz [David Fizdale] was the interim coach at the time, just trying to watch my minutes at times, but we also need to win ball games as well.”
Across his career, LeBron has averaged 37+ minutes in 12 full seasons, his last coming in 2016-17.
“I feel pretty good, I don’t feel like that I’m playing 37 minutes a game and it’s also not the record for me, I had a season where I averaged 42.5,” he said in reference to his 2005-06 season for the Cleveland Cavaliers at age 21.
After getting out to a slow start, shooting 6-of-16 from the field through the first three quarters, LeBron locked in down the stretch, shooting 6-of-10 in the final quarter as he picked apart the Kings defence, delivering some choice words towards their bench after a big bucket with under a minute remaining.
LeBron scored 14 of his 31 in the fourth quarter alone, but he had some help from running mate Malik Monk as the duo combined for 25 of the Lakers’ 37 fourth-quarter points.
LeBron fourth-quarter shotchart
Monk finished with 24 points, while Talen Horton-Tucker added 19 points off the bench and Dwight Howard 14 points and 14 rebounds in just 21 minutes on court.
Russell Westbrook had 19 points, seven rebounds and two assists, recording his first game without a turnover since March, 2016 as the Lakers only turned the ball over a season-low five times as a team.
“That’s the reason we won the game,” LeBron said. “We won the game because we did not turn the ball over.
“We weren’t shooting the ball well at all and because we didn’t turn the ball over, we caught fire.”
Tonight’s game continues a dominant stretch for LeBron, who has averaged 34.3 points, 9.8 rebounds and 5.9 assists on 55.4 percent from the field and 39.5 percent from the 3-point line across his past nine games.
With the win, the Lakers have now won three games in a row and four of their past five as they move above .500 (20-19). They look to continue their win streak on Friday when they host the Atlanta Hawks at Crypto.com Arena.