Despite ranking third in NBA history in scoring and closing fast on Karl Malone in second, LeBron James has somehow never been thought of as a pure scorer. On Saturday night, James showed he is still more than capable of piling up the points in a variety of ways.
James scored a season-high 56 points and the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Golden State Warriors 124-116 to snap a four-game losing streak. It was his third-most points in a regular-season game and 13th time he has had at least 50.
“Our guys were following me off the floor tonight going into the locker room and they asked me, ‘How does it feel to score 56?’” James, whose career-best 61 came for Miami against Charlotte in 2014, told ESPN after the game. “I said, ‘Right now, I don’t give a damn about the 56. I’m just happy we got a win.’ That’s just literally the first thing that came to my mind.” He added that his efforts had been driven by “desperation”.
While James downplayed his 19-of-31 shooting, including six of 11 from three-point range with three consecutive to put the Lakers up 100-97 in the fourth quarter, friends and foes were more than willing to praise his performance.
“He was phenomenal tonight,” said Lakers forward Carmelo Anthony, who had 14 points. “The way that it came, in the rhythm of the game and the flow of the game, us making that comeback and him being a big reason for us coming back and making that run that he did. He just put us on his back tonight.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr agreed. “He’s obviously such a handful coming downhill, and then when he gets his three-point shot going like he did in the second half, makes it pretty difficult to try and guard him,” Kerr said. “He was brilliant tonight. LeBron was amazing.”
Stephen Curry had 30 for Golden State, and Jordan Poole added 23. The Warriors have lost four straight to drop to third overall in the NBA, a half-game behind Memphis and 8.5 games behind Phoenix.
“There’s more games coming, so we’ve got to do this ourselves. We got to dig out of the mud, and nobody’s going to help us,” Kerr said.
Golden State ran over Los Angeles with 42 points in the second quarter to take a 67-62 halftime lead. But they let the Lakers close the half on a 11-2 run, and Kerr lamented the inability to maintain separation.
“This has been a pattern during this bad spell for us,” Kerr said. “We’re not stepping on teams when they are down. We’re making mistakes and allowing teams to hang around, and when you do that in this league you’re dead.”