April 16, 2024

LeBron James joins Michael Jordan with another 40-point showing

NEW YORK — Few NBA gamers have performed skilled basketball so long as LeBron James has, and the 39-year-old Los Angeles Lakers star continues to make a case that none have finished it higher at his age.

James scored 40 factors in L.A.’s 116-104 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday, becoming a member of Michael Jordan as the one gamers in NBA historical past with a number of video games of 40 factors or extra after turning 39. James now has finished it twice; Jordan, who performed till he was 40, did it thrice.

The 21-year veteran went 13-for-17 from the ground and tied a profession excessive in 3s made, going 9-for-10 from deep.

“I don’t ever have to lean on [3-pointers] because I can do so much — I can score on any level on the floor basically once I cross half court,” James mentioned of his improved marksmanship within the latter levels of his profession. “But being able to have a growth mindset and be able to work on things that the league is changing to, the league is a heavy 3-point shooting league.

“I’m not a kind of guys that desires to go on the market and shoot 12, 14 or 15 3s per recreation. But I need to be revered, and groups must play me from the surface. That’s nonetheless type of one factor groups [think] … ‘If we’ve to surrender one thing, we would a lot somewhat him shoot the ball from the surface.'”

Brooklyn didn’t necessarily give James open looks. The Lakers star simply got hot, making nearly everything he threw up from beyond the arc. And he saved his best for last, scoring 17 points in the fourth quarter on 5-for-6 shooting (4-for-4 from 3) to close the game after the Nets had cut L.A.’s once-26-point lead down to just eight with 11:42 remaining.

“It’s unbelievable,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “I instructed him within the huddle earlier than his final little stretch and we in the end subbed him out [that I was] simply extraordinarily grateful that he packed the cape on the highway journey. Needed all 9 of these 3s.”

The win lifted L.A. to 3-1 on its six-game road trip, which concludes Tuesday and Wednesday with a back-to-back against the Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards. The Lakers are No. 9 in the Western Conference with seven games remaining in the regular season — 1½ games behind the No. 7 Phoenix Suns.

The Easter shooting display lifted James’ 3-point percentage to 41.6% on the season, the best of his career.

“The ones that he was taking pictures wasn’t hitting the rim,” Anthony Davis mentioned. “It’s at all times nice to observe. I imply, most factors in NBA historical past, you understand? And he is simply persevering with so as to add to it. But the best way he shot it tonight, masterful.”

James shot just 32.1% from 3 last season. He said the injury he sustained in February 2023 — tearing a tendon in his right foot — prevented him from working on his shooting rhythm as much in practices and the time between games.

“My foot has felt loads higher,” James said. “I did not have a lot time to actually rep loads final 12 months as a result of I had to verify I may very well be on the ground operating round or [not] placing a lot pounding of my foot on the ground. I’ve had plenty of alternative to get on the ground. You in all probability see me earlier than each recreation out on the ground, engaged on my recreation, engaged on my craft. So that is helped out loads, too. And simply attempting to remain constant with my shot, do the identical shot each time. And simply work. Just work, work, work, work.”

When James subbed out late in the fourth quarter, the win all but decided, he received a standing ovation from the road crowd and pantomimed placing a crown on his head in recognition of their appreciation.

With James still in some ways playing as well as he ever has, it naturally begged the question: How much longer does he plan to play?

“Not very lengthy,” James said. “Not very lengthy. I’m on the opposite facet, clearly, of the hill. So I’m not going to play another 21 years, that is for rattling positive. But not very lengthy. I do not know what or when that door will shut so far as once I retire, however I haven’t got a lot time left.”