LeBron James' triple-double helps Lakers secure eighth place for play-in game

Dan Woike, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Basketball

NEW ORLEANS — Your eyes would tell you quickly.

The Lakers, at their very best this season, have received the kind of all-around dominance from L eBron James that made him the best player in the league — a surefire ticket to the end when winning mattered most.

But with 39 years on his bones and 21 seasons worth of mileage on his legs, James has had to pick his spots. On the nights when James has been able to play with his foot on the gas on both ends of the court, the Lakers have been as difficult to beat as any team. In the games when age and fatigue keep James glued to the paint, closing out on a shooter with his eyes instead of his effort, they’ve been in trouble.

Sunday, in their final game of the regular season and in desperate need of a win, coach Darvin Ham had a feeling which version of James he’d get.

“When we see that type of energy, it’s great,” Ham said before the game. “It lets us know — he’s pretty much always locked in, but again, we understand the stakes.”

The Lakers looked the way they were because James looked the way he was.


Offensively, his court vision carved the Pelicans apart. Defensively, he tortured Zion Williamson and took the Pelicans’ biggest threat totally out of the game. He had a double-double by halftime and a triple-double before the end of the 124-108 win.

“It just sets a tone,” Ham said of James’ play.

The two teams will play in the 7/8 play-in game Tuesday in New Orleans, with the winner advancing to the playoffs. The loser will host the winner of Golden State-Sacramento game for the final spot in the playoffs.

James finished with 28 points, 11 rebounds and 17 assists — his fifth triple-double of the season.


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