LeBron James spun and threw a three-pointer seemingly toward the rafters, the ball somehow finding the back wall before pushing through the net.
It was part of another wild offensive night for the Lakers’ best player – a huge shot during a stretch when he scored every conceivable way.
This night was unlike most. This time, the Lakers won, beating the Raptors 128-123 in overtime.
It was the odd undercurrent of James’ amazing season, his offensive mastery coming at a time when influencing the win wasn’t consistent. The Lakers’ other problems, the injuries, bad strokes, bad luck and flawed rosters — even that offensive groove couldn’t overcome it all.
So with James on the doorstep of second on the NBA’s all-time scoring charts, it’s good to do so with some positive vibes after a good win in Toronto.
“Winning is the most important thing to me and it has always been the most important thing to me,” said James. “But the only thing I could do is keep enjoying the game. … I understand that we have to take a lot of losses this season and whatever the case may be. But the joy of the game and getting out there and competing is so damn fun like it’s that much fun.
“And of course the frustration of losing and things like that in the heat of the moment, you feel it that way, but it’s a joy to play the game. And it’s a pleasure to go out and play at this level at this point in my career, so I’m still having a lot of fun.”
It’s essentially a ban that James will take Karl Malone’s spot on the all-time leaderboard in his next game, trailing Malone by just 17 points. His status for Saturday’s game against the Wizards in Washington will be decided this morning.
If he doesn’t play, he would have a chance to hit the milestone on Monday in Cleveland.
“He just wants to win and dominate the game in every way he can,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said ahead of the game. “Obviously he’s really grown as a perimeter shooter, and he’s really grown at this stage in his career to score as a receiver and not just initiate anything. And those are two really notable late-career adjustments that I think he needs to be commended for.
“And obviously we’re not having a great season, but I don’t know where we would be without what he’s doing in terms of scoring in basketball. So it’s really remarkable. He continues to defy all odds and show his greatness to everyone.”
He showed those developments explicitly late against the Raptors, outplaying Russell Westbrook, still dominating when the Lakers needed him to take over – scoring 16 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter – and even acting as the Lakers’ primary rim guard.
“That’s part of what makes him the greatest is his ability to just be [make] Whatever play is necessary, no matter which side of the parquet, whether it’s the extra pass, the big three, the free throws, the defensive task of guarding the best man, or making the assist side block like he did tonight has to come up with big rebounds,” Vogel said after the win. “It’s just… it’s remarkable how he can affect every single play the way you can affect a play.”
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Soon, probably either Saturday or Monday, he’ll have another milestone to cement his case as the greatest.
“I mean, it’s amazing how everyone could see,” said Avery Bradley. “From the start of his career and me as a fan, a kid in high school, to playing him and now having the opportunity to be on his team. It’s just incredible to be a part of it now and he’s just a special player.
“For me the greatest of all time.”
https://www.latimes.com/sports/lakers/story/2022-03-19/lakers-lebron-james-nba-scoring-list-karl-malone-milestone LeBron James is just one game away from #2 on the NBA all-time leading scorer list