The Los Angeles Lakers were in a world of trouble on Thursday against a rampaging Indiana Pacers. Despite having a 24-point lead at the end of the first quarter, the Lakers weren’t able to capitalize, and with turnovers plaguing the team throughout the second quarter, Indiana clawed their way back to a 6-point deficit at halftime.
Indiana held out one of the best players for the first 7 and a half minutes of the third quarter, coming back with a Tyreke Evans 3-pointer to lead for the first time in the game. With 17 points at the start of the half and nothing in that aforementioned period of time, LeBron James decided to flick a switch and put the Lakers on his back.
5 points in the next 30 seconds, and 9 in the last 4 minutes of the quarter saw James keep Los Angeles in front at the three-quarter break. With 26 points at the break, James finished with 38 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists in a huge performance to seal the win.
It has been a rough start to the season for the Lakers, but they have gone .500+ in their last 10 games. It is the first time since the shortened 2011-12 season that the Los Angeles Lakers have been over .500 after 21 games. In a somewhat ironic twist, Los Angeles was 12-9 when Kobe Bryant ended up with a double-double to win at Minnesota. Luke Walton was still on the Lakers roster at the time.
We know what kind of impact that LeBron James can have on an individual team; just look at what the Cleveland Cavaliers have done since he went to the Lakers. That team has gone from the NBA Finals to firing their head coach. Currently, Cleveland is 4-16 and struggling to gain any traction as they move into a road trip.
The thing that makes the Los Angeles Lakers more dangerous than the Cleveland Cavaliers from last year is that the Lakers have a better balance of weapons surrounding James on the court. There is also a variety of experienced players to go along with the young stars that will continue to push the Lakers forward into this season and then end of the decade.
JaVale McGee is having a breakout season with the Lakers, with his ability to be threatening under the rim on both ends a huge advantage. Rajon Rondo, when healthy, is someone who has great court vision and can distribute the ball incredibly well. Despite some reduced game time from the bench, Lance Stephenson is just as effective as he has been throughout his career. Kyle Kuzma is just as effective offensively, knowing that James can come back and make those huge plays on both ends of the court.
That alone is four players that James can rely on very regularly. It doesn’t include Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, among others who can go off on any given night. There is also Michael Beasley, who just happens to be the second pick of the 2008 NBA Draft, who showed on Thursday night that he still has it in him to put points up at will.
James looks to be enjoying his basketball better with a younger team. He is allowing these younger players to learn from him, and it is resulting in some fantastic basketball from the Lakers. The addition of these new talents means James is able to drive into the paint more, which has seen him improve in scoring and rebounds on his career statistics. In result, James is receiving a few more minutes to relax on the bench in comparison to his career average (35 this season compared to 38.2).
It’s the small things that are adding up for the Lakers as they move into the second quarter of the season. The squad as a whole seem to be playing better, and are more relaxed on the court. Despite the early season pressure on Luke Walton, Los Angeles is paying their coach back on and off the court. Should this continue for the LA Lakers, by the time LeBron James is done in Los Angeles, there will be another trophy in the cabinet at Lakers HQ.