MIAMI — Anthony Davis‘ left knee injury coincided with an offensive explosion from LeBron James, as his 33 points in Sunday night’s 113-107 loss to the Miami Heat marked the 17th straight game that the Los Angeles Lakers star has scored 25 points or more. All with Davis out.
With Davis potentially returning as soon as Tuesday from the sprained MCL in his left knee when L.A. plays the Brooklyn Nets, James made it sound like his offensive output could continue at a prolific pace.
“I don’t need to score 30 a night, but I’m in one of the best zones offensively I’ve been in, in my career,” the 19-year veteran said. “And I don’t plan on stopping. That’s just how I feel. I feel fantastic. Shooting the ball extremely well. Didn’t shoot the 3-ball well tonight, but all eight of them felt great. Shooting efficient from the free throw line, shooting efficient from the field. Very efficient at the rim.
“So I don’t go into the game saying you got to score 30 or you guys don’t have a chance to win the game. I just play the game. The scoring has been happening organically.”
James went 12-for-22 against the Heat but was 11-for-14 if his 3-point attempts are subtracted. He also went 8-for-11 from the free throw line.
He is averaging 32.5 points over the past 17 games — the second most in the league in that stretch behind only Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid (33.9) — while shooting 53.4% from the field. L.A. has gone 7-10 in the stretch.
The scoring run has lifted James’ average to 29.0 points per game, second in the league behind Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant (29.3). It’s the fourth-highest scoring average of his career and the most he has averaged in more than a decade, since he put up 29.7 points per game for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2009-10.
James, who turned 37 last month, is also averaging his most minutes, 36.7, since his 2017-18 season with the Cavs when he played 36.9.
Lakers coach Frank Vogel said he will welcome Davis’ return to carry some of the burden alongside James.
“Anthony helps in all ways, and that’s definitely one of them — to spread out some of the load,” Vogel said before the Heat game. “But LeBron feels good with the load that he’s been carrying. We continue to communicate with him, if it’s too much within his minutes and the total minutes, and he’s felt in a good rhythm. Playing mostly every other day. So, that’s in a good place, but having Anthony back definitely helps with that.”
James bristled at any suggestion of the workload being too much, pointing out that he came into the league “saving the [Cavaliers] franchise” when he was 18 years old, so he is not fazed by what he needs to bring to the Lakers this year.
James, who is 2,006 points behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar‘s record atop the all-time scoring list, also acknowledged that he’s aware of the approaching milestone.
“As I’ve continued to climb the ranks, it’s natural, human to look at it and see where you are and see if it’s even possible. See if you’re capable,” James said. “Obviously health plays the most important part and then just continuing to give your everything to the game. I’ve never cheated the game. I’ve never wanted to feel like I was content.
“I wanted to continue to get better and I mean, I am, like you said, I will be within 2,000 points, when did you say? Soon? Well, listen, we’ll see what happens. I’ve never chased a record in my life. I’ve never sat down and said, ‘OK, let me see if I can get this record, let me see if I can get that record.'”
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