We’ve found the secret to the Lakers’ success, and it unsurprisingly directs back to LeBron James.
James scored a season-high 40 points in Tuesday’s 118-109 victory over the Pelicans, outshining fellow All-Stars Anthony Davis and Brandon Ingram as well as exciting rookie Zion Williamson. James establishing himself as the best player on the floor in a marquee game is not an uncommon occurrence: This is Year 17 of the LeBron experience, after all.
James’ latest scoring explosion did continue what has been an unexpected statistical trend, however. When James hits 30 points, the Lakers do not lose — a major improvement from 2018-19, when the Lakers were just 7-8 in games in which James reached that threshold.
*Los Angeles is 1-1 when James is inactive.
James’ individual point totals in those 18 games: 30 (twice), 31 (five times), 32 (five times), 33 (twice), 35, 36, 39 and 40, for an average of 32.8 points per game. He has averaged 9.7 assists and 7.8 rebounds for good measure, and shot better than 47 percent from the field in all of those contests.
The Lakers have racked up wins against basement-dwellers over that stretch, but they also defeated the Jazz, Nuggets and Rockets, three of the top five teams in the current Western Conference standings.
On the other side of the spectrum, Los Angeles has been vulnerable during James’ off nights. The Lakers are 5-5 when he is held to fewer than 20 points. He has still contributed to the offense by averaging 12.9 assists over those 10 games, but his efficiency drops dramatically, especially from 3-point range (12 of 47 shooting, or 25.5 percent).
So what does this tell us? In order to win the NBA championship, Lakers coach Frank Vogel simply needs to employ a new strategy.
Tell LeBron to score 30 points in every game. Boom, done.
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