By leading a 21 point comeback, LeBron reminds us who he is and what the Lakers can be in the playoffs

In 2015 someone tweeted “LeBron is 30, this fuckery won’t go on much longer.”

We are approaching a decade later, and in year 21, “this fuckery” is still going on.

The Lakers 21 point comeback led by James was just the latest example.

James scored 19 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter, including five of his season-high seven made 3-pointers. James (19 points) outscored the Clippers (16 points) single-handedly in the frame.

This was the most locked in we have seen James all season long and with the playoffs on the horizon I don’t think it is a coincidence.

“It’s just a feeling when you feel like everything you put up is going in,” James said. “I just kept it consistent. I wasn’t taking ill-advised shots. I stayed in the course of the offense. When I was able to get the switches, I was able to give myself some space to get a couple more looks, so my teammates did a great job of continuing to find me. And then I just started to dictate the tempo, dictate the game. … It’s just a zone. Can’t really describe it. Wish you could stay in it forever. … It’s just like a superpower feel.”

Anthony Davis dubbed James’ offensive outburst as him going “sicko mode.” Head coach Darvin Ham called it James whipping out his “superhero cape.”

Whatever you want to call the performance, one thing is clear, on any given night this 39 year old, in year 21 can be the best player on a court that features 5 hall of fame players.

The Lakers desperately needed James’ superpowers after the disastrous way the first three quarters — particularly the third quarter — unfolded. The Clippers, despite missing Paul George and Ivica Zubac, led by 21 points, 98-77, at the 11:45 mark of the quarter. The game was shaping up to be another lopsided Clippers win over their rivals, with the Lakers on the verge of dropping to 1-3 since the All-Star Break and into a deeper hole at 10th in the West.

But James led a 29-8 run to tie the game at the four-minute mark, and the Lakers took the lead for good on a Rui Hachimura 3-pointer with three minutes, 10 seconds left in the game.

The Lakers improved to 32-28 and reclaimed the No. 9 seed in the West. They won the season series with the Clippers, 3-1, for the first time since 2011-12. The game marked the final time the Lakers and Clippers will face off as co-tenants at Arena after sharing the building for 25 years.

James either scored or assisted on 11 of the Lakers’ 13 field goals in the fourth quarter, controlling the game through a combination of pick-and-rolls and isolations.

He routinely targeted James Harden and Daniel Theis, who started and assumed a larger role with Zubac out. He asked for a screen to drag one of the two into the fray, and then patiently waited for another screen if the Clippers tried to keep either out of the action. He ensured the Lakers extracted value out of each possession.

The Clippers countered by trapping James with double-teams and shading extra off-ball attention toward him, leading to James giving up the ball and relying on his teammates to finish the comeback. He was the deciding factor, but the rest of the starting group stepped up over the final few minutes.

Hachimura had the go-ahead corner 3-pointer, which came moments after he had missed a similar look. He followed that basket with a reverse layup a possession later. About a minute after that, D’Angelo Russell drilled a catch-high, shoot-high stationary 3 from the same corner — a dagger shot — to put the Lakers up 114-108 with 1:12 to play.

Davis had 20 points, 12 rebounds, two steals and three blocks; he grabbed two offensive rebounds and made the game-tying free throws in the fourth. Russell posted 18 points and six assists. Hachimura added 17 points. Austin Reaves had 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

The Lakers improved to 7-1 with their newest starting lineup, closing with the group as it found the proper two-way balance with increased defensive efforts from James and Reaves.

“It was reminiscent of what they did in the postseason last year,” Ham said. “That Memphis series, Golden State series. Those guys are very capable and willing shooters in big moments. And you saw it on display tonight in that stretch down the fourth quarter. (The Clippers) began to put two bodies in front of Bron. And again, he played the right play and they finished the play.”

On the game’s final possession, James shadowed Kawhi Leonard and forced him into a contested 12-foot fadeaway jumper that came up short.

In back-to-back games, the Lakers have asked James to be their primary wing stopper against two of the league’s best scorers in Kevin Durant and Leonard. James embraced the challenge in both instances, helping the Lakers make a second-half run against the Suns

and actually sealing the deal against the Clippers. James’ athleticism, strength and basketball IQ allowed him to check Leonard in impressive fashion, as he has done in previous seasons.

“Until I can’t do it anymore,” James said of defending an opponent’s best player. “I’ve been put in position throughout my whole career where I’ve had to do a little bit of everything throughout the course of the game. … So, offensively, our team needed me to step up, and defensively they needed me to take the challenge on Kawhi. I mean, back-to-back with KD and Kawhi, that’s a gauntlet for sure, for any defender. So just try to take the challenge and hope that they miss. And just try to make it tough on them.”

Ham said he doesn’t want to rely on James as the primary wing defender nightly, but understands he may have to given his team’s recent defensive woes.

“I mean, that’s something we try to save in our back pocket,” Ham said. “If we need to get to it, we’ll get to it like we did tonight. … So it’s great when you can call on your best player. He’s in great shape at this stage of his career. It’s unbelievable for him to be able to do it on both sides of the ball still.”

Wednesday’s victory is the type of momentum-shifting win that could catapult the Lakers into a strong close to the regular season. They were finally putting things together before the break, and have a golden opportunity to get closer to regaining their rhythm against the Wizards.


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