The last two games for the Lakers were crushing.
They were left in a state of despair both times. They were close games the Lakers were unable to win. They were losses from which the Lakers still can feel the sting.
But the beauty of the NBA is there is another day and another game, and that’s what the Lakers had to look forward to Monday night when they faced the Houston Rockets at Crypto.com Arena.
With that in mind, the Lakers were intent on trying not to make this game against the young, energetic and talented Rockets a down-to-the-wire contest, as both teams were playing the second of back-to-back games.
When will LeBron James become NBA’s all-time leading scorer?
A look at LeBron James’ pursuit of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the all-time scoring record.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar points: 38,387
LeBron James points: 38,072
Points from record: 316 points
Projected games until record: 12
Projected record date: Feb. 9 vs. Bucks
The Lakers opened a 13-point lead in the first half and increased that to 16 as they tried to break a three-game losing streak.
LeBron James did his share to help the Lakers, scoring a season-high 48 points to lift them to a 140-132 win.
He had scored 28 points by the time he took his first break in the third quarter with 3 minutes 50 seconds left and the Lakers holding a 95-81 lead that was sliced to 102-98 at the end of the quarter, with James on the bench watching.
James was 11 for 17 from the field and four for five on threes at that point. He finished 16 for 26 from the field with nine assists and eight rebounds.
The Lakers dropped a double-overtime game to the Dallas Mavericks last Thursday night, a game in which L.A. thought a few last-second calls should have gone its way. The Lakers followed that up with a last-second, one-point loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night, another game in which L.A. didn’t think the calls went its way.
Despite all that, Lakers coach Darvin Ham didn’t want his team feeling sorry for itself.
He didn’t want the Lakers to look back but rather ahead for the next challenge.
“Just with that hammer, man, keep chipping away at the rock. As I mentioned, it can be disappointing, but you gotta get past that. You gotta shake it off,” Ham said before the game. “You got another game you gotta tee up tonight. That’s the great thing about this league, you don’t get long to feel sorry for yourself.
“And you also get a chance to hit the restart button and try to get it right. Just a ton of great things that took place against some really top-shelf talent the last couple of games. But, again, just making plays, playing the right way, keeping that competitive edge, staying together. I think we’re in a good place in terms of all that. We just gotta figure out how to finish games in this league.”
The Lakers got some feel-good moments to help them forget about the two tough losses.
Kendrick Nunn provided the first, throwing down a one-handed dunk over Houston’s Jalen Green in the first quarter to bring the crowd to its feet.
Then there were the back-to-back exciting plays.
James grabbed a defensive rebound and went coast to coast, powering in for a layup while being fouled by Alperen Sengun. James stopped to pose for a few seconds, bellowing to the cheering crowd: “I’m a bad … boy!”
On the very next play, James grabbed the defensive rebound and went coast to coast for a dunk, his head bobbing afterwards and more unprintable words coming out of his mouth.
His play helped the Lakers open a 73-61 lead over the Rockets at the half.
By the half, James had 18 points, five rebounds and three assists. He was seven for 11 from the field and had made both of his three-pointers.
As a team, the Lakers shot 44.4% from three-point range, going eight for 18 in the first half.
Patrick Beverley, who missed the previous two games with an illness, was three for five from three-point range in the first 24 minutes. He had 11 points in the half, as did Russell Westbrook and Wenyen Gabriel.
The Lakers were playing on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a day for them and the rest of the NBA to acknowledge the civil rights icon.
“Any day we can recognize a man that’s that humble, that was that great and stood for what he stood for and tried to affect change for the positive, it’s a wonderful day,” Ham said. “I’m thankful for him and his message and everything he tried to do within the civil rights movement.”
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