ORLANDO, FLORIDA (AP) — LeBron James has made a career out of carrying his team through tough stretches, and in his 17th season, he hasn’t lost a step.
James had 25 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for his sixth triple-double this season, helping the Los Angeles Lakers to a 96-87 win over the Orlando Magic yesterday.
Anthony Davis had 16 points and 12 rebounds and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 15 for the Lakers, who have won 13 of 14.
But it was James who was the deciding factor, accounting for every point in a 10-0 run that broke a 71-71 tie early in the fourth quarter.
Orlando had rallied from 24 points down to tie it at 71-all on a three-pointer from Michael Carter-Williams with 10:48 left in the game.
James pulled the plug on the Magic comeback. He assisted on the Lakers’ next three possessions, hitting a cutting Avery Bradley in the lane for a layup, Alex Caruso for a corner three and Jared Dudley for another wide open three-pointer.
“He is the best in the world for a reason,” Caruso said. “Him just getting to the paint draws so many bodies then we’re open on the backside. He creates a lot of attention so it’s up to us to play off that and we did a good job tonight.”.
James finished the run with a defensive rebound and a bullish drive through the Magic defence for a layup and 81-71 lead with 7:47 left in the game.
The Magic never got closer than five after that.
“LeBron was great, especially down the stretch,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “He quarterbacks the action for us, keeping the lead at a healthy distance and making plays on the defensive end.” Jonathan Isaac led Orlando with 19 points, all in the second half. Evan Fournier had 18 and Aaron Gordon finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds. Mo Bamba had 13 points.
Orlando had to dig itself out of a 26-9 deficit after the first quarter. The Magic shot just 19 per cent (four of 21) in the quarter and gifted the Lakers five turnovers to go with the poor shooting.
“That first quarter is us not understanding who you’re playing against or what our team has to do to play well,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said. “It took us 10, 11 minutes to get locked into what we had to do, and then we played fine.”
The Magic hit three straight three-pointers, two by Fournier, to start the second half and eventually cut what had been a 24-point deficit to 57-55 on a dunk by Khem Birch.