LeBron posts historic first half, ponders future after Lakers knockout

LOS ANGELES (AP) — LeBron James started the final game of his 20th NBA season with the most scoring half of his unmatched NBA career in the playoffs.

He ended the night wondering how much longer he planned to continue the story after his Los Angeles Lakers were swept out of the Western Conference Finals.

James set a personal-best 31 points in the first half of Game 4 on Monday night, but missed two potential tying shots in the final minute as the Denver Nuggets ended the Lakers’ season with a 113-111 victory .

James, 38, finished with 40 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and immense frustration after Los Angeles’ remarkable late-season push ended in four straight losses. Although the NBA’s all-time leading scorer spoke for himself as part of the Lakers next season, James also said he hasn’t made up his mind.

“We’ll see what happens in the future,” James said in his final post-match press conference response. “I don’t know. I don’t know. I have a lot to think about, to be honest. Just for me personally, going forward with basketball, I have a lot to think about.

James is under contract for $46.9 million next season with the Lakers, but he is responsible for his future after surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s career record earlier this year. He hasn’t previously suggested much personal conflict over the end of his contract with Anthony Davis, and his game hasn’t drastically declined after two decades in the NBA – although his health has become less solid, in especially in his fragile feet and ankles.

“It’s about availability for me and keeping my mind sharp, and things of that nature,” James said. “Being present on the pitch, being present in dressing rooms and bus and plane journeys, things of that nature. It’s difficult, that’s for sure. It was a very difficult season for me, for our ball club, and obviously we know what happened at the start (at the start of the Lakers 2-10 season). It was cool, a pretty cool ride.

James missed a month of the regular season with a foot injury, but returned with a streak of standout playoff performances as the Lakers knocked out second-seeded Memphis and knocked out the defending champ Golden State. It didn’t matter much to James, whose frustration erupted several times after Game 4.

“I don’t like to say it’s been a successful year because I’m only playing to win championships at this point in my career,” James said. “You know, I don’t like making a conference (final) appearance. I’ve done that a lot, and it’s not fun for me not being able to make the (NBA) final.

In his NBA-record 282nd career playoff game, James dropped 21 points in a dynamic first quarter in Game 4. He added 10 more in the second while playing nearly the entire half of a game do -or-die against the top-ranked Nuggets. .

But James had just nine points on 4-of-12 shooting in the second half, and he missed two scoring opportunities in the final minute. He took a weird jumper that missed badly with 26 seconds left, and his final drive to the hoop was thwarted by Denver’s Jamal Murray and Aaron Gordon at the buzzer.

But the first half was vintage LeBron: He made 11 of 13 shots and hit four clear 3-pointers in the highest playoff half of his career, which started in 2003 and included four NBA championships. . James added four rebounds and four assists, and he also picked up a technical foul after a physical trade with Gordon when the two got holed up on the Lakers side.

James had already struggled from range in the series, going 3 for 19 in the first three games. He repaired his shot in Game 4 – and he even got credit for a first-quarter 3-pointer when his lob pass to Rui Hachimura accidentally landed in the basket.

James already had the highest scoring average in NBA history in elimination games (33.5 points per game) of any player with at least 10 such appearances.

After failing to win a title this year, James is clearly wondering if he wants to start all over again. A major stumbling block to any idea of ​​retirement is his longtime desire to play an NBA season alongside his son, Bronny, who will be a freshman at USC this fall and could only join the league at the start of the season. fall 2024 at the earliest.

“I guess I’ll think about my career when I’m done, but I don’t know,” James said when asked to rate his 20th season. “The only thing that concerns me is being available for my teammates, and I don’t like the fact that I haven’t played as many games as I would have liked due to injury. It’s the only thing that matters to me is to be available for my teammates.


AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports


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