CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James scored 38 points, notched another triple-double and sparked memories of his time in Cleveland, leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a 131-120 victory Monday against the Cavaliers, who had a horrible defensive night.
It was James’ only home visit this season – aside from the All-Star Game last month – and the nearby Akron star delighted fans who gave him a warm welcome. James played 11 seasons over two stints with the Cavs, trying to return to the playoffs for the first time since leaving in 2018.
James added 10 rebounds and 12 assists for his 105th career triple-double and his sixth this season. He’s trying to keep the Lakers in the playoff picture in what has been a disappointing season so far.
Russell Westbrook and DJ Augustin added 20 points apiece for the Lakers, who tied for ninth in the Western Conference.
Darius Garland scored 29 goals and added 16 assists for Cleveland, which led Toronto by one game for sixth place in the East. The Cavs will face the Raptors on Thursday night.
James scored five points as the Lakers opened the fourth quarter with a 12-2 run to increase by nine. Cleveland was still within striking distance when James, as he has done so many times for so many teams before, put the Cavs away with a dunk and a jumper in the 2:34 final.
After his post-match TV interview, James left the fans high-fives as he made his way to the locker room.
James improved to 17-1 in games against the Cavs. He averaged 29.6 points against Cleveland — his most against any opponent.
The four-time MVP and champion received acclaim from the moment he hit the floor for warm-ups. He received a huge ovation during player introductions and again during a first-quarter timeout when the Cavs hailed him for becoming the second-highest scorer in league history.
James waved, patted his heart, clasped his hands as if in prayer and bowed to Cleveland fans, who witnessed familiar sights – his pre-game chalk throw, his signature fades and one of those towering dunks that only he can deliver.
James came second on the scoring list after passing Karl Malone on Saturday night in Washington with a 38-point performance. There had been speculation he would sit against Wizards to rest his aching left knee, so he could move behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on his final homecoming.
But despite the Lakers’ struggles, James remains dedicated and committed – even at the age of 37.
Coach Frank Vogel finds this inspiring.
“He legitimately wants to be there every night,” Vogel said. “For him to be like this in his 19th year is something this league needs.”
Lakers: Stanley Johnson scored all of his points in the fourth. … Anthony Davis, out since Feb. 16 with a sprained foot, took part in an extended pregame practice on the floor. It’s still unclear when – or if – he will return this season. … G Talen Horton-Tucker (sprained left ankle) missed out for the second time in three games. He went 0 of 5 for 17 scoreless in minutes in Washington.
Cavaliers: All-Star center Jarrett Allen (broken finger) missed his eighth straight game. Allen is second in the NBA with a .677 field goal percentage and has enough marks to qualify for season-ending leaders… G Rajon Rondo (sprained ankle) and F Dean Wade (knee pain) were inactive for their fifth consecutive games.
Lakers: Host Philadelphia on Wednesday night.
Cavaliers: Visit Toronto Thursday night.
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