It was only the ninth time in LeBron James’ illustrious 1377-game career that he committed nine turnovers in one game but figured it out in “winning time” to defeat the San Antonio Spurs 105-94 on Friday.
James had missed the previous five games with a hamstring injury, but returned to the lineup to help the Lakers pick up their fourth win in their last five games.
He had six of his nine turnovers in the first half and scored just 13 points in three quarters, but continued to play to finish with 21 points (eight of 17), eight rebounds, five assists, three steals. and a block.
Speaking to the media after the win, James said he felt rusty in the early stages but was pleased to pull off his “fourth favourite”.
“My pace, my timing was a little off on some of my passes,” he said.
“I had six [turnovers] in the first half and cut it in half in the second half. I’ll be much better of course, as the games go on I’ll get my rhythm back.
“[But] the fourth quarter has always been my favorite quarter. That’s winning time, that’s closure time, and to be out there and be able to run and make plays in the fourth quarter, that’s always a treat for me.”
James was supported in style by Anthony Davis, who continued his scorching form with another 25 points (10-of-13 shooting), 15 rebounds and three blocks.
It continues Davis’ best statistical start to the season since joining the Lakers prior to the 2019-20 season, as he averaged 27.7 points per game in November and a season-high 12.6 rebounds.
“AD has been the best player in the league in the last 4-5 games,” said James. “Just his numbers and productivity of him on both sides of the pitch.
“He’s not only offensively, but defensively he’s been super busy, and tonight once again was fantastic.”
Davis anchors the defense for the Lakers, which was their calling card during their 2020 championship run.
They were the third ranked defense in the league that year and the number one defense going into the 2020-21 season, before plummeting to 21st last season.
With the addition of athletic defensemen Lonnie Walker IV and Troy Brown Jr, as well as Davis’ return to form, the Lakers are back to sixth-best defense this season, and guard Dennis Schroder has made it clear that James is a big part of that. .
“Defensively, [James] it was great,” said Schroder. “Switching, keeping the players at bay and not letting them get to the basket.
“If we can get him and AD to engage in defense like that, then we’ll go a long way.”
Davis echoed that sentiment that James’ performance was a two-way clinic.
“His voice, his leadership, his playmaking, his scoring ability – I think it all came into effect tonight,” he said.
“Especially down the stretch, pick-and-rolls and play calls and stuff like that. I think that’s been really good for us.”
The return of James and Davis to the team together should see the Lakers begin to work out their offense, which weighed down the team early on and is the main reason they are 6-11.
Their 106.3 offensive rating is the second worst in the league, but if they can get that part of the court up to league average, their defense has the potential to take the Lakers to the playoffs.