Triple-double, OT win highlight LeBron’s big night
11: 11 PM ET
Dave McMenaminESPN Staff Writer
- Lakers and NBA reporter for ESPN.
- Covered the Lakers and NBA for ESPNLosAngeles.com from 2009-14, the Cavaliers from 2014-18 for ESPN.com and the NBA for NBA.com from 2005-09.
NEW YORK — As the fanfare for LeBron James‘ quest for the NBA’s all-time scoring record reached a fever pitch Tuesday — playing in the world’s most famous arena in the city where the longtime No. 1 scorer, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, was born — James made his mark with his passing.
James dished out 11 assists in the Los Angeles Lakers‘ 129-123 overtime win over the New York Knicks, bringing his career assists total to 10,338 and leapfrogging Mark Jackson (10,334) and Steve Nash (10,335) to move up to No. 4 on the all-time list.
“It’s amazing because that’s just what I love to do and get my guys involved,” said James, who added 28 points and 10 rebounds for his first triple-double of the season, becoming the first player to log a triple-double in his 20th season or beyond. “Anytime you link with some of the greats — Mark Jackson played here, was drafted here by the Knicks, so it’s a super cool thing. And obviously, we know when Nash was [in the league]; I played against him for many, many years. His ability to pass the ball was very uncanny.”
James’ ability to sustain at such a high level remained otherworldly, as the 38-year-old star is now 89 points away from passing Abdul-Jabbar’s record scoring mark that has stood for nearly 39 years.
“He’s just a kid who’s grown before our eyes, the last 20 years at this level, has done nothing but play the right way and make the play that’s in front of him,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “Regardless of how much he’s been criticized for a while for not taking the last shots and the overpassing, he’s just making the right plays. You saw that again tonight.”
Los Angeles snapped a four-game losing streak in overtime games this season, withstanding a late 6-0 run by the Knicks in the fourth quarter that tied the score before James and Anthony Davis combined to smother Julius Randle and not allow him to get off a shot at the end of regulation.
“Defensively, we’re just a different team when he’s back there and know he’s manning the paint,” Ham said of Davis, who posted 27 points, 9 rebounds and 2 steals while playing in his third game back after missing 20 straight games with a right foot injury.
It was a redemptive night for the Lakers considering the way their current five-game road trip started with an overtime loss against the Boston Celtics.
Not only did they close out Tuesday’s game with better poise in the extra session, but Russell Westbrook, who was benched for the fourth quarter against the Celtics, was instrumental.
Westbrook had three assists in overtime and made the only shot he took in OT, finishing with 17 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds and 3 steals.
“I’m going to do it. I mean, it’s just a matter of time when I’m going to do it. … I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to be in this league for at least a few more years.”
LeBron James on approaching Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record
“You get a chance to kind of learn from your mistakes, at least me, personally,” Westbrook said. “You get a chance to watch film and learn how you can execute down the stretch getting good shots, miss or make. And getting stops, which was big for us tonight.”
The Lakers will finish off the trip against the Indiana Pacers on Thursday and the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday. If James plays in both contests and maintains his 30.2 points per game average, he will pass Abdul-Jabbar at home versus the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday. The Lakers have another game in Los Angeles, against the Milwaukee Bucks, on Feb. 9 (the day of the trade deadline), before going back on the road for two games.
“The team is very excited,” Davis said of James’ chase for the milestone. “It’s probably going to be a surreal moment for all of us, but probably more so him. … Obviously, whatever game it is, we want to be able to win the game.”
James was asked if he thought the achievement — a hallowed record in not just basketball but across all professional sports — was now “heavier” with it being so close.
“It’s not getting heavier,” he said. “I’m going to do it. I mean, it’s just a matter of time when I’m going to do it. It’s not heavy. I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to be in this league for at least a few more years.
“I’m going to do it. It’s not heavy at all.”
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.