DENVER — The Los Angeles Lakers elevated their stranglehold on the Western Convention’s No. 1 spot with a formidable street win in opposition to the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, however LeBron James claims seeding is not a subject of dialog for L.A.
“We do not discuss it,” James stated after the Lakers’ 120-116 time beyond regulation win gave L.A. a four-game lead over the Nuggets heading into the All-Star break. “For us, we’d like to play in entrance of our house followers as a lot as we are able to. We love being there with our Laker trustworthy.
“However on the finish of the day, you exit and play every recreation prefer it’s its personal recreation. You may’t fear about what might occur the next day. You may solely look at this time, like we did tonight.”
Perhaps James did not have to say something to let his crew know the importance of Wednesday’s recreation. A number of of his teammates famous his severe tone within the pregame locker room as he suited up 80 minutes earlier than tipoff — far sooner than regular — to indicate his degree of preparedness.
James went on to guide L.A. with 32 factors, 14 assists and 12 rebounds to notch his 12th triple-double of the season and hold tempo with Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks for the league lead. It was James’ 20th triple-double since he joined the Lakers, making him simply the fourth participant in crew historical past to document that many, becoming a member of Magic Johnson, Elgin Baylor and Kobe Bryant, based on analysis by the Elias Sports activities Bureau.
James, Anthony Davis and the teaching workers will head to Chicago for All-Star Weekend and take the courtroom in Sunday’s principal occasion. Dwight Howard will make the journey to compete within the dunk contest Saturday night time. A number of different gamers, together with Kyle Kuzma and Troy Daniels, may also be on the town to finish promotional obligations.
When the crew returns from the break, it will likely be a six-week dash to the postseason, because the Lakers are all however assured to make the playoffs for the primary time since 2013.
James likes the place L.A. stands.
“We’re the place we should be,” he stated. “We’ll come again off the break and prepare for the ultimate stretch of the common season. You do not put an excessive amount of into it. You perceive you performed some good basketball alongside the way in which, performed some not good basketball. However you wish to proceed to get higher and proceed to belief the method. We sit up for once we get again, getting again on the ground and see how far we’ll proceed to develop.”
Davis had certainly one of his finest video games as a Laker on Wednesday, single-handedly outscoring the Nuggets 7-5 in time beyond regulation en path to a ultimate line of 33 factors, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks and a pair of steals.
He stated the Lakers reclaimed their edge earlier than the layoff, and so they did so in what a number of gamers described within the postgame locker room as a “playoff ambiance.”
“I feel we form of obtained our defensive depth again a little bit bit,” Davis stated. “We let that slip in that second half of the primary half of the 12 months, and a recreation like this, to return on the street pre-All-Star, we form of obtained our defensive depth again, and I feel that is one thing that we will proceed to have within the quote-unquote second half of the season.”
The Lakers are 10-5 in opposition to groups with higher than .500 data, together with 2-1 in opposition to the Nuggets, with each wins coming on the Pepsi Middle and the loss occurring in a recreation James sat out.
“I feel in a method, they’re already defeated, seeing that we already beat them twice on their very own courtroom,” Avery Bradley stated. “I am simply joyful we have been capable of get the job finished.”
There are nonetheless questions for the Lakers to determine, reminiscent of whom L.A. might goal on the buyout/free-agency market to spice up the roster or how sure gamers’ roles might broaden or diminish — coach Frank Vogel referred to as Alex Caruso his “secret weapon” Wednesday and stated he was pondering extra minutes for the bodily guard — and even how Kobe Bryant’s demise will proceed to have an effect on the crew.
However all issues thought-about, it is exhausting to think about a greater on-court efficiency from the Lakers by way of the primary 4 months of the season, by way of each the standings and crew chemistry.
“There’s by no means been egos on this crew,” Caruso stated. “I imply, you’ll be able to see it within the movies and photos. That is not pretend chemistry. It isn’t phony. We’re not simply doing it as a result of there is a digicam in entrance of us. We genuinely take pleasure in hanging out with one another, cracking jokes after which taking part in basketball.”
Vogel stated it is on his crew to hold the identical focus after the break.
“I just like the dedication we have proven to remain within the second, to be nice each time we contact the ground as a result of that builds habits that may win for us within the playoffs,” he stated. “There’s nonetheless areas we are able to nonetheless undoubtedly enhance, and we’ll proceed to work on these.”