The Los Angeles Lakers’ current road trip has been a brutal one.
They lost the first three games of this east-to-west road trip by an average of 18 points which pushed their record to two games below .500. What has made this losing streak even more frustrating is that they lost by double digit margins to the Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets who are still in the process of rebuilding their respective rosters.
To wrap up their week-long journey away from the Staples Center, the Lakers were scheduled to play against their Western Conference rival Phoenix Suns in a match that also served as their NBA In-Season Tournament debut.
Los Angeles looked destined to go 0-4 on their road trip as they faced Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal, and the Suns, but LeBron James had other plans in mind.
The 38-year-old future Hall of Famer led the Lakers to a gutsy 122-119 win as he put up 32 points on 11-of-17 field goal shooting, three three-pointers, 11 rebounds, six assists, one steal, and a block.
A gaudy stat line like this from a player as old as James is typically labeled a throwback performance, yet the 21-year veteran has been consistently playing at this level through Los Angeles’ nine games so far this season as he continues to elude Father Time.
The win was quite an important one for the Lakers as it not only snapped their three-game losing skid, but also gave them a 1-0 start to the NBA In-Season Tournament and improved their record in their four-game season series with Phoenix to 2-0.
The Suns were without their three-time NBA All-Star guard Devin Booker for the second consecutive match versus Los Angeles, although Beal was able to suit up for just his second game of the new campaign after missing their initial contest.
On the Lakers’ side, Anthony Davis was visibly bothered by his hip injury that forced him to miss their last outing against Houston. Davis still managed to tally 18 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, and a block despite the injury and looked much better in the second half.
Davis was expected to lead the charge for Los Angeles this year given James’ age and was actually turning in strong numbers prior to their game with Miami earlier in the week where he hurt his hip. James continues to prove that he can still carry the Lakers to wins when needed, although it may not be sustainable for him to take on a load like he did in this victory versus the Suns over a prolonged period.
This past week has made it abundantly clear that nothing will come easy for Los Angeles this season in their bid to win one more title in the twilight of James’ career. They are nothing more than a dark horse in the championship race at the moment and their younger players will have to find a new level if this team is to become a legitimate contender.
Make no mistake about it, this team still revolves around the 19-time NBA All-Star James, but, now more than ever, he needs the help of his teammates to get back on top.