It’s time for the rest of the NBA to worry.
After a game one loss followed by a dismal performance in the Los Angeles Lakers’ game two win, Lebron finally woke up in game three. It’s time for the rest of the league to be on watch as Lebron officially put the banter to rest on Saturday night against the Portland Trailblazers in the Lakers 116-108 victory. Two sluggish performances to start the series had critics claiming Lebron looked old, and that yet again his team didn’t have enough around him to win it all. Some even predicted a sweep by the Blazers after game one. James put those arguments to bed in game three, dropping 38 points on 11-18 shooting. He also added 12 rebounds and 8 assists as part of a much needed stellar performance for the Lakers. It wasn’t just the big numbers he put up, but rather how he did it that is telling.
Lebron was criticized in the first two games for not being aggressive enough. He wasn’t looking for his own shot and he was settling for long threes early in the shot clock. On Saturday, we saw Lebron turn back the clock in an effort reminiscent of his days in Miami, where he drove the lane like a speeding locomotive and anyone who got in his way had to pay for it. No matter who was guarding him, Lebron drove early and often, drawing several foul calls on key players for an already depleted Portland rotation. Lebron lived at the free throw line on Saturday night, going 12-17 from the charity stripe. He still took eight threes making four, but he wasn’t settling for the 27 footers early in the shot clock he was taking earlier in the series. On a night where it took Anthony Davis three quarters to get going, Lebron took over for his team and never looked back.
It seemed as though the physical defense, and an apparent missed called on a foul on Portland is what got James going in the first quarter. He was barking at the officials the entire night as Portland’s defense tried to be physical with him when he drove. Gary Trent Jr. especially drew Lebron’s ire, drawing two suspect offensive foul calls on the Lakers star in the first half. Then, about four minutes into the second quarter, Lebron grabbed a big offensive rebound over Jusuf Nurkic and teammate Dwight Howard and muscled through an attempt to foul him by Nurkic for the and one. After the play, James turned to his bench and flexed his muscles, fixed his jersey and pounded his chest; a signal as if to say “is that all you got?”
The story was much of the same in the second half, as Lebron stayed on the offensive all night. Danny Green was quoted after the game as saying “He was in attack mode. We need him like that all the time. When he’s attacking, it’s our job to make shots.” In the fourth with the Lakers up nine, Lebron effectively ended the game with a blow by of Gary Trent for a powerful finish at the rim, followed by a three pointer that stretched the lead to 14 and all but finished off the Trailblazers.
With game four coming Monday and the Lakers now leading the series 2-1, they will look to Lebron to keep attacking the rim and giving the kind of effort you don’t see out of many 35 year old players in their 17th NBA season. Just look at his longtime friend and current Portland Trailblazer Carmelo Anthony. He can still put the ball in the hole in spurts, evidenced by a stretch in the third quarter where Anthony scored 13 points and made several big shots. Those moments for Anthony are few and far between these days, whereas James sustained that level all night.
“Old man” Lebron showed everyone on Saturday that age is just a number and he has plenty left in the tank for another championship run this season. As the game wore on, the lack of depth for Portland showed in the team’s 12th game in the bubble; 11 of which they have trailed in at some point during the fourth quarter. As his opponents start to tire and weaken, James seems to grow stronger, defiant in holding off Father Time at least a little while longer. If he can continue this high energy attacking style of play like he showed Saturday, it may just be a matter of time before King James gets yet another crown.
Photo Credit: Mark J Terrill/ Associated Press
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