LeBron James’ first triple-double of season lifts Lakers at MSG

NEW YORK — As the fanfare for LeBron James’ quest for the NBA’s all-time scoring record reached a fever pitch on Tuesday — he was playing at the world’s most famous arena in the city, home to longtime No. 1 scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar , was born – James made a name for himself with his death.

James provided 11 assists in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 129-123 overtime win over the New York Knicks, taking his career total assists to 10,338 and overtaking Mark Jackson (10,334) and Steve Nash (10,335) for fourth place to advance list of all times.

“It’s amazing because that’s exactly what I like to do and get my boys involved,” said James, who added 28 points and 10 rebounds for his first triple-double of the season, becoming the first player to have a triple -Double scored in his 20th season or beyond. “Anytime you connect with some of the greats — Mark Jackson played here, got drafted here by the Knicks, so it’s a super cool thing. And of course 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.”

And James’ ability to remain at such a high level has remained unearthly as the 38-year-old star is now 89 points away from surpassing Abdul-Jabbar’s record, which has stood for almost 39 years.

“He’s just a kid who’s grown before our eyes at this level over the past 20 years and has done nothing but play right and make the game that’s in front of him,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said of James ‘ Accumulation of points and helps. “Regardless of how much he was criticized for a while for not making the last shots and passing, he’s just making the right plays. You saw that again tonight.”

LA was on a four-game losing streak in overtime this season, enduring a late 6-0 run by the Knicks in the fourth quarter, leveling the score before James and Anthony Davis teamed to choke Julius Randle and not allow him to get off the shot in the end the regulation.

“Defensively, we’re just a different team when he’s back there and knows he’s occupying the paint,” Ham said of Davis, who had 27 points, 9 rebounds and 2 steals in his third game back after playing 20 games in Episode missed had a right foot injury.

It was a redeeming night for the Lakers considering how their current five-game road trip began with an overtime loss to the Boston Celtics.

Not only did they end Tuesday’s game more evenly in the extra session, but Russell Westbrook, who was on the bench for the entire fourth quarter against the Celtics, was instrumental in that.

Westbrook had three assists and made the only shot he made in OT, finishing with 17 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds and 3 steals.

“I will do it. I mean it’s only a matter of time before I do it. … I do not go 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 have a chance to learn from your mistakes, at least I personally do,” Westbrook said. “You have the opportunity to watch movies and learn how to run, miss or hit the track with good shots. And getting stops, which was important for us tonight.”

The Lakers finish the trip with games in Indiana on Thursday and New Orleans on Saturday. If James plays in both and maintains his 30.2 point-per-game average, he’ll pass Abdul-Jabbar at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder next Tuesday. The Lakers have another game in LA against Milwaukee on Feb. 9, trade deadline day, before going back on the road for two games.

“The team is very excited,” Davis said. “It will probably be a surreal moment for all of us, but probably even more so for him. … Obviously we want to win the game, no matter what game it is.”

James was asked if the thought of success – a sacred record not just in basketball but in all pro sports – wasn’t “harder” now that he was so close.

“It won’t get any harder,” he said. “I will do it. I mean it’s only a matter of time before I do it. It’s not difficult. I’m not going anywhere I’m going to be in this league for at least a few more years.

“I’ll do it. It’s not difficult at all.”

https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/35567370/lebron-james-first-triple-double-season-lifts-lakers-msg LeBron James’ first triple-double of season lifts Lakers at MSG

Emma Bowman

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