LeBron James persevered through an injured ankle, a big first-half deficit and being poked in the eye late in the fourth quarter to add another highlight to his impressive resume.
James made a long, go-ahead 3-pointer with 58.2 seconds remaining, rallying the Los Angeles Lakers to a 103-100 victory over the Golden State Warriors in a Western Conference play-in tournament game Wednesday night.
“After the finger to the eye, I was seeing three rims and shot at the middle one. By grace, I was able to knock it down,” said James, who finished with 22 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for his sixth triple-double of the season. “I’ve been poked in the eye before.
“It is going to be sore tonight and tomorrow, but we got a big-time win.”
James was poked by Draymond Green while driving to the basket with 2:07 remaining. But he made the biggest shot when the defending NBA champions needed it the most. His 34-foot, 3-pointer over Stephen Curry as the shot clock was winding down is his longest make of the season. According to ESPN Stats and Information, it is also the longest go-ahead shot in the final 3 minutes of any game in his career.
“He proved why he is the best player in the world. Just add it to the list of great plays and accomplishments,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said.
Anthony Davis scored 13 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, as the Lakers won their sixth straight and overcame 37 points from league scoring champ Curry.
Golden State had a chance to send it into overtime, but Kent Bazemore had a bad inbounds pass and sealed the victory for the Lakers – who earned the seventh seed for the playoffs and a first-round matchup with second-seeded Phoenix.
“He made a great shot, obviously, at the end. We’ve played against him so many times over the years, we know how good LeBron is,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said.
Golden State hosts Memphis, which defeated San Antonio in Wednesday’s other play-in game, for the eighth seed on Friday. The winner of that game will face top-seeded Utah.
James and Davis were 3 of 19 from the field in the first half before getting back on track. They combined to go 14 of 22 in the second half.
Los Angeles trailed by 13 at halftime and were down by 12 midway through the third quarter before rallying back. They didn’t get their first lead until Kyle Kuzma’s layup 56 seconds into the fourth quarter put them up 81-79.
The final 12 minutes saw three lead changes and five ties. The Warriors were up 98-95 on Curry’s bank shot before the Lakers scored seven of the game’s final nine points.
Alex Caruso scored 14 points and Dennis Schrder added 12.
Andrew Wiggins added 21 points for Golden State.
Golden State led 55-42 at halftime as Curry buried a 3-pointer at the buzzer. The Lakers opened the second half by going on a 14-2 run that included seven points by Schrder.
Schrder’s 3-pointer drew Los Angeles within a point at 57-56, but he fouled Curry when he attempted a shot beyond the arc.
Curry made all three of his shots to start a 15-4 spurt by the Warriors. Curry’s fourth 3-pointer of the night pushed Golden State’s advantage to 72-60 before the Lakers regained control and ended the quarter with a 17-7 rally.
Golden State took a 9-2 lead as it made four of its first five shots from the field, while the Lakers missed six of their first seven. The Warriors extended their first-quarter advantage to 15-4 when Wiggins hit a 3-pointer with 7:38 remaining in the quarter.
The Lakers countered with a 12-2 run to get within one, but couldn’t draw closer in the quarter as Golden State led 28-22 after 12 minutes.
The Warriors were up by five midway through the second quarter before steadily pulling out to a double-digit lead. Curry had 10 points in the period, including three 3-pointers in the final four minutes. His step-back shot from beyond the arc at the buzzer gave Golden State its largest lead of the first half.
QUIET START FOR CURRY
Curry came in averaging 11.8 points in the first quarter this month, but scored just five in the opening 12 minutes. Curry didn’t take his first shot until nearly four minutes into the game when he failed to connect on a driving layup and didn’t make his first field goal until a layup with 4:59 remaining.
Warriors: Kevon Looney already had his 10th rebound with 8:22 remaining in the second quarter. He finished with six points and 13 boards.
Lakers: Caruso kept Los Angeles in it in the first half with 12 points. He made all five of his shots from the field, including a pair of 3-pointers.