LeBron Drops First Lakers Triple-Double as L.A. Hands Denver First Loss
LeBron James may be the Lakers’ resident rock star, but Lance Stephenson can play one heck of a solo.
James wowed throughout Thursday night’s game, completely controlling the offense with 28 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists for his first triple-double as a member of the purple and gold.
But it was Stephenson who hit a pair of big-time 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, sparking a Lakers comeback that led to a 121-114 win over previously unbeaten Denver.
Naturally, his enormous shots called for his trademark air guitar celebration.
The Lakers were down by eight with less than six minutes remaining when Stephenson punished his defender for going under a screen by hitting his first triple.
Then, in classic Lance fashion, he went between his legs on a crossover into a step-back for another trey.
“I just felt like my clutch badge came on,” laughed Stephenson, who had 12 points and four assists.
But Stephenson wasn’t done, adding a driving layup and a fast-break dime on a monster dunk from James.
“[Stephenson’s] tenacity, his competitive nature just kinda brought us back into that game,” James said.
Lonzo Ball added a step-back 3-pointer of his own, capping a 15-2 run that put the Lakers up by five with three minutes remaining.
From there, the Lakers played strong defense to keep Denver (4-1) at bay. Lonzo was particularly effective defensively, picking his man up full-court and creating turnovers that led to transition scores.
The sophomore point guard finished with 12 points, eight assists, six rebounds and an eye-popping five steals.
“He was causing havoc, getting his hands on balls, reading plays, coming in and rebounding,” coach Luke Walton said of Ball. “He’s a big-time game-changer for us when he’s playing aggressively like that.”
Lonzo Ball made a ton of key defensive plays in that fourth-quarter comeback. Total havoc-creator. pic.twitter.com/IbjOLRaNOH— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) October 26, 2018
While Stephenson and Ball powered the Lakers (2-3) to the final buzzer, it was James, Kyle Kuzma and JaVale McGee who kept L.A. within striking distance of the opponent that began its season by defeating every other team in the Pacific Division.
As expected, James thrived as maestro of the Lakers’ offense.
He drove to the basket with regularity and mixed in a few post-ups to lead all players in scoring. He was even better as a distributor, regularly making his signature skip passes, while finding particular chemistry with Kuzma, who was on the receiving end of four James assists.
Even by superstar standards, LeBron James attracts a ridiculous amount of the defense's attention.— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) October 26, 2018
Four Nuggets swarm him in the paint, and he kicks it out for the hockey assist to end the half. pic.twitter.com/wUl6pX6Opf
Kuzma was L.A.’s second-leading scorer with 22 points, while McGee was right behind him.
It took five years for JaVale to score 20 points in a game, but just one day to reach 21.
After guiding the Lakers to victory in Phoenix the night before, McGee was back at it in Downtown Los Angeles, hanging up 21 points and seven rebounds.
The 7-footer provided a smörgåsbord of scoring, filling the bucket out of pick-and-rolls, post-ups and put-backs.
After starting the season with close losses to three playoff contenders, the Lakers went out and dominated a novice Phoenix team on Wednesday. On zero days rest, they returned to L.A. and blemished Denver’s perfect start.
“I thought if we didn’t get this win tonight, they’d take us off nationally televised games,” James joked.
The Lakers scored 20 fast-break points, well below their season average, but still a robust number. … Nikola Jokic (24 points, 11 rebounds) and Jamal Murray (22 points, 10 rebounds) led the Nuggets. … Kobe Bryant, Todd Gurley, Yasiel Puig, Michael B. Jordan and Phil Mickelson were among the sold-out crowd.