(Harry How/Getty Images)
LeBron James' 20-Point, 4th-Quarter Takeover
With his team needing a bucket, LeBron let it fly … which was fitting considering he shot the ball practically from LAX.
Down by one with less than six minutes left, James pulled up from the halfcourt logo, firing an attempt that spiraled around the rim and throughout he net.
“He was down over there by [ESPN broadcaster] Mark Jackson on that shot, wasn’t he?” Tyson Chandler laughed. “When he gets in a zone, he’s just one of those special talents that you love to play with and hate to play against.”
According to NBA tracking data, this 36-footer was the 3rd-farthest shot made in LeBron James' career.— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) December 6, 2018
The others were a couple of end-of-quarter heaves from the backcourt.
This was a legitimate jumper to take the lead in the game's final minutes. pic.twitter.com/VbbAy93H4j
It was the crown jewel of King James’ brilliant fourth quarter, as he scored 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting, with three 3-pointers and three assists to lead the Lakers’ comeback over San Antonio.
“Have you watched LeBron play before?” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich asked. “He’s LeBron James. That’s what makes him difficult to guard.”
LeBron — who ignited for 41 points and six assists on the night — did most of his work in the paint, and the fourth quarter was no exception.
He started getting into his rhythm by running a pick-and-roll with JaVale McGee, who stonewalled James’ defender while he gracefully spun around the rim protector.
From there, LeBron began his siege. Down by eight with eight minutes left, he scored the game’s next nine points.
James was a one-man stampede in transition. In the fourth quarter alone, he finished two and-1 alley-oops and handed out a couple assists on fast-breaks.
“It’s the fourth quarter and my teammates look at me to make plays,” James said. “… I put that type of pressure on my back, because I love my teammates giving me that responsibility.”
LeBron James was a runaway train during his 20-point fourth quarter. Spurs had no answer for him on fast-breaks. pic.twitter.com/JACRlFbi7k— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) December 6, 2018
But there was still work to be done, as San Antonio struck back to take a three-point lead with three minutes remaining.
It was the Lakers’ young core that stepped up next, with Josh Hart, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma making back-to-back-to-back shots to regain the lead.
“J-Hart’s out of rhythm all game because of foul trouble — he makes two huge 3’s in the fourth quarter,” James said. “Zo makes a huge 3 on the left wing. Kuz making the huge plays down the stretch as well. That’s what’s most important to me. I couldn’t care less about the narrative about me.”
Of course, James did have a hand in his teammates’ success, assisting on two of those three buckets.
But, true to his word, James also made the right plays without regard for the box score, including with a two-point lead, when he posted up and drew the double team, starting a passing chain that resulted in a key Hart 3-pointer.
“He’s the best player to ever put on a jersey,” Hart said. “When it’s happening, it’s amazing. So people should really stop criticizing, shut up and witness greatness while he’s still doing it.”
Soon after Hart’s triple, LeBron delivered the backbreaker via an intelligent two-man game with Kuzma.
Up by four with 45 seconds left, James’ defender hit the floor looking to draw a foul. Sensing the opportunity to cut, LeBron and Kuzma worked the give-and-go, silencing the Spurs’ chances.
Fortunately for Kuzma, he didn’t go with his initial instinct.
“I was about to shoot it,” Kuzma laughed. “But I saw him at the last minute kinda do a give-and-go motion. I just tried to fire it right to him. Credit to him — he made a tough left-hand layup.”