JaVale McGee crouched down with his hands on his head. Rajon Rondo laid motionless on his back. And the man of the moment, Lance Stephenson, skipped backward into a wiggle dance after one of the most savage plays of his career.
With the first quarter expiring, Stephenson sized up Jeff Green and hit him with a crossover into between-the-legs and behind-the-back dribbles. The combination (and a step on Green’s foot) sent the 11-year veteran flying, and the Lakers’ bench into an uproar.
His defender completely shook, Stephenson made the highlight complete by sinking a mid-range jumper, shifting the momentum in the Lakers’ favor as they continued on to a 124-106 victory over Washington.
“I told Lance [to] make ‘em dance early in the season, and he did that tonight,” LeBron James said. “… I guess only Lance would make a play like that on our team. It was great [that] it went in and obviously you guys saw the bench’s reaction to it.”
While Lance provided the sequence of the night, LeBron made plays all game, finishing with 23 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds.
One of the greatest passers of all-time, James delivered with impeccable timing against the Wizards (30-45), spearheading the Lakers’ transition and half-court offenses.
“He reads the defense as well as anybody in the history of the game [in terms of] how he sees the play develop,” Washington coach Scott Brooks said. “If you make a slight mistake, he will counter that with a great laser-like pass.”
LeBron’s passing proved contagious, as the Lakers (33-41) dished a season-high-tying 37 assists — including 10 from Rajon Rondo.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was a huge benefactor from this playmaking, as he went off for a team-high 29 points. The sharpshooter was a focal point of the offense, hitting six 3-pointers mostly off designed action, while getting out and scoring on several fast-breaks.
Similarly, JaVale McGee turned in his third straight excellent two-way performance, opportunistically providing 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting, while gobbling up 15 rebounds and protecting the rim with four blocks.
McGee’s defense was particularly important for the Lakers, as they overcame a 32-point outburst from all-star Bradley Beal, captured their largest win since Christmas Day and sent the Wizards to a five-game losing streak.
“JaVale’s playing with a lot of energy right now,” coach Luke Walton said, “and it’s reminding me of how he was to start the season, when he’s up above grabbing rebounds where no one else can get. [He’s] keeping balls alive for us, diving to the rim, all those good things.”
Stephenson finished with seven points, 10 rebounds and five assists. … The Lakers shot 53.9 percent from the field — their fourth-highest clip of the season. … Washington shot just 6-of-32 on 3-pointers (18.8 percent). … Nina Dobrev, David Arquette and Machine Gun Kelly were among the sold-out crowd.