CLEVELAND, United States, Dec 15 – Cleveland star LeBron James tied Larry Bird for sixth all time in NBA triple-doubles Thursday as the Cavaliers beat the Los Angeles Lakers 121-112.
“King” James scored 25 points with 12 rebounds and 12 assists for the 59th triple-double of his 15-season career, and spoke afterwards of Bird’s legacy.
“He’s one of the greatest players to ever play the game,” James said of the former Boston Celtics great. “He played until he couldn’t play no more.
“And for young guys that don’t know him, they think of Larry Bird as a jump shooter. But he was so much more than that. He was a passer. He averaged double-digit rebounds. He defended. He took charges.”
James’s milestone had him thinking about players he admired as a youngster — including Bird.
On the court he went up for the first time against NBA rookie Lonzo Ball — taken second overall by the Lakers in the draft in June — who has cited James as the player he idolized not so long ago.
“Who was his favorite player? It was me, and I was humbled by that,” James said.
Ball and a young, energetic Lakers team led by Brandon Ingram’s 26 points seized an early lead before the Cavaliers found their range.
Cleveland’s Kevin Love led all scorers with 28 points and Jose Calderon added 17 for the Cavs, who scored 100 points for the 22nd consecutive game and won for the 16th time in 17 contests.
James helped put the game away, his dunk with 2:20 remaining and a short shot with 1:38 to play putting the Cavs up 117-108.
Ball who finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists for the Lakers, said it was “pretty cool” to play against James for the first time.
“Watching him doesn’t do him justice,” Ball said. “He has that size, that speed. I’d say he’s the best player in the world right now.”
– Warriors come alive late –
The Dallas Mavericks proved no match for the under-manned Golden State Warriors, who pulled away in the second half for a 112-97 victory in Oakland, California.
The reigning NBA champion Warriors, still without star Stephen Curry and also missing starters Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia, notched their eighth straight win.
Kevin Durant equalled his season-high with 36 points and pulled down 11 rebounds.
Klay Thompson added 25 points and made all five of his three-point attempts as Golden State improved to 23-7.
Dallas, led by veteran Dirk Nowitzki’s 18 points, led 28-24 after the first quarter and were tied at 48-48 at halftime before Golden State seized control in the third period.
In other games, the New York Knicks lost star forward Kristaps Porzingis with a sore left knee in the third quarter but held on for a 111-104 victory over the Nets in Brooklyn.
Although they were just across town from their Madison Square Garden Arena, for the Knicks it was a much needed road win — just their second of the season.
Courtney Lee scored a season high 27 points for the Knicks.
Porzingis indicated after the game that he came out of the contest as a precaution.
“I felt my knee, it just kind of buckled maybe a little bit and I felt a little pain there,” he said. “So yeah, it’s more just being cautious.”
The Detroit Pistons, called out by coach Stan Van Gundy after dropping their seventh straight game on Tuesday, snapped their skid with an emphatic 105-91 victory over Hawks in Atlanta.
Andre Drummond scored 12 points, pulled down 19 rebounds and handed out nine assists for the Pistons.
“It’s a little less burdensome now,” Van Gundy said of ending the losing streak. “Maybe we just get back to playing basketball.”