LeBron hits another milestone as Lakers rout Jazz to sweep tourney group play

LOS ANGELES — It turned out to be a milestone victory when the Lakers defeated the Jazz 131-99 on Tuesday to improve to 4-0 in the NBA In-Season Tournament. LeBron James grabs a rebound vs. the Jazz

They have now clinched West Group A, securing home-court advantage for the upcoming quarterfinals. Another key point to mention, in the first quarter of tonight’s win, LeBron James became the first player in league history to score 39,000 points.

Not only this, but he also did it in style, eclipsing the 39k milestone on a 26-foot long range shot which just so happened to be his 2,291st career three-pointer, moving LeBron up to 7th all-time on the NBA 3-point field goal made list, surpassing Vince Carter.

James totaled 17 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds, while his counterpart Anthony Davis was the Player of the Game with 26 points, 16 rebounds, four assists, and two steals. As for the Jazz, their leading scorer was Omer Yurtseven, who contributed 18 points, and that was somewhat of a surprise considering he has only averaged 2.3 points this season. 

The Lakers started the year with a 3-5 record but have now improved to 9-6, as they found their groove in November just in time for the In-Season Tournament, winning six out of their last seven. This is due in large part to LeBron, who coming into Tuesday night has averaged 28.3 points per game on 61% FG in November, making him a leading candidate to win Player of the Month just a month away from his 39th birthday. 

When the season started there was supposedly a minute restriction put in place to keep LeBron fresh for the playoffs. That idea quickly dissipated as coach Darvin Ham realized the team couldn’t win without James on the court. That is to say, in 34.4 minutes of playing time this season, LeBron currently leads the Lakers’ with a plus-minus of plus-66.

Showing no signs of slowing down, James is averaging 25.7 points per game in his 21st season, which is almost the same as the combined total of the other six members of the exclusive 21-season club: Carter (7.4 ppg), Dirk Nowitzki (7.3 ppg), Robert Parish (3.7 ppg), Kevin Garnett (3.2 ppg), Moses Malone (2.9 ppg) and Kevin Willis (2.4 ppg).

In Tuesday’s blowout, LeBron only played 24 minutes, exiting the game in the third quarter with the Lakers up by 30 points. Being that LeBron is old, at least older than Utah Jazz’s head coach Will Hardy, this late-game rest time is good news for the Lakers considering they play the second half of a back-to-back vs. the Mavericks on Wednesday night. 

Notably, the Lakers have joined the Pacers (3-0) as the only teams to have solidified their spot in the In-Season Tournament single-elimination knockout round. The four quarterfinal matchups will be played on December 4 and 5 between the top eight teams. These teams include the winners of Groups A, B, and C in each conference, plus a wildcard. 

To note, the semifinals and championship will then be held at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on December 7 and 9. As for those questioning the players’ motivation to win the inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament, there is no doubt LeBron has his eyes on the prize.

“It feels great because it’s an In-Season Tournament win,” James said after winning the Lakers’ first group stage game vs. the Suns. “And we’ll take that, we’ll take that for sure. There’s $500,000 [prize money per player] on the line, so we’re goin’ for that. We’re goin’ for that.”

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