As if things couldn’t get worse in Tinseltown. On the road against a Portland Trail Blazers B-squad, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers fell 107-105, dropping their record to an embarrassing 26-30. LA has now lost six of its last eight games and sits closer to the 11-seed (four games) than the six-seed (five games).
There are a few reasons Wednesday’s defeat was especially concerning. Aside from falling to the shorthanded Blazers, the Lakers didn’t even have Russell Westbrook to pin the loss on. The embattled guard missed his first game of the season suspiciously before the NBA trade deadline.
Additionally, LeBron’s 30 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists weren’t enough to carry LA alone. In fact, the game was such an embarrassment, no one seemed to care that James walked away with another historic record to add to his Hall of Fame career.
The Lakers were embarrassed by the shorthanded Trail Blazers
There was no reason for the Lakers to lose the way they did. Even without Westbrook, LA had a healthy James and Anthony Davis going against a squad led by former Laker legend Ben McLemore and someone named CJ Elleby.
Yet the Purple and Gold still found a way to earn the L.
The Lakers were bitten by the turnover bug, for one. Portland scored 28 points off of LA’s 21 giveaways. Meanwhile, LA scored just eight points off of 11 opponent turnovers. James was the team’s worst offender with six turnovers followed by Malik Monk with five.
With no Westbrook, Davis had a chance to take control against the inferior Trail Blazers. But not only did AD score none of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, but he didn’t even attempt a shot. This was after going 6-of-7 from the field in the third quarter alone.
After losing what was supposed to be a sure thing, James wasn’t in the mood to dive deep into the game.
“Literally just — I’m tired as hell right now,” James told ESPN after the game. “I just want to get some wine and get up tomorrow. I feel good about what tomorrow has in store, and we’ll see what happens. We’ll see what happens as far as the deadline, but other than that, I’m kind of just focused on what we can do to be better.”
LeBron James achieved a massive scoring record and no one cares
The 37-year-old James is chasing after his fifth ring. Even though every passing game makes that goal look less likely, the King has another mission as well.
In his 19th season, LeBron is third on the all-time points list behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and second-place Karl Malone. James, who’s at exactly 36,500, needs 429 to pass Malone and a little less than 2,000 to overtake Kareem. But Wednesday, in the midst of LA’s humiliating defeat, LeBron officially rewrote the record books … sort of.
James’ 30 points against Portland give him 36,500 for his regular-season career. But factoring in his 7,631 playoff points and 22 play-in round points, the King now has a grand total of 44,153 points in his 19-year career.
That means the King has passed Abdul-Jabbar, who had 44,149, as the all-time points leader combining regular season, playoff, and play-in games.
LeBron, who’s still very much in the race to surpass Kareem in the regular-season point chase, needed 1,616 to reach his grand total. Abdul-Jabbar, a 20-year veteran, played in 1,797 total contests. The big difference lies in playoff games, where James has 266 to Kareem’s 237.
Yet that storyline was irrelevant the second LeBron and the Lakers suffered another agonizing loss.
What does LeBron James need to do to advance his legacy?
Although injuries have kept him from reaching Kareem’s real scoring record sooner, LeBron doesn’t appear anywhere close to finished. But will it matter if he never sniffs a championship ever again?
Don’t get us wrong, if LeBron retired today, he’s one of the game’s all-time greatest players. However, there’s always a window to advance the GOAT debate even further.
That could mean James doubling down on carrying a team in pursuit of Abdul-Jabbar’s record. Would being the game’s all-time scoring leader make up for only having four rings? Or would he end his career with a pursuit of another title, even if that means taking a backseat on the Lakers or elsewhere?
Either way, that’s a topic for another day. For right now, LeBron is just trying to survive a Lakers season that is past the point of concern.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.