LeBron James is an Akron, Ohio native, so he always enjoys coming back to his home state to play basketball. He returned to Cleveland Monday night after two years to play his former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. The King has dominated his former team in the past, and much of the same happened Monday night.
James was dominant in his return, but the game was still close going into the final frame. Like Michale Jordan, James needed some motivation to close out this game. He found the motivation he was looking for from one of the Cavs’ front office members. After that, The King took the life out of the Cavs.
LeBron James goes off against the Cavaliers
The Los Angeles Lakers have been rolling to start the season, and Lebron James has much to do with that. Per ESPN, he’s averaging 25.2 points per game, 7.9 rebounds, and 7.4 assists and came out sizzling against Cleveland. He scored 17 in the first quarter and had 25 going into the fourth. That is when James erupted in the scoring column.
Scoring 21 of his season-high 46 points in the fourth, James wiped any hope away from the Cavs trying to win. LA won the game 115-108 thanks to the fourth quarter explosion from James. He went 9-10 from the floor, one of his shots being a 3-pointer from the Cavs logo. Nobody could cool off James when he caught fire.
The 46 point game by James makes some Laker history also. He is the oldest Laker to score 40 or more in a game since the late Kobe Bryant. Bryant scored 60 points in his final career game. With the anniversary of his passing on Tuesday, James and the Lakers were likely playing with heavy hearts. It’s fitting that LeBron achieves a milestone that Bryant last did on the eve of the anniversary of his passing.
This performance from James is arguably one of his best against his hometown team. With this victory, his record improves to 15-1 against the Cavs. His fourth-quarter dominance was fueled by what some might consider an excited fan. Even if that fan is one of the Cavaliers front office executives.
Jason Hillman sparks James’ fourth-quarter domination
When some of the greatest athletes in the game play, they need to find external motivation to elevate their level of play sometimes. Michael Jordan talked about it in his The Last Dance documentary. It could be the smallest thing, from a comment, to how someone looked at him. On Monday, LeBron James found motivation from Cavs basketball chief of staff, Jason Hillman.
James missed a shot that could’ve tied the game going into the fourth. Hillman and other Cavs executives sitting on the baseline cheered the miss, what a typical fan would do. The King thought otherwise.
“I felt like he was just a little bit too excited about seeing me miss. He was really excited about me missing that shot. A little bit more extra than I would have liked….So I knew I had another quarter, and the fourth quarter’s my favorite,” said James after the game per ESPN.
Hillman and the Cavs front office weren’t excited about the fourth quarter. Their team was outscored by James 21-19 in the fourth. James made sure to acknowledge the Cavs throughout, looking over to their bench and shaking his head after hitting a big shot. James also credited home cooking for his outstanding game.
“Home cooking. It just felt good to be back in my haven, my rest haven, and that’s being home,” said James. He looked like he was in his haven, exploding against the Cavs.
LeBron James is playing exceptionally well in year 18
It’s common knowledge how much LeBron James spends on keeping his body in the best shape possible to play. He is 36 years old, in year 18 of his NBA career, and he is still playing at a ridiculously high level. This kind of stability hasn’t been seen in the league in quite some time, if ever. The King is playing like he is 26, not 36.
It could be due to the reduced minutes he is receiving to start the season. The NBA bubble ended in October, which meant a quick turnaround for the Lakers. Through 18 games, James is averaging 32.7 minutes a game. That is the lowest amount of minutes he’s received for his entire career. That is saying something, as LA is looking to pace James this season.
His improved shooting is another reason why LeBron is dominating in year 18. His 3-point shooting percentage is 41.2%, the highest of his career. He’s also improving his free-throw percentage, hitting 71.3% of them. With the way James is shooting the basketball, the Lakers will be a difficult team to stop. James is setting shooting career-highs in his eighteenth year, which is scary for the NBA.
LeBron James sees everything and will use it against you in the court of basketball. Maybe people shouldn’t give James extra motivation because it never works out. He saw James Hillman celebrating a missed shot like any fan. James took it personally and reminded the NBA that he is the king of the court.
Stats courtesy of ESPN