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Lakers’ LeBron James reacts to dropping season-high 46 points vs. Cavs

LeBron James, Lakers, Cavs

For so many years, LeBron James carried the Cleveland Cavaliers on his back. On Monday night, he defeated the Cavs nearly all by himself with the Lakers.

A scorching-hot LeBron James dropped a season-high 46 points in his return to Northeast Ohio, propelling the Lakers to a 115-108 win at the RocketMortage FieldHouse. It marked James’ highest scoring total against his former franchise (previous high: 43 on March 18, 2014, as a member of the Miami Heat).

“Home-cooking,” LeBron James cited as the main factor for his monster game. “Got an opportunity to see your mom, have a home-c0ooked meal. … It feels good to be back in my haven.”

LeBron James’ performance was illustrative of perhaps the most notable difference in his game since he took his talents from Cleveland to L.A: his three-point shooting. He’s taking and making more threes than ever before and doing so with more ease, variety, and range. His absurd shooting performance on Monday caused head coach Frank Vogel to compare him to two of the game’s all-time legends.

“We’ve been encouraging him to shoot over the top and beat defenses because he shoots it at a high clip,” Vogel said after the game about LeBron James. “MJ and Kobe went into the fadeaway jumpers in the post a lot towards the latter part of their careers. He’s doing that as well. But, he’s also bringing the ability to beat teams from deep … He shoots the heck out of it from that range.”

In another connection to the late Lakers legend, LeBron James became the oldest Lakers player to score 40 in a game since Bryant‘s historic 60-point career finale. (On that note, Vogel will grant his team the day off on Tuesday, the one-year anniversary of Bryant’s death).

Overall, LeBron James shot 19-of-26 from the field, 7-of-11 from deep, and put on a clinic of heat-check threes and long jumpers in the final minutes to ice the game. The King added eight rebounds, six assists, two steals, and two blocks for good measure.

However, it may not just have been the homecoming that set the King off in the final period. After LeBron James missed a jumper at the third-quarter buzzer, a court-side spectator misguidedly caught the attention of the four-time champion.

In the fourth quarter, LeBron James outscored the Cavs by himself, 21-19.

After the fact, LeBron James said he was familiar with the person in the front row, who is apparently a member of the Cavaliers organization.

“Yeah, someone I know for sure. Felt like he was a little too excited about seeing me miss. That’s what happened… I know who he is. He’s a part of the front office group.

LeBron James re-iterated that the spectator didn’t say a word, just appeared a bit too giddy.

“He was really excited about me missing that shot. A little bit more extra than I would have liked. But he’s gotta root for his team obviously … I knew I had another quarter, and the fourth quarter’s my favorite.”

Courtside nuisances aside, LeBron James said that it will always be special to play in Cleveland.

“I would be unhuman [not to be emotional], even though you guys probably think I am unhuman the way I play the game.”

The former Ohio high-school football star also pointed to this weekend’s NFL conference championship games as sources of inspiration. Specifically, LeBron James cited the enduring greatness of Tom Brady — the only other 21st-century athlete in major American sports to play in 10 title games — and a clip of Kansas City Chiefs tight end (and his buddy) Travis Kelce motivating wide receiver Mecole Hardman after a key mistake.

LeBron James’ hometown-adjacent performance came two days after Anthony Davis enjoyed a his own memorable homecoming against the Chicago Bulls. On Saturday, Davis dropped a season-high 37 points on 14-of-21 from the field to fuel L.A.’s victory at the United Center.

“I had it going at Chicago,” Davis said after Monday’s game. “[LeBron’s] at home, he gets it going early … Everyone was cheering for him cause he’s back at home. We missed it last year, so he got a chance to score 46, back at home… It’s fun to watch.”

“Anytime we play one of our teammate’s former teams,” Kyle Kuzma said. “We don’t want to let them lose. Historically in LeBron’s career…he doesn’t like to lose to those teams. He just rises to the occasion every time.”

Davis’ offense was out-of-sync vs. Cleveland — thanks in part to the physicality of Andre Drummond (25 points, 17 rebounds). However, he said LeBron James’ scoring allowed him to focus on other areas, such as screen-setting, offensive rebounding, and defense — reminding the league what makes them such a dominant duo.

Davis finished with 17 points (5-of-16 FG, 0-3 3-Pt, 7-9 FT), 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals, and three blocks.

LeBron James’ cold-blooded finish book-ended his stellar outing. He scored 17 points in the first quarter and was immediately flying all around the court. He beat the buzzer of the first and second quarters with highlight-reel buckets.

“I knew when he had 19 in the first … it was over,” Davis said. “It’s one of those nights for him. He was getting to the basket, he was hitting his three. He was getting to the midrange and hitting his turnaround. He wasn’t missing… And then late in the game … he was everywhere on the floor… After the first quarter I knew it was gonna be a good night for him.”

“Just one of those nights for the ages for him.” Vogel said of LeBron James. The coach added that it ranked “right up there at the top” with James’ best performances since he’s been the Lakers coach.

What do the Lakers do when LeBron James is that hot? Simple.

“We get out of the way,” Davis said.

Vogel was out of answers too.

“Obviously, he wanted to win versus his former team here. Came out of the gates really strong … still quarterbacking our defense… The shot-making was just ridiculous. … If I’m playing against him, I’m not really sure what I’m doing to slow him down when he’s shooting that well from the perimeter.”

L.A.’s previously scheduled visit to Cleveland was scrapped due to the pandemic. The last time LeBron James faced his former team in Ohio came on Nov. 21, 2018, when he dropped 32 points, 14 rebounds, and seven assists in an L.A. victory.

Kuzma, once again, excelled in the hustle-based categories (six offensive rebounds, multiple shot contests), while Montrezl Harrell (15 points, six rebounds, +18) provided an essential boost off the bench.

The win moved the Lakers and LeBron James to a league-best 14-4 and extended their franchise-record 10-game road winning streak to open the season.

Next up: The Lakers will face MVP-candidate Joel Embiid and the East’s top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers (12-6) at the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday.

Not next up: LeBron James running for office.

In his postgame Zoom session, LeBron James was asked if he’s considered a run for United States Senator from Ohio now that Sen. Rob Portman has announced that he won’t seek re-election. Evidently, James would prefer to simply run his home state on the basketball court, and he swatted the idea down like a Collin Sexton layup.

“Nah, I haven’t thought about that at all. I still got a job to do here, playing at a high level … I owe it to the game. … I haven’t even thought about … being in office or things of that nature. That’s definitely not in my thinking right now.”