The Los Angeles Lakers, the oldest team in the NBA, believe their collective wisdom, experience, and talent will outweigh any mileage concerns. On Sunday, in their 95-85 win over the Houston Rockets — and not for the first time this season at Staples Center — two Lakers future Hall of Famers, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, continued to turn back the clock.

Let's start with Carmelo, who is suddenly a real Sixth Man of the Year candidate.

In 25 minutes off the bench, Anthony led the Lakers in scoring with 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting and 5-of-8 from 3-point range. He's 17-of-24 from downtown in games played in downtown L.A. this season.

Plus, it was his first game with at least four blocks and two steals since Dec. 2003 (against LeBron's Cavs).

“I didn’t expect him to have a defensive performance like he did tonight,” Vogel said. “He was great. Forget about the steals, blocks, and strips — he’s always good with his hands. He’s in the right position. When you watch him on tape coming into this year, the effort is there. He plays hard on that side of the ball and we have to protect him in certain ways. We’re figuring that out and landed in some good spots with that. We’re asking him to do things within our system, like low-man collisions, which he was great with tonight. He’s willing to do all these things, he can do all these things and when he’s providing that kind of performance on the defensive side of the ball, he’s a huge part of our win tonight.

At age 37 in his Year 19, Carmelo is averaging 16.7 points per game. In the Lakers' win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday — fittingly, the anniversary of his and LeBron's NBA debuts — he dropped 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting. One week ago, he led the Lakers to their first win, scoring 28 points in a tight contest with Memphis Grizzlies (Anthony passed Moses Malone for ninth place on the NBA's all-time scoring list in that game).

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“Just sticking with the principles and getting more comfortable with our schemes as a team and what we’re trying to do,” Melo said after the Rockets dub. “Just being in the right position. Just doing what I’m asked. If it’s my time to be the guy that pulls over on the defense, I have to trust that somebody is going to have my back, and they have to trust that I’m going to be able to make that play. It was just a matter of becoming more comfortable with what we’re trying to do and finding it. Finding it by any means.”


Besides a relatively quiet season opener and an off night vs. the San Antonio Spurs, Melo has been everything the Lakers could have asked for, and more.

“I think for me now it's just about being mentally prepared for whatever is being thrown at us,” Melo added. “And the rest will take care of itself. It's basketball at that point. If you're open, shoot it. If not, make a play for yourself, make a play for others. The more that I can simplify the game of basketball, the easier the game becomes, especially at this stage of your career.”

(He also sends Staples Center into a frenzy every time he touches the ball or walks to the scorer's table. His buckets at home feel like they're worth more than two or three points.)

“As the playmakers of this team — myself, AD, and Russell — it’s our job to get our guys great looks, where all they have to do is catch and finish, or catch and shoot,” LeBron said postgame. “I try to not make them do too much, even though Melo can do a lot with the ball, obviously. He’s doing work off the pick and rolls as well, getting to his pull up game, but you know when it comes to efficiency and as far as what he’s doing for our team right now, we’re just on a breakdown of defense, and he’s finding himself, either his man is guarding him and he’s leaving him, or he’s in the great rhythms and he’s just taking his shots and knocking them down. … Melo definitely stepped it up.”

Speaking of LeBron: Like Freddy Krueger, he makes you question how he can still be wreaking havoc in the real world.

LeBron shot 6-of-19 from the field on Sunday, but — take it from someone sitting near-courtside — his impact was far more substantial than the box score indicates. James was dialed in defensively from the get-go — active with his defensive communication and offensive orchestration. He was running the Lakers like Dudamel. His investment was contagious.

He also did this:

And this:

And this:

In a shocker, LeBron was not awed by what he can still do at age 36.

“No, I don’t surprise myself, because I know how much work I put into my craft and my body,” the Lakers star said. “I prepare myself for the game, so I’m able to go out and do some things that other people are still questioning how I’m able to still do.”

Age is a number. Ball is life.