Prior to Thursday night’s game, LeBron James claimed he was going to turn on his playoff intensity early this year to ensure his Los Angeles Lakers made the postseason. If they do not make a run, it will be the first time since 2005 that the NBA playoffs will not include James.
If Thurday’s game against the Houston Rockets was anything to go by, then the Lakers will be just fine as he registered a double-double with 29 points and 11 rebounds. He also added six assists in what was an impressive post All-Star performance to set the tone for the rest of the season for his team.
However, LeBron will not be able to do it all on his own and will need help from the supporting cast around him. With both Lonzo Ball out of the lineup and Rajon Rondo relegated to a bench role, the starting Point Guard on the night was Brandon Ingram. And the former first-round pick proved his worth chipping in with a double double of his own.
“Playoff LeBron” will have to continue to positively impact upon his teammates, who suffered a major slide when he left the lineup after suffering a groin injury on Christmas day. The win over the Rockets brought an end to a two-game skid prior to the All-Star break, and was a statement performance as they overcame yet another 30-point performance by MVP candidate James Harden.
Reggie Bullock has added some decent shooting for the Lakers after struggling in his first game for the club. He has posted double-digit scoring in back to back games along with 50% from the three-point line in both of those games. Added scoring around the court will only increase the influence that James can have on a game, helping spread the floor and force defenders to stay honest when attempting to play help defence.
The most impressive feat from Thursday night’s game was that all five starters scored in double figures and added some much needed offensive power against a Rockets team that also received 23 points from Point Guard Chris Paul. The superstar backcourt of the Rockets always proposes a challenge for opposition teams and being able to force them to focus on the defensive side of the ball can help slow the Rockets down on the offensive end at times.
LeBron made his intentions clear through his statements made prior to the game. During the game he showed that he is also ready to walk the walk when attempting to get back to the postseason. If he and the Lakers are able to continue that same intensity amongst the starters with a little better bench output then they may just have enough to snatch a playoff place come the end of the season.
By Sonny Cohen