With LeBron James’ pursuit of the NBA’s all-time scoring record now complete, the Los Angeles Lakers can work on getting itself back into the playoff chase.
James broke Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s mark (38,387 points) Wednesday against Oklahoma City, with another home game set for Thursday against the surging Milwaukee Bucks.
For all the pomp and circumstance Tuesday’s game provided for the Lakers, including a full complement of celebrities in the crowd, they ended up falling 133-130 to the Thunder. Los Angeles looked more interested in getting James over the scoring hump than playing defence.
“It sucks that we didn’t get the win on a night like this but there are a lot of things to pull from it,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “I’m happy that Bron was able to accomplish what he accomplished and now we can just move on and submerge ourselves into how we try to get better and win enough games to be situated into the postseason.”
James needed 36 points to set the record and ended up with 38. But fellow star Anthony Davis had just 13 points on nine shot attempts in 31 minutes. The Lakers are just 3-4 since Davis returned from a foot injury and are in 13th place in the 15-team Western Conference.
At issue now is James’ sore right foot, which flared up on him late in Tuesday’s game. It is merely the latest injury wrinkle for the Lakers. Afterwards, though, James was just trying to wrap his mind around becoming the greatest scorer of all time.
“I don’t think it has hit,” James said. “I had a moment obviously when it happened, and embracing that moment and seeing my family and my friends and people that’s been around me since I started this journey, even before the NBA. So definitely a great moment right there, very emotional just being a kid from a small town in Ohio. ... But I don’t think it’s really hit me on what just transpired.”
The Bucks enter Wednesday’s game with a big-time scorer of their own. Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging a career-best 32.2 points per game, which is third-best in the NBA.
The Bucks are more at peace with the standings than the Lakers, sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference, one game behind the NBA-best Boston Celtics entering Tuesday’s slate. Milwaukee is on an eight-game winning streak, while also winning 10 of its last 11.
The Bucks enter well rested after a 127-108 road victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday as Antetokounmpo had 24 points in 23 minutes. Antetokounmpo was two assists short of a triple-double as he played through right knee soreness. Brook Lopez passed the 15,000-point mark for his career.
The entire win streak has taken place as the trio of Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday have been reunited on the court together. Bobby Portis remains out with a right knee sprain.
“The group is playing well,” Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said. “I think having Khris back, getting 20-plus minutes from him has been helpful. We miss Bobby (Portis) right now but we’re a team that is just focused on getting better, focused on each day.”
The Bucks will be looking to avenge a 133-129 home defeat to the Lakers on December 2.