Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) dunks during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards in Los Angeles, Friday, March 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
LOS ANGELES — LeBron James continues to put on age-defying performances.
The 37-year old Lakers superstar had 50 points Friday night and became the oldest player to have multiple 50-point games in a season in Los Angeles’ 122-109 victory over the Washington Wizards.
James surpassed Bernard King, who was 34 when he did it in 1990-91 with Washington.
“He’s really good at basketball, that LeBron James,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “I think what stands out to me is the league has never seen a player at his stage of his career do what he’s doing. Just an incredible, unbelievable, epic performance.”
It was the 15th 50-point game in James’ 19-year career, including the postseason. He’s also the first Lakers player since Kobe Bryant in April 2007 to score 50 in back-to-back home games. James had a season-high 56 in a win over Golden State last Saturday.
It was also the first time since 2009 with Cleveland that James had multiple 50-point games in the regular season.
“We just needed to pick our energy up and get more detailed about how we wanted to attack the Wizards. We did that, especially in the third quarter,” said James, who was 18 of 25 from the field and made six 3-pointers in 36 minutes. “I was able to hit a hot streak at one point. I just tried to stay in that zone as long as possible and hit a couple.”
James also had six rebounds and moved past Dikembe Mutombo into 12th place on the NBA’s career defensive rebounds list with 8,553.
James rallied the Lakers back with 12 straight points during a 22-8 run when they took an 82-75 lead with 2:25 remaining. James’ flurry included a thunderous dunk midway through the quarter to put Los Angeles up 73-70.
“For us to be able to come in in the third quarter, that’s been one of our down quarters this year, held them to 23 points in that third and run off 37. It was big for our team, big for our ballclub,” James said.
He then had 14 points in the fourth quarter as the Lakers steadily pulled away. Los Angeles, which had dropped six of their last seven coming into the game, led by as many as 18 midway through the fourth.
“Once you give them life, Bron was exceptional tonight, it’s hard to stop him. Even at his age, he’s still capable of doing incredible things like that,” said Wizards center Kristap Porzingis, who had a season-high 14 rebounds along with 14 points. “Once he got going, it was really hard to stop anything he was doing.”
Malik Monk scored 21 points and Talen Horton-Tucker added 15 for the Lakers (29-37), who remain in ninth place in the Western Conference.
Kyle Kuzma, who played for the Lakers for four seasons, led Washington with 23 points and rookie Corey Kispert scored a career-high 21 points, including five 3-pointers.
The Wizards (29-36) have dropped two straight and five of their last seven. They are 2 1/2 games behind Atlanta for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“They came out ultra-aggressive. We had momentum a little bit at the end of the second going into the half,” coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “They came out as the aggressor attacking the paint. Obviously, we struggled to score. That showed probably later in the second half, third quarter, but we let that ball stick too much – one pass, no pass possessions. That’s a tough way to play against a quality defensive team.”
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kuzma, who were part of the Lakers’ 2020 NBA championship team, were given a video salute during the first timeout. Both players were traded to Washington during the offseason to acquire Russell Westbrook.
“I’m just a kid from Flint, Michigan, at the end of the day. I always think about that, how being from a small town, coming to LA, and just making some noise,” Kuzma said. “That’s the American dream, honestly for me. I love to hear it, I’m glad to hear it, for the fans to be so receptive of me.”
Caldwell-Pope struggled in his return to LA. He was 1 of 6 from the floor and had only four points. He also received a technical foul late in the first quarter.
Wizards: Washington had a 62-53 lead early in the third quarter before the Lakers made their run. … Rui Hachimura had 13 of his 15 points in the first half. … Tomas Satoransky had 10 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter.
Lakers: Westbrook had nine assists and passed Andre Miller for 11th on the career assists list. Westbrook has 8,529 in his 13-year career. … Austin Reaves had 12 points.
Wizards: Continue their four-game road trip at Portland on Sunday.
PHILADELPHIA – The Federation of Hellenic Societies of Philadelphia and Greater Delaware Valley announced that the Evzones, the Presidential Guard of Greece will be participating in the Philadelphia Greek Independence Day Parade on March 20.
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