LeBron James’ greatness continues to give the Lakers hope

For weeks, Lakers coach Frank Vogel has maintained optimism that his team always has a chance because of LeBron James’ greatness.

In two of the past three games, James validated Vogel’s confidence, posting two superhuman efforts — a 56-point masterpiece against the Warriors last week and a 50-point performance in a 122-109 win over the Washington Wizards at Crypto.com Arena on Friday night — in the Lakers’ only two wins in eight games since the All-Star break.

“The large portion of the confidence comes from knowing that he’s on our side,” Vogel said.

James finished with 50 points, seven rebounds, six assists and one block in 36 minutes against the Wizards. The 37-year-old’s performance was a master class in offensive efficiency: 18-of-25 shooting, 6-of-9 3-point shooting and 8-of-8 free-throw shooting.

It was James’ 14th 50-point game of his career, tying Rick Barry for the sixth-most in NBA history. James has won 12 consecutive games when scoring 50-plus points. He’s the first player in NBA history to score 50-plus times multiple times after turning 35.

“The thing that stands out to me is that the league has never seen a player at this stage of his career do what he’s doing,” Vogel said. “I think that’s the biggest thing that needs to be recognized. It’s just unbelievable, the level that he’s playing at.”

The current iteration of the 29-37 Lakers can only go as far as James can take them, fair or not. There is no other feasible path to winning without Anthony Davis, as the team’s 2-6 record since Davis’ injury makes evident. Over the stretch when Davis has been sidelined with a mid-foot sprain, the Lakers are 2-0 when James scores 50-plus and 0-6 when he doesn’t. Their brutal upcoming schedule also makes things difficult.

They need insane performances from James, and he rose to the occasion on Friday, turning the proverbial dial up another notch or two.

The Lakers trailed the Wizards by seven points at halftime and nine points early in the third quarter, appearing headed for another disappointing loss to a sub-.500 team. But then James took over midway through the third, catching fire. In less than two minutes, he scored 12 straight points, flipping a five-point Lakers deficit into a three-point lead.

Author: Lucy Green