LeBron James Leads Lakers to Comeback Win vs. Rockets Despite James Harden's 30

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistFebruary 22, 2019

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 21:  LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers dribbles toward James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets during the first half at Staples Center on February 21, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers came out of the All-Star break ready to play, as they defeated the Houston Rockets 111-106 at Staples Center on Thursday night.

LeBron James led the way for the Lakers with 29 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, and Brandon Ingram added 27 points in the victory.

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James Harden (30 points) extended his 30-point streak to 32 consecutive games, making it the second-longest streak in NBA history, before fouling out in a losing effort.

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Chris Paul flirted with a triple-double, posting 23 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists before fouling out in the final minute.

         

LeBron Deserves Benefit of the Doubt When It Comes to Carrying LA

No matter how dire a situation may look, it's never a good idea to bet against LeBron James.

Just ask the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors.

With his team sitting at 28-29 and in 10th place in the Western Conference at the All-Star break, James' string of 13 consecutive playoff appearances was in jeopardy, not to mention his streak of eight straight Finals appearances.

Knowing his team has little room for error down the stretch, the four-time MVP recently announced he was ready to flip the switch and turn up the intensity.

"It's been activated," James said Wednesday, according to ESPN.com's Baxter Holmes. "...I'm going to be a little bit different a little bit earlier than I would like to be in previous years."

It didn't appear as though Playoff LeBron would be enough against Houston early Thursday night, as Los Angeles shot just 38 percent (19-of-50) from the floor and 26.3 percent (5-of-19) from three-point range. Lakers not named Reggie Bullock shot just 2-of-16 (15.3 percent) from behind the arc during the first two quarters. And a number of those misses were bad.

The Lakers were fortunate, though, to only be down six at the intermission given their brutal first-half performance. And even as Houston started second half on a 9-2 run, James stuck with his teammates:

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While Los Angeles trailed by as many as 19, the King never gave up.

The Lakers closed the gap by ending the third on a 15-4 run and then completed the comeback by outscoring the Rockets 28-16 in the final period.

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While James came up big with eight clutch fourth-quarter points, Ingram and Bullock (14 points, four three-pointers) played a big role in the victory as well.

This marked the second time in four games that Los Angeles rallied from down 18-plus for a win. It also did so in a 129-128 victory against the Boston Celtics on Feb. 7.

It's important to remember that Los Angeles was 20-14 when James went down with a groin injury Christmas Day. It has shown the ability to play winning basketball for stretches when healthy. 

With Thursday's victory, the Lakers sit just 2.5 games back of the eighth seed with 24 contests to play. While ESPN Stats & Information (via Holmes) noted the Lakers have the league's fourth-toughest remaining schedule after the All-Star break, Michael Lee of The Athletic has seen enough of James through the years to know not to count him out:

James' resume speaks for itself, and the three-time champion has earned the benefit of the doubt. 

What's Next

Both teams will be back in action Saturday. Los Angeles (29-29) will hit the road for a tilt against the New Orleans Pelicans, while Houston (33-25) will head to the Bay Area for a showdown with the Golden State Warriors.

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