LeBron reaches 40,000 points in Lakers’ loss to Nuggets, 124-114

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
LeBron James became the first player in NBA history to score 40,000 points but Lakers lose an 8th straight game to Denver.

LOS ANGELES — LeBron James reached another milestone but it was in defeat.

LeBron was the first NBA player ever to reach 40,000 career points. But Denver did the usual against the Lakers; it was a close game throughout until the Nuggets decided to kick it into high gear and break away in the last few minutes. Denver won their 8th game in a row (including the postseason) against the Lakers, 124-114.

LeBron was 9 points away from 40K entering Saturday night. And he achieved the feat in the second quarter with this lay-up. Always practice your off hand in lay-ups, kids.

I’ll talk more about the record later in the column.

With LeBron, Anthony Davis, Rui Hachimura, and D’Angelo Russell getting them buckets, the Lakers led by 11 in the first half. They would lead, 66-58, entering the second half.

A scorching Michael Porter, Jr. and a growing fire in Jamal Murray cut down the deficit early in the third quarter. And then Nikola Jokic outscored the Lakers, 13-7, to take an 88-85 Denver lead. It’s just amazing how he can’t be stopped. A Hachimura jumper would tie the game at 89 as both teams went into the fourth quarter.

As the Lakers clung to a 110-108 lead, Aaron Gordon made a three and that kickstarted a 9-0 run by Denver. To top it all off, Gordon made a devastating alley-oop dunk off a Jokic pass to put the game out of reach.

It’s seemingly the same script played by the Nuggets against the Lakers. In their last game on Feb. 8th, Austin Reaves made a three to tie the game at 104 with over two minutes left. Then Denver had a 10-0 flourish to take the W. Pretty much the same thing here. Lakers led by two with over four minutes left and the Nuggets scored 9 unanswered. The Lakers just cannot get over that Denver hump.

Is it the rebounding? Yeah, we can say that. 47-31, Denver. That’s a lot of boards for the Nuggets.

Is it another Anthony Davis disappearing act? Sure. Four of his 17 points came after halftime. He’s gotta be more visible.

Cam Reddish playing most of the fourth quarter instead of D’Angelo Russell (listen to the Lakers fan base clamor for D’Lo this time around!)? Even though the Nuggets really hunted for Austin Reaves, Cam didn’t give any offense in that fourth quarter when D’Angelo was not doing too bad in that department. Might as well match Denver’s offense with firepower of their own. Head coach Darvin Ham didn’t put in Russell until it was too late.

But that’s why the Nuggies are the champions. I won’t argue if you say Jokic is the best player in the NBA right now. Jamal Murray toughed out an injury and played beautifully whether it was a two-man with Jokic or going iso. And Michael Porter, Jr. didn’t miss a shot (he made all 10 of his attempts) from the field. That’s a Battletoads level of difficulty.

The Lakers have to play an A+ game to even have a chance to defeat the Nuggets. Any mishaps the Lakers make will be taken advantage by the champs. And that’s exactly what happened.

LeBron ended with 26 points and 9 assists so he is now at 40,017 career points. Rui Hachimura was excellent with 23 points while I had mentioned earlier that Davis scored 17. He also grabbed 11 boards. As for Denver, Nikola Jokic did it again; he went for 35-10-7. Michael Porter, Jr. scored 25 points (like I said, 10 for 10 from the field) and got 10 boards while Jamal Murray went for 24 points and 11 assists.

Before I end this recap, I don’t know if there’s anything else I can say about LeBron James. He’s still playing as a Top 5-10 player in the league in his 21st season. The oldest player in the league shouldn’t be doing these things yet he has defied Father Time over and over and over. To put into perspective how huge 40,000 points, here’s what my old friend, Darius Soriano, from the ol’ Forum Blue and Gold web site (and now at Lakers Dot Com itself!) had to say:

For the love of Kareem. That is a lot of points. Can it be broken? It’s not impossible considering how scoring is in the league nowadays. But this also includes longevity and being healthy. Only 6 players in the entire league have reached 21 seasons. And the number of games being played? With the way load management is and with teams being super afraid of injuries, let’s just say good luck on that. This will be an extremely difficult feat to achieve. I mean, there’s a reason why LeBron is the first to do this, right?

Anyway, the Lakers are now 33-29. Next in their home stand is another difficult opponent in Oklahoma City. They can hardly afford to drop these games, especially in the tough Western Conference. As I said before, every game is important as we approach the final lap of the regular season.