LOS ANGELES — Despite ranking third in NBA history in scoring and closing fast on Karl Malone in second, LeBron James has somehow never been thought of as a pure scorer.
On Saturday night, James showed he is still more than capable of piling up the points in a variety of ways.
James scored a season-high 56 points and the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Golden State Warriors 124-116 to snap a four-game losing streak. It was his third-most points in a regular-season game and 13th time he has had at least 50.
“I felt pretty good with my game tonight, every part of the floor, and I was able to make a couple plays to help us win,” said James, who had a career-best 61 for Miami against Charlotte in 2014.
While James downplayed his 19-of-31 shooting, including 6 of 11 from 3-point range with three consecutive to put the Lakers up 100-97 in the fourth quarter, friends and foes were more than willing to praise his performance.
“He was phenomenal tonight,” said Lakers forward Carmelo Anthony, who had 14 points. “The way that it came, in the rhythm of the game and the flow of the game, us making that comeback and him being a big reason for us coming back and making that run that he did. He just put us on his back tonight.”
“He’s obviously such a handful coming downhill, and then when he gets his 3-point shot going like he did in the second half, makes it pretty difficult to try and guard him,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He was brilliant tonight. LeBron was amazing.”
Anthony completed a three-point play to give the Lakers a 114-112 lead with 3:29 to play, and Malik Monk hit a 3 to extend that lead to five after Austin Reeves stole Curry’s pass. James then threw down a thunderous alley-oop from Monk, who stole the inbound pass after a Los Angeles turnover.
Stephen Curry cut it to 119-116 with 1:06 left, but Reeves grabbed the offensive rebound and Anthony hit a corner 3, allowing the Lakers to see it out.
Curry had 30 for Golden State, and Jordan Poole added 23. The Warriors have lost four straight to drop to third overall in the NBA, a half-game behind Memphis and 8 1/2 games behind Phoenix.
“There’s more games coming, so we’ve got to do this ourselves. We got to dig out of the mud, and nobody’s going to help us,” Kerr said.
Golden State ran over Los Angeles with 42 points in the second quarter to take a 67-62 halftime lead. Poole and Jonathan Kuminga each had eight points, Curry added seven, and the Warriors made 69.6% of their shots from the field (16 of 23) and 75% from 3-point range (6 of 8). But they let the Lakers close the half on a 11-2 run, and Kerr lamented the inability to maintain separation.
“This has been a pattern during this bad spell for us,” Kerr said. “We’re not stepping on teams when they are down. We’re making mistakes and allowing teams to hang around, and when you do that in this league you’re dead.”
James, who passed Malone for most minutes played in NBA history including the playoffs, had 30 points in the second half. It was his 24th straight game with at least 25 points to extend the longest streak of James’ illustrious career.
“When he has it going like that, there’s really nobody on their team that can do anything about it,” said Lakers guard Russell Westbrook, who scored 20. “Tonight, he forced his will and had his hands on the game at all levels. It was really big, especially tonight in games like this where we needed to win.”