• Basketball

LeBron James Scores Season-High 40 Points, Lakers Beat Thunder to End 4-game Skid

AP Photo/Nate Billings
Los Angeles Lakers forward Rui Hachimura (28) looks to shoot over Oklahoma City Thunder forward Ousmane Dieng (13) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Dec. 23, 2023, in Oklahoma City.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — LeBron James scored a season-high 40 points and the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 129-120 on Saturday night to snap a four-game losing streak.

The 38-year-old James was 13 of 20 from the field, hitting five 3-pointers without a miss, and made all nine of his free throws. He also had seven rebounds, seven assists and two blocks.

Oklahoma City trimmed what had been a 26-point deficit with 3:32 left in the third quarter to eight points midway through the fourth quarter. James then took over, scoring 11 points in the final 4:29 to help the Lakers hold on.

To know I can go out and still make game-winning plays, can affect the game in multiple ways and can still close out a game in the fourth quarter when our team needed when they started making a run is always a good feeling for sure, James said.

Anthony Davis, who had called this a must-win game, added 26 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists for the Lakers. Rui Hachimura scored 21 points and Austin Reaves chipped in 11 points and nine assists for Los Angeles, which had gone 1-5 since winning the In-Season Tournament.

The Lakers shot 52.2% and had a season-high 37 assists to just nine turnovers.

Everyone was making shots and everybody was passing the ball, James said. “We were trying to keep it on time, on target and not turn the ball over. That was the key to it.”

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 34 points for Oklahoma City. Jalen Williams added 28 and Chet Holmgren had 19 points and 10 rebounds. The Thunder had won three straight and five of six.

Hachimura scored 16 points in the first half to help Los Angeles take a 71-59 lead at the break. The Lakers shot 60% from the field in the first two quarters.

The Thunder called a timeout after James hit a 3-pointer with the 7-foot-1 Holmgren in his face early in the third to put the Lakers up 78-64. James hit another 3-pointer, then lobbed to Davis for a powerful two-handed dunk that gave the Lakers a 90-70 lead and forced another Oklahoma City timeout.

Reaves hit a 3-pointer, was fouled and made the free throw with about four minutes left in the third to give the Lakers a 98-75 lead. Los Angeles took a 107-91 lead into the fourth.

The Thunder chopped the deficit to single digits midway through the final period before the Lakers hung on. James’ corner 3 over a closeout by Gilgeous-Alexander put the Lakers ahead 123-110 with 3:26 to play.

They they came out like a team that was desperate for a win, Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “I didn’t think we came out like poor or sloppy or soft or anything like that, but we just didn’t amp it up to the level that we needed to, in that first half especially. And we allowed them to kind of get to a groove. And I thought that was really the game right there. So it’s a good lesson for us.”