New Orleans, LA — Lebron James’ 34 points, 13-assist, and 12 boards led the Los Angeles Lakers over New Orleans Pelicans 122-114 victory to sweep the season series.
James and Zion Williamson met at half court to embrace, the 35-year-old in his 17th season imparted some words of wisdom for the 19-year-old in his rookie season.
After talking with Williamson, James had another message for anyone who would choose to speak ill will of his decision to embrace a formidable opposition that he could very well see again in the first round of the playoffs.
“Anybody that says that, ‘LeBron, why would he do that while he’s playing? It’s a sign of weakness. He’s buddy-buddy with the guys he’s going against.’ Tell them to kiss my ass,” James said to wrap up his postgame locker room session. “All right? With a smile, too. Appreciate it.”
Zion Williamson racked career milestones in the loss against the Lakers scoring a career-best 35 points and becoming the first teenager with two 25-plus-point outings against the Lakers.
The dynamic duo went back and forth late in the first half, with James hitting a long 35-foot trey from the parking lot to knot the game at 61 with 33.4 seconds left in the second quarter immediately following a rim rocker dunk by Williamson that shook the rim and shook up the Smoothie King Center as well.
“Zion had a hell of a move right before that got the crowd into it,” James said. “I looked up at the clock and seen that we had a great opportunity for a 2-for-1. And nine times out of 10, maybe 10 times out of 10, a lot of guys are not going to contest that shot because they think I’m shooting it from too far. So I knew I would have some space. I worked on it before the game and I was able to knock it down.”
Lakers coach Frank Vogel said James’ shot felt as if it were from 40 feet out and should have counted as a 4-pointer.
“He just has a knack for hitting those kinds of shots,” said Kyle Kuzma who chipped in 20 points as former Pelican Anthony Davis sat out because of stiffness in his right knee. “Especially deep shots.
“He’s earned some freedom to take those types of shots from time to time,” Vogel said. “We know he can hit them.”
James has also earned his team’s trust when the game is on the line over the last few weeks. He scored 13 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter with three assists, as he picked apart New Orleans’ defense in a final quarter that the Lakers won 29-19.
The crafty veteran put the game on ice with a trey on the right elbow with 2:27 remaining in the game over the outstretched arm of Williamson that put the Lakers up by five points.
“I mean, he is who he is,” Williamson said. “He’s an incredible player. I give respect when it’s due. He hit a big shot that helped them seal the game.”
The No. 1 pick out of Duke did not want to disclose everything the former No. 1 pick out of St. Vincent-St. Mary High School of Ohio shared with him.
“It definitely means something, ’cause he’s been doing this for 17 years and his résumé speaks for itself. So for him to say that, holds something,” Williamson said. “That’s all I can say about that.”
James is just a different type of player on and off the court. He feels he has a moral obligation to help younger players to be successful past their basketball careers.
“It’s my obligation and it’s my job to continue to pass on the game to the guys that’s coming in after me,” James said. “That’s just my responsibility. No one told me to do that. I just feel like it’s my responsibility to leave the game in a better place than when I had it.
Williamson and James served up yet another entertaining duel in the 118-109 battle at Staples Center on Feb. 25, as the King recorded a 34-point, 13-assist, 12-rebound triple-double.