Call it showmanship, call it extraordinary spatial awareness, but LeBron James took his performance to a whole new level against the Houston Rockets on Tuesday.
Already ahead by 21 points against the Rockets in the second quarter, James caught a pass in the corner in front of his Los Angeles Lakers bench, and heard Dennis Schroder’s voice in his ear. “I told him to bet a Benjamin on it, so he shot it,” Schroder said.
James then swivelled to meet Schroder’s eyes as he attempted the three-pointer,
“I took the bet while I was still shooting the ball,” explained the four-time NBA champion.
“A bet isn’t official until you look a man in the eye, so I had to look him into the eye, and I was able to win that one.”
To the delight of his teammates and with James still not facing the basket, the shot went in, causing the Lakers bench to erupt in celebration.
While his repertoire of extraordinary abilities is wide and varied, no-look three pointers haven’t been a regularity for James.
So, after wowing his teammates with his feat on Tuesday, James paid tribute to Steph Curry, one of the NBA’s greatest ever shooters and someone who has made no-look shots more commonplace.
“Steph [has] definitely probably done it the most in our league, and when you shoot the ball as beautiful and effortlessly and precisely as Steph does, he has the ultimate, ultra-green light to do that,” James explained.
“‘Cause 10 times out of nine, it’s going in for Steph.”
The ridiculous, no-look three pointer was the crowning moment on the Lakers’ dominant 117-100 win over the Rockets.
Behind James’ 26 points and Antony Davis’ 19 points, the reigning NBA champions improved their record to a league-best 9-3 and are now undefeated on the road.
‘This situation is crazy’
For the Rockets, it has been a turbulent start to the 2020-21 season.
After 2018 MVP James Harden’s reported trade request fell on deaf ears and their opening game was postponed, the Rockets are 3-6 so far after back-to-back losses against the Lakers.
After the blowout defeat on Tuesday – in which the Rockets trailed the Lakers by as much as 30 points at some stages – Harden called the situation of the team “crazy.”
“I love this city,” Harden – who joined from the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012 – said. “I literally have done everything that I can. This situation is crazy. It’s something that I don’t think can be fixed.”
Despite the additions of veterans such as John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, the normally free-flowing offense of the Rockets has looked discombobulated this year.
And this is epitomized by Harden’s own struggles. The 31-year-old has won the NBA’s scoring champion title for the past three seasons, but has failed to score more than 20 points in four straight games, his longest such run since 2012.
“We’re not even close, honestly, to that team – obviously the defending champions – and to all the other elite teams out there,” Harden said. “You can tell the difference in these last two games.
“Obviously, chemistry, talent-wise, everything, and it was clear like I said these last few games. From the beginning of the game, they were just aggressive, veteran team, obviously, a championship team, and one of the best teams that we have in this league.”
Missing a star, leaning on another
With Kyrie Irving missing for his fourth straight game due to personal reasons, the Brooklyn Nets had to rely on another superstar to help them out of a hole on Tuesday night.
The Nets, led by Kevin Durant’s 34 points, 13 assists and 9 rebounds, rallied back from an 18-point second half deficit to defeat the Denver Nuggets 122-116 on Tuesday night.
During the game, Durant surpassed Elgin Baylor, Dwyane Wade and Adrian Dantley on the all-time scoring list and moved up to 28th all time.
On Irving’s absence, Nets general manager Sean Marks said the organization was “aware of a video on social media featuring Kyrie Irving at a family gathering.”
“We are reviewing the circumstances with both Kyrie and the NBA in order to determine compliance with health and safety protocols,” Marks said. “Kyrie remains away from the team due to personal reasons.
“A date of his return has yet to be finalized. In the meantime, we will continue to stay focused on our organizational goals. Kyrie will have the opportunity to address his absence when he is ready to do so.”
Irving has yet to publicly comment.
More postponed games
Meanwhile there have now been six NBA games postponed this season, due to the league’s health and safety protocols.
For the third time in less than a week, the Boston Celtics had a game postponed due to Covid-19 issues.
Wednesday’s scheduled home game at TD Garden versus the Orlando Magic was called off after the league said in a statement that testing and contact tracing within the Celtics organization has left the team short of the eight available players required by the NBA for the Celtics to take the court.
Also, it was also announced that Wednesday’s Utah Jazz vs. Washington Wizards game has been postponed because the Wizards would not have the league-mandated eight players. It means that five games have been called off since Sunday.