After the Los Angeles Lakers’ 122-114 win at the New Orleans Pelicans during a media session, LeBron James told reporters to tell anyone throwing shade at him for his friendly demeanor towards opposing superstars that they “can kiss my ass”.
James went up to Williamson following the game at Smoothie King Center in Louisiana and embraced the rookie, which was only seconds before whispering into the rookie phenom’s ear while surrounded by a bevy of cameras.
As always, the veteran James covered his mouth with a towel during the exchange. When asked about the moment by reporters after the game, LeBron said, “it’s my obligation. It’s my job to continue to pass on the game to the guys that’s coming in after me. That’s just my responsibility.” He also added, “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”.
James picked up his 34th career, 30-point triple-double by putting up a stat line of 34 Pts/13 Ast/12 Reb. He trails only Oscar Robertson and Russell Westbrook for the most all-time. He scored or assisted on 68 of the team’s 99 points when on the floor.
The 17-year veteran was an offensive force both inside and outside during the game. Highlights included him landing a few long three-point shots, and monster-dunks down low in the second half.
The Lakers are 19-0 when James scores 30 points in a game this season. It was his 13th triple-double this season (tied for most in the NBA).
Zion’s physical strength was on full display in the loss, as the rookie scored 35 points and shot 12 of 16 from the field while grabbing seven rebounds.
According to Spectrum, Williamson is the third-most efficient post scorer in the NBA this season (minimum 60 attempts). He also has displayed dominance on the offensive glass throughout that timespan. The former Duke star has the most 20 point games (6) in the restricted area for a rookie since Blake Griffin (7) in 2011.
Even Lakers’ center Dwight Howard (6’10’’, 265 Lbs.) was unable to outmatch Williamson during a head-to-head matchup down low in the paint late in the game, where the rookie appeared to out-physical the veteran with ease en-route to a basket-and-one.
Williamson later shared his thoughts with reporters on what it feels like to be praised by a player like James, and said, “it definitely…it means something ‘cause ya know he’s been doing this for 17 years and his resume speaks for itself.”
Dorris Burke, an ESPN NBA analyst since 1991, mentioned reigning league MVP and Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokoumpo is the only player that has been able to absorb the body-blow on the block by Williamson, and then push back.
Providing analysis after the game, Burke offered her take on the game between the former top picks during a breakdown of the game on SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt by saying, “even in Year 17 Scott, we continue to take LeBron James for granted.”
The Lakers played without star big-man Anthony Davis, who did not play because of a sore right knee. He was resting after playing the entire game during Saturday night’s 105-88 loss at Memphis, against Rookie-of-the-Year candidate Ja Morant, and the Grizzlies.
Davis appeared to be okay as he regularly got up from his seat on the bench with ease while watching the game in street clothes. The Lakers are 6-2 in contests played without Davis this season. James has averaged 27.6 PPG in those games.
Kyle Kuzma chipped in 20 points as LeBron’s main supporter for the Lakers in Davis’ absence. Defensively, he was outmatched by the strength of Zion all evening long.
The entire Lakers’ squad put forth a well-balanced effort. The team shot 51.5% from the field, while also making 37.1% of their shots from beyond the arc. Every player that entered the game added at least five points.
Lonzo Ball nearly missed a triple-double in his supporting performance. In the loss, the former Laker finished with 19 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists. He also added three steals during the contest.
Despite struggling from the three-point range, the former 2017 NBA Draft’s number two overall pick shot 46% from the field. Ball has put up some of his best shooting performances during his two games against the Lakers this season. He’s averaged 16.5 points-per-game on 51.9 % shooting.
The California native has been the primary running-mate for Zion this season, as the running-mates are attempting to help the Pelicans run-the-table and land a berth as an eighth seed in the upcoming NBA playoffs.
The Lakers improved to 46-13 with the victory (1st in West) as the Pelicans fall to 26-34 (9th in West). On the season, they managed to sweep all four games against the Pelicans.