Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, center, reacts after making a 3-point basket during the first half of the team’s NBA basketball In-Season Tournament game against the Utah Jazz, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023, in Los Angeles. James became the first player in NBA history to surpass 39,000 career points. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)
LOS ANGELES (AP) — LeBron James scored his 39,000th point on the way to 17 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, and the Los Angeles Lakers completed an unbeaten run through group play in the NBA In-Season Tournament with a 131-99 victory over the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night.
Anthony Davis had 26 points and 16 rebounds for the Lakers, who are likely to host a quarterfinal game early next month to begin the knockout stages of the league’s first in-season tournament. Los Angeles beat Phoenix, Memphis, Portland and Utah by a combined 74 points, capped by this blowout of the Jazz for the Lakers’ sixth victory in seven games overall.
Already the top scorer in NBA history after passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387 points) last season, the 38-year-old James became the first player in league history to top 39,000 points early in the first quarter.
“I got congratulated by my teammates and coaches, (but) I haven’t had an opportunity to really wrap my head around what that means,” James said. “There’s been so many great players that came across this league since the beginning of time, and so many great scorers. To be able to accomplish something that’s the first of anything, I think that’s always pretty cool. It’s a wild moment, that’s for sure.”
The milestone was another stop in James’ steamrolling of the world’s previous standards for basketball longevity: He began the night averaging 26.4 points per game, by far the most production from any player in NBA history who made it to a 21st season.
D’Angelo Russell added 20 points and eight assists for the Lakers, who went up by 30 in the third quarter and got their two superstars out of the game for good before the fourth began. James played only 24 minutes, while Davis dominated his 29 minutes, going 11 of 14 and even adding four assists.
“Being able to sleep in our beds and not having to travel, that’s always good,” Davis said of the Lakers’ tournament position. “We’re one step closer to winning the, uh, Cup? Is it the tournament Cup? NBA Cup? Something like that? So, one step closer.”
Austin Reaves scored 19 points and Christian Wood had a season-high 16 while Los Angeles improved to 7-1 at home this season and Utah fell to 1-6 on the road.
John Collins scored 15 points and Omer Yurtseven had a season-high 18 for the undersized Jazz, who dropped to 2-2 in tournament play with their seventh loss in nine games overall. Utah shot dismally, hitting only 33% of its shots in the first half.
“They did a good job of just closing the floor on us and taking all the space that we had and forcing us to take tough shots,” said former Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson, who scored seven points on 3-of-9 shooting.
Starting wing Cam Reddish played only five minutes before leaving with groin soreness, adding another injury to the Lakers’ list and leaving them with just nine available players. Jarred Vanderbilt (left heel) and first-round draft pick Jalen Hood-Schifino (right kneecap) have not played this season. Gabe Vincent will miss at least 16 games before he returns from a left knee injury, presumably next month.
The Lakers still dominated the first half, taking a 23-point lead in the second quarter behind 17 points and 10 rebounds from Davis. Utah went just 4 for 23 on 3-pointers while falling behind 62-41 at halftime.
“I think our lack of physicality, in particular on offense, led us to have very sloppy offensive possessions,” Utah coach Will Hardy said. “And when you couple that with not making really any shots … playing against that team in transition over and over and over again is difficult. It was a lot of things wrapped into one that led to a bad game.”
Jazz: At Portland on Wednesday.
Lakers: Host Dallas on Wednesday.