Optimistic Los Angeles Lakers fans had possibly found a glimmer of hope after two straight wins and solid performances from Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard, but everyone at the Staples Center was blinded by the bright light of LeBron James on Thursday night. James took the contest by storm, opened his night with a pair of thunderous dunks and rolled to a game-high 39 points on 17-25 shooting to go with a game-high eight assists and a team-high seven rebounds. The Heat emerged with an impressive 99-90 home win, and those same Lakers fans were left in awe of the reigning league MVP (via Silver Screen and Roll):
LeBron in particular was magnificent tonight, splitting interior defenses, scoring in isolation situations, violating the hoops on the run and doling out 8 assists while shooting 17 for 25. Mike D'Antoni seemed to insist on not doubling James, which makes some sense if you consider the knock down shooters dotting the floor around him...but it also made zero sense considering that he absolutely eviscerated the Lakers tonight. If you don't enjoy watching LeBron James play, even when he's on the other side of the court, you don't love NBA basketball. That's a fact, jack.
LBJ pumped in 12 quick points on 6-of-8 shooting in the first quarter to give the Heat a 26-22 lead, and he saved 10 points, three rebounds and three assists for the final period as the Heat closed out the game. To put things in perspective, LeBron hit 8-of-12 shots in the second half and that was a step down from his deadly-efficient first-half performance (9-of-13 FGs). All hail King James.
As noted in the game recap at SB Nation's Lakers blog, there can be no silver-lining games for L.A. at this point. The Lakers are now five games under .500 and just 12-10 at home, so it's silly to take solace in something like Dwight Howard's impressive stat line from the game (13 points on 4-7 shooting, 16 rebounds).
The Lakers will play 10 of their next 13 games on the road, so there isn't much time left for the glamour squad to get things turned around this year. The Western Conference has no room for an underachieving team in the playoff bracket, and if things go poorly over the next few weeks it may be time to focus in on the Feb. 21 trade deadline as an endpoint for this experiment out in L.A.