LeBron zeroing in on Kareem record

LeBron James is 63 points away from becoming the National Basketball Association’s scoring champion.

INDIANAPOLIS—LeBron James just put his head down and repeatedly drove to the basket Thursday night.

It was his vintage move.

The same late-game philosophy that led to four National Basketball Association (NBA) championships and has him on the precipice of becoming the NBA’s new career scoring champ worked perfectly again at Indiana.

James finished with 26 points, seven rebounds and seven assists and fueled another frantic fourth-quarter rally, helping erase a 14-point deficit to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a 112-111 victory over the Pacers.

He’s now 63 points away from breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s career record of 38,387 points.

“I just understood my game was needed more on the interior tonight,” James said. “Needed to get some rebounds, need to get some baskets in there and I felt like we were attacking, especially in the fourth quarter.”

James looked content doing the dirty work even though the Lakers trailed the entire first three quarters, usually by double digits.

But with a friendly road crowd imploring James to lead the Lakers back, his three-pointer with 2:35 left gave Los Angeles its first lead of the game.

Anthony Davis’s short jumper with 35.1 seconds left and subsequent block proved to be the decisive plays on a night he had 31 points and 14 rebounds, but was left out of the All-Star Game.

For the third time in 21 months, Indiana found itself at the forefront of a league-changing pursuit. It was here in May 2021 that Russell Westbrook recorded his 181st career triple-double to tie Oscar Robertson’s career mark. And it was here in December 2021 that Stephen Curry made five 3-pointers to pull within one of matching Ray Allen’s career mark of 2,973.

James is now at 38,325 and this one clearly means something special to him.

“I think it’s one of the greatest records in sports, in general,” he said. “It’s like the home run record in baseball. It’s one of those records that you don’t ever see or think will be broken. You see guys like Hank Aaron, who had it for so long. You see guys like Sammy [Sosa] and Mark McGwire and you start climbing it and it’s like ‘Oh, this could really happen.’ It’s a fun thing as a sports person. It was fun watching those guys chasing it.”

But it was the Pacers who were chasing late.

On a night Aaron Nesmith scored a career-high 24 points, newly minted All-Star Tyrese Haliburton added 26 points and 12 assists in his first game in three weeks and Myles Turner had 20 points and 13 rebounds after signing a two-year contract extension, Buddy Hield missed a 17-footer as the clock ran out.

Indiana has lost four straight and this one befuddled longtime coach Rick Carlisle.

Indiana relied on pace and speed to take control and still led 98-84 early in the fourth.

But the Lakers won it by going to the free-throw line 16 times, compared to zero for Indiana, in the final quarter.

“The foul discrepancy and free-throw discrepancy [16-0 in the fourth quarter], is something I’ve never seen in my 38 years in the league,” Carlisle said, crediting the Lakers for being aggressive. “There was a lot going on out there and they’ll see it in black and white in New York. Or actually, they’ll see it in HD.”

The NBA, meanwhile, has further adjusted the schedule of nationally televised games with James closing in on Abdul-Jabbar’s record.

James is on pace to break the record Tuesday at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder. That game will now be shown on TNT, a change that forced a reworking of that night’s entire schedule on the network.

TNT was supposed to show Atlanta at New Orleans, followed by Minnesota at Denver. Instead, it’ll show Phoenix at Brooklyn first, followed by the Thunder-Lakers game.

It’s a move that follows the NBA making similar adjustments earlier this week to show James and the Lakers nationally on Saturday, as he presumably moves closer to Abdul-Jabbar.

That game was moved up two hours to a 6 p.m. Eastern start. The Lakers-Pelicans game was moved to ESPN2, preceding a national broadcast between Dallas and Golden State at 8:30 p.m. on ABC.

James entered Thursday needing 89 points to pass Abdul-Jabbar, who has been the league’s leading scorer since 1984.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said last month in Paris that the league would ensure James’s record-breaking game is shown nationally, as well as making it globally available.

If James doesn’t have the record after Tuesday’s game, his next game is already scheduled for national TV. The Lakers’ home game February 9 against Milwaukee—the team that Abdul-Jabbar started his career with, before he joined the Lakers—will be shown on TNT. AP

Image credits: AP


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