LOS ANGELES (AP) — LeBron James wasn’t about to send Kobe Bryant home disappointed.
With the former Lakers great sitting courtside, the team’s current ranking superstar scored 12 of his 33 points during a breathtaking opening nine minutes for Los Angeles, which raced to a 25-point lead and handed the Atlanta Hawks their second ugly loss in 24 hours at Staples Center, 122-101 on Sunday night.
“I’m just trying to put on a show for him and give him a reason to be like, ‘OK, we might come to another game,’“ James said.
The 34-year-old James said it was “fantastic” to play in front of Bryant, who helped the Lakers win five NBA titles during his 20-year career.
“I know he came to a game last year,” James said. “Just having him in the building, knowing what he did to this franchise, and for me and my teammates what it means to be a part of Laker Nation, the Laker family, it’s a beautiful thing. I was one of the kids who had the chance to come out straight out of high school. He did it and I was just watching him. It’s just so surreal for me, a kid from Akron to be able to have a guy like Kobe take time out of his day. Even at this point in my career it’s still special.”
James joined the Lakers last season.
“I became part of the family and he welcomed me with open arms as well as everyone else. Just to have that support from one of the greatest Lakers to ever play is just special to me,” James said.
In a quarter full of highlights, James’ biggest play provided his first points. After JaVale McGee blocked Jabari Parker’s shot, James grabbed the ball, passed to Danny Green and took the return pass for a slam dunk that brought the crowd to its feet two minutes in.
James added two layups, a 3-point shot and a three-point play to help propel the Lakers to their 25-point lead with 3:17 still to play in the opening quarter.
He also fed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for consecutive baskets. James finished with 12 assists for his 11th double-double this season.
“He’s been at just an extraordinarily high level and dominating,” coach Frank Vogel said of James. “His effort on the defensive end has really spread throughout the group and the group has really bought into being dominant on the defensive end of the floor. We saw that in the first quarter with how we controlled the game from the start. Offensively, the shot making, his decision making, zero turnovers, 12 assists, I mean are you kidding me?”
The Hawks were routed 150-101 on Saturday night by the Clippers, who played without Kawhi Leonard.
Kyle Kuzma scored 17 points in the Lakers’ 11th win in 12 games. Rajon Rondo had 15, Anthony Davis 14, Caldwell-Pope 13 and Green and Alex Caruso 11 apiece.
Davis had five of the Lakers’ 14 blocked shots.
Trae Young scored 31 for the Hawks, who lost four of five on a swing through the West. Cam Reddish had 13 while Allen Crabbe, Parker and De’Andre Hunter each scored 11.
After falling behind by 25, the Hawks stopped the Lakers’ onslaught by going on a 13-0 run to close to 34-22. They got to 40-30 before the Lakers pulled away again. Green put an emphatic stamp on a 69-41 halftime lead when he swooped in to corral James’ missed shot for a slam dunk with 11 seconds before the buzzer.
James then hit consecutive 3-pointers for the Lakers’ first points of the second half and added a nice fallaway jumper.
“It’s tough when you can’t make shots,” Young said. “Give a lot of credit to them. They’re one of the best defensive teams in the league. We’ve just got to be better knocking down shots, working on our game and trying to be more crafty around defenses like them.”
“They were making a lot of blocked shots, making a lot of big plays. We had a lot of things that didn’t go our way. That’s how our season’s been. We’ll get down big and we have to fight so hard to get back into the game that we take all the energy out of ourselves and hard to get ourselves back into the game.”
Gurley, Brown help Rams ground out 17-7 win over Bears
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Todd Gurley was told by Rams coach Sean McVay before Sunday night’s game against the Chicago Bears that he was going to be a focal point of Los Angeles’ offense.
Gurley rose to the occasion and delivered his best game of the season.
The All-Pro running back had a season-high 133 scrimmage yards and scored a touchdown to lead the Rams to a 17-7 victory to help them keep pace in the NFC playoff race.
“We had a bunch of guys down and I was able to step up,” Gurley said. “It felt like the old Todd. I was glad I was able to go out there and take advantage of what I got.”
On a night when the Rams were missing two of their starting receivers and had a reworked offensive line, McVay reined things in. Los Angeles (6-4) ran it on 65.4% of its plays (34 of 52). That is the highest run percentage in McVay’s three seasons as coach and only the fourth time they have gone to ground more than 60% of the time.
Gurley led the way with a season-high 25 carries. His 97 rushing yards also tied for his most this year.
“What I loved the most about what Todd did was after we put the first carry on the ground he didn’t flinch,” McVay said. “He came back, had some good, tough, physical runs, made some good catches out of the backfield and he was a big-time contributor tonight.”
Jared Goff was 11 of 18 for 173 yards and an interception with many of his completions coming off play action.
The Bears (4-6) ran 22 more plays than the Rams but averaged only 3.6 yards. Mitchell Trubisky was 24 of 43 for 190 yards with a touchdown and interception. Trubisky injured his right hip on the last drive of the first half but didn’t come out until late in the fourth quarter, when Chase Daniel came in.
“I was just all arm in the second half pretty much,” Trubisky said. “Just trying to fight though the pain and trying to make the throws. I still felt like I was still putting the ball in some pretty good spots. Just couldn’t move around or couldn’t buy time.”
Gurley came in averaging 53.5 rushing yards per game, but had 63 in the first half, including three carries of 10 yards or more. After Greg Zuerlein opened the scoring with a 38-yard field goal early n the second quarter, Gurley put the Rams up 10-0 with 3:28 remaining on a 1-yard drive up the middle.
Gurley’s TD was set up when Goff connected with Cooper Kupp for a 50-yard gain. Kupp beat Buster Skrine up the left sideline and hauled in the pass at the 15 before he fumbled going out of bounds at the 1. It appeared as if Kupp might have fumbled it at the pylon, which would have been a Chicago touchback.
“When we’re at our best is when we’re running the ball well. There have been games when we haven’t and we’ve overcome it and thrown it but that’s not usually how we want to do it,” Goff said.
After Tarik Cohen’s third-quarter touchdown catch brought Chicago to 10-7, the Rams put it out of reach with 3:35 remaining in the fourth quarter on Malcolm Brown’s 5-yard run.
Chicago got to 10-7 on its first drive of the second half when Trubisky connected with Cohen for a 12-yard score. Cohen beat linebacker Cory Littleton in single coverage to score his third touchdown of the season.