Heading into their MLK Day game, part of the NBA’s 12-game roster on Monday, the Lakers were riding a three-game losing streak.
Their most recent loss, a 37-point blowout, came in Denver on Saturday (Jan. 15), which seemed so lackluster it prompted a Twitter apology from team superstar LeBron James.
#LakerNation I apologize and promise that we will be better! 👑💜💛
-LeBron James (@KingJames) January 17, 2023
MORE: LeBron apologizes to Lakers fans
And things weren’t going to get any easier on Monday when they hosted the Jazz, one of the best teams in the league. They held a game-high 11-point lead late in the first half, but a lackluster 20-point third quarter allowed the visitors to not only rally but take the lead.
With 8:30 minutes left in the game, which seemed to be getting out of hand, they lost by nine (83-74). That’s when they turned to their ‘LeBron at center’ lineup and that changed everything.
In that final stretch, the Lakers were exceptional at both ends to record a laudable 101-95 victory.
Center LeBron sparks Lakers’ biggest win of the season
Surrounded by shooting guards and wings, James played center in the final stretch that changed the momentum.
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He only recorded six points and three rebounds during that stretch, but he certainly set an example with his attitude and style of play by repeatedly attacking and challenging Jazz big man Rudy Gobert.
“I’m just trying to put everybody in position to be successful and reading the game as the game was going and I knew how we could be successful offensively,” James said after the game. “The guys responded well to what I saw and Stanley had a great game.”
Stanley Johnson, a player on his third 10-day contract with the team, did most of the damage in the fourth quarter, scoring 10 of his 15 points during this stretch.
The LeBron center lineups, which we started introducing in late December, always seemed lethal on offense, but there was a lot to be desired on defense. However, in this game in that final stretch when they outscored the visitors 27-12, that lineup held the Jazz to 17 points in the fourth quarter.
That’s remarkable against a team that possesses the best offense in the league and had been held to fewer than 100 points just three times this season.
“It was a good win for us,” Russell Westbrook said after the game.
In fact, it’s quite a win when you consider players who were missing from the Lakers, like Anthony Davis and Carmelo Anthony, while a healthy Jazz team featured all of their main rotation players.
The fully healthy Jazz had just lost to a team that hadn’t won against a .500 team in over a month.
They scored 17 points in the 4Q against the Lakers without a center.
I didn’t know the playoffs had already started. pic.twitter.com/3nLLpPCWGe
— StanleyMuse (@statmuse) January 18, 2023