Hard work pays off: James

LeBron backs Lakers to build on first victory; Curry gets 51pts in 3 quarters in Warriors' win

PHOENIX • Drama had been the theme in the Los Angeles Lakers' opening three defeats, but LeBron James was a picture of tranquillity ahead of their visit to Phoenix despite the hoopla over the winless start.

The 33-year-old was right to feel confident about Wednesday's contest with the Suns, who finished bottom of the National Basketball Association (NBA) in both offensive and defensive efficiency last season, and so it proved as the Lakers clobbered the hosts 131-113.

James, who had 19 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds at Talking Stick Resort Arena, felt the long-awaited blowout victory, despite missing suspended duo Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram, had been the culmination of hard work.

"It feels great to win, period," the 14-time All-Star, who would have posted his 74th career triple-double had he not sat out the fourth quarter, said.

"But it feels good for us to know that we are continuing to get better after what we have been doing over the training camp and these first few games of the season.

"We stuck to the game plan, we got better tonight, and we are going to try and continue that going forward."

The four-time Most Valuable Player was also keen not to make the win all about him with seven of his teammates reaching double figures, and singled out top-scorer Lance Stephenson for praise.


LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers laying up a shot over Phoenix Suns' Deandre Ayton at Talking
Stick Resort Arena on Wednesday. He had 19 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds in the 131-113 rout.
PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The Lakers have missed the play-offs for the last five seasons - the longest drought in franchise history for the 16-time NBA champions - but, if the team's "best individual defender" can keep up his form, it will only bode well for their post-season chances.

"Lance is always great. With Rondo being out, he's our backup point guard pretty much right now, and he controlled the game," James said of his fellow summer recruit, who paced the Lakers with 23 points.

"He had great pace and found guys. He came in with a defensive mindset in that second quarter and gave us a boost off the bench.

Lakers guard Lonzo Ball, who had 12 points, agreed, saying: "Lance is great for us. Always brings energy.

"He loves to play the game of basketball and you can see it on the court. Whenever he gets in, he's going to bring it."

Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma, who contributed 17 points, added: "He (Stephenson) brings it every single night. It's very fun and contagious when he's out there."

Devin Booker led the Suns with 23 points, but left the game in the third quarter with a sore hamstring.

In Oakland, Stephen Curry became just the fourth NBA player in the last 10 years after James Harden, Carmelo Anthony and teammate Klay Thompson to score 50 or more points in the first three quarters, pouring in 51 in the Golden State Warriors' 144-122 win over the Washington Wizards.

IT'S GOING TO GET BETTER

We stuck to the game plan, we got better tonight, and we are going to try and continue that going forward.

LEBRON JAMES, LA Lakers star, urging his team to build on the momentum of their first win of the season.


IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT LEBRON

Lance is great for us. Always brings energy. He loves to play the game of basketball and you can see it on the court. Whenever he gets in, he's going to bring it.

LONZO BALL, Lakers guard, on the influence of teammate Lance Stephenson, who top-scored with 23 points against Phoenix.

The five-time All-Star's tally on Wednesday was also a league season high, surpassing the 50 scored by the Detroit Pistons' Blake Griffin against the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday. Curry finished three points below his career high after sitting out the fourth quarter.

Kevin Durant contributed 30 points and Thompson added 19 for the Warriors, who improved to 3-0 at home this season.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2018, with the headline 'Hard work pays off: James'. Print Edition | Subscribe