James lights up old home

Lakers forward LeBron James is defended by Heat centre Hassan Whiteside during their NBA game in Miami, Florida on Sunday. Whiteside and his team had few answers to James' wizardry in Los Angeles' 113-97 victory.
Lakers forward LeBron James is defended by Heat centre Hassan Whiteside during their NBA game in Miami, Florida on Sunday. Whiteside and his team had few answers to James' wizardry in Los Angeles' 113-97 victory.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Season-high 51pts including closing trey has Miami fans cheering even as Lakers triumph

MIAMI • LeBron James had two points to prove on his return to his old stomping ground.

The 14-time All-Star, who played for the Miami Heat from 2010 to 2014, wanted to show the fans at the American Airlines Arena what they were missing - and he took them on a trip down memory lane, scoring a season-high 51 points to help the Los Angeles Lakers win 113-97.

James was also not going to lose a bet to teammate Lance Stephenson, who had dared him to close out the National Basketball Association (NBA) game with a three-pointer.

With 17 seconds left, the forward promptly drained a shot from beyond the arc - his sixth three-pointer of the night - to take him over the 50-point mark, before pointing at a smiling Stephenson.

While the rivalry between the pair is well-documented, they have quashed their beef since joining the Lakers in the summer and James expressed his delight that they were now "on the same side".

"Yeah, that's my guy. Lance told me to finish the game off and said, 'I bet you won't shoot a three'," he told reporters. "So I went for three."

The 33-year-old, who won two NBA championships with Miami, also received a rapturous welcome from the Heat supporters, and he treated them to a spectacle, reaching into his bag of tricks to make 19 of 31 shots from the floor, while adding eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block.

  • 19

    Points LeBron James scored in the first quarter on eight-of-10 shooting.

And, after setting the record for most points scored by a Lakers player against Miami, who were paced by 19 points from Wayne Ellington, Heat centre Hassan Whiteside was left flabbergasted.

"When he's (James) hitting shots like that, what do you want us to do?" he said in exasperation.

James, however, made it a point to show his appreciation towards the "respect factor" from the Heat crowd and declared his "love for the people in Miami".

"It's always great to be here. We had some not-so-good times, (but) more great times, it's good to see when the work pays off," he added.

Next up for him is a trip to another former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. And, while he is looking forward to seeing "familiar faces" at the club he left in June, he said tomorrow would be all business "once the tip ball gets going".

Elsewhere, NBA champions Golden State Warriors slumped to their third defeat in a row, falling 104-92 to the San Antonio Spurs.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 20, 2018, with the headline 'James lights up old home'. Print Edition | Subscribe