James gets standing ovation

LOS ANGELES • LeBron James left no doubt the injuries that plagued him last season were a thing of the past, as the Los Angeles Lakers star scored at will en route to a 95-86 National Basketball Association win over the Utah Jazz at the Staples Centre on Friday.

The visitors could not cope with his aggression as he powered his way to the hoop, hitting a variety of jump shots for a game-high 32 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds to see off their opponents.

James left to a standing ovation from the adoring crowd, including singer Rihanna, musician Flea and actor Jack Nicholson, and he declared "it was fun to get out there in front of the Lakers faithful" in the team's home opener.

Coach Frank Vogel also hailed the 15-time All-Star, whose groin injury last term meant 17 straight games on the sidelines, with the Lakers determined to finally secure a play-off berth, having missed out for six successive seasons.

The Lakers' prized summer acquisition, Anthony Davis, added 21 points, including several emphatic alley-oops from James that sent the crowd into a frenzy.

He also recorded five blocks to establish himself as the team's primary defensive weapon, something the squad sorely lacked last season and Davis praised his teammates, who forced 23 turnovers, for being "the real deal defensively".

"We try to lay our hats on defence. We want to be a defensive-oriented team, and guys came in and were pesky today," he said after the game. "The more we defend like this, the easier it will be for us."

LeBron James making a pass around Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz during the Lakers' 95-86 win at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles. The Lakers all-rounder's presence at both ends of the court was instrumental to their first win of the new season.
LeBron James making a pass around Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz during the Lakers' 95-86 win at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles. The Lakers all-rounder's presence at both ends of the court was instrumental to their first win of the new season. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Pressure from James and Davis going towards the basket also opened up shooters at the perimeter. Troy Daniels took advantage, coming off the bench to nail 15 points including four three-pointers for the hosts.

While there is heavy competition at guard, with Rajon Rondo and Talen Horton-Tucker working their way back to full fitness, Vogel told clutchpoints.com that Daniels had "earned a spot in the rotation with his ability to shoot the basketball".

He said: "He's arguably the best shooter on the team. He's the kind of player you want to put around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. He works really hard on the defensive end, so he pulls his own weight on that side of the floor.

"When he's out there, he not only brings gravity but, when the help comes, he's able to punish defences and he did both of those tonight."

Next up for the Lakers is a meeting with the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday in Los Angeles.

REUTERS


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 27, 2019, with the headline 'James gets standing ovation'. Print Edition | Subscribe