LeBron James turned 38 on Friday, and a couple of days ago, it caused him to muse about where he is in his career and the lack of help around him.
The Los Angeles Lakers’ road trip continued on Friday with a game versus the Atlanta Hawks, and James played like a man who had just turned 28.
Thanks to a big night from him, as well as some inspired team defense and a spirited mindset, Los Angeles got a much-needed win over Trae Young and company, 130-121.
It trailed by double digits in the second quarter, but it took control in the third quarter with the help of its classic weapon: its fast break, which produced 23 points in total.
The team is now 2-2 on this trip, and it will have the opportunity to end it with a winning record when it plays the 10-26 Charlotte Hornets on Monday.
LeBron James: A+
James got off to a poor start, but he started to shift into a higher gear in the second quarter, and then came a vintage explosion in the third period.
He scored 13 points in that frame, and he finished with 47 big points on 18-of-27 from the field, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range, 10 rebounds and nine assists.
The four-time MVP implied on Wednesday he feels he can still win championships if he has enough help around him. He has played outstanding ball throughout December, and it is proof he can still carry his team when needed, even if he needs a little more help than he used to.
Thomas Bryant: A
Bryant consistently runs the floor and looks to move without the ball, and when his teammates find him, he is a reliable finisher.
The big man went 8-of-10 to score 19 points, but he was also a backboard eraser, grabbing 17 rebounds in 34 minutes, to go along with one assist, one steal and one blocked shot.
Patrick Beverley: A-
Beverley has looked like his old self lately after a bad start to the season. He made 4-of-5 overall and 2-of-3 from beyond the arc, giving him 10 points, three assists, two rebounds, one steal and one block in 25 minutes.
Dennis Schroder: B
Schroder struggled with his shooting, going just 5-of-12 overall and 1-of-5 from downtown, but his nine assists helped the Lakers shoot 54.2 percent from the field.
He also added three steals, and his ability and willingness to pressure opposing ball handlers and get in their face greatly helps the Lakers establish the type of defensive tone they have lacked at times.
Austin Reaves: D-
Reaves struggled again on Friday, just as he did on Wednesday, making just one of 13 shot attempts, nine of which were 3-point attempts. He finished with five points, three rebounds and one assist.
Reaves is in a slump. It happens to everyone, and he simply needs to make sure it doesn’t last too long.
Wenyen Gabriel: A
Gabriel’s energy and activity led to him shooting 5-of-8 and scoring 11 points, mostly off assists from Russell Westbrook, to go along with five rebounds and one rejection in just 14 minutes.
Troy Brown Jr.: C
After a couple of stellar games, Brown came back to earth versus the Hawks. He was 2-of-6 overall and 1-of-4 from downtown, giving him five points, five rebounds and one block in 25 minutes.
Juan Toscano-Anderson: A
Toscano-Anderson may not be an elite defender, but his energy and effort on that end of the floor are just what the Lakers need. He played very good defense on Friday, both on and off the ball, which directly led to some misses and miscues for Atlanta.
Offensively, he made all three of his shot attempts, which included a 3-pointer, and he finished with seven points, three rebounds and one steal in just 15 minutes.
If Toscano-Anderson continues to shoot well from the outside, look for him to earn a permanent spot in head coach Darvin Ham’s rotation.
Russell Westbrook: A-
Westbrook sparked the Lakers, especially in the second half, by creating fast-break opportunities and consistently looking for his teammates, which led to his 11 assists.
When he had the chance, he took the ball to the hoop and finished at the rim, allowing him to shoot 6-of-12 and score 14 points, to go along with eight rebounds in 29 minutes.
The two blemishes on the stat sheet were his 0-of-3 mark from beyond the arc and six turnovers. But overall, he was clearly a positive asset for his team, as he has often been since being moved to the bench.