LeBron James ends Lakers' losing streak with season-high 48 points vs. Rockets

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 16: LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers passes the ball.
Lakers star LeBron James passes the ball in front of Houston Rockets center Alperen Sengun during the first half of the Lakers' 140-132 win Monday night at Arena. James finished with 48 points. (Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)

The last two games for the Lakers were crushing.

They were left in a state of despair both times. They were close games the Lakers were unable to win. The Lakers still could feel the sting of both defeats.

But the beauty of the NBA is there is another day and another game, and that’s what the Lakers had to look forward to Monday night when they faced the Houston Rockets at Arena.

This time, LeBron James refused to let the Lakers lose a game that was still too close for comfort against the young, energetic and talented Rockets, both teams playing the second of back-to-back games.

It took James producing a season-high 48 points, nine assists and eight rebounds for the Lakers to pull out a 140-132 win over the Rockets.

James scored 40 points or more for the third time this season, the 72nd time of his illustrious 20-year career during the regular season, and the 100th time of his career including playoffs.

“I could have very easily took tonight off, but I don’t feel like the momentum of our ballclub could use me taking a night off tonight,” said James, who has been dealing with a sore ankle. “I don’t feel like I wanted to sit on that loss with Philly last night. I kind of wanted to get that out of my taste buds and see if we win a ballgame tonight.”

James scored 20 points in the fourth, including four free throws in the final 40 seconds to seal the game.

He was 16 for 26 from the field, five for 10 from three-point range and 11 for 12 from the free-throw line.

“I think it’s historic, man, on a lot of different levels,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said about the play of James. “For him to be at this point in his career and still able to produce at the level in which he’s producing, I just think all of us just really being able to witness it, be a part of it. ... And it shows his competitive spirit, his no-quit mentality.”

The Rockets kept coming back behind the play of Alperen Sengun, who had a career-high 33 points, 15 rebounds and six assists.

But with the Lakers turning the ball over just twice, a franchise low, they were able to break a three-game losing streak.

LeBron James wears a T-shirt celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. during pregame warmups Monday.
LeBron James wears a T-shirt celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. during pregame warmups Monday. (Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

“There’s no easy nights in this league,” Ham said. “Happy we were able to sustain throughout the 48 minutes.”

James scored 28 points by the time he took his first break in the third quarter with 3 minutes 50 seconds left and the Lakers holding a 95-81 lead that was sliced to 102-98 at the end of the quarter, with James on the bench watching.

The Lakers dropped a double-overtime game to the Dallas Mavericks last Thursday night, a game in which L.A. thought a few last-second calls should have gone its way. The Lakers followed that up with a last-second, one-point loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night, another game in which L.A. didn’t like the calls.

LeBron James scores in front of Houston's Kenyon Martin Jr. during the first half.
LeBron James scores in front of Houston's Kenyon Martin Jr. during the first half. (Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)
Laker LeBron James flexes his arm during a win over the Rockets
LeBron James flexes his arm during the second half of the Lakers' win Monday. (Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Despite all that, Ham didn’t want his team feeling sorry for itself.

He didn’t want the Lakers to look back but rather ahead for the next challenge.

“Just with that hammer, man, keep chipping away at the rock. As I mentioned, it can be disappointing, but you gotta get past that. You gotta shake it off,” Ham said before the game. You got another game you gotta tee up tonight. That’s the great thing about this league, you don’t get long to feel sorry for yourself. And you also get a chance to hit the restart button and try to get it right. Just a ton of great things that took place against some really top-shelf talent the last couple of games. But, again, just making plays, playing the right way, keeping that competitive edge, staying together.

“I think we’re in a good place in terms of all that. We just gotta figure out how to finish games in this league.”

The Lakers got some feel-good moments to help them forget about the two tough losses.

Kendrick Nunn provided the first, throwing down a one-handed dunk over Houston’s Jalen Green in the first quarter to bring the crowd to its feet.

Then there were the back-to-back exciting plays.

James grabbed a defensive rebound and went coast to coast, powering in for a layup while being fouled by Sengun. James stopped to pose for a few seconds, bellowing to the cheering crowd: “I’m a bad … boy!”

On the very next play, James grabbed a defensive rebound and went coast to coast for a dunk, his head bobbing afterward and more unprintable words coming out of his mouth.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.