CLEVELAND – LeBron James recorded his 59th career triple-double in front of Lonzo Ball and his brothers, Kevin Love scored 28 points and the Cleveland Cavaliers won for the 16th time in 17 games, 121-112 over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.
James finished with 25 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists to move a tie with Larry Bird for sixth place on the career triple-doubles list. He also put the Lakers away with a dunk and short runner in the final two minutes.
Love scored 13 in the third quarter, when the Cavs opened an 11-point lead on the way to their 10th straight home win. Jose Calderon added a season-high 17 points for Cleveland.
Brandon Ingram scored 26 for the Lakers and Ball had 13 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.
It was the first on-court meeting between James and Ball, the Lakers’ highly touted rookie whose outspoken father LaVar has brought both attention and animosity toward his son.
LaVar Ball, who did not attend the game, launched his “Big Baller Brand” to promote his three talented sons. James gave them an in-person lesson in the business of basketball.
The Lakers, who played without starting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, were within 113-108 when James slashed down the lane, took a feed from Love and dunked before crashing into seats beyond the baseline. He came back moments later and dropped a short bank shot to put Cleveland up by nine.
James can be a free agent next summer and because of his connections to Los Angeles (he owns a film production company, and recently bought another home there), the Lakers are already one of the teams being mentioned as a possible landing spot for the three-time NBA champion. James has said he wants to finish his career with the Cavaliers, but that hasn’t stopped speculation about his next move and the conjecture only figures to intensify as the offseason approaches.
James has also been complimentary toward Ball, further fueling talk about him one day playing near Hollywood.
Lakers: C Brook Lopez shot consecutive air balls from the foul line in the second quarter, drawing a huge cheer from the crowd. … Rookie G Josh Hart made his first career start in place of Caldwell-Pope, who was scratched for personal reasons. … Coach Luke Walton has been impressed with how well Ball has adapted to the pros. “He plays the hardest position in the NBA,” Walton said. “He’s 20 years old and he’s doing it in a huge market and one of the greatest organizations in sports. He’s handled all that, good press, bad press, people talking about his shot, people talking about this and that. He’s been solid. Teammates love him. He makes them better, which is probably my favorite skill that he has.”
Cavaliers: F Tristan Thompson was a late scratch after he experienced soreness in his left calf while warming up. Thompson returned on Tuesday and played six minutes in his first game since Nov. 1. … Coach Tyronn Lue did not have any update on G Isaiah Thomas, nearing a return from a hip injury that has delayed his Cleveland debut. The All-Star recently started taking contact and playing 4-on-4. … Thomas will have his No. 2 jersey retired by Washington on Feb. 15. … With his second 3-pointer, J.R. Smith passed Chauncey Billups (1,830) for 11th place on the career list. … Cleveland made 15 3-pointers and has made at least 10 in a club-record 18 straight games.
Ball’s younger brothers, LiAngelo and LaMelo, sat behind L.A’s bench. Earlier this week they signed with a professional club in Lithuania. As the pair watched Lonzo work on his jump shot before the game, fans who wanted to get close to them were kept at a distance by security personnel.
Lakers: Host Golden State on Monday.
Cavaliers: Host Utah on Saturday.
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