It might not be the proudest accomplishment of his NBA career—no one likes to achieve a superlative that begins with “oldest”—but Lakers star LeBron James did reach a milestone with his 38-point, 8-assist explosion to beat the Blazers on Saturday. He topped Michael Jordan as the oldest player to score 38 points with at least 8 assists in a playoff game, according to STATS.
Jordan was 34 when he accomplished both in 1997.
James delivered what was easily his best performance of the NBA restart, covering all eight of the seeding games and the Lakers’ first two playoff games. James shot 11-for-18 from the field and 4-for-8 from the 3-point line, adding 12 rebounds. He was aggressive on the interior and from the outside.
“I loved his game,” coach Frank Vogel said in his postgame press conference. “He was in attack mode. He was living in the paint, living at the rim and seeking contact and trying to just play the power game that he has been so accustomed to. He was finishing at the rim, he was drawing contact, getting to the free-throw line. We encouraged him to be aggressive shooting over the top, too. Obviously, he knocked down 4 3s, that was a big part of his getting downhill, too.”
LeBron James: ‘I Just Wanted to be Aggressive’
James’ shot chart from Saturday night was an analytics devotees’ dream. In addition to the eight tries from the 3-point line, he took nine shots in the restricted area and one shot from 8 feet.
Before Game 3, James had totaled just 33 points in the playoffs, shooting 41.9% from the field and 12.5% from the 3-point line. He was asked whether he’d seen something in the film that nudged him toward being more aggressive in that game.
“I’ve always watched film especially in the playoffs, an extensive amount of minutes—my minutes, our team minutes, the way they’re playing me, the way they’re playing our team,” James said. “Every game calls for different situations. Tonight, I just wanted to be aggressive, see if I can get into the paint, see if I can find my guys. I was able to do that early, get to the line. … Just trying to make plays for myself and my teammates.”
LeBron Also Passes Tim Duncan on Wins List
In addition to slipping past Jordan on the old-man chart, James had another milestone in the win: He scored the 158th win of his postseason career, moving past Spurs great Tim Duncan in the process. James is now second in all-time playoff wins, behind the 161 wins of former Lakers guard Derek Fisher.
James lost his first NBA Finals in 2007 to Duncan and the Spurs, when he was playing for the Cavaliers. He exacted revenge by beating the Spurs in 2013 when he was in Miami, but the Spurs won the rematch between the teams in 2014.
“I get asked this question a lot, it is just always surreal for me when my name is associated with any of the greats,” James said. “Obviously, we know how great Tim Duncan was in this league, with that franchise, I had my battles with them and also was a teammate with him in the Olympics. Just seeing what he was able to accomplish not just in the regular season but more important in the postseason. Basically, he lived in the postseason. That was his address. For me to be linked to a great, the Big Fundamental, means a lot.”
James will have a chance at win No. 159 against Portland on Monday, when the Lakers will seek a commanding 3-1 series lead.