Heading into their MLK Day fixture, part of the NBA’s 12-game slate on Monday, the Lakers were riding a three-game losing streak.
Their most recent loss, a 37-point beatdown, came in Denver on Saturday (Jan. 15) which seemed so lackluster that it spurred a Twitter apology from team superstar LeBron James.
MORE: LeBron apologizes to Lakers fans
And things weren’t going to get any easier on Monday as they hosted the Jazz, one of the league’s top teams. They did hold a 11-point lead, their largest of the game, late in the first half but a lackluster 20-point third quarter allowed the visitors to not only claw back but also take the lead.
With 8:30 minutes left in the game, one that seemed like slipping out of their grasp, they trailed by nine (83-74). That’s when they turned to their ‘LeBron-at-center’ line-up and that changed everything.
Over that final stretch, the Lakers were exceptional on both ends to record a praiseworthy 101-95 victory.
Center LeBron sparks Lakers biggest win of season
Surrounded by guards and wings, James played center over the final momentum-changing span.
He only recorded contributed six points and three rebounds during that stretch, but he certainly set the example with his attitude and style of play by repeatedly attacking and challenging Jazz big man Rudy Gobert.
“I’m just trying to put everyone in position to be successful and reading the game while the game was going on and I knew the way we could be successful offensively,” James said postgame. “The guys responded well to what I saw and Stanley had a big-time game.”
Stanley Johnson, a player on his third 10-day contract with the team, did the bulk of the damage in the fourth quarter as he scored 10 of his 15 points during this stretch.
The lineups with LeBron-at-center, which we started getting featured from the end of Dec., always seemed lethal on offense but there was much to be desired on defense. However, in this game over that final stretch when they outscored the visitors 27-12, that line-up held the Jazz to 17 fourth-quarter points.
That’s remarkable against a team that owns the league’s best offense and had been held to under 100 points just thrice previously this season.
“It was a good win for us,” Russell Westbrook said postgame.
It’s actually a great win when you consider the players the Lakers were missing such as Anthony Davis and Carmelo Anthony while a healthy Jazz squad featured all of their major rotation players.
The fully healthy Jazz just lost to a team who hadn’t won vs .500 team in over a month.
They scored 17 points in the 4Q vs the center-less Lakers.
Didn’t know the playoffs started already. pic.twitter.com/3nLLpPCWGe
— StanleyMuse (@statmuse) January 18, 2022