He had a sensational first half, only to fizzle out afterward, and former Nuggets wing Bruce Brown said he was “done” after halftime.
“Bron…he was gonna have to score 60,” said Brown. “He was done.”
After furiously trying to tread water for much of the season, the Lakers finally turned things around with the help of February’s Russell Westbrook trade that brought them D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley. Suddenly, they had a team with complementary pieces that fit well around James and Anthony Davis, and they became one of the NBA’s best teams from that point on.
What they didn’t have was continuity, since they were basically a brand-new team, and they ran into a Nuggets squad that had been together for a few years and had patiently built a strong cast around Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.
Although Los Angeles ended up getting swept by Denver, long stretches of all four games were very competitive, which gave fans hope that perhaps it would get itself a win at home in Game 4.
James scored 31 points in the first half on an incredible 11-of-13 shooting from the field while hitting on all four of his 3-point attempts. He played almost every single second of the first half.
But he let up as the second half began, and as a result, the 73-58 lead the Lakers had at halftime started to disappear.
James ended up with 40 points, but he scored only nine after halftime while going just 4-of-12 overall and 0-of-3 from downtown. The Lakers lost, 113-111, as his game-tying attempt was blocked just before the horn by Aaron Gordon.
With the depth they now have, they should be able to afford to lower James’ minutes and workload in order to make sure he still has enough left in the tank to be the best player on the floor during crunch time. The fact that they became a very good defensive team should also reduce the need for James to score points in bunches so often to give them a chance at victory.