Unlike many of their recent games, the Los Angeles Lakers actually fell behind early on in Friday night’s ESPN-televised affair against Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans, who were entering Friday’s game in the opposite way the Lakers did, losing four straight games. But after leading by as many as 15 in the second quarter, the Lakers continued the trend for both teams, eventually demolishing the Pelicans 115-92. With Lakers defense held the Pelicans to 92 points, it was the fifth time this season the Lakers have held a team to fewer than 100 points this season as they extended their season-best win-streak to five games.
As they have been all season, they were led by LeBron James, who had 22 points, 11 assists, and eight rebounds to help the Lakers to a league-best 11-3 record. With a few highlight plays and another big stat line, James continues to make his case as the frontrunner for MVP.
LeBron is playing like the MVP
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Through 14 games, which in the compressed schedule nearly accounts for 20 percent of the season, LeBron James is the league MVP. While that may seem biased coming from a site that covers him, but it’s true. Certainly, there are other contenders for the award, such as Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and Denver’s Nikola Jokic to name a few. But Denver’s team is 6-6 and Embiid is putting up gaudy numbers, but LeBron’s incredible play right now and the control he has over the best team in the league make him the No. 1 contender. James’ per-game averages look pretty similar to what they usually look like: 24 points, eight rebounds, nearly eight assists. But in a season in which there was basically no offseason, James has not missed a game and is also shooting a monstrous 38.6% from the 3-point line on a career-high 6.4 attempts per night. That’s right, James is taking more and shooting them more efficiently than he has in each of the last five years. James is also doing this while playing a career-low 31.9 minutes per game. As it stands right now, LeBron’s per possession numbers in points and rebounds are even higher than they were last season. It’s also likely no coincidence that with James leading the crew, the Lakers appear to have some of the best chemistry in the NBA.
KCP = A shot of espresso for the Lakers
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It might go without saying after last year’s playoff run, but while the Lakers were winning without him, they’re clearly so much better with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. He’s their best wing and it’s not quite close. KCP had 16 points tonight and his perimeter defense was key in helping hold the Pelicans down after a good start. Unlike LeBron James or Anthony Davis, KCP probably won’t win any awards. But his presence on the Lakers takes them up to another gear on both ends. Both his lack of fear on the offensive end and his tenacity on the defensive end, as well as his ability to run in transition for both shots at the rim and 3-pointers, is an ideal fit next to LeBron. The Lakers figured that out last season, but maybe it’s time for KCP to be considered for an All-Defensive team, or at least a little more respect, after the level of play he has shown he can elevate the Lakers to at times.