LeBron James led the LA Lakers to a 110-100 win over the Houston Rockets on Friday morning–one game shy of heading into his ninth conference finals.
Lakers coasted through the first three quarters of the game but needed James’ passing and leadership to hold off the Rockets, who at a stage cut a 23-point lead to six points. The win is James 163rd playoff victory – an NBA-playoffs record.
After the victory that gave the Lakers a 2-1 series lead, Lakers’ coach, Frank Vogel, said, “The lift [James] gives us with superhero plays, you can’t really put it into words.”
He was not very good on Thursday but still had 15 points, 16 rebounds, and nine assists to lead his team to a win and a 3-1 lead, needing just one more game of making it into his ninth conference final since 2003 when the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted him straight from High School.
In the post-match interview, James said, “Obviously we have to be better–to close out games the right way. We got a big lead, we’ve got to be able to continue to defend, to put pressure on their defence and not allow them to get back into the game like we did.
“We started to give up some threes; we started to give up some fouls in the backcourt and allowed them to score without the time running.”
He however promised that the Lakers will be better in game five because, as he said, “it is still a learning experience for some of our guys.” James particularly spoke of Anthony Caruso, playing in his first playoffs, who shot a game-defining three in the last minute and knocked the ball from the hands of Russell Westbrook in the next play.
“AC [Caruso] really grew today,” reflected James. This is AC’s ninth playoff game, and he is growing. Caruso scored 16 points, despite playing just 30 minutes.
Game 5 is scheduled for Sunday.