LOS ANGELES — LeBron James absorbed contact and tumbled to the court while his fifth 3-pointer in a three-minute span dropped through the net. The Los Angeles Lakers’ entire roster left the bench and crossed the court, gleefully picking up their leader while a sellout crowd roared.
Nine days after Kobe Bryant’s death, the Lakers finally had an evening that felt like a return to normalcy.
Well, as normal as anything can be when King James is performing feats of basketball brilliance.
James scored 19 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter with that incredible 3-point barrage, propelling the Lakers to a 129-102 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night.
James added nine assists and seven rebounds, while Anthony Davis and Kyle Kuzma had 18 points apiece as the Lakers beat San Antonio for the third time, sweeping the season series.
After the Spurs chipped away at the Lakers’ big lead late in the third quarter, James and Kuzma put the game away with a combined seven 3-pointers in 3 1/2 minutes to start the fourth. James’ shots seemed to increase in difficulty with each possession, but he buried them all.
“When the guy gets hot like that, it’s always fun to watch him,” Davis said, laughing at the Lakers’ group celebration after the final 3. “It wasn’t the plan. We all just kind of ran over there and jumped on him.”
The Lakers Returned to a Semblance of Normalcy
DeMar DeRozan had 28 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in his hometown for the Spurs, who have lost five of seven.
When asked what the Spurs can do when James gets rolling, coach Gregg Popovich quipped: “Make sure you get good pictures.”
Bryn Forbes added 13 points, but one night after the Spurs blew a late lead in a three-point loss to the Clippers, they returned to Staples Center and fell to 0-2 at the start of San Antonio’s eight-game road trip while a rodeo occupies AT&T Center.
“As a competitor, it’s what you want to play against,” DeRozan said of the LA back-to-back. “I don’t look at it like it’s being tough. It’s part of the job, part of the game, and as a competitor you want to compete against the best. You worry about the toll afterwards.”
The Lakers returned to a semblance of normalcy at Staples Center in their first home game since their emotionally charged return last Friday for their first game following Bryant’s death.
Bryant’s two retired jerseys still remain isolated in a spotlight on the wall high above the court, and the Lakers crowd broke into a spontaneous chant of “Kobe! Kobe!” in the third quarter, and the chant returned in the final seconds of the game.
Spurs: They don’t return home until Feb. 26. … Dejounte Murray scored 12 points.
Lakers: JaVale McGee had 14 points. … James was asked about the analytics theory that a hot hand doesn’t exist: “I guarantee the analytics person or people has never ever been in a zone in their life.”
Thinking of Kobe
Before the game, Popovich gave a stirring answer to a question about Bryant’s place in the game. The U.S. Olympic team assistant coach said Bryant “was special to all of us in different ways. … He was like a superhero who was actually human. There aren’t any superheroes that are really human, but we kind of thought of him as one of those kind of people.”
“When somebody’s sick for a long time and you expect it, you deal with that. But when somebody is taken the way that he and his daughter and all the other people were taken, that makes it a tragedy and more painful in some ways,” Popovich said.
Kuzma, the subject of numerous trade rumors with the deadline approaching, added 12 rebounds in one of his most impressive recent performances. Lakers coach Frank Vogel said the third-year pro “just had a little extra pop the last few games, and it showed up in the mindset to play hard.”
Kuzma professed ignorance of the trade deadline looming Thursday, saying he has grown immune to the constant speculation about his future throughout his LA career.
“Kobe would always tell me, ‘If they’re not talking about you, you should be worried,’” Kuzma said. “And I’m the talk of the town, so …”
Dwight Howard had 12 points and 11 rebounds while shooting 5 for 5 in another strong all-around performance for the Lakers.
“I didn’t get a chance to tell him how appreciative I was for our time together, how thankful I was,” Howard said of Bryant, his teammate with the Lakers in the tumultuous 2012-13 season. “That was pretty hard for me. I took it pretty hard. … It still doesn’t even seem real.”
Spurs: Visit the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday.
Lakers: Host the Houston Rockets on Thursday.