LeBron James' 37 points help Lakers beat Hornets and LaMelo Ball

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James grabs a rebound against the Charlotte Hornets during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, March 18, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Lakers forward LeBron James grabs a rebound against the Hornets on Thursday night at Staples Center. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

In the Lakers' fourth game since the All-Star break, LeBron James took a different route to deliver the Lakers another victory.

This time, James became the offensive force, scoring 37 points to help the Lakers pull out a 116-105 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday night at Staples Center.

James still played his typical all-around game, producing eight rebounds, six assists, one steal and one blocked shot to lead the Lakers to their fourth consecutive win.

Charlotte rookie point guard LaMelo Ball did not disappoint in his return home for the first time since being drafted No. 3 overall last fall.

Ball, a 19-year-old who attended Chino Hills High and won a state championship with his two older brothers in 2016, had 26 points, seven assists and five rebounds.

In the Lakers' previous three games, James was more of a facilitator, handing out double-digit assists in those victories.

But James was in attack mode against the Hornets, shooting 14 of 22 from the field and four of nine from three-point range.

“He knew we were playing against a switching team, a zone defensive type of team, probably not going to be as much ball movement against a switch-type-of-defense as we saw last couple of games where we had 36, 37 assists,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said about James.

“I thought he was ultra-aggressive trying to score the ball and particularly shooting the ball over the top in that first half. He set a tone for us.”

After the game was over, Ball embraced James immediately before working his way to the rest of the Lakers before they headed to their locker rooms.

“Definitely felt good playing out here,” Ball said while wearing a Dodgers cap in his videoconference. “It felt good, but not too good because we didn’t get the win. The whole team knows we can compete. We all know what we can do. It’s just about putting it together and playing hard.”

Ball started slowly, finishing the first half with only six points on two-of-eight shooting from the field, missing both of his three-pointers. He had four rebounds and two assists.

He made eight of 10 shots in the second half, sinking two of his three long-range shots.

“I think he’s damn good to be his age,“ James said of Ball. “His speed, his quickness, his ability to make shots at all facets in the paint, floaters, threes, and he’s going to only get better. Every game is a learning experience for him. Him and Zo are two just very unique players in our league, and they showcase that every night."

Dennis Schroder was the only other starter in double figures for the Lakers. He finished with 22 points, seven assists and a steal for the Lakers, who got their usual boost from their reserves.

Kyle Kuzma and Talen Horton-Tucker each had 12 points off the bench, combining to shoot nine of 21 from the field. Kuzma made four of 10 three-pointers.

Backup center Montrezl Harrell contributed seven points and 11 rebounds, five of those coming on the offensive glass.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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