LeBron scores 38 in Ohio return, Lakers crush Cavs 131-120

Tom Withers
AP Sports Writer

Cleveland – LeBron James scored 38 points, notched another triple-double and sparked memories of his time in Cleveland, leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a 131-120 win Monday over the Cavaliers, who had a horrid defensive night.

It was James’ only visit home this season – other than the All-Star Game last month – and the star from nearby Akron thrilled fans who warmly welcomed him back. James played 11 seasons in two stints with the Cavs, trying to get back to the playoffs for the first time since he left in 2018.

Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James (6) shoots against Cleveland Cavaliers' Lauri Markkanen during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, March 21, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

James added 10 rebounds and 12 assists for his 105th career triple-double and sixth this season. He’s trying to keep the Lakers in the postseason picture in what to this point has been a disappointing season.

Russell Westbrook and D.J. Augustin added 20 points apiece for the Lakers, who came in tied for ninth in the Western Conference.

Darius Garland scored 29 and added 17 assists for Cleveland, which came in leading Toronto by one game for the No. 6 spot in the East. The Cavs will play the Raptors on Thursday night.

James scored five points as the Lakers opened the fourth quarter with a 12-2 run to go up by nine. Cleveland was still within striking distance when James, as he has done so many times to so many teams before, put the Cavs away with a dunk and jumper in the final 2:34.

After his postgame TV interview, James left slapping hands with fans on his way to the locker room.

James improved to 17-1 in games against the Cavs. He has averaged 29.6 points against Cleveland – his most against any opponent.

The four-time MVP and champion was cheered from the moment he ran onto the floor for warmups. He received a huge ovation during player introductions and again in a first-quarter timeout when the Cavs saluted him for becoming the No. 2 scorer in league history.

James waved, patted his heart, put his hands together as if in prayer and bowed toward the Cleveland fans, which witnessed some familiar sights – his pregame chalk toss, signature fadeaways and one of those towering dunks only he can deliver.

James came home second on the scoring list after passing Karl Malone on Saturday night in Washington with a 38-point performance. There had been speculation he would sit out against the Wizards to rest his sore left knee, so he could move behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in his latest homecoming.

But despite the Lakers’ struggles, James remains dedicated and committed – even at the age of 37.

Coach Frank Vogel finds that inspiring.

“He legit wants to be out there every night,” Vogel said. “For him to be that way in his 19th year is something this league needs.”

Tip-ins

Lakers: Stanley Johnson scored all of his points in the fourth. … Anthony Davis, out since Feb. 16 with a foot sprain, got in an extended pregame workout on the floor. It’s still unclear when – or if – he’ll back back this season. … G Talen Horton-Tucker (left ankle sprain) sat out for the second time in three games. He went 0 of 5 in 17 scoreless in minutes at Washington.

Cavaliers: All-Star center Jarrett Allen (broken finger) missed his eighth straight game. Allen is second in the NBA with a .677 field goal percentage and has enough makes to qualify for the season-ending leaders … G Rajon Rondo (sprained ankle) and F Dean Wade (knee soreness) were inactive for their fifth games in a row.

Up next

Lakers: Host Philadelphia on Wednesday night.

Cavaliers: Visit Toronto on Thursday night.