LeBron James already had his triple-double and he knew how close his young teammate Lonzo Ball was. So as he left the game after the third quarter, he pulled Ball aside and told him to look up.
On the scoreboard, Ball saw just how close he was to a triple-double. He needed three rebounds and two assists.
“Go get it,” James told him.
So Ball did.
“Ever since he got here it’s been a dream come true for me,” Ball said of James. “I watched him my whole life; he was my idol growing up. Then we both get a triple-double in the same game. I don’t even know if I dreamed of that before.”
The Lakers made a little bit of history en route to a 128-100 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night. James and Ball became the first set of Lakers since Jan. 22, 1982, to earn triple-doubles in the same game.
The two who did it then? Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
The Lakers (18-11) led the Hornets (14-15) by as many as 36 points.
James finished with 24 points on seven-for-15 shooting and eight of 12 free throws. He had 12 rebounds and 11 assists, and did not play in the fourth quarter. Ball finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, in one of his most complete games as an NBA player. It was James’ 75th career triple-double and Ball’s third.
“We’re one and the same when it comes to our playmaking ability,” James said. “We’re always looking for our teammates and that’s the greatest satisfaction we can have when we see our teammates score the ball. We’ve always been pretty good rebounders for our position, him at the guard spot, me at the forward spot. And then being able to put the ball in the hole as well. We just try to be aggressive, attack the rim, make shots from the outside when guys disrespect us and we showed all of that tonight.”
Tired after an overtime loss to the New York Knicks on Friday night, the Hornets found themselves in an early hole. With 2 minutes 37 seconds left in the first quarter, the Lakers had an 11 point lead and an 11-0 advantage over the Hornets in fastbreak points.
James scored 12 points during the period. JaVale McGee, who spent the day being administered an IV drip because of flu-like symptoms, scored eight points in the first quarter, making all four of his shots.
The Lakers led by seven points at halftime, but blew the game open in the third quarter when they outscored Charlotte 40-17. At that point, Charlotte point guard Kemba Walker had made only two of 13 shots and none of his five three-point attempts. Ball’s defense was a big part of that.
“He kept himself engaged and played aggressive throughout,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said of Ball.
James secured his triple-double with an assist to Lance Stephenson in the third quarter. Stephenson made a three-point basket after taking a pass from James and then played an air guitar in the direction of rookie Miles Bridges, drawing a technical foul.
“Miles challenged me, so I just showed him, like man, I’m confident,” Stephenson said. “Just a little fun. I worked with him during the summer, we worked out at the same place. So we know each other a little bit.”
Stephenson said “of course” when asked whether he planned to continue his air guitar celebration.
Ball secured his triple-double with his 10th rebound, which came when he tipped in a miss by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
“He was very special tonight,” James said of Ball.
The Lakers also got double-digit scoring contributions from Kyle Kuzma, McGee, Caldwell-Pope, Stephenson and rookie Svi Mykhailiuk, to whom Ball’s final two assists went.
Two triple-doubles by teammates in the same game have happened only eight times in the NBA. The last time had been 2007, when Vince Carter and Jason Kidd had triple-doubles for the New Jersey Nets.