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LeBron James makes NBA history in Lakers’ win over Thunder

Lakers’ LeBron James dunks during the first half against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday at Staples Center.
Lakers’ LeBron James dunks during the first half against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday at Staples Center.
(Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press)

LeBron James surveyed the scene, a wry smile on his face during a game in which he would make history again.

He looked to his left at fans sitting courtside, then he looked down at the court.

A bucket of popcorn had spilled over from the courtside seats.

James waited to make sure no kernels remained while teammate Kentavious Caldwell-Pope helped kick the debris off the court. Moments later, James dished out his ninth assist. Then a second popcorn spill stopped the game, and after that James got his 10th assist.

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Considering that little has been able to stop James this season, the snack certainly didn’t stand a chance.

On Tuesday night, James became the first player to produce a triple-double against all 30 NBA teams. He did it during the Lakers’ 112-107 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder during which his team needed every bit of his closing effort.

Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) slams over Oklahoma City Thunder center Nerlens Noel (9) during second half action at Staples Center on Tuesday.
Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) slams over Oklahoma City Thunder center Nerlens Noel (9) during second half action at Staples Center on Tuesday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

“I really don’t know what to think about it to be honest,” James said. “I’ve had some great teammates and great coaches to put me in a position to be able to facilitate. My teammates have made shots for me throughout my career. Coaches have put me in position to be successful scoring the ball. I was just trying to read and react to the ball off the rim as far as getting rebounds. And hopefully throughout all those triple-doubles I have a winning record in those games.”

Russell Westbrook is on James’ heels. The former Thunder star has triple-doubles against 29 teams — every team except Oklahoma City. Lakers assistant Jason Kidd had triple-doubles against 28 teams.

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On Tuesday night, James finished with 25 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Anthony Davis scored 34 points, 30 of them through three quarters. Caldwell-Pope had 13 points, four rebounds and two assists, the team’s third-leading scorer in the game. The Lakers improved to 12-2, the best record in the NBA.

The Thunder were led by Dennis Schroder, who scored 31 points. Schroder confounded the Lakers defense for three quarters, but didn’t score in the fourth quarter.

In many ways, Lakers point guard Rajon Rondo was on his game Tuesday against the Thunder, with well-executed lops as well as behind-the-back, no-look passes.

“We can be better defensively,” Davis said. “We kind of took a hit when Avery [Bradley] went down. We’re kind of trying to find a new identity on defense without our key defensive guy out there, but still been able to win games.”

It was the second game in a row in which the Lakers faced an opponent on the second night of consecutive games. Unlike the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday, the Thunder put up a fight.

In the first quarter, the Lakers took advantage of eight turnovers that led to 18 points, and four of those turnovers were committed by Schroder.

Schroder’s third turnover gave James an opportunity to show off a bit. James got in the way of a pass by Schroder, which then deflected to Davis. Davis tipped the ball back to James, who walked up the court with it. He looked back at Schroder before running to the basket for a two-handed dunk.

After one quarter the Lakers led by five and by 10 at halftime.

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Lakers center JaVale McGee (7) takes the ball off his face while battling Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (12) for a first half rebound at Staples Center on Tuesday.
Lakers center JaVale McGee (7) takes the ball off his face while battling Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (12) for a first half rebound at Staples Center on Tuesday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Although Schroder’s turnovers were part of the reason the Lakers had the lead, his scoring helped keep the game close. After three quarters, he had 31 points, only one more than Davis.

James didn’t like his own start. At halftime he had 13 points, four assists and five rebounds, but had four turnovers, three of them in the first quarter. On Sunday against Atlanta, James had 12 assists and no turnovers, so the seven he acquired on Tuesday night irked him.

In fact, when coach Frank Vogel congratulated James after the game, James thought Vogel was teasing him for his uncharacteristically high number of turnovers.

Vogel’s salutation, though, was sincere. He was asked how long James can keep this up.

“Who knows?” Vogel said. “We’ll continue to watch it and see. Hopefully, for a long, long time for Lakers fans.

“He’s just playing terrific basketball. There’s no other way to put it. For him to be doing it in his 17th year is nothing short of remarkable.”


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