Let’s help Frank Vogel out.
After the Lakers’ 114-104 win in San Antonio — the 17th game he’s been LeBron James’ head coach — Vogel kept using the same word over and over again.
“I’m gonna need a thesaurus or something,” Vogel said.
How are these? Astonishing. Impossible. Inconceivable. Incredible. Outlandish. Too much. Unimaginable.
Because after games like this, they all apply.
James finished with 33 points and 14 assists, continuing his assault on the league as he pushed the Lakers to 15-2, their best record to start a season since their title-winning 2008-09 season.
In the first half, it was brute force, James bullying his way into the paint toward the rim where the Spurs didn’t have a prayer of stopping him. He scored six in the first and 13 in the second, brushing his shoulders off after one basket as if to say the Spurs trying to stop him were a mere annoyance.
“That’s my game. I’m a physical player. I like to play physical,” James said. “But I also have a finesse side as well.”
Oh, the Spurs saw that too.
Showered with “MVP! MVP!” chants by a large contingent of Lakers fans at the AT&T Center, James put on a vintage performance against the Spurs.
Forced to respect James’ thrust toward the basket, San Antonio’s defense began to sag, opening things up for James as a shooter and a playmaker.
“Every quarter is its own game for me. I read and react to the quarter — see what’s going on. Some quarters it’s a physical game going downhill. Some quarters I start going to the perimeter. Sometimes I go to the midrange. Sometimes I go to the post,” James said. “Just for me, every quarter is its own game and you just try to read and react and not predetermine what you’re going to do.”
Physically rested from the summer and as mentally sharp as ever, James again insisted that he’s never felt better on the court. And the numbers? They back that up.
In Season 17, he’s averaging 25.6 points, 11.0 assists and 7.4 rebounds — numbers only James Harden and Oscar Robertson have ever been able to replicate.
“He was unbelievable,” Vogel said. “I gave him opportunities to get a quick blow around timeouts if he wanted to, but he said he was good and fresh. He dominated the action. He was quarterbacking us on the defensive end and made every play offensively.
“The guy is unbelievable.”
James’ heroics were well-timed.
One game before the Lakers play the Pelicans in Anthony Davis’ highly anticipated return to New Orleans, the big man struggled early, his own offense faltering while his cover, LaMarcus Aldridge, torched the defense.
But Davis didn’t relent, grabbing a key offensive rebound right before halftime that led to a Kentavious Caldwell-Pope three right at the buzzer that gave the Lakers some momentum heading into the third. And with the defense fully fixated on James in the second half, Davis broke loose, scoring 15 of his 19 points in the final two quarters.
“I still try to impact the game, not just on the offensive end but on the defensive end as well,” Davis said. “Do some of the other things as well, especially when the shot isn’t falling. Just make sure my presence is still felt out on the floor.”
Four other Lakers joined Davis and James in double figures scoring including Rajon Rondo and Troy Daniels, who combined to make all six of their three-point attempts.
“We have a lot of options. We have a lot of guys that can make shots,” James said. “But at the end of the day, when we put the ball on the ground, we attract eyes. And when you attract eyes, you’ve got numbers on the weak side, and you want to pass up a good shot to get a great shot.”
The great shots were paired with the Lakers tightening their defense late in the game, allowing James to walk off the floor to the serenades of “M-V-P, M-V-P.”
They could’ve said “unbelievable” too.
We know the Lakers coach would agree.