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LeBron James carrying heavy burden for Lakers, and it is getting them nowhere

Lakers forward LeBron James gestures as he walks away from a timeout followed by center Dwight Howard.
Lakers forward LeBron James gestures as he walks away from a timeout followed by center Dwight Howard in the second half against the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday in Memphis.
(Nikki Boertman / Associated Press)
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LeBron James had his hat covering his eyes and a hoodie covering his hat. Rarely did he look up while talking to the media postgame Wednesday, the microphone in his left hand mostly dangling before James answered a question about yet another Lakers defeat.

His voice was low and his answers were to the point. He did not expand the way he normally does after a game.

Whether he was frustrated or not about the Lakers blowing a 14-point lead, about them scoring only 16 points in the fourth quarter or about them dropping two games under .500 (17-19), James didn’t say.

It was as if he were devoid of emotions after the Lakers lost at Memphis 104-99 and were carved up by Ja Morant’s brilliance of 41 points and 10 assists.

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James had given his all once more, delivering 37 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.

Still, it was not enough for a Lakers team whose players are still trying to build trust in one another.

“We’ll watch the film and get better, you know,” James said on Zoom from Memphis. “Gotta continue to get better and continue to work.”

LeBron James is slowly declining from his career statistical peaks, but the Lakers star is closing in on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s NBA scoring record.

James is carrying a heavy burden for the Lakers, and it is getting them nowhere.

It was the sixth straight game in which he has scored 30 points or more, but the Lakers are just 1-5 in those games. He has logged at least 34 minutes per game during that stretch.

And where has that left the Lakers?

They are the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

“Just lost a game that we could have won, obviously,” James said. “But we learn from our mistakes and get better next game.”

When Russell Westbrook entered for his postgame interview, his third straight triple-double in the books — 16 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds to go along with five turnovers — he frequently pecked at his cellphone.

He mostly looked down when asked questions about the Lakers and his answers were short.

“You know, nobody likes to lose,” Westbrook said.

He was asked about the Lakers still trying to build that trust.

“Um, you know, I think we’re getting there,” Westbrook said.

This was the Lakers’ 20th different starting lineup in 36 games. How difficult does that make things, Westbrook was asked.

“Yeah, you’ve got to figure it out,” he said. “It’s as simple as that. Ain’t nothing you can really say about it but that.”

Westbrook was asked how he and James can get more help after the pair continues to put up numbers.

“I’m not sure,” Westbrook said. “I don’t know.”

Malik Monk let his frustrations show during his postgame interviews by swearing.

He had scored 15 points and was willing to admit the losing is getting old.

“We’ve been doing this all year, man,” Monk said. “And we know. We know what it takes. That’s why it’s so frustrating for us. But yeah, man. We just got to be locked in as a whole together and I think we’ll be all right.”

Lakers assistant coach David Fizdale couldn’t hide his disgust about his team’s plight, especially how it scored only 16 points in the fourth quarter.

Lakers star LeBron James is still dominating at age 37. Is he really 120 games away from breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s NBA all-time scoring record?

When asked about the poor offensive execution in the fourth, Fizdale, who is in charge while Lakers head coach Frank Vogel remains in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, let out a “yee-uchhh.”

“It was a lack of energy and effort put into making them work defensively,” Fizdale said. “It turned into stand-around-and-watch. And you let a defense like Memphis stand and watch, the way that they get after it and turn you over and protect the paint, you will get a 16-point quarter. I mean, coming off a 29-point [third] quarter, ball movement, sharing it, good things happening, we just for whatever reason, we ran out of offensive energy.”

Up next for the Lakers: Friday vs. Portland

When: 7:30 p.m.

On Air: TV — Spectrum SportsNet; 710, 1330.

UPDATE: The Lakers start a five-game homestand against the struggling Trail Blazers. Portland has lost three consecutive games and eight of its last 10. The Trail Blazers give up 111.9 points per game, ranking them 26h in the NBA, and teams shoot 47.8% from the field against them, ranking 30th in the league. Guard Damian Lillard leads the team in scoring (24.2) and assists (7.3).

Turner reported from Los Angeles.


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