LeBron James has proven he still has plenty of gas left in the tank in his 17th NBA season, even on the defensive end.
James keyed the Los Angeles Lakers to a 3-1 lead in the NBA Western Conference finals against the Denver Nuggets by locking down the red-hot Jamal Murray in the closing minutes of Game 4.
The four-time NBA MVP prevented Murray from scoring a field goal in the last 6 minutes as the Lakers moved one win away from reaching the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010.
“I knew it was winning time and Jamal had it going. The kid is special,” James said after the game.
“For me, it was just trusting my defensive keys, my study of film, trusting the personnel, and living with the results.”
“I told my teammates that I had him and everyone else kind of stayed at bay, stayed home, and I was able to get a couple of stops.”
Prior to James picking him up, Murray was on the verge of leading the Nuggets to a comeback as he sank one difficult shot after the other.
Murray hit an out-of-balanced runner over Anthony Davis and buried a left-handed floater over Rajon Rondo to cut the Nuggets’ deficit to a single possession, 94-97, with more than 6 minutes remaining.
But that was the last time Murray, who finished with 32 points, scored a field goal as he missed his last 3 shot attempts with James taking on the challenge to defend him.
James also knocked down key buckets down the stretch, including 4 free throws in the final two minutes to lead the Lakers to the 114-108 win.
“LeBron asked for the assignment, and obviously, I granted it. He did a great job down the stretch trying to contain [Murray] one-on-one,” said Lakers head coach Frank Vogel.
“Murray had a great night. Nothing was really working in terms of trying to slow him down until Bron took that assignment.”
James churned out a near triple-double of 26 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists in 38 minutes of play – his most since Game 2 of the Lakers’ second-round clash against the Houston Rockets.
“I’m on the floor, I give it all I got. It was winning time and I do not have a chance or time to be feeling tired. I’m tired now.” James said.
“When the zeroes hit the clock, that is when I’m tired.” Rappler.com