LeBron James scored a season-high 40 points as the Los Angeles Lakers ended their four-game losing run against the Oklahoma City Thunder, then hailed a big win for a team which had found themselves in "desperate times".
The Lakers struggled for form in the aftermath of winning the inaugural NBA in-season tournament earlier this month, losing four in a row ahead of Saturday's trip to Paycom Center.
That slide led Anthony Davis to describe the game as a "must win" for the Lakers, and they held off a late Thunder resurgence to improve to 16-14 with a 129-120 triumph,
James was 13 of 20 from the field throughout a dominant performance, hitting five three-pointers without missing while also adding seven rebounds and seven assists.
Speaking after the game, the NBA's all-time leading scorer said: "We needed this win. We didn't want to end the road trip on a losing effort.
"We came here on a tough back-to-back, started the game well then just lost energy, ran out of steam.
"This was one of the first must-win games of the season for us. We understand how well this team had been playing, but we were able to play a really good game."
On his own 40-point haul, the 75th of his storied career, James said: "It helped us get this win versus a good team in the Western Conference, one that we really needed.
75th 40 point game for LeBron— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) December 24, 2023
"We were desperate for this win and desperate times call for desperate measures.
"To know I can go out and still make game-winning plays, can affect the game in multiple ways and can still close out a game in the fourth quarter when our team needed it… it's always a good feeling, for sure."
The Thunder had trailed by 26 points but cut that deficit to eight midway through the fourth quarter, only for James to score 11 points in the final four minutes and 30 seconds to get Los Angeles over the line.
The result dropped the Thunder to 18-9, though they still sit third in the Western Conference and coach Mark Daigneault expects them to learn from the defeat.
"They came out like a team that was desperate for a win," Daigneault said of the Lakers. "I didn't think we came out poor or sloppy or soft or anything like that.
"We just didn't amp it up to the level that we needed to, in that first half especially. We allowed them to get into a groove.
"I thought that was really the game right there. So it's a good lesson for us."
LeBron’s other Christmas Day ranks:— NBA History (@NBAHistory) December 23, 2023
- Points (1st)
- Rebounds (8th)
- Assists (2nd)
- Blocks (9th)
- Steals (2nd)
- Fields Goals Made (1st)
- Threes Made (2nd)
- Free Throws Made (3rd)
- Games Played (1st) https://t.co/gXl6KN0quE