North Carolina

James pours in 43 as Lakers hold off Hornets, 121-115

By STEVE REED – AP sportswriter

CHARLOTTE, NC (AP) — LeBron James has been making big leaps lately to break Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s career mark.

James scored 43 points to get close to the NBA-record 500, and the Los Angeles Lakers avenged last month’s home loss to the Charlotte Hornets with a 121-115 win Monday night.

James had two dunks on alley-oops, including a high-flying reverse windmill slam off a feed from Dennis Schroder to take his career 37,903 points. That put him 484 behind Abdul-Jabbar’s long-standing record of 38,387.

Thomas Bryant had 18 points and 15 rebounds, and Austin Reaves and Schroder had 15 points each as the Lakers (16-21) finished a 3-2 road trip.

“We just had this attitude to complete this journey the right way,” said James.

Terry Rozier had 27 points to lead the Hornets, who have lost 13 of their last 16 games. LaMelo Ball added 24 points and Mason Plumlee had 18 points and 14 rebounds for Charlotte.

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The Hornets (10-28) beat the Lakers 134-130 on December 23.

James, who was struggling with sore ankles, was at his best in the game, adding 11 rebounds and six assists to go 47-7 against owner Michael Jordan’s Hornets.

James picked up where he left off in December when he averaged 31.2 points in 14 games, including a 47-point performance on Friday night on his 38th birthday against the Atlanta Hawks.

He was 16th of 26 out of the field on Monday and had 23 points in the second half.

Lakers coach Darvin Ham called it “just another great night” for James.

“I just think he’s taking his time and really looking at what the defense are trying to do to him,” Ham said. “There were times when he had to be a willing passer and he was just that. If he wanted to attack them downhill, he’d do his 3-ball, get out and run into the transition. There were different ways he attacks and again they had a couple of possessions where they tried blitzing him. He finds the open man and makes plays for other guys and that forces the defense to play behind us.

The Lakers used a 14-0 run to open the second quarter and build a 15-point lead at halftime. James started taking over in the third, scoring on drives, dunks and mid-range jumpers — he was 0 for 5 from 3-point range — and helping the Lakers extend their lead to 24.

James wouldn’t say if the dunk was one of the best of his career, but it got the Spectrum Center crowd – packed with Lakers fans – on their feet.

“It’s always good to come out at the break,” James said. “The pass always sets the great highlights and I was able to bring it home in a stylish way.”

The Hornets got a big spark late from Rozier, who had 17 points in the fourth quarter, to reduce the lead to 117-113 in the final minute. But then James took four free throws on the stretch to seal the win.

Rozier said the Hornets needed to start faster.

“We’re playing against the best players in the world and you can’t just turn it on whenever you want,” he said. “We have a lot of talent but we’re not disciplined and stuff. It kind of puts us in the background so we have to clean it up from the start and play with that heaviness, the jitters from the start and can’t wait.”

Gordon Hayward, who has struggled all season and missed games with a shoulder injury, retired in the second half with a left thigh injury. His status is expected to be updated on Tuesday.

Lakers: Passed the Hornets 53-47.

Hornets: Dennis Smith Jr. was returning from an ankle injury that had kept him out since Nov. 23. On one occasion he tried to dive over James but the ball slipped out of his hands. James was called out for a foul. … Ball picked up a technical foul for arguing a call while on the bench.

Lakers: Return home to host Miami on Wednesday night.

Hornets: Complete a four-game homestand against Memphis on Wednesday night.

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