LeBron James scored a small measure of revenge from June when his Los Angeles Lakers beat the two-time champion Golden State Warriors 123-113 in a preseason game in Las Vegas Wednesday.
While everyone understood that it was – after all – preseason, the game drew enough interest with some predicting that the Lakers-Warriors matchup could be a preview of the NBA Western Conference finals by the end of the year.
James’ Cleveland Cavaliers had fallen to the Warriors three times in the last four NBA Finals, including the last two in a row.
James only played 18 minutes, but pumped in 15 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and dished out five assists for a productive time on the court. Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 23 points, followed by Klay Thompson’s 20, while Kevin Durant added 18 points and 11 rebounds, the NBA noted.
But Warrior starters Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins sat out the game due to injuries, denying fans from getting a true head-to-head matchup against the buzziest teams in the league so far.
If fans were looking for who will help James in his quest to unseat the Warriors as NBA champions, they got a glimpse of Brandon Ingram, who scored 26 points while Kyle Kuzma added 22 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope chipped in 20 points as well.
Fans will get the see another test drive of the budding Lakers-Warriors rivalry when they play again Friday to wrap up the preseason, according to Bleacher Report. The Warriors will begin defense of their title against Oklahoma City on Tuesday while James and the Lakers travel to Portland on Thursday, per the website.
Lakers coach Luke Walton told the Los Angeles Times it will take a night-in, night-out effort for his team to reach the NBA finals, even with arguably the best player in the league.
“It takes effort and commitment,” Walton told the newspaper. “You have to want to play at that pace. We had a commitment from everyone on our team before training camp that that’s who we’re going to be. So obviously not every night’s going to look like that, but I think it was a good visual for the guys to see what we’re capable of.”
Durant told the Times that James is still the same force of nature as he was with Cleveland.
“No matter what jersey he’s got to put on there, same player, same feel for their game,” Durant said, per the Los Angeles Times. “It’s pretty cool for Lakers fans and West Coast fans to see LeBron out here on the west side. Deep culture of basketball here, especially in L.A., up and down the coast, pretty fun as a fan.”