LOS ANGELES: LeBron James continued to close in on the NBA’s all-time scoring record as the Los Angeles Lakers pulled out a thrilling 112-111 victory over Indiana on Thursday.
James, who entered the game needing 89 points to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the league’s all-time leading scorer, put up 26 points.
He now needs 63 to surpass Abdul-Jabbar — who has held the record since before James was born.
The Lakers had trailed all night when James’s three-pointer gave them their first lead of the contest with 2:35 to play. Teammate Anthony Davis put them up 112-111 with 35.3 seconds remaining and followed up with a big block on Tyrese Haliburton as the Lakers escaped with the win.
It wasn’t the only drama on a night that saw Cleveland’s Donovan Mitchell and Memphis’ Dillon Brooks ejected after brawling in the third quarter of the Cavaliers’ 128-113 home victory.
In Indianapolis, the Lakers looked headed for another disappointing defeat until a 21-10 run to open the fourth quarter.
Davis led the Lakers with 31 points and 14 rebounds.
Haliburton, back in action after a three-week injury absence, led the Pacers with 26 points and 12 assists.
But his drive to the basket with 16.5 seconds left was thwarted by Davis, who swatted the ball away.
“I just tried to stay on his body and make him shoot over the top,” Davis said. “I saw when he left the ground, he had to shoot it so I just timed it.”
Lakers coach Darvin Ham wasn’t surprised, saying that when Davis is playing pain free he’s “one of the more elite defenders in our league.”
But there’s no doubt the spotlight now is on James. Averaging more than 30 points per game, James is likely to break Abdul-Jabbar’s mark sometime next week. The Lakers close out their road trip Saturday at New Orleans then host Oklahoma City on Tuesday and the Milwaukee Bucks next Thursday.
He said a 63-point game wasn’t out of the question, although he made no promises or predictions for Saturday.
Whenever the record does fall, James is acutely aware of the significance.
“I grew up being a historian of all sports,” James said, adding that while Abdul-Jabbar’s total of 38,387 points hasn’t been a number that stuck in his head “I know it’s been Kareem my whole life.
“It’s pretty cool,” he added of a record he likened in importance to the career home run record in baseball.
“I think it’s one of the greatest records in sports in general,” James said. “It’s one of those records you don’t ever think will be broken.”
Things turned ugly in Cleveland, where All-Star Cavs guard Mitchell was enraged when Grizzlies guard Brooks, sprawled on the court after missing a shot, flung a hand up and hit Mitchell in the groin.
Mitchell threw the ball at Brooks, shoved him and finally wrestled him to the floor before both players were restrained.
Mitchell, who was enduring a tough night in which he connected on two of 11 shots from the floor, was cheered as he departed for the locker room.
Darius Garland picked up the slack, scoring 32 points and handing out 11 assists for Cleveland, who pushed their lead to as many as 22 points in the fourth quarter.
Desmond Bane scored 25 points for Memphis and Ja Morant added 24, but the Grizzlies dropped their seventh decision in eight games.
In New York, RJ Barrett scored 30 points to lead the Knicks in a 106-104 victory over the Miami Heat.
Barrett, who was benched in the fourth quarter of the Knicks’ overtime loss to the Lakers on Tuesday, rebounded with a vengeance. He grabbed eight rebounds and handed off four assists and the Knicks secured the needed win when Tyler Herro’s three-point attempt as time expired failed to fall.
Julius Randle scored 19 of his 23 points in the first half for the Knicks, who moved a game behind the Heat for sixth place in the East — the last guaranteed playoff spot.