June 23, 2024

The Lakers are slowly starting to become whole, the return of versatile defender Jarred Vanderbilt, up-and-coming defender Cam Reddish and active big man Jaxson Hayes three more pieces to their puzzle.

Vanderbilt sat out the start of the season while recovering from a left heel injury he suffered in the first preseason game against the Golden State Warriors on Oct. 7, while Reddish had sat out four of the last five games because of groin soreness and Hayes had sat out the last game because of left elbow soreness.

But even with the three of them back, the most excitement the crowd at Crypto.com Arena experienced was yet another highlight from ageless wonder LeBron James during the Lakers’ 107-97 win over the Houston Rockets on Saturday night.

James, 38 and in his 21st season, thrilled the crowd with an amazing move in the second quarter, spinning baseline around Tari Eason and then making a 360-degree spin around Jeff Green for a layup.

The Lakers on the bench were so caught by the moment that they had their mouths open, eyes wide and hands on their heads. They also stepped on the court while celebrating, causing Christian Wood to be hit with a technical foul.

“I was happy I was able to bring it home, that’s for sure,” said James, who finished with 16 points and seven rebounds. “The fans got into it. The crowd got into it and our bench got into it. Got us a technical, but we’ll take it. We’ll take that one.”

1

Lakers star LeBron James reacts after a slam dunk by Lakers teammate Anthony Davis against the Houston Rockets.

2

Lakers guard Max Christie drives to the basket against Houston Rockets center Jock Landale in the fourth quarter.

3

Lakers forward Anthony Davis battles Houston Rockets forward Jabari Smith Jr. for a rebound in the first half.

4

Lakers guard Max Christie ties up Rockets forward Jabari Smith Jr., allowing Lakers forward Taurean Prince to grab a rebound.

1. Lakers guard Max Christie drives to the basket against Houston Rockets center Jock Landale in the fourth quarter. 2. Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) battles Houston Rockets forward Jabari Smith Jr. (10) for a rebound in the first half. 3. Lakers guard Max Christie (10) ties up Rockets forward Jabari Smith Jr. (10), allowing Lakers forward Taurean Prince (12) to grab a defensive rebound in the first half. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The Lakers rolled on, looking nothing like a tired team that was playing its fifth game in seven days.

That’s because Anthony Davis produced his 17th double-double of the season (27 points and 14 rebounds plus five blocked shots), Austin Reaves scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half, and James had 16 points, seven assists and four rebounds.

Vanderbilt played 14 minutes but didn’t score, missing his two shots. He did have four rebounds. Reddish started and played 24 minutes, finishing with 11 points and five rebounds, while Hayes had two points, those coming on a lob dunk off a pass from James.

Rui Hachimura was available to play but did not because the Lakers were being cautious with the forward after his recent nasal surgery.

1

Lakers forward Anthony Davis is elbowed in the face by Houston Rockets guard Jalen Green.

2

Lakers star LeBron James drives to the basket to score in front of Houston Rockets forward Jabari Smith Jr. in the second quarter.

3

LeBron James drives to the basket to score in front of Houston Rockets forwards Jeff Green (32) and Tari Eason.

1. Lakers forward Anthony Davis is elbowed in the face by Houston Rockets guard Jalen Green during the first quarter Saturday. 2. Lakers star LeBron James drives to the basket to score in front of Houston Rockets forward Jabari Smith Jr. in the second quarter. 3. LeBron James drives to the basket to score in front of Houston Rockets forwards Jeff Green (32) and Tari Eason in the second quarter. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The game in which the Lakers once led by 19 points turned chippy in the fourth quarter.

It began when Reddish and Eason exchanged words after the Lakers forward fouled the Rockets forward. Reddish was called for a technical foul, and a few seconds later Eason was held back after walking toward Reddish.

Then James and Rockets coach Ima Udoka exchanged words, and both were assessed technicals. Because it was his second of the game, Udoka was ejected.

When asked what he and Udoka were talking about, James responded with:

“Thanksgiving,” James said. “How much we enjoyed Thanksgiving.”

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