Even if the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers are in two different places in terms of where each team is going this season, there was plenty of interest in their national TV matchup on Thursday night.
For one, it was the first-ever meeting between Lonzo Ball and LeBron James, two of the most-hyped rookies to ever enter the league. Their connection runs deeper than just that, however, as Lonzo has noted on more than one occasion that LeBron is his favorite player, and who he tries to model his game after.
Plus, there's the whole free agency angle, with many people expecting the Lakers to be one of the teams in the mix for LeBron this summer when he becomes a free agent. LeBron, of course, owns property in L.A., and is often there for his non-basketball-related interests. However, a report from ESPN noted that at least right nowto sign LeBron.
So, about the game. It was a rather exciting affair, and a much closer contest than perhaps people anticipated, with the Lakers hanging around right up until the final minutes. But in the end, LeBron proved to be too much, finishing with 25 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists for the 59th triple-double of his career, tying Larry Bird for sixth all-time, and helping the Cavs to a 121-112 victory. Lonzo, for his part, nearly recorded a triple-double as well, putting up 13 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists, though he did have six turnovers.
Here, are the three best moments from the first on-court meeting between Lonzo Ball and his idol, LeBron James:
LeBron zooms through the paint for an emphatic slam
In the middle of the second quarter, J.R. Smith drove through the lane, and flipped up an awkward, off-balance layup that he probably shouldn't have shot. No matter, however, because he was able to secure the offensive rebound. And when he did so, he spotted LeBron flying in from the top of the key, with the Lakers' defense completely out of position. Smith flipped the ball to LeBron, who took off for a powerful two-hand slam that Brook Lopez wanted absolutely no part of defending.
Lonzo shows off his passing skills with a perfect full-court dime
His shooting has left much to be desired this season, but there's no doubt that Lonzo can pass the ball. Even if he might get some hometown help from the scorers on some of his assists, he's still sixth in the entire league, averaging over seven assists per night as a rookie. Plus, he can do things like this.
Early in the third quarter, he grabbed a rebound, and without even taking a dribble, flung the ball the entire length of the floor. Incredibly, the ball floated straight down into the hands of Brandon Ingram, hitting the lanky forward in stride for an easy bucket. There was no asterisk needed for that one; that was just an absurd pass.
LeBron and Lonzo share a secret post-game chat
Following the game, the two main attractions stopped for a friendly post-game chat. It appeared that LeBron was giving Lonzo some sort of advice, but no one knows exactly what he said, because he made sure to cover his mouth with his jersey, so no one could read his lips. Then, after the game he told reporters it waswhat he told the rookie. Of course, that only led to more intrigue about what he actually said. Even when he's trying to keep things low-key, LeBron is always stirring up drama.
By Friday morning, however, internet sleuths, which turned out not to be all that exciting. LeBron was simply sharing a little veteran advice with the rook.