If it feels like it’s been forever since LeBron James was held to single-digit scoring, that’s because it actually has been a record-breaking amount of games.
By scoring 27 points in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 107-102 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, James finished in double figures for the 867th straight time, passing Michael Jordan for most consecutive games with at least 10 points in NBA history.
Not to be lost in the shuffle was James falling one rebound shy of a triple-double with 11 assists and nine boards while leading a second-half rally in which the Cavaliers outscored the Pelicans 60-45.
James set the mark in style by slamming a two-handed dunk with 5:59 left in the first quarter, drawing a brief tribute, a standing ovation from the Quicken Loans Arena faithful and the game ball during a stoppage in play.
867 straight games scoring in double-figures. @KingJames just broke Michael Jordan’s record for the most consecutive double-figure games in @NBAHistory. #StriveForGreatness 🚀 pic.twitter.com/hRvl60VHrJ— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) March 31, 2018
“It will probably go in my trophy case with a lot of accomplishments in my life,” James said of the game ball.
The last time James didn’t reach double digits in scoring was on January 5, 2007, when he finished with eight points on 3-of-13 shooting as the Cavaliers beat the Milwaukee Bucks.
No active player is even close to James’ benchmark, with James Harden in possession of the next-longest streak at 259 games.
James spoke about the record and what it means in greater length after shootaround on Friday.
“It’s not like I set out to say that I want to be the No1 in scoring 10 points, double digits or consecutive games or whatever that and whatnot, but anytime like a statistical category comes up and I’m able to accomplish something like that, I mean it’s pretty incredible,” he said.
“I think it’s been like 11 years that I’ve been able to accomplish this feat, so I’ve been able to take care of my body, that’s one, and I’ve been around some great teammates and coaches and two organisations that have allowed me to be who I am, so that’s two, and just going out and playing for the joy of the game.
“So to be able to tie Mike the last game and have an opportunity set the record tonight is a pretty cool achievement.”
James’ performance against New Orleans also gave him 941 games with at least 20 points in his career, tying Kobe Bryant. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is next on the list and sits second all-time with 1,122, while Karl Malone is the leader with 1,134.
Injuries are really taking their toll on the NBA season at the moment, with multiple stars set to miss the final stretch and possibly even the start of the playoffs.
News came out this past week that the Golden State Warriors are likely to be without Stephen Curry for the first round of the playoffs after the two-time MVP suffered a sprained MCL, while Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving is expected to miss three-to-six weeks after having a “minimally invasive procedure” done to alleviate pain in his knee.
1. Houston Rockets
Record: 57-14 | Last week: 1
Another week, another flawless record for the NBA’s best team this season, who notched a franchise record 59th victory on Saturday.
2. Toronto Raptors
Record: 55-20 | Last week: 2
It wasn’t the best week for the East leaders as they went 2-2, but they wrapped it with a strong finish from their bench to beat Denver.
3. Golden State Warriors
Record: 54-20 | Last week: 3
After dropping three of their last four, they’re in danger of not winning 60 games for the first time since 2014.
4. Portland Trail Blazers
Record: 46-28 | Last week: 4
5. Boston Celtics
Record: 51-23 | Last week: 6
They’ve won four straight despite being decimated by injuries, giving them a chance at the top seed with two games left against Toronto.
6. Utah Jazz
Record: 42-32 | Last week: 7
Utah keep surging and could easily improve on their current standing of seventh in the West by the time the season ends.
7. Philadelphia 76ers
Record: 43-30 | Last week: 10
Their seven-game winning streak is even sweeter because rookie Markelle Fultz is back in the fold and looking like a contributor.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers
Record: 44-30 | Last week: 8
9. Oklahoma City Thunder
Record: 44-31 | Last week: 5
Carmelo Anthony botched the ending in the loss to Portland, but his issues haven’t been limited to just occasional miscues this season.
10. Indiana Pacers
Record: 44-31 | Last week: 11
Winners in four of the last five, the Pacers are hanging tight in the race for the third seed in the East.
11. New Orleans Pelicans
Record: 43-32 | Last week: 9
Losses to Houston and Portland are no reason to get down on the Pelicans, who keep getting stellar efforts from Anthony Davis.
12. San Antonio Spurs
Record: 43-32 | Last week: 13
LaMarcus Aldridge had been firing on all cylinders, but bad injury luck struck the Spurs again as he suffered a knee contusion.
13. Los Angeles Clippers
Record: 40-34 | Last week: 18
They are not fading from the playoff picture without a fight as three wins in their last four have kept them in the hunt.
14. Minnesota Timberwolves
Record: 42-33 | Last week: 14
When you’re in the precarious position of sitting eighth in the West, you can’t afford to be dropping home games to lowly Memphis.
15. Washington Wizards
Record: 41-33 | Last week: 12
As it’s been proven, Washington are not, in fact, better without John Wall and could use their point guard back in the lineup.
16. Miami Heat
Record: 40-35 | Last week: 15
The victory over the Cavaliers showed what they’re capable of when locked in – although it could have said just as much about Miami nightlife.
17. Denver Nuggets
Record: 40-35 | Last week: 16
The schedule hasn’t been easy, but it will be a real disappointment for the franchise if they miss the playoffs again.
18. Milwaukee Bucks
Record: 39-35 | Last week: 17
They’re running out of time to figure out how to play with each other as they’re currently slated for the eighth seed.
19. Detroit Pistons
Record: 34-40 | Last week: 20
This is how big of a hole Detroit dug themselves in: they’ve won four of the past and are still five games out of a playoff spot.
20. Charlotte Hornets
Record: 34-41 | Last week: 21
21. Los Angeles Lakers
Record: 32-41 | Last week: 19
They’ve hit a rough patch and it doesn’t help that Isaiah Thomas will now undergo hip surgery to end his season.
22. Sacramento Kings
Record: 24-51 | Last week: 22
Off the court, the organisation deserves some credit for how it has handled the protests at their games.
23. New York Knicks
Record: 27-48 | Last week: 25
Things haven’t gone as planned this season, but they might have found a hidden gem in Trey Burke, who had 42 points in the loss to Charlotte.
24. Dallas Mavericks
Record: 23-51 | Last week: 27
The defeat to Utah gave them their first 50-loss campaign since 1998, ending an impressive run of not bottoming out.
25. Brooklyn Nets
Record: 23-51 | Last week: 24
Even in their losses of late, Brooklyn have played their opponents tough and made them earn their victories.
26. Chicago Bulls
Record: 24-50 | Last week: 23
They’ve dropped six straight, which is exactly what you want when you’re a team near the bottom of the standings hoping to improve your lottery odds.
27. Atlanta Hawks
Record: 21-53 | Last week: 26
Atlanta are throwing out some real no-namers at the moment and the results have been predictable.
28. Orlando Magic
Record: 22-51 | Last week: 28
They’re in the midst of a favourable stretch in the schedule which will see them play seven straight lottery teams.
29. Memphis Grizzlies
Record: 20-54 | Last week: 29
Constantly losing is one thing, but to be embarrassed by 61 points against Charlotte was a true low point.
30. Phoenix Suns
Record: 19-56 | Last week: 30
Isaiah Thomas has had to deal with a lot over the past year and his path back to superstardom doesn’t look like it’s getting any easier.
The former All-Star has left the Los Angeles Lakers to get treatment options for his sore hip, with pain still remaining from the injury that ruled him out of last year’s playoffs and kept him sidelined for much of this season.
Thomas, who rehabbed back from a right femoral-acetabular impingement with labral tear, apparently isn’t back to full strength yet, even after sitting out more than seven months.
The Cleveland Cavaliers were unwilling to wait for the 29-year-old to get back to full health, shipping him to the Lakers at the trade deadline after having him on the floor for just 15 games.
The point guard averaged 14.7 points on 36.1 per cent shooting overall and 25.3 per cent on 3-pointers during his tenure with Cleveland. He’s been only marginally better through 17 games with Los Angeles, fielding averages of 15.6 points, 38.3 per cent shooting and 32.7 per cent from long range.
With the Lakers out of playoff contention and only a couple weeks left in the season, it makes sense for Thomas to shut it down and restart his recovery.
Unfortunately for Thomas, that would mean having no more opportunities to show he can still be the player he was last season with the Boston Celtics – when he carried the team to an Eastern Conference Finals appearance and finished fifth in MVP voting – before hitting free agency in the summer.
It’s unlikely the last couple weeks of the season will influence Thomas’ earning potential anyways. Regardless, the ‘Brinks truck’ days are a thing of the past as the diminutive guard almost surely won’t get anywhere near a max contract from any suitor.
The more likely outcome would be Thomas, who has carried a massive chip on his shoulder ever since entering the league as the last pick of the 2011 draft, betting on himself with a one-year deal that allows him to show he can still perform at an All-Star level. That would be the only path to securing the lucrative contract that he was expecting when he was still in Boston.
Whether or not he can, however, is a different matter.
The hip injury was a long-term concern even before he started feeling soreness again with the Lakers.
With Thomas standing just 5-foot-9, any hit to his athleticism has the potential to severely hinder his game, which is predicated on quickness.
Other stars throughout history have managed to offset losing a step by utilising their skill – however they weren’t as vertically-challenged as Thomas is.
Losing a step for Thomas could be the difference between crossing over a defender and knocking down a pull-up jumper, and having no space to work with.
Plus, with the point guard position as deep as it is across the league, few teams will be dying to sign an aging, short, damaged playmaker this offseason.
It doesn’t necessarily mean Thomas’ career is over, but the mountain he was attempting to scale to get back to where he was just got steeper.