Not since the Showtime Era had two Lakers teammates produced a triple-double performance in the same contest prior to Saturday night. LeBron James and Lonzo Ball became the first Lakers duo to accomplish the feat in the same game since 1982, when Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did so. They're only the sixth pair of teammates all-time to record a triple-double in the same game.
James registered his 75th career triple-double only three quarters into Los Angeles' 128–100 road win over the Hornets. He finished with 24 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists. Ball, who last year bested James's mark to become the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double, registered his third. He logged 16 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
James and Ball, considered two of the NBA's top passing maestros, directed the Lakers' offense with ease, moving the ball wherever they desired. The duo had a combined 21-5 turnover-assist ratio. Ball, who averaged 8.5 field-goal attempts per game entering Saturday, was aggressive. He shot 7-for-11 from the field (2-for-4 from three-point range).
But while headlines will focus on Los Angeles' offensive performance, the team's defense should draw just as much praise. The Hornets boasted the NBA's seventh-best offense, averaging 114.3 points per game. They were held to 100, their lowest output at home this season. Star point guard Kemba Walker, who entered the night averaging 25.6 ppg, scored four points while shooting 2-for-13 from the field.
Ball even recorded five steals, matching a season high.
The Lakers are now 18–11 this season. They have won seven of their last nine games, with a stark improvement on the defensive end, relinquishing 106.6 ppg over that stretch. Through the Lakers' first 20 games, they allowed 124.5 ppg.
When Los Angeles signed veteran center Tyson Chandler in early November, it ranked 21st in the league in defensive efficiency. Chandler's addition hasn't been the sole cause for its improvement, but the Lakers came into the weekend 12th in the metric (1.046). Their defensive play all-around has helped the team jump from a .500 club to, for now, comfortably in the middle of the Western Conference standings.
Whether or not James and Ball can co-exist as teammates, ultimately, still remains to be seen. But Los Angeles' win was a display of what the pairing is capable of not only offensively, but perhaps on the defensive side of the ball, too.