Dispatching the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers with an 81-point second-half performance showed the Los Angeles Lakers are locked in and engaged, says NBA analyst Grant Hill.
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LeBron James scored 23 of his 31 points in the dominant second-half display and Dwight Howard added season-highs of 21 points and 15 rebounds as the Lakers pulled away to a 128-99 win over the Cavaliers on Monday night.
It was their ninth consecutive victory and their third without Anthony Davis, who is out with a bruised backside.
James added eight assists to pass Hall-of-Famer Isiah Thomas for sole possession of eighth place on the NBA's career list. The longtime Cavaliers superstar led a decisive run during the third quarter and poured it on in the fourth for the Lakers, who have not lost since Christmas.
James, who passed Thomas with his 9,062nd assist, is the NBA's season-leader with a career-best 10.7 assists per game while moulding himself into a virtuoso playmaker alongside Davis.
While James took control with 12-for-16 shooting, Howard capped another outstanding game in his bounce-back season with his ninth career three-pointer in the fourth quarter.
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Speaking on NBA TV's Gametime following the Lakers' victory, Hill said: "We see all the time teams being upset or going on the road and overlooking (an opponent).
"(The Lakers) have been locked in and engaged. It is almost like they are on a mission. In a way (their success) it is surprising because they have a lot of new faces. They have gelled from day one. It is scary to see how together they are as a unit.
"Other than Kyle Kuzma's trainer tweeting about LeBron there has been nothing (in the way of disruption). It is refreshing.
"For LeBron, at this point in his career, just being able to focus on playing, helping the team win and getting buy-in from everyone (is huge). It is fun to watch and the Lakers continue to take care of business."
Fellow analyst Rex Chapman echoed Hill's sentiments. "It is the mark of a good team when you take care of business every night you are supposed to. When a team comes in that has a worse record than you, a team below 500, you are supposed to beat those teams if you are an elite team," he said. "The Lakers are doing everything they are supposed to be doing and are trending in the right direction right now."
With the trade deadline approaching, Hill and Chapman were asked if the Lakers were likely to add reinforcements to aid their championship push.
"I worry about overall shooting from the perimeter (so I think they will consider) adding another shooter to the mix," Hill said. "The jury is still out on Kuzma. I don't know what version of Kuzma they will get. He had injuries this summer and didn't start the season healthy. But they are going to need that third guy to win a championship."
"They are a player away really from being solid, a team where you can't find any holes," Chapman said.
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"If they can go out and find a guy who can go and get baskets without plays being run for him - a la Derrick Rose - you can rest LeBron, you don't have to run every bit of the offense through him. I think they are missing one of those guys."