LeBron James celebrated his 38th birthday by scoring a season-high 47 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, and adding nine assists to spark the Los Angeles Lakers to a 130-121 victory in Atlanta on Friday.
It was his first 40-point effort of the season, the second achieved in a birthday contest and the 70th 40-point performance of his spectacular 20-season NBA career.
Even more amazing, teammates were congratulating him for saying before the game he would deliver a 40-point birthday beatdown against the Hawks.
“I called it,” James said. “I told them before the game. I had to make it happen. After starting 1-for-5 I didn’t know if it was going to happen.”
James, playing his third game in four nights, actually began shooting 1-for-6 but finished 18-of-27 from the floor, 4-of-6 from 3-point range, and 7-of-9 from the free throw line.
“I didn’t even know it was three in four nights. I just knew I had to get my mind and body ready to go,” James said. “Make sure my body stays fresh but my mind more importantly.”
The Hawks, powered by 29 points from Trae Young, led by as many as 15 points in the first half before James rallied the Lakers, scoring 16 points in the second quarter and 13 in the third as LA led 98-95 after three quarters.
James added 16 points in the fourth quarter to hold off Atlanta, driving the lane and sinking fall-away jumpers in unstoppable fashion.
The only birthday contest in which James scored more points was when he struck for 48 points against Atlanta in 2009.
James is on a pace to become the NBA’s all-time scoring leader in February.
The Lakers were without star big man Anthony Davis, out with a foot injury.
Having his wife, mother, and many other relatives and friends watching helped ignite James, the superstar said.
“It’s a treat,” James said. “To have them here and support me on the road, on my birthday, is very important to me because they are the rock of everything I do, my mom and my wife and my family.”
Greek star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 43 points and grabbed 20 rebounds to lead the Milwaukee Bucks over visiting Minnesota 123-114.
The Bucks snapped a four-game losing streak while the Timberwolves saw their losing slid stretch to five games.
Zach LaVine scored 43 points on 15-of-20 shooting to spark Chicago’s 132-118 home victory over NBA doormat Detroit.
Gary Trent Jr. scored 35 points to lead Toronto over Phoenix 113-104, the Raptors snapping a five-game home losing streak.
Latvian forward Kristaps Porzingis had game-highs of 30 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Washington Wizards to a 119-100 triumph at Orlando.
Japanese reserve Rui Hachimura added 16 points and seven rebounds for Washington. Germany’s Franz Wagner led the Magic with 28 points and a game-high eight assists.