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With the reported tension between Los Angeles Lakers president Magic Johnson and coach Luke Walton, the best player in the game went out and provided the best balm possible to what had become an open wound.
A victory, the team’s best performance of the season, no less, a 114-110 takedown of the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night at the Moda Center. (Much more on the game, here).
The win snapped the Lakers’ 16-game skid against Portland, but more importantly, cranked down some of the noise surrounding the well-publicized calling-on-the-carpet session by Johnson of Walton after the team came out of the starting blocks 2-5.
After putting up 28 points, on 9-of-20 shooting, five rebounds, seven assists and two steals, needing only 31 minutes to do so, James downplayed the effect the meeting between Johnson and Walton would have in the Lakers’ locker room.
“It’s great to win, period,” James told reporters after he scored 10 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter and came up with key block on Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic with just more than a minute to go. “Listen, (the) coaching staff put us in a position to win and it’s up to us to go out and execute.
“Luke could care less about what’s going on in the outside, we could as well. I’m the last person to ask about scrutiny and things of that nature. None of that stuff matters to me. All that matters is what goes on in this locker room, both home and away.”
Walton chose to focus on the on-court happenings after Los Angeles defeated Portland for the first time since March 3, 2014.
“It just shows that what we’re doing is working,” Walton told reporters after the win. “It’s tough to get a win in Portland [even] when they don’t have a good team. When they got the team that they have right now, it’s even more challenging.
“So you don’t just come up here and get hot and beat Portland.”
James agreed with Walton’s assessment.
“Great to snap that,” James said of the Lakers ending the Blazers owning hem, for one night, at least. “They’re a very good team, obviously. To beat Portland, you can’t just come in and win without playing really hard and really well.”