King' James closes in on milestone as Cavs host Thunder

 20 Jan 2018 - 7:52

King' James closes in on milestone as Cavs host Thunder
LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Isaiah Thomas #3 of the Cleveland Cavaliers react to a foul against the Orlando Magic at Quicken Loans Arena on January 18, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. Justin K. Aller/AFP

AFP

Los Angeles: LeBron James is closing in on another milestone as his Cleveland Cavaliers host Oklahoma City on Saturday, needing just 25 points to become the seventh player in NBA history to reach 30,000 career points.

James scored 16 points in the Cavs' 104-103 victory over the Orlando Magic on Thursday, taking his career tally to 29,975.

At 33 years and 21 days of age, he is poised to supplant former Lakers legend Kobe Bryant as the youngest player to reach 30,000 points.

Bryant was 34 years and 104 days old when he hit the mark on December 5, 2012. Bryant finished with 33,643 points in 20 NBA seasons.

"I haven't really even thought about it, to be honest," James said after Thursday's game. "I know I am getting close. This is not one that I'm losing sleep over to be honest. Scoring has never been the end-all, be-all as a basketball player."

Nevertheless, it would put him in exclusive company alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387), Karl Malone (36,928), Bryant, Michael Jordan (32,292), Wilt Chamberlain (31,419) and Dirk Nowitzki (30,808).

More pressing for James is the need to keep the Cavs on track for a return to a fourth straight NBA Finals, what would be the eighth in a row for James and ninth overall after his run with Miami.

Two Cleveland losses to the Golden State Warriors in the championship series were sandwiched around the Cavs' triumph in 2016.

Thursday's narrow win over the Magic, in which Cleveland led by as many as 23 points in the second quarter, snapped a four-game losing streak.

The Cavaliers are third in the Eastern Conference and coach Tyronn Lue said Friday they must address the second-half slowdowns that have cost them games.

"Whatever we do, we've got to do better in the third quarter," Lue said. "The last five games we're getting outscored by 11 points in the third quarter. 

"We've got to play through the game for 48 minutes."

Lue also said the Cavaliers "can't let our offense dictate our defense. If we're not scoring, we've got to still make sure we're stopping teams on the other end."

That will be particularly important against a potentially explosive Oklahoma City team led by reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Russell Westbrook.

The Thunder are averaging 104.3 points per game with four players -- Westbrook, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and Steven Adams -- averaging double-digit points.