NEW YORK — LeBron James will soon be the NBA’s leading scorer, even though that was never his goal.
He’s also one of the best passers in the game, and combining the two – perhaps better than anyone – is what makes him truly proud.
“I didn’t come to this point in my career thinking about records or how many points I have, whatever the case,” James said. “I just play the game the right way. I approach the game every night just trying to be a triple threat by scoring, rebounding, assisting, defending and getting the chips to fall where they can.”
James moved within 89 points of breaking the career goalscoring record and climbed to fourth on the assists list, finishing with his first triple-double of the season on his return to Madison Square Garden as that the Los Angeles Lakers beat the New York Knicks 129-123 in overtime on Tuesday night.
James had 28 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, with the points giving him 38,299 for his career. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the leader with 38,387.
But James’ game has always been about more than scoring, as he proved again on Tuesday. He fed Dennis Schroder for a 3-pointer that broke a tie of 118 with 3:13 remaining, grabbed his 10th rebound later in the extra period, then powered to the basket for a 127-121 lead with 19 seconds left. to do.
“He does everything right,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “That’s what great players do. That’s what all-time greats do, and he’s right at the top of the list with all of them.”
James previously edged Mark Jackson and then Steve Nash to fourth on the assists list in his first game at Madison Square Garden in three years. James is the fifth player in the stopwatch era to rank in the top five in career points and assists at the same time, joining Bob Cousy, Dolph Schayes, Jerry West and Oscar Robertson.
His first triple-double of the season was the 106th of his career, close to tying Jason Kidd for fourth all-time, although he had passed Kidd most seasons with a triple-double. James became the fourth oldest player in NBA history with a triple-double and the oldest with a 20-point triple-double.
Anthony Davis added 27 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers, who had dropped two in a row to open their trip. James and Davis missed their loss Monday in Brooklyn.
Jalen Brunson scored 37 points and Julius Randle had 23 points and 12 rebounds for the Knicks, who were 7 for 34 from 3-point range and lost their second straight.
“We score a lot; it’s not our problem,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “So we have to strengthen our defence.”
James was furious after his last game, the Lakers’ overtime loss to Boston on Saturday, after which umpires ruled he missed a foul on his drive to the basket to end regulation.
He then sat out Monday with what Ham said was pain in his left foot, although the Lakers listed it as an ankle injury. They listed him as questionable to play in the morning, then upgraded James to be available after moving well in pre-match practice.
He certainly didn’t want to miss this one after being injured two years ago and serving a one-game suspension last season for punching Detroit’s Isaiah Stewart in the face. His last game here was on January 22, 2000, when he was days away from passing Kobe Bryant for third on the career goalscoring list.
Now the only one left to catch is Abdul-Jabbar, which could happen in the next 10 days. James said getting closer didn’t make him heavier.
“I’m not going anywhere; I’m going to be in this league for at least a few more years,” he said. “So I’ll do it, so it’s not heavy at all.”
The game was tied at 90 before James fed Troy Brown Jr. for a 3-pointer with his eighth assist, then set up Thomas Bryant for a dunk, moving him past Jackson and then Nash to fourth in assists. James has 10,338 assists.
James has always called MSG one of his favorite places to play, and this visit drew a sold-out crowd that included celebrities such as Michael J. Fox, Michael B. Jordan, Emma Stone and Chris Rock. Fans filled seats in the lower sections of the arena just to watch James warm up, but he struggled to give them any of his vintage performances once the match started.
He threw an airball in the second quarter as part of his 2-for-8 start, but made his final two shots of the half, then threw a pass which Schroder threw from half court to beat the buzzer and reduce it to 53-52 at halftime.
Recently acquired Rui Hachimura had 19 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers, while Russell Westbrook added 17 points and eight assists, including three in overtime.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.