NEW YORK —
Fans crowded around the baseline, reporters took out their phones and photographers snapped pictures, LeBron James the focus of all the attention.
He stood on one of basketball’s most famous courts inside Madison Square Garden, the league’s all-time scoring record sprinting from an impossible dream to near reality.
It’s why he was the biggest show in town Tuesday — celebrities and sports stars surrounding the court to watch James chip away at a record once thought unbreakable.
James’ pursuit of individual greatness is coming at a time when he’s trying to do something possibly more daunting — drag the Lakers out of the bottom of the Western Conference standings into championship contention.
What if it didn’t have to be just one guy?
Russell Westbrook facilitated, Anthony Davis defended and James had his first triple-double of the season, the Lakers surviving to beat the Knicks 129-123 in overtime.
James finished with 28 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists. Davis, in just his third game back after missing a month because of foot injuries, scored 27 with nine rebounds and Westbrook had 17, six rebounds and eight assists off the bench. Rui Hachimura scored 19 as he moved into the starting lineup with Patrick Beverley out.
James now has 38,299 career points — just 89 points away from breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring record.
With James and Davis back on the court after sitting Monday in a loss across town in Brooklyn, the Lakers were close to full strength. For the Lakers, fully effective is a different story, the team still trying to figure itself out more than halfway through the season.
Yet with James playing like this, that can be effective enough — most games.
Shortly after grabbing a rebound to give him his first triple-double of the season, James stepped into an open three-pointer and swished it, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau slumping his head and calling a timeout after witnessing James hit another big shot in another big moment.
But after it seemed as though he had authored another big moment at the Garden — a swished three-pointer to put the Lakers up six — he and his team collapsed. The inconsistencies that have plagued them in so many close games rushed to the surface, the Knicks storming back to tie the score and leaving them with a chance to win with 4.5 seconds left.
However, Davis was just enough of a deterrent, keeping Julius Randle from getting a game-winning shot attempted and forcing the game to go to overtime.
In overtime, Westbrook took over, controlling things with his passing while the Lakers’ defense forced enough turnovers and misses to get the team a win it desperately needed.