LeBron James scored a team-high 36 points and became the all-time leader in NBA postseason wins as the Los Angeles Lakers claimed a 112-102 victory over the Houston Rockets in Game 3 of the Western Conference semi-finals on Tuesday night.
The Lakers will take a 2-1 lead into Game 4 of the best-of-seven series in the early hours on Thursday night.
Los Angeles’ Anthony Davis added 26 points and a game-high 15 rebounds, while Rajon Rondo keyed a fourth-quarter run after the teams entered the final period tied.
James earned his 162nd career playoff victory, topping the mark set by Derek Fisher.
“It says that I have played with a lot of great teams,” James said in a post-game interview. “It says that I have played with a lot of great team-mates and some great coaches, in Cleveland, in Miami and now here in Los Angeles.
“It doesn’t happen without the supporting cast. It is why I’m able to sit here with this achievement, but it is all about the three organisations I have been with, the Cavs, the Heat and now the Lakers, because without them, I wouldn’t be in this position.”
James scored 29 points in the first half, his season high for any half, to keep the Lakers afloat before dominating the action with four blocks in the third quarter.
Rondo, meanwhile, led the charge early in the fourth period by scoring the last eight points during a 10-0 run that produced a 94-85 advantage. He finished with 21 points and nine assists in 30 minutes off the bench.
The Lakers survived 15 ties and 16 lead changes by controlling the final period for a second consecutive game, posting a 30-20 edge in the last 12 minutes.
James Harden paced the Rockets with 33 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, while Russell Westbrook rebounded from a rocky Game 2 with 30 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
But the Rockets were without reserve forward Danuel House Jr (personal reasons) and the Lakers finished with a 42-16 advantage in bench points.
James scored just two points in the third quarter, but he blocked shots by Eric Gordon (twice), Harden and Austin Rivers, the latter just prior to the period’s final buzzer, setting a defensive tone.
Davis shouldered the scoring load after James cooled and before Rondo caught fire.
Westbrook got off to a scorching start with 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting in the first quarter as the Rockets hit 13-of-19 shots to take a 33-32 lead into the second quarter.
James scored in every way imaginable for the Lakers, but Houston parlayed 10 Lakers turnovers into 12 points in the half, and combined with their 32 points in the paint, fashioned a 64-61 lead by the intermission.
The Lakers ultimately finished with a 56-46 advantage on paint points and outrebounded the Rockets 43-30 while shooting a robust 55.1 per cent from the floor. Houston sank 46.9 per cent of their field-goal attempts.