NBA

LeBron James 'happy as hell' for Markelle Fultz after triple-double

By Sports Desk January 16, 2020

LeBron James was "happy as hell" for Markelle Fultz after the Orlando Magic guard posted a triple-double in a 119-118 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Fultz had 21 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists at Staples Center for his second career triple-double as the Magic ended the Lakers' nine-game winning streak on Wednesday.

The former first overall pick struggled with his shooting motion after entering the NBA and made just 33 appearances across his first two seasons in the league with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Fultz was eventually diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome and last February got traded to the Magic, where he continued his rehabilitation.

The 21-year-old revealed before the game against the Lakers that James had been a "mentor" to him and the four-time MVP was impressed by his latest display.

Asked how Fultz has been able to turn his career around, James replied: "Confidence and opportunity.

"They're confident in him, he's confident in himself, and he's given an opportunity to go out and play the game how he grew up playing. I think everything else takes care of itself.

"I've been supportive of him ever since he was in high school, when he was a rookie in Philly. Been supportive of his situation and still [am] to this day. I'm happy as hell for him."

Fultz is averaging 11.7 points and 4.6 assists in 27 minutes per game this season and is pleased his perseverance is paying off.

"What I've been through, it just gives me more fire to keep going," he told ESPN. "I put in a lot of hard work to be where I'm at. I've been through a lot, but I never gave up.

"So, it just shows for people out there, whoever is doubting you, whoever is doing something [to you], put something on your mind and if you have something on your mind, go do it.

"Don't ever let somebody tell you that you can't and I'm never going to stop. I'm going to keep working until I can't play no more."

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    2007: Things got off to a shaky start for James, who had 5.8 turnovers per game as the Cleveland Cavaliers were swept by the San Antonio Spurs. That is the most by any player in a Finals in the past 30 years.

    2011: As the Heat's dream team were defeated 4-2 by the Dallas Mavericks, James averaged 17.8 points per game. It is the only time he has been held to under 20 in a playoff series.

    2012: LeBron's wait for a first ring finally ended and he was pivotal to the Heat's 4-1 success against the Oklahoma City Thunder. He finished Game 5 with 26 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds, making him the first player since James Worthy in 1988 to have a 25-point triple-double in a title-clinching win.

    2013: The Heat went back-to-back by defeating the Spurs 4-3 and in the process James became the first player to have two triple-doubles in a single Finals since Magic Johnson in 1991 – the second of those came in Miami's incredible Game 6 overtime win, having been five points down with 28 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

    2014: LeBron became the first player to average at least 25 points per game on a minimum of 50 per cent three-point shooting in a Finals since Lakers legend Kobe Bryant in 2002. However, it was not enough to stop the Heat slumping to a 4-1 defeat against the Spurs.

    2015: Although the Cavs lost 4-2, James produced a string of stellar displays against the Golden State Warriors to become the first player to average at least 35 points per game in a Finals since Shaquille O'Neal in 2002.

    2016: In a rematch against the Warriors a year later, LeBron spearheaded a Cavs side that became the first team to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals and win the NBA championship. His phenomenal block on Andre Iguolada with less than two minutes remaining laid the foundation for Kyrie Irving to seal the win.

    2017: The Warriors gained vengeance with a 4-1 success the following season, despite James averaging a 30-point triple-double in the Finals – a feat no other player has achieved since the NBA-ABA merger.

    2018: Things could have been very different had it not been for J.R. Smith's brain fade at the end of the fourth quarter in Game 1 of the third straight matchup with the Warriors. James became the first player with a 50-point game in the Finals since Michael Jordan in 1993, but Golden State won in overtime and went on to sweep the Cavs for the championship.

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    After missing the playoffs in his first year with the Lakers, LeBron has a chance to join John Salley and Robert Horry as the only NBA players to win a title with three different teams.

    Even more impressively, though, he can become the first player of any of the major leagues in the United States – NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL – to win the championship MVP award with three different teams.

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    LeBron James is basketball's ultimate test and the Miami Heat will have to be "near perfect" to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals, admits Jimmy Butler.

    The Heat defeated the Boston Celtics 125-113 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday to clinch a 4-2 series triumph.

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    Bam Adebayo was a talisman for the Heat, putting up 32 points, 14 rebounds and five assists to dominate the Celtics just a couple of days on from taking the blame for Miami's loss in Game 5.

    "I let my team-mates down again in Game 5. You know, I just had to realign myself and who I really want to become," he said. "I showed that tonight. You said you wanted to see me be a scorer in the fourth, well, there you go.

    "It's just one of those things, you know, coaches they want me to be better and they want me to do great things. That's the first time I got plays, back-to-back, back-to-back. 

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    Celtics coach Brad Stevens conceded his team did not get a good enough grip on Adebayo.

    "I thought today after we had the lead, Adebayo, and credit all of them, but Adebayo deciding he's just going to drive the ball put us in a real bind with the shooters around him," he said. 

    "And their physicality is something that I'm not sure that we probably talked about enough. 

    "They're strong, they're physical, they're tough and, him in particular, dominated that fourth quarter. Even the plays where he didn't score, his presence was so impactful and it put us in a real bind with the ability to guard him."

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