Nine years, 10 games, three teams and three NBA Championships. That’s how long it had been since LeBron James had won in Salt Lake City.
Things had gotten so bad, that when asked about the streak back in 2017, his tongue-in-cheek response was simply: “I suck here.”
Not even the lung-clogging inversion made James suck Wednesday night, as the NBA-leading Los Angeles Lakers breezed past the Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena, 121-96.
“It’s tough to get a win here,” said Lakers coach Frank Vogel, who noted that James isn’t the only player who struggles on the Jazz’s home court. “So, we’re definitely happy to get this one.”
James contributed a double-double in the win with 20 points, 12 assists and four rebounds. Teammate Anthony Davis, who just a night earlier had to receive an IV at halftime of a win over Denver to help him deal with the flu, led all Lakers scorers with 26 points as well as six rebounds.
“I didn’t think about it going into the game,” James said of the streak, “but late in the fourth quarter when we were up and I felt like we had a win in hand, I was just thinking to myself, it’s been a while since I won a game here.”
James hadn’t won in Utah since the Heat beat the Jazz 111-98 on Dec. 8, 2010, behind James’ team-leading 33 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. He then lost three straight games at what was then EnergySolutions Arena with the Heat from 2012-14 and four straight with the Cavaliers at Vivint from 2014-17.
The Lakers also lost both their previous games in Utah in 2019, James’ first season in L.A., but James didn’t play in those contests. He was nursing a groin strain in January and sat for load management last March.
No one could say James didn’t do his part in trying to break the streak. In the seven games he played in, he averaged 28.9 points, five assists and seven rebounds per game.
Just like the air, which had an Air Quality Index rating of “unhealthy” near the arena at game time but seemed to go unnoticed by the players, the streak wasn’t a topic of conversation for the Lakers (19-3).
“First I’ve heard about it,” Lakers guard Quinn Cook said when asked about the streak postgame.
Still, the victory isn’t just likely a relief for James, it could be a good omen for the Lakers.
“Anytime you have a win in a hostile environment and a team that has been very successful here — even with their struggles on the road, they’ve been extremely great, consistent here,” he said. “To get this win and the fashion that we got it, it’s a good stepping point for our team at this point in the season.”
As for the Jazz (12-10), they can begin a new streak defending their home court against James on March 16, the next time the Lakers come to town.
LEBRON’S LONG STRETCH IN SLC
• March 2, 2012: Jazz 99, Heat 98
James’ stats: 35 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists
• Jan. 14, 2013: Jazz 104, Heat 97
James’ stats: 32 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists
• Feb. 8, 2014: Jazz 94, Heat 89
James’ stats: 13 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists
• Nov 5, 2014: Jazz 102, Cavaliers 100
James’ stats: 31 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists
• March 14, 2016: Jazz 94, Cavaliers 85
James’ stats: 23 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists
• Jan. 10, 2017: Jazz 100, Cavaliers 92
James’ stats: 29 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists
• Dec. 30, 2017: Jazz 104, Cavaliers 101
James’ stats: 39 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists
• Jan. 11, 2019: Jazz 113, Lakers 95
James’ stats: DNP (groin strain)
• March 27, 2019: Jazz 115, Lakers 100
James’ stats: DNP (load management)