CHARLOTTE, N.C. —
Austin Reaves peeled the bandages and ice bags off his knees as he walked toward his postgame news conference. Unprompted, he wondered at what he witnessed earlier in the night — 38-year-old LeBron James snatching a lob pass and turning it into a two-handed windmill.
“He’s sick,” Reaves repeated. “Sick.”
After scoring 47 points on his birthday in Atlanta, James dropped 43 on Monday against the Charlotte Hornets, leading the Lakers to a 121-115 victory, capping a five-game trip with a winning record.
Early in the third quarter, James roamed the baseline near the Lakers bench, the seats still empty from the halftime intermission. He’d just scored — again — by powering through the Hornets defense. He pounded his chest and barked at no one in particular, almost annoyed at the ineffective strategy the Hornets were throwing at him.
“I just always try to play the game and read the game the right way throughout the course of the 48 minutes,” James said. “But I just had a mindset of trying to close this trip off the right way. Two tough losses on this road trip, but the last two games, we played extremely well. And we closed it off the right way.”
Since turning 38 on Friday, James has had consecutive 40-point games — just the second player in NBA history to have back-to-back games with at least 40 after turning 38. Michael Jordan did it for Washington twice in the 2001-02 season.
Monday, James also grabbed 11 rebounds and added six assists.
“It’s incredible,” Reaves said. “To see him at his age, like you said, just turned 38, the stuff that he does, the way that he moves, the contact that he endures in a full game, and just the way that his body has held up this whole time, it’s super impressive. But it’s a testament to what he does on a daily basis. He’s always the first one in the training room, the first one taking care of his body, and also getting the work in as well. So, to say the least, I’m happy to be on his team.”
James missed all five of his three-point attempts — the only blemish in a game in which everything else was working. Like Reaves said, he absorbed contact by going through Charlotte’s weaker defenders. He flew around on the break, catching a pass from Dennis Schroder that had his teammates in disbelief. And, down the stretch, he helped seal the win from the free-throw line after Charlotte furiously cut the Lakers’ 24-point lead to single digits in the fourth quarter.
With Charlotte trailing by only six, Thomas Bryant grabbed a key offensive rebound and finished with a ferocious, two-handed slam on Mason Plumlee, a highlight almost as impressive as James’ two-handed reverse.
Starting in place of the injured Anthony Davis, Bryant finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds. Troy Brown Jr., in the lineup for Lonnie Walker IV, who missed his second straight game with a bruised tailbone, had 12 points
and three steals. And Schroder and Reaves each scored 15, with Reaves adding six rebounds and seven assists.
Schroder and Patrick Beverley hounded and frustrated Charlotte star LaMelo Ball for most of the game, though Ball eventually got hot in the fourth to finish with 27 points.
“They just made it tough,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “He still ends up with  points, but that kid has elite-level talent and it’s hard to shut people out but the biggest thing you want to do, especially when you have multiple perimeter defenders and especially two such as Dennis and Pat, is you let them both have their share of time on him and you just try to make things as difficult as possible.”
The Lakers now come back to Los Angeles for games against Miami on Wednesday and Atlanta on Friday, having won five of their last 11 games.
During that stretch, James is averaging 34.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.0 assists.
“I feel really good in every facet of my game,” James said. “Obviously, I haven’t shot the three-ball well but I still feel good when I’m taking them. My in-between, my mid-range game is feeling as best as it’s been throughout this season. And obviously, I’ve always been pretty efficient at the rim. It’s always a blessing for me to just be out there with the guys and try to make plays happen and help us win ballgames. And tonight was another moment for that.”