LeBron James scores 40 in Lakers' defeat of the Nets

The Brooklyn Nets had just cut the Lakers’ lead to single digits, erasing three quarters of mostly forgettable basketball by the home team with a quick run against the second unit.

Momentum had swung, the Lakers’ once 26-point lead down to only eight.

But LeBron James had more than the ball in his hands. He had the rope, and the NBA’s all-time leading scorer can still swing momentum back in a blink.

James made a three-pointer and then another, two of his nine threes in the game, calmly jogging back like a player who knew danger had been avoided.

James finished with 40 points — scoring 17 in the fourth — as the Lakers beat Brooklyn 116-104. It’s the team’s 42nd win this season, assuring that they’ll finish with a winning record.

For James, it was a career night — the nine threes tying the most he’s ever had in a game. He missed only one attempt from deep, hitting shots in the fourth that had escalating degrees of difficulty.

James exited the game in the fourth to a standing ovation. It’s just the 12th game in league history with a player making nine threes and shooting 90% or better from deep.

The Lakers got some added depth when Gabe Vincent returned from a knee injury that’s limited him to just five games before Sunday.

“I wouldn’t step on that court if I didn’t feel like I could help my team win games,” he said pregame. “Whatever the role may be, whatever the minutes may be, that’s not for me to decide.”

Vincent came off the bench and played 14 minutes.

Injured forward Jarred Vanderbilt also seemed to ramp up his workload pregame, going through extensive on-court shooting drills.

If the positive injury news wasn’t enough of a boost, an awful start from the Nets helped the Lakers race to a biglead.

Brooklyn missed its first 11 shots and turned it over twice before they scored their first points, the Lakers opening the game on a 17-0 run.

The Nets never led.

The Lakers continue their road trip Tuesday in Toronto against the Raptors.

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