LeBron pins stepped-up D on health, ‘hard work’

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SAN ANTONIO — The Los Angeles Lakers look dominant on defense and, in the early going, LeBron James has been a linchpin rather than a liability on that end of the floor.

“I’m playing injury free. I’m not injured. My quick twitch is back. My speed is back, my strength is back,” James said after the Lakers’ 103-96 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday.

After giving up 112 points and allowing the Los Angeles Clippers to shoot 51.9 percent in an opening night loss, the Lakers have won five games in a row, limiting their opponents to an average of 96.8 points on 38.1 percent shooting.

James, who turns 35 next month and is playing in his 17th season, said the groin injury he suffered on Christmas Day made his defense worse than what he is capable of delivering.

“Playing with a torn groin last year — even when I came back it was still partially torn — it was difficult to be able to move and shift like I’m capable of doing that defensively,” James said. “For me, I just take the challenge. I love being challenged. Coach [Frank Vogel] challenged me, AD [Anthony Davis] challenged me, I challenged myself.

“I put a lot of hard work into my offseason by getting my quick twitch, getting my bounce back, getting my speed back, my reaction time back. My mind has always been there. That’s what it’s all about.”

The numbers support what James is saying. He is contesting 70% of attempts against him, up from 54% last season, according to research by ESPN Stats & Info. He’s also keeping offensive players farther aw

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