Giannis Antetokounmpo admitted the Milwaukee Bucks "didn't play smart" against the Los Angeles Lakers - but believes his team will learn lessons from Friday's defeat.

LeBron James scored 37 points, had eight rebounds and provided eight assists as the Lakers won the battle between the top seeds in each conference, prevailing 113-103 at Staples Center.

However, the home team were aided by shooting 38 free-throw attempts in the contest, hitting 31 of them, much to Antetokounmpo's frustration.

"We definitely didn't play smart," Antetokounmpo, who led his team with 32 points in a losing cause, told the media after the game. 

"We obviously tried our best. We fight – we fight in every game. We try to stay in every game that we play.

"But they shot 31 free throws. We put them on the line so easily. You take that away and it's 70-odd points. You give them 12 free throws, 14 free throws, and now you have a ball game.

"We've got to do better, obviously. We will learn a lot from this game, go back and watch the tape and get better. Now we've got to move onto the next one."

As well as a potential NBA Finals preview, the game in Los Angeles pitted two of the leading candidates for this season's MVP award against each other.

The home crowd made clear who they believe should get the individual honour, chanting 'MVP! MVP!' for James after he pulled off a spinning dunk in the closing seconds.

Antetokounmpo, however, remains the overwhelming favourite to be crowned for a second successive season.

"It's always good playing against one of the best players in the league," he said. "When you bring the ball down, whenever you go against him, you can feel greatness.

"I've said in the past, that's where I want to be. As I said, he's one of the best players in the game, really smart. He's going to come at you – you've got to be ready to go, ready to fight against him. He's going to get his shots up, get his team-mates the ball."

Khris Middleton endured a tough outing for Milwaukee, finishing with 12 points on a 5-for-19 shooting night, but was backed by Antetokounmpo to keep on letting it go.

"Khris has got to keep shooting," he said of his team-mate. "It doesn't matter if you're having an off night, you're one of the best players in the team.

"A rough night cannot stop you from being who you are. Even if you go 0 for 20, he has to keep shooting."

LeBron James has no intention of playing if NBA games are staged behind closed doors due to fears over the spread of the coronavirus.

On Friday, The Athletic's Shams Charania reported that the league had sent memos to teams advising them to prepare for the possibility of games taking place without fans.

That measure has already been implemented in Italy, where a government decree this week stated that all sporting events are to be played behind closed doors until April 3.

The outbreak originated in China but has now spread across most of the world and there have been over 300 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, where 17 people have died.

It has played havoc with the sporting calendar in many countries and Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain saw their trip to Strasbourg postponed this weekend, yet one of the NBA's biggest names is not interested in the possibility of playing in empty arenas.

"We play games without the fans? Nah, it's impossible," the Los Angeles Lakers star told reporters.

"I ain't playing. If I ain't got the fans in the crowd, that's who I play for. I play for my team-mates, the fans, that's what it's all about.

"If I show up to an arena and there ain't no fans in there, I ain't playing. They can do what they want to do.

"I ain't ever played the game without no fans, ever, since I started playing ball.

"I don't give a damn, this isn't Europe. They can do what they want to do."

Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker also hopes it does not come to that for the NBA.

"That would be terrible," he said, as quoted by ESPN.

"That would be boring. They might as well cancel the whole game before that. That would suck.

"But at the end of the day, it is getting serious. I don't know. It would be very weird, though, for sure."

However, James' Lakers team-mate Alex Caruso admitted he would understand if preventative measures were put in place.

"It's a nice privilege to be able to play basketball, but I would like to be able to live many, many years past this," Caruso said.

"If it is a legit thing that needs to be done, do whatever you have to do. People watch on TV way more anyway."

LeBron James upstaged Giannis Antetokounmpo as the Los Angeles Lakers secured their playoff berth with victory over the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks.

James led the Lakers to a 113-103 victory at home to Antetokounmpo and the visiting Bucks in Los Angeles on Friday.

Lakers superstar James won his battle with reigning MVP Antetokounmpo, posting 37 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for the Western Conference leaders.

Anthony Davis added 30 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers, who improved to 48-13 following the blockbuster showdown.

Antetokounmpo's 32 points and 11 rebounds were not enough as the high-flying Bucks fell to 53-10 for the season.

 

Baynes makes history

Aron Baynes had a game to remember. The Australian tallied a career-high 37 points, 16 rebounds and made nine three-pointers as the Phoenix Suns defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 127-117. He joined James Harden as the only players in NBA history with 30-plus points, 15-plus rebounds and eight or more three-pointers in a game.

Kristaps Porzingis recorded his fifth straight game with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds after putting up 26 and 11 in the Dallas Mavericks' 121-96 victory against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Duncan Robinson made history in the Miami Heat's 110-104 loss away to the New Orleans Pelicans. Robinson finished with 24 points following eight three-pointers. It took Robinson's three-point tally to 233 this season – a single-season record by an undrafted player.

Bradley Beal's 35-point performance extended his streak of 25-plus points to 21 consecutive games. It tied LeBron James for the second-longest run by an Eastern Conference player since the 2000-01 season. The Washington Wizards won 118-112 against the Atlanta Hawks.

 

Bradley struggles

Usually a handy contributor for the Lakers, Avery Bradley failed to make much of an impact despite his team's victory over the Bucks. The point guard played 31 minutes and failed to make any of his shots from the field (0 of five) or three-point range (0 of three). His two points came from the free-throw line.

The Chicago Bulls went down 108-102 to the Indiana Pacers and Lauri Markkanen headlined his team's woes. The 22-year-old had just three points, going one of 10 from the field and missing all five of his shots from beyond the arc.

 

LeBron slams it down!

James was an immovable force for the Lakers against the Bucks, who were unable to prevent this dunk.

 

Friday's results

Washington Wizards 118-112 Atlanta Hawks
Brooklyn Nets 139-120 San Antonio Spurs
Oklahoma City Thunder 126-103 New York Knicks
Utah Jazz 99-94 Boston Celtics
Indiana Pacers 108-102 Chicago Bulls
Orlando Magic 132-118 Minnesota Timberwolves
New Orleans Pelicans 110-104 Miami Heat
Dallas Mavericks 121-96 Memphis Grizzlies
Phoenix Suns 127-117 Portland Trail Blazers
Los Angeles Lakers 113-103 Milwaukee Bucks

 

76ers at Warriors

The Philadelphia 76ers (38-25) will be eyeing back-to-back road wins when they travel to the Golden State Warriors (14-49) on Saturday.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James became the third player in NBA history to score 34,000 points.

James reached the milestone in Friday's blockbuster showdown with Giannis Antetokounmpo's league-leading Milwaukee Bucks.

The three-time champion and four-time MVP was already third on the NBA's all-time list for scoring after leapfrogging Kobe Bryant in January before the Lakers legend tragically died in a helicopter crash.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) still owns the record, ahead of Karl Malone (36,928) and the 35-year-old James.

Entering the Lakers' clash against the Bucks, James had been averaging 25.4 points, 10.7 assists and 7.8 rebounds per game this season.

Stephen Curry's comeback on Thursday night was a welcome sight for LeBron James, who told the Golden State Warriors guard "the game missed you".

Curry had been out since October with a broken hand but he played 27 minutes against the Toronto Raptors at Chase Center, draining three three-pointers in a 23-point display.

The Warriors, whose season has been ruined by the injuries to Curry and Klay Thompson, lost 121-113 but head coach Steve Kerr said his team were "through the woods" now their two-time MVP was fit again.

Golden State's NBA-worst 14-49 record means they are not a factor in the Western Conference, with the Los Angeles Lakers leading the way ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers and the Denver Nuggets.

Yet Lakers star James was still pleased to see Curry back on the hardwood.

"Happy to see @StephenCurry30 back out there again!" James wrote on Twitter.

"Nothing like being in your sanctuary! The game missed you."

LeBron James' enduring brilliance is a source of inspiration to Giannis Antetokounmpo, who aims to follow in the NBA great's footsteps. 

The pair will face off when Antetokounmpo's Milwaukee Bucks take on James' Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.

At the age of 35, James is still producing the goods, and Antetokounmpo – whose Bucks side beat the Indiana Pacers 119-100 on Wednesday – cannot help but admire him.

"It's amazing. He's 35 and playing at a high level," said the 25-year-old Antetokounmpo, per ESPN.

"A lot of times we think that, 'Okay, we're going to retire at 35,' but seeing a guy at 35 being still a top-three best player in the world, that makes us want to be there.

"It makes me want to be there one day, so I've got to keep taking care of my body, eating the right way, being healthy, and as I said – he paved the way, and hopefully we can just follow."

Looking ahead to the Bucks' match-up with the Lakers ​– the two teams leading their respective conferences – Antetokounmpo cited James and Anthony Davis as key players, while Frank Vogel's men will have revenge on their mind following a 111-104 loss in December.

"The Lakers are going to come and play hard. We know that," he said. "I watched the game [against the New Orleans Pelicans]. They played extremely hard. They played through Anthony Davis, LeBron was facilitating, guys were shooting the ball, they were running to the corner, they were playing good basketball.

"And they lost the first game, so they're going to come out and try to win the second one.

"But at the end of the day, we've got to do what we do, which is defend and run to the corner and run to our spots, move the ball, take the open shot, make the right play, drive the lanes.

"We've done this for two years now – a year and a half, almost two years – and things take care of itself. So as a leader, I've just got to do that, and as a team, we've just got to stay on track."

LeBron James was thrilled to see Anthony Davis "going nuts" in the Los Angeles Lakers' win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday.

Davis was 13-of-19 from the field for his 37 points and 13 rebounds, with the Lakers claiming a 120-107 victory.

James, who had 22 points and 14 assists, thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle.

"AD was going nuts," said James, per ESPN. "It was fun."

James had long lobbied for the Lakers to sign Davis and, with that ambition realised when he traded from the New Orleans Pelicans in July, the three-time NBA champion is delighted with how things are working out.

"It's everything I expected and more," he said. "Obviously that's why I wanted him here. When you get a generational talent like that and you got an opportunity to get him, you just try to do whatever you can to get him.

"I gave my opinion on what I thought he could bring to this franchise. I gave my thoughts about the player, but not only the player, the person. Hopefully they took my advice to heart.

"Obviously, ultimately they made the decision to do what we did in the offseason. It's no surprise to me.

"I already knew how incredible the guy is. He had 50 [points] in the All-Star Game. You know, 30s, 20s, 40s and 20s he had when he was with the Pelicans and just doing the things he was doing at that size, there's not too many guys who have done that in this league."

LeBron James sent a message to critics who question his mentoring of younger players, saying they could "kiss my a***".

James' triple-double of 34 points, 13 assists and 12 rebounds led the Los Angeles Lakers past the New Orleans Pelicans 122-114 on Sunday.

For the Pelicans, Zion Williamson – the top pick in the 2019 NBA Draft – scored a career-high 35 points to continue the strong start to his career.

James, a three-time NBA champion and four-time MVP, shared a post-game moment with Williamson, a day after praising Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant.

"It's my obligation and it's my job to continue to pass on the game to the guys that are coming in after me, it's just my responsibility," he told a news conference on Sunday.

"No-one told me to do that, I just feel like it's my responsibility to leave the game in a better place than when I had it.

"When you see the class of guys that are in our league right now, I mentioned Ja last night, you mention Zion tonight, you see Trae Young, you see Luka Doncic, you see Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell, you just see all these guys, these young guys, the league is in a very good place.

"If I'm able to give my wisdom and game and pass it down no matter when I'm playing or after I'm playing I feel like it's my job because the game has given me so much as I started playing when I was eight years old.

"It's my responsibility and anybody that says, 'LeBron, why would he do that while he's playing? It's a sign of weakness, he's buddy-buddy with guys he's going against', tell them they can kiss my a***, with a smile too."

James' Lakers hold a 46-13 record and are 5.5 games clear atop the Western Conference.

LeBron James believes the sky is the limit for "super special" rookie Ja Morant, who helped the Memphis Grizzlies defeat the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.

Morant, the heavy favourite for the Rookie of the Year award, tallied 27 points as the Grizzlies beat James and the Lakers 105-88.

He and James swapped jerseys after the game, with the four-time MVP heaping praise on the 20-year-old point guard.

"The kid is super special," James said after the road defeat snapped a seven-game winning streak for the 45-13 Lakers.

"Like I said when we just played him in LA, Memphis got a great one. They got a great one. So, the sky's the limit for the kid

"I didn't even know I was getting his jersey actually. I gave him mine, for sure, but I didn't know he was returning the favour. But it's pretty cool.

"I think it's just mutual respect. I've watched him for quite a while now.

"And once he obviously got to the league you start to pay attention more and more and the relationship starts if that guy wants it, from my side.

"And it's just all about understanding what those guys [rookies] are going through because I was in that position before as well."

Speaking to ESPN about the "open-door policy" he has with other NBA players who approach him, James said: "I've always thought about that. Like, what young guys are coming up in the ranks that will be able to continue to carry it on after I'm gone.

"You look at Ja and you look at Zion [Williamson]. You look at Jayson Tatum. You look at Luka Doncic and Trae Young, and the list goes on and on.

"Those guys are just not only great on the floor but also, more importantly, off the floor. And that's a great thing to have. Our league is in a very, very good place."

Anthony Davis felt the Los Angeles Lakers "filled the void" left by LeBron James' absence in the 116-86 win over the Golden State Warriors.

James sat out Thursday's trip to San Francisco due to a sore groin, but All-Star team-mate Davis stepped up with 23 points and six rebounds.

"LeBron, when he's out, it's taking away a lot of things that we do," said Davis after helping his side to a seventh consecutive win.

"It's on all of us to make sure we try to fill those voids, and I think we did that.

"Usually when he's playing and he comes off the floor we kind of take a dip in all aspects of the game. We've got to play how we did tonight when he's playing and he's not on the floor.

"It's good for guys to get those reps. When he comes back we've just got to make sure we keep the same pace, same intensity even when he's not on the floor."

Defeated Warriors coach Steve Kerr conceded runs to the NBA Finals in each of the previous five seasons have taken their toll on his team.

Despite his absence, Kerr cited James as a remarkable example of how to cope with the rigours of going deep into the postseason year after year, although he can see the positives in missing out this time around.

"Watching LeBron, he looks refreshed, he looks recharged," said Kerr. "The idea of eight straight Finals in insane when you think about five here and what it's done and how our players have felt this past year and the injuries that have hit.

"I do believe that when all is said and done, by next year's training camp our guys should feel recharged and refreshed and ready to go.

"Hopefully that's the case. LeBron's also LeBron. He's built differently than most people."

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James will sit out the game against the Golden State Warriors due to a sore groin.

A groin problem means James will not suit up to face the Warriors in the NBA on Thursday, the Lakers announced on Wednesday.

James posted a season-high 40 points in the Lakers' 118-109 win against the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday.

The 35-year-old, who endured an injury-ravaged debut season in Los Angeles, is averaging 25.5 points, 10.6 assists and 7.7 rebounds per game for the Western Conference leaders in 2019-20.

Lakers team-mate Anthony Davis, meanwhile, is listed as probable against the Warriors with a sore left elbow.

LeBron James proved he is still the master after leading the Los Angeles Lakers to victory over the New Orleans Pelicans, but he tipped the apprentice Zion Williamson "to get better and better".

It was the first career meeting between superstar James and exciting rookie Williamson, with the former dropping a season-high 40 points and adding eight rebounds as the Lakers triumphed 118-109 to make it six straight wins in the NBA.

Anthony Davis contributed 21 points despite only going 6-for-21 from the field, adding 14 rebounds and six blocks, while Alex Caruso was also influential for the Lakers.

Speaking after the game, James predicted Williamson – who landed 29 points for the Pelicans, second only to former Laker Brandon Ingram's 34 – will be a star for years to come.

"He's playing exceptional basketball," James said in quotes reported by ESPN. 

"I think his game is going to get better and better, just having that experience. I think today's game is the perfect fit for his game. 

"The high pace, the way they play, it fits his game. It works perfectly, and our game is so many possessions now, so much space, it's perfect for his game, so he's doing exceptionally well with that."

Davis, who moved to LA from New Orleans in July, echoed a similar message in his assessment of Williamson, saying: "He's a great player.

"He's got a quick first step. Very explosive. He's going to continue to get better and better as he goes on."

Williamson was injured for the Pelicans' first two encounters with the Lakers this season but has now scored 20-plus points in nine consecutive games.

The 19-year-old paid tribute to James' performance.

"It was a great experience," Williamson said. "He's an incredible player. 

"His resume speaks for himself. He handled business. He came out here and did what he had to do to help his team get the win."

James also put up eight assists and provided several highlight-reel dunks. Asked to explain why he had so much success, the veteran said: "I was just reading the defense. 

"They went under a lot of my pick-and-rolls; pretty much every team has done that this year, so I just try to make them pay. 

"I was able to get a couple of threes going and then I was being aggressive the rest of the [third] quarter."

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James said there is "never going to be a closure" over the death of Kobe Bryant.

Lakers great Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were killed in a helicopter crash, along with seven others, in California last month.

Thousands packed into Staples Center on Monday for an emotional memorial service – Bryant's wife Vanessa, Michael Jordan and Shaquille O'Neal delivering heartfelt speeches.

James reflected on the service and Bryant's death prior to Tuesday's NBA clash against the New Orleans Pelicans.

"It's never a closure. It's never going to be a closure," James said. "I mean, we continue to live on his legacy and continue to have our hearts heavy with both sadness and with happiness for his family that are still here.

"So, it's not a closure. But it was a celebration which was well received from not only the Laker faithful, not only the family here, but everybody around the world."

James added: "Emotionally a wreck, like everyone else. Another challenging day for all of us. Like you've been hearing me talk about the last couple times you guys asked me about the whole situation, it's just been hard to kind of talk about it. Trying not to go back. It's just tough."

"One thing I can come out of it saying is how strong and how bold and how powerful Vanessa is," James continued. "To stand up there the way she did, to give that speech the way she gave that speech. I commend her.

"My heart is with their family still. With his three daughters that are still here. With his wife. With his mom and dad and his sisters. It was just a very difficult day. Obviously a celebration but it was a difficult day for all of us. So, I appreciate it. If we could move onto tonight, that would be great."

Zion Williamson believes LeBron James does not get the respect he deserves despite the incredible standard he has maintained throughout his NBA career.

Williamson will face LeBron for the first time in his career on Tuesday when the New Orleans Pelicans take on James and the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Pelicans are 10th in the Western Conference standings with a 25-32 record, but still harbour hopes of claiming the eighth seed in the playoffs.

Should they achieve that goal, the Pelicans could face the Lakers, who hold the top seed in the West as it stands, in the first round of the postseason.

Williamson, though, is not viewing this week's encounter as a possible playoff preview.

"I'm not necessarily looking at it from that perspective," he told reporters after scoring 28 points in the Pelicans' 115-101 road win over the Golden State Warriors on Sunday.  

"I'm looking at from the perspective as, you know we need every win, we're trying to fight for that eight seed in the playoffs."

On four-time MVP James, he added: "I used to watch him all the time, especially when he was in Cleveland the first time, he was just an incredible player to watch, he always held his own.

"Sometimes I feel he doesn't get the respect he deserves but it's not for me to decide."

LeBron James lauded Anthony Davis again after the Los Angeles Lakers' latest win but insisted his team-mate is "on a nice list of great players I've played with" and his own approach over the coming months will not change as a result.

The Lakers, who reportedly intend to waive injured center DeMarcus Cousins and sign Markieff Morris, a free agent after his Detroit Pistons buyout, beat the Memphis Grizzlies 117-105 on Friday.

James scored 32 points, while Davis had an outstanding 28 points, 13 rebounds and seven blocks for the 42-12 Western Conference leaders.

Four-time MVP James has carried the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Lakers in the past, but Davis - deserving of the Defensive Player of the Year Award, held by Rudy Gobert, according to his team-mate - is sharing the load.

That does not change the veteran's mentality in the closing months of the season, though, as he looks to do whatever is necessary for the team.

"I never really looked at it like that. It's always been a team game," James told reporters. "I've never looked at it like I need to put a whole franchise, a whole team on my back.

"I need to do my job. If I do my job then we put ourselves in a position to be successful, and I'm going to have to do that again this year.

"AD's on a nice list of great players I've played with. But nothing changes for me in my preparation, the way I go out and approach the game, nothing changes."

He added on Davis: "He does everything. He's able to protect the rim, he's able to guard on the post, he's able to switch out on guards, he's able to block shots, get steals. He does everything defensively for us.

"That's why he's Defensive Player of the Year. He does everything. There's not one thing he doesn't do well defensively."

Davis had to step out of the game for a spell due to a bruised calf but returned in style.

"I just felt like I was able to get back on the floor and play," he said. "The leg felt good enough for me to go out and give it a try.

"I was just trying to stay loose and stay warm so it won't tighten back up. I just want to be on the floor to help the guys."

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