LeBron James might miss out on the NBA playoffs this season but the Los Angeles Lakers forward is confident he will be back in the postseason mix in years to come.

James' first year in LA has not gone to plan for the four-time MVP as the Lakers have struggled for consistency and the 34-year-old has struggled with injury.

A game-high 36 points from James helped the Lakers snap a five-game losing streak on Tuesday, his efforts crucial in a 123-107 win over the Chicago Bulls.

It is unlikely to be enough to extend the Lakers' season, but James believes they will be playoff contenders in the future.

"I'll be watching it if we're not there, and it looks like our chances are slim to none after each and every game," he told reporters. "And so many teams in the West are playing well.

"So you try to get better, but this won't be the last time I'll be in the postseason."

He added: "Obviously, I would love for the team to be in the postseason.

"But right now, it's not the hand I was dealt, so you play the hand that you were dealt until the dealer shuffles the cards and you're dealt another hand and can do that."

And James says the final matches of the season could be crucial in helping the young Lakers squad.

"We're still playing playoff teams," James said. "For our young guys to be able to play playoff teams on the road, it's very key for their development still.

"We have an opportunity on this road trip. We go into Toronto our next game. We go into Detroit, who's a playoff team. We go into Milwaukee at the end of the trip. All playoff teams, all good teams. 

"Those games will be like playoff games, if we want them to be. They'll get an opportunity to learn, and I get an opportunity to play with them, so we can take that out of it for sure."

LeBron James admitted Brandon Ingram's deep venous thrombosis diagnosis was a reminder not to take opportunities for granted after the undermanned Los Angeles Lakers lost again on Saturday.

James recorded a triple-double in 28 minutes on court, but the struggling Lakers were beaten for a fifth successive game, going down 120-107 to the Boston Celtics.

Ingram was missing after tests on a sore right shoulder revealed the severity of his injury, with the 21-year-old expected to sit out the remainder of the season.

Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma are also sidelined, while Lance Stephenson did not feature against the Celtics due to a sprained toe.

"Our league is all about wins and losses, but when you have something like that happen it puts things in perspective and you understand how important those things are," James told the media.

"On the flip side, you just don't take an opportunity for granted when you do get on the floor. Your season can be shut down like 'BI' [Ingram] and 'Zo [Ball]'."

 With so many key players missing, a young Lakers line-up failed to keep pace with the Celtics, who saw Kyrie Irving score 30 points as they won for a third straight game on the road.

Rookie center Moritz Wagner had 22 points for Los Angeles and Johnathan Williams contributed 18 off the bench, yet the latest defeat further damaged the team's slim hopes of making the playoffs.

"Every day is another opportunity to learn and experience things," a philosophical James said when asked about the Lakers' youngsters.

"You have to be very patient - they haven't experienced a lot in this game, there are a lot of things that are new to them and they have to learn on the fly, but the best teacher in life is experience.

"For me to be able to use some of my experience to try to rub off on them. Hopefully, it is rubbing off on them about playing the game the right way and never taking it for granted, giving it everything you got on the floor.

"It's challenging, but I kind of knew what I was getting into. I didn't expect to be out for five and a half weeks during a crucial point in our season, and we also didn't expect the other brain of our team, Rajon Rondo, to also be out for another five and a half weeks - we both got hurt at the same time.

"I think it just took a hit on our team at that point in time, which was a critical point going into the new year." 

Kyrie Irving acknowledged it will be tough for LeBron James to miss the playoffs after the Boston Celtics handed the Los Angeles Lakers a fifth straight loss on Saturday.

Irving scored 30 points as the Celtics won for a third successive game on the road, their 120-107 triumph lifting them to a 41-26 record for the season as they sit in fifth position in the East.

In contrast, the Lakers look set to miss out in the Western Conference.

They are seven games back of the eighth-placed San Antonio Spurs, meaning James is in danger of being a spectator during the postseason for the first time since 2005.

"I feel for him," Irving - who won a title with James at the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016 - told the media after the game.

"Obviously [James] missing a lot of time, as well as Brandon Ingram, but 'Bron' is a championship contender, he always has been. He's such a great player and such a great teammate.

"When you’re not eligible to qualify for the playoffs it's hard, so I feel for him."

While the Lakers are slumping towards the end of the regular season, the Celtics appear to be finding form at just the right time.

The team has struggled to live up to expectations but Irving insists their problems in previous months will not matter once the playoffs begin.

"This stuff that happens in the regular season, you barely remember it," the point guard, a six-time All-Star, said.

"When it comes to the playoffs, that’s when you want to be playing your best basketball. We just want to play well, everybody has to step up. 

"That starts with me, my energy and my spirit. When everyone is on the same page, we are a different team. We weren’t doing that consistently throughout the season but now it’s more important than ever to be together, to have connectivity. That’s where my focus is. 

"That helps me play at a high level when my teammates are playing at a high level."

Luke Walton says LeBron James' feat of eclipsing Michael Jordan's NBA points-scoring tally despite being so unselfish "speaks to the greatness to his game".

James became the fourth-highest scorer in NBA history during a 115-99 defeat for the Los Angeles Lakers against the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday.

The four-time NBA All-Star bettered the legendary Jordan's mark of 32,292 by pouring in 31 points in the Lakers' loss at Staples Center.

Lakers head coach Walton saluted forward James on a special night for the 34-year-old.

"I think we should start off by giving credit to what LeBron did tonight individually." said Walton.

"Becoming the fourth all-time scorer, passing Michael Jordan. To me the most incredible thing about that is what an unselfish player that he is.

"For someone that is always looking to pass first, to score that many points in his career just speaks to the greatness to his game. It was pretty special and cool to be a part of it. Unfortunate that it came in a loss, but a pretty awesome moment."

The injury-hit Lakers have now lost six of their last seven games to almost certainly miss out on the playoffs and Walton said they may put priority on looking at the bigger picture.

"The goals could change. Right now, with our group when the season started our goals were 'let's get in these playoffs, let's make some noise'." he said.

"But we rely on so many young players that player development was still something we needed to do this season heading into next season.

"We needed the growth from young players, so the amount and the priority might change as we go down this final stretch of the season, but for now we are trying to win."

LeBron James ranks the "beyond crazy" achievement of passing his inspiration Michael Jordan on the all-time list of NBA points scorers as "right up there" with the best of his career.

The four-time MVP added 31 points to his tally in the Los Angeles Lakers' 115-99 defeat to the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday to better Jordan's total of 32,292.

James is now the fourth-highest scorer in NBA history and the Lakers superstar had to pinch himself after eclipsing the legendary Jordan's mark.

"A lot of stuff that I've done in my career...this ranks right up there at the top," he said. 

"For a kid from Akron, Ohio needing inspiration, needing some type of positive influence, MJ was that guy for me.

"I watched him from afar, wanted to be like MJ, wanted to shoot fadeaways like MJ, wanted to stick my tongue out on dunks like MJ, wanted to wear my sneakers like MJ. I wanted kids to look up to me at some point like MJ. It's beyond crazy.

"Why it is so crazy to me right now seeing where I'm at in the scoring of all-time greats in the game of basketball, because I've never been about scoring."

James added: "Me and my best friends, all we talk about is MJ. Outdoor court we would play in the snow, in the rain in north-east Ohio and we all wanted to be MJ.

"Every last one of us wanted to be MJ. My high school best friends they text me, they cannot believe it, I cannot believe it because we just remember walking up and down Akron streets singing 'I wanna be, I wanna be like Mike'.

"When you are an inner-city kid from Akron, Ohio growing up you look for anything that can inspire you, because you are always put up against the numbers of failure.

"The numbers of guys like myself; single-parent household, only child, underprivileged making it out is not high at all.

"MJ had a lot to do with me making it out along with my mother, along with the city itself, along with the lower-league coaches. Mike had no idea he was doing when he was growing up a 45-minute flight from Chicago."

LeBron James added weight to the argument that he, and not Michael Jordan, is the greatest basketball player of all time on Wednesday.

The four-time NBA MVP surpassed Jordan for career points as he tallied 31 for the Los Angeles Lakers in their loss to the Denver Nuggets.

While it looks poised to be a disappointing first season in LA for James, who appears in line to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2005, he can console himself with another outstanding individual achievement.

However, while Jordan is now in his rear-view mirror in terms of points, James still has three more NBA greats to surpass to become the league's all-time leading scorer, and that may be a tall task for the 34-year-old.

James now has 32,311 points to his name and is averaging 27.1 points per game in his career. Based on those figures, we look at how long it would take LeBron to overhaul the top three if he continues at his current pace.

3. Kobe Bryant - 33,643 points

The Lakers' struggles have left some fans to ironically chant the name of the franchise legend, who is above LeBron as a player in the eyes of many LA supporters. However, he is unlikely to be above him for much longer, and James is poised to surpass him on the points list next season. If he maintains his points-per-game average, LeBron will reach the mark set by Bryant in around 49 games.

2. Karl Malone - 36,928 points

The two-time MVP does not have the titles LeBron has, having been thwarted by Jordan during his prime years with the Utah Jazz. However, throughout his career, Malone – known as the Mailman – consistently delivered the goods. He is second on the all-time list and LeBron will likely need two further seasons at his peak to catch him, which he would do in about 170 games at his current pace.

1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - 38,387 points

LeBron is unlikely to have the same success Abdul-Jabbar did in Los Angeles, where he won five of his six NBA titles with the Lakers, and he will need to go some way to catch the league's all-time leading point scorer, who amassed his mammoth total over 20 seasons as a professional. At his current rate it will take James around 224 games to match him, so three more seasons of dominance could do the job.

LeBron James boosted his claims to be the greatest player in NBA history as he edged past Michael Jordan's points total on Wednesday.

The Los Angeles Lakers star contributed 31 points during a 115-99 loss against the Denver Nuggets to nudge ahead of the Chicago Bulls great (32,292), moving up to 32,311.

And so debate will rage again about who might be the greatest of all time, with James and Jordan certainly at the forefront of any discussion.

But by many measures, James still falls short of Jordan. We take a look at some statistics where the retired star still has the advantage.

SHOOTING

James might now have the edge in terms of points, but that does not mean he has yet matched Jordan's tallies in terms of field goals or free throws made.

Jordan made 12,192 field goals (fourth best) and 7,327 free throws (fifth best) to James' 11,748 (sixth) and 7,101 (eighth).

POINTS

And Jordan certainly enjoyed more one-off outstanding games, topping the charts in NBA history in terms of 30-point performances with 562. James has 442 so far to lie third.

The 56-year-old also had an incredible knack of converting those displays into much higher points tallies, scoring 40-plus points on an incredible 173 occasions, as well as 50-plus points 31 times. LeBron is a way off on both.

AVERAGES

All these numbers combined to see Jordan average 30-plus points per game in eight seasons, as well as 30.1 points per game through his career. Both numbers are NBA highs.

STEALS

Jordan was not just about points, though. He made 2,514 steals in his career and averaged 2.3 per game. This is an area in which James lags behind comparatively, ranking 17th and 60th in NBA history.

AWARDS

Of course, as two of the greatest to have ever played the sport, individual honours are a guarantee. Jordan won five seasonal MVP awards, tying for second all-time. James is tied for fourth with his four.

In NBA Finals, nobody has been able to match Jordan and his six MVP awards. Incredibly, James is in a tie for second yet three behind on three.

Those who think LeBron James is a better player than Michael Jordan ever was have a new statistic to strengthen their argument.

Los Angeles Lakers star James moved ahead of Jordan into fourth in the NBA's all-time points list when he overhauled the former Chicago Bull great's total of 32,292 on Wednesday.

It is unlikely to end the debate over who is the greatest of all time, though, with Jordan still ahead in championship wins – six to James' three – and MVP awards – five to James' four.

To mark James surpassing Jordan's points haul, two Omnisport writers make the case for who is basketball's greatest ever.

The case for Michael Jordan

By Tom Webber

Asked which feat was harder out of James Harden's run of 30 straight 30-point games and Russell Westbrook's 10 consecutive triple-doubles during the All-Star weekend in Charlotte last month, Jordan replied with a smile: "Six championships, by all means."

You'd have to think his answer would be the same if he had to factor making the NBA Finals for eight seasons in a row into the equation too.

In an era dominated by hard, physical defense, the notorious Detroit Pistons looked set to reign at the end of the rivalry between the Lakers and the Boston Celtics in the late 1980s.

Jordan's style stood in stark contrast to the Pistons and his agility and athleticism was unparalleled, making him an enthralling watch for basketball fans across the globe.

He is also a two-time Olympic champion and retains the best points-per-game average of any NBA player in history at 30.1.

LeBron couldn't wear the number 23 at the Miami Heat because president Pat Riley had honoured Jordan by retiring it, even though the Brooklyn-born shooting guard never played for the franchise. That's how good he was.

James has dominated a period in basketball, but he has not defined one like Jordan.

The case for LeBron James

By Liam Blackburn

Put simply, no athlete in history has had to cope with the hype bestowed upon James – dubbed 'The Chosen One' on a Sports Illustrated cover as a 17-year-old – and he has not only lived up to the billing but exceeded those expectations.

Ohio's favourite son put an entire city on his back to end Cleveland's title drought and deliver the Cavaliers their first ever championship in 2016.

The Cavs were 3-1 down to one of the greatest teams ever assembled and James stepped up with back-to-back 41-point displays against the Golden State Warriors before a triple-double and 'The Block' cemented his Finals MVP award in Game 7.

It was James' third title and, in his view, affirmation he was the greatest to ever take to the hardwood.

The Finals losses should not count against him. Eight appearances in a row, with two different teams, carries more credence than Jordan's 6-0, and if titles alone were the yardstick to measure potential GOATs by, Bill Russell would be grazing in the field with his 11 rings anyway.

Jordan was ahead of his time in the way he played the game but James is still dominating, 16 years on from his NBA debut, in a league unrecognisable from the one 'The Chosen One' first entered.

Jordan took basketball to new heights, but James has raised the bar again.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James has officially scored more points than Michael Jordan in the NBA.

James passed Jordan on the NBA's all-time scoring list with his 14th point in Wednesday's game against the Denver Nuggets.

It was the Lakers star's 32,294th career point, moving him into fourth on the list.

It took James 1,190 games to reach that mark while Jordan needed 1,072.

James now trails only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387), Karl Malone (36,928) and Kobe Bryant (33,643) on the all-time scoring list.

The 34-year-old also sits 10th all time in assists and 54th in rebounds.

LeBron James is not keen on the idea of shutting down the rest of his season, despite the Los Angeles Lakers' hopes of reaching the playoffs looking increasingly remote.

The Lakers lost 113-105 to their cross-city rivals the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday, a third straight defeat which left their record at 30-34.

James' team are 10th in the Western Conference, 5.5 games behind the San Antonio Spurs in the eighth and final playoff spot, but the 34-year-old – who missed 18 games with a groin injury earlier this season, the longest absence of his career - insisted his instinct is not to bring 2018-19 to an early end.

"That would take a lot of convincing from Luke [Walton, Lakers head coach] on up," James told reporters.

"Unless I'm hurt, I'm not sitting games. That conversation hasn't occurred, but I'm sure it can happen soon.

"For me personally, I can [only] speak for myself, [the motivation is] continue to be a professional, and be as great as you can be every single night, no matter the circumstances, 'cause someone is always watching.

"You keep playing to the end and see what happens. I've been talking about it for a while now. 

"Everyone has been talking about the postseason, [but] we should be worried about each and every game and how we can continue to get better with our process and get better with our team."

Since a dramatic overtime victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on January 18, the Lakers are on a shocking 5-13 run, prompting the suggestions the team should preserve the health of James and look to improve their draft position ahead of next season.

While James suggested the likes of president Magic Johnson have a tough pitch on their hands if they want to shut him down for the rest of the year, the three-time NBA champion was more open to the idea of managing his minutes if the playoffs become mathematically out of reach.

"You kind of look at the rest of the games, and look at the percentages of what's going on there in the future, and see what makes more sense for not only me but the team itself as well," added James, who had 27 points, eight rebounds and six assists in a 42-minute outing against the Clippers.

Patrick Beverley said the Clippers proved they are the best team in Los Angeles and showed they "want it more" in a 113-105 defeat of the Lakers on Monday.

The Clippers took another step towards the playoffs and struck another blow to the Lakers' bid to prolong their season at Staples Center.

Beverley declared at the start of the season that the Clippers would outperform their struggling city rivals and says they have more hunger than the Lakers.

"I want it more," Beverley told FOX Sports West. "We want it more. Like I said, everybody counted us out. Fine. We'll take that. It's a bigger picture for us."

Beverley added in the locker room: "There was seven people in here on media day, I remember it like it was yesterday. I told Shai [Gilgeous-Alexander], I said, 'Look at the room, it's seven media people here, watch at the end of the year'.

"Like I said about us being the best team in LA, a lot of people don't believe me, it's fine. Women lie, men lie, numbers don't."

Beverley did a great job of guarding LeBron James and says he is fuelled by a hunger to prove a point following setbacks earlier in his career.

He said: "It's not about him [James], it's not about the Lakers. It's about us being the best team we could possibly be. We want to be a complete team going into the playoffs and we took a step forward with that tonight."

Beverley continued: "I played for Miami, with LeBron. They cut me. I got drafted by the Lakers, they traded me to Miami. Bron got there, they cut me.

"I remember it like it was yesterday. So yeah, it's a chip on my shoulder."

The injury-hit Los Angeles Lakers are likely to be without Kyle Kuzma when they face the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, but Brandon Ingram is set to return.

Kuzma damaged his ankle in a 113-105 defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on Monday.

The forward's X-ray came back as negative, but head coach Luke Walton does not expect him to be fit for the Nuggets clash.

There was more positive news on Ingram, who is in line to make his comeback from a shoulder injury as the struggling Lakers attempt to snap a three-match losing streak which has rocked their bid to make the playoffs.

Lance Stephenson (toe), Tyson Chandler (neck) and Lonzo Ball (ankle) have been sidelined along with Ingram, and Walton says injuries have taken a toll.

He said: "The injuries are catching up a bit. I thought the mindset we asked for with the way we want to compete was there tonight [against the Clippers], but between being down the type of bodies that we've been down, I think it felt like that in the second half we missed a lot of those wide-open shots.

"That just kind of deflated some of the energy out of us and then in the third quarter they put up 30 points on us. It felt like we'd come to fight back, then we'd miss a couple of open shots and that was how the game was going.

"But that's a good team in the top eight places for a reason. They made plays down the stretch and you've got to give them credit."

Walton said of the Lakers' play-off hopes: "We are still not mathematically out of it, I know it's a long shot but we are going to come in and work."

LeBron James felt it was an all-too familiar story for the Los Angeles Lakers as the struggling Phoenix Suns consigned them to a fourth defeat in their last five NBA games.

The Lakers sunk to a new low on Saturday, going down 118-109 to a Phoenix side languishing bottom of the standings.

That followed a 131-120 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday, striking blows to the Lakers' bid to secure a playoff place.

James, who top-scored with 27 points and laid on 16 assists, said Luke Walton's side only had themselves to blame.

"I'm not here to harp on with negativity. We had opportunities, we could have played better here, we could have played better there - it's been throughout the whole season." said James.

"Right now, it's a tough loss for us. It was a tough loss for us last night [against the Bucks]. We knew we gave so much to the game last night that we had to kind of find our own energy.

"I actually felt a lot better than I thought I was going to feel once I got on the floor but as a collective group, we didn't always have it.

"A few of us had it at times but it wasn't always a five-man collective group, at least until those last five minutes."

Los Angeles Lakers coach Luke Walton was willing to shoulder the blame after his team lost 131-120 to the Milwaukee Bucks following a costly turnover in the final minutes.

Walton called a timeout with less than two minutes to go, as the Lakers trailed by just three points. The play was designed to give LeBron James the ball and space to make an attack, but Walton said there was an error in his communication.

The 38-year-old said he failed to emphasise to his players that they needed to inbound the ball cleanly from the baseline, which resulted in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope turning the ball over before it got to James.

"I'll take that responsibility," said Walton in his post-game news conference. "I took for granted that we'd get the ball inbounds, so that is on me.

"We have an extra timeout, we've got to take it. We can't afford to turn that ball over right there. But they came up with the press, and we didn't get open and at that point we probably should have called that last timeout. I know guys always want to save them, but it was a costly play in the game."

Caldwell-Pope addressed the turnover after the game, explaining what went wrong.

"I was just looking for someone to get open. I could've run the baseline and I didn't," he said.

James added: "We blew it."

Los Angeles led by as many as 12 points midway through the third quarter and have now lost seven times this season after holding a double-digit lead in the second half.

"I mean, listen, this is win or lose. And obviously you want to build, but it's win or lose in that particular moment," James said. "We've got to be great tomorrow [Saturday] in the next game. We can't say, 'OK, we were great three quarters, three-and-a-half quarters versus Milwaukee, we can carry that.' Nope, we can't do that. We have to be great against Phoenix and hit the restart button."

The Lakers fell to 30-32 with the loss to sit 10th in the Western Conference, while the Bucks improved to 48-14 to remain at the top of the East.

The high-flying Milwaukee Bucks locked up the first playoff spot of the NBA season after defeating the Los Angeles Lakers 131-120.

Eric Bledsoe – who reportedly agreed to a four-year extension worth $70million earlier in the day – led the Bucks with 31 points, nine rebounds and five assists in Los Angeles on Friday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo did not have his best night as he scored just 16 points, but he did throw down one poster to make his night a bit better.

The Bucks are now 48-14 and two-and-a-half games ahead of the Toronto Raptors for top spot in the Eastern Conference.

LeBron James scored 31 points and threw down a good dunk of his own for the beaten Lakers at the Staples Center.

The Lakers are 30-32 and failed to capitalise on a Sacramento Kings loss and remain a game behind for ninth place in the Western Conference.

 

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