It was something only Kobe Bryant could have done.

At the end of an illustrious 20-year career that included five NBA championship wins, 18 All-Star selections and All-NBA First Team honours on 11 occasions, Bryant said farewell to the Los Angeles Lakers with a Hollywood ending.

He produced one of the most memorable final appearances the league has seen against the Utah Jazz on April 13, 2016.

On the anniversary of his death alongside 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash, we look back at one of the finest moments of his career.

POINTING THE WAY

After Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea's bizarre rendition of the United States' national anthem, the 18,997 fans inside Staples Center were treated to something far more familiar.

Bryant racked up 60 points against the Jazz, which was the most scored by a player in a single game in the NBA that season. However, it was the first time he had gone past 50 since 2009, when he poured in 61 against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

Bryant was 6-of-21 from three-point range and had plenty of joy in the paint, where he accumulated 22 points. He scored a total of 16 unassisted points, with his final seven baskets coming via his own work.

SHOOT YOUR SHOT

If you don't shoot you don't score, and Bryant did his utmost to get points on the board. His 50 field goal attempts eclipsed the record of 49 set by the great Michael Jordan against the Orlando Magic in 1993. The 2008 MVP took 15 more shots than the rest of his team-mates combined.

Bryant nailed 18 of 40 shots with a defender within 3.5 feet against the Jazz and despite his record-breaking number of attempts he still took care of the ball, committing just two turnovers.

SLOW START, STRONG FINISH

It was not immediately clear the game was going to go so well for Bryant. He missed his first five shots and did not have a make until after the first six minutes of the game.

However, he eventually found his rhythm and was flying by the time the fourth quarter came around, scoring 13 unanswered points after the Jazz moved 96-86 ahead with two minutes and 35 seconds remaining.

His final act was a length-of-the-floor pass to Jordan Clarkson – his fourth assist of the game – for a dunk to seal an iconic 101-96 victory that underlined his legacy as an all-time great.

Kobe Bryant forged a legacy in the NBA that will forever stand the test of time.

A year has passed since the Los Angeles Lakers legend and 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among those to tragically lose their lives in a helicopter crash.

Bryant was a star who transcended the game of basketball after entering the NBA in 1996, providing highlight after highlight up until his retirement in 2016, with staggering point hauls.

To mark the anniversary of his passing, we look at Bryant's five greatest games with the Lakers, where the five-time NBA champion spent his entire 20-year career.

 

65 points - March 16, 2007 v Portland Trail Blazers

Against the Trail Blazers at Staples Center, Bryant came close to reaching the career-high 81 points he had recorded just over a year earlier. The superstar guard lit up the Blazers with 65 points as the Lakers won 116-111. Bryant shot 23-of-39, including 11-of-12 from the free throw line, while he also made eight three-pointers.

Nate McMillan coached Portland that day and after Bryant's passing, he told reporters: "I've seen it first-hand. He lit us up and I remember, he was shooting threes and just on fire, and we had him in a trap, deep corner, he had nowhere to go, should have passed the ball. He's facing his bench and he just turns and shoots it and it goes in. He really became like Michael [Jordan], in the sense that when you watched him play, could he do it again? Could he create that magic again in the fourth quarter? And he did."

61 points - February 2, 2009 v New York Knicks

Madison Square Garden hosted one of Bryant's greatest performances almost 12 years ago. At the world-famous arena in New York, 'the Black Mamba' posted 61 points - a venue record for a visiting player - against the Knicks, who lost 126-117 to the Lakers. On 19-of-31 shooting, Bryant finished with three assists and one block. He scored 34 points in the first half alone en route to the record, which was matched by Houston Rockets star James Harden in 2019.

"Tonight was one of the nights he kind of showed why he's going to go down in history," Lakers team-mate Lamar Odom said after the game.

62 points - December 20, 2005 v Dallas Mavericks

Three quarters were all that Kobe needed to embarrass the Mavericks. Bryant outscored Dallas 62-61 at the end of the third quarter in Los Angeles as the Lakers eased to a 112-90 victory. The Mavericks were one of the best teams that season, going on to reach the NBA Finals before succumbing to the Miami Heat. However, the Mavericks were schooled by the unstoppable Bryant, who shot 18-of-31 from the field and 22-of-25 from the free-throw line. He sat out the entire fourth quarter.

"It was just one of those nights," Bryant told reporters as he reflected on the game in 2016. "Yes [I could have scored 80 points that night]. It sounds funny to say, but yes, I could have."

60 points - April 13, 2016 v Utah Jazz 

Bryant said farewell to basketball in the only way he knew how, with an exclamation mark. It was a true Hollywood goodbye as Bryant capped an illustrious career by scoring 60 final-game points in a 101-96 victory over the Utah Jazz at Staples Center. Bryant drained 23 points in the fourth quarter, posting his first 50-point game since February 2009.

"It's hard to believe it happened this way," Bryant, who played 42 minutes and attempted a career-high 50 shots, said. "I'm still shocked about it… The perfect ending would have been a championship. But tonight was [me] trying to go out, play hard and try to put on a show as much as I possibly could. It felt good to be able to do that one last time."

81 points - January 22, 2006 v Toronto Raptors

The highlight of a stellar career and the night Bryant threatened to surpass Wilt Chamberlain. Kobe played 1,346 NBA games but he was well and truly in the zone against the Raptors, scoring 81 points - just 19 short of Chamberlain's legendary 100-point outing in 1962. Bryant produced 42 minutes of pure brilliance to lead the Lakers past the Raptors 122-104. It was a display of efficiency as Bryant's outburst featured a 60.9 shooting percentage from the field and 53.8 per cent from beyond the arc.

"Not even in my dreams," Bryant said. "That was something that just happened. It's tough to explain. It's just one of those things."

LeBron James had a homecoming to remember and his inspirations in a 46-point showing against the Cleveland Cavaliers were Tom Brady, his mom's cooking and an over-excited executive.

Superstar James guided the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Lakers to a 115-108 win on the road on what was his first return to Cleveland in two years.

James really turned it on in the fourth quarter, making nine of 10 shots including an outstanding 34-foot three-point effort that put the Lakers five points in front.

His last-quarter heroics followed James taking exception to an unidentified member of the Cavs' front office reacting a little too heartily to a missed shot towards the end of the third.

"It's someone I know for sure, I felt like he was just a little too excited about seeing me miss. That's what happened," James said. 

"I know who he is, he's part of the front office group. He was really excited about me missing that shot, a little bit more extra than I would have liked. He's gotta root for his team obviously, he showcased that. I knew I had another quarter and the fourth quarter is my favourite.

"The good thing for him is I only come here once. It's all good. He didn't say a word, he was just a little too excited about me missing a shot. There's a million cameras in these arenas, y'all just gotta find a shot of how excited he was. I didn't take it well."

But James, who was 73.1 per cent from the field and 63.6 per cent from the three-point range, also drew inspiration from seeing veteran quarterback Tom Brady lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Super Bowl, while enjoying some home comforts courtesy of his mother.

"Home cooking, the opportunity to see my mom and get a home-cooked meal," he replied when asked what inspired him against the Cavs.

"I saw my uncle too, it just felt good to be back in my haven, my rest haven, just being home.

"Also, you can be inspired watching the greatest play, watching Brady, that team, that inspired me too. It felt good from beginning."

Anthony Davis chalked up 17 points and 10 rebounds but was happy to just enjoy the LeBron show.

"When he's playing like that it's fun to watch, amazing to see the shots he makes and shots he takes. He's a hell of a player," Davis said.

"It was one of those nights for him, getting to the basket, hitting the three. He wasn't missing. From the first quarter I knew it was going to be a good night for him."

Head coach Frank Vogel described James' performance as "one of those nights for the ages for him" and added: "It was pretty awesome, just to see he can still turn it up like that.

"Obviously he wanted to win against his former team here, he came out the gates really strong."

LeBron James made history following his season-high performance as defending NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers stayed perfect on the road with a 115-108 win at the Cleveland Cavaliers.

James posted 46 points to lead the Lakers past former team the Cavaliers in Cleveland, where the Los Angeles franchise improved to 10-0 away from home on Monday.

Lakers superstar James – who had 21 points in the fourth quarter – became the first player in NBA history to tally 46 points, eight rebounds, six assists, two blocks, two steals and seven three-pointers made, per Stats Perform.

Behind James' mammoth display, the Lakers became the sixth team in history to start the season with a 10-plus game winning streak on the road.

Anthony Davis contributed a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Andre Drummond led the Cavaliers with 25 points and 17 rebounds.

Elsewhere, Kevin Durant stayed hot as the Brooklyn Nets took down last season's NBA Finals participants the Miami Heat 98-85.

Durant registered his 14th consecutive double-double, becoming the fourth player in league history to do so alongside Wilt Chamberlain, Adrian Dantley and Dominique Wilkins.

Bam Adebayo's double-double of 26 points and 10 rebounds were not enough for the Heat, who have lost three straight.

 

Red-hot Doncic matches MJ

Luka Doncic recorded another triple-double (35 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds) in the Dallas Mavericks' 117-113 loss to the Denver Nuggets. It was his 31st career triple-double. Doncic tied Hall of Famer Michael Jordan (16) for the eighth-most 30-point triple-doubles in NBA history. The 21-year-old Mavericks star also matched Magic Johnson (31) for the second-most triple-doubles before the age of 23.

Stephen Curry put on a show with a game-high 36 points to fuel the Golden State Warriors' 130-108 victory at home to the Minnesota Timberwolves. He was 11-of-21 from the field, while he made seven of 12 three-point attempts.

The Indiana Pacers beat the Toronto Raptors 129-114 thanks to Malcolm Brogdon's career-high 36 points.

Jerami Grant (25 points, eight rebounds and five assists) and Delon Wright (28 points, seven rebounds and nine assists) became the first Detroit Pistons dup to record 25-plus points, five-plus rebounds and five-plus assists in the same game since Rodney Stuckey and Tayshaun Prince in 2012. The Pistons upstaged the Joel Embiid-less Philadelphia 76ers 119-104.

 

Curry struggles as Philly feel Embiid's absence

Embiid sat out due to back tightness, and the Eastern Conference-leading 76ers fell. Seth Curry – Philadelphia's best shooter – was just two-of-10 from the field, while he only made one of four shots from beyond the arc for seven points.

 

From way back!

Stephen Curry was at his brilliant best against the Timberwolves – a long-range three the icing on the cake for the two-time MVP.

 

Monday's results

Detroit Pistons 119-104 Philadelphia 76ers              
Indiana Pacers 129-114 Toronto Raptors
Orlando Magic 117-108 Charlotte Hornets
Brooklyn Nets 98-85 Miami Heat
Los Angeles Lakers 115-108 Cleveland Cavaliers
Denver Nuggets 117-113 Dallas Mavericks
Boston Celtics 119-103 Chicago Bulls
Golden State Warriors 130-108 Minnesota Timberwolves
Oklahoma City Thunder 125-122 Portland Trail Blazers
Sacramento Kings-Memphis Grizzlies (postponed)
San Antonio Spurs-New Orleans Pelicans (postponed)

 

Clippers at Hawks

The Los Angeles Clippers (13-4) will look to make it eight consecutive wins when they visit the Atlanta Hawks (8-8) on Tuesday.

The Los Angeles Lakers eased to a win in the NBA on Saturday, while the Brooklyn Nets overcame the Miami Heat.

Anthony Davis posted 37 points in 28 minutes as the Lakers brushed past the Chicago Bulls 101-90 to improve to 9-0 on the road.

LeBron James had a double-double of 17 points and 11 rebounds in the comfortable win.

The Lakers (13-4) sit top of the Western Conference ahead of the red-hot Utah Jazz (12-4).

The Nets returned to winning ways after back-to-back losses, overcoming the Heat 128-124.

Kyrie Irving had 18 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter, while Kevin Durant (31 points), Joe Harris (23 points) and James Harden (12 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds) were also key contributors.

Heat star Bam Adebayo was in impressive form with 41 points.

 

Jazz win eighth straight, Embiid and Jokic star again

The Jazz made it eight straight wins as Donovan Mitchell recorded 23 points, seven rebounds and six assists in a 127-108 victory over the Golden State Warriors.

Warriors star Stephen Curry (24 points) passed Reggie Miller to move into second place for most three-pointers made in NBA history.

The Philadelphia 76ers improved to 12-5 as Joel Embiid had a double-double of 33 points and 14 rebounds in a 114-110 win against the Detroit Pistons.

Nikola Jokic's impressive season continued. The center had 29 points, 22 rebounds and six assists as the Denver Nuggets beat the Phoenix Suns 120-112 after overtime.

 

Grant struggles

Jerami Grant struggled from the field for the Pistons. He went three-of-19 for just 11 points in 35 minutes in the loss to the 76ers.

 

Curry passes Miller

Curry moved past Miller after making his 2,561st three-pointer in the NBA. Only Ray Allen (2,973) has made more.

Saturday's results

Minnesota Timberwolves 120-110 New Orleans Pelicans
Philadelphia 76ers 114-110 Detroit Pistons
Brooklyn Nets 128-124 Miami Heat
Houston Rockets 133-108 Dallas Mavericks
Utah Jazz 127-108 Golden State Warriors
Los Angeles Lakers 101-90 Chicago Bulls
Denver Nuggets 120-112 Phoenix Suns

 

Hawks at Bucks

The Milwaukee Bucks (9-6) have dropped back-to-back games ahead of hosting the Atlanta Hawks (8-7) on Sunday.

LeBron James said he was not fuelled by his MVP snub as he scored a season-high 34 points in a Los Angeles Lakers victory over Giannis Antetokounmpo's Milwaukee Bucks.

James also provided eight assists and claimed six rebounds in a 113-106 win for the NBA Western Conference leaders on Thursday.

Antetokounmpo, the NBA MVP and Defensive Player of the Year winner last season, finished with a 25-point haul but could not prevent the Bucks - third in the Eastern Conference - from slipping to 9-6.

Superstar James dismissed a suggestion he may have been out to prove a point after missing out on the MVP award last year, as the Lakers extended their franchise away record to eight consecutive wins on the road to start the season.

He told reporters: "I think you know me. I think all of you guys know me. It's never been about individual.

"It's all about the team success and that's all that matters. I can care less about that. I just try to play well and help our team win versus any opponent and that’s what it’s all about."

Lakers star Anthony Davis declared "I suck right now" after he scored 18 points, took nine rebounds, laid on six assists and came up with two blocks.

Yet James says his fellow All-Star is being too hard on himself.

"He's continuing to grow every single game. Every single film session, we kind of break those things down - what he sees on the floor," James said.

"Tonight was another example of him just seeing the other side of the floor and putting the ball on time, on target and guys knocking it down."

Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis provided a scathing assessment of his form despite another road win for the NBA champions, saying "I suck right now".

The Lakers extended their franchise away record to eight consecutive wins on the road to start the season by topping the Milwaukee Bucks 113-106 on Thursday.

LeBron James posted a season-high 34 points, while All-Star team-mate Davis had 18 points, nine rebounds, six assists and two blocks for the Western Conference-leading Lakers (12-4).

Davis, though, was far from pleased with his performance after shooting just eight-of-18 from the field and missing his only three-point attempt.

"Right now, to be hard on myself, man, I think I suck right now," Davis said post-game.

"I'm not making shots, I'm not making free throws. But I think tonight my aggressiveness, just being a poster and getting to the paint allowed guys to get open."

David added: "My aggressiveness tonight. That's the only way I feel like I'm gonna get out of this funk or whatever that I'm in.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself to be a better basketball player every game, and that's what I'm gonna continue to do."

"I trust my team-mates. AC [Alex Caruso] hit one for me. Bron hit one and Kenny [Kentavious Caldwell-Pope] hit one, and they're in the right spots where I want guys when I have the ball in the post," Davis continued.

"And just [am] able to make the read with their guys doubling or collapsing to the paint when I get there, and was able to kick it out and those guys made shots."

 

The Los Angeles Lakers stayed perfect on the road after beating the Milwaukee Bucks 113-106 in the NBA on Thursday.

LeBron James posted a season-high 34 points as defending champions the Lakers extended a franchise record after winning their eighth consecutive away game to start the season.

James also tallied eight assists and six rebounds to help the Lakers – 8-0 on the road – bounce back from a loss in the first of a seven-game road trip, upstaging reigning two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in the process.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 23 points for the Western Conference-leading Lakers (12-4) in Milwaukee, where the Bucks (9-6) dropped back-to-back games.

Antetokounmpo's double-double of 25 points and 12 rebounds were not enough for the Bucks, who also had solid contributions from Jrue Holiday (22 points) and Khris Middleton (20 points).

 

Curry stars

Stephen Curry put up 30 points, but the Golden State Warriors still went down 119-104 at home to the New York Knicks. The two-time MVP moved into fourth place on the franchise's all-time games played list after making his 714th regular-season appearance, surpassing Paul Arizin. RJ Barrett's 28 points for the Knicks were a career high.

Golden State's Eric Paschall scored his 1,000th career point in his 74th game, reaching the 1,000-point mark in the fewest amount of games played by a Warriors second round draft pick in the Modern Draft era (since 1966). Previously, Gilbert Arenas did so in 79 games.

Donovan Mitchell's season-high 36 points fuelled the Utah Jazz's 129-118 win over the New Orleans Pelicans. Mitchell was 11-of-19 shooting from the field, while he made six of eight three-point attempts. The Jazz have won seven straight games.

 

Schroder struggles in Milwaukee

Dennis Schroder failed to get going for the Lakers. The offseason recruit was just two of 10 from the field, while missing all three of his attempts from beyond the arc for four points in 33 minutes.

Kelly Oubre Jr. did not perform much better for the beaten Warriors. His seven points were on two-of-11 shooting from the field at home to the Knicks. Oubre also missed all four of his three-point attempts.

 

Steph with the behind-the-back pass

While the Warriors were unable to claim the win, Curry produced a couple of highlight moments. His behind-the-back pass to set up Draymond Green for the three-pointer was the pick of the bunch.

 

Thursday's results

Los Angeles Lakers 113-106 Milwaukee Bucks
Utah Jazz 129-118 New Orleans Pelicans
New York Knicks 119-104 Golden State Warriors

 

Celtics at 76ers

The Boston Celtics (8-5) and Eastern Conference rivals the Philadelphia 76ers (10-5) will do battle again at Wells Fargo Center on Friday after Joel Embiid's 42-point double-double inspired Doc Rivers' team midweek.

The list of Kobe Bryant's accomplishments during his 20 NBA seasons is almost too long to recount.  

Yet among his All-Star selections, championships and signature moments, his 81-point game stands out both for its historical significance and its representation of Bryant's personality and career.  

Friday marks the 15th anniversary of this astounding feat, the closest anyone has ever come to Wilt Chamberlain's NBA scoring record, a seemingly impossible 100 points.  

Chamberlain reached triple digits on March 2, 1962, in a much different NBA than the one Bryant faced. Chamberlain averaged 50.4 points per game that season while playing every minute of every game. In scoring 100 points, he led the Philadelphia Warriors to a 169-147 win over the New York Knicks.  

Bryant's feat, while falling short of the century mark, remains the gold standard for scoring in the modern game.  

On January 22, 2006, the Toronto Raptors travelled to Los Angeles to face the Lakers and were gaining confidence. After a desperate 1-15 start, Toronto's season had stabilised, and the Raptors entered Staples Center having won 10 of their previous 16 games. But Toronto had just allowed 113 points in a win against Seattle and entered the game giving up 102.2 points per game, third-most in the NBA.  

Bryant went on to make history, making 28 of his 46 field goal attempts – including 7-for-12 shooting from beyond the arc – and hitting 18 of 20 free throws.  

Perhaps the greatest testament to Bryant's achievement is that no player over the 15 years since has come particularly close to scoring 81 points in a game, despite several factors working in their favor.  

In 2005-06, a team got 79.0 field goal attempts per game on average, the fourth-slowest pace of all time. Almost any other season in NBA history would have been more likely to have an astounding scoring outburst.  

In the 1961-62 season, when Chamberlain made history, teams averaged 107.7 shots per game and attempted 37.1 free throws per game, nearly 11 more than in 2005-06.  

The league has picked up its pace since Bryant's feat as well, with teams attempting 88.8 field goals last season, giving the modern player more opportunities than Bryant had.  

The other advantage that current players have in piling up stats is the three-point shot.  

Bryant's 7-for-13 performance from deep was dynamic in 2006. Twice in the 2005-06 season, Chicago Bulls guard Ben Gordon made nine three-pointers in a game to lead the league. Only four players made more than seven threes in a game that season. The average team attempted 16.0 threes per game.  

Teams are launching an average of 35.1 three-point attempts during this young season, on pace to be the 10th in a row with an increase in long-range shooting. Ten players have already made eight or more threes in a game this season, despite most teams having played about 15 games.  

Even with a faster pace and increased frequency of long-distance barrages in the modern game, Bryant's 81-point mark still appears virtually unobtainable.  

Since that date, Devin Booker's 70 points are the high mark. There have been 19 games in which a player scored 60 or more, four by Bryant himself.  

One integral element to Bryant's scoring explosion was the composition of that Lakers team. Bryant did have Lamar Odom, but LA's other starters on that historic night were Kwame Brown, Chris Mihm and Smush Parker. The Lakers finished that season 45-37, far from a bad team, but Bryant scored 35.4 points per game as the Lakers relied on him almost entirely for scoring.  

Bryant scored 34.7 percent of the Lakers' points that season, the fourth-highest scoring share of all time. Only Chamberlain and Michael Jordan have scored a higher percentage of a team's points in a season.  

Given that profile, there are a few players who stand out as possible candidates to make a run at a historical scoring game in the foreseeable future.  

Booker, James Harden and Kemba Walker all have at least one 60-point game in their careers but now find themselves on teams with better supporting casts, making it unlikely they could get enough shots to chase history.  

Damian Lillard, however, could fit the mould perfectly. Team-mates CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic will both miss significant time due to injuries, and Lillard has crossed the 60-point barrier three times, all within the past 15 months. Add his 36.2 minutes per game – top 10 in the league – and 10.1 three-point attempts per game, and Lillard seems as likely as anyone to produce a dazzling scoring total.  

Stephen Curry scored a career-high 62 points on January 3 and will be a constant centerpiece in the Golden State Warriors' offense without Klay Thompson. While Curry is 25th in the league at 34.4 minutes per game, his historic three-point shooting makes him a constant threat.  

League scoring leader Bradley Beal remains in the mix, despite the Washington Wizards acquiring ball-hungry Russell Westbrook in the offseason. Westbrook has often taken games off due to rest, and Beal scored 60 on January 6. He also carries the advantage of getting to the free throw line 9.5 times per game, fourth in the NBA this season.  

That list ignores perennial MVP candidates Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, as well as young dynamos like Trae Young and Luka Doncic.  

The fact that there are so many candidates to make a run at 81 points without anyone coming close in the past 15 years indicates just how phenomenal Bryant's accomplishment was.  

Whether Bryant's mark lasts forever or is eventually bested, it will always be a brilliant snapshot of an all-time great player. He won championships before and after his 81-point game, but Bryant's legacy is as a scorer and a relentless competitor, perfectly represented by that gaudy scoring total 15 years ago.  

Bryant wore number eight and number 24 during his decorated career, but 81 is just as important to his legacy.

The Milwaukee Bucks host the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday in what most expected to be the matchup from last season's NBA Finals.

The Miami Heat put paid to that in the injury-enforced absence of reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the Lakers battled their way to the championship.

This will be their first meeting since then, though it could be lacking in star power with LeBron James questionable to appear due to a left ankle sprain.

The Bucks will be keen to bounce back and make a statement against one of the league's strongest teams after a five-game winning run ended at the hands of James Harden, Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets last time out.

The Lakers also have a point to prove, though, having suffered a fourth-quarter collapse against the Golden State Warriors in their previous outing.

Milwaukee are their first opponents on a gruelling seven-game road trip, though they are yet to be beaten away from Staples Center this season.

KEY PERFORMERS

Khris Middleton

Middleton has the best offensive rating of any of Bucks starter (126.5) and his net rating of 16.5 is only marginally bettered by Jrue Holiday (17.5).

He is making a career high 2.6 three-pointers per game this season and is doing a better job of punishing teams when he gets to the free throw line – he is shooting at 93.2 per cent from the stripe, a solid improvement on the career mark of 87.6 per cent he entered this season with.

He is not only a perpetual threat from beyond the arc, either. This season he has made 75 per cent of his field goals at the rim – that's better than Antetokounmpo (70.1 per cent).

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

There can be no doubt that James and Anthony Davis are the most important players on the Lakers roster, but Caldwell-Pope is proving that the decision to hand him a three-year, $40million contract to return to the team last November was a great decision.

He is shooting at 53.7 per cent from beyond the arc this season, second only to Seth Curry (59.5 per cent) among players with a minimum of 40 attempts in the league.

Caldwell-Pope also has the highest plus minus per game (11.4) for qualifying players in the league this season. It is a significant jump from the 2.3 he averaged over the previous campaign and shows just how much of an impact he is having early on.

KEY BATTLE: CAN DAVIS CONTAIN GIANNIS?

When the teams met back in March – before the season was shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic – Antetokounmpo drew two fouls from Davis within four minutes of the first quarter.

It piled the pressure on the Lakers, who were forced to try to defend the Bucks' best player using a backup option. But when your backup option is LeBron, you are in good hands.

Antetokounmpo ended the game with 32 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, but it was the Lakers who emerged 113-103 winners.

While defending Giannis, LeBron still shone on the offensive end and finished with 37 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and three steals.

Davis was limited to just 29 minutes due to his foul trouble and, particularly if James misses out due to his ankle injury, will need to be more disciplined on Friday.

HEAD TO HEAD

That was only the third time Antetokounmpo has faced the Lakers since LeBron joined the team ahead of the 2018-19 season and it was his first lost.

Los Angeles benefited from keeping Giannis to 47.6 per cent shooting from the field but it is not a guarantee for success – the Bucks are 20-17 when Antetokounmpo shoots below 50 per cent on at least 20 attempts.

Still, since Giannis entered the league in 2013, LeBron is 16-5 against the Bucks with an average of 27.4 points per game.

LeBron James was frustrated with the performance and the officials as the Los Angeles Lakers suffered a fourth-quarter collapse against the Golden State Warriors.

Defending NBA champions the Lakers went into Monday's home game on a run of five straight wins.

They raced into an early 19-point lead and still led by 14 in the fourth quarter but fell to a surprise 115-113 loss.

The game marked the 284th time in his career James and his team took a double-digit lead into the fourth quarter at home in the regular season and postseason. Per Stats Perform data, it was the first of those in which LeBron's team lost the game in regulation.

It was not what the Lakers needed before starting a seven-game road trip on Thursday against the Milwaukee Bucks.

"I think we just had some tough breaks, some tough calls against us in the second half that slowed our pace down," said James, who finished with 19 points, five rebounds and five assists.

"We couldn't get back into a rhythm.

"Obviously you are frustrated any time you lose, especially when you know you could have played better. We know we can play much better. We can all learn from that and apply it to next game."

James was not happy about being called for travelling, adding: "It is so funny because the very next play Draymond [Green] gets into the lane and slides his foot and it is not called.

"The same official who called me for the travel is right there on the play and told me he didn't travel."

Anthony Davis had 17 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists, while Dennis Schroder topped the team with 25 points, but they fell to 11-4 overall and 4-4 at home this season.

Lakers coach Frank Vogel added: "We got outplayed in the second half. We got hesitant on the offensive end, and a little casual at certain points in the game."

Stephen Curry scored 26 points to inspire another Warriors comeback, as the team improved to 7-6.

Earlier in January the Warriors beat the Lakers' city rivals, the Los Angeles Clippers, despite being 22 behind in the third quarter.

"We kept our composure and the second unit was amazing both halves," Curry said.

"We got some momentum in the second half to give us a chance and carry us down the stretch. It was similar to the Clippers game. We've done it twice now but want to get leads early."

The Warriors play at home against the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday.

They had lost their past two games against the Denver Nuggets and Indiana Pacers despite a combined 55 points from Curry.

The two-time MVP is averaging 28.2 points per game, on pace for the second-best scoring season of his NBA career.

James Harden and Kevin Durant guided the Brooklyn Nets past the Milwaukee Bucks, while the Los Angeles Lakers' winning run was ended.

The Nets extended their winning streak to four with a 125-123 victory over the Bucks on Monday.

It was their second win in as many games since Harden joined in a trade from the Houston Rockets last week.

The eight-time All-Star had a double-double of 34 points and 12 assists, while Durant finished with 30 points against the Bucks.

Durant hit a clutch three-pointer with 36.8 seconds remaining to lift the Nets to 9-6.

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo had 34 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.

After five straight wins, the Lakers went down to the Golden State Warriors 115-113.

Warriors star Stephen Curry had 26 points, while Dennis Schroder top-scored for the Lakers with 25.

LeBron James (19 points) missed a three-pointer on the buzzer for the Lakers, who had Anthony Davis post a double-double of 17 points and 17 rebounds.

 

Awesome Adebayo, Oladipo makes Rockets debut

Bam Adebayo posted 28 points and 11 rebounds to guide the Miami Heat past the struggling Detroit Pistons 113-107.

Victor Oladipo arrived at the Rockets following Harden's exit, and he had 32 points and nine assists on debut, but it came in a 125-120 loss to the Chicago Bulls.

DeMar DeRozan (20 points and 11 assists) led an even team effort in the San Antonio Spurs' 125-104 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers. DeRozan (20), LaMarcus Aldridge (22), Patty Mills (21) and Rudy Gay (21) became the first group of four Spurs team-mates to each score 20-plus points in a game since 2010.

A double-double from Trae Young (20 points and 13 assists) helped the Atlanta Hawks past the Minnesota Timberwolves 108-97.

 

Doncic below his best

Luka Doncic described himself as "selfish" despite a triple-double in a Dallas Mavericks loss to the Bulls on Sunday, and he was below his best a day later. He went four-of-11 from the field for just 15 points in 34 minutes in a 116-93 humbling at the hands of the Toronto Raptors.

 

Clutch KD

Durant hit the crucial three-pointer to lift the Nets to their victory.

Monday's results

New York Knicks 91-84 Orlando Magic
Atlanta Hawks 108-97 Minnesota Timberwolves
San Antonio Spurs 125-104 Portland Trail Blazers
Memphis Grizzlies 108-104 Phoenix Suns
Brooklyn Nets 125-123 Milwaukee Bucks
Toronto Raptors 116-93 Dallas Mavericks
Miami Heat 113-107 Detroit Pistons
Chicago Bulls 125-120 Houston Rockets
Golden State Warriors 115-113 Los Angeles Lakers

 

Thunder at Nuggets

Nikola Jokic (averaging 25 points, 11.4 rebounds and 10.3 assists this season) and the Denver Nuggets (6-7) take on the Oklahoma City Thunder (6-6) in one of two games scheduled for Tuesday.

LeBron James says he is shooting with confidence after the Los Angeles Lakers won a fifth straight game.

The Lakers moved to 11-3 on the season with a 112-95 home win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday.

James had 21 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds in 31 minutes on court for the NBA champions, with Anthony Davis adding 17 points against his former team.

Four three-pointers from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope helped him to 16 points, the same total as Montrezl Harrell as the Lakers stormed back from an early 15-point deficit.

"We just settled in," James said, per ESPN, as the Lakers returned to Staples Center after three games on the road.
 
"That first game after a road trip is always kind of difficult, but we got some stops and got back to playing our kind of basketball." 

The Lakers went 15-for-37 from deep as they continue to impress with their three-point shooting, which was third-best in the league coming into the game.

While James was 2-for-6 against the Pelicans, he is currently on pace for the second-best three-point shooting rate (38.2 per cent) of his long career.

Lakers coach Frank Vogel said this week he would probably rate James as the best shooter on the team, a status Davis would give to Caldwell-Pope.

"I mean, we got a lot of great shooters on the team, man," James said when asked for his verdict on the debate.

"KCP [Caldwell-Pope], a great shooter. Wes Matthews, great shooter. Kuz [Kyle Kuzma] can shoot the heck out of the ball. Dennis the Menace [Dennis Schroder] can shoot the ball. 

"AD [Davis] can shoot the ball. So we got a lot of great knock-down shooters.

"Obviously, if someone says, 'Bet,' then obviously you guys know, I'm going to take myself. That's just the competitive nature in me and the work ethic that I put into my shot. 

"But I feel real good with my shot right now, both from the free throw line and also from the three-point line, and I want to continue that."

The Pelicans slumped to 4-7 despite 21 points from Zion Williamson and 20 from Brandon Ingram. 

Next up for James and the Lakers is a home game against the 6-6 Golden State Warriors on Monday.

The Los Angeles Lakers cruised to a victory in the NBA, while the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics also extended their winning streaks.

LeBron James had a double-double of 21 points and 11 assists as the Lakers recorded a comfortable 112-95 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday.

Kyle Kuzma contributed 11 points and 13 rebounds off the bench, while Anthony Davis struggled from the field, shooting five-of-16 for his 17 points.

Pelicans star Zion Williamson finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds, but the Lakers extended their winning streak to five.

Giannis Antetokounmpo's 31 points and nine rebounds helped the Bucks overcome the Dallas Mavericks 112-109.

Luka Doncic fell just short of a triple-double, contributing 28 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds in the Mavericks' loss.

The Bucks (9-4) have won four straight to sit behind the Celtics (8-3) in the Eastern Conference.

Brown leads returning Celtics, Drummond stars

Jaylen Brown had 21 points and eight assists in the Celtics' 124-97 win over the Orlando Magic. It was Boston's first game in a week.

A huge double-double of 33 points and 23 rebounds from Andre Drummond saw the Cleveland Cavaliers edge the New York Knicks 106-103.

The Los Angeles Clippers thrashed the Sacramento Kings 138-100 thanks to 27 points, six assists and four rebounds from Kawhi Leonard.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander posted 33 points and 10 assists in the Oklahoma City Thunder's 127-125 victory over the Chicago Bulls.

Bulls' narrow losses continue

The Bulls are on a four-game losing streak, with those defeats coming by four, two, three and two points. It is the first time in team history they have lost four in a row with each loss by four points or fewer, as per Stats Perform. The last team with a streak that long was the Washington Wizards in 2009 (six straight).

 

Drummond dynamite

Drummond produced a huge performance for the Cavs. He was 10-of-18 from the field and 16 of his 23 rebounds were on the defensive end.

Friday's results

Boston Celtics 124-97 Orlando Magic
Cleveland Cavaliers 106-103 New York Knicks
Milwaukee Bucks 112-109 Dallas Mavericks
Oklahoma City Thunder 127-125 Chicago Bulls
Utah Jazz 116-92 Atlanta Hawks
Los Angeles Lakers 112-95 New Orleans Pelicans
Los Angeles Clippers 138-100 Sacramento Kings

 

Magic at Nets

James Harden is set to make his debut for the Brooklyn Nets (7-6) against the Orlando Magic (6-6) on Saturday. Harden's trade from the Houston Rockets to the Nets was confirmed on Thursday.

The Los Angeles Lakers set a franchise record after winning again on the road, while Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic made NBA history.

LeBron James posted 26 points and defending champions the Lakers defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 128-99 on Wednesday.

The streaking Lakers (10-3), who have won four successive games, improved to 7-0 away from home this season – surpassing the 1985-86 team for the best start on the road.

James has had at least 15 points, five rebounds and five assists in all 13 games this season. In the last 30 years, the only NBA player to have a longer streak of 15/five/five games to start a season was James himself in 2011-12 (22 straight), according to Stats Perform.

Lakers team-mate Montrezl Harrell had 21 points, while Anthony Davis put up 18 points and seven rebounds in Oklahoma City midweek.

Doncic became the first player in NBA history to post 34 points, 13 rebounds, nine assists, four blocks, two steals and five threes made, per Stats Perform.

The Mavericks went on to win 104-93 and snap the Charlotte Hornets' four-game winning streak.

Mavericks star Kristaps Porzingis returned from a knee injury and scored 16 points in his first appearance since undergoing surgery in October.

 

Red-hot Giannis fuels Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo's triple-double guided the Milwaukee Bucks past the Detroit Pistons 110-101. The two-time reigning MVP finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his 20th career triple-double.

Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum put on a show as the Portland Trail Blazers prevailed 132-126 against the Sacramento Kings. Lillard (40 points and 13 assists) and McCollum (28 points and 10 assists) became the first team-mate duo in NBA history to have 25-plus points, 10-plus assists and five-plus three-pointers made in the same game, per Stats Perform. They are also the first duo in the NBA to have 25-plus points, 10-plus assists and one or fewer turnovers in the same game since 1987.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker starred with 37 points, but the New Orleans Pelicans still lost 111-106 to the Los Angeles Clippers. Kawhi Leonard (28) and Paul George (27) combined for 55 points in the Clippers' win.

The Memphis Grizzlies topped the Minnesota Timberwolves 118-107 behind Jonas Valanciunas' 24 points and 16 rebounds.

 

Knicks duo struggle

The New York Knicks did not get much support from their two starting point guards in a 116-109 loss to city rivals the Brooklyn Nets. Austin Rivers was three-of-10 shooting from the field and two-of-five from three-point range for eight points in 34 minutes. Elfrid Peyton was just three of 11 from the field, while making just one of three-point attempts as he finished with seven points in 33 minutes.

 

Nurkic says no!

There was no way past Jusuf Nurkic as the Trail Blazers big man denied Glenn Robinson III in the fourth quarter.

 

Wednesday's results

Dallas Mavericks 104-93 Charlotte Hornets
Milwaukee Bucks 110-101 Detroit Pistons
Brooklyn Nets 116-109 New York Knicks
Memphis Grizzlies 118-107 Minnesota Timberwolves
Los Angeles Lakers 128-99 Oklahoma City Thunder
Los Angeles Clippers 111-106 New Orleans Pelicans
Portland Trail Blazers 132-126 Sacramento Kings
Utah Jazz-Washington Wizards (postponed)
Orlando Magic-Boston Celtics (postponed)
Atlanta Hawks-Phoenix Suns (postponed)

 

Rockets at Spurs

As James Harden reportedly heads to the Nets, the Houston Rockets (3-6) will look to cast the chaos aside when they face the San Antonio Spurs (6-5) on the road on Thursday.

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