LeBron James is delighted to see fans back in the building despite getting into an altercation with spectators sitting courtside during the Los Angeles Lakers' road win at the Atlanta Hawks.

ESPN reported four people were ejected by the Hawks following the incident late in the fourth quarter of the Lakers' 107-99 victory at State Farm Arena.

A woman later posted on social media claiming she got involved after her husband and James exchanged words. Cameras showed a woman involved in the argument with her mask pulled below her chin, something not allowed with rules in place amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Referees halted the game and security personnel were called over, but James looked to cool the incident when talking after the contest, which was attended by 1,341 fans.

"At the end of the day, I'm happy fans are back in the building," said James.

"I miss that interaction. I need that interaction, we as players need that interaction. I don't feel like it was warranted to be kicked out."

James, who had 21 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, suggested alcohol may have been an influence in the incident.

He added: "They might have had a couple drinks, maybe and they could have probably kept it going during the game, and the game wouldn't have been about the game no more, so I think the referees did what they had to do.

"I love our fans. Laker Nation and everybody else that's against Laker Nation. It just feels better.

"Fans in the stands is just, it's just better. It's better for everybody. Especially on the last game of a 14-day road trip."

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel suggested the incident perhaps exposed a problem with having fans in attendance, especially when the woman lowered her mask.

"It certainly exposed something with regard to having fans in the pandemic," Vogel said.

"You obviously can't have fans taking their masks down and shouting at our players with the virus out there during these times."

Anthony Davis concurred but like James is happy to see fans back.

"With COVID going on, we obviously can't have that [masks being pulled down]. We want to make sure we all can be safe," Davis said.

"We love having fans at the game. Whether we're home or away, it just brings back the game that we love, that joy from the fans and the support.

"Whether it's 500 people or 1,000, 1,500, whatever it is, it's always enjoyable to play in front of a crowd."

NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Atlanta Hawks 107-99 behind a dominant final quarter from LeBron James.

James posted 21 points, nine assists and seven rebounds against the Hawks on the road, having only managed nine points through the first three quarters on Monday.

Lakers team-mate Anthony Davis scored 25 points of his own in Atlanta, where a small crowd were granted access to attend.

James was involved in a brief verbal confrontation with a female fan during the fourth quarter.

Trae Young (25 points and 16 assists) and Clint Capela (16 points and 13 rebounds) both had double-doubles for the beaten Hawks.

Meanwhile, the Houston Rockets tied an NBA record after defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder 136-106.

The Rockets knocked down 11 three-pointers in a 48-point opening quarter to match a league record away to the Thunder.

Eric Gordon (25 points) and DeMarcus Cousins (17 points) each finished with five three-pointers, John Wall (18 points) and Danuel House Jr. (13 points) nailed four from beyond the arc, while Victor Oladipo (15 points) made three of his own.

 

Monk cools Heat

Malik Monk starred off the bench, posting a career-high 36 points as the Charlotte Hornets outlasted the Miami Heat 129-121 in overtime.

De'Aaron Fox had 38 points, including 17 straight Sacramento points during the final seven minutes, to lead the Kings past the New Orleans Pelicans 118-109. It capped a night which saw seven Kentucky players score 20-plus points in the NBA – Fox, Monk, Davis, Keldon Johnson (25), Devin Booker (24), Bam Adebayo (23) and Julius Randle (23). According to Stats Perform, it is the most 20-point games by players from any single college on any single day in NBA history.

Nassir Little put up 30 points, however, the Portland Trail Blazers still suffered a 134-106 defeat at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks.

A double-double of 23 points and 18 rebounds from Jarrett Allen inspired the Cleveland Cavaliers' 100-98 success against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

 

Trent struggles in Milwaukee

Gary Trent Jr. had a tough night for the Trail Blazers. In 29 minutes, he was three of 13 from the field and made just two of eight three-point attempts for eight points.

Danilo Gallinari did not fare much better for the Hawks. Gallinari finished two-of-10 from the field, while draining only two of his five shots from beyond the arc for six points.

 

Booker calls game

The Phoenix Suns trailed by two points at the death, but Booker nailed a clutch three-pointer with 1.5 seconds remaining to stun the Dallas Mavericks 109-108. It was Booker's fifth career game-winning shot in the final three seconds of a contest.

 

Monday's results

Los Angeles Lakers 107-99 Atlanta Hawks
Charlotte Hornets 129-121 Miami Heat (OT)
Cleveland Cavaliers 100-98 Minnesota Timberwolves
Chicago Bulls 110-102 New York Knicks
Milwaukee Bucks 134-106 Portland Trail Blazers
Sacramento Kings 118-109 New Orleans Pelicans
Houston Rockets 136-106 Oklahoma City Thunder
Phoenix Suns 109-108 Dallas Mavericks
Memphis Grizzlies 133-102 San Antonio Spurs
Denver Nuggets-Detroit Pistons (postponed)

 

Clippers at Nets

In-form Western Conference leaders the Los Angeles Clippers (16-5) will put their three-game winning streak on the line against the star-studded Brooklyn Nets (13-9) on Tuesday.

Scott Brooks declared "the basketball gods gave us a break" after his Washington Wizards side produced a stunning comeback to beat the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday

The Wizards, bottom of the Eastern Conference, went on an astonishing 8-0 in the final 8.1 seconds at the Capital One Arena to snatch a dramatic 149-146 victory.

Second-placed Brooklyn (13-9) led by five points with only 10 seconds to play, but suffered a staggering collapse.

Bradley Beal landed a deep shot from beyond the arc after Nets star Kyrie Irving made a pair of free throws, before the Wizards stole the ball as the Nets tried to inbound – Russell Westbrook nailing a three-pointer to put Washington ahead.

Beal then sank two free throws to give the Wizards (4-12) their first win since January 11, bringing a four-game losing streak to a halt.

Wizards coach Brooks said: "It was the first game all year I had a White Claw. I wanted to enjoy it. This is a good feeling.

"I wanted our players to enjoy it. We fought. We fought hard.

"We've done it all year, and the basketball gods gave us a break tonight."

Westbrook (41) and Beal (37) became the first pair of Wizards team-mates to score 37-plus points in a single game since the team moved to Washington in 1974.

Twice in the past two days has a team won in regulation after trailing by five-plus points inside the final 10 seconds – the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday. It only happened twice in the previous 2,871 days – the Chicago Bulls in 2019 and Boston Celtics in 2016.

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash urged his team to play with more pride after their stunning capitulation at the hands of the lowly Washington Wizards.

The Nets somehow lost 149-146 to the Wizards, who went on a remarkable 8-0 run in the final 8.1 seconds on Sunday.

Washington trailed by five points with just 10 seconds remaining but produced an incredible rally to upstage the James Harden-less Nets.

Bradley Beal nailed a deep shot from beyond the arc after Brooklyn's Kyrie Irving made a pair of free throws, before the Wizards stole the ball as the Nets tried to inbound – Russell Westbrook nailing a three-pointer to put Washington ahead.

Beal then sank two free throws to give the Wizards their first win since January 11, snapping a four-game losing streak.

Westbrook (41) and Beal (37) became the first pair of Wizards team-mates to score 37-plus points in a single game since the team moved to Washington in 1974.

"The most important thing is individual pride, making every possession count and mean something," first-year coach Nash said afterwards.

"I think too many possessions didn't mean enough for us tonight. We've got to sit down in a stance and guard and make it difficult, and if we can cut out three or four of those paint attempts or baskets, we win the game.

"But you hope you can clean up a heck of a lot of them and I think more than anything it's just a little bit of pride and a little bit of desperation to guard the ball and keep them out of the paint."

Twice in the past two days has a team won in regulation after trailing by five-plus points inside the final 10 seconds – the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday. It only happened twice in the previous 2,871 days – the Chicago Bulls in 2019 and Boston Celtics in 2016, per Stats Perform.

The star-studded Nets, without former MVP Harden due to a thigh contusion, were led by Kevin Durant (37 points), Joe Harris (30 points) and Irving (26 points) as they had their four-game winning run snapped.

Durant added: "They shot 20 more shots than us. They had 25 points off our turnovers, and they made timely shots. Got to give them credit. They played extremely desperate all night, physical, trying to get in the passing lanes, just trying to muck the game up.

"They needed a win. They hadn't won in a while, so you've got to give them credit. Tough loss for us."

On the final offensive possession, Durant said: "Russ [Westbrook] was sitting on top-side and Kyrie lobbed that up, then Bradley Beal was just sitting there waiting on it, then they had another guy sitting in the paint. We got a wide-open layup to lead the game because everybody was so focused on me right there.

"Coach drew up a good play and he was able to get somebody creeping for a layup, we just didn't finish it. But yeah, the ball was supposed to come to me for sure, but you see how they reacted, and we was able to get something good, we just didn't finish."

Los Angeles Lakers pair LeBron James and Anthony Davis are questionable for Monday's clash with the Atlanta Hawks.

James is listed with a left ankle sprain, while team-mate Davis has a right quadriceps contusion, according to the NBA champions.

Lakers superstar James posted 21 points in Saturday's 96-95 win over the Boston Celtics as Davis led the way with a 27-point, 14-rebound double-double.

James has been averaging 25.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game for the Lakers.

Davis, meanwhile, is averaging 22.2 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists.

The Lakers (15-6) sit third in the Western Conference, behind city rivals the Los Angeles Clippers (16-5) and Utah Jazz (15-5).

Nikola Jokic helped the Denver Nuggets end the Utah Jazz's 11-game winning streak in the NBA with 47 points in a 128-117 victory.

The Jazz had been the league's in-form team, but Jokic's dominant double-double display snapped their streak on Sunday.

Jokic matched a career high after going 17 for 26 from the field while making all four of his three-point attempts, having scored 33 points in the opening quarter.

The MVP candidate also collected 12 rebounds as Bojan Bogdanovic led the visiting Jazz with 29 points in Denver.

Meanwhile, the lowly Washington Wizards completed an unlikely comeback against the Brooklyn Nets, who were stunned 149-146 in an insane finish.

The Wizards trailed by five points with just 10 seconds remaining but produced an incredible rally to upstage the James Harden-less Nets.

Bradley Beal nailed a deep shot from beyond the arc after Brooklyn's Kyrie Irving made a pair of free throws, before the Wizards stole the ball as the Nets tried to inbound – Russell Westbrook nailing a three-pointer to put Washington ahead.

Beal then sank two free throws to give the Wizards – who went on an 8-0 run in the final 8.1 seconds – their first win since January 11, snapping a four-game losing streak.

Twice in the past two days has a team won in regulation after trailing by five-plus points inside the final 10 seconds – the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday. It only happened twice in the previous 2,871 days – the Chicago Bulls in 2019 and Boston Celtics in 2016, per Stats Perform.

Westbrook finished with 41 points and 10 rebounds, while Wizards team-mate Beal put up 37 points at home to the Nets.

The Nets, without former MVP Harden due to a thigh contusion, were led by Kevin Durant (37 points), Joe Harris (30 points) and Irving (26 points) as they had their four-game winning run snapped.

 

Raptors roar thanks to Siakam

Pascal Siakam's 30 points and 10 rebounds led the Toronto Raptors past the Orlando Magic 115-102, ending a three-game losing streak. Kyle Lowry (12 points and 14 assists) also posted a double-double.

No Joel Embiid, no worries for the Philadelphia 76ers, who rallied to top the Indiana Pacers 119-110. Embiid sat out due to back tightness but Tobias Harris (27 points) and Ben Simmons (21 points) stepped up after the 76ers used a 37-15 final quarter to beat the Pacers. Simmons was nine-of-12 from the field in 35 minutes.

Andre Drummond joined LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Tyson Chandler and LaMarcus Aldridge as the only active players with 9,000 career points and 8,000 career rebounds. He finished with 25 points and 22 rebounds in the Cleveland Cavaliers' 109-104 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

 

Mitchell struggles on return

Jazz star Donovan Mitchell missed two games while in concussion protocol. Back in the line-up against the Nuggets, he had 13 points in 31 minutes. Mitchell was just three-of-12 from the field, while he nailed only three of his eight three-point attempts.

It was a tough outing for Orlando's Evan Fournier, who was two for 12 from the field and just one-of-six from beyond the arc in an 11-point display.

 

Durant with authority!

The Nets lost but former MVP Durant still provided plenty of highlights, including a monstrous dunk against the Wizards.

 

Sunday's results

Philadelphia 76ers 119-110 Indiana Pacers
Toronto Raptors 115-102 Orlando Magic
Washington Wizards 149-146 Brooklyn Nets
Minnesota Timberwolves 109-104 Cleveland Cavaliers
Los Angeles Clippers 129-115 New York Knicks
Denver Nuggets 128-117 Utah Jazz

 

Lakers at Hawks

Defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers (15-6) are on the road against the Atlanta Hawks (10-9) on Monday.

Brooklyn Nets star James Harden was ruled out of Sunday's game against the struggling Washington Wizards, the NBA franchise announced prior to tip-off.

A thigh contusion forced Harden on the sidelines for the first time since the former MVP's blockbuster trade from the Houston Rockets in mid-January.

The star-studded Nets, also boasting Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, are 6-2 since Harden's arrival in Brooklyn.

Harden is averaging 24.3 points, 11.8 assists and 7.8 rebounds per game for the Nets (13-8) – who are only second to the Philadelphia 76ers (14-6) in the Eastern Conference.

He led the way with a triple-double as the Nets took down the Oklahoma City Thunder 147-125 on Friday.

Harden became the second Net in the last 25 years with three triple-doubles in a season.

Klay Thompson described his pain at missing another season due to injury as he saw the Golden State Warriors beat the Detroit Pistons at Chase Center.

Three-time champion Thompson, who has spent his entire career with Golden State, tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the 2019 NBA Finals.

The five-time All-Star subsequently sat out the 2019-20 campaign as the Warriors struggled badly, but the team were set for another run this year.

However, their hopes were hampered by another major setback for Thompson, who suffered an Achilles injury ahead of the season that will keep him out for a further year.

The Warriors have stayed competitive so far in 2020-21, carried by superstar Steph Curry, who has averaged 27.7 points and leads the league in total points with 554.

Golden State moved to 11-9 – good enough for eighth in the West – with their 118-91 defeat of Detroit but are still missing Thompson.

The 30-year-old averaged 21.5 points per game between the start of the 2014-15 season and his first big injury in 2019. The Warriors' next best scorer after Curry this year is Andrew Wiggins on 17.9.

Speaking publicly for the first time since his Achilles blow as part of the NBC Bay Area broadcast team on Saturday, Thompson said: "I'm living good.

"[It is nice] to be back in the building that I'm so eagerly awaiting to play in. I'm just a little bored at times.

"Stuff's slow with trying to let my Achilles heal and get to the next stage, which is mobility work, but I'm feeling good. I'm happy to be with my team-mates, obviously.

"Unfortunately, I'm not playing. It kills me every day, but I plan on playing for a long time, and I don't want to have any mishaps come this rehab."

Thompson watched Curry contribute 28 points against the Pistons, comfortably securing victory to end the week on a high.

Golden State had back-to-back wins against the Minnesota Timberwolves but then lost heavily to the Phoenix Suns prior to the Detroit game.

Coach Steve Kerr said: "I thought we were on edge in a good way. The other night we were embarrassed. We got away from who we are."

LeBron James compared his achievements with the Los Angeles Lakers to Tom Brady's early success at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the legendary quarterback prepares for his latest Super Bowl appearance.

James, a four-time champion and four-time MVP in the NBA, led the Lakers to the title last year in just his second season in LA.

Meanwhile, Brady is in his first year in Tampa Bay, having ended a glittering career with the New England Patriots, and has taken the Bucs to next week's big game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

James turned 36 last month but is still averaging an impressive 25.2 points per game in 2020-21, a mark he has not dipped below since his rookie season in 2003-04.

Meanwhile, Brady – a three-time NFL MVP chasing a seventh championship – is now 43 yet ended the regular season with 40 touchdowns, the second best return of his career, and a passer rating of 102.2.

Neither man shows signs of slowing and James was asked on Saturday what he made of the continued excellence of a fellow sporting great.

"It doesn't do anything for me as far as what I do in my profession, but it does let me know – lets both of us know – that we can still play this game at a high level," James said after the Lakers' 96-95 win at the Boston Celtics.

"No matter how many miles, how many games, no matter how many dollars, no matter the statistics – in our respective professions, at our age, we can still dominate our sport.

"Also we can bring together groups that we may have not been around for long periods of time.

"It's our professionalism, how we attack the sport, how we attack every single day of being a professional, wanting to win every single day – in practice, on the film, in games, and so on and so on.

"We gravitate towards people and people gravitate towards us because we have one common goal and that's to win and to win at the highest level."

James had 21 points, seven rebounds and seven assists against the Celtics, ending the Lakers' first two-game losing streak of the season with his 854th career win – outright eighth on the all-time list.

"We didn't want to lose one and we lost two in a row, Philly and Detroit," he said, with the Lakers at Atlanta next in the final game of a seven-game road trip.

"We understood we were coming into a hostile environment and we know how good this team is.

"We'd have to play good basketball in order to win and we were able to win one possession more than they did."

Those fine margins came as Kemba Walker missed a game-winning chance for the Celtics in the final seconds, capping a dismal night on which he shot 1-of-12 from the field and 0-of-5 from three.

Walker scored only four points in just over 28 minutes; it was the seventh time in his career he had scored no more than four points in at least 28 minutes in the regular season.

"I thought I had a good look [on the final shot] but I struggled all game shooting the basketball," Walker said.

He added: "It's more mental, I think. I'm trying my hardest not to get frustrated but I thought tonight I got frustrated at myself and it put me in a bad place.

"I'm not the type of player to get frustrated – I'm always smiling and I wasn't that tonight. I got into my own head and, mentally, I hurt myself.

"I can't do that to this team. These guys look to me, especially when things are going tough. I can't put my head down and not mentally be engaged in the game like I was tonight."

Damian Lillard conceded his ambitious streak took over when he sunk a sensational buzzer-beater to snatch victory for the Portland Trail Blazers over the Chicago Bulls.

The Bulls were leading 122-117 when Lillard hit a 37-foot three pointer with 8.9 seconds left before Gary Trent Jr won a jump ball that ended up in the star point guard's hands.

From there, Lillard drilled a superb step-back three, his eighth successful attempt from range to conclude a 44-point haul – the 35th 40-point game of his career.

"I knew they were going to try and deny me and be real physical so I just popped back towards half court," Lillard said.

"I just wanted to get a clean look. If I missed it, that probably would have been game, but it had been feeling good coming off my hands all night and I made that one.

"In these situations I usually look up at the clock and I get real ambitious - how can I help our team get out of this situation?

"A lot of times it doesn't work out but today it worked out."

Trent certainly feels Lillard is playing down his vaunted capacity to make clutch shots.

"This is what he does. Nobody is surprised in a sense," he said.

"He makes big-time shits. He's done this time after time after time.

"So at this point… it's just I know it was going in when he shot it."

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Blazers coach Terry Stotts insisted there was little credit he could share with man-of-the-moment Lillard.

"It's innate. It's God-given," he said. "He's born with it, and you can't teach it."

The Los Angeles Lakers bounced back in the NBA, while Damian Lillard produced a moment of magic for the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday.

After back-to-back defeats, the Lakers edged the Boston Celtics 96-95 to return to winning ways.

Anthony Davis led the Lakers (15-6) with a double-double of 27 points and 14 rebounds.

LeBron James had 21 points and moved up to 13th on the list for all-time three-pointers made.

He also passed Derek Fisher for eighth on the NBA's all-time wins list.

The Celtics (10-8) forced a turnover with seconds remaining, but Kemba Walker missed a jumper and Daniel Theis a lay-up.

Jayson Tatum (30 points) and Jaylen Brown (28) combined for 58 points for Boston.

Lillard produced a spectacular buzzer-beating three-pointer to lift the Trail Blazers past the Chicago Bulls 123-122.

The guard was 15-of-26 from the field and eight-of-17 from three-point range for a game-high 44 points.

The Bulls led by five with less than 10 seconds remaining before Lillard hit a long-range three and his buzzer-beater.

 

Butler stars on return as LaMelo shines

After missing 10 games, Jimmy Butler returned with 30 points to help the Miami Heat edge the Sacramento Kings 105-104.

LaMelo Ball (27 points, nine assists and five rebounds) guided the Charlotte Hornets to a 126-114 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo fell just short of a triple-double with 34 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists.

The Houston Rockets made it five straight wins as Christian Wood (27 points and nine rebounds) continued to impress in a 126-112 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Luka Doncic had 29 points, but the Dallas Mavericks fell to Chris Paul (29 points and 12 assists) and the Phoenix Suns 111-105.

 

Walker woes

Walker went one-of-12 from the field and 0-of-five from three-point range in the Celtics' loss, finishing with just four points in 28 minutes.

 

Lillard magic

Lillard delivered two huge late threes to lift the Trail Blazers to an incredible win.

Saturday's results

Portland Trail Blazers 123-122 Chicago Bulls
Charlotte Hornets 126-114 Milwaukee Bucks
Houston Rockets 126-112 New Orleans Pelicans
Miami Heat 105-104 Sacramento Kings
Los Angeles Lakers 96-95 Boston Celtics
Memphis Grizzlies 129-112 San Antonio Spurs
Phoenix Suns 111-105 Dallas Mavericks
Golden State Warriors 118-91 Detroit Pistons

 

Jazz at Nuggets

The Utah Jazz (15-4) are riding an 11-game winning streak ahead of facing Nikola Jokic (averaging 25.7 points, 11.7 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game this season) and the Denver Nuggets (11-8) on Sunday.

Anthony Davis said the Los Angeles Lakers got a "little revenge" with their 96-95 win over the Boston Celtics in the NBA on Saturday.

Davis had a double-double of 27 points and 14 rebounds as the Lakers responded after back-to-back losses.

The Lakers seemingly had not forgotten their most recent visit to TD Garden, where they were thrashed by the Celtics 139-107 in January last year.

Davis said while the Lakers (15-6) wanted to return to winning ways, some revenge was also on their minds.

"Just trying to get back in the win column. We're a team that takes pride in not losing two in a row and we lost two in a row and we for damn sure wasn't losing three in a row," he told ESPN.

"We've got a little revenge with this team. They came in last year and beat us by 30 last time we were in this building so we're still replaying all the moments in our head.

"But we just want to be a team that don't get comfortable with losing and I think everybody had a great effort and we were able to get the win."

LeBron James finished with 21 points for the Lakers, who almost slumped to a third straight defeat.

The Celtics forced a turnover with seconds remaining, but Kemba Walker missed a jumper and Daniel Theis a lay-up on the buzzer.

Davis led the way for the Lakers despite going four-of-seven from the free-throw line.

"Come out and be aggressive. My team looked for me to be aggressive on both ends of the floor, on the glass, and that's what I tried to do," he said.

"Just going back to the old AD, playing with a lot of energy, letting the team feed off of me and just playing great basketball, making shots, still struggling from the line but I'm going to keep going, get fouled, going to the line.

"I just wanted to come out and be aggressive, I was able to do that and help us get the win."

The Los Angeles Lakers will aim to rebound from back-to-back defeats when they face the Boston Celtics in the latest chapter of a storied NBA rivalry.  

A narrow 107-106 defeat to the Philadelphia 76ers was followed by a surprise 107-92 setback against the Detroit Pistons on Thursday, so the Lakers – who lost consecutive games for the first time this season – will need to improve to walk away from TD Garden with a W in the sixth of seven straight road games.  

No teams have faced off in the Finals more than the 12 contested by the Lakers and the Celtics, who are tied for the most NBA championships of all time with 17 apiece.  

The Celtics are now 10-7 in a season that has been affected by COVID-19 issues after going down 110-106 to the San Antonio Spurs in their previous outing.

KEY PERFORMERS

Jaylen Brown

Much of the scoring burden for the Celtics this season is landing on Brown, whose 27.1 points per game ranks him inside the top 10 in the league.  

That average bumps up to 29.7 for games played at the Garden this season and he will certainly aim to make the most of home-court advantage against LeBron James and a star-studded Lakers cast.  

No one on the Celtics roster has a better three-point percentage (44.1) than Brown, plus you can add in averages of 5.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists during an impressive campaign so far for the 24-year-old.

LeBron James

Most players by the age of 36 are thinking about winding down in the twilight of their careers, yet James has proven throughout his distinguished playing days he is no ordinary individual. 

He leads the Lakers for both points (25.5) and assists (7.5), while he is shooting at 41.7 per cent from beyond the arc – well above his career average of 34.6 per cent. 

With Anthony Davis potentially missing again due to a right quad injury, the Lakers will need their talisman firing on all cylinders.

KEY BATTLE: CAN TATUM GO TOE-TO-TOE WITH LEBRON?

The last time these teams went head-to-head was back in February 2020, the Lakers coming out narrow 114-112 victors on that occasion. 

Following the game, James took to Instagram to give a huge endorsement to Jayson Tatum, writing: "That boi to the left of me is an ABSOLUTE PROBLEM!! Keep going #YoungKing." 

Tatum had put up 41 points, five rebounds, two assists and two blocks in a mammoth outing, though James' enduring quality was on display with a brilliant fadeaway in the closing minutes putting the Lakers into a lead they would not relinquish (James had 29 points, nine assists and eight rebounds). 

An offensive foul on what would have been a match-winning three from Tatum ended a fierce battle and the prospect of these two going head-to-head again is an exciting one.

HEAD TO HEAD

A rivalry that dates all the way back to 1948, the Celtics lead the regular season head-to-head between these heavyweights by 161-131. 

When you throw in playoff clashes, the Celtics lead the way at 204-162, while they also edge the past 10 encounters between the teams at 6-4. 

Lonzo Ball felt blocking out trade talk had proven key as he responded to recent speculation in style against the Milwaukee Bucks.

The New Orleans Pelicans earned an impressive 131-126 win against the Bucks on Friday.

Ball came to the fore with a season-high 27 points which included seven three-pointers – tied for his career high – and eight assists.

Eric Bledsoe (25 points) also scored seven three-pointers while center Steven Adams had 20 rebounds.

Per Stats Perform data, the Pelicans became the first NBA team ever to have two players with at least seven three-pointers and another with 20 or more rebounds.

New Orleans matched a franchise record with 21 threes in the game, with Ball the leading light as the Pelicans followed up their win over the Washington Wizards with another fine outing.

Ball, who has had a tough start to the 2020-21 season and was regularly a subject of trade talk when with the Los Angeles Lakers, insisted he had blocked out distractions.

Asked if he had any extra motivation amid the speculation, he replied: "I just stay the course.

"I've been playing basketball for a long time. I put a lot of work in and just try to play my game. That's how I play.

"I just try to stay away from all the noise and just go out there and try to help my team win games."

Zion Williamson, who just missed out on a triple-double with 21 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, was impressed by Ball as the Pelicans moved to 7-10 ahead of Saturday's game with the Houston Rockets.

"We love to see it," said former number one overall pick Williamson.

"When he shoots the ball like that with confidence, even if he misses it, just him shooting it with the confidence it's going in, that's what we want Zo to do. He hit seven and they were all big for us."

The Bucks were beaten despite 38 points from two-time league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and 22 from Jrue Holiday against his former team.

They still sit third in the Eastern Conference but are 4-5 on the road.

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