Anthony Davis still believes the Los Angeles Lakers could have won the NBA title this season if not for injury.

Defeat to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday combined with a win elsewhere for the San Antonio Spurs meant the Lakers can no longer reach even the play-in tournament.

It is a remarkable fall from grace for a team who were champions less than two years ago, although both Davis and LeBron James have struggled with injuries.

Davis has played only 40 games following knee and foot injuries, while James has been limited to 56 as he has attempted to overcome an ankle sprain.

James was absent as the Lakers' playoff hopes were ended against the Suns, with Davis on the floor but acknowledging his foot was "a little more sore than normal" and had "swollen up a bit".

"We haven't had the chance to have our full team, with myself out, LB out, other guys," Davis said. "It's the most disappointing thing. I'm not sure how good we could have been.

"For myself personally, it's two unfortunate injuries that kept me out for a while, a significant part of the season.

"I was one of the leaders on the team, especially on the defensive end of the floor. When guys needed me most, I wasn't able to be out there.

"For me, for our team, for our organisation, we've got to recap now and see what's next."

Considering what that might mean for next season, Davis said: "Who knows?"

He added: "We've got to recap the season, what worked, what didn't work and go from there. I truly think we could have done something special if Bron and myself, mainly me, were healthy for the entire season.

"I think you would love to see, the world would love to see, we would love to see what this team could be if we were healthy for the full 82."

The Lakers' trade for Russell Westbrook has been widely criticised, with the point guard's return of 18.5 points per game his lowest since 2009-10.

Even when the Lakers had Davis, James and Westbrook all in the lineup, their record was a relatively mediocre 11-10.

However, Davis believes they would have improved with time, explaining: "Our goal was to win a championship. We had the pieces, but injuries got in the way of that. That was the difference in our season.

"Even though we lost games where all of us were on the floor – me, Bron, Russ – I think we're three great players and we would have figured it out if we logged more minutes together.

"We weren't able to do that, which makes it tough to be able to compete for a championship."

However, team-mate Carmelo Anthony, while agreeing with Davis' assessment of the team's potential, refused to point to injuries as an excuse.

"We just didn't get it done," he said. "We had the tools. Some things were out of our control – some things we could control, some things we couldn't.

"It's nothing else more than we didn't get it done. You can't make excuses about it. We just didn't get it done."

Frank Vogel was keen to take the time to acknowledge LeBron James' achievement in passing Karl Malone despite the Los Angeles Lakers' 127-119 defeat to the Washington Wizards.

With 38 points against the Wizards, James moved ahead of Malone (36,928) onto 36,947 for his career, now trailing only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) all-time.

For James, who has played 197 games fewer than Abdul-Jabbar, this was a 31st 30-point game of the season – behind only Joel Embiid (33).

Lakers team-mate Russell Westbrook described this latest accomplishment as "an amazing feat to witness", while Carmelo Anthony said he was "still in awe" of James.

James insisted he could not "separate" his own performance from the defeat – "all I care about is wins and losses," he explained – but that was not a stance Vogel agreed with.

"It's bittersweet, but I think it's important to separate it," the coach said.

"This is a moment of time that we can't get caught up in the pain of this loss and [must] recognise what an incredible feat this is for LeBron, doing it in the fashion that he did it.

"He just attacked the game tonight. He came in and was aggressive on both sides of the ball, the second night of a back-to-back, really playing with incredible energy after playing 45 minutes last night.

"It was just a signature performance in a game where he passes one of the greats and becomes the second all-time leading scorer in the history of the game.

"It's really impressive, and I'm super happy for him. It's awesome."

For a player so focused on results, this has been a tough season for James, with the loss leaving the Lakers just half a game ahead of the New Orleans Pelicans in ninth in the West at 30-41.

This is despite James' 29.8 points per game – the third-highest mark of his career and highest since 2007-08.

"It's just an incredible game, an incredible season, and I don't know where we'd be without him," Vogel said.

Happily for the Lakers, as they look set for the play-in game, Vogel believes James is still getting better.

"This year's no different. The fact that it's later in his career and he's still doing it at this level is different," he added.

"Obviously, the way he's continuing to evolve his game with the deep shooting, with the turnaround, fadeaway jump shot that Kobe [Bryant] and Michael [Jordan] had later in his career... He's growing as a receiver. That part is special."

Frank Vogel says LeBron James' game time is "always a concern" after the four-time MVP played a team-high 40 minutes in the Los Angeles Lakers' 114-103 loss to the Toronto Raptors.

James starred for the Lakers in the previous day's defeat to the Phoenix Suns but was listed as questionable for Monday's clash with the Raptors due to soreness in his right knee.

The Lakers were 6-12 without James heading into the contest at Crypto.com Arena and Vogel took a gamble of sorts by not only using James but keeping him on the court for longer than any other player.

He delivered another impressive display with 30 points and nine rebounds, yet it was not enough to halt the Lakers' poor run as they fell to an eighth defeat in 10 games to go 29-39 for the season.

Despite James' fitness concerns, Lakers head coach Vogel is comfortable with his decision to keep the 37-year-old on the court against the Raptors, who won for a fourth straight game.

"It's always a concern," Vogel, who was in constant dialogue with James, said when asked about the forward's minutes. "But you feel the game out. There was enough stoppages. It's not always the total minutes on here. 

"It's what kind of flow the game has and there was enough stoppages that we never left like he was being too taxed."

 

James has played 1,845 minutes this season, which is second behind only Russell Westbrook (2,299) among Lakers players.

He has 1,487 points for the campaign and has averaged 29.7 across his 50 games, a tally that is bettered only by Joel Embiid (29.9).

Despite James' efforts, the Lakers left themselves with too much to do against the Raptors after finding themselves 24 points down in the first.

The hosts hit back to make it 109-97 with just over two minutes to go, but the comeback fell short.

Reflecting on another disappointing night for his side, a frustrated Carmelo Anthony said: "If you take away the first quarter, we won the game. We can't be digging ourselves holes or whatever. 

"We've been digging ourselves holes to start games off with. We did it against Phoenix, we did it again today. We find ourselves in those positions often this season."

Frank Vogel is under pressure at the Los Angeles Lakers, but LeBron James insists no blame can be directed at the coaching staff.

The Lakers' slump continued on Wednesday as a fourth-quarter charge from the Indiana Pacers saw them lose 111-104.

That defeat means the Lakers have now lost four of their last five games. Indeed, it has been reported that Vogel might well have lost his role as head coach had his team not snapped a three-match losing streak by beating the Utah Jazz on Monday.

But a loss to a Pacers team that is 13th in the Eastern Conference and had won just one of their previous 11 games means questions will surely be asked once again.

It was no surprise then that Vogel's future was the topic of conversation in James' post-game media briefing.

"Coaching staff has been great," James told reporters.

"They put us in a position to succeed, and it's up to us to handle the business, so there's always things that we all can do better, but there's no blame.

"I'm not in that business, of pointing fingers or pointing blame. It's not my lane. I'm not a negative person. So if you got something to ask me besides trying to s*** on somebody, I'll answer those. It seems like y'all are in s*** mode right now."

James led the Lakers with 30 points and 12 rebounds, the 10th of which brought up his 10,000th across his regular season career, but his double-double was not enough to stop Los Angeles slipping below .500 in the Western Conference.

 

Carmelo Anthony, who scored 14 points, insisted the players must step up.

"I mean, we got to do it," Anthony said. "It's up to us. Frank's not out there. It's up to us to go out there and execute and play basketball and win some games."

Vogel, meanwhile, acknowledged it was a damaging defeat.

"This is definitely a disappointing loss," Vogel said. "Indy is a team that's sub-.500, that on our home court, we feel like we should win. And you got to win the games you feel like you should win. So, a disappointing loss.

"I meet with our front office. We talk about the previous night's game. Every game. All year. It's been that way for three years. And it's not been different this week or of late.

"Everyone is working together to leave no stone unturned in terms of getting this thing going in the right direction. And we all have a great working relationship where we're trying to figure out things together. We won a championship this way, and I feel good about our process.

"In this business, and with this team, if you're not winning at a super high level, you're going to get this type of noise. I'm good at blocking that out. I feel good about the job that we're doing. I believe in what we can do this year."

Vogel made a big call to take off Russell Westbrook, with the Lakers star having struggled to cope with Indiana's Caris LeVert, who had 30 points.

"I played the guys that I thought were going to win the game," Vogel explained.

Westbrook has 833 points for the season, behind only James (952) in the Lakers' roster.

Carmelo Anthony says LeBron James' early-season prediction that the Los Angeles Lakers would emerge victorious like Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers is proving true.

The Lakers traded for Russell Westbrook during the off-season and brought in the likes of Anthony, Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan and Trevor Ariza.

After some underwhelming results, the Lakers hit form with four wins in a row to start 2022 before losing 127-119 to in-form Memphis Grizzlies last time out.

It was a similar story for Brady in his first year with the Bucs last time out when 7-5 overall before their season truly took off, culminating in a 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.

Sitting seventh in the Western Conference with a record of 21-20, Anthony agrees with James' comparison that the Lakers could be heading for similar success.

"Just from the standpoint of starting off slow and having new guys on the team, a new system, guys trying to figure it out, guys trying to figure out how to play with LeBron and [Anthony Davis] and now incorporating Russ and just now everybody figuring out what their role is," he said. 

"And what made it beautiful for the Bucs is that once it came together, it came together and you saw what happened with that."

Anthony has averaged 13.2 points across his 41 games for the Lakers this season – the fourth most behind Westbrook (19), Davis (23.3) and James (28.9), and similar to the 13.4 averaged in his final year with the Portland Trail Blazers.

With the Lakers now halfway through their campaign, Anthony admits it was always going to be a long-term process after plenty of close-season changes.

"It was just kind of preparing ourselves for whatever happens, whatever comes along," he said when reflecting on the past three months.

"I think we were, I don't want to say prepared for those [difficult] moments and those times mentally and emotionally, but yeah, those were conversations that were happening."

The Lakers have back-to-back road games coming up against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday and the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.

Stephen Curry posted 50 points and 10 assists to guide the NBA-leading Golden State Warriors to a 127-113 win over the Atlanta Hawks.

Curry enjoyed a season-high night in terms of points as the Warriors won for the ninth time in their opening 10 games of the 2021-22 campaign on Monday.

The two-time MVP became the only NBA player in the last 25 years to have 50-plus points, 10-plus assists and a plus-minus of 30 or better in a single game, according to Stats Perform.

Curry, who had seven rebounds and nine three-pointers, also joined James Harden as the only players to put up 50-plus points, 10-plus assists in 35 minutes or fewer in the last 40 seasons.

The three-time champion became the third Warriors player in franchise history with at least 10 50-point games.

 

 

Bulls stop star-studded Nets

Kevin Durant recorded 38 points and 10 rebounds but the Brooklyn Nets still lost 118-95 at the Chicago Bulls. All of Chicago's starters – DeMar DeRozan (28), Zach Lavine (24), Nikola Vucevic (11 and 13 rebounds), Lonzo Ball (11) and Javonte Green (11) – finished with double-digit points to snap Brooklyn's five-game winning streak.

In the absence of Joel Embiid (health and safety protocol), Andre Drummond had 14 points and 25 rebounds for the Philadelphia 76ers. He became the first 76er with 25-plus rebounds in a game since Charles Barkley in 1987. Shorthanded Eastern Conference leaders the 76ers lost 103-96 to the New York Knicks, however.

Russell Westbrook (17 points, 14 assists and 12 rebounds), Anthony Davis (32 points and 12 rebounds) and Carmelo Anthony (29 points on seven-of-10 three-pointers) helped the Los Angeles Lakers outlasted the Charlotte Hornets 126-123 in overtime. LaMelo Ball had a triple-double of 25 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists for the Hornets.

 

Jokic loses his head

The Denver Nuggets upstaged the high-flying Miami Heat 113-96, despite having reigning MVP Nikola Jokic ejected. Jokic registered a triple-double of 25 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists before he was tossed for violently slamming his shoulder into Markieff Morris late in the final period.

James Harden recorded his first triple-double of the season as the Brooklyn Nets claimed back-to-back wins for the first time this NBA campaign in a 117-91 victory over the lowly Detroit Pistons on Sunday.

Harden finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists after three quarters, while Nets team-mate Kevin Durant top-scored with 23 points but was ejected in the third quarter for shoving his elbow into Kelly Olynyk's face.

Former MVP Harden has had a slow start to 2021-22, however, he backed up his season-high 29 points against the Indiana Pacers on Friday with another impressive showing which will encourage the championship-chasing Nets (4-3) that he is getting back to his best after an injury-impacted offseason.

Harden hit four three-pointers as the superstar guard – already Brooklyn's all-time triple-double leader with 13 – joined Hall of Famer Larry Bird for second on the NBA's all-time list with 59.

 

Mitchell leads Jazz past struggling champs

Donovan Mitchell starred with 28 points, including a treble of first-quarters three-pointers as the Utah Jazz hit their first five attempts from range in a 107-95 win against slumping champions the Milwaukee Bucks. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 25 points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Bucks, who have lost three in a row.

Carmelo Anthony – who is shooting a career-high 50 per cent and 52.2 per cent from three this season – scored 23 points off the bench, while LeBron James had 15 points, seven rebounds and assists in the Los Angeles Lakers' 95-85 triumph over the Houston Rockets.

Luka Doncic led the way for the Dallas Mavericks with 23 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists in a 105-99 victory against the Sacramento Kings.

 

Dame cold in Blazers loss

All-Star Damian Lillard's shooting was wayward as the Portland Trail Blazers were downed 125-113 by the Charlotte Hornets, hitting two from 14 from three-point range for a below-standard 14-point return.

Los Angeles Lakers star Carmelo Anthony saluted the 40-point performance of Ja Morant as the Memphis Grizzlies just came up short 121-118 at Staples Center on Sunday.

The Lakers had lost their first two matches of the season prior to Sunday's contest – the most recent defeat had been against the Phoenix Suns on Saturday.

But they got the job done at the third time of asking to kick-start their campaign.

Morant certainly made the Lakers work for their victory, the 22-year-old top-scoring with 40 and also adding 10 assists as he impressed.

While the Lakers ultimately outlasted him and the Grizzlies, Anthony – whose 28 points was the second-highest score posted – made a point of applauding Morant's efforts.

"It's showtime every time teams go against us. We understand that. We expect that," the 37-year-old said.

"Somebody like Ja, he's going to continue to get better. He's going to continue to elevate. He is the future of this NBA, and he shows that every single night, what he's able to bring to the game."

Anthony's 28 saw him surpass Moses Malone in ninth place on the all-time NBA leading scorers list, and while he did not let such an achievement distract him out on court, he did allow for it to process afterwards.

"When you're in a battle like that, like tonight, it's kind of hard to put everything in perspective or even think about it because the game is so close, so tight," he said.

"So, you don't even want to try to think about too many things out there on the court at that moment but making a play, getting a stop and winning the basketball game.

"But – I keep saying this, man – it's an honour, it's a blessing to be in that list, to pass Moses and know what Moses did, what he did for the game of basketball, it's hard to put it in words.

 

"I'm still here doing it. I think that's what I'm honestly excited about. I'm here in year 19 still doing what I'm able to do."

Lakers coach Frank Vogel had been particularly keen to see an improvement following the defeat to the Suns and Golden State Warriors, with an in-depth video session seen as a good way to get ahead of their issues.

Vogel felt it yielded tangible results against the Grizzlies and is hoping that is a sign of things to come in terms of their cohesion.

"Losing your first two home games didn't sit well with our group," Vogel added. "We came out very motivated tonight and we've got a lot of belief in who we can be this year, but we also have a lot of work to do, and we had a very, very productive film session yesterday.

"It cleaned a lot of things up and the effort was much better tonight. The attention to detail was much better tonight and that's how we're going to have to improve and gel."

The Los Angeles Lakers claimed their first win of the season after outlasting Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies 121-118 in the NBA on Sunday.

LeBron James and the Lakers had lost back-to-back games to open the 2021-22 campaign but finally had something to celebrate at home to the Grizzlies.

Anthony Davis posted 22 points and eight rebounds, while team-mate James finished with 19 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Lakers (1-2).

But it was Lakers veteran Carmelo Anthony who led the way with 28 points (on 10-of-15 shooting) from the bench.

Anthony passed Moses Malone for ninth place on the all-time NBA leading scorers list.

Morant excelled with 40 points and 10 assists, but it was not enough for the Grizzlies (2-1), who lost for the first time.

 

 

Curry brothers star as Steph makes history

Stephen Curry was at it again to lead the Golden State Warriors to their first 3-0 start to a season since 2015 after a 119-107 victory against the Sacramento Kings. The two-time MVP put up 27 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and three steals to fuel the unbeaten Warriors. With his fifth assist, Curry became the first player in franchise history to dish out 5,000 career assists.

The Philadelphia 76ers topped the rebuilding Oklahoma City Thunder 115-103. Seth Curry maintained his red-hot form, going seven-of-10 from three-point range for a team-high 28 points. Curry was six of seven from beyond the arc for 23 points in the opening quarter – a new career-high for a single period. He is the fourth 76ers player with at least 20 points in a quarter since 2010, joining Joel Embiid (four times), Jodie Meeks and Lou Williams. Embiid had 22 points, nine rebounds and six assists against the Thunder.

Jalen Green enjoyed a breakout game, despite the Houston Rockets going down 107-97 to the Boston Celtics. Green became the first rookie in Rockets history with 30-plus points and eight three-pointers in a game after finishing with 30 points – including eight threes, four rebounds and three assists.

The Charlotte Hornets are off to their first 3-0 start to the season thanks to a 111-95 win over the Brooklyn Nets behind Miles Bridges' 32 points. Kevin Durant led the Nets with 38 points in Brooklyn.

 

Harden struggles from the floor in Nets loss

James Harden was far from his best against Hornets, going just six-of-16 shooting from the field for 15 points in 33 minutes, while he also finished with eight turnovers.

Evan Fournier was three-of-11 shooting from the field – making just two of seven three-pointers – as the New York Knicks were stunned 110-104 by the Orlando Magic.

Veteran Los Angeles Lakers recruit Carmelo Anthony says he is open to any role in the side as he strives for his first career NBA title.

The 37-year-old boasts a decorated CV, including being an NBA All-Star 10 times, but he is confident not being an automatic featured player for the Lakers this season.

Anthony moved from the Portland Trail Blazers to the Lakers over the off-season, having played 69 games last season, starting only three times.

"At this point, man, whatever we need to do, let's do it," Anthony said on Friday at the Lakers' training camp.

"It ain't ... 'I can't sit,' and, 'Oh, I want to start,' 'I want to come off the bench.' Whatever it is, it is.

"I've had experience being a starter for 18, 17 years and had an experience of coming off the bench for one year. It's not something I think about."

Russell Westbrook also joined the Lakers ahead of the 2021-22 NBA season which commences on October 17 for the Lakers against the Golden State Warriors.

There have numerous roster changes for the Lakers, meaning there is uncertainty about how the line-up head coach Frank Vogel deploys for the new season.

"When we spoke before he signed here, I told him that I envisioned a big role on this team," Vogel said.

"I don't know what that's going to look like, whether he's going to start, whether he's going to come off the bench, but that he's going to be a factor for us."

Vogel confirmed Anthony along with Westbrook and LeBron James will all sit out Sunday's pre-season opener against the Brooklyn Nets for rest.

Forward Anthony played a career-low 24.5 minutes per game last season for the Blazers, but had a career second-best three-point percentage of 40.9 per cent.

Anthony averaged 13.4 points per game, 3.1 rebounds per game and 1.5 assists per game last season.

Los Angeles Lakers signing Carmelo Anthony has brushed off concerns about the age of the franchise's roster where he will play alongside four-time MVP LeBron James.

Anthony, who turned 37 in May, joined the Lakers from the Portland Trail Blazers last week.

The 10-time NBA All Star, who was the third pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, will team up with 36-year-old James who was the top pick in that year's draft.

The Lakers side also consists of veterans Trevor Ariza, Dwight Howard and Marc Gasol, while 32-year-old point guard Russell Westbrook has also joined this offseason, leading to concerns about an aging roster.

"We don't care," Anthony interjected when the aging topic came up during his presentation press conference on Monday. "We don't care. We make our own narrative."

Anthony added: "I like when people talk about the age. It gives a better story. I think it gives a better story. I think people forget, at the end of the day, it's about basketball.

"You got to know how to play basketball. You got to have that experience. I think that's what we bring at this point and time. Our talent, our skill, but also our experience.

"There's different resources than when we came into the game. We understand what taking care of yourself means from the holistic perspective."

The power forward, who will likely play a bench role for the Lakers this season, averaged 13.4 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game in the 2020-21 NBA season for the Blazers.

Anthony will enter his 19th NBA season pursuing his maiden title, having had stints with five other franchises, getting closest in 2009 when the Denver Nuggets made the Conference finals.

"I'm coming in with a championship on my mind," Anthony said.

"I think we all know that this is the one thing that I'm missing, right? This is the one thing that it keeps me up at night, it motivates me, because I don't have it. I want that experience."

Anthony also revealed the role James played in luring him to the Lakers, having been linked with a move to Los Angeles numerous times in the past.

"Bron just came to me one time and said, 'yo, the time is now. I want you. We got to make this happen,'" Anthony said.

"I just felt like for right now, this is the best time. Most people would say we should've gotten together years ago early in our careers, but we were in two different lanes, we were on two different paths. Everything comes full circle."

The Lakers also unveiled Kent Bazemore on Monday after being added to the roster from the Golden State Warriors.

Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Montrezl Harrell were all previously traded out to the Washington Wizards as part of the Westbrook deal.

Los Angeles Lakers signing Carmelo Anthony has brushed off concerns about the age of the franchise's roster where he will play alongside four-time MVP LeBron James.

Anthony, who turned 37 in May, joined the Lakers from the Portland Trail Blazers last week.

The 10-time NBA All Star, who was the third pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, will team up with 36-year-old James who was the top pick in that year's draft.

The Lakers side also consists of veterans Trevor Ariza, Dwight Howard and Marc Gasol, while 32-year-old point guard Russell Westbrook has also joined this offseason, leading to concerns about an aging roster.

"We don't care," Anthony interjected when the aging topic came up during his presentation press conference on Monday. "We don't care. We make our own narrative."

Anthony added: "I like when people talk about the age. It gives a better story. I think it gives a better story. I think people forget, at the end of the day, it's about basketball.

"You got to know how to play basketball. You got to have that experience. I think that's what we bring at this point and time. Our talent, our skill, but also our experience.

"There's different resources than when we came into the game. We understand what taking care of yourself means from the holistic perspective."

The power forward, who will likely play a bench role for the Lakers this season, averaged 13.4 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game in the 2020-21 NBA season for the Blazers.

Anthony will enter his 19th NBA season pursuing his maiden title, having had stints with five other franchises, getting closest in 2009 when the Denver Nuggets made the Conference finals.

"I'm coming in with a championship on my mind," Anthony said.

"I think we all know that this is the one thing that I'm missing, right? This is the one thing that it keeps me up at night, it motivates me, because I don't have it. I want that experience."

Anthony also revealed the role James played in luring him to the Lakers, having been linked with a move to Los Angeles numerous times in the past.

"Bron just came to me one time and said, 'yo, the time is now. I want you. We got to make this happen,'" Anthony said.

"I just felt like for right now, this is the best time. Most people would say we should've gotten together years ago early in our careers, but we were in two different lanes, we were on two different paths. Everything comes full circle."

The Lakers also unveiled Kent Bazemore on Monday after being added to the roster from the Golden State Warriors.

Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Montrezl Harrell were all previously traded out to the Washington Wizards as part of the Westbrook deal.

Kevin Durant believes Jayson Tatum will eventually claim the Team USA points record he just took from Carmelo Anthony.

In scoring 23 points in the United States' 119-84 win over the Czech Republic – a victory that secured their progression to the quarter-finals at Tokyo 2020 – Durant reached 354 in Olympic play.

He is now past Anthony (336) and will expect to stretch his advantage in pursuit of a third Games gold.

The three-pointer that took Durant to new heights gave Team USA their first lead midway through the second quarter, with the Brooklyn Nets forward leading his country's recovery from a slow start.

Tatum took control thereafter, though, finishing on a game-high 27 points.

The 23-year-old is appearing at his first Games but has 50 points through three appearances, prompting Durant to make a bold claim.

Appearing alongside Tatum in a post-game interview, Durant said: "This guy to the left, I think he's going to be the next one to break that record."

 

Tatum boosted his total with five-for-10 three-point shooting, as the United States made 20 shots from deep – tied for their third-most in an Olympic game.

Coach Gregg Popovich said of Tatum: "Obviously he's more confident but he makes better choices, decision-making wise.

"He attacks for himself and for a team-mate at the same time, and he didn't do that in the very beginning in the league; he was just a scorer.

"But now he's valuable because he does the other things. He's starting to rebound better. We're telling him that it's important, we're not that big and we do need him on the boards."

In the same news conference, Durant was asked again about his achievement in surpassing Anthony.

"You just think about all the players that played in this programme and [it is] pretty cool to be among names like that," he said.

"Carmelo is a guy that I played on two Olympic teams with and I've seen his approach to these games and I try to steal some of his techniques and approach.

"It's still pretty weird for me to do stuff like this because I play a team sport and I try my hardest to make it about the group.

"But it is special to do something like that and scoring is something that I've worked on my whole career and something that I've expanded my whole career, and to consistently do it is pretty cool."

Carmelo Anthony was shocked to face booing from Denver Nuggets fans – before he and the Portland Trail Blazers silenced the home crowd in Game 1 of the playoff series.

Portland scored a 123-109 road win to get the early upper hand in the best-of-seven series.

The Denver fans that once worshipped Anthony got on his back in Saturday's game, jeering the 10-time All-Star who began his career as a teenager with the Nuggets.

"It's cool man. I love them too. I love those guys too," said Anthony afterwards.

"It's been what, almost 10 years now since I've been here. The love is there man. They love me, they hate me. I can't do nothing about that.

"I've just got to go out there and smile, enjoy myself and have fun and play basketball. Whatever they have to say, let them say, it's not my concern."

Asked if he could explain the fans' reaction, Anthony, who scored 18 points, was stumped.

"I don't have that answer. I don't know what it is," he said. "I gave my all here for seven and a half, eight years.

"I never said anything bad about Denver, the fans, the organisation, the players, I never complained. It's like I was birthed here with the Denver Nuggets. I started my career here and this will always be a special place for me."

It was Anthony's first win back in Denver since he departed in February 2011 to join the New York Knicks.

Coming up for his 37th birthday next Saturday, it was high time he tasted that winning feeling back in his one-time home city.

"I didn't even know that, this is the first win since I got traded," Anthony said.

"It's not even something I ever even thought about, to be honest with you.

"Somebody told me that when I was in the locker room after the game but I'll take it. I'll take my first win being Game 1 of the Western Conference playoffs.

"It's a great time to make it happen, get that first win here in Denver."

Damian Lillard is used to having the game in his hands, but the Portland Trail Blazers star found another level of control Saturday in a 123-109 playoff win over the Denver Nuggets. 

Lillard scored 34 points and had a career playoff high 13 assists to account for 54 per cent of Portland's points in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series. 

That assist total was the most for a Portland player since Damon Stoudamire had 13 against the Phoenix Suns on May 13, 1999. 

The sixth-seeded Blazers set a franchise record for a playoff game in hitting 19 three-pointers, five of them by Lillard, as they opened with a critical road win to boost their chances of taking the series. 

"Any time you start a series on the road, you're going into it thinking we need to at least win one -- heading back home we've got to have one of those first two," Lillard told reporters.

"It's a major statement to be able to get the first one." 

The Blazers heaped praise on center Jusuf Nurkic, who spent most of the night defending Nuggets star Nikola Jokic. 

Though Jokic matched Lillard's scoring output with 34, he had only one assist -- a career playoff low. 

Lillard told reporters he believes Jokic is the NBA MVP this season, but said the Blazers' focus was on letting him do the work himself rather than distributing to his team-mates. 

That formula worked in the series opener, though Lillard expects the competition is "only going to get harder from here." 

Added Carmelo Anthony, "I've been here multiple times. We don't want to get too high -- it's just the first game.

"We'll take it, though. It's a big win. Any time you can get Game 1 on the road in the playoffs it's a major win. 

"We don't look at it as a steal -- we came in here and we earned this win tonight."

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