LeBron James announced on The ESPYs on Wednesday that he will play another season for the Los Angeles Lakers.

James, 38, said he will return for his 21st NBA season and sixth with the Lakers after accepting the ESPY award for Best Record-Breaking Performance for surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the NBA’s all-time scoring list last season.

“I don’t care how many more points I can score or what I can or can’t do on the floor,” James said. “The real question for me, can I play without cheating the game? The day I can’t play without giving everything on the floor is the day I’ll be done. Lucky for you guys, that day is not today.”

At the end of last season following the Lakers’ loss to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference finals, James said he wasn’t sure if he would be back.

That was in stark contrast to James’ previous sentiments, when he said on several occasions that he would like to play alongside his oldest son, Bronny, in the NBA.

The superstar James had another stellar season in 2022-23, averaging 28.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 6.8 assists in 55 games.

Nikola Jokic remains "worried" about the Denver Nuggets' chances of reaching the NBA Finals despite Saturday's Game 3 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, warning LeBron James is "capable of everything".

Jokic combined with Jamal Murray to guide the top-seeded Nuggets to a 119-108 win at Crypto.com Arena, giving them a 3-0 series lead and putting them on the brink of a first NBA Finals appearance.

The two-time NBA MVP added 24 points to Murray's game-high 37, leaving Denver heavily fancied to advance ahead of another road game on Monday.

However, Jokic is unwilling to start the celebrations early, saying: "To be honest, I'm not going to say that I'm scared, but I'm worried.

"Because they have LeBron on the other side, and he is capable of doing everything. 

"We're going to come here with the same mindset, same focus, and I think that's going to put us in a situation to win a game.

"We never know. They're going to be aggressive. Of course, they're going to be extra physical. 

"They're going to run more, everything is going to be on a different level, more of anything. So, we will see."

Murray echoed his team-mate's cautious tone, stressing the importance of the Nuggets remaining grounded. 

"We're just keeping everybody in the moment, not letting it slip away," Murray said.

"You need 16 wins to win a championship and we've got five more to go and the Lakers are in our way, and they are going to do everything in their power to come back and fight."

James finished Game 3 with 23 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds but missed with 11 of his 19 shots, including four of six in the fourth quarter.

Despite the Lakers' season hanging by a thread, the four-time NBA champion is refusing to give up hope.

"We've got to get one, just get one at a time," James said. "Just focus on Game 4, that's all you can think about. 

"Obviously, this game is over with. We had some opportunities and we didn't come through. It's a one-game series for us."

LeBron James insists there is light at the end of the tunnel for the Los Angeles Lakers despite falling 2-0 down to the top-seeded Denver Nuggets.

The Lakers were beaten 108-103 in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals, even though they were leading by 11 points in the third quarter and started the fourth still up by three.

Jamal Murray powered a decisive 15-1 Denver run in the fourth quarter, finishing with 37 points, while Nikola Jokic (23-17-12) made it five triple-doubles in the space of six games.

James, meanwhile, was unable to connect with any of his six three-point attempts in a frustrating night that saw him finish with 22 points.

But the 38-year-old did have 10 assists, nine rebounds and four steals and feels there is enough room for optimism ahead of Game 3 on home court, where the Lakers have won every game this postseason.

"I think we improved from Game 1 to Game 2," James said, per ESPN. 

"And if we can do the same thing from Game 2 to Game 3, we put ourselves in a position to win.

"This is not the NCAA tournament. It's the first to four wins. Until a team beats you four times, then you always have an opportunity to come out of it. That is the confidence we need to have.

"We can't go into any postseason game with comfort just because you either haven't lost at home or you're going back home. We have still got to play with the same desperation as we did [in Game 2].

"We came out with an L. The three-point line is what killed us in the fourth.

"[Murray] made shots at the end of the clock. We guard for 24 seconds and he made two big-time shots, one over [Anthony Davis] and one over me. 

"He had his 3-point shot going in the fourth. It’s no surprise to me, he’s done it before. Sometimes it’s a never-miss league."

James said what he called "a little ankle injury" would not stop him suiting up for Game 3 on Saturday.

Austin Reaves tied James for a team-high 22 points and had no concerns about his star teammate’s shooting woes from deep.

"I mean, he can shoot all he wants – it's LeBron James," said Reaves. "I don't think anybody bats an eye when he shoots a shot or questions his shot. 

"We want him taking whatever he feels comfortable with, just because he's a winning basketball player for his whole career and that's all he wants to do, he wants to win."

Coach Darvin Ham had similar views on James' long-range shooting after Thursday's loss.

Ham said: "He [James] was open, they're playing off of him. He's a highly capable three-point shooter, he let it fly.

"Proud of our guys, they bounced back and we addressed a lot of the things that we said we were going to try to do better.

"Still got to be better in transition D. But overall the energy was there, the effort was there, the urgency was there, we just caught a bad stretch."

The Lakers have now lost consecutive games for the first time since the middle of March. After beating the odds to make the playoffs following a woeful start to the regular season, Ham was quick to remind observers the Lakers should not be counted out. 

"I've been down 2-10, 0-5," Ham said. "You're never as good as they say you are and you're never as bad as they say you are.

"You've just got to treat each day like its own entity. Each day, each game an opportunity to go out and get better. Never get too high and never get too low."

Davis also vowed to improve in Game 3. He had 14 rebounds and four blocks but was restricted to 18 points on 4-of-15 shooting after scoring 40 points in Game 1.

The eight-time All-Star said: "I'm going to continue to shoot those shots and I got to be better, more efficient, help the team win. So, I'll be better."

Jamal Murray scored 23 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter in a stellar performance as the Denver Nuggets held on for a 108-103 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Thursday's win saw the Nuggets take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals.

Nikola Jokic notched his fourth straight triple-double and seventh of these playoffs with 23 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists to improve Denver to 8-0 at home this postseason. The Nuggets are two wins away from the franchise's first-ever NBA Finals appearance.

Murray missed 12 of his 17 shots through three quarters but was 6 of 7 in the fourth, including four 3-pointers and fuelled a 15-1 run to put the top-seeded Nuggets ahead for good.

His fourth-quarter explosion began with a short jumper with 9:59 remaining to forge an 81-81 tie.

He then sank consecutive 3-pointers and hit another after Bruce Brown connected from deep to put Denver up 93-84. Michael Porter Jr.'s three preceded another three from Murray that made it 99-87.

The Lakers scored the next five points to close the gap, but Murray answered with another basket. Austin Reaves ended a run of 11 straight missed threes by Los Angeles to close the deficit to 101-99, only to see Murray sink five free throws in the final 25 seconds.

Brown stole the ball from LeBron James with eight seconds left to seal Denver's victory.

Murray's 23-point quarter was one less point than the entire Lakers team.

James was just shy of a triple-double with 22 points, 10 boards and nine assists but missed all six of his 3-point attempts. Austin Reaves added 22 points with five threes and Rui Hachimura contributed 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting for Los Angeles, which misfired on 22 of 30 from beyond the arc.

Game 3 is Saturday night in Los Angeles, where the Lakers have won eight straight.

Nikola Jokic has an uncanny ability to make basketball look simple yet miraculous, according to his Denver Nuggets teammate Aaron Gordon.

Jokic starred for the Nuggets as Denver held off a spirited comeback from LeBron James' Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Tuesday.

The Nuggets prevailed 132-126 to take the series lead, with Jokic registering 34 points, 21 rebounds, 14 assists - his third straight triple-double in the playoffs this season.

"He makes it [look] really simple," Nuggets forward Gordon said of his team-mate.

"[But also] he makes it look miraculous at the same time. It's ridiculous."

For fellow Nugget and former Laker Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who played with James during his stint in Los Angeles, there is not much to pick between Jokic and the NBA's record points scorer.

"I feel like the only difference is 'Bron can jump higher than Jokic," said Caldwell-Pope said.

"That's about the only difference that I can see. I just love playing with Jokic, willing passer, dominant big man down there.

"Just seeing him do what he does, gets everybody else going."

Denver coach Michael Malone added: "I thought when he felt there was one-on-one coverage, facing up and getting to the basket, [Jokic] used that understated athleticism to finish in traffic. That was great to see."

Jokic enjoyed a tussle with Anthony Davis, and sank a 28-foot 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter that even left his opponent smiling.

"Oh, sometimes luck is on our side," Jokic quipped.

"It's a crazy shot, of course. It's not something that I work on, but I'm glad it went in."

Matters did not go entirely Denver's way, with the Lakers forging a comeback and pulling within three twice in the fourth quarter, once on Austin Reaves' 3-pointer at 124-121 with 3:23 remaining and again on James' two free throws that made it 129-126 with 72 seconds to play.

"We'll be better," said James.

"We know we didn't play up to our capabilities in the first half, but you know we'll be better in Game 2, that's for sure."

Anthony Davis bounced back with a stellar performance and got ample help from D'Angelo Russell and LeBron James in the Los Angeles Lakers' 127-97 win over the Golden State Warriors on Saturday.

Davis had 25 points on 7-of-10 shooting and grabbed 13 rebounds as the Lakers took a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.

The Lakers' big man was limited to 11 points and seven boards in a Game 2 loss but was relentless at both ends in this one, also adding four blocks and three steals.

Russell scored all 21 of his points in the first half as the Lakers took a 59-48 advantage into the locker room.

James did not attempt a shot in the first quarter for the first time in his playoff carer but led several runs in the second and third quarters on his way to 21 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.

Los Angeles had a huge advantage at the free throw line, making 28 of 37 to just 12 of 17 for Golden State.

The Warriors ended the opening quarter with a 30-23 lead, but the Lakers won the second and third quarters by a combined margin of 63-38. Lakers coach Darvin Ham rested his starters for most of the fourth quarter.

Stephen Curry had 23 points and Andrew Wiggins added 16 for the Warriors, who committed 18 turnovers and made only 13 of 44 from long range.

Golden State got very little from anyone other than Curry, Wiggins or Klay Thompson (15 points), with starters Draymond Green and JaMychal Green combining for just four points on 2-of-9 shooting.

Heat get Butler back, dominate Knicks

Jimmy Butler scored 28 points and was the driving force in his return from a sprained ankle and the Miami Heat rolled to a 105-86 rout of the New York Knicks in Game 3.

Max Strus added 19 points and Bam Adebayo had 17 with 12 rebounds to give Miami a 2-1 lead in the second-round series.

After missing Miami's Game 2 loss due to the ankle, Butler was seen limping at times in the second half Saturday, but the Heat started fast and never trailed against the cold-shooting Knicks.

Butler scored 10 points in the first quarter and the Heat made 10 of their first 15 shots in racing to a 58-44 halftime lead. New York, meanwhile, misfired on 13 of its first 17 shots and shot just 34.1 percent for the game, including a dismal 8-for-40 from 3-point range.

Jalen Brunson led the Knicks with 20 points and Josh Hart had 14. Julius Randle was mostly ineffective with 10 points on 4-of-15 shooting and RJ Barrett was not much better with 14 points on 5 of 16.

Anthony Davis had 30 points, 23 rebounds, five assists and four blocked shots, leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a 117-112 Game 1 road win over the Golden State Warriors.

Davis had a double-double by halftime with 23 points and 11 boards at the break, and finished with a personal playoff high in rebounds.

Reigniting his playoff rivalry against Stephen Curry, LeBron James scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, while Dennis Schroeder added 19 points off the bench.

The Warriors made 21 3-pointers to the Lakers’ six, but Los Angeles offset that deficit by dominating inside. The Lakers outscored the Warriors in the paint 54-28 and shot 25 for 29 from the free throw line, while Golden State attempted just six free throws – the team’s fewest in a playoff game in franchise history.

Curry, coming off a Game 7-record 50 points to close out the Sacramento Kings on Sunday, made 6 3-pointers en route to a team-high 27 points but shot 10 of 24 from the field.

The Lakers took a 112-98 lead with 5:58 remaining, but the Warriors tied the game with a 14-0 run, capped by a Curry 3-pointer that sent the Chase Center into a frenzy with 1:38 left.

Los Angeles sent aggressive double teams at Curry late, leaving Jordan Poole with a pair of last-minute shot attempts that did not fall.

Poole and Klay Thompson each made six 3-pointers for the Warriors, while Kevon Looney continued his rebounding spree, grabbing seven offensive boards and 23 total.

The Warriors will look to bounce back when they host Game 2 on Thursday.
 

Brunson, Randle help Knicks even series with Heat as Butler sits

Jalen Brunson scored 30 points, Julius Randle was strong in his return from injury and the New York Knicks earned a 111-105 victory Tuesday over a Miami Heat team without Jimmy Butler, evening their second-round playoff series at a game apiece.

Brunson, who shouldered some blame for Sunday’s Game 1 loss after going 0 for 7 from 3-point range, bounced back by shooting 6 of 10 from deep.

Battling a sore right ankle, Brunson scored 23 of his 30 points in the second half, helping the Knicks rally from a fourth-quarter deficit to avoid a demoralizing loss.

The Heat led 93-87 with 7:03 remaining, but Brunson scored 10 points in the Knicks’ ensuing 14-3 run that secured the victory.

Randle, who missed Game 1 due to a sprained left ankle, responded with 25 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists, while Josh Hart came up just short of a triple-double with 14 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.

The Knicks outrebounded the Heat 50-34.

The Heat played without the leading scorer in this year’s playoffs after Butler was ruled out because of a right ankle sprain. Caleb Martin replaced Butler in the starting lineup and led Miami with 22 points.

Butler, who is scoring 35.5 points per game this postseason, will get a few extra days to rehabilitate before Game 3 in Miami on Saturday.

Two weeks ago, Memphis Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks created controversy with a few insults directed at superstar LeBron James.

He reportedly will no longer be making any more questionable comments as a member of the Memphis Grizzlies.

The unrestricted free agent was informed by the Grizzlies on Tuesday that they will not be bringing him back "under any circumstances," according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Memphis told Brooks of the decision in an exit meeting, with his showing in the Grizzlies' first-round series against the Los Angeles Lakers coming as the final "breaking point," according to the report.

Brooks made headlines after the Grizzlies evened their series against the Lakers with a Game 2 win on April 19, when he took a shot at the league's all-time leading scorer.

In addition to calling James "old", he said: "I poke bears. I don't respect no one until they come and give me 40 [points]."

Brooks' comments backfired, as the Lakers responded by winning the series in six games – including a 125-85 thrashing in Friday's clincher.

While the 38-year-old James stepped up his play in the series, Brooks seemed to shrivel.

After taking his jab at James, Brooks averaged just nine points on 28 per cent shooting and 22.2 percent on 27 three-point attempts in the series' final four games.

This came after Brooks averaged 14.3 points on 39.6 per cent shooting and 32.6 per cent on three-pointers in 73 regular-season games in 2022-23.

He did not talk to the media after the Grizzlies' three losses in Los Angeles, and was subsequently fined $25,000 for violating the league's rules regarding media interview access.

The 27-year-old ended up speaking to the media during the team's exit interviews on Sunday, but said he had no regrets about the comments he made.

"That's who I am," he said. "I don't regret it. I'm a competitor, I compete. I don't think it got LeBron geeked up."

LeBron James knows he has "got to be better" after he was "not very good at all" in the Los Angeles Lakers' 116-99 Game 5 playoff defeat to the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday.

The Grizzlies kept the series alive at 3-2 with a comfortable victory at FedExForum, where Desmond Bane scored 33 points and had 10 rebounds.

Ja Morant also had a big night for Memphis, finishing with 31 points and 10 rebounds as the Lakers were unable to wrap up the series.

James could only muster 15 points and was taken off by head coach Darvin Ham after spending 37 minutes on court 

The legendary 38-year-old turned his attention to ensuring he delivers on Friday after falling short of his usually sky-high standards.

"Just got to be better. It starts with me. Tonight I was not very good at all. My defense was pretty good.

"Offensively, I was not really good. So, we've all got to do a better job helping one another."

James added: "I'll be better in Game 6."

Bane is adamant the Lakers will not finish off the job in Game 6.

"I said it out there, and I’ll say it again," Bane said. "We are going to be back for a Game 7 in front of the best fans in the NBA."

Jimmy Butler delivered another clutch display with 42 points including a dramatic game-tying shot to send Game 5 to overtime before the Miami Heat eliminated the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks 128-126 on Wednesday.

The OT victory at Fiserv Forum meant the Heat completed a shock 4-1 first round series triumph, becoming the sixth eight seed to beat a top seed and the first in more than a decade, dating back to 2012.

The Heat launched another fourth-quarter rally led by Butler, similar to Game 4, fighting back from a 102-86 three-quarter time deficit.

Butler scored 14 fourth-quarter points including a game-tying three-pointer with 2:11 left, along an incredible falling alley oop layup from Gabe Vincent's inbound with time almost expiring to send the game to OT.

Miami went ahead early in OT and did not surrender their lead, although the Bucks spurned the final possession as the clock expired with Grayson Allen unable to get a shot away.

Butler finished with 42 points on 17-of-33 shooting with eight rebounds, four assists and two steals. Kevin Love made five triples with 12 rebounds, while Gabe Vincent added 22 points and Bam Adebayo had a triple-double with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

For the Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 38 points with 20 rebounds and Khris Middleton shot four-of-10 from three-point range in his 33 points.

Road Warriors take lead in series

The Golden State Warriors claimed a rare road win at the right time, as they claimed a 3-2 series lead over the Sacramento Kings with a 123-116 victory.

Stephen Curry scored 31 points on 12-of-25 shooting, making only two-of-10 from beyond the arc, coming up with a patient three-point play to ice the game with 22.4 seconds left.

The Kings had closed within one point at 111-110 with 4:14 left, with Malik Monk getting hot to finish with 21 points after being scoreless midway through the third. De'Aaron Fox scored a team-high 24 points on nine-of-25 shooting with seven rebounds and nine assists but six turnovers.

Klay Thompson went five-of-11 from three-point range in his 25 points, while Draymond Green scored 20-plus points for the first time since Christmas 2019 with 21 points off the bench.

Grizzlies stay alive, Knicks progress

Desmond Bane and Ja Morant starred as the Memphis Grizzlies stayed alive in the playoffs with a 116-99 win over the Los Angeles Lakers after a strong first half.

The Grizzlies led by as much as 17 points in the first half and while the Lakers closed the gap, Memphis pulled away again led by Bane's 33 points with four three-pointers, while Morant added 31 points with 10 rebounds and seven assists.

Xavier Tillman did a brilliant defensive job on LeBron James who was kept to 15 points on five-of-17 shooting, going scoreless in the fourth quarter. Anthony Davis had 31 points and 19 rebounds. The Lakers lead the series 3-2 with Game 6 in LA.

The New York Knicks advanced into the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals with a 106-95 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers rounding out a 4-1 series win, their first series triumph since 2013.

LeBron James described it as "pretty cool" to record a first 20-20 of his career in steering the Los Angeles Lakers to a 3-1 lead in their first-round playoffs series against the Memphis Grizzlies.

The veteran has been fired up for the Lakers in the playoffs and had 22 points to go with 20 rebounds as Los Angeles secured a 117-111 overtime win to take a commanding advantage.

James also had seven assists and committed just one turnover in what was a record-extending 270th playoff game for the NBA's all-time leading points scorer.

"I just try to be as great as I can be offensively, but more importantly on the defensive end," James said. 

"That was the mindset tonight. I was able to make a couple of plays. My teammates told me I had 20 and 20. It's the first time I've done it in my career, so that's pretty cool, I guess."

It was James who drained the basket to force overtime then nailed a layup while being fouled that saw the Lakers go up by five in overtime with a little under 30 seconds remaining.

The latter bucket saw James flex his muscles in front of a boisterous home crowd.

"I've been a part of moments where you know you get a dagger play or a kill shot," James said. 

"I felt like that play — it wasn't going to close the door, but there wasn't much light at the end. I just let the emotion come out."

Anthony Davis said of James: "He just took over down the stretch. Got us a bucket to get to overtime.

"All our guys [performed], it was a good team effort. This team is not going to go away."

The Lakers will aim to get the series wrapped up back in Memphis in Game 5 on Wednesday.

Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler scored the fourth-most points in NBA playoff history as he led a remarkable 119-114 comeback win in Monday's Game 4 against the Milwaukee Bucks.

The win in front of Miami's home fans gave the Heat a 3-1 series lead against the league's top overall seed, and it was on the back of a spectacular 56-point explosion by Butler.

Butler had 35 points through three quarters as his Heat trailed 89-78 heading into the last period, but after the Bucks jumped ahead 101-89 with just over six minutes remaining, Miami came roaring back.

The Heat put together a 13-0 run from that point to stick their nose in front, setting up Butler to carry his team home.

Butler, a six-time All-Star, put up 21 points in the fourth quarter to finish with 56 all up, shooting 19-of-28 from the field, three-of-eight from deep and 15-of-18 from the free throw line to set a new Miami playoff franchise record.

His 56 points is tied with Charles Barkley (1994), Michael Jordan (1992) and Wilt Chamberlain (1962) for the fourth-most ever in a playoff game, trailing only Donovan Mitchell's 57 (2020), Elgin Baylor's 61 (1962) and MJ's 63 (1986).

No other Miami player scored more than Bam Adebayo's 15 points (six-of-16 shooting), although Caleb Martin provided a crucial spark off the bench with 12 points (four-of-five), nine rebounds and two steals.

For the Bucks, two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo was terrific in his return from a two-game absence, putting together a big triple-double with 26 points (12-of-22), 13 assists, 10 rebounds, two blocks and a steal.

Brook Lopez was also immense, with the Defensive Player of the Year candidate contributing a team-high 36 points (13-of-23), 11 rebounds, three blocks and two steals.

The Bucks will look to keep their season alive back in Milwaukee for Game 5, and if they can take that, they will head back to Miami for Game 6, with a chance to earn a Game 7 at home.

LeBron sets new career high in overtime win

LeBron James is somehow still setting career-highs in year 20, snatching down a personal-best 20 rebounds as he carried the Los Angeles Lakers to a 115-108 home win in Game 4 against the Memphis Grizzlies.

James had never secured more than 19 rebounds in a game before – regular season or playoffs – but he had five offensive rebounds to go with 15 on the defensive end, and his Lakers needed every bit of his efforts.

Trailing 104-102 with six seconds remaining, James was the one to nail the game-tying layup and send the contest to overtime, and he would drain the dagger in the extra period as well with a three-point play against Grizzlies rival Dillon Brooks to jump ahead 113-108 with less than 30 seconds on the clock.

The four-time NBA Finals MVP finished with 22 points on eight-of-18 shooting, dishing seven assists and blocking two shots, and he played a team-high 45 minutes.

James had no choice but to produce given how poorly his star team-mate Anthony Davis played on the offensive end, finishing with just 12 points on four-of-13 shooting, and he only had seven points at the conclusion of regulation, although his 14 rebounds and five blocks were important.

Desmond Bane was the offensive focal point for the Grizzlies, scoring a game-high 36 points on 13-of-29 shooting, while Ja Morant was clearly hampered by his injured shooting hand, finishing eight-of-24 from the field for his 19 points, seven assists and three steals.

The Grizzlies will attempt to keep the series alive when the series heads back to Memphis for Game 5, now trailing 3-1.

Memphis Grizzlies wing Dillon Brooks accused the media of painting him as a "villain", leading to the decision to eject him for a flagrant 2 foul in Saturday's 111-101 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Brooks was kicked from the game early in the third quarter after his left hand struck LeBron James' groin. The incident came following trash talk from Brooks directed at James, who he called "old" after Game 2.

The Grizzlies forward, who dodged reporters after Saturday's game, claimed the incident was an accident when he spoke on Sunday, before claiming his reputation had been affected by the media's portrayal of him, factoring into the officials' decision to eject him from Game 3.

"The media making me a villain, the fans making me a villain and then that just creates a whole different persona on me," said Brooks, who has been ejected from games three times this season.

"So now you think I intended to hit LeBron James in the nuts. I'm playing basketball. I'm a basketball player.

"So if I intended – and that's whatever is in the flagrant 2 category – if you think I did that, that means you think I'm that type of person.

"I've been dealing with this [for] two years now. It is what it is. The fans can talk s***, whatever they want to. It doesn't matter to me.

"I'm going to keep playing my game and get better and better each and every day and as long as my career goes."

It has been widely reported that Brooks will be free to play in Game 4, avoiding any suspension for the flagrant 2 foul.

"I knew I wasn't going to be [suspended]," Brooks said. "They can't dictate this series like that.

"[Referee] Marc [Davis] probably had to call that 'cause of what happened [in Game 3] with James Harden, and that's just unfair. I get penalised, and I can't help my team try to make a comeback in the second half."

James got the last laugh against the Grizzlies in Saturday's game, having refused to be drawn into Brooks' narrative in the lead-up, scoring 25 points with nine rebounds in the Lakers' win.

Despite that, Brooks did not regret his provocation, or "poking bears" as he called it.

"Am I saying anything that's not facts?" Brooks said.

LeBron James said it was not about making a statement after helping the Los Angeles Lakers take a 2-1 lead over the Memphis Grizzlies following a flashpoint with Dillon Brooks.

A raucous sell-out crowd at Crypto.com Arena roared the Lakers onto a 111-101 victory in Game 3 of the first-round playoff series.

James had 25 points, while Anthony Davis had 31 and 17 rebounds in a game where the Lakers raced into a 35-9 first-quarter lead.

The Grizzlies saw Ja Morant put up 45 points after missing one game with a sore right hand and also had Brooks ejected 17 seconds into the third quarter for a flagrant foul when he struck James in the groin.

It did not take the officials long to toss Brooks from the game, but James said the focus was merely on getting the win on the board.

"I didn't make a statement," James said. "I've been doing this too long. 

"I'm not making any statements. We had the opportunity to come home and play well on our home floor, and we did that. No statement was made. 

"We just wanted to play well, and we got a win. I don't need to make statements."

Brooks had been taunted by the Lakers crowd all game and head coach Darvin Ham said the vociferous home support was crucial in their efforts.

"I thought our crowd was phenomenal," Ham said. "Really felt them in the building. Thank God we gave them something to cheer about, the way we came out."

While Brooks did not address the media, Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins merely said of the incident: "Officials made a call."

Morant scored 22 consecutive points for the Grizzlies in the fourth quarter, while he also had 13 assists and nine rebounds. Ultimately, though, Memphis' lowest first-quarter return in franchise history proved too big an obstacle to overcome.

"I think we won by double digits in the last three quarters, so obviously that first quarter pretty much hurt us," Morant said. 

"I feel pretty good. Obviously some stuff you've just got to play through and tolerate.

"In that fourth quarter, I was just trying to win the game. Got it going pretty good, making shots, and just couldn't get it over that hump."

Anthony Davis bounced back while LeBron James scored 25 points as the Los Angeles Lakers claimed a 2-1 first-round series lead with a 111-101 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday.

Ja Morant returned from a hand injury for the Grizzlies, scoring a game-high 45 points, including 22 in a row for his team in the fourth quarter at Crypto.com Arena.

But the damage was done early, as the Grizzlies shot three-of-25 in the first quarter as the Lakers raced to a 35-9 lead.

Dillon Brooks was ejected for a flagrant 2 foul early in the third quarter following a hit to James' midsection, following tension between the pair after the former's comments after Game 2.

James put that aside to score 25 points on 10-of-20 shooting with nine rebounds, while Davis scored a team-high 31 points with 17 rebounds and three blocks.

The Grizzlies scored the final 10 points of the second quarter to close to 53-37 at half-time but were not helped by Brooks' ejection with 11:43 left in the third.

The Lakers kept Memphis at arm's length for most of the game, although Morant's remarkable fourth-quarter scoring run offered hope, getting within 10 points after a three-pointer with 2:54 left.

Jaren Jackson Jr lost the battle against Davis, contributing 13 points with five rebounds while Desmond Bane was kept to 18 points on three-of-seven three-point shooting. Morant made six-of-10 three-pointers, with 13 assists and nine rebounds.

Heat upset Bucks but left with injury worries

The Miami Heat claimed a 2-1 series lead with a 121-99 victory over the Eastern Conference top seed Milwaukee Bucks who were without Giannis Antetokounmpo due to a bruised lower back again.

But the excitement for the Heat was quelled by a worrying knee injury suffered late by Victor Oladipo, while Jimmy Butler battled a sore glute.

Butler top scored for Miami with 30 points on 12-of-19 shooting in 28 minutes. Duncan Robinson, on his 29th birthday, added 20 points on five-of-six three-point shooting.

Milwaukee shot at 44.7 per cent from the field, giving up 18 turnovers. Khris Middleton top scored with 23 points and six assists but was guilty for five turnovers.

Nets swept again, Suns go 3-1 up

The Brooklyn Nets suffered a first-round series sweep for the second straight year after the Philadelphia 76ers triumphed 96-88 in Game 4 despite the absence of Joel Embiid.

Tobias Harris scored a game-high 25 points with 12 rebounds, while James Harden had 17 points on four-of-18 shooting with eight rebounds and 11 assists. Embiid was out due to sprained right knee.

Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie managed a team-high 20 points and Nic Claxton had 19 points with 12 rebounds and four blocks.

The Phoenix Suns took a 3-1 lead in their series against the Los Angeles Clippers with a 112-100 win headlined by Kevin Durant's 31 points, 11 rebounds and six assists and Devin Booker's 30 points.

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