Stephen Curry is set to make his Olympic debut for the United States at the age of 36 after being named in the 12-strong men’s basketball squad for Paris on Wednesday.

The Golden State Warriors guard joins three-time Olympic champion Kevin Durant and the NBA’s all-time leading scorer LeBron James in an experienced squad named by national team managing director Grant Hill.

Durant, 35, helped Team USA to gold at each of the last three Olympics, while Los Angeles Lakers forward James, 39, will make his first appearance since London 2012, having also won gold in Beijing in 2008 and bronze in Athens in 2004.

Besides the Phoenix Suns’ Durant, four other members of the Tokyo squad return with Miami Heat centre Bam Adebayo, Phoenix guard Devin Booker, guard Jrue Holiday and forward Jayson Tatum – both of the Boston Celtics – included.

Los Angeles Lakers centre Anthony Davis will, like James, make his first Olympic appearance since London 2012.

Making their debuts on the biggest international stage alongside Curry will be Minnesota Timberwolves swingman Anthony Edwards, Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton, Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard and Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid, the NBA’s reigning Most Valuable Player.

The United States have won gold at each of the last four Olympics and 16 in all, but finished a disappointing fourth at last year’s World Cup.

Curry’s Golden State coach Steve Kerr will lead the team in Paris.

The United States are due to start a training camp in Las Vegas on July 6 before a series of exhibition games that includes tilts against South Sudan and Germany on July 20 and 22 in London. Their opening game in Paris will be against Serbia on July 28.

LeBron James has warned the Los Angeles Lakers must play "mistake-free basketball" if they are to overcome the Denver Nuggets.

The Lakers defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 110-106 on Tuesday, meaning they progress to the first round of the playoffs.

A series against the reigning NBA champions awaits, starting on Saturday.

And James, who finished with 23 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, knows the Lakers will have to deliver a near-perfect performance.

"It's the defending champion," James said.

"They know what it takes. They know how to win. They've been extremely dominant on their home floor over the last few years.

"They've got an MVP on their team. They've got a closer on their team. They've got high-level players, high-IQ players, and they've got a hell of a coach.

"So, we have to play mistake-free basketball. Make it tough on them. They're going to try to make it tough on us, obviously.

"But if we can play as great of a game as we can play, and they're going to play as great of a game as they play, it's going come down to one or two possessions. We'll see who executes then."

It was put to Lakers coach Darvin Ham that there had been reports the Lakers might throw their game against the Pelicans in order to go up against either the Sacramento Kings or the Golden State Warriors in the other play-in game.

The Kings ultimately won, and will now face the Pelicans, with the prize a matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Western Conference's No.1 seed.

"There was a report of what?" an incredulous Ham said. "Insane asylum sources say?"

The Lakers reached the Conference Finals last year, and Anthony Davis is confident Los Angeles are coming into their best form at the opportune moment.

"I think we're clicking at the right time," Davis said.

"Guys are playing well. Guys are very confident. Guys are feeling good. And we're going to need it, especially against Denver."

LeBron James starred as the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the New Orleans Pelicans to reach the NBA play-offs.

The 39-year-old scored 23 points in the Lakers’ 110-106 victory and also contributed nine rebounds, nine assists and three steals.

The Lakers go into the play-offs as the seventh seed and will face defending champions the Denver Nuggets in the first round.

Speaking to reporters, James said: “It was a good all-round team win. This was a long road trip, you almost forget we were in Memphis before these two games.

“Tonight was definitely a play-off game so get your mind right, get your body right, try to get as much recovery as we can before we have to go out there on Saturday.

“It’s a sprint now, we already went through the marathon. Tonight we showcased what we’re able to do both offensively and defensively. We’ve got a good group going right now, a good rotation, good plan and guys are coming in ready to go.”

James, who will compete in the play-offs for the 17th time in 21 seasons, feels his team have their work cut out against the Nuggets.

“It’s the defending champion, they know what it takes, they know how to win, they’ve been extremely dominant at home over the last few years,” he said.

“They’ve got high-level players, high IQ players, they’ve got a hell of a coach. We have to play mistake-free basketball and make it tough on them.”

LeBron James tallied 23 points, nine rebounds and nine assists and the Los Angeles Lakers overcame Zion Williamson’s 40 points to clinch a playoff berth with a 110-106 win over the New Orleans Pelicans in the Western Conference play-in tournament on Tuesday night.

D’Angelo Russell added 21 points with five 3-pointers and Anthony Davis had 20 points and 15 rebounds for the Lakers, who advanced to face the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets in a rematch of last season's West finals.

Williamson shot 17 of 27 and had 11 rebounds and five assists in his postseason debut before he went to the locker room after tying the game at 95 on a driving layup with 3:19 remaining. He threw a towel to the floor in disgust as he walked into the tunnel with what coach Willie Green called “left leg soreness.”

Williamson didn’t get much help, as Brandon Ingram scored 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting and CJ McCollum was limited to nine on 4 of 15, including 1 of 9 from 3-point range.

Soon after Williamson’s injury, James hit a jumper, Davis dunked on an alley-oop, Russell drained a 3 and Davis grabbed a crucial offensive rebound, then hit two key free throws.

New Orleans will take on Sacramento on Friday for the final playoff spot in the West.

 

Kings roll to eliminate Warriors

Keegan Murray scored 32 points with eight 3-pointers and every Sacramento starter scored in double figures as the Kings cruised to a 118-94 victory to eliminate the Golden State Warriors and stay alive in the play-in tournament.

Harrison Barnes scored 17 points, Domantas Sabonis added 16, 12 rebounds and seven assists and Keon Ellis contributed 15 points as the Kings moved on to a matchup with New Orleans on Friday with a chance to return to the playoffs as the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

Golden State was kept out of the playoffs for the third time in five seasons, including two eliminations in the play-in tournament. The Warriors committed 16 turnovers, gave up 15 offensive rebounds and missed 23 of 33 from long range.

Stephen Curry had 22 points, but Klay Thompson didn’t score and missed all 10 shots from the field.

The Los Angeles Lakers will have Anthony Davis to call on when they face the New Orleans Pelicans in their upcoming play-in game.

After finishing eighth in the Western Conference, the Lakers will go up against the No.7 seed Pelicans on Tuesday.

While the loser will drop into a game against either the Sacramento Kings or the Golden State Warriors, the winner will go up against the Denver Nuggets in the first round.

The Lakers defeated the Pelicans 124-108 in their final regular-season game on Sunday, with an instant rematch now on the cards.

And Davis, who had to be treated for back spasms after the game, insisted he will be fit to feature.

"No doubt that I'm going to play," said Davis, who finished with 30 points and 11 rebounds.

LeBron James is heading into the playoffs in fine form.

He registered his fifth triple-double of the season, finishing with 28 points, a season-high 17 assists and 11 rebounds.

"I just read the game and I was just finding my teammates and I just tried to put the ball on time and on target for either jump shots or guys at the rim," James said.

"I just tried to be very efficient with my play."

James marked Zion Williamson on Sunday, with the 23-year-old limited to 12 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

However, James was full of praise for his opponent, adding: "He's a beast.

"I mean, it's almost impossible to stop him so I just tried to keep a body on him and just tried to keep it tough on him. He's a great player, man."

Looking towards Tuesday's matchup, James said: "Tuesday's game is going to be extremely hard, extremely difficult, extremely physical.

"I've always known that, when you play a playoff series, and I look at this like a two-game playoff series, if you win that first game, a team has multiple days to kind of sit on that feeling, or sit with that taste in their mouth of defeat.

"So they're going to be extremely ready for us and we have to come in with the same sense of urgency that we had the previous game."

LeBron James said "every seed matters" for the Los Angeles Lakers after he combined with Anthony Davis to power them past the Memphis Grizzlies and go eighth in the Western Conference.

The Lakers entered Friday's game – their penultimate outing of the regular season – on a two-game losing streak and jockeying for position with the Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors. 

However, James put up 37 points, nine rebounds and five assists, while Davis added 35 points as the injury-hit Grizzlies failed to hold on after going 118-117 up with one minute and six seconds left.

James sank six points in the final minute to lift Los Angeles one game clear of Sacramento and Golden State, both of whom suffered defeats later on Friday.

"Every game matters. Every seed matters. Wherever you fall, you can't play in the past," James said.

"I can't say I would much rather be where we are today than be the number one seed. That would be a lie. Seeds matter, and wherever you fall, you take that challenge."

The Lakers emerged from the Play-In Tournament to reach the Western Conference Finals last year before being dispatched by the eventual NBA champions, the Denver Nuggets.

With coach Darvin Ham plotting a route through the postseason, he left James out on the court for 41 minutes on Friday, while Davis played 43 minutes on his return from a left eye injury which kept him out of Tuesday's loss to the Warriors. 

Asked about the risks of keeping the duo out there, Ham said: "In the moment, you're not worried about that. You're worried about securing the victory you came to get. 

"Everyone knows what time it is. It's that time of the year. Everyone knows what's at stake. 

"Whatever we need, and however long we need to push guys, we've got to have it, and they understand that."

Memphis are guaranteed to end a frustrating campaign 13th in the West, and Scotty Pippen Jr. said they were simply playing for future opportunities after scoring a career-high 28 points.

"The emphasis going into the game was to play hard," Pippen said. "We knew they were playing for something, and they probably thought we were playing for nothing. 

"But a lot of guys here are playing for opportunities. That's our motivation."

LeBron James’ son Bronny has confirmed he will enter the 2024 NBA draft as he looks to follow in his father’s footsteps.

The 19-year-old suffered a cardiac arrest last July and had surgery to repair a congenital heart defect during his first year as a USC student.

But, providing he clears the required medical check, he could be about to join his dad, who is the all-time record points scorer, in the NBA.

 

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Bronny James said on Instagram: “I’ve had a year with some ups and downs but all added to growth for me as a man, student and athlete.

“I’ve made the decision to enter the NBA Draft while maintaining my college eligibility, and will also be entering the NCAA transfer portal.

“Thank you to USC for an amazing Freshman year, and as always thankful for my family, friends, doctors, athletic trainers and fans for their support.”

LeBron James suggested he is still not respected by some opponents after matching a Michael Jordan achievement with a 40-point showing for the Los Angeles Lakers.

The 20-time NBA All-Star registered a career-high nine 3-pointers in the Lakers' 116-104 win over the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center on Sunday.

That helped James to equal Jordan in becoming the only two NBA players ever to record multiple games of 40-or-more points after turning 39.

James, who went 13-for-17 from the floor and 9-for-10 from deep, felt he proved a point with his performance against the Nets.

"I don't ever have to lean on [3-pointers] because I can do so much," said James, whose 3-point percentage of 41.6 per cent for the season is the best of his career.

"I can score on any level on the floor basically once I cross half court. But being able to have a growth mindset and be able to work on things that the league is changing to, the league is a heavy 3-point shooting league.

"I'm not one of those guys that wants to go out there and shoot 12, 14 or 15 3s per game. But I want to be respected, and teams have to play me from the outside. 

"That's still kind of one thing teams think. 'If we have to give up something, we'd much rather him shoot the ball from the outside'."

James has been nursing an ankle issue for much of this season, but he showed no signs of being below full fitness against the Nets.

"My foot has felt a lot better," James said. "I didn't have much time to really rep a lot last year because I had to make sure I could be on the floor running around or [not] putting much pounding of my foot on the floor. 

"I've had a lot of opportunity to get on the floor. You probably see me before every game out on the floor, working on my game, working on my craft. That's helped out a lot, too. 

"And just trying to stay consistent with my shot, do the same shot every time. And just work. Just work, work, work, work."

James scored 17 of his points in the fourth quarter as he helped the Lakers get over the line after their lead was reduced from 26 points to just eight at one point.

"It's incredible," coach Darvin Ham said. "I told him in the huddle before his last little stretch and we ultimately subbed him out that I was just extremely thankful that he packed the cape on the road trip. We needed all nine of those 3s."

Los Angeles have now won six of their last seven and are 42-33 for the season, placing them ninth in the Western Conference with seven regular-season games to go.

LeBron James knows he is no good to the Los Angeles Lakers if he is not healthy, as the 39-year-old said he will prioritise his well-being over a playoff push.

The 39-year-old has been nursing an ankle issue for much of this season, though he returned from a one-game absence in emphatic fashion on Wednesday.

James finished with 23 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists – his fourth triple-double of the season – to help the Lakers to a 136-124 win over the Memphis Grizzlies.

"I got to be smart with it," said James, who has missed 10 games this season. 

"If I'm not healthy, or [anywhere] close to being healthy, then it's not good for our ballclub anyway. It's not good for me."

James said he would have played in the Lakers' win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday, had he been willing to take any risks.

"I mean, I would've probably tried to play yesterday [in Milwaukee] if that was the case," he added.

Explaining his thought process behind his load management for the rest of the season, James said: "Just be very strategic.

"Obviously, understanding and seeing how my ankle and my foot are feeling. But just being very smart about it, obviously.

"We are where we are, but our health has always been the most important for our ballclub. Not just one individual.

"But for me looking out for myself when it comes to injury and knowing my foot and knowing my ankle and how it reacts, and how it's been over the last couple of years, it's just always keeping a hefty eye on it."

The Lakers are on a five-game winning streak and occupy ninth in the Western Conference with nine regular-season games remaining.

Anthony Davis sat out of Wednesday's win with a knee issue, with coach Darvin Ham saying the Lakers would assess the situation further on Thursday.

Jalen Green scored 37 points and Dillon Brooks hit a pair of 3-pointers in overtime to lift the Houston Rockets to their 10th consecutive victory, 132-126 over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday.

Amen Thompson had 25 points and 15 rebounds and Brooks finished with 20 points for the Rockets, who remained one game behind Golden State in the race for the final play-in spot in the Western Conference.

Houston’s winning streak is its longest since an 11-game run late in the 2017-18 season.

Josh Giddey tied a career high with 31 points and Jalen Williams added 23 and 10 assists for the Thunder, who remained tied with Minnesota and one-half game behind Northwest Division-leading Denver.

Oklahoma City played without All-Star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who sat out with a bruised right thigh.

Brooks got Houston going in overtime with consecutive 3-pointers and Green’s 3 with 64 seconds left extended the Rockets’ lead to 126-120. Isaiah Joe nailed a 3 for the Thunder five seconds later, but Green made a layup and Thompson dunked with 26 seconds to go.

Streaking Lakers ride LeBron’s triple-double

LeBron James had 23 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists and Rui Hachimura scored 32 points to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to their fifth straight win, 136-124 over the Memphis Grizzlies.

D’Angelo Russell had 23 points and Taurean Prince added 15 for the Lakers, who stayed hot without Anthony Davis (knee) and pulled within 2 ½ games of idle Dallas for sixth in the Western Conference.

James returned after sitting out Tuesday’s double-overtime win over Milwaukee with a troublesome ankle and notched his fourth triple-double this season and 111th of his career.

Clippers get disputed win over 76ers

Kawhi Leonard completed two 3-point plays late in the fourth quarter and made a block at the rim on the final possession to give the Los Angeles Clippers a controversial 108-107 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.

Leonard stuffed Kelly Oubre at the rim with five seconds left and the Clippers holding a one-point lead.

The officiating crew after the game said a foul should have been called on the play that would have sent Oubre to the line with a chance for the winning points.

Leonard bounced back from a 1-for-8 shooting first half to finish with 17 points and 10 rebounds and Paul George scored 22 points. James Harden had 16 points and 14 assists in his return to Philadelphia.

Tyrese Maxey scored 26 points for the 76ers, who dropped their fourth in five games.

D'Angelo Russell set a new Los Angeles Lakers record for the most 3-pointers in a single season as his team snapped a seven-game losing streak against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Los Angeles won 101-94 on Friday, earning their first victory over Philadelphia since March 2020.

The Lakers improved to 38-32, now the same record as the Sixers, with the fourth quarter proving key as they edged a close, low-scoring game.

It was the Lakers' lowest points tally in a game since January 3 and LeBron, who had 11 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, as well as eight rebounds and six assists, accepted it had not been a vintage performance.

"It was ugly, but we got the job done," he said, per ESPN. "We defended well in the second half. They only had 18 points in the fourth. That's big-time when the offense was struggling like it was.

"We turned the ball over way too much and gave up too many easy baskets, but when we got in the half-court, we buckled down and made them take tough shots."

Davis had 23 points and 19 rebounds for Los Angeles, while Russell finished with 14 points and four 3-pointers.

Nick Van Exel had 183 successful 3s for the Lakers during the 1994-95 season, but Russell hit his 184th of this season in the first quarter, having sunk six from deep in the win against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday.

Russell said: "It just feels good to be part of one of these type of deals. 

"This franchise is one of the most prestigious, so to have my name be a part of it, more than grateful.

"Just continue to shatter it, if I can. Make it really hard for the next person!"

Tyrese Maxey scored 27 points for the Sixers, who have lost seven of 10 without MVP Joel Embiid and are 0-2 on their four-game West Coast road trip which continues against the Los Angeles Clippers next.

"We played unbelievably hard and executed the game plan," Philadelphia coach Nick Nurse said. "I just thought we could not get enough offense to hang in there.

"As long as we play our guts out, I can live with it. I’m having a hard time living with it right now because I thought we played so hard and executed so well."

The Lakers, meanwhile, have won seven of their last 11 and host the Indiana Pacers (40-31) on Sunday. They are ninth in the Western Conference standings.

LeBron James bemoaned the Los Angeles Lakers suffering from a "weird" NBA review call as the Golden State Warriors triumphed on Saturday.

The Lakers trailed 124-120 with 1:50 remaining of the fourth quarter when a delay started after Los Angeles coach Darvin Ham challenged an out-of-bounds call that granted the Warriors possession.

Ham's questioning was proved correct as the Lakers were granted the ball but, in the process, the Lakers were punished for points after the officials reviewed LeBron's earlier three-pointer.

LeBron was deemed to have been in contact with the paint when shooting from the corner, with his three-point conversion reduced to two by the officials.

"I've never seen that be called before like that, in that particular time," said James, who finished with 40 points, 9 assists and 8 rebounds.

"That was kind of weird. It took some momentum away from us. I didn't believe I stepped on the line.

"I knew how much space I had over there. And when I shoot, I shoot on my tippy toes, so it's kind of hard for me to have a heel down."

NBA official David Guthrie explained the call after the game, though that did not quell the frustrations from either side.

"James' left foot is out of bounds as he begins to shoot," Guthrie said. "Yes, it is reviewable at that time.

"The rule is Rule 13, Section II(f)(3): Whether the shooter committed a boundary line violation, the replay center official will only look at the position of the player's feet at the moment they touch the floor immediately prior to the release of the shot. This can be applied during other replay triggers as well."

Despite profiting from the review, even Golden State coach Steve Kerr was unsure of the ruling.

"I also don't like the rule that you can go back and look at an out of bounds, or LeBron's 3," Kerr said. "That seems to happen once or twice a year. I'd love to see that rule go away.

"I think we're trying so hard to get everything just right, at the expense of the flow. Who cares if a guy's foot is half an inch on the line?

"Is that worth going back 45 seconds and changing everything, with the unintended consequences? It's not my favourite rule, for sure."

Although Kerr surprisingly took the side of the opposition, LeBron was content to prioritise fairness rather than lament the method of replay reviews.

"At the end of the day, you want to get it right," LeBron said. "So, it's unfortunate what happened. But you want to try to get it right, obviously.

"And our crew has a job to do, which is the referees, they have a job to do, and they have to do it at the best they can. So, all good."

If the review decision was not bemusing enough, the last two minutes of the game took more than 20 minutes due to additional shot-clock malfunctions.

The Lakers twice tried to restart play but the shot clock was not in cohesion, leaving the stadium announcer to count the time down due to the technology issue.

"It was bizarre," Kerr added. "It seems like a few times a year you get clock issues. That's about as extreme as I've been a part of where the backup unit doesn't work either.

"It's unfortunate. I felt bad for the fans. That was a great game, and then the last two minutes everyone is just kind of looking at each other wondering what to do."

LeBron James believes the Los Angeles Lakers are still playing "good ball", despite a 120-107 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday.

The defeat leaves the Lakers at 36-31, ninth in the Western Conference and three games back of the Kings, who currently occupy the sixth seed and would avoid the play-in tournament were the season to finish now.

The Kings' win on Wednesday means they have swept the Lakers 4-0 this season. Domantas Sabonis starred for Sacramento with 17 points, 19 rebounds and 10 assists, while Harrison Barnes also hit seven 3-pointers as James finished with just 18 points.

The Lakers need an upturn in form if they are to avoid the play-in tournament, but despite suffering a defeat to a playoff rival in Sacramento, James still feels his team played well in some spots.

"We already knew we were in the gauntlet of our schedule," James told reporters.

"We already knew we had all the teams that were coming in, everybody positioning and jockeying, some of the best teams in the league. We knew it was a tough stretch for our ball club.

"But even with the loss to Denver, even with the loss to Sacramento both times, we've still been playing some good ball."

The win for Sacramento means Sabonis has now played against fellow center Anthony Davis 10 times during his career, winning all 10 of those clashes.

However, Sabonis hopes the growing talk of his impressive record against nine-time All-Star Davis quietens down, joking: "I don't pay attention to that.

"The more you guys bring attention to that, it makes my life harder. If anything, it will light a fire under him, so stop mentioning anything, please!"

Anthony Davis brushed off injury concerns and confidently declared the Los Angeles Lakers are "hitting our stride" after his record-breaking NBA showing against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Lakers man Davis was the star of the show as Los Angeles powered from a fourth-quarter tie to win 120-109 and secure their ninth victory in 13 games.

Davis finished with 27 points, 25 rebounds, five assists, seven steals and three blocks on Sunday, a feat that has never previously been matched.

No other player in NBA history has tallied 25-plus points, 25-plus rebounds, five-plus assists and five-plus steals in a single game.

"I think we're hitting our stride right now," Davis said after a roaring finish to a week that also saw the Lakers defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Milwaukee Bucks.

"We're just trying to keep going, keep pushing, knowing that just like last year, all we got to do is get in. We feel like it's tough for anybody to beat us in a seven-game series.

"We like our chances against anybody at that point."

Davis was a doubt for the Minnesota meeting after reporting left-shoulder soreness from a collision with the Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo on Friday.

"I felt it at times out there," added Davis, who was in constant dialogue with the Lakers' medical staff whenever not on the court. "I still kind of feel it."

Such was the magnitude of Davis' dominance, LeBron James returning from a sore left ankle to put up 29 points, nine assists and eight rebounds was somewhat ignored.

A taming of the Timberwolves, alongside a piece of NBA history, also marked a birthday treat for Davis, who turns 31 on Monday.

"It was before my birthday, so I guess we can [count it]," he continued. "It's actually the first time I'm able to celebrate my birthday in my entire career at home, on my actual birthday."

The Lakers are ninth in the Western Conference with 16 games remaining, but are just two behind sixth-placed Phoenix Suns, as Austin Reeves insisted Los Angeles will back themselves.

"I think if you go ask anybody in our locker room, we're super confident with what we have," Reeves said.

"Regardless of where we stand, if we go put our best foot forward and play the basketball that we know we can play."

D'Angelo Russell described himself as a "killer" after his career-best 44-point haul lifted the Los Angeles Lakers to a dramatic victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, as LeBron James sat out another game due to ankle discomfort. 

James missed his ninth game of the season on Friday as he continues to battle the niggling injury, but the Lakers overcame his absence with a stirring 123-122 win at Crypto.com Arena.

The Bucks held a one-point lead with 39 seconds remaining, with Giannis Antetokounmpo recording 34 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists while Damian Lillard backed him up with 28 points.

However, Russell scored 21 of his points in the fourth quarter, including the go-ahead jumper with 5.9 seconds remaining on the clock, to put the hosts up one.

There was more drama to come in the dying moments as Spencer Dinwiddie blocked Lillard's attempted buzzer-beater to preserve the win, improving the Lakers to 35-30.

Russell's nine 3-pointers were a joint-career best, while he also dished out nine assists. Speaking after the win, the 28-year-old said he always had confidence in his ability to deliver in clutch moments. 

"On the floor, I've always felt like I was capable of doing things. Getting hot makes it a little more exciting," Russell said. 

"Off the floor, obviously you all know what I've been through. Public humiliation has done nothing but mould me into the killer that you all see today. 

"I never lack confidence. I never fear confrontation. I want all the smoke. I just feel confident in what I bring to the basketball game, so whatever room I walk in, I'm confident."

Lakers team-mate Austin Reaves – who added 18 points – said: "D-Lo just stepped up and won us the game, and obviously with Spence with the defense on that last possession. 

"Just seeing D-Lo take over the game, I constantly kept telling him in timeouts, 'take us home'."

While the victory was a crucial one for the Lakers' playoff chances, the Bucks sit third in the Eastern Conference with a 41-23 record, and coach Doc Rivers knows the defeat will have little impact on their long-term ambitions.

He does, however, hope it serves as part of a learning curve, saying: "You want to win all these games, but that's the stuff that we're going to keep doing more and more until it becomes us. 

"There was a stretch where Damian and Giannis were playing a two-man game, and it was unstoppable. We want to encourage that more and more.

"It is a missed opportunity, but if we had won, that doesn't change anything. We're trying to go and get better. 

"I thought we had the game in our hands, and we let it go. That happens, and it'll happen again, and we'll win some the other way, too."

The Lakers are back in action against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Crypto.com Arena on Sunday, while the Bucks remain in Los Angeles to face the Clippers on the same day. 

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