Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel had no issues with Russell Westbrook going for gold late on in Friday's defeat to the Charlotte Hornets.

Without the injured LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers went down 117-114 to Charlotte, as they slipped to 24-26 for the season.

It was a second successive defeat for the Lakers, who have won just three games out of their last 10, a slump that has put Vogel under pressure.

In the absence of his fellow star players, Westbrook did his utmost to push Los Angeles over the line, scoring 35 points and adding four rebounds and five assists.

Yet it was Westbrook who missed a crucial three-pointer with 0.7 seconds remaining, the point guard having gone for glory with the Lakers trailing by two points, instead of trying to take the game to overtime.

Westbrook's effort hit the rim, leaving P.J. Watson to go up the other end and add a further point for the Hornets with a free throw.

Vogel defended his decision to take Westbrook off in the final stages of a defeat to the Indiana Pacers earlier this month, but after Friday's game, the Lakers coach was keen to stress his appreciation of the 33-year-old's performance.

"The hottest guy in the gym has the ball in his hands ready to make a play," Vogel told reporters when asked for his thoughts on Westbrook's decision to go for the three points.

"He was three for six from the three in the second half and went for the win. He knocks that down, we're talking about one hell of a win. 

"It just didn’t go down for us. Russell was spectacular in that second half. He just really willed our team into an opportunity to steal one on the road.

"I really appreciated Russell's performance tonight. I really want to credit [him]. He was very determined tonight."

"I had just made two [three-pointers] just before that, so I will live and die with that one," said Westbrook, who has 945 points to his name this season at an average of 18.9 per game.

Miles Bridges was tasked with marking Westbrook in the fourth, a tussle the Hornets' small forward – who had 26 points – enjoyed.

"I know he didn’t want to go to overtime," Bridges explained. "I tried to get a good contest on him."

Westbrook added: "I think [Miles] was trying to say I was too small or something, but that ain't the case and he knows better than that.

"It was definitely on my mind and I was like, ok, that's going to be a good trigger for me. I was able to turn it up a little notch, especially during that time of the game."

The Lakers are back in action on Sunday, against the Atlanta Hawks.

The teams met earlier in January, before the Lakers' dismal run, with Los Angeles claiming a 134-118 home win.

Los Angeles' points tally in that win was the most they had scored in a game against Atlanta since 1993 (135).

The absences of LeBron James and Anthony Davis were felt as the Los Angeles Lakers suffered a second successive defeat.

Davis registered 31 points, 12 rebounds in Thursday's loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, but like James missed out through injury on Friday against the Charlotte Hornets.

That meant the onus was on Russell Westbrook to step up, and though he had 35 points, he ultimately missed a crucial, game-clinching three-pointer, having decided to go for the win rather than try for overtime.

P.J. Washington secured the rebound after Westbrook's attempt hit the rim, and added further insult with a free throw with 0.2 seconds left on the clock to seal a 117-114 win for Charlotte.

Since a four-game winning streak was snapped by the Memphis Grizzlies on January 9, Los Angeles has won just three of their nine games.

The Hornets, meanwhile, gained revenge for their overtime loss to the Lakers back in November in the only previous meeting this season, ending a six-game losing streak against Los Angeles in the process.

Suns in red-hot form

It is now nine wins in a row for the Phoenix Suns, who lead the NBA with 39 victories in 2021-22 after overcoming the Minnesota Timberwolves 134-124.

Devin Booker led the game with 29 points, while Chris Paul had a triple-double of 21 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists and Cam Johnson's tally of 23 points included crucial back-to-back three-pointers in the fourth quarter.

The Suns' record of 39-9 is the best in franchise history at this stage of a season, and have now won the 30 games in which they have led after three quarters.

While the Suns top the Western Conference, the Miami Heat continued their run at the top of the East by holding off a late push from the Los Angeles Clippers in a 121-114 success.

Miami has now won 10 of their last 12 games and snapped a six-game losing streak against the Clippers, who fought back to within four points but fell short of another comeback after their record-setting efforts against the Washington Wizards on Tuesday.

All-Star Morant sets franchise record

Ja Morant proved why he has been named an All-Star starter as he delivered a triple-double of 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a 119-109 win for the Grizzlies over the Utah Jazz.

It was the highest-scoring triple-double in franchise history and the fourth overall for Morant, who has scored at least 30 points for five straight games as Memphis moved to 34-17.

DeMar DeRozan's return to San Antonio ended in defeat for the Chicago Bulls, who went down 131-122 to the Spurs.

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic recorded a triple-double in the Denver Nuggets' victory over the New Orleans Pelicans, while Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 38 points in an emphatic win for the Milwaukee Bucks over the New York Knicks.

Los Angeles Lakers' All-Star Anthony Davis underwent an X-ray on a troublesome wrist but insists there is nothing structurally wrong with it.

Davis had a first-quarter scare in Thursday's 105-87 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers when he landed on the wrist in his second game back after an MCL sprain kept him out for 17 games.

The 28-year-old power forward seemed troubled by the wrist complaint at times, yet still scored a game-high 31 points along with 12 rebounds and four blocks in an entertaining battle with Joel Embiid.

Davis left the court and had the wrist re-taped before playing on, confirming he had undergone an X-ray which was clear when asked.

"On a play on a back cut, I dunked it and Joel tried to block it," Davis said at the post-game news conference. "Body contact, went to the ground and tried to catch myself and landed on my wrist.

"[I'm] a little sore. Nothing wrong with it. No fracture or nothing. Just a soft tissue injury, soreness and stiffness."

Davis added: “My wrist was bothering me toward the end so I was trying to shoot the ball. [To] follow through and stuff and see if I could shoot, to be honest."

The game may have been Davis' second game back but it was not alongside All-Star teammate LeBron James who was absent with knee soreness.

The pair have struggled to regularly play together, much to the frustration of Davis who admitted he did not know James was out until shortly prior to tip-off.

"I found out when I literally got to the arena when I was changing to go on to court," Davis said.

"Someone said 'you know Bron's not playing?', 'I didn’t know that'. It's been a thing all year. Even last year, we were flopping in and out of the line-up."

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said James would be "day-to-day" with the knee soreness, with a game against the Charlotte Hornets to come on Saturday.

"He's a big part of what we're trying to do," Davis added. "He was playing out of his mind. I don't know his status for tomorrow but we've got to be able to win ball games until he gets back."

Joel Embiid scored 26 points as the Philadelphia 76ers continued their hot form with a 105-87 win over the Los Angeles Lakers without LeBron James on Thursday.

James missed the game with left knee soreness but Anthony Davis, in his second game back after an MCL sprain, scored a game-high 31 points with 12 rebounds in his absence.

But the 76ers were too good, clinching their 13th win from their past 16 games, to improve to 29-19 and fifth in the Eastern Conference.

Embiid, matched up on Davis, was not at his best but still had 26 points with nine rebounds and seven assists. The 76ers center's haul marked 16 straight games with 25 or more points.

Tobias Harris scored 23 points for Philadelphia who were always in control, while second-season guard Tyrese Maxey contributed 14 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists.

 

Curry and Klay lead Warriors second-half rally

Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 11 three-pointers as the Golden State Warriors clinched their fourth straight win, triumphing 124-115 over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Curry finished with 29 points including six triples, eight rebounds and six assists, while Thompson added 23 points, five rebounds and four assists as the Warriors rallied from a three-point half-time deficit with a 38-20 third quarter to improve to 36-13, with the best home record (23-4) in the NBA.

Former Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins, on the same night he was named an All-Star for the first time, contributed 19 points, five rebounds and four assists.

Karl-Anthony Towns had 31 points, 12 rebounds and six assists and Anthony Edwards added 27 points with six rebounds and six assists.

Joel Embiid brushed off questions about being driven to win the MVP this season after leading the Philadelphia 76ers to a 105-87 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday.

Embiid was named on Thursday as a starter in the All-Star Game, as he scored 26 points with nine rebounds and seven assists in the 76ers' win.

The 27-year-old center's haul extended his run to 16 straight games scoring 25 points or more, while it also helped the 76ers to 13 wins from their past 16 games.

Embiid missed out on last season's MVP award with an untimely late season knee injury not helping, finishing third behind Nikola Jokic and Stephen Curry, but he brushed off questions about being driven to win that accolade.

"To be the MVP, you need to win games and that's been my main focus," Embiid told ESPN after the win over the Lakers.

"We've got to continue to do, what we've been doing. We've been playing great of late.

"Obviously we started the year pretty well, then COVID hit us and I missed a couple of games and we lost a couple of them but now we've started to get back in the rhythm and get some guys back.

"To be the MVP, my focus is on winning."

Embiid was critical of his own performance on Thursday as he matched up with Anthony Davis, who scored a game-high 31 points and also had 12 rebounds.

"I'm p****d off I had a bad night tonight," Embiid said. "I'm glad we got the win. That's a big win in our quest to be the number one seed."

Embiid also praised second-season guard Tyrese Maxey who added 14 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists and continues to ably fill Ben Simmons' void.

"Maxey has been great," Embiid said. "He needs to continue to keep doing whatever he's been doing."

LeBron James and Kevin Durant will be the captains in this year's All-Star Game while Ja Morant and Andrew Wiggins got their first selections as the starters were confirmed on Thursday.

The NBA announced the starters for the annual midseason exhibition to be held on February 20 in Cleveland.

In the west, James was named for his 18th straight All-Star appearance in his 19th season alongside reigning MVP Nikola Jokic (fourth All-Star selection) and MVP contender Stephen Curry (eighth All-Star selection).

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant and Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins were the two first-time All-Star starters, with the latter coming as the major surprise.

Four-time MVP James has made 18 All-Star teams, equaling Kobe Bryant for second place all-time behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (19).

Durant, who is under an injury cloud for the game, will lead the east side after finishing with more fan votes than anyone else in the conference.

The Nets superstar will be joined by Chicago Bulls guard DeMar DeRozan and Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young in the backcourt, with Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid and Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The All-Star reserves will be selected by the coaches in both conferences and confirmed on Thursday.

LeBron James has been ruled out of the Los Angeles Lakers' clash with the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday due to left knee soreness.

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel revealed pre-game that the 37-year-old four-time MVP had woken up with soreness and would not face the in-form 76ers, who are 28-19.

James has been in excellent scoring form lately, averaging 29.1 points, shooting 52.2 per cent from the field and 35.2 per cent beyond the arc across the season.

The veteran superstar has scored 25 points or more in each of the Lakers' past 18 games, dating back to mid-December. Only once – in 21 games for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2008 – has he enjoyed a longer such streak.

James has averaged an astonishing 32.5 points over this period, although the Lakers have gone 8-10.

"He’s out tonight," Vogel said of his star man on Thursday. "Just woke up with some soreness that was enough to hold him out. He’ll be day-to-day."

James had only just reunited with Anthony Davis on the court, with the All-Star forward returning from an MCL sprain in Tuesday's 106-96 win over the Brooklyn Nets.

Besides scoring 29.1 points per game, up on his career average of 27.1, James is averaging 6.3 assists and 7.7 rebounds this season.

Anthony Davis joked he was more concerned about LeBron James than his own recovering knee following a celebration during the Los Angeles Lakers' 106-96 triumph over the Brooklyn Nets.

Superstar James put up 33 points as the Lakers moved to 24-24 in an inconsistent season, but it was the return of Davis after a 17-game absence with a sprained knee that will have been a particularly pleasing sight.

Davis contributed eight points to go with two assists and two rebounds from 25 minutes on court and the Lakers will hope his return can help spark a strong run in the latter half of the season.

There was one moment of concern for Davis, though, who knocked James off balance after his illustrious team-mate managed a couple of steals and dunks in quick succession during the fourth quarter.

"Can't think about it. When I’m on the floor I try not to think about it," Davis said about his knee and the celebrations. 

"I was what, a month, five weeks, doing a lot of weightlifting. So, I hit him, he kind of like fell over. I was more worried for him than my knee!"

Davis took little time getting back up to speed and blocked three shots in a first quarter that saw the Lakers leading 33-25.

James was delighted to have his team-mate back on court.

"Obviously right away you see what he's capable of," James said. 

"We draw a play right to start the game, I was able to turn the corner and threw a late lob that he was still able to throw home. So very exciting to have him back."

The Nets were still without Kevin Durant (knee), while Kyrie Irving was again unavailable. Irving is unvaccinated against COVID-19 and therefore is not eligible to play in matches in New York under the city's health protocols.

James Harden had 33 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists but was later asked about reports he is frustrated at the Nets.

"Listen, I don't know about any reports," Harden said. "Of course I'm frustrated because we're not healthy, there's a lot of inconsistency for whatever reason. 

"Injuries, COVID, whatever you want to call it, so yeah, it is frustrating. I think everyone in this organisation is frustrated because we are better than our record is and we should be on the way up. So that's all it is."

The reports suggested Harden is frustrated by Irving's mixed availability and the rotations of head coach Steve Nash, who said he cannot imagine his player making such comments.

"So I'm not sure what to believe," Nash said. 

"James and I speak all the time and I think we have a great relationship, so I'm not sure the validity of these comments to be honest with you."

LeBron James starred and Anthony Davis made a successful return to action as the Los Angeles Lakers earned a convincing 106-96 win at the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday.

Superstar James clocked up 33 points to go alongside seven rebounds and six assists as the Lakers moved to 24-24 in an uneven season.

James Harden had 33 points, 11 assists and 12 rebounds for a Nets side still without the injured Kevin Durant (knee), while Kyrie Irving – who is unvaccinated against COVID-19 – is again absent with the Nets back on home court as he does not meet the required protocols to play games in New York.

Malik Monk (22 points) and Carmelo Anthony (13 points) made valuable contributions off the bench for the Lakers but it was the return of Davis, who missed 17 games with a sprained left knee that was the most welcome sight of the night.

Davis managed 25 minutes, scoring eight points and providing two assists and two rebounds. He showed he is feeling healthy again by jumping into, and knocking back, James when he made two steals and dunks in quick succession during the fourth quarter.


History for the rallying Clippers

Trailing 66-31 during the second quarter of their contest with the Washington Wizards, no one could have predicted the Los Angeles Clippers running out 116-115 victors.

Still behind 66-36 at half-time, the Clippers became the first team in NBA history to score under 40 points in the first half of a game and follow up by posting 40 or more points in both the third and fourth quarters.

The visitors had closed to 93-76 adrift by the end of the third quarter, before bossing the fourth 40-22 against flagging opposition.

Amir Coffey finished with 29 points and Luke Kennard contributing 26 points, eight rebounds and six assists against a Wizards team who had seven players in double figures.


Curry and Co. down Doncic and the Mavs

The Golden States Warriors had an inconsistent 3-6 stretch over nine games but have now chalked up three straight wins as Stephen Curry led the way in a balanced attack as the Dallas Mavericks were routed 130-92.

Curry had 18 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, while Jonathan Kuminga (22 points, five rebounds), Klay Thompson (15 points, six assists, two rebounds), and Jordan Poole (17 points, three assists and two rebounds) all contributed heavily.

The Warriors managed just 82 points in a losing effort the last time these teams met on January 5, but it was a different story here as the Mavericks were soundly beaten despite Luka Doncic's best efforts.

Doncic put up 25 points, eight rebounds and three assists for a Mavs side who are fifth in the West (27-21), three places and eight games back of the second-place Warriors (35-13).

The Los Angeles Lakers are set to welcome Anthony Davis back from injury against the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday.

Davis has been upgraded to probable for the game at Barclays Center, having been out for almost six weeks with an MCL sprain.

The return of the eight-time NBA All-Star boosts a Lakers team toiling at 23-24 in eighth place in the West.

Davis has played just 27 games this season and only 15 alongside LeBron James.

Despite LA's poor stretch, which began with Davis in the team, going 13-14 with him in the lineup, James has excelled.

In 20 games without Davis this year, James has averaged 32.7 points, taking on added responsibility with third man Russell Westbrook struggling.

The Lakers will hope both Davis and the rest of the team can now rediscover their best form to recover a title push this season.

LeBron James does not plan on halting his scoring run after he finished with 25 points or more for a 17th straight game.

James had a double-double but it was not enough for the fast-finishing Los Angeles Lakers to overcome his former side the Miami Heat on Sunday.

Miami turned up the heat on Lakers coach Frank Vogel, with Los Angeles having now lost five of their last seven games after the 113-107 reverse.

There was at least one bright note for the Lakers, who charged home with 37-24 points down the stretch to reduce the deficit.

James finished with 33 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. The veteran is averaging 29.0 points per game this season for the Lakers, who sit eighth in the Western Conference with a 23-24 record. That ranks him second in the NBA, behind Kevin Durant (29.3).

A knee injury for Anthony Davis earlier in the season meant James has had to deliver, and he has certainly held up his end of the bargain. Indeed, across the last 17 games, only Joel Embiid (33.9) has averaged more than the 37-year-old's 32.5 points.

"I don't need to score 30 a night, but I'm in one of the best zones offensively I've been in, in my career," James told reporters. 

"And I don't plan on stopping. That's just how I feel. I feel fantastic. Shooting the ball extremely well. I didn't shoot the three-ball well tonight, but all eight of them felt great.

"I'm shooting efficiently from the free-throw line, shooting efficiently from the field. I was very efficient at the rim. So I don't go into the game saying you got to score 30 or you guys don't have a chance to win the game. I just play the game. The scoring has been happening organically."

Russell Westbrook provided able support on Sunday with 24 points and nine rebounds, but Vogel is looking forward to welcoming Davis back from injury, having said before the game that it will help share the workload.

For his part, however, James has his eye on another milestone. The big one, in fact – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's all-time points record of 38,387.

"As I've continued to climb the ranks, it's natural, human to look at it and see where you are and see if it's even possible. See if you're capable," added James, who is 2,006 points behind the record.

"Obviously health plays the most important part and then just continuing to give your everything to the game. I've never cheated the game. I've never wanted to feel like I was content.

"I wanted to continue to get better and like you said, I will be within 2,000 points, when did you say? Soon? Well, listen, we'll see what happens. I've never chased a record in my life."

LeBron James had a double-double but it was not enough for the fast-finishing Los Angeles Lakers to overcome his former side the Miami Heat who won 113-107 on Sunday.

The Heat led by 23 points but the Lakers charged home with 37-24 points down the stretch.

James finished with 33 points, 11 rebounds and four assists for the Lakers, while Russell Westbrook had 24 points and nine rebounds.

Jimmy Butler starred for the Heat, breaking James' franchise record for triple-doubles with his 22 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists.

The Heat are top of the Eastern Conference with a 30-17 record, while the Lakers drop below .500 with a 23-24 record.

 

Embiid continues scoring streak

Joel Embiid continued his hot streak with a double-double as the Philadelphia 76ers beat the San Antonio Spurs 115-109. Embiid had 38 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, extending his 14-game run of 25 points or more.

Luka Doncic had a double-double with 37 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists as the Dallas Mavericks won 104-91 over the Memphis Grizzlies, for whom Ja Morant had 35 points and 13 rebounds, while the Golden State Warriors won 94-92 over the Utah Jazz, despite only 11 fourth-quarter points.

Jayson Tatum scored 51 points, including 48 in the first three quarters, as the Boston Celtics won 116- 87 over the Washington Wizards, while DeMar DeRozan had 41 points as the short-handed Chicago Bulls' slide continued with a 114-95 loss to the lowly Orlando Magic.

 

Harden subdued as Nets cut down

James Harden shot four-of-13 for the game as the Brooklyn Nets were downed 136-125 by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Harden only managed 13 points, while Kyrie Irving had 30 points with six rebounds and five assists.

The return of Anthony Davis is imminent with the Los Angeles Lakers listing the All-Star as "questionable" for Sunday's game against the Miami Heat.

Davis has been out of action since December 17 due to a sprained MCL in his left knee but he is considered a game-time decision for Sunday.

The Lakers, who are 23-23 this season, have gone 7-9 in Davis' absence across the past 16 games.

"Whenever AD is ready, we're going to love that, that's for sure," Davis' Lakers teammate LeBron James told reporters on Friday.

"I mean he's one of our biggest guns that we have, and having him on the floor, it just creates so much for us offensively and defensively, able to do so much more.

"But his health is what's most important, and once we know that he's healthy, he knows that he's healthy, we get him back on the floor and then we start getting his wind and his rhythm."

Davis is averaging 23.3 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.2 steals this season.

James Harden and Dejounte Murray both had triple-doubles as the Brooklyn Nets got past the San Antonio Spurs 117-102 on Friday.

Harden scored 37 points with 10 rebounds and 11 assists with Kevin Durant out with a sprained left MCL as the Nets rallied from a 51-50 half-time deficit to improve to 29-16.

Kyrie Irving contributed 24 points with three rebounds and four assists for the Nets, who are top of the Eastern Conference.

Harden's triple-double was the 66th of his career, moving him to eighth on the all-time list, while Murray – who had 25 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists – recorded his ninth triple-double of the season and 13th of his career.

 

LeBron leads Lakers past Magic

LeBron James led the Los Angeles Lakers' second-half response as they fought back from an eight-point half-time deficit to win 116-105 over the Orlando Magic. James finished with 29 points, seven rebounds and five assists, playing the second half at center, while Russell Westbrook contributed 18 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.

The Milwaukee Bucks edged the Chicago Bulls 94-90 in an important game in the Eastern Conference standings. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 30 points with 12 rebounds and three assists as the Bucks overcame Grayson Allen's ejection.

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic recorded another triple-double with 26 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists but Ja Morant overshadowed him with 38 points as the Memphis Grizzlies won 122-118 over the Denver Nuggets, while Stephen Curry had 22 points including a game-winning buzzer beater in the Golden State Warriors' 105-103 win over the Houston Rockets.

 

Sixers fluff 24-point lead

The Philadelphia 76ers blew a 24-point lead to lose 102-101 to the Los Angeles Clippers despite Joel Embiid scoring 40 points with 13 rebounds. Reggie Jackson finishing with 19 points and nine assists for the Clippers.

LeBron James has been hailed by Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel as "the most unique player in the history of the game" after his second-half performance at center on Friday.

James finished with 29 points, seven rebounds and five assists after playing exclusively at center in the second half of Friday's 116-105 win over the Orlando Magic.

The four-time MVP was moved into Dwight Howard's role after half-time with the Lakers immediately going on a decisive 20-2 to overcome their 62-54 deficit.

"He's the most unique player in the history of the game," Vogel told reporters about James.

"We won a championship with him playing point guard two years ago, he's been a ball-handling wing throughout his career and he's been playing center for us.

"It's pretty remarkable, and for him to be doing it at this stage of his career, it's even more remarkable."

Vogel also praised Russell Westbrook who was benched in the fourth quarter of Wednesday's 111-104 loss to the Indiana Pacers.

Westbrook, who joined the Lakers from the Washington Wizards in the off-season, has been the subject of much criticism this season.

The 33-year-old Lakers point guard had 18 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists against the Magic.

“He’s all-in on doing whatever is necessary to get the Lakers in position to win a championship, for sure," Vogel said.

Westbrook added: “I was upset about [being benched on Wednesday] and I was more upset that we didn’t win the game.

"I’ve been here doing my job since day one and doing everything asked of me. I want to continue to do that for the betterment of the team."

Vogel also added that there was no firm timeframe on All-Star forward Anthony Davis' return from a knee injury.

James has scored 25 or more points in 16 consecutive games, which have all coincided with Davis' stint on the sidelines.

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