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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Vogel, meanwhile, acknowledged it was a damaging defeat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Brooklyn Nets clinched a contentious one-point win over the Washington Wizards, with Kyrie Irving the star man for the visiting team.

Irving had 30 points, three rebounds and seven assists as the Nets triumphed 119-118 on Wednesday, with Kyle Kuzma and Spencer Dinwiddie missing late three-pointers in the closing seconds for the Wizards.

Kuzma was left infuriated, however, as he reflected on a moment earlier in the fourth quarter when it appeared a member of the Brooklyn bench purposefully deflected a pass that had been headed his way.

Nevertheless, Kuzma and his Washington team-mates must reflect on an opportunity missed as they were unable to build on their 117-98 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Wizards are now 23-22 for the season and sit eighth in the Eastern Conference, five places behind the 28-16 Nets.

Brooklyn were without talisman Kevin Durant, but Irving – who can only play in road games due to his refusal to be vaccinated against COVID-19 – stepped up.

Irving scored 22 of his 30 points in the first half and has averaged 20.0 points per game since his return to the team.

Pacers stun LeBron's Lakers

LeBron James brought up his 10,000th career regular-season rebound but his 30-point haul was not enough as the Los Angeles Lakers slumped to a 111-104 home defeat to the struggling Indiana Pacers.

James' double-double could not stem the Pacers' tide in a fourth-quarter blitz as Indiana, 13th in the East, inflicted a fourth defeat on the Lakers in the space of five games and increased the pressure on Los Angeles coach Frank Vogel.

It is just the second win in 12 games for Indiana, who snapped a four-game losing streak. Caris LeVert had 30 points, while Domantas Sabonis hit a triple-double of 20 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.

 

It was a miserable night all-round for Los Angeles teams, with the Clippers slipping to a 130-128 overtime defeat in Denver.

Nikola Jokic had a triple-double of 49 points – the second-best tally of his career in a single game, after a 50-point showing against the Sacramento Kings last season – 14 rebounds and 10 assists, the last of which teed up Aaron Gordon for the winning three-pointer with 1.9 seconds remaining in OT.

Bucks down depleted Grizzlies, Embiid hits 50

Reigning NBA champions the Milwaukee Bucks capitalised on the Memphis Grizzlies' lack of star power as they claimed a 126-114 win.

Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 33 points and 15 rebounds for the Bucks, who took advantage of Memphis being without two of their leading scorers in Dillon Brooks and Desmond Bane, though Ja Morant (33 points, 14 assists) gave his all for the Grizzlies.

Elsewhere, Joel Embiid scored 50 points in only 27 minutes in a 123-110 victory for Philadelphia over the Orlando Magic.

Embiid is now the third player in Sixers history to have multiple games with 50 points or more, while he reached 50 points and 10 rebounds quicker than any NBA player since 1955.

LeBron James scored 25 points as the Los Angeles Lakers snapped their three-game losing streak by beating the Utah Jazz on Monday.

A superb late show from Stanley Johnson, who hit 10 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter, saw the Lakers respond to their loss to the Denver Nuggets two days ago by winning 101-95.

Utah were hoping that size mattered, with Rudy Gobert playing his second game back following a positive coronavirus test and Anthony Davis still sidelined.

Gobert came up with 19 points and 16 rebounds, his second double-double in as many days despite not attempting a shot until the second quarter, but he could not prevent Johnson's clever layup move that put the Lakers 89-87 ahead.

In reality, it was Johnson's day: having been re-signed to a 10-day contract earlier, he scored six consecutive points in the final quarter and tied the game at 83-83, making seven of his nine shots.

Russell Westbrook's 15 points also proved key, but it was his spectacular dunk over Gobert in the second quarter – called for a technical foul – that drew the biggest cheers.

 

Booker hits season-high 48 as Suns roll on

The Phoenix Suns moved to 34-9 with a fourth win in a row, defeating the San Antonio Spurs 121-107.

Devin Booker scored 48 points, his best return in a game this season, finishing 18-for-33 from the field and sinking five of 13 three-point attempts.

Double-doubles from Chris Paul and Bismack Biyombo helped the Phoenix to a dominant fourth-quarter display, outscoring the Spurs 34-16 as they made it five straight wins in San Antonio.

 

Adebayo back with a Bam, Doncic drags Mavs past Thunder

The Miami Heat edged out the Toronto Raptors 104-99 as All-Star center Bam Adebayo returned from six weeks out following thumb surgery.

Adebayo's 14 points and a triple-double from Jimmy Buttler of 19 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds helped the Heat move into a virtual tie for the lead in the Eastern Conference with the struggling Chicago Bulls.

The Dallas Mavericks made it three wins in a row, a triple-double from Luka Doncic helping them to hold off a second-half comeback from the Oklahoma City Thunder in a 104-102 victory.

CJ McCollum, back from a 17-game absence caused by a collapsed lung, scored 16 points as the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Orlando Magic 98-88 – their 10th straight victory over the East's bottom side.

 

Russell Westbrook accepts Magic Johnson's damning assessment of the Los Angeles Lakers' form, but says the legendary figure does not know what is going on internally.

The Lakers slumped to a third defeat in a row with a heavy 133-96 loss at the hands of the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.

Frank Vogel's side, who were without injured Carmelo Anthony for a third straight game, now have a 21-22 record for the season and are seventh in the Western Conference.

The defeat to a Nikola Jokic-inspired Nuggets was the second biggest of LeBron James' 19-year career, and one fellow Lakers icon Johnson felt showed a lack of effort.

"After being blown out by the Nuggets, we as Lakers fans can accept being outplayed but we deserve more than a lack of effort and no sense of urgency," Johnson tweeted. 

"Owner Jeanie Buss, you deserve better."

Westbrook, who scored 19 points on 7-for-15 shooting, did not want to be drawn into a war of words with Johnson when asked for his reaction to the social media post.

"I do not have a reaction," he said. "Everybody is entitled, in this world, to their opinion – regardless of what that it is. 

"You can either take it and run with it or you can take it and put it in one ear and out the other or you cannot respond to it.

"Magic's entitled to his opinion. And he's not here every day. He's not around us every day. He's not aware of what's going on internally with us and trying to figure things out. 

"But I have no response to that. Like I said, everyone in this world is entitled to their opinion and that's that."

Reigning MVP Jokic recorded another triple-double as the Lakers slumped below .500 again in their defeat to the Nuggets.

Jokic finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds and 13 assists as Denver piled on 73 first-half points before restricting the Lakers to only 36 points in the second half.

And on the back of a humiliating loss, Westbrook concedes his side have to step up ahead of back-to-back home games with the Utah Jazz and the Indiana Pacers. 

"We just got to play hard," he said. "Sometimes, the schemes and how you play doesn't really matter. 

"You got to just play hard sometimes. Teams are playing harder than us, simple as that."

Dwight Howard, whose average of 5.4 points-per-game through 33 outings this season is the lowest of his career, echoed the thoughts of Westbrook.

"It's not too much I can really say about it. We've been saying it all year. I shouldn't have to keep saying. But, you know, he's right," Howard said.

"You can't stop believing that you're gonna win and just say, 'Ah, f**** it, let's give up.

"We know we've put ourselves in a pretty tough predicament, but all it takes is a couple games and some good energy and some positivity. We've just got to stay positive."

The Lakers' 37-point loss to Denver was their largest ever in this fixture and follows defeats to the Memphis Grizzlies and the Sacramento Kings in the past week.

"We've got to get back to the drawing board and get our defense right," head coach Vogel said. "We haven't performed well enough in the last two games on that side of the ball."

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic recorded another triple-double as the Los Angeles Lakers slumped below .500 again following a 133-96 humiliation at the hands of the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.

Nuggets center Jokic finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds and 13 assists and brought up his triple-double in the third quarter, as Denver piled on 73 first-half points before restricting the Lakers to only 36 points in the second half.

LeBron James scored 25 points with nine rebounds and two blocks for the Lakers, while Russell Westbrook had 19 points, five rebounds and three assists.

The defeat means the Lakers, who are still without Anthony Davis due to injury, move to a 21-22 record after losing three games in a row.

Bones Hyland was brilliant off the bench for Denver, who improve to 22-19, with a career-high 27 points including six triples and 10 rebounds.

 

Durant injured as Nets win

Kevin Durant limped out with a knee sprain as James Harden had 27 points, eight rebounds and 15 assists while Patty Mills scored 21 points as the Brooklyn Nets won 120-105 over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Pascal Siakam over-shadowed Giannis Antetokounmpo with a triple-double with 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists as the Toronto Raptors won 103-96 over the Milwaukee Bucks. Antetokounmpo scored 30 points with six rebounds and four assists.

Jayson Tatum had 23 points with 12 rebounds as the Boston Celtics won 114-112 to condemn the Eastern Conference-leading Chicago Bulls to three straight losses, while Darius Garland had 27 points and a career-high 18 assists in the Cleveland Cavaliers' comeback 107-102 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

 

Butler struggles as Heat go cold

Jimmy Butler struggled from the field, making one of 11 for his eight points as the Miami Heat's four-game winning streak was ended by the in-form Philadelphia 76ers 109-98. Joel Embiid had 32 points with 12 rebounds for the 76ers.

James Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving combined to score 61 points as the Brooklyn Nets beat the Chicago Bulls 138-112 in a table-topping Eastern Conference clash.

Durant's game-high 27 and Harden's double-double of 25 points and a season-high 16 assists inspired the Nets to a routine victory at United Center.

Kyrie Irving, who is barred from playing home games, added nine points in his third game back for the Nets, but it was Durant who stole the show with 17 points in the third.

The 11-time NBA All-Star has now scored at least 25 points in 12 straight games and in the process denied the Bulls a first regular-season sweep of the Nets since 1997-98.

After seeing off the Detroit Pistons 133-87 on Tuesday, the Bulls become the first team in NBA history to win by 45+ points one day and then lost by 25+ the next.

Kings snap losing streak against Lakers

LeBron James' 34 points were not enough as the Los Angeles Lakers fell 125-116 to the Sacramento Kings, who snapped a five-game losing streak in the process.

On their worst run of the season, the Kings regularly found themselves trailing and were six down at half-time before taking control in the third quarter.

Russell Westbrook's missed 3-pointer paved the way for Chimezie Metu to make a clutch 3-pointer with 46.7 seconds remaining and Tyrese Haliburton rounded off the scoring.

The Lakers, who saw James score 31 or more for the 11th time in 12 games in the injury absence of Carmelo Anthony, have now lost two in a row and are 21-21 for the season.

Heat's run goes on

The Miami Heat may have six players on their inactive list, but they won for a third game running with a 115-91 victory against the Atlanta Hawks.

Tyler Herro had a game-high 21 points and added 11 assists as the Heat, now 26-15 for the season, kept within touching distance of the Eastern Conference leaders.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, the Dallas Mavericks' six-game winning streak was brought to an end with a 108-85 loss to the New York Knicks.

RJ Barrett's 32 made him the youngest player in franchise history with consecutive 30-point games as the Knicks won for a fourth time in five games.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LeBron James could not help but admire Ja Morant's astonishing block for the Memphis Grizzlies in their 127-119 defeat of the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.

James top-scored with 35 points and added seven assists for the Lakers, taking him above Oscar Robertson (9,887) for the seventh most in NBA history.

But his efforts was ultimately relegated to a mere footnote afterwards, with Morant attracting headlines and acclaim for his Michael Jordan-esque block on Avery Bradley in the first quarter.

Morant had been robbed by Bradley at the other end but the 22-year-old All-Star contender darted back and came out from behind his rival to smash the ball off the glass with both hands following a lay-up attempt.

He was not going to be modest about it, saying after the game: "I just got back and made an incredible play.

"I was just trying to gather the ball. Most of the time on a break like that, if you block it, they might have a player trailing to get the ball and lay it up.

"It worked out perfect for me. Now I'm probably all over the internet for it."

Indeed he was, and among those applauding his efforts was James, clearly impressed even if the incident was to the Lakers' detriment.

"It starts with timing and also just stalking your prey," James said. "And that's exactly what Ja was doing that whole play, and I saw it happen.

"I didn't know he was going to do it in that fashion, but they got rockets in his calf muscles. It was just a spectacular play."

Russell Westbrook was less willing to dish out praise, though, producing a typically curt response.

"It was a block," he said.

But Jaren Jackson Jr. was not having that, lauding it as arguably the greatest such intervention he had seen in basketball.

"That's probably the best block I've ever seen live, probably the best block I've ever seen, period," he said.

"That was crazy. I knew he was going to do it, too, because he always loads up right before."

Victory saw the Grizzlies improve to 28-14, giving them the fourth-best record in the Western Conference.

It also ensured they set a new franchise record of nine successive wins, having previously racked up eight in a row on four separate occasions.

Klay Thompson marked his return from a two and a half year absence with 17 points as the Golden State Warriors saw off the Cleveland Cavaliers 96-82 on Sunday.

The 31-year-old, who had missed 941 days rehabbing from a torn ACL and ruptured Achilles tendon, was 7 of 18 from the field and 3 of 8 from three-point range.

Thompson also added three rebounds, an assist and a steal in 20 minutes, earning a rousing reception as he left the court

"I was just happy to be out there doing what I love again and getting my rhythm back," Thompson said. "It feels really good... It was surreal. 

"The ovation to start the game, I just was so grateful for these fans. It was special. I'm never going to forget this night."

With his impressive comeback display, Thompson reached 12,000 career points and 1,800 made three-pointers.

Red-hot Grizzlies set franchise record 

The Memphis Grizzlies soared to new heights by beating the Los Angeles Lakers 127-119 as they won nine successive games for the first time in franchise history. 

The Lakers had won four in a row ahead of the contest but could not live with their opponents, who had previously won eight in a row in 2004, 2012, 2013 and 2015.

Desmond Bane had 23 points and Jaren Jackson Jr. added 21, though it was a breathtaking block from Ja Morant to deny Avery Bradley that stole the show.

While it was a disappointing occasion for the Lakers, LeBron James scored 35 points – 23 of those arriving in the first half – and added seven assists.

That saw James move to 9,888 career assists in NBA and pass Oscar Robertson (9,887) for the seventh-most in history.

Mavericks halt Bulls' winning run

The Chicago Bulls' own nine-game winning run came to an end with a 113-99 defeat to the Dallas Mavericks, with Luka Doncic starring for the home side.

Doncic had 22 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists for his third triple-double of the campaign, while Josh Green and Maxi Kleber had season highs of 18 points each.

Elsewhere on Sunday, Kevin Durant scored 28 points for Brooklyn Nets in their 121-119 win against the San Antonio Spurs.

Cam Thomas made a runner in the lane with a little over a second to go in overtime as the Nets, who led by 10 with four minutes to play, snapped a five game losing run at home.

Giannis Antetokounmpo registered a seventh successive 30-point game against the Brooklyn Nets as he propelled the Milwaukee Bucks to victory.

In the first meeting between these teams at the Barclays Center since last season's overtime win for the Bucks in the playoffs, Antetokounmpo stole the show on his return from a one-game illness absence.

Milwaukee lost to the Toronto Raptors without their talisman, a second straight defeat after a shock reverse to the Detroit Pistons, but the reigning NBA champions snapped that mini losing streak in style with a 121-109 triumph on Friday.

Antetokounmpo had 31 points, seven rebounds and nine assists. He went into the game having recorded 30 or more points and at least 10 rebounds in each of his previous six appearances against Brooklyn, including postseason meetings.

The Bucks were without several key players, including Jrue Holiday, and coach Mike Budenholzer due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, but they just had too much in the form of Antetokounmpo, who was ably supported by Bobby Portis, who had a double-double of 25 points and 12 rebounds.

The Nets has snapped a three-game losing streak on Wednesday by beating the Indiana Pacers, with Kyrie Irving returning.

However, Irving was not available for this home game, as he cannot play in New York state due to not being vaccinated against COVID-19.

Kevin Durant scored 29 points and James Harden added 16, but the Bucks had too much as they moved onto 26-15 for the season, though the Nets remain ahead of Milwaukee in second place in the Eastern Conference.

LaVine leads the way as Bulls roll on

The Chicago Bulls top the East and their winning run was extended to nine games thanks to a 130-122 defeat of the Washington Wizards.

Zach LaVine had a game-leading 27 points, as the Bulls ended a run of three games in which they had won by five points or fewer.

The Bulls have now matched their longest winning streak since 2010-11, when Chicago won nine in a row to finish the regular season.

James and Jokic rampant

LeBron James led the Los Angeles Lakers to their first four-game winning run of the season as he scored 32 points against the Atlanta Hawks, adding eight rebounds and nine assists in a convincing 132-118 victory.

The Lakers are now 21-19 and sixth in the Western Conference, a place ahead of the Denver Nuggets, who had reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic reach 20 points for a seventh straight game in a 121-111 win over the Sacramento Kings.

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel says LeBron James scoring 14 final-quarter points and leading the side to victory over the Sacramento Kings is "just who he is".

James had shot six-of-17 from the field for the game, before stepping up in the fourth quarter to lead the Lakers past the Kings 122-114 on Tuesday.

The four-time MVP finished with 31 points, sinking two three-pointers in a row with under five minutes to go, turning around his shooting struggles from earlier in the game.

"You always know that's a possibility," Vogel said at the post-game news conference. "If he's not having a good shooting night, like anybody, you coach him.

"You have to coach him like everybody else but you never lose belief that he's going to do what he did in the fourth quarter. That's just who he is.

"If anything, I think the tweaks we made tonight were about what he was doing on the defensive side.

"He was exerting energy trying to double down. We had to pull back some of that."

The victory means the Lakers have won three in a row after a recent five-game skid, improving to 20-19.

James has averaged 28.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game this season.

LeBron James powered the Los Angeles Lakers to a hard-fought 122-144 win over the Sacramento Kings with a last-quarter barrage on Tuesday.

James finished with 31 points including 14 in the fourth quarter along with five rebounds and five assists for the game to help the Lakers improve to 20-19.

With the Lakers trailing 102-101 with less than five minutes to go, the four-time MVP hit back-to-back three-pointers to claim the ascendancy.

Malik Monk contributed 24 points for the Lakers, while Russell Westbrook had 19 points and seven rebounds.

De'Aaron Fox scored 30 points with three rebounds and six assists for the Kings who move to 16-23.

 

Paul and Booker shine for Suns

Chris Paul provided 15 assists alongside his 11 points as the west's second seeds, the Phoenix Suns, defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 123-110. Devin Booker scored 33 points for the Suns with nine rebounds and four assists, while Jonas Valanciunas had 25 points with 16 rebounds for the Pels.

The Memphis Grizzlies secured their sixth straight win with a 110-106 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers led by Ja Morant with 26 points, five rebounds and six assists. Darius Garland (27 points and 10 assists) and Kevin Love (18 points and 10 rebounds) were good for the Cavs.

 

Sabonis struggles from stripe

Domantas Sabonis struggled from the stripe making five-of-12 free-throws while he was bossed by Julius Randle as the Indiana Pacers were beaten 104-94 by the New York Knicks. Sabonis only managed 15 points with eight rebounds, while Randle scored 30 points with 16 rebounds. The Pacers have lost five in a row.

LeBron James led the way as the Los Angeles Lakers returned to .500 with a hard-fought 108-103 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday.

The four-time NBA MVP had 26 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals for the Lakers, who have won three of their past four games.

The Lakers had endured a rough period, losing six out of seven games, but are beginning to re-discover some form.

Russell Westbrook contributed 20 points with three rebounds and five assists but had nine turnovers, while Malik Monk added 22 points.

James also shot nine of 12 from the stripe, moving up to fourth on the all-time NBA free throws made list with 7,695, going past Oscar Robertson. Karl Malone, Moses Malone and Kobe Bryant are the players ahead of the 37-year-old.

 

Giddey breaks LaMelo's mark for youngest NBA triple-double

Oklahoma City Thunder's 19-year-old rookie Josh Giddey returned from COVID-19 protocols with a bang, becoming the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double, breaking LaMelo Ball's mark. Giddey had 17 points, 13 rebounds and 14 assists but OKC were beaten 95-86 by the Dallas Mavericks, who had Luka Doncic return from protocols with a near-triple-double with 14 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists.

Jaylen Brown scored a career-high 50 points, including 21 in the fourth quarter, in the Boston Celtics' 116-111 over-time win over the Orlando Magic. Brown also had 11 rebounds, four assists and two blocks.

Devin Booker scored 24 points with seven rebounds and three assists as the Phoenix Suns improved to 28-8 after beating the Charlotte Hornets 133-99.

 

Wayward Heat burnt by Kings

Jimmy Butler shot nine of 22 from the field and only one of six from beyond the arc the Miami Heat were beaten by the Sacramento Kings 115-113. Tyler Herro was also eight of 23 from the field.

LeBron James is taking pride from the efficiency of his supreme scoring streak with the Los Angeles Lakers.

One day after turning 37, the NBA icon had a season-high 43 points as the Lakers routed the Portland Trail Blazers 139-106 at home on Friday.

The Lakers improved to 18-19 on the season and James extended his remarkable run of 30-point games to seven, the first time he has done that since 2013.

James is nearing his best streak of 10 such games he recorded with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2005-06.

He is averaging 36 points per game over his seven-game stretch, making 57.8 per cent of his shots from the field.

James was 16 of 26 shooting and connected with five three-pointers as the Trail Blazers were crushed, giving him his 67th career 40-point game and sixth for the Lakers in his fourth season with the team.

"If that is what our team needs to win, I am OK with that," said James, per ESPN.

"I am not a guy who goes out and sees if I can jack up a bunch of shots. 

"The streak I have been on with my scoring I have been efficient. I take pride in that as a player."

James also became the oldest player in NBA history to have a game with at least 40 points and 14 rebounds.

Asked about that record, he added: "I don't feel like I have been in the league 19 years. When I am daily reminded of it, I feel it sometimes.

"Sometimes you do have to remind people you can still do what you can do at a high level.

"I literally try to prepare my mind and my body and my soul on how I can stay young in a young man's game.

"Because that's what it all boils down to. It boils down to putting the work in and everything else will take care of itself."

Russell Westbrook (15 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists) recorded a triple-double for the Lakers, his ninth of the season, while there were 18 points from Malik Monk, but James was the clear standout.

Lakers coach Frank Vogel, who cleared the league's COVID-19 protocols to take his place on the sideline against the Trail Blazers, was thrilled with the veteran's impact.

"This is just LeBron James playing at a superior level more than what is happening around him," he said.

"While Anthony Davis is out, he is intent on doing everything he can to pile up wins and play at an extra-high level."

Up next for the Lakers, who had lost six of seven prior to this morale-boosting win, is a home game against the Minnesota Timberwolves (16-19) on Sunday.

DeMar DeRozan knocked down a buzzer-beating three-pointer as Eastern Conference leaders the Chicago Bulls dramatically defeated the Indiana Pacers 108-106.

The Bulls ended 2021 on a high with a sixth straight victory that came about when DeRozan picked up the ball with around nine seconds remaining, looked around for options on the court before taking on the shot himself when he noticed the clock winding down.

It was the second time in DeRozan's career he had hit a buzzer-beater, while no Bulls player had achieved the feat since Jimmy Butler in 2016.

DeRozan drained 28 points in total to go with six assists and three rebounds, while Coby White had 24 points. DeRozan is the league leader for both total points and points per game in the fourth quarter.

Victory sees the Bulls head into the new year top of the East, with an identical record (23-10) to the Brooklyn Nets.


Celtics stop the skid to down Suns

The Phoenix Suns entered their showdown with the Boston Celtics with the best record in the NBA but lost for the third time in four games with a 123-108 defeat.

Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart each scored 24 points with the former registering 11 rebounds and the latter eight assists as the Celtics stopped a three-game losing streak. Robin Williams had a triple-double of 10 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds.

Deandre Ayton and Jae Crowder missed a third straight game for the Suns due to being placed on the health and safety protocols. Devin Booker put up 22 points, Cam Johnson had 20, Jalen Smith registered 19, and Chris Paul had 14 points and eight assists, but it was all in vain for the Suns.

LeBron James had a season-high 43 points and extended his streak of 30-point games to seven as the Los Angeles Lakers routed the Portland Trail Blazers 139-106 to improve to 18-19 on the season.


Bulls on a hot-streak

Chicago's six-game winning streak has propelled the Bulls to the top of the East and represents their best winning run since December 2017.

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