LOS ANGELES: LeBron James notched a 32-point triple-double on Tuesday to help the Los Angeles Lakers snap a five-game NBA skid with a 132-123 victory over the Houston Rockets. The four-time NBA champion was listed as the starting center for the first time in his 19-year career, as a Lakers team without injured star Anthony Davis grappled with coronavirus-related absences that included Rajon Rondo, Trevor Ariza and head coach Frank Vogel.
“I’m just trying to do whatever it takes for this team,” said James, who added 11 rebounds and 11 assists for his third triple-double of the season. “Tonight I was starting at center for the first time in my career and, you know, we were able to get off that five-game losing streak,” he added. James became the third NBA player to reach 36,000 career points after Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) and Karl Malone (36,928). Russell Westbrook also played a key role with a triple-double of his own of 24 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists – his seventh of the season.
Meanwhile, Malik Monk added 25 points and Carmelo Anthony scored 24 off the bench – his three-pointer with 2:25 remaining giving the Lakers a four-point cushion. James followed with a pair of free-throws and a one-handed slam that made it 124-116 and the Rockets wouldn’t get the deficit below five points from there. “Coming off the tough loss in the Christmas Day game we got some big contributions,” he said. “Melo was spectacular off the bench once again. Everybody gave us great minutes.”
Nuggets hold off Warriors
The league-leading Golden State Warriors shook off a dismal start in Denver, erasing a 24-point halftime deficit but coming up just short in an 89-86 loss to the Nuggets. The Warriors, who lost Draymond Green to COVID-19 concerns on Monday, looked lost as the Nuggets raced to a 10-0 lead to start the game. Denver, led by 22 points from reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic, led 60-36 at halftime and held on in the face of a furious late rally from the Warriors that included 15 fourth-quarter points from star Stephen Curry.
Curry, who was held to two points in a first half in which he missed all five of his three-point attempts, finished with 23 points. With five three-pointers on the night he became the first NBA player to make 3,000 shots from beyond the arc, but with just 1.2 seconds left the ball was in teammate’s Andre Iguodala hands with Golden State needing a three-pointer to force overtime.
He missed, and the Nuggets held on for the win. Jokic added 18 rebounds, five assists and a big block of Warriors rookie Jonathan Kuminga’s potential game-tying layup with 3.7 seconds remaining. Will Barton added 21 points for Denver. Elsewhere, NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks beat Orlando Magic 127-110 behind 28 points from two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo. Khris Middleton scored 21 points for the Bucks, who notched their fourth straight victory.
In New Orleans, Garrett Temple drained four three-pointers in less than four minutes in the fourth quarter as the Pelicans rallied for a 108-104 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, who led by as many as 23 points early. Jonas Valanciunus made four free throws in the final 28.7 seconds to seal the victory over Cleveland, after a knee injury saw Ricky Rubio carried off in the final three minutes. In Toronto, Tobias Harris notched the first triple-double of his career, scoring 19 points with 12 rebounds and 10 assists to back up Joel Embiid’s 36 points and 11 rebounds for the Philadelphia 76ers in a 114-109 victory over the Raptors. — AFP