The Los Angeles Lakers overturned a 17-point deficit and a chaotic third-quarter brawl which led to LeBron James' ejection to trump the lowly Detroit Pistons 121-116.

James was ejected after an elbow to the eye of Pistons center Isaiah Jackson, who reacted angrily, leading to a wild melee in Detroit on Sunday.

Jackson repeatedly charged at James and had to be restrained by team-mates and coaches. Both players were ejected, with the latter's elbow deemed a flagrant 2 foul.

The Lakers were trailing by 12 points at the time of the incident early in the third quarter, before Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis led a rally on the road.

Westbrook (26 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds) had 15 points, six assists and five rebounds in a final period dominated by the visiting Lakers 37-17.

Davis had 30 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, five blocks and four steals – the star becoming the first Laker with a 30/10/5/3/5 game since Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal in 2001.

James, in his second game back after an abdominal injury laid him off for two and a half weeks, played 21 minutes for 10 points and five assists before his ejection as the Lakers improved to 9-0 for the season.

Number one draft pick Cade Cunningham registered his first career triple-double for the Pistons with 13 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.

 

Suns maintain hot streak

The Phoenix Suns recorded their 12th straight win as Cam Johnson had a career-high and game-high 22 points off the bench, including four triples in a 126-97 rout of the Denver Nuggets, who were without MVP Nikola Jokic (shoulder) for the second successive game. Chris Paul (nine points and 10 assists) has had 47 games with 10-plus assists and 0 turnovers since entering the league in 2006. He has the most such games since 1985.

Paul George hauled the Los Angeles Clippers past the Luka Doncic-less Dallas Mavericks 97-91 with 29 points and six assists. The Mavs were still without Luka Doncic (knee/ankle).

DeMar DeRozan scored 31 points in the Chicago Bulls' 109-103 victory over the New York Knicks. Julius Randle posted 34 points for the beaten Knicks, who led entering the final quarter.

 

Mild Curry returns

Stephen Curry returned from a minor hip issue but was well down on his usual output with only 12 points, making two of 10 field-goal attempts and one of six beyond the arc in the Golden State Warriors' 119-104 triumph over the Toronto Raptors.

Anthony Davis defended Los Angeles Lakers team-mate LeBron James after his ejection in the wild win over the Detroit Pistons, insisting the NBA superstar is not a "dirty dog".

James was ejected for an elbow to Pistons center Isaiah Stewart's eye, which was deemed a flagrant 2 foul, with the incident setting off a wild brawl in the Lakers' rallying 121-116 victory.

Stewart, who was also tossed from the game, was left bloodied from his right eye and incensed, repeatedly attempting to charge at James, having to be restrained and escorted off the court by coaches and team-mates amid chaotic scenes.

James and Stewart had jostled for position for a rebound from Jerami Grant's free throw early in the third quarter, when the four-time MVP's left elbow struck the Pistons big man's eye.

"Everyone in the league knows LeBron's not a dirty dog," said Davis, led the Lakers' comeback with 30 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, five blocks and four steals. "As soon as he did it, he looked back at him and said 'my bad, I ain't try to do it'.

"I don't know what [Stewart] was trying to do. I know nobody on our team, one through to 15, was having it. We wanted to protect our brother.

"I've never in 10 years seen a player try to do that... It was uncalled for. You got a cut above your eye, accidental, it wasn't on purpose.

"We weren't going to allow him to keep charging our brother like that. I don’t know what he was trying to do. We just wanted to get the win for him."

The Lakers were trailing by 12 points at the time of the incident but went on to win behind Davis' big performance on the road.

Davis became the first Laker with a 30/10/5/3/5 game since Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal in 2001.

Russell Westbrook (26 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds) was important down the stretch too, with 15 points, five rebounds and six assists in the fourth quarter alone, as the Lakers dominated with a 37-17 final quarter.

Amid the chaos of the brawl, Westbrook received a technical foul which left him dumb-founded post-game, stating he was an easy target for the referees.

"I didn't know I had a tech… woah, that's interesting," Westbrook told reporters. "For being Russell, I guess? I don’t know why but whatever.

"They had to put it on somebody. I'm an easy person to put s*** on. Why not me?"

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel hailed his side's response to the incident, reeling in the Pistons' game-high 17-point lead to claim a win that helped the championship-chasing franchise improve to 9-9 for the season.

"To me, it's one of those things that can change the momentum of your season," Vogel said. "To see guys rally around a team-mate that just got ejected like that in a strange circumstance.

"We played with incredible guts, started the fourth quarter down by 15. That's the determination that this team is going to need. That's how hard we've got to play to get Ws. "That's a heck of a win for us."

LeBron James was ejected after elbowing Isaiah Stewart amid wild scenes as scuffles broke out in Sunday's clash between the Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Lakers.

Stewart was left bloodied and incensed by the elbow, repeatedly running at Lakers superstar James in the wake of the incident, having to be separated by team-mates and coaches.

James was tossed from the game for a flagrant foul 2, along with Stewart as part of the incident which escalated out of control in Detroit, where Lakers star Russell Westbrook was hit with a technical.

It occurred early in the third quarter when James and Stewart jostled for position upon Jerami Grant's second free throw as the Pistons led 78-66.

James' left elbow struck Stewart in his right eye, with the Pistons center initially approaching the four-time MVP with relative calmness, before boiling over and refusing to leave the court with retribution on his mind.

Stewart would not relent, repeatedly charging at James and was eventually ushered off the court, although he broke free down the tunnel, creating further concern.

After the incident and upon consultation with replays, the referees opted to eject four-time NBA champion James for the elbow.

James had scored 10 points on four-of-seven shooting from the field, to go with five assists, one rebound and two assists in 21 minutes.

LeBron James returned from injury but could not prevent the Los Angeles Lakers from suffering their third straight defeat going down 130-108 to the Boston Celtics.

Jayson Tatum starred for the Celtics with 37 points, 11 rebounds and two assists, while Marcus Smart was excellent with 22 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

James had 23 points, six rebounds and two assists on his return from an abdominal strain, while Anthony Davis top scored for the Lakers with 31 points.

The four-time MVP showed no signs of injury in the first quarter, helping the Lakers to a strong start, combining with Davis for 22 points, which was their second most in an opening period in the past two seasons.

The Lakers held the lead at half-time but the Celtics hit back in the third quarter with an 8-0 run, opening up an 11-point lead at the final change after a 33-21 period.

The defeat means the 2020 NBA champions have lost seven of their past 10 games and slip to an 8-9 record, while the Celtics improve to 8-8.

 

Suns' hot streak continues

Chris Paul had 18 points and 14 assists as the Phoenix Suns secured their 11th straight win, triumphing 112-104 over the Dallas Mavericks, who were without Luka Doncic due to knee and ankle injuries.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 21 points and 19 rebounds in the Milwaukee Bucks' 96-89 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, as Khris Middleton passed Ray Allen for most three-pointers made in franchise history (1,052), hitting three triples in his 16 points.

The Golden State Warriors won without Stephen Curry (bruised hip) and Draymond Green (bruised thigh), with Jordan Poole stepping up with 32 points including four three-pointers in a 105-102 win over the Detroit Pistons.

James Harden shot seven of 25 from the field and had six turnovers but finished with 36 points,10 rebounds and eight assists in Kevin Durant's absence ot lead the Brooklyn Nets past the Orlando Magic 115-113.

Zach LaVine scored 36 points in the Chicago Bulls 114-108 win over the Denver Nuggets who were missing Nikola Jokic, while LaMelo Ball starred with 32 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in the Charlotte Hornets' 121-118 victory against the Indiana Pacers.

 

Pelicans clip wayward George 

Paul George shot eight of 26 from the field as the Los Angeles Clippers went down to the New Orleans Pelicans 94-81.

LeBron James says there is a sense of urgency that the Los Angeles Lakers need to play better now after slumping to their ninth defeat of the season on Friday.

James returned from an abdominal strain after eight games out but was unable to lift the Lakers who went down 130-108 to the Boston Celtics.

After 17 games in an 82-game season, the Lakers have an 8-9 record, having lost their past three games and seven of their past 10.

"We damn straight need to play better, no matter who's in the line-up," James said at a post-game news conference. "We have our system and we need to fast-track it and get better with it.

"It's never that we've got 65 games and we can figure it out. There's no level of panic but there should be some sense of urgency every time we hit the floor."

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said offensively his side needs to "get committed to playing as a team" while he labelled their rebounding (51-33) against the Celtics as "atrocious".

Russell Westbrook was among a host of new players added during the offseason at the Lakers and James said it was taking time for the side to develop cohesion.

The four-time NBA MVP also said patience was required having only just returned, along with starting forward Talen Horton-Tucker.

"As we continue to log more minutes, I continue to see where we're great at and not so good at," James said. "Things that we can improve on.

"Like I said, it's my first game in two and a half weeks. I believe it's Talen third or fourth game back. We're trying to figure out rotations and who to play when."

The Lakers led by eight points at quarter time and held the most slender advantage at the main break, before a 33-21 third quarter.

Vogel added: "We did not have a good third. We were stuck in mud. [But] it's about the whole game more than the third quarter.

"Our group has got to strike the balance of how we're going to play offensively. That's going to take some time. We have to get committed to playing as a team offensively.

"When we do, like we saw in the first quarter, it looks beautiful. You see the potential of what we can be."

James added that recovery from his first game back would be key to his short-term future as he rebuilds following his abdominal strain. The 36-year-old forward finished with 23 points and six rebounds on his return.

"Physically I felt okay. I know I can trust my body and play," he said. "I'm looking forward to seeing how I feel when I wake up. That's the tell-tale sign if I'm moving in the right direction with my injury."

LeBron James returned after a fortnight out with an abdominal strain as the Los Angeles Lakers took on the Boston Celtics on Friday.

James, 36, had not played for the Lakers since their 119-117 win over the Houston Rockets on November 1.

The four-time NBA MVP and NBA champion was averaging 24.8, 5.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists across six games this season.

James only played 45 games across the 2020-21 season as the Lakers' title defence ended in the first round of the NBA playoffs against the Phoenix Suns.

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic was ruled out of the Denver Nuggets' side for their game against the Chicago Bulls on Friday with a wrist sprain.

The Serbian center appeared to hurt his wrist in Thursday's 103-89 shock loss to the depleted Philadelphia 76ers.

LeBron James hopes to return for the Los Angeles Lakers' clash with the Boston Celtics on Friday but is still rated as "day to day" by head coach Frank Vogel.

The Lakers were toppled 109-102 by defending NBA champions the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday to fall to 8-8 for the season.

It also means they are 4-6 for games this season in which they have been without superstar James, who has missed eight in a row and 10 of 16 overall with an abdominal strain.

When leaving the Fiserv Forum after the loss to the Bucks, James was asked by ESPN if he would be back against the Celtics, to which he replied: "I hope, I hope."

Having James back would be a timely boost to a star-studded Lakers side that has yet to gel this season. In 54 regular-season games played in Boston, James averages 28.9 points. Only in Cleveland, where he has averaged 29.1 points in 17 games as an opposing player, does he have a better average.

James was put through his paces by Lakers assistant Phil Handy prior to Wednesday's game and was seen stretching out his abdomen on several occasions.

With James in the team, the Lakers are 4-2 even though his 24.8 points per game is his lowest return since averaging 20.9 as a rookie, while his 5.5 rebounds are the least since that same season and 7.0 assists his worst return since 2015-16.

 

When asked about James' potential return, Vogel said: "I was hoping he was going to play each of the last seven games or whatever it's been since he's been out. 

"I always hope he's going to play. I'm always optimistic. He's still day to day. No decisions are made."

Vogel said any conditions that need to be met for James to come back will be left to the Lakers' medical team.

"I'll leave that to the medical team," he added. "I know he did some work today. I haven't gotten the reports on how that went yet. 

"But I'll leave that between him and the medical team to make the decision of when he's ready to go."

James' team-mate Anthony Davis believes injuries have been a disrupting factor for the Lakers through the first part of the season.

"We put a team together and we haven't seen it yet," he said. 

"Once we get everybody back, we can kind of see, to be honest. Until then, just got to fight with what we got."

LeBron James is close to a return from an abdominal injury, with Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel confirming he is now "day-to-day".

James was absent for the fifth straight game with injury as the Lakers went down 107-83 to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday, leaving them with a 7-6 record.

Vogel confirmed pre-game the 36-year-old's injury will not rule him out for an "extended stretch".

"LeBron, his rehab is progressing nicely," Vogel told reporters. "He's back to doing on the court basketball activity.

"This does not seem like it's going to be an extended stretch. He's to be considered truly day-to-day."

The Lakers had won three straight games before going 2-3 without James in the side over the past 10 days, suffering defeats to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Portland Trail Blazers and the Timberwolves.

Prior to featuring in all three games of that short winning run, James had also missed consecutive games with ankle soreness. LA are 3-4 for the year without him.

James has been averaging 24.8 points, 7.0 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game this season, while shooting 46.7 per cent from the floor and 34.7 per cent from three-point range.

The Lakers were on the wrong end of a 40-12 third quarter against the Timberwolves, having been ahead at halftime.

Anthony Davis top scored with 22 points and eight rebounds, while Russell Westbrook had 20 points but five turnovers and an awful plus/minus of -32. Three of his turnovers came in the third quarter as he scored just three points in eight minutes.

"There's no better motivator than a bad loss," Vogel told reporters after the defeat. "I think a lot of our guys are angry. Our coaching staff are angry. We'll get back to work."

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James could be out of action for a week due to an abdominal strain.

James was ruled out of Thursday's NBA clash against the lowly Oklahoma City Thunder due to the injury.

The 36-year-old and four-time champion, who has already missed two of the Lakers' opening eight games of the season because of a sore right ankle, is facing more time on the sideline.

"Anytime LeBron's out and he's going to miss some time there's obviously concern," Lakers head coach Frank Vogel told reporters pre-game as his team eye a fourth consecutive victory.

"Hopefully this is something that's minimal, and hopefully he'll be back soon."

James has been averaging 24.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game this season, while shooting 46.7 per cent from the floor and 34.7 per cent from three-point range.

Against Houston on Tuesday, James (30), Anthony Davis (27) and Russell Westbrook (27) became the first trio of team-mates to score 27-plus points for the Lakers in the same game since January 20, 1995, when Cedric Ceballos (31), Elden Campbell (30) and Nick Van Exel (29) accomplished the feat, according to Stats Perform.

The Lakers (5-3) are currently averaging 113.4 points per game while giving up 112.6 a game. The last time Los Angeles both scored and gave up 112-plus points per game for a full season was 1967-68.

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr revealed Stephen Curry had been unwell in the lead-up to Wednesday's 114-92 win over the Charlotte Hornets where the guard was below his usual standards.

Two-time NBA MVP Curry led the league for points coming into the game but managed to score only 15, with Jordan Poole top scoring for the Warriors with 31 points including seven three-pointers.

Curry, who also had eight rebounds and nine assists, shot six from 15 from the field and three from 11 from three-point range.

"Steph has been under the weather the last couple of days," Kerr told reporters after the game. "Clearly was not himself.

"He still almost came out of the game with a triple-double because he's Steph. Jordan really picked up the slack."

Gary Payton II also contributed strongly to make up for Curry's lesser output, including an left-handed emphatic dunk.

The 28-year-old point guard finished with 14 points, five rebounds and three steals, with Kerr stating he is doing enough to be considered for the starting rotation.

"He dominated the game while he was out there," Kerr said. "He changed everything with his defense and activity. He is an electric athlete.

"I couldn't be happier for Gary. I think about how hard he worked to get to this point, just clawing his way to a roster spot.

"It's taken him about five years of bouncing around the league. He deserves this."

Meanwhile, Klay Thompson was seen shooting around pre-game for approximately 15 minutes as he continues his recovery from a long-term Achilles injury where it is anticipated he will return around Christmas. Thompson is yet to be cleared for full practice but this appeared a positive step forward.

Thompson has not played since the 2018-19 season when he suffered an ACL injury, but had averaged 21.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.

Wednesday marks 24 years to the day since the late Kobe Bryant made his NBA debut with the Los Angeles Lakers.

While that first appearance against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the age of 18 was nothing to write home about, Bryant went on to enjoy a legendary career.

He won five NBA championships with the Lakers in the space of a decade and was selected to the All-Star Game 18 times, placing him behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (19).

Bryant tragically died in a helicopter crash last year, aged 41, but his legacy will live on for generations.

Here we look back at where it all began for one of sport's most iconic figures and pick out some other statistics from his incredible career.


STEADY IMPACT IN ROOKIE SEASON

The Charlotte Hornets drafted Bryant 13th overall in 1996 and traded him to the Lakers for Vlade Divac.

It was a move that would have a lasting impact on the sport, although it took Bryant a few seasons to really start to make his mark.

He played six minutes off the bench against the Timberwolves on his debut, failing to register a point during his short cameo; he did get a rebound, a block and a steal, though.

That appearance made him the youngest player to feature in NBA, aged 18 years and 72 days old, but he was supplanted by Jermaine O'Neal (18 years, 53 days) the following month. Andrew Bynum (18 years, six days) took the record in 2005.

 

"Rest In Peace to the late, great Kobe Bryant." pic.twitter.com/jmqQMVC2UO

— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) February 1, 2020 BEHIND ONLY LEBRON

Bryant steadily became more involved and made the All-Rookie second team at the end of his debut campaign.

The Philadelphia-born star scored a combined 613 points in the regular season and playoffs before turning 19, which only LeBron James (625) can better.

One record James could not take from Bryant, though, is for the youngest player in NBA history with at least 20 points in a postseason game.

Aged 18 years and 250 days, Bryant registered 22 points in Game 3 against the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference first-round series.

Bryant averaged 7.6 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 15.5 minutes on the floor during his rookie season.

To put that in some context, James averaged 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists, albeit with far more minutes (39.5).

That is still some way below the levels of Michael Jordan in his breakthrough season, with the Bulls great averaging 28.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists in his first year in the league.


THE SCARCELY BELIEVABLE STATS

Bryant still went on to carve out a place as one of the greatest players of all time, receiving All-NBA honours in 15 seasons, being named in the first team on 11 occasions. Only James, with 13 appearances in the first team, beats Bryant's total.

He was also named nine times to the NBA All-Defensive First Team, matching the all-time high; Kevin Garnett, Gary Payton and Jordan achieved the same total.

In the 2005-06 season, Bryant recorded his highest points-per-game average for a single campaign, with 35.4. He led the NBA in scoring in that season and in 2006-07.

In January 2006, he scored 81 points in a 122-104 victory over the Toronto Raptors – the second highest individual score in an NBA game, behind Wilt Chamberlain's 100 points for the Philadelphia Warriors against the New York Knicks in 1962.

Bryant received his lone NBA MVP award in 2008, having become the youngest player to reach 20,000 career points aged 29 years and 122 days.

In his final game, on April 13, 2016, Bryant scored 60 points for the Lakers in a 101-96 win over the Utah Jazz. A fitting farewell after a phenomenal career.

LeBron James recorded his second double-double of the season and first since opening night as the streaking Los Angeles Lakers withstood the Houston Rockets 119-117 on Tuesday.

James, who was a game-time decision again with his niggling ankle issue, scored 30 points – including two-of-four shooting from three-point – range along with 10 assists, four rebounds and two steals. The four-time NBA MVP added 14 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter.

The Lakers had led by eight points in the final quarter but escaped with the win, improving their record to 5-3 on the back of three straight victories, as Kevin Porter Jr.'s three-point attempt to steal the game on the buzzer rimmed out.

Star trio James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook scored a collective 84 points in their most productive game together after the latter arrived from the Washington Wizards in the offseason.

Davis added 27 points, nine rebounds and three assists, while former MVP Westbrook had 27 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

 

Paul third for all-time assists

Chris Paul had 18 assists along with 14 points and seven rebounds to help the Phoenix Suns overcome a 20-point deficit in their rallying 112-100 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans. Paul moved past Mark Jackson and Steve Nash into third for all-time NBA assists. The Suns guard has 10,336 assists, behind only John Stockton (15,806) and Jason Kidd (12,091).

Giannis Antetokounmpo posted 28 points, eight rebounds and nine assists as reigning champions the Milwaukee Bucks ended their three-game skid with a 117-89 win against the struggling Detroit Pistons.

Kyle Lowry drained six three-pointers among his 22 points and nine assists as the red-hot Miami Heat beat the Dallas Mavericks 125-110. Luka Doncic scored 33 points for the Mavs.

 

Clarkson's three-point woes

Utah Jazz point guard Jordan Clarkson shot poorly, going one of 11 from beyond the arc, scoring only two points in their 119-113 victory over the Sacramento Kings.

Odell Beckham Jr's father is not happy with the Cleveland Browns wide receiver's numbers this season, and a famous fan shares that sentiment.

Ohio native LeBron James took to Twitter to voice his frustration at Beckham's production, though, like the wideout's father, he appears to not blame the man himself.

The four-time NBA MVP posted on Tuesday: "OBJ will show again why he's special. WR1 #FreeOBJ."

That tweet followed an Instagram post from Odell Beckham Sr featuring an 11-minute video showing clips of Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield eschewing chances to throw to an open Beckham.

The social media posts came on the day of the NFL's trade deadline, but Beckham is not among the players expected to be moved despite his struggles.

Beckham has 17 catches for 232 yards and zero touchdowns for the Browns since returning from a torn ACL in Week 3.

Those numbers have been somewhat impacted by a shoulder injury to Mayfield, who missed the Browns' Week 7 win over a Denver Broncos because of a torn labrum but returned on Sunday for Cleveland's 15-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

LeBron James praised Evan Mobley after facing the Cleveland Cavaliers rookie for the first time but said it was "getting more weird by the day" playing his son's former opponent.

James, back from an ankle injury, marked the 18th anniversary of his NBA debut with a game-high 26 points in the Los Angeles Lakers' 113-101 win on Friday. Mobley, who led the Cavs with 23 points, is only 20 years old.

Indeed, LeBron's previous experience of this year's third overall draft pick was seeing Mobley take on Bronny James in high school.

Mobley then spent a single season at USC but has settled quickly in his rookie year in the NBA.

Friday's performance, in his sixth game, brought his most points so far, along with six rebounds, three assists, two steals and, for the second game running, zero turnovers.

With double-figure points in every game and two double-doubles already, Mobley is averaging 15.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.7 blocks, 1.3 steals and 1.3 turnovers for the 3-3 Cavs.

James, who was a first overall pick for Cleveland in 2003, winning a single title in two spells with the team, said of Mobley: "He is going to be a damn good basketball player in this league.

"It's so crazy, because he was just playing against my son a couple of years ago. It's weird, and it's getting more weird by the day. He's playing against my son in the playoffs two years ago, and obviously we saw what he did in the tournament, just electrifying.

"They've got a good one. Cleveland has a good one. They've done a great job over the years in the draft, I'll say."

James was returning after two games out due to soreness to the same ankle he injured last year as he was restricted to a career-low 42.9 per cent of possible minutes in the regular season.

"I can definitely feel it a little bit right now, but that's just the adrenaline wearing off," he said. "It feels a lot better post-game today than it did post-game Sunday when we played Memphis."

James linked up effectively with Russell Westbrook, with three of the point guard's five assists coming from passes to the four-time MVP. They have now combined seven times for the year, with James the scorer each time.

Westbrook is having to adjust in LA. His career usage rate is 33.6 per cent (since the statistic was tracked in 2014-15), peaking with 41.7 per cent in 2016-17, but has reached a new low this year with 28.4 per cent, sharing the ball with two superstars in James and Anthony Davis.

James praised his new team-mate's early work, though, saying: "It's all about progressing and understanding the playmaker that you're playing with, understanding his vision, his awareness.

"I don't think he gets enough credit for his passing ability, being able to see plays before they happen. For me, as a receiver, it's my job to be in a position where the quarterback can just make a pass and I've got to go get it.

"Running the lane with Russ, he's usually out in front of the pack, because of his pace and his intensity, but when you run with him, you're rewarded."

LeBron James returned from injury with 26 points as the Los Angeles Lakers overcame a slow first half to defeat his former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, 113-101 on Friday.

James had missed the Lakers' past two games with a sore ankle but marked his return by top scoring, adding eight assists and three rebounds.

The four-time MVP only shot 10 from 22 from the field and one from 10 from three-point range, draining a three-quarter time buzzer beater from almost halfway.

Carmelo Anthony added 24 points off the bench for the Lakers while Anthony Davis had 15 points, nine rebounds and three assists.

The Cavs, who have beaten contenders the Atlanta Hawks, Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers this season, led by as much as 11 points at one stage, including holding a one-point lead into the fourth quarter.

James played a lead role in steadying the ship for the Lakers, who scored 25-16 in the fourth quarter to win by 12 points and improve their record to 3-3.

 

Harden finds his scoring touch

James Harden re-discovered some form with a season-high 29 points, including 21 in the first half, in the Brooklyn Nets' 105-98 win over the Indiana Pacers. LaMarcus Aldridge added 21 points off the bench to reach 20,000 career NBA points, while Kevin Durant dominated with 22 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.

Jimmy Butler starred with 32 points, 10 rebounds and five assists while Bam Adebayo added 26 points and 19 rebounds as the Miami Heat downed the in-form Charlotte Hornets 114-99.

Damian Lillard hit five from seven three-pointers, finishing with 25 points as the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 111-92. Paul George finished with 42 points for the Clippers, who are 1-3.

 

Doncic wayward as Mavs routed

Luka Doncic had an off-night, with 16 points, shooting five from 18 from the field as the Dallas Mavericks were brushed aside 106-75 by the Denver Nuggets.

Hornets guard LaMelo Ball's bright start to the season has stalled, managing only six points in their loss to the Heat, shooting none from five from beyond the arc.

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