Zlatan Ibrahimovic is sticking to his guns despite coming in for criticism after stating that athletes like LeBron James should steer clear of politics.

The Milan forward found himself at the centre of controversy after saying the likes of James should "do what you're good at" rather than engage in any kind of activism.

Los Angeles Lakers star James hit back and vowed never to "just stick to sports", insisting he had a role to play as a voice against racism and other pressing societal issues.

James is a friend of former United States president Barack Obama and his own foundation supports a school that is aimed at helping disadvantaged children. 

But Ibrahimovic, who has also been criticised for agreeing to appear in the Sanremo music festival amid the Serie A season, refused to back down.

"Racism and politics are two different things. Athletes unite the world, politics divides it," said the 39-year-old, who was injured in Sunday's 2-1 win over Roma and could be sidelined for up to three weeks, which would rule him out of facing former club Manchester United in the Europa League later this month.

"Everyone is welcome in our environment, it doesn't matter where you come from and we are doing everything to bring people together.

"My message? Athletes should be athletes, politicians should be politicians."

Responding to questions over his appearance at the music event, which spans four days, while Milan fight for the title, the Swede added: "I'm a professional and anyone who knows me, knows that. When I play football I'm only focused on that.

"I want to help Milan, and to give a lot to Italy for everything that it has given me over the years, not only in football.

"I had the chance to be a guest at the festival, one of the most important in Italy, and decided to participate."

LeBron James feels the Los Angeles Lakers are finding their rhythm without Anthony Davis after a comfortable 117-91 win over the Golden State Warriors on Sunday.

Davis is averaging 22.5 points, three assists and 8.4 rebounds this season, as well as 1.8 blocks, 1.3 steals and two turnovers per game.

However, he has been absent since sustaining a calf injury on February 14 and the Lakers had lost five of six without Davis prior to winning their past two.

Against the Warriors, six Lakers players reached double figures, with James putting up 19 and able to play a season-low 24 minutes such was their dominance.

"When you lose a mega piece like AD, it's going to take some time offensively and defensively how we want to play, what's going to be our rhythm," James said after his 1,300th regular-season game. 

"The last couple of games we've done a good job of trying to say, 'This is where we're going to have the ball, this is where we'll be effective, this is where we need to run'. Guys are just staying ready."

This season the Lakers are trying to repeat the championship success they enjoyed in the disrupted 2019-20 campaign.

Opposition coach Steve Kerr knows a thing or two about repeats, having won three straight with the Chicago Bulls as a player – he individually won four in a row having then joined the San Antonio Spurs – while the Warriors won three in four seasons, including going back-to-back in 2017 and 2018.

Kerr suggested the unusual circumstances caused by the coronavirus pandemic meant this season might be the toughest ever to try to complete a repeat – a notion James felt might have some merit.

"It's been extremely tough, you literally have to self-motivate yourself every single day," he added.

"We're playing every other day, if not back-to-backs, there's not much down time so you have to motivate yourself. 

"Us and Sac [the Sacramento Kings] and the Clips [the Los Angeles Clippers] and Golden State, we don't have the luxury of having fans right now. 

"I've been watching a lot of games of late, and there's been 1,500, 2,000 fans, whatever the case may be, and it gives you an extra boost. 

"I'm just waiting, hopefully sooner rather than later we can have fans here in California, especially here at Staples. 

"It's very challenging, got to have the self-discipline, self-motivation and have trust in your team-mates to know you'll get the energy."

The Lakers are second in the West following their win and now have a 24-11 record for the season.

Stephen Curry believes opponents play harder against the Golden State Warriors due to their past success, with LeBron James' Los Angeles Lakers getting the better of them on Sunday.

Prior to a 2019-20 campaign that was wrecked by injuries, the Warriors had reached the NBA Finals in five consecutive seasons.

On four of those occasions they met James, then with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and won three titles. Golden State swept the Cavs in 2017-18 shortly before James left for the Lakers.

James and LA made the most of Golden State's tough year last time out as they claimed the championship - the four-time MVP's fourth ring - but Curry believes there is still tension when the Warriors meet their old foe.

A threat again as Curry averages 29.5 points per game - fourth-most in the league - Golden State fell to 19-16 and eighth in the West with a 117-91 defeat to the Lakers.

Curry scored only 16 points, by far his lowest return in the whole of February, while LA were already 20 points clear after a first quarter in which the Warriors shot 8-of-22 from the field and 2-of-11 from three as their opponents went to the free-throw line 16 times.

The superstar guard suggested the Lakers were motivated to beat Golden State, but he also acknowledged his team had to show more.

Curry said: "Draymond [Green] said it a little bit at halftime - we have to remember, even when we're playing well, when we've won three in a row, teams still want to beat us and beat us bad.

"They still have a lot of memories from the last five, six years.

"A lot of that is that you have to - against the really good teams, with the discipline that separates a good team from a great team - show up.

"We've done a great job of not fouling teams, and then you get the best defense in the league set with possessions and easy points. They thrived off that and they brought a bit more energy in the first quarter.

"Those little things that we can control - we can't control makes and misses every night - you can control being defensively smart, not fouling, you can control your energy and your effort and your competitiveness.

"We've done a really good job of that and then tonight we didn't have any of it, and it shows in the score."

Giannis Antetokounmpo starred as the Milwaukee Bucks rallied past the Los Angeles Clippers 105-100 in NBA action on Sunday.

Antetokounmpo posted 36 points – 17 in the final quarter – 14 rebounds and five assists for the Bucks, who used a game-closing 9-0 run to extend their winning streak to five games.

Two-time reigning MVP Antetokounmpo became the first Bucks player with 35-plus points in four consecutive games since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1973.

Meanwhile, LeBron James appeared in his 1,300th regular-season game as defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers eased past the Golden State Warriors 117-91.

James scored 19 points in his milestone game – the four-time NBA champion becoming the 23rd player in league history to appear in that many regular-season contests.

 

Beal stars again

Bradley Beal put on a show with 46 points for the Washington Wizards, who still narrowly lost 111-110 to the Boston Celtics. In his last three games in Boston, Beal has tallied 44, 41 and 46 points. According to Stats Perform, he is the first player to score 40-plus points in three successive road games against the Celtics since Abdul-Jabbar between 1970 and 1971.

The Memphis Grizzlies crushed the Houston Rockets 133-84. On February 1, the Grizzlies won at the San Antonio Spurs by 31 points while they humbled the Rockets by 49 on Sunday. They are the second team in NBA history to have two 30-plus point road wins in the same state in the same month, according to Stats Perform. The other team was the Washington Bullets (now known as the Wizards) in 1968.

Devin Booker recorded 43 points, while Deandre Ayton (22 points and 10 rebounds) and Chris Paul (11 points and 15 assists) contributed double-doubles in the Phoenix Suns' 118-99 success away to the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves.

John Collins' 34-point, 10-rebound double-double was not enough for the Atlanta Hawks, who went down 109-99 to the Miami Heat.

P.J. Washington's 42 points helped the Charlotte Hornets edge the Sacramento Kings 127-126. Sacramento led by eight points with just over a minute remaining before Charlotte rallied at the death.

 

Rockets crash as Clippers capitulate

The Rockets have suffered 11 consecutive defeats after being embarrassed by the Grizzlies. Houston are now riding their longest losing streak since a 15-game skid in 2001.

All-Star pair Kawhi Leonard (25 points and nine rebounds) and Paul George went cold in the final quarter for the Clippers. Leonard and George combined to shoot three-for-15 and scored just six points in the fourth period against the Bucks. The Clippers were scoreless over the final four minutes of the game.

 

Giannis with the slam!

It was a masterclass in Milwaukee, where Antetokounmpo flexed his muscles with a monster dunk during the closing stages.

 

Sunday's results

Los Angeles Lakers 117-91 Golden State Warriors
Memphis Grizzlies 133-84 Houston Rockets
Miami Heat 109-99 Atlanta Hawks
New York Knicks 109-90 Detroit Pistons
Boston Celtics 111-110 Washington Wizards
Milwaukee Bucks 105-100 Los Angeles Clippers
Charlotte Hornets 127-126 Sacramento Kings
Phoenix Suns 118-99 Minnesota Timberwolves
Chicago Bulls-Toronto Raptors (postponed)

 

Nets at Spurs

After their eight-game winning streak came to an end in the absence of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on Saturday, the high-flying Brooklyn Nets (22-13) will look to bounce back against the Spurs (17-12) on Monday.

For four straight years, meetings between LeBron James and the Golden State Warriors decided the NBA title.

James' Cleveland Cavaliers faced the Warriors in the Finals in consecutive seasons between 2015 and 2018, winning only once as Golden State earned three championships.

James left Cleveland after the Warriors' most recent triumph, though, and his move to the Western Conference with the Los Angeles Lakers means he can no longer face his old rivals in the title decider.

But games between James and Golden State remain blockbuster affairs and they will go at it again on Sunday.

The Lakers swept a threadbare Warriors team in the 2019-20 regular season before James claimed his fourth ring, but Stephen Curry and Golden Stave have already gained revenge once already this year.

And momentum is with the travelling outfit heading into this clash.

 

TOP PERFORMERS

Dennis Schroder - Los Angeles Lakers

As the 23-11 Lakers lost four straight games prior to beating the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday, the continued absence of Anthony Davies appeared the most obvious factor in their poor form.

But that wretched run coincided with Schroder's lay-off due to the league's health and safety protocols. He returned against Portland and scored 22 points, improving his personal record to 23-7 on the year.

A Sixth Man of the Year contender last season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Schroder has started all 30 of his appearances for the Lakers and provided James with some much-needed help on the offensive end.

Schroder, who weighed in with a season-high 25 points in January's defeat to the Warriors, leading LA in scoring, has averaged 14.5 points and 4.2 rebounds this term.

Stephen Curry - Golden State Warriors

Two-time MVP Curry is putting together another astonishing season, back fit and firing after playing just five games in 2019-20.

He has averaged 29.9 points per game this season, a mark that sits second in the NBA – behind Bradley Beal's 32.8 on a poor Washington Wizards team – and second in Curry's own career, narrowly trailing the 2015-16 campaign (30.1).

A remarkable level of consistency has made Golden State a force again in the west at 19-15 and yet Curry is actually improving as the season goes on.

He has averaged 33.4 points this month, with his lowest return 24 at Indiana, still enough to match the Pacers' top-scoring Malcolm Brogdon.

KEY BATTLE - LEBRON AND DRAYMOND TO RENEW ACQUAINTANCES?

The 2019-20 season was a forgettable one for the injury-hit Warriors, but Draymond Green is unlikely to have let the third and final game against the Lakers slip from his memory.

Green was ejected for two technical fouls in quick succession, departing after less than 10 minutes of action – his fewest minutes in any of the 12 NBA games he has been ejected from.

James, a direct opponent in many of those Finals battles, was not involved due to injury but was spotted laughing at his furious rival's misfortune.

Without the distraction of Davis, Green should have the opportunity to go up against James and perhaps serve a reminder of his talents as one of the league's outstanding defensive players of the past decade.
 

HEAD TO HEAD

Both teams have had runs as the league's dominant team, but the Lakers boast the superior head-to-head regular-season record, with 255 wins to Golden State's 169.

Since James moved to Los Angeles, they have met eight times, winning four apiece, although the Lakers' main man has only appeared in four of those games.

He has a 3-1 record against the Warriors as a Laker, with the sole defeat the 115-113 reverse earlier this season.

LeBron James has vowed never to "just stick to sports" after footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic said he did not support the NBA star getting involved with politics. 

Los Angeles Lakers superstar James has been a powerful voice against racism and police brutality, among a host of social issues, in the United States. 

James is a friend of former United States president Barack Obama and his own foundation supports a school that is aimed at helping disadvantaged children. 

Milan striker Ibrahimovic told Discovery+ Sport in Sweden: "He's phenomenal what he's doing, but I don't like when people, when they have some kind of status and they do politics at the same time as what they're doing. 

"Do what you’re good at, do the category you do. I play football because I'm the best in playing football, I don't do politics. 

"If I would be a political politician, I would do politics. That is the first mistake people do when they become famous and they come in a certain status. 

"Stay out of it, just do what you're best at, because it doesn't look good." 

That outburst was shot down by NBA star James, who said it was important to use his platform to shine a light on inequalities and injustice. 

"At the end of the day, I would never shut up about things," James said. 

"That's wrong. I appreciate about my people and I appreciate about equality, social injustice, racism, systematic voting, voter suppression, things that go in our community, because I was a part of my community at one point and seeing things what's going on. 

"I see what's going on still because I have a group of 300-plus kids at my school that's going through the same thing and they need a voice and I'm their voice. 

"I use my platform to continue to shed light on everything that may be going on, not only in my community but around this country and around the world. There's no way I will ever just stick to sports because I understand this platform and how powerful my voice is." 

James pointed to the time when Ibrahimovic complained of being racially discriminated against in his native Sweden three years ago, because he did not have a traditionally Swedish name.

At the time, Ibrahimovic spoke of "undercover racism" in the Swedish media.

James, therefore, expressed surprise at why Ibrahimovic would make his latest claims.

"I speak from a very educated mind," James said, "so I'm kind of the wrong guy to actually go at, because I do my homework."

There is an age-old argument about which footballer is the greatest of all time: Pele or Diego Maradona, Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, or the alternative option named by Zlatan Ibrahimovic?

Although some may expect the charismatic Swedish star to bestow such an honour upon himself, the 39-year-old believes the all-time best is prolific Brazilian forward Ronaldo.

Ronaldo starred for PSV, Barcelona, Inter and Real Madrid during a distinguished 14-year European club career, claiming the Ballon d'Or in 1997 and 2002, and earning countless other prizes and awards.

'Il Fenomeno' helped his nation lift the World Cup twice, in 1994 and 2002, and was once a runner-up in 1998, while scoring 62 goals in 98 international caps for the Selecao.

"I always tell everyone who plays with me: Ronaldo is football. That Ronaldo is football," said Ibrahimovic.

"The way he moved, the way he did those stepovers, those mazy runs. In my view, he is the best player in history, no doubt about it."

While the Milan striker was in his homeland speaking to UEFA and Discovery+ about his career, he also voiced strong opinions about NBA superstar LeBron James.

While Ibrahimovic recognises the 17-time All-Star's talent, he does not agree that athletes should use their platform for political reasons, like campaigning for justice and social change.

"What he does is phenomenal, but I don't like it when people with a certain status talk about politics," he said.

"Do what you are good at. I play football because I am the best at it. If I was a politician, I’d have gone into politics.

"This is the first mistake that famous people make when they feel like they've arrived.

"I think it's better to steer clear of these issues and do what you're good at."

LeBron James called on the depleted Los Angeles Lakers to remain confident despite suffering a fourth straight loss, this time against an in-form Utah Jazz team who set an NBA record. 

The Jazz hit 22 three-pointers as they shot 46 per cent from deep in a resounding 114-89 triumph on Wednesday, in the process improving to 26-5 for the season.

While Utah lead the way in the Western Conference, the Lakers are suffering a dip that has coincided with the absences of key duo Anthony Davis and Dennis Schroder through injury.

James acknowledged it is a "tough stretch" for the reigning champions, though even with the poor recent run they still boast a 22-11 record.

"It's challenging for all of us, especially some of our young guys and some of our guys who haven't been in the position before where they need to do a little bit more than what they are asked to in a normal situation," James said. 

"Everyone is speaking about AD [Davis], and that's obviously a big hit, but we also haven't had Dennis down this stretch too. He's a big piece of our puzzle as well.  

"But it's always about staying confident, continuing to give my team-mates the courage and confidence out there on the floor, and make plays. 

"It's a tough stretch for us, but this won't define who we will be for the rest of the season."

As for the Jazz, they are the first team in NBA history to make 50 threes over a two-game span, having finished with a franchise-record 28 in a blowout triumph over the Charlotte Hornets.

They have now won 14 straight home games by double digits, the second-longest streak posted in the NBA, behind only the Phoenix Suns (15) in the 1989-90 season.

"They came back with the same roster, but what I noticed, more than anything, is that those guys are fully healthy," James told the media.

"Mike Conley is back to himself; you can see that with the way he's moving on the floor and it's trickled down to everyone else. They are playing some really good ball and are a really good team."

Rudy Gobert did not attempt a three but still contributed 18 points, as well as nine rebounds. Conley, meanwhile, landed four of his six attempts from beyond the arc, as well as eight rebounds and eight assists.

"It's all about getting better," Gobert said. "We did a great job sharing the ball offensively. When we defend and we share the ball, it's hard to beat us."

LeBron James was left helpless as the Utah Jazz destroyed the Los Angeles Lakers, 114-89, with the defending champions slipping to a fourth straight loss.

James was the game's top scorer with 19 points while six Jazz players hit double-figures, with Rudy Gobert and Jordan Clarkson dropping 18, and the NBA leaders raced away with this contest between two championship contenders.

Utah stormed to a 16-point half-time lead before restricting the Lakers to a season-low 17-point third quarter, and the hosts once again set the bar high from downtown, shooting 22 threes, including a franchise-high 14 in the first half.

The lifeless Lakers offered little resistance while slipping to their biggest loss of the season as the Western Conference leaders cruised to a 22nd win in 24 games.

The Jazz's league-leading 15-2 home record improves them to 26-6 overall.

With Anthony Davis joined by Dennis Schroder on the sidelines, Montrezl Harrell (16 points) and Markieff Morris (12 points) were the only other Lakers players to hit double-figures as their record fell to 22-11.

Gallinari writes Hawks and NBA history

Danilo Gallinari set an Atlanta Hawks franchise record of 10 three-pointers in the 127-112 win against the Boston Celtics.

The Italian veteran had the best shooting day of his career, burying 13 of his 16 attempts from the field, while putting up a personal-best 38 points. 

Siakam ineffective for Raps

Pascal Siakam was only able to put up five points from his 24 minutes on court in the Toronto Raptors' 116-108 defeat by the Miami Heat.

The Raps center landed one of six field-goal attempts, sinking one of his three from distance and adding a pair of free throws, before being benched in the fourth quarter.

 

Dort beats the clock and comes up clutch 

Luguentz Dort's three-point buzzer-beater earned the Oklahoma City Thunder a dramatic 102-99 win over the San Antonio Spurs, after a career-high 42 points from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

The Canadian becomes only the third player in franchise history to sink a game-winning three since the move to Oklahoma, joining Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Wednesday's results

Atlanta Hawks 127-112 Boston Celtics
Golden State Warriors 111-107 Indiana Pacers
Cleveland Cavaliers 112-96 Houston Rockets
New Orleans Pelicans 128-118 Detroit Pistons
Oklahoma City Thunder 102-99 San Antonio Spurs
Miami Heat 116-108 Toronto Raptors
Chicago Bulls 133-126 Minnesota Timberwolves
Charlotte Hornets 124-121 Phoenix Suns
Utah Jazz 114-89 Los Angeles Lakers

 

Pelicans at Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led the Milwaukee Bucks (19-13) to third in the east and they host the Zion Williamson-inspired New Orleans Pelicans (14-17) on Thursday.

Robert Lewandowski heads a stellar list of nominees for the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award after a golden 12 months for Bayern Munich.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James, Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton and tennis great Rafael Nadal are also in contention. Joshua Cheptegei and Armand Duplantis complete the male nominees.

Poland striker Lewandowski enjoyed a memorable 2020 for the German giants, with his impeccable performances helping Bayern to a Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League treble. 

Across the top-five European leagues, no player could match Lewandowski's 45 goals scored in all competitions from January 1 to December 31 with Cristiano Ronaldo his nearest rival on 41.

In that 12-month period, only Barcelona great Lionel Messi (115) and Juventus superstar Ronaldo (85) registered more shots on target than Lewandowski's 83, while a shot-conversion rate of 34.09 was the fifth highest among players to score at least 20.

Reflecting his all-round contribution, Lewandowski recorded 12 assists in the calendar year, with team-mate Thomas Muller leading the way on an impressive 21. 

Unsurprisingly, Lewandowski won a fifth Torjagerkanone (awarded to the Bundesliga's top scorer) overall and a third in a row thanks to 34 Bundesliga goals in 2019-20, higher than an expected goals rate of 26.9. His 15 goals in the Champions League were also a competition high.

 

In a stacked deck, James is included after a year that saw him win a fourth career NBA title and first with the Lakers, while he also claimed a fourth Finals MVP award.

Across six games in the Lakers' 4-2 triumph over the Miami Heat, James averaged 29.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 8.5 assists, while he shot 59.1 per cent from the field and drained 41.7 per cent of three-point attempts.

Mercedes driver Hamilton won a seventh F1 drivers' title in 2020 to match the overall record of the legendary Michael Schumacher.

During another sensational season, the Briton reached 95 career race wins, which surpasses the previous benchmark of 91 set by Schumacher.

In a calendar year disrupted heavily by the coronavirus pandemic, Nadal still had personal reason to celebrate after winning a record-extending 13th French Open title.

His triumph at Roland Garros means he now stands alongside Roger Federer on 20 grand slams – the most achieved in the men's game.

Uganda's Cheptegei broke both 5,000 and 10,000 metres world records in 2020, while Duplantis of Sweden broke the indoor and outdoor pole vault record.

Tennis' global superstar Naomi Osaka is nominated for the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award.

The Japanese was champion at the US Open in 2020, which took her career slam tally to three. She recently made that four by winning the first major of 2021 at the Australian Open.

Lyon captain Wendie Renard is in contention after helping her team to a fifth straight Women's Champions League title, while WNBA Finals MVP award winner Breanna Stewart is included after guiding the Seattle Storm to championship glory.

Cyclist Anna van der Breggen – who won both the road race and time trial at the World Championships – is up for the prize, as is skier Federica Brignone, the first Italian woman to win the overall World Cup.

Kenya's Brigid Kosgei completes the women's nominees after winning the rescheduled London Marathon by more than three minutes.

Bayern, the Lakers and Mercedes are all up for the World Team of the Year Award, as are Liverpool, who won a first English top-flight title in 30 years.

The Kansas City Chiefs make the list after winning a first Super Bowl since 1970, while Argentina's men's rugby team are nominated after earning a first ever win over three-time world champions New Zealand.

Patrick Mahomes' role in the Chiefs Super Bowl win earned him a nomination for the World Breakthrough of the Year Award, with Iga Swiatek up for the prize after winning the women's singles at the French Open aged 19, the youngest slam winner since 1990.

MotoGP world champion Joan Mir, Tour de France victor Tadej Pogacar, US Open male champion Dominic Thiem and prodigious Barcelona talent Ansu Fati complete that category.

James Harden and Anthony Davis headline the reserves for next month's NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James and Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets will captain their respective sides – Team LeBron and Team Durant – in the 70th All-Star contest on March 7.

Nets guard and former MVP Harden has been named an All-Star for the ninth consecutive year as he headlines the Eastern Conference reserves, which also includes Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers), Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum (both Boston Celtics), Zach LaVine (Chicago Bulls), Julius Randle (New York Knicks) and Nikola Vucevic (Orlando Magic).

Brown, LaVine and Randle have earned All-Star selection for the first time in their careers.

Lakers star Davis is the pick of the Western Conference reserves, alongside 11-time All-Star Chris Paul of the Phoenix Suns.

Joining the pair as reserves from the west are Paul George (Los Angeles Clippers), Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert (both Utah Jazz), Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers) and Zion Williamson (New Orleans Pelicans) – who is a first-time All-Star.

The All-Star Game rosters will be determined through a March 4 draft, where James and Durant will select from the pool of players voted as starters and reserves in each conference.

The 10 All-Star Game starters were unveiled last week, with Durant, Kyrie Irving (Nets) two-time reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks), Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards) and Joel Embiid (76ers) in the Eastern Conference starter pool.

James, Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors), Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks), Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets) and Kawhi Leonard (Clippers) are in the Western Conference starter pool.

76ers head coach Doc Rivers will coach Team Durant, while Quin Snyder of the Jazz will coach Team LeBron.

LeBron James insisted he does not believe in rest after the Los Angeles Lakers suffered a frustrating loss to the Washington Wizards.

Defending NBA champions the Lakers have lost three games in a row and four of their last five after going down 127-124 in overtime on Monday.

James missed a free-throw with 10 seconds left in regulation time and did not connect with his last four three-point attempts in the fourth quarter and OT as the Lakers surrendered a 17-point lead.

The 36-year-old played for over 43 minutes. He has not missed a game this season and has clocked up over 200 minutes more than anyone on the Lakers roster, with star team-mate Anthony Davis out injured.

James still had 31 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds in a productive outing, but acknowledged he had not been at his best.

The Lakers (22-10) have gone to OT four times in the last 17 days, losing this one as Bradley Beal (33) and Russell Westbrook (32) combined for 65 points.

"This whole narrative of 'LeBron needs more rest' or I should take more rest or I should take time here, it's become a lot bigger than what it actually is," James told reporters after the game, per ESPN. 

"I've never talked about it, I don't talk about it, I don't believe in it. 

"We all need more rest, s***. This is a fast turnaround from last season, and we all wish we could have more rest. But I'm here to work, I'm here to punch my clock in and be available to my team-mates.

"And if I'm hurt or if I'm not feeling well then we can look at it then, but I have nothing but honest people around me [advising me].

"I'm also honest with myself as well, and me having a love for the game and me being able to be available to my team-mates is more important than anything.

"Obviously I take full responsibility [for] missing that free throw. I got to make the free throw up there, it's an easy point for us. 

"We didn't lose the game there, but I take that responsibility for sure, and I got to be better."

James added about his workload: "I'm not pushing myself. I'm doing my job and I'm trying to do it at a high level, but that's been a narrative around the league.

"I have never asked for time off or time throughout the season. And it's growing to a point where it's not even coming from me anymore. I've been hearing it for five, six, seven years now and I'm still going strong. 

"So, I don't need a handout, I'm not looking for a handout, my job is to go out when I'm available, when I'm healthy to go out and play and that's what it's all about."

"It's something I've done before," James added about the packed schedule and an upcoming All-Star game. "I can continue to do it, but I would much rather us be whole."

Lakers coach Frank Vogel called James "a workhorse" and said he would make decisions about the veteran on a game-by-game basis.

A game at Western Conference leaders the Utah Jazz is next on Wednesday.

Western Conference leaders, the Utah Jazz, bounced back from their first loss in 10 games by draining a franchise-record 28 threes while crushing the Charlotte Hornets 132-110.

Donovan Mitchell top scored with 23 points, while three players – Joe Ingles, Jordan Clarkson and Georges Niang – came off the bench to post 20 points or more to send the Jazz to 25-6.

Ingles and Niang each shot seven from downtown, while Clarkson added five. 

Utah became the fastest team in NBA history to record 500 three-pointers in a season, setting the record at 31 games.

The races for the top seeds in each conference in the NBA are getting more interesting.

It was a fascinating seven days of action in the NBA, which saw the Brooklyn Nets surge even with Kevin Durant on the sidelines.

They are on a six-game win streak and trail the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers by only half a game.

However, the Sixers can be encouraged by the form of their top two stars, who each enjoyed extremely productive weeks.

The Los Angeles Lakers are on a two-game losing streak and are two and a half games back of the Utah Jazz in the race for the top seed in the Western Conference.

They will be out to get back to their best this week, and an improvement in three-point shooting from the MVP frontrunner would be beneficial to them doing that.

Here we take a look at some of the best and worst performers across the past week, aided by Stats Perform data.

RUNNING HOT...

Ben Simmons

Simmons missed two games last week due to stomach flu but he was excellent in the pair of games in which he did feature for the Sixers.

He dropped 42 points in the loss to the Utah Jazz and, after a brief spell on the sidelines, was back with 28 in the defeat to the Toronto Raptors.

His points per game average for the week ballooned to 35, Simmons having entered the week putting up 14.13. Philadelphia will need more of the same the rest of the way if the Sixers are to clinch top spot in the East.

Jamal Murray

The Nuggets are in the thick of a crowded playoff race in the Western Conference, and their hopes of reaching the postseason will be boosted if Murray can maintain his form of the past week.

Having come into the week scoring 18.54 points per game, he averaged 35 last week, with that number inflated by a stunning 50-point game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, which saw him shoot 84 per cent from the field and go eight of 10 from three-point range.

He went from putting up just over two triples per game to averaging five and, with a game against a Portland Trail Blazers team two and a half games ahead of them in the standings next up, Murray's success from deep will be pivotal.

Joel Embiid

Arguably the closest challenger to LeBron James for the league MVP award this season, Embiid was a monster on the boards for the Sixers this week.

His 50-point game in the win over the Chicago Bulls on Friday was also the first of two successive outings with 17 rebounds. 

Embiid's rebounds per game average jumped from 10.77 entering the week to 15 over the past seven days.

He will need to continue making that kind of all-round impact in scoring and rebounding if Embiid is to have any hope of denying LeBron the MVP.

GOING COLD...

Derrick Rose

Rose's second week as a New York Knick did not go to plan.

The 2011 MVP had come into the week registering 14.28 points per game, but that dropped to just 5.33 over the course of the last three games.

He endured a dismal week from the field, hitting just five of his 27 shots. Having gotten him out of a bad situation in Detroit, the Knicks will want a lot more from Rose in the coming weeks as they look to cement their grasp on a playoff spot.

Nikola Jokic

While Murray has been outstanding for the Nuggets, their MVP candidate had a down week in one key area of his game.

Denver lost three of their four games last week, and the Nuggets will look for improved play on the boards from Jokic as they target a reversal in fortunes. 

Jokic had been recording 11.5 rebounds per game but that dipped to 8.75 over his past four outings, failing to put up double-digit rebounds in back-to-back games against the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards.

He was back in double figures in each of Denver's last two games, and Jokic will aim to carry that momentum into this week and a key matchup with Portland.

LeBron James

This season has seen LeBron hit threes at his highest rate since joining the Los Angeles Lakers.

He has converted on 36.2 per cent of his attempts from beyond the arc but he suffered a decline from deep last week.

Having entered the week hitting 2.57 threes a game, he averaged just one over the course of the Lakers' last three matchups.

James has not made more than one three in a game since the second meeting in a back-to-back with the Oklahoma City Thunder on February 10.

With LeBron, though, drop-offs are only ever temporary. The MVP frontrunner should resume normal service from three-point range sooner rather than later.

LeBron James believes he needs to adjust in the absence of Anthony Davis because his Los Angeles Lakers team-mates are already doing "their part and more".

The Lakers have gone 2-1 since Davis sustained a calf injury in the defeat to the Denver Nuggets last weekend, going down 96-94 to the Miami Heat on Saturday after a loss to the Brooklyn Nets.

The reigning NBA champions sit third in the Western Conference but will be without Davis for the next four weeks.

James had 19 points, nine rebounds and nine assists against the Heat, while a steal on an inbounds pass for Jimmy Butler gave Alex Caruso a chance to tie the game at the buzzer but the Lakers guard missed.

By scoring at least 15 points with a minimum of five rebounds and five assists for a 31st straight game, James broke the previous NBA record of 30 in succession that he set in 2018.

However, he insisted it is on him to adapt and help get the Lakers back on track ahead of a tough stretch without Davis, who leads the Lakers in rebounds, steals and blocks.

"I think that's what it all boils down to and right now is another challenge for me, to be able to adjust," James said.

"Not having AD for a long period of time is something that we haven't had over the last year and a half, and now it's time for me to adjust again and see ways I can be even more effective to help this team win ballgames, because that is the sport that we're in.

"We're in the winning business and I've always been a winner. So, it's time to click into that."

On his team-mates, he added: "They are doing their part. They're doing their part and more. Every time we're on the floor we're trying to protect each other and bring each other up on the floor every single night.

"It doesn't matter if you're making shots or not, we're gonna hold each other accountable. Everybody's picking up in AD's absence and obviously it hasn't been in wins the last two games but we're gonna continue working our habits and continue to be great for one another."

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope contributed 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc and called on his fellow role players at the Lakers to provide James with greater support.

"I feel like the last couple games that's been happening, putting a lot on Bron. We already know what we're going to get out of him. So, all the rest of us, we've got to continue to just play hard and just play basketball and not worry about anything else," said Caldwell-Pope.

"We try to help him out as much as possible and we want to do it as perfect as possible, as we can.

"We try to help him out, we try not to make too much mistakes when we're on the floor with him or even running a play with him, just to give him some help. We do ask Bron for a lot, he gives us a lot each and every game.

"It's up to us as far as like role players and 'next man up' mentality, we've got to be ready and locked in."

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