Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 44 points as the Milwaukee Bucks beat a lacklustre Los Angeles Lakers 131-116 to close in on Eastern Conference leaders the Miami Heat.

The defending NBA champions were 24 points ahead in the first half at the Crypto.com Arena and extended that lead to 30 points midway through the third quarter.

A strong rally from the Lakers, who had LeBron James and Anthony Davis in their line-up, made things interesting but the Bucks stood firm to win for a fourth straight game.

Antetokounmpo's game-high tally came from 17-for-20 shooting, while adding 14 rebounds and eight assists to inflict a fifth defeat in seven on LA, who fall back to three games below .500.

With his latest standout display, Antetokounmpo joins Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as only the third person with 40+ points, 10+ rebounds and five-or-more assists on 85-per-cent-plus shooting in a game.


Suns continue to shine

The NBA-leading Phoenix Suns rallied from 14 points down to overcome the Philadelphia 76ers 114-109 and record their 14th win in 15 games.

Devin Booker scored 35 points and Chris Paul added 16 points and 12 assists as the Suns improved to 44-10 for the season.

Joel Embiid led the way for the Sixers with 34 points and 12 rebounds – his fifth straight 25-point, 10-rebound game, which is the longest streak in the competition over the past two seasons.

Nets claim unwanted record

Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart helped themselves to 22 points each as the Boston Celtics made light work of the Brooklyn Nets in a 126-91 victory.

The Nets become the only side in the last 30 years to have every starter score six points or fewer with none of them getting to the line.

Elsewhere in Tuesday's action, the Los Angeles Clippers had forward Marcus Morris Sr. ejected in their 135-109 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers for a flagrant foul 2 on Ja Morant.

Morant was able to continue and ended the game with 30 points on 12 of 19 shooting from the field, making it the ninth time in 10 games the All-Star guard has reached 30 points.

LeBron James launched a staunch defence of "brother" and Los Angeles Lakers team-mate Russell Westbrook, insisting "we're all in this together".

Point guard Westbrook has bore the brunt of criticism during a disjointed Lakers season that has left the team below the .500 mark.

Acquired from the Washington Wizards, Westbrook was brought in to play a part in a stellar cast alongside James and Anthony Davis, but things have not worked out too well in LA.

Westwood is averaging 18.4 points (tied 35th), 7.8 rebounds (tied 34th) and 7.7 assists (tied ninth) per game. The 33-year-old was benched for the entirety of overtime in the Lakers 122-115 win over the New York Knicks on Saturday having made just one of 10 field goals.

It was the fifth time in 2021-22 Westbrook made only three field goals or less from 10 attempts, while his numbers in points, rebounds, assists, steals, field-goal percentage and three-point percentages all rank lower than they did with the Wizards last season.

There has even been talk that the Lakers may try and find Westbrook a new home before Thursday's trade deadline, but James said the team's issues cannot be pinned on one player.

"At the end of the day, as his brother, we're all in this together," James told reporters after Monday's practice. 

"We're all in the foxhole together. There is not one guy who is doing it by themselves. There's not one guy you can blame over another guy.

"There's not one guy who gets the praise over another guy. When we lose, we all lose. When we win, we all win. It's really that simple."

The Lakers sit ninth in the Western Conference, three games back of the Denver Nuggets in sixth – a position that guarantees avoiding the play-in tournament for the playoffs.

Part of their issues have centred on injuries, with James and Anthony Davis having both missed significant chunks of the season.

Indeed, Westbrook has only played a combined seven games at the same time as his superstar team-mates this season.

"I haven't been part of a season like this where injuries have played such a toll, but also protocols, false protocols, positive protocols, head coach being out for multiple games," James added. 

"So, it's just challenging, a weird sort of different season for all of us. And not just [for the] Lakers, but a lot of teams in the NBA. So, it's kind of impossible to gauge, I guess, previous encounters that you've had, because it's totally different." 

Head coach Frank Vogel said he has spoken to Westbrook after his overtime decision against the Knicks.

"You still communicate afterwards and there was that today," Vogel said. 

"I've always taken pride with my teams in making sure I'm communicating with guys with whatever happens within a game.

"Obviously not every player, every game, but if a certain thing requires a reach out or just a follow-up then we'll have that."

The Lakers are back in action in a blockbuster showdown against the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday.

The past two NBA champions meet on Tuesday, but they head into the game amid contrasting seasons to this point.

Defending champs the Milwaukee Bucks took a little time to get going but are now just half a game back in third in the highly competitive Eastern Conference.

The Los Angeles Lakers, whose title Milwaukee took, also took a little time to get going, yet they remain firmly in that rut.

A team led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis are always likely to be a threat if they can make it to the playoffs – ninth place is still good enough for a play-in – but the Lakers' remote title credentials should be given a firm examination at Crypto.com Arena.

For while the Bucks have kept together their championship-winning team, albeit Brook Lopez is out with injury, the Lakers are unrecognisable from their 2020 run.

In a bid to extend James' title window, LA's promising young players have been traded away for veterans in a series of moves that simply have not worked – Russell Westbrook's expensive arrival from the Washington Wizards chief among their missteps.

With little room for further movement ahead of Thursday's trade deadline and with the Bucks visiting having so far made light work of a tough west coast road trip, the Lakers really have their work cut out.

Los Angeles Lakers – LeBron James

James is likely to be the main man on every team he plays for until he retires, but that is particularly true of this Lakers team in this season.

The Lakers are 26-28 but 20-17 with James involved. Injuries have limited the four-time MVP's involvement, yet he is dazzling when on the floor, with 29.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.1 blocks per game.

After missing five straight games with knee swelling, James returned last time out against the New York Knicks and put up a triple-double in an overtime win.

That included 29 points in a 19th straight game of scoring at least 25. Only Joel Embiid (20 games, also active) has had a better such run this season, while just once in James' whole career – 21 games with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2008 – has he enjoyed a longer sequence. Reminder: LeBron is 37 years old.

The Bucks may be able to beat the Lakers, but the notion of any team stopping James right now feels a little far-fetched.

Milwaukee Bucks – Giannis Antetokounmpo

Tied on a live 19-game streak of 25 or more points, Antetokounmpo is performing on a par with James but without the repeated injury lay-offs. For that reason, he is among the MVP favourites once again, looking for his third award in four seasons.

For all the hype around Luka Doncic, Zion Williamson or Ja Morant, Antetokounmpo – still only 27 – remains the man most likely to take the mantle from James as the face of the NBA.

The 'Greek Freak' is averaging 28.9 points, 11.2 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.4 blocks and will surely relish the opportunity to come up against LeBron.

When James was missing back in November, Antetokounmpo scored 47 points (a season high) to lead the Bucks to victory. Do not rule out a repeat, even with his veteran opponent also in top form.

KEY BATTLE – AD and Portis to fight at the five?

Davis continues to switch positions on an almost nightly basis, but he is likely to line up as a center against the Bucks, who have Bobby Portis – another power forward standing at six feet, 10 inches – playing the five.

But the Lakers superstar is set to have his work cut out in what has been a tricky season so far. While he has recovered some form over the past week, so has Portis.

The Bucks man had a season-high 30 points at the Portland Trail Blazers to start this road trip and added 24 against the Los Angeles Clippers, shooting 19 for 25 across those games.

"Bobby's found a good rhythm," Mike Budenholzer said after the Clippers game. "The past two nights he's shooting it so good. He's getting some baskets around the paint, too, and doing lots of different things, the rebounding."

Whether Portis can continue to be effective on the glass, where he averages 9.1 rebounds per game to Davis' 10.2, could be vital.

HEAD TO HEAD

The Lakers have an 83-53 lead in the all-time regular season series, but Milwaukee have made a significant dent in that deficit in recent seasons.

Since the Lakers won six straight between January 2008 and November 2010, the Bucks are 15-6, most recently winning the only meeting of this season so far 109-102 in November.

LeBron James was left stunned by Tom Brady's decision to bring his storied NFL career to an end this week, commenting that "a small piece of me definitely left".

After a few days of speculation, Brady announced on Tuesday that he was calling time on his long career at the age of 44.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback decided he could no longer commit himself 100 per cent to the sport.

Brady's retirement saw tributes pour in from all over the sporting world, such has been his impact on the NFL – he holds the record for the most Super Bowl wins (seven) and Super Bowl MVP awards (five).

James returned to NBA action on Saturday after a five-game absence, starring with a triple-double as the Los Angeles Lakers sealed an overtime 122-115 win over the New York Knicks, and that gave him the opportunity to join the praise for Brady.

The four-time NBA MVP was almost emotional in response to Brady's retirement, lauding him as one of his inspirations.

"I personally was just so in shock when I saw it," he said post-game. "I was one of the ones who didn't say anything when the first, initial announcement came out. I didn't retweet anything, say anything because I wanted to hear it come from him. Then when he came out with his announcement, I was like… You know?

"As a guy who's kind of been my motivation factor over the last few years, seeing what he's able to do at his age and always kind of being a leader of a team.

"Even at his age, people still gravitate towards him and gravitate towards his energy, and how he prepares and things of that nature.

"So, a small piece of me definitely left when Brady decided to retire, that's for sure."

LeBron James was "just excited to be back" on Saturday as he marked his return from injury with a triple-double in the Los Angeles Lakers' win over the New York Knicks.

After a five-game absence due to a knee problem, James scored 29 points as the Lakers came back from a 15-point deficit to beat the Knicks 122-115 in overtime.

The 37-year-old also tallied 13 rebounds and 10 assists for the 103rd triple-double of his storied career and his fourth of this season.

James admitted it took time to get into the swing of things after a long time out of action, but he was thrilled to make a winning return, the Lakers having gone 1-4 in his absence.

"After the first quarter, the knee loosened up a lot more," he said. "My mind loosened up a lot more. And I was just able to play basketball.

"But [I was] just excited to be back in the uniform, back on the floor with my guys. Missed them, missed the game. I was happy I was able to make a few plays and help us win a ballgame."

Anthony Davis also starred, his 28 points and 17 rebounds helping the Lakers to recover after falling 42-29 behind in the first quarter.

The eight-time All-Star was relieved to have James back on the court, even if his performance was barely a surprise.

"It's a hell of a return," said Davis. "He's doing LeBron-type things. [I] Expected nothing less from him. Efficient from the field.

"S***, he did what he's supposed to do. He helped us, for sure. So, I missed him. He's a big part of our team with his voice, his leadership, play-making ability. And he came back and showed it."

The Lakers, who improved to 26-28, are ninth in the Western Conference standings, just behind the 27-27 Los Angeles Clippers.

LeBron James returned from a five-game injury-enforced absence with a triple-double as the Los Angeles Lakers won 122-115 over the New York Knicks in overtime.

James had missed five games with swelling in his left knee but returned in style, contributing 29 points with 13 rebounds and 10 assists as they rallied from a 21-point second-quarter deficit.

The Lakers had gone 1-4 in James' absence but the four-time MVP was pivotal with his fourth triple-double of the season.

Anthony Davis was excellent for the Lakers with 28 points and 17 rebounds, while Malik Monk added 29 points too.

RJ Barrett netted a career-high 36 points and Julius Randle added 32 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists for the Knicks.

 

Suns bounce back, Morant stars

The table-topping Phoenix Suns bounced back from their loss to the Atlanta Hawks with a 95-80 win over the Washington Wizards led by Deandre Ayton's 20 points and 16 rebounds. Chris Paul added 14 points and nine assists, while Devin Booker was quiet with only 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

Jimmy Butler dropped 27 points shooting 10-of-13 while Bam Adebayo added 20 points and 12 rebounds as the Miami Heat won 104-86 over the Charlotte Hornets.

Ja Morant scored 33 points in three quarters as the Memphis Grizzlies claimed their fifth win in six games, routing the Orlando Magic 135-115.

 

Blazers skid extended by Bucks

The Portland Trail Blazers slumped to their fifth straight defeat, leaving them with a 21-33 record as Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 29 points with nine rebounds and six assists in the Milwaukee Bucks' 137-108 win. Bobby Portis also scored 30 points for the Bucks.

Anthony Davis stepped up with a double-double in LeBron James' absence as the Los Angeles Lakers ended their three-game skid with a 99-94 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

James was absent for the fourth straight game with a knee issue but Davis took charge with 30 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks.

Russell Westbrook contributed with a double-double with nine points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists, while Carmelo Anthony added 24 points for the Lakers. Norman Powell landed five three-pointers in his 30-point haul for Portland.

The Lakers had raced to a 12-point quarter-time lead but the Blazers narrowed that to one point by half-time before seesawing second half which went down to the final moments.

The win means the Lakers improve to 25-27 but remain ninth in the Western Conference.

Embiid, LaMelo and Doncic star in defeats

Joel Embiid had 27 points and 14 rebounds but could not lift the Philadelphia 76ers as they went down 106-103 to the Washington Wizards. Spencer Dinwiddie (14 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists) had a triple-double for the Wizards, while Kyle Kuzma added 24 points.

LaMelo Ball was excellent in a losing side as well, providing a career-high 38 points including four triples with six rebounds and nine assists as the Charlotte Hornets went down 113-107 to the Boston Celtics. Luka Doncic also had 40 points as the Dallas Mavericks lost 120-114 in overtime to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Ja Morant had 23 points, four rebounds and nine assists as the Memphis Grizzlies won 120-108 over the New York Knicks, while the Utah Jazz snapped their five-game skid with a 108-104 win over the Denver Nuggets.

 

Nets skid extends to six games

The Brooklyn Nets slumped to their sixth straight defeat, their worst skid since January 2020, after a 112-101 loss to the Sacramento Kings. James Harden, nursing a sore hand, only managed four points shooting two-of-11 from the field, which was his lowest return since May 15 last year.

Anthony Davis stepped up with a double-double in LeBron James' absence as the Los Angeles Lakers ended their three-game skid with a 99-94 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

James was absent for the fourth straight game with a knee issue but Davis took charge with 30 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks.

Russell Westbrook contributed with a double-double with nine points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists, while Carmelo Anthony added 24 points for the Lakers. Norman Powell landed five three-pointers in his 30-point haul for Portland.

The Lakers had raced to a 12-point quarter-time lead but the Blazers narrowed that to one point by half-time before seesawing second half which went down to the final moments.

The win means the Lakers improve to 25-27 but remain ninth in the Western Conference.

Embiid, LaMelo and Doncic star in defeats

Joel Embiid had 27 points and 14 rebounds but could not lift the Philadelphia 76ers as they went down 106-103 to the Washington Wizards. Spencer Dinwiddie (14 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists) had a triple-double for the Wizards, while Kyle Kuzma added 24 points.

LaMelo Ball was excellent in a losing side as well, providing a career-high 38 points including four triples with six rebounds and nine assists as the Charlotte Hornets went down 113-107 to the Boston Celtics. Luka Doncic also had 40 points as the Dallas Mavericks lost 120-114 in overtime to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Ja Morant had 23 points, four rebounds and nine assists as the Memphis Grizzlies won 120-108 over the New York Knicks, while the Utah Jazz snapped their five-game skid with a 108-104 win over the Denver Nuggets.

 

Nets skid extends to six games

The Brooklyn Nets slumped to their sixth straight defeat, their worst skid since January 2020, after a 112-101 loss to the Sacramento Kings. James Harden, nursing a sore hand, only managed four points shooting two-of-11 from the field, which was his lowest return since May 15 last year.

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel says LeBron James' absence is preventative with the number one goal being that he is "healthy for the long haul".

James is listed as doubtful for the Lakers' clash with the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday due to knee swelling, having missed their past three games.

The four-time MVP had returned to Los Angeles prior to Sunday's 129-121 loss to the Atlanta Hawks after undergoing an MRI on his left knee.

"We're still working on trying to get the swelling down," Vogel told reporters on Tuesday.

"He's listed as doubtful for tomorrow. He's not here today. He got treatment outside of our facility today."

The 37-year-old had been in excellent offensive form prior to the knee problem, having scored 25 points or more in 18 straight games.

Despite that, the Lakers are battling with a 24-27 record but Vogel said they would not rush James back.

“The number one goal is that he’s healthy for the long haul," Vogel said. "Everything is else less important than that. We have to win games when he’s out.”

Vogel also confirmed that the Lakers had left James out for the past three games for preventative reasons, with the swelling offering concern for a potential injury.

Roger Goodell's description of Tom Brady on Tuesday as merely "one of the greatest to ever play in the NFL" felt a little generous to the competition. 

In the period of claim and counter-claim between reports of his retirement on Saturday and confirmation on Tuesday, the verdict had been cast – not that it was ever in doubt. 

Among others, Patrick Mahomes, better placed than most to consider quality quarterback play, told ESPN: "His career is one of a kind. That's why he's the GOAT." 

There is no dispute, no debate: Brady is the greatest. 

The 44-year-old leads the way by most metrics, including the most important one, with an unprecedented seven Super Bowl championships. 

Yet the stunning nature of some of those successes mean the emotional argument in Brady's favour is as convincing as the statistical one. 

Unmoved by his NFL-record 84,520 passing yards? Try the Super Bowl LI comeback against the Atlanta Falcons. 

This career had it all, and most dissenting voices had long since disappeared by the time Brady arrived in Tampa in 2020 "as the greatest football player of all time", as Bruce Arians put it. He still had another title in him. 

But Brady has not just set the standard in the NFL for the past 22 years; his achievements are surely unmatched across the entire sporting world. 

BEATING THE BEST

Wrestling with past legacies is never easy for an elite sports star. Even as the best of their generation, comparisons will be drawn with those who have gone before. 

In the case of LeBron James in the NBA, Michael Jordan casts a long shadow. 

James may now widely be considered the second-greatest player in the history of the league, but the gap to the number one spot scarcely seems to be closing, even now with titles and Finals MVP recognition on three different teams – and his own Space Jam sequel. 

Elsewhere, Formula One's Lewis Hamilton has done what James could not with Jordan in matching Michael Schumacher's haul of titles. 

But when Hamilton closed in on a record-breaking eighth drivers' championship in 2021, rival Sebastian Vettel scoffed: "Even if Lewis wins, to me Michael is still the greatest. Lewis can win one more, two more, three more, five more championships, but it doesn't change anything for me." 

The combination of being unable to see two athletes side by side and having memories tinged with nostalgia makes life hard on the modern great. 

For Brady, Joe Montana was the closest thing to a Jordan or Schumacher figure at quarterback. 

Although Montana ranked sixth for all-time passing yards – Dan Marino, the 20th century's passing yards leader, never won a title – his four Super Bowls had matched Terry Bradshaw's benchmark and were still fresh enough in the memory in 2000, the last coming in the 1989 season. 

Yet that was a gap Brady was swiftly able to bridge. By August 2005, with three rings already in his collection, the headline of a GQ profile asked if the Patriots passer was "the best there ever was". 

At 27, 10 years younger than James and Hamilton are now, there appeared little doubt Brady would leave Marino behind. 

TOP OF HIS CLASS

Perhaps Brady benefited from the standard of the competition. His career overlapped with Brett Favre at the start, Mahomes at the end and met with Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers somewhere around the middle, all of them forcing him to raise his game. 

But such depth of talent can so easily muddy the waters. 

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have matched each other stride for stride, meaning there remains no consensus pick for football's 'GOAT'. Both merit the position, yet neither have dominated an era like Pele or Diego Maradona. 

In tennis, the tussle is even more intense. Until Rafael Nadal's Australian Open triumph on Sunday, three men were tied on a record 20 grand slam titles. 

Injuries to Roger Federer and coronavirus complications with Novak Djokovic may be enough to keep Nadal at the summit, but personal preference dictates the all-time rankings when the margins are so fine. 

Again, however, Brady came through. None of those modern-day rivals have won three Super Bowls, let alone matching Montana's four or Brady's staggering seven. 

Mahomes had appeared the most likely to challenge that mark in the years to come, but four seasons as a starter have now yielded one title. At the same point, Brady had three and that GQ headline. 

"To win that many Super Bowls and win that many games, it's hard," Mahomes said after losing Sunday's AFC Championship Game. "I understand that. The years that I've had, I've been close a lot.  

"I've only been there twice, and I've only won once. I understand it takes a special player ... for that to happen." 

In Joe Burrow, Josh Allen and Justin Herbert, Mahomes will not have it easy going forward either – an exciting new generation guarding Brady's legacy, not that he could not have done it himself had he chosen to play on. 

Brady, in the regular season and playoffs, holds a 3-2 record against Mahomes, 4-0 against Allen and 1-0 against Herbert. He never faced Burrow, potentially the next Super Bowl-winning QB. 

Instead, the perennial winner departs not as a champion – he has been that enough times – but as undoubtedly the best player his sport has ever seen. A rare phenomenon indeed. 

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic triumphed against Giannis Antetokounmpo as the Denver Nuggets routed the reigning champions Milwaukee Bucks 136-100 on Sunday.

Jokic almost recorded his 13th triple-double of the season, while he matched his season-high for assists with 13.

The Serbian had 18 points, nine rebounds and 15 assists for the Nuggets, while Aaron Gordon contributed a team-high 24 points including four triples as Denver dominated the second half 71-43 after leading by eight points at the long break.

Antetokounmpo, who won the 2019 and 2020 MVP awards, finished with 29 points but only managed seven in the second half. The Greek forward also had nine rebounds and two assists.

Khris Middleton was kept quiet offensively with nine points, five rebounds and seven assists while Jrue Holiday added 14 points, five rebounds and eight assists.

The Nuggets improve to 28-21 overall aided by a five-game win streak, including four on the road, while the Bucks slip to 31-21.

 

Suns fight back for 10 straight

The table topping-Phoenix Suns overturned a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit to clinch their 10th straight win, beating the San Antonio Spurs 115-110. Devin Booker top scored with 28 points including four three-pointers, while Chris Paul was exceptional with 20 points, eight rebounds and a season-high 19 assists.

Trae Young starred with 36 points and 12 assists as the Atlanta Hawks extended their winning streak to seven games with a 129-121 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, who were without LeBron James for the third straight game with a knee soreness. Malik Monk scored 33 points for the Lakers.

Luka Doncic recorded a triple-double with 34 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists but the Dallas Mavericks lost 110-108 to the Orlando Magic, while 2021 top draft pick Cade Cunningham claimed a second career triple-double in the Detroit Pistons' 115-105 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

 

Jazz starter suffers worrying injury

Utah Jazz swingman Joe Ingles went down with an apparent knee injury in the second quarter of their 126-106 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Jazz confirmed Ingles will undergo an MRI in Salt Lake City on Monday.

LeBron James has returned to Los Angeles for treatment on his left knee after missing a third straight game as the Lakers went down 129-121 to the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel confirmed that James had returned to LA on Saturday, having undergone an MRI that revealed "general swelling".

The 37-year-old, who has scored 25 points or more in 18 straight games, had initially missed Thursday's 105-87 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers after waking up with soreness.

"As long as the swelling is there, he's going to be out and we'll get him back as soon as we can," Vogel told reporters. "Just going to keep an eye on it day to day."

Four-time MVP James is averaging 29.1 points, tied for second in the league, with 7.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists. The veteran is averaging 36.6 minutes per game, which ranks fourth in the NBA.

"I think about it every day," Vogel said when asked about James' workload. "We're always mindful of the load that he's carrying, in constant communication with him and the medical team.

"In terms of what we do going forward with the knee and where he's at, it's really a heavy lean on the medical staff and [trainer] Mike Mancias and what they feel is best. It's really not a head-coach thing as much as it is relying on the medical team."

The Lakers are 24-27 in the Western Conference after finishing their six-game road trip with a 2-4 record.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suns in red-hot form

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

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

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

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

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

All-Star Morant sets franchise record

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Curry and Klay lead Warriors second-half rally

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

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

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

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

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