LeBron James and Kevin Durant will be the captains in this year's All-Star Game while Ja Morant and Andrew Wiggins got their first selections as the starters were confirmed on Thursday.

The NBA announced the starters for the annual midseason exhibition to be held on February 20 in Cleveland.

In the west, James was named for his 18th straight All-Star appearance in his 19th season alongside reigning MVP Nikola Jokic (fourth All-Star selection) and MVP contender Stephen Curry (eighth All-Star selection).

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant and Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins were the two first-time All-Star starters, with the latter coming as the major surprise.

Four-time MVP James has made 18 All-Star teams, equaling Kobe Bryant for second place all-time behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (19).

Durant, who is under an injury cloud for the game, will lead the east side after finishing with more fan votes than anyone else in the conference.

The Nets superstar will be joined by Chicago Bulls guard DeMar DeRozan and Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young in the backcourt, with Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid and Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The All-Star reserves will be selected by the coaches in both conferences and confirmed on Thursday.

LeBron James has been ruled out of the Los Angeles Lakers' clash with the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday due to left knee soreness.

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel revealed pre-game that the 37-year-old four-time MVP had woken up with soreness and would not face the in-form 76ers, who are 28-19.

James has been in excellent scoring form lately, averaging 29.1 points, shooting 52.2 per cent from the field and 35.2 per cent beyond the arc across the season.

The veteran superstar has scored 25 points or more in each of the Lakers' past 18 games, dating back to mid-December. Only once – in 21 games for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2008 – has he enjoyed a longer such streak.

James has averaged an astonishing 32.5 points over this period, although the Lakers have gone 8-10.

"He’s out tonight," Vogel said of his star man on Thursday. "Just woke up with some soreness that was enough to hold him out. He’ll be day-to-day."

James had only just reunited with Anthony Davis on the court, with the All-Star forward returning from an MCL sprain in Tuesday's 106-96 win over the Brooklyn Nets.

Besides scoring 29.1 points per game, up on his career average of 27.1, James is averaging 6.3 assists and 7.7 rebounds this season.

Anthony Davis joked he was more concerned about LeBron James than his own recovering knee following a celebration during the Los Angeles Lakers' 106-96 triumph over the Brooklyn Nets.

Superstar James put up 33 points as the Lakers moved to 24-24 in an inconsistent season, but it was the return of Davis after a 17-game absence with a sprained knee that will have been a particularly pleasing sight.

Davis contributed eight points to go with two assists and two rebounds from 25 minutes on court and the Lakers will hope his return can help spark a strong run in the latter half of the season.

There was one moment of concern for Davis, though, who knocked James off balance after his illustrious team-mate managed a couple of steals and dunks in quick succession during the fourth quarter.

"Can't think about it. When I’m on the floor I try not to think about it," Davis said about his knee and the celebrations. 

"I was what, a month, five weeks, doing a lot of weightlifting. So, I hit him, he kind of like fell over. I was more worried for him than my knee!"

Davis took little time getting back up to speed and blocked three shots in a first quarter that saw the Lakers leading 33-25.

James was delighted to have his team-mate back on court.

"Obviously right away you see what he's capable of," James said. 

"We draw a play right to start the game, I was able to turn the corner and threw a late lob that he was still able to throw home. So very exciting to have him back."

The Nets were still without Kevin Durant (knee), while Kyrie Irving was again unavailable. Irving is unvaccinated against COVID-19 and therefore is not eligible to play in matches in New York under the city's health protocols.

James Harden had 33 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists but was later asked about reports he is frustrated at the Nets.

"Listen, I don't know about any reports," Harden said. "Of course I'm frustrated because we're not healthy, there's a lot of inconsistency for whatever reason. 

"Injuries, COVID, whatever you want to call it, so yeah, it is frustrating. I think everyone in this organisation is frustrated because we are better than our record is and we should be on the way up. So that's all it is."

The reports suggested Harden is frustrated by Irving's mixed availability and the rotations of head coach Steve Nash, who said he cannot imagine his player making such comments.

"So I'm not sure what to believe," Nash said. 

"James and I speak all the time and I think we have a great relationship, so I'm not sure the validity of these comments to be honest with you."

Chris Paul inspired the Phoenix Suns to a 115-109 victory over the Utah Jazz as the NBA leaders matched their best start to a season in franchise history.

Devin Booker top-scored for the Suns with 33 points, but it was Paul's season-high 27 that got his side out of a hole against a shorthanded Jazz.

The visitors led 87-85 at the end of the first quarter at Footprint Center and moved to 95-91 early in the second quarter as they went in search of just a third win in 10 games.

But point guard Paul stepped up for the Suns by making his first five shots in the fourth quarter, including a couple of 3-pointers, as the hosts responded with 14-2 to take the win.

Monty Williams' side are now 37-9 for the season, equalling their franchise record from 2006-07, ahead of facing the same opponents again on Wednesday.

 


Cavs hold off Knicks thanks to Garland

Darius Garland tied LeBron James' streak of 10-or-more assists in five straight games for a Cleveland Cavaliers player over the past decade in a tense 95-93 win over the New York Knicks.

The 21-year-old point guard recorded 12 assists in total and added a critical late 3-pointer as the Cavs held off a late charge from the Knicks, who trailed 86-71 with 9:41 left in Ohio.

Kevin Love led the scoring with 20 points, nine of those coming in just over a minute in the third quarter, as the Cavs went 10 games over .500 for the first time since the days of James in 2018.


Pelicans power past Pacers

Elsewhere in Monday's action, the New Orleans Pelicans trailed for a large portion of the game but had enough in the tank to beat the Indiana Pacers 117-113.

Josh Hart played through the pain barrier to inspire the Pelicans with 22 points and 10 rebounds, adding to Devonte' Graham's 22 points.

The Chicago Bulls put a poor run of six defeats from seven games behind them by beating Oklahoma City Thunder 111-110 in a tense encounter.

Nikola Vucevic's 26 points and 15 rebounds were nearly not enough as the Thunder, who trailed by 28 points, missed a 3-pointer through Shai Gilgeous-Alexander late on to level the contest.

LeBron James does not plan on halting his scoring run after he finished with 25 points or more for a 17th straight game.

James had a double-double but it was not enough for the fast-finishing Los Angeles Lakers to overcome his former side the Miami Heat on Sunday.

Miami turned up the heat on Lakers coach Frank Vogel, with Los Angeles having now lost five of their last seven games after the 113-107 reverse.

There was at least one bright note for the Lakers, who charged home with 37-24 points down the stretch to reduce the deficit.

James finished with 33 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. The veteran is averaging 29.0 points per game this season for the Lakers, who sit eighth in the Western Conference with a 23-24 record. That ranks him second in the NBA, behind Kevin Durant (29.3).

A knee injury for Anthony Davis earlier in the season meant James has had to deliver, and he has certainly held up his end of the bargain. Indeed, across the last 17 games, only Joel Embiid (33.9) has averaged more than the 37-year-old's 32.5 points.

"I don't need to score 30 a night, but I'm in one of the best zones offensively I've been in, in my career," James told reporters. 

"And I don't plan on stopping. That's just how I feel. I feel fantastic. Shooting the ball extremely well. I didn't shoot the three-ball well tonight, but all eight of them felt great.

"I'm shooting efficiently from the free-throw line, shooting efficiently from the field. I was very efficient at the rim. So I don't go into the game saying you got to score 30 or you guys don't have a chance to win the game. I just play the game. The scoring has been happening organically."

Russell Westbrook provided able support on Sunday with 24 points and nine rebounds, but Vogel is looking forward to welcoming Davis back from injury, having said before the game that it will help share the workload.

For his part, however, James has his eye on another milestone. The big one, in fact – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's all-time points record of 38,387.

"As I've continued to climb the ranks, it's natural, human to look at it and see where you are and see if it's even possible. See if you're capable," added James, who is 2,006 points behind the record.

"Obviously health plays the most important part and then just continuing to give your everything to the game. I've never cheated the game. I've never wanted to feel like I was content.

"I wanted to continue to get better and like you said, I will be within 2,000 points, when did you say? Soon? Well, listen, we'll see what happens. I've never chased a record in my life."

The return of Anthony Davis is imminent with the Los Angeles Lakers listing the All-Star as "questionable" for Sunday's game against the Miami Heat.

Davis has been out of action since December 17 due to a sprained MCL in his left knee but he is considered a game-time decision for Sunday.

The Lakers, who are 23-23 this season, have gone 7-9 in Davis' absence across the past 16 games.

"Whenever AD is ready, we're going to love that, that's for sure," Davis' Lakers teammate LeBron James told reporters on Friday.

"I mean he's one of our biggest guns that we have, and having him on the floor, it just creates so much for us offensively and defensively, able to do so much more.

"But his health is what's most important, and once we know that he's healthy, he knows that he's healthy, we get him back on the floor and then we start getting his wind and his rhythm."

Davis is averaging 23.3 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.2 steals this season.

James Harden and Dejounte Murray both had triple-doubles as the Brooklyn Nets got past the San Antonio Spurs 117-102 on Friday.

Harden scored 37 points with 10 rebounds and 11 assists with Kevin Durant out with a sprained left MCL as the Nets rallied from a 51-50 half-time deficit to improve to 29-16.

Kyrie Irving contributed 24 points with three rebounds and four assists for the Nets, who are top of the Eastern Conference.

Harden's triple-double was the 66th of his career, moving him to eighth on the all-time list, while Murray – who had 25 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists – recorded his ninth triple-double of the season and 13th of his career.

 

LeBron leads Lakers past Magic

LeBron James led the Los Angeles Lakers' second-half response as they fought back from an eight-point half-time deficit to win 116-105 over the Orlando Magic. James finished with 29 points, seven rebounds and five assists, playing the second half at center, while Russell Westbrook contributed 18 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.

The Milwaukee Bucks edged the Chicago Bulls 94-90 in an important game in the Eastern Conference standings. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 30 points with 12 rebounds and three assists as the Bucks overcame Grayson Allen's ejection.

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic recorded another triple-double with 26 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists but Ja Morant overshadowed him with 38 points as the Memphis Grizzlies won 122-118 over the Denver Nuggets, while Stephen Curry had 22 points including a game-winning buzzer beater in the Golden State Warriors' 105-103 win over the Houston Rockets.

 

Sixers fluff 24-point lead

The Philadelphia 76ers blew a 24-point lead to lose 102-101 to the Los Angeles Clippers despite Joel Embiid scoring 40 points with 13 rebounds. Reggie Jackson finishing with 19 points and nine assists for the Clippers.

LeBron James has been hailed by Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel as "the most unique player in the history of the game" after his second-half performance at center on Friday.

James finished with 29 points, seven rebounds and five assists after playing exclusively at center in the second half of Friday's 116-105 win over the Orlando Magic.

The four-time MVP was moved into Dwight Howard's role after half-time with the Lakers immediately going on a decisive 20-2 to overcome their 62-54 deficit.

"He's the most unique player in the history of the game," Vogel told reporters about James.

"We won a championship with him playing point guard two years ago, he's been a ball-handling wing throughout his career and he's been playing center for us.

"It's pretty remarkable, and for him to be doing it at this stage of his career, it's even more remarkable."

Vogel also praised Russell Westbrook who was benched in the fourth quarter of Wednesday's 111-104 loss to the Indiana Pacers.

Westbrook, who joined the Lakers from the Washington Wizards in the off-season, has been the subject of much criticism this season.

The 33-year-old Lakers point guard had 18 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists against the Magic.

“He’s all-in on doing whatever is necessary to get the Lakers in position to win a championship, for sure," Vogel said.

Westbrook added: “I was upset about [being benched on Wednesday] and I was more upset that we didn’t win the game.

"I’ve been here doing my job since day one and doing everything asked of me. I want to continue to do that for the betterment of the team."

Vogel also added that there was no firm timeframe on All-Star forward Anthony Davis' return from a knee injury.

James has scored 25 or more points in 16 consecutive games, which have all coincided with Davis' stint on the sidelines.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Vogel, meanwhile, acknowledged it was a damaging defeat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pacers stun LeBron's Lakers

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

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

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

 

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

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

Bucks down depleted Grizzlies, Embiid hits 50

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Booker hits season-high 48 as Suns roll on

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

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

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

 

Adebayo back with a Bam, Doncic drags Mavs past Thunder

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Durant injured as Nets win

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

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

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

 

Butler struggles as Heat go cold

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kings snap losing streak against Lakers

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

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

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

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

Heat's run goes on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"It was a block," he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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