Watch LeBron miss game-winning three, Kings spoil return with upset win

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LOS ANGELES — LeBron James’ return to the Lakers’ lineup wasn’t enough to lift Los Angeles out of its slump.

James scored 16 points in his first action in nearly six weeks, but the Sacramento Kings were able to rally in the fourth quarter for a 110-106 victory on Friday night.

James suffered a high right ankle sprain on March 20 against the Atlanta Hawks and missed the next 20 games, which was the longest absence of his career. He played 32 minutes and was 6 of 12 from the field. He missed what would had been a go-ahead 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds remaining.

“For my first game, I felt OK. My ankle was a little tight at times doing different movements,” said James, who also had eight rebounds and seven assists. “As the games go along, that will continue to improve. I came out unscathed and pretty good, so it was a good start.”

The defending NBA champion Lakers have dropped five of their last six and are 8-13 in their last last 21 games. The Lakers (36-27) are the fifth seed in the Western Conference, but are only a half-game ahead of Dallas and one game ahead of Portland. If Los Angeles fell to the seventh seed, it would have to take part in the play-in tournament.

“I was encouraged about how he looked. He’s not just coming back after being out for two months, but he’s playing with new teammates,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “It was a very disappointing loss. I expect there to be an adjustment over the final nine games. We have to balance that and get these guys each day to find their chemistry and win as many games along the way.”

Anthony Davis — who missed 16 games while James was out — led the Lakers with 22 points and 11 rebounds, and Andre Drummond had 17 points. It was the first time Drummond played with James since he was signed on March 28.

“He makes the game very easy for everybody. I feel like he sees everything, he’s like a quarterback,” Drummond said. “Having him out there has been fun being my first game on the same side with him. Looking forward to being on the court with him more.”

Davis, who has been back for only five games, isn’t concerned about the latest slump.

“Guys are still trying to get back to playing with myself and LeBron. We have nine games left to get it going,” he said. “We don’t want to be in a play-in situation. Even though we don’t want to lose, we want to gain momentum. We are confident in ourselves and once the playoffs start it is a different story.”

Terence Davis scored 10 of his 15 points during the final 12 minutes for the Kings, who trailed 88-78 going into the fourth. The Kings outscored the Lakers 19-8 to start the quarter and take the lead. Los Angeles went nearly three minutes without a field goal in the period and struggled down the stretch, going 8 of 19 from the field.

Tyrese Haliburton led Sacramento with 23 points and 10 assists, and Richaun Holmes added 22 points. The Kings bounced back despite missing two of their top players — De’Aaron Fox and Harrison Barnes — and after a 49-point loss to Utah on Wednesday. Fox was out for a fourth game since entering the league’s health and safety protocols and Barnes was out for his second due to left adductor tightness.

“I’m not scratching my head that we bounced back tonight and and came and gave that type of effort because that’s what we should do. That’s what we should expect,” Kings coach Luke Walton said. “In the fourth quarter, we were really undersized out there with that final group, but they just made the plays that allowed us to come away with the win.”

James missed his first two shots from the field before making a driving layup with 1.9 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

A pair of Damian Jones free throws gave the Kings a 30-15 lead late in the first quarter before the Lakers started rallying. They went on a 19-4 run and tied it at 34-all in the second quarter on a hook shot by James. Los Angeles led by eight late in the quarter before the Kings went on a late run to get within 56-55 at halftime.

The Lakers outscored the Kings 32-23 in the third quarter and led by 11 at one point.

Marvin Bagley III took part in his first game since March 15 and scored 11 points in 21 minutes. He missed 22 games due to a fractured fourth metacarpal.

Watch Harden run onto court from bench mid-play to defend

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It takes a second to notice, but the 76ers had just four players on the court trying to defend the Nuggets on a late third-quarter possession.

But when James Harden — sitting on the bench — notices it, he stands up and runs into play, drawing a technical.

The technical foul was for having four men on the court, not on Harden specifically.

While that may have been a rare instance of Harden rushing to play defense, the 76ers as a team cranked up their defense in the second half against the Nuggets and went on to get the home win behind 47 points from Joel Embiid.

LeBron livid over no foul call at end of regulation, Lakers fall to Celtics in OT

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“The best player on earth can’t get a call. It’s amazing.”

Lakers coach Darvin Ham made that comment out of frustration after another game where the Lakers felt robbed at the end. He wasn’t the only Laker.

LeBron James was once again brilliant — 41 points, nine rebounds and eight assists — but with the game tied against the Celtics and 4.1 seconds on the clock, he drove the lane and didn’t get the foul call when it clearly looked like Jayson Tatum hit him on the arm as he shot.

After the game, referee crew chief Eric Lewis admitted the officials missed the call:

There was contact. At the time, during the game, we did not see a foul. The crew missed the play.”

Patrick Beverley picked up a technical foul for bringing a photographer’s camera over to the referee to show evidence of the foul.

These losses are a punch to the gut for a Laker team with little margin for error and trying to make up ground in the West (at 23-27 they sit 13th in the conference). But LeBron sees a pattern — he is scoring 30.2 points per game (sixth in the league) but is getting to the line just 4.9 times per game, fewer than anyone else in the top nine in the league in scoring.

“I don’t get it. I’m attacking the paint, just as much as any of the guys in this league that’s shooting double-digit free throws a night, and I don’t get it. I don’t understand it,” James said postgame in Boston.

The other Lakers were a little more direct.

Boston pulled away in overtime to get the 125-121 win, snapping their own three-game losing streak.

LeBron finished with 41, Anthony Davis 16 (on 6-of-15 shooting off the bench) and Beverley had 15 including a key putback dunk. Jaylen Brown scored 37 for Boston, Tatum 30 and Malcolm Brogdon had 26 off the bench.

There are no moral victories for these Lakers more than halfway into the season, playing the team with the best record in the NBA close and almost winning does not count. Time is running out on LeBron and his team, they need to string together some wins. They felt they should have gotten the chance to win this one.

Watch Embiid score 47, lift 76ers past Jokic, Nuggets 126-119

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joel Embiid won the battle of MVP candidates with 47 points and 18 rebounds as the Philadelphia 76ers extended their winning streak to seven games with a 126-119 win over Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.

Jokic and Embiid have finished first and second in voting for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award over the last two seasons. Both are among the top candidates for MVP as this season hits the halfway mark, although Embiid was not named among the All-Star starters from the Eastern Conference.

“I’m used to it and it’s not the first time,” Embiid said. “I think it’s more of a motivation to go out there and try to win the whole thing. That’s the only way that I’ll get that respect.”

Jokic gave Embiid a nod for his play.

“He’s really talented,” Jokic told the Denver Post of Embiid. “Really shifty.”

James Harden had 17 points and 13 assists, and Tobias Harris scored all 14 of his points in the second half after being shut down by Denver’s defense in the first half.

“We were able to figure some things out and get some stops,” Harris said. “Guys stepping up and making shots was huge for us to cut the deficit in the fourth quarter to try and make something happen.”

Jokic had 24 points, eight rebounds and nine assists for Denver, which has lost three of its last four games. Jamal Murray chipped in 22 points and Michael Porter added 20.

“We turned it over and they just turned up the pressure on us,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “They got to the basket way too easy with their attack mentality. And we just got way too careless with the basketball.”

Embiid has scored 40 or more points nine times this season and 35 times in his career. In addition to the All-Star snub, Embiid was also given a $25,000 fine by the NBA on Friday for an on-court demonstration after-basket celebration during Wednesday night’s win over Brooklyn.

“Let’s keep offending Joel by fining him and not putting him among the All-Star starters,” Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers said sarcastically.

The Nuggets began the day with the second-best team field goal percentage at 50.7% and tops in 3-point percentage at 39.5%. In the first half, they overwhelmed Philadelphia’s perimeter defense, shooting 65.9% (29 for 44) from the floor and 10 of 17 (58.8%) from beyond the 3-point line. The hot shooting helped the Nuggets to a 73-58 lead at halftime.

Embiid started to take over toward the end of the third quarter, putting together a 16-point quarter on 5-of-6 shooting that keyed a 14-0 run that allowed the Sixers to close within 99-98 early in the fourth.

In the final quarter, Philadelphia wore down a Nuggets team playing the final game of a three-game, week-long trip. P.J. Tucker– who had switched defenively to Jokic and slowed him down in the second half- followed a Harden missed 3-pointer with a tip-in with over a minute left to stretch the lead to five. Embiid then hit a 3-pointer to restore an eight-point lead.

“I’ve always like to think I am a closer and I am,” Embiid said. “Taking the last shot or taking a last second shot with the clock ticking is fun for me. I love getting into those types of possession where you have to make the plays. That’s where you find out who is who and who is made up for those kinds of moments.”

Report: Myles Turner agrees to two-year, $60 million extension with Pacers

Indiana Pacers v Milwaukee Bucks
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Take Myles Turner off the trade market.

After months of negotiations, the Pacers and Turner have agreed to a contract extension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This has since been confirmed by other sources.

Turner — back playing his natural center spot this season with Domantas Sabonis in Sacramento — is having the best season of his career, averaging 17.5 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks a game. He has been one of the keys to a surprisingly good Pacers team this season.

That $60 million contract extension number can be a little misleading. Turner was already making $18 million this season, but because the Pacers are $24.4 million under the salary cap, they can do a re-negotiation and extension with the big man, giving him a $17.1 million bump right now (to a total of $35.1 million for this season) and extend off of that for two years, the first at $20.2 million and the second at $19.9 million, according to Shams Charania.

Technically Turner can still be traded at the Feb. 9 deadline, but the Pacers have no intention of doing so (as this signing signals). There had been a lot of trade interest in Turner, going back to last summer, most prominently with the Los Angeles Lakers in a swap that would have sent Buddy Hield and Turner to the West Coast for Russell Westbrook and two first-round picks. That draft pick compensation kept the deal from getting done (the Pacers wanted two unprotected first-rounders).