LeBron dazzles

December 22, 2018
LeBron James
JAMES: Shaking off flu-like symptoms. Harry How/Getty Images/AFP

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - LeBron James shook off flu-like symptoms to post his third triple-double of the season Friday and lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a 112-104 NBA victory over the New Orleans Pelicans.

James, whose participation was a game-time decision after he missed the morning shoot-around, scored 22 points, handed out 14 assists and pulled down 12 rebounds — to reach double digits in three key statistical categories — as the Lakers posted their sixth straight home win.

All five Lakers starters scored in double figures, Kyle Kuzma adding 23 points, and Ivica Zubac producing a season high of 16 points and 11 rebounds.

Brandon Ingram scored 18 points for Los Angeles as he returned after missing seven games with a sprained ankle. Rajon Rondo came back from a 17-game injury absence and chipped in eight points off the bench.

“I’m feeling the effects right now,” a tired James said after the game. “My energy is very low right now. But I guess being back on our home floor, being around my teammates, gave me enough energy throughout the game to be able to make enough plays to help us win.”

Anthony Davis scored 30 points and grabbed 20 rebounds for the Pelicans, who lost their third straight game.

On Friday morning, Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said James’s recent remark to ESPN that it would be “amazing” to play alongside Davis amounted to tampering, although in comments right before the game Gentry sounded less sure that James had in fact violated the NBA’s rules against trying to entice players under contract to other teams.

Although Davis has been the subject of recent trade rumors, Gentry insisted the Pelicans have no intention of trading their star who won’t become a free agent until 2020.

Elsewhere on Friday, the injury-hit Toronto Raptors improved their NBA-leading record to 25-9 with a “businesslike” 126-110 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Kawhi Leonard scored 37 points and OG Anunoby tied his career high with 21 as the Raptors overcame the absences of star point guard Kyle Lowry, swingman Danny Green and big men Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas.

Leonard scored 15 points in the third quarter, bulling his way to the basket over and over to post his ninth 30-point game of the season.

Anunoby produced two key baskets in the fourth quarter, including a monster dunk that helped propel the Raptors to their 14th game of the season of 120 points or more.

Raptors coach Nick Nurse said Anunoby could have done even more if not for foul trouble that limited his minutes.

“Offensively, I thought we played the right way,” Nurse said. “Defensively, we were kind of there, but we weren’t challenging shots hard enough and they kind of found a groove, especially in that third quarter.

“It was a business like enough win,” Nurse said.

The Milwaukee Bucks were too much for the injury-depleted Celtics in Boston, where Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 30 points in a 120-107 victory.

Khris Middleton added 21 points and nine rebounds for the Bucks, who won for the sixth time in seven games and handed the Celtics a third straight defeat.

Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 21 points off the bench. Jayson Tatum added 20 points and Kyrie Irving scored 15 points with nine rebounds and seven assists for Boston.

But the Celtics were out-rebounded 55-36 as they struggled on the boards without Aron Baynes, who is recovering from hand surgery, Al Horford (left knee pain) and Marcus Morris (right knee pain).

The Brooklyn Nets saw their seven-game winning streak end as their second-half rally came up short in a 114-106 loss to the Indiana Pacers.

The Nets knotted the score at 93-93 on Spencer Dinwiddie’s dunk with 5:42 remaining and took a 99-98 lead on Joe Harris’s three-pointer.

But Victor Oladipo scored eight straight Pacers points, his dunk with 2:01 remaining giving Indiana a 106-104 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.

Oladipo led all scorers with 26 points, 14 of them in the fourth quarter.

In Chicago, Lauri Markkanen scored a season-high 32 points in the Bulls’ 90-80 victory over the Orlando Magic.

Markkanen’s big night came two days after he took just six shots in a loss to the Nets.