Decimated by the losses of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Los Angeles Lakers fell a tight 117-114 to the Charlotte Hornets on Friday, pushed by Russell Westbrook’s best game in purple and gold.
Westbrook, whose fit in these Lakers is being strongly questioned, scored 35 points, his highest score in this NBA season, but missed the final triple that could give the Los Angeles franchise the victory.
The point guard had 30 of his points in a fast-paced second half, becoming the first Lakers player to reach that number in two quarters since Kobe Bryant’s farewell game in 2016.
The Lakers, who continue to complicate the options of qualifying directly for the playoffs, reserved their two stars, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, on Friday.
‘King James’, 37, thus missed his second consecutive game due to discomfort in his left knee.
Led by Miles Bridges (26 points) and the talented LaMelo Ball (20), the thriving Hornets started the game with a bang and went on to hold a 20-point lead.
Faced with the sinking of the starting lineup, the Lakers’ substitutes kept the team alive, adding 34 of the 49 points that led to the break.
Around the locker room Westbrook, who barely had 5 points, took the reins and commanded a spectacular comeback in front of the gaze of the legendary Michael Jordan, owner of the Hornets.
The Lakers came within just one point (115-114) with 22 seconds left. Westbrook fouled Ball and the young point guard only made one of the free throws.
On the Lakers’ last possession, trailing 116-114, Westbrook decided to shoot a risky 3-pointer off Bridges that bounced off the rim and out.
“Westbrook gets all the hate in the world but you have to praise him. He’s an MVP in this league, he’s made it to the Finals, he’s a great player. I don’t understand the hate he gets,” Miles Bridges acknowledged.
The Lakers, who have lost seven of their last 10 games, remain in ninth position in the Western Conference, which would force them to play a play-in to play in the playoffs.
– Morant celebrates on All-Star –
One day after being selected for his first All-Star Game, point guard Ja Morant posted his first triple-double of the season in the Memphis Grizzlies’ 119-109 win over the Utah Jazz.
Morant finished with 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists against a Jazz that did not have their figures Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert.
Also named Thursday as an All-Star starter, Nikola Jokic had another triple-double in the Denver Nuggets’ 116-105 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Serbian center, current MVP (Most Valuable Player) of the league, finished with 29 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists while Argentine point guard Facundo Campazzo contributed just 3 points and 1 assist in 7 minutes of play.
In Atlanta, the Hawks beat the Boston Celtics 108-92, establishing themselves as one of the best teams in the league, with six consecutive wins.
Point guard Trae Young had 21 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists for Atlanta, which has accelerated to tie the Washington Wizards for tenth place in the East, the last one that gives access to the ‘play in’.
The Celtics, two places higher, were overwhelmed by a sweeping start from Atlanta.
Forward Jayson Tatum reached 20 points but in a mediocre statistics of 5/17 in field goals while shooting guard Jaylen Brown had 26 points and 12 rebounds.
Friday results in the NBA:
Orlando Magic – Detroit Pistons 119-103
Charlotte Hornets – LA Lakers 117-114
Atlanta Hawks – Boston celtics 108-92
New Orleans Pelicans – Denver Nuggets 105-116
Miami Heat – LA Clippers 121-114
Houston Rockets – Portland Trail Blazers 110-125
Memphis Grizzlies – Utah Jazz 119-109
Oklahoma City Thunder – Indiana Pacers 110-113 (prórroga)
San Antonio Spurs – Chicago Bulls 131-122
Phoenix Suns – Minnesota Timberwolves
Milwaukee Bucks – New York Knicks