LeBron James is to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2005, as the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday were officially eliminated with a 111-106 loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
The four-time MVP also had his eight-year run to the NBA Finals snapped as the loss takes the Lakers out of the playoff picture for a franchise-record sixth straight season.
“It is a tough season for all of us,” James said. “It is not what we signed up for. Throughout the year things happen, suspensions, injuries.”
“You don’t even try to wrap your head around it. Just keep pushing, see how you can get better,” he added. “The playoffs is never a promise. You got to come out and do the work.”
James had 25 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds, but it was not enough to get the victory in a tight contest that featured 23 lead changes.
The last time the NBA’s best player was not in the post-season was in 2004-2005, his second season with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
James took a hard tumble against the Nets after slipping on the baseline while driving to the basket with 22 seconds left in the fourth. He left the game for one possession, then returned.
James shot 8-25 from the floor in 35 minutes of action, as the Lakers are now 2-11 in their past 13 games.
Asked how much more he wants to play this season, James said: “With us being officially eliminated, I will probably have a conversation with the coaching staff. Hopefully, I can be in as many games as possible down the stretch.”
Joe Harris scored 26 points and former Laker D’Angelo Russell tallied 21 points and 13 assists for the Nets, who boosted their playoff hopes with their second straight win.
JaVale McGee had career highs of 33 points and 20 rebounds, along with six blocked shots to lead the Lakers.
ROCKETS 111, SPURS 105
James Harden scored 27 points in the first quarter and matched his career best of 61, as the Houston Rockets rallied late to beat the San Antonio Spurs 111-105.
The NBA scoring leader equaled his career-high total, which he set earlier this season at Madison Square Garden, and scored more than 50 points for the eighth time this season.
“I work every single day to be the best I can be,” Harden said. “I got a chance to be one of the best players to ever touch a basketball. As a kid that’s what you dream about.”
During the fourth quarter, Harden scored all of the Rockets’ points in a 13-2 burst. Late in the game, he nailed three straight three-pointers to give the Rockets a 103-100 lead.
Harden finished 9-13 from beyond the arc and shot 19-34 from the floor. He took 17 free-throw attempts, missing just three for the Rockets.
Harden went into a scoring lull and San Antonio rallied from a 15-point halftime deficit to tie the game 81-81 at the end of the third. The Spurs led by six points with four minutes remaining in the fourth before Harden took control again.
While other NBA stars such as James and Kawhi Leonard have decided to cut back on their playing time late in the season, Harden said that the thought of doing something similar never crossed his mind.
“I am a hooper, I am hooper. I love to hoop,” Harden said. “I know hooping isn’t going to be here forever, so I love to get out there and compete. The best days are when the legs are a little tired and the shot isn’t falling ‘cause you got to figure out ways to get through it.”
Also on Friday, it was:
‧ Magic 123, Grizzlies 119
‧ Clippers 110, Cavaliers 108
‧ Thunder 116, Raptors 109
‧ Nuggets 111, Knicks 93
‧ Bucks 116, Heat 87
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