LeBron James on Thursday edged closer to the NBA’s all-time scoring record as the Los Angeles Lakers pulled out a thrilling 112-111 victory over the Indiana Pacers.
James scored 26 points and now needs 63 to surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record.
James’ three-pointer gave the Lakers their first lead of the contest with 2 minutes, 35 seconds to play. Teammate Anthony Davis put them up 112-111 with 35.3 seconds remaining and followed up with a big block on Tyrese Haliburton as the Lakers escaped with the win.
It was not the only drama on a night that saw Cleveland’s Donovan Mitchell and Memphis’ Dillon Brooks ejected after brawling in the third quarter of the Cavaliers’ 128-113 home victory over the Grizzlies.
In Dallas, Texas, it was injury that saw Mavs star Luka Doncic depart in the third quarter of a 111-106 victory over New Orleans after a fall under the basket left him with a bruised right heel.
Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Bucks, fueled by 54 points and 19 rebounds from Giannis Antetokounmpo, erased a 21-point third-quarter deficit to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 106-105.
In Indiana, the Lakers looked headed for another disappointing defeat until a 21-10 run to open the fourth quarter.
Davis led the Lakers with 31 points and 14 rebounds.
Haliburton, back in action after a three-week injury absence, led the Pacers with 26 points and 12 assists, but his drive to the basket with 16.5 seconds left was thwarted by Davis, who swatted the ball away.
Lakers coach Darvin Ham said that when Davis is playing free of pain he is “one of the more elite defenders in our league,” but there is no doubt the spotlight now is on James. Averaging more than 30 points per game, James is likely to break Abdul-Jabbar’s mark sometime next week.
The Lakers close out their road trip today at New Orleans, then host Oklahoma City on Tuesday and the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday.
Whenever the record does fall, James is acutely aware of the significance.
“I think it’s one of the greatest records in sports in general,” James said, likening it to baseball’s all-time home-run record. “It’s one of those records you don’t ever think will be broken.”
Things got ugly in Cleveland, where All-Star Cavs guard Mitchell was enraged when Grizzlies guard Brooks, sprawled on the court after missing a shot, flung a hand up and hit Mitchell in the groin.
Mitchell threw the ball at Brooks, shoved him and finally wrestled him to the floor, before both players were restrained.
Mitchell, who connected on just two of his 11 shots from the floor, was cheered as he departed for the locker room and was unrepentant later when he confirmed he thought Brooks got in a cheap shot — and not for the first time.
“That’s just who he is,” Mitchell said. “We’ve seen it a bunch in this league with him. There’s no place for that in our game. You’ve got to protect yourself at the end of the day.”
Darius Garland picked up the slack, scoring 32 points and handing out 11 assists for Cleveland, who pushed their lead to as many as 22 points in the fourth quarter.
The Mavericks were cruising on their home court when Doncic went down early in the third quarter after coming down hard after a dunk attempt.
Without their Most Valuable Player candidate, who scored 31 points, the Mavs watched their 27-point lead dwindle to four before escaping.
The Denver Nuggets boosted their lead at the top of the Western Conference with a 134-117 victory over reigning champion the Golden State Warriors.
Reigning two-time Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic delivered his league-leading 17th triple-double of the season with 22 points, 13 rebounds and 16 assists, while Jamal Murray poured in 33 points for the Nuggets, who seized control in the third quarter and never trailed in the fourth.
The Bucks pushed their winning streak to six games with their comeback over the Clippers.
Antetokounmpo scored 20 points in the fourth quarter, and Milwaukee held Los Angeles stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to two points apiece in the final quarter — Leonard missing potential game-winning shots on both of the Clippers’ final two possessions.
In New York, R.J. Barrett scored 30 points to lead the Knicks in a 106-104 victory over the Miami Heat.
Julius Randle scored 19 of his 23 points in the first half for the Knicks, who moved a game behind the Heat for sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
In Chicago, the Bulls swatted aside the Hornets 114-98.
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