PHOENIX – LeBron James scored 32 points, D’Angelo Russell had 19 and the Los Angeles Lakers snapped a three-game losing streak, beating the Phoenix Suns 122-119 in the NBA In-Season Tournament opener for both teams.
Domantas Sabonis had 17 points, 13 assists and 12 rebounds to move into sole possession of second place on the Kings´ career list for triple-doubles, leading Sacramento to a 105-98 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Kevin Huerter scored 19 of his season-high 28 points in the first half and grabbed nine rebounds to help Sacramento win its second consecutive game without point guard De´Aaron Fox. Fox has missed five games overall with a right ankle sprain. Keegan Murray added 24 points.
“It was good to just finally get over the hump at this early stage of the season;” James said according to AP. “We’ve been playing from behind in a lot of our games and haven’t been able to take the lead. That was a good feeling.”
The 38-year-old had another vintage performance, defying age in his 21st season, shooting 11 of 17 from the field, including 3 of 4 on 3s. He added 11 rebounds and six assists in 36 minutes.
Kevin Durant led the Suns with 38 points and Bradley Beal added 24, including 20 in the first half. Devin Booker missed his fourth straight game because of a strained right calf.
Austin Reaves made a layup with 9:25 remaining – part of a 14-0 run – to give the Lakers their first lead of the second half at 97-96. Reaves added a couple mid-range jumpers in the fourth to help Los Angeles stay ahead.
Cam Reddish had 17 points, including a corner 3 on a pass from James that put the Lakers up 118-113 with 1:10 remaining. Los Angeles grabbed three offensive rebounds on the position before Reddish made the shot.
Lakers coach Darvin Ham made a starting lineup change, starting Reddish and having Reaves come off the bench. Both of them had good games and Reaves was still a vital part of the rotation, playing 35 minutes and closing the game.
“It was a good team win,” Ham said. “A lot of what we saw in the second half, that has to be our identity.
James came up limping after getting fouled in the first quarter, grabbing at his lower left leg.
The 19-time All-Star said he took a knee to the shin and got some medical treatment on the bench before returning for the start of the second quarter.
He looked fine the rest of the evening, helping orchestrate the comeback. Los Angeles shot 9 of 17 (53 per cent) from 3-point range in the second half.
Elsewhere, Lauri Markkanen and Jordan Clarkson each scored 26 points and the Utah Jazz held off the Memphis Grizzlies 127-121 in the NBA In-Season Tournament.
John Collins added 18 and Ochai Agbaji had 15 to help the Jazz snap a four-game losing streak in their tournament opener. Keyonte George, the 16th overall pick last summer, started his second consecutive game and had 11 assists.
Desmond Bane led Memphis with 37 points, one short of his career high.
An NBA-worst 1-8 and are 0-2 in the tournament, the Grizzlies are without star guard Ja Morant while he serves a 25-game suspension to start the season. He was penalized for a second online video showing him flashing a handgun.
Bismack Biyombo added 15 points and 14 rebounds for Memphis. Jacob Gilyard, a two-way player starting his first game, Luke Kennard and Jaren Jackson Jr. each had 14 points each, with Jackson ejected in the third quarter.
The Grizzlies’ frustration reached the peak in that third quarter. Upset over the officiating, coach Taylor Jenkins drew a technical. Then Jackson was demonstrative about his feelings, drawing two quick technicals and ejection.
“He gets a double-technical foul, and the excuse I get is that he is charging an official,” Jenkins said in doubting the officials’ interpretation of what happened.
Even with Jackson in the locker room, the Grizzlies rallied to tie it twice in the fourth, and still trailed only 120-119 with two minutes left but were unable to overtake Utah, which entered the game 0-5 on the road.
“That’s a good experience,” Markkanen said about holding onto the lead down the stretch. “Obviously, it wasn’t pretty. A win’s a win.”
Utah has won three games this season, two of them coming over Memphis. And with the crowd on its feet after Jackson’s ejection and screaming at officials, the atmosphere was tense in the final quarter as Memphis made its run.