NBA: Lakers get needed win over Magic, Nets back on top in East
LOS ANGELES – The beleaguered Los Angeles Lakers bounced back from an embarrassing loss to the Indiana Pacers with a 116-105 NBA victory over the Magic in Orlando on Friday.
Superstar LeBron James scored 29 points, his last two coming on an alley-oop dunk off a pass from Russell Westbrook to seal the victory.
Carmelo Anthony added 23 points off the bench, 19 of them in the second half for the Lakers, who opened the third quarter on a 19-2 scoring run and out-scored the Magic 31-16 in the period.
Westbrook, who was benched late in Wednesday’s loss to Indiana — in which the Lakers blew a 15-point lead — scored 18 points with 11 rebounds and seven assists.
“Russ is a high-character guy, we knew he was going to respond,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said.
Westbrook said he had no trouble moving on.
“My job as a player and professional is to do what’s asked of me and continue to find ways to help impact winning.”
On Friday, Vogel used reserve Stanley Johnson alongside the starters in the second half, the 10-day contract player making a confident pair of three-pointers as the Lakers gradually took control over a Magic team with the worst record in the league.
The Lakers, losers of four of their previous five games, improved to 23-23.
Vogel said that despite their inconsistencies, which have sparked criticism from the likes of former Lakers great Magic Johnson and led to speculation his job is in danger, they believe they can be title contenders.
“We’re all committed to this group getting the job done,” Vogel said of a team that is also counting on further progress when Anthony Davis returns from a knee injury. “We still believe in what we can be.”
Nets regain East lead
As the Lakers clawed their way back toward playoff position the Brooklyn Nets regained the Eastern Conference lead with a 117-102 victory over the Spurs in San Antonio — along with Milwaukee’s 94-90 victory over Chicago that knocked the Bulls out of the top spot.
James Harden fueled the Nets with a triple-double of 37 points 10 rebounds and 11 assists. Kyrie Irving added 24 points for Brooklyn, who are still without injured star Kevin Durant.
Trae leads Hawks over Heat
In Atlanta, the Hawks let an 18-point third-quarter lead evaporate against the Miami Heat, who closed within one only for Jimmy Butler to miss a three-pointer with 5.6 seconds remaining.
Trae Young scored 28 points to lead the Hawks, who won their third straight.
Bucks beat Bulls
In Milwaukee, Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 30 points and pulled down 12 rebounds as the Bucks held on to beat the Bulls.
Chicago’s DeMar DeRozan scored 35 points, but with 23 seconds remaining he couldn’t get a go-ahead three-pointer to fall.
Bucks guard Grayson Allen was ejected in the third quarter for a flagrant foul on Alex Caruso, who was driving to the rim and came down hard on the play.
Clippers over Sixers
In Philadelphia, the Los Angeles Clippers withstood a 40-point performance from 76ers star Joel Embiid, rallying from a 24-point second-half deficit for a 102-101 victory.
Reggie Jackson scored 19 points. Nicolas Batum scored 15 points, grabbed seven rebounds and came up with a crucial late steal for the Clippers.
Embiid, coming off a 50-point outburst on Monday, had another strong night that also featured 13 rebounds and six assists. His dunk with 11 seconds left pulled the Sixers within one, but teammate Tyrese Maxey missed a layup as time expired.
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