LeBron returns from injury, but Lakers lose 118-108 to Bulls
LOS ANGELES (AP) — LeBron James scored 19 points off the bench in his return from a monthlong injury absence, but Zach LaVine had 32 to lead the Chicago Bulls to a 118-108 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.
DeMar DeRozan added 17 points for the Bulls, who easily overcame James’ return with an impressive performance in their seventh win in nine games. LaVine hit 11 of his first 14 shots to lead an offensive effort that snapped the Lakers’ three-game winning streak despite the return of the NBA’s career scoring leader.
James sat out 13 games with right foot soreness, missing four weeks during the Lakers’ run at a playoff berth.
For only the second time in his 20-year, 1,958-game NBA career, James wasn’t a starter. He came in midway through the first quarter.
The Lakers still were without D’Angelo Russell, who missed his second straight game with a right hip injury. Los Angeles went 8-5 in James’ absence.
CAVALIERS 108, ROCKETS 91
CLEVELAND (AP) — Jarrett Allen had 24 points and 14 rebounds, Donovan Mitchell scored 22 and Cleveland beat Houston to clinch a playoff spot for the first time since 2018.
It’s also the first time Cleveland has made the playoffs without LeBron James on the roster since 1998.
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The Cavaliers are closing in on locking up the No. 4 spot in the Eastern Conference — and home-court advantage in the first round. They’ve won 9 of 11.
Evan Mobley added 19 points and Darius Garland had 17 for Cleveland.
Jalen Green scored 30 to pace the Rockets, who have lost five straight.
GRIZZLIES 123, HAWKS 119
ATLANTA (AP) — Ja Morant scored 27 points in his return to the Memphis starting lineup and the Grizzlies held off Atlanta for their sixth consecutive win.
Desmond Bane added 25 points for Memphis, twice delivering fourth-quarter baskets after the Hawks pulled within one.
Memphis is second in the Western Conference despite a 15-22 road record. But the six-game winning streak, the NBA’s longest active streak, includes two victories away from home.
Morant received a big cheer from the Atlanta sellout crowd during pregame introductions. He came off the bench in his first two games after serving an eight-game NBA suspension for posting a video in which he was shown waving a gun at a Denver-area strip club.
Trae Young led the Hawks with 28 points and 10 assists, one day after he was ejected for throwing the ball at an official during a 143-130 win over Indiana.
CELTICS 137, SPURS 93
BOSTON (AP) — Jaylen Brown scored 41 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead Boston over San Antonio.
The Celtics were without star forward and leading scorer Jayson Tatum, who was sidelined with a bruised left hip. But they still moved within 1½ games of Milwaukee for the Eastern Conference’s best record with their seventh victory in nine games.
Malcolm Brogdon added 20 points and nine assists for Boston, and Derrick White had 19 points with eight rebounds.
Zach Collins had 21 points with seven rebounds for the Spurs, who finished an 0-4 road trip.
TIMBERWOLVES 99, WARRIORS 96
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Karl-Anthony Towns hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 11 seconds to play after Kyle Anderson stole a pass by Draymond Green, and Minnesota held off Golden State.
Jordan Poole gave Golden State the lead on a 3 with 1:28 left, moments after Towns had connected from deep. Poole had a game-high 27 points.
The Warriors had a chance with 9.9 seconds left but Stephen Curry couldn’t corral Poole’s errant pass, then Curry missed a contested 3 from the baseline just before the final buzzer.
Towns had 14 points and five rebounds in his second outing following a 52-game absence with a strained right calf.
The Warriors had their nine-game home winning streak snapped and missed a chance to boost their playoff positioning. A victory also would have clinched Sacramento’s first postseason berth since 2006. The Kings will try to end the longest playoff drought in NBA history Monday night at home against Minnesota.
HORNETS 110, MAVERICKS 104
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Charlotte Hornets overcame a 40-point outing from Luka Doncic for their second win over Dallas in three days, another costly blow to the Mavericks’ playoff hopes.
Gordon Hayward scored 22 points and P.J. Washington added 21 points and 12 rebounds for the Hornets, who have been eliminated from playoff contention.
Doncic picked up his 16th technical foul of the season in the third quarter, meaning he will face a one-game suspension Monday night unless the technical is rescinded by the league office.
Kyrie Irving had 18 points for Dallas.
RAPTORS 114, WIZARDS 104
TORONTO (AP) — O.G. Anunoby scored 29 points, Fred VanVleet had 28 and Toronto never trailed in a win over Washington.
Pascal Siakam had 19 points and 11 rebounds, and Jakob Poeltl added 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Ninth-place Toronto clinched the three-game season series with the Wizards and maintained a three-game lead over 11th-place Washington in the Eastern Conference standings. Both teams have seven games remaining.
Scottie Barnes scored 13 points in his return to the starting lineup after missing two games because of a sore left wrist as Toronto won for the ninth time in 10 home games.
Kristaps Porzingis scored 26 points for the short-handed Wizards, who have lost four straight road games. Washington played without guard Bradley Beal (left knee) for the third straight game, while forward Kyle Kuzma (right ankle) sat out for the fourth consecutive game. Washington was also without guard Monte Morris (left groin).
MAGIC 119, NETS 106
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Cole Anthony had 21 points to lead eight Orlando scorers in double figures, and the Magic overcame Mikal Bridges’ 44 points in a victory over Brooklyn.
Franz Wagner added 19 points and 10 rebounds for Orlando. Wendell Carter had 18 points and six rebounds, and Jalen Suggs returned from an injury with 16 points to help the Magic win their third straight. Paolo Banchero finished with 11 points and nine rebounds.
Bridges came up one point short of his career high. Cam Thomas added 18 points for the Nets, who lost for the sixth time in seven games.
THUNDER 118, TRAIL BLAZERS 112
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 31 points and Oklahoma City beat depleted Portland.
Jalen Williams had 23 points and Isaiah Joe added 20 off the bench for the Thunder (37-38), who moved into a tie for ninth place in the Western Conference with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Shaedon Sharpe led the Trail Blazers with a career-high 29 points, and Nassir Little scored a season-best 28 off the bench. The loss was Portland’s eighth in 10 games. The Blazers (32-42) are four games back of 10th place in the West and the final spot in the play-in tournament.
Portland was playing without four of its five regular starters as guards Damian Lillard (right calf) and Anfernee Simons (right foot), forward Jerami Grant (left calf) and center Jusuf Nurkic (right knee) all sat out.
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