Daily Tribune (Philippines)



LOS ANGELES (AFP) -- James Harden scored 23 points as the Brooklyn Nets blew away a depleted Los Angeles Lakers in a one-sided showdown between the Eastern and Western Conference heavyweigh­ts on Thursday.

With Kevin Durant sidelined with a hamstring strain, Harden shouldered the offensive burden as the Nets extended their winning streak to five games with a 109-98 victory at the Staples Center.

Harden added 11 assists and five rebounds while power forward Joe Harris added 21 points after making six of seven three-point attempts.

Kyrie Irving, returning after missing Tuesday’s win over Phoenix with back stiffness, finished with 16 points as the Nets notched up their fourth straight win on the road.

LeBron James fired 32 points to lead the Lakers’ scoring en route to ticking off another statistica­l milestone by passing 35,000 career points.

Already missing Anthony Davis, the Lakers were hit by another high-profile absentee with the late withdrawal of Dennis Schroder, who was ruled out due to Covid-19 health and safety protocols.

Brooklyn got off to a fast start to open up a 31-24 first quarter lead and held a double-digit cushion for most of the game.

A Harris three-pointer left the Nets leading by 25 points early in the fourth quarter as the Lakers failed to muster any kind of response.

The Nets improved to 19-12 with the win to remain in second spot in the Eastern Conference, one game back from the Philadelph­ia 76ers. The Lakers remain second in the Western Conference on 22-8, 2.5 games adrift of the Utah Jazz.

Nets coach Steve Nash praised his team’s improvemen­t in the past week, which has come in the wake of a run of games where they conceded 120 points or more, including a thumping loss to the Detroit Pistons on 9 February.

“That was a low for us,” Nash said of the Pistons loss. “And it did provoke some conversati­ons, and a re-dedication to what we’re trying to do. I’m proud of the way they’ve responded since then. We’ve taken care of business.”

“But it’s more important that we’re progressin­g. It also tastes sweet when you come out West and win some games.”

Nash however said the Nets would not be reading too much into their win over the reigning National Basketball Associatio­n champions.

“I don’t think we’re getting too carried away,” Nash said. “It’s two teams that didn’t have full rosters. I think we played a solid game. It’s a good win on the road. But it’s super early in the season and we’ve got a lot of room to grow. It’s just a little milestone for us.”

Meanwhile, James and Kevin Durant were named captains for next month’s National Basketball Associatio­n (NBA) All-Star Game as the league confirmed plans for the showpiece despite an outcry from stars.

The league announced that the 70th NBA All-Star Game would be played on 7 March in Atlanta along with such skills events as the Dunk Contest and Three-Point Shootout.

“NBA All-Star in Atlanta will continue our annual tradition of celebratin­g the game and the greatest players in the world before a global audience,” NBA commission­er Adam Silver said.

The game comes during a mid-season break that had been meant to give all players a rest after a shorter than usual offseason gap after Covid-19 delayed the 2019-20 NBA Finals, where James sparked the Los Angeles Lakers to the title.

“We came off a short off-season of 71 days and then coming into season we were told we were not going to have an All Star Game so we would have a nice little break,” James said earlier this month.

“Then they throw an All-Star Game on us like this. It is pretty much a slap in the face.”

Silver told ESPN that he understand­s the complaints. “I certainly hear the other side of this issue,” Silver said. “Ultimately, it feels like the right thing to do to go forward.” Silver told TNT that 130 million people worldwide will watch the game and highlights will attract a billion online views, justifying it as the NBA’s top “fan engagement” event.

“It begins and ends with the fans,” Silver said.

“We have a huge global audience that follows All-Star. Doing this as a television event still reaches 99.9 percent of our fans.”

James was the top overall vote-getter from fans with 5,922,554 to pace the Western Conference while Brooklyn forward Durant led the Eastern Conference with 5,567,106.

“I have zero energy and zero excitement about an All-Star Game this year,” James said two weeks ago.

“I am not happy about it. If I am selected, I will be there physically but not mentally.”

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