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LOS ANGELES — When LeBron James’ name was called when the Cleveland Cavaliers’ starting lineup was introduced, Los Angeles Lakers fans greeted the superstar with a warm applause.

While this wasn’t anything close to erecting billboards around the Los Angeles area trying to lure James as one longtime Lakers season-ticket holder did last week, the Staples Center crowd clearly wanted James to know that they’d love to see him here again next season and preferably in a purple and gold No. 23 jersey.

If this was James’ last trip to Los Angeles as a Cleveland Cavalier with a potential NBA-altering free-agency decision to make this summer, the Lakers took the opportunity to leave James with one final impression. The Lakers used a 22-3 run at the end of the third quarter to run away with a 127-113 victory over the Cavaliers.

With the win, the Lakers have now gone 7-2 after the All-Star break. Meanwhile, the Cavs (38-28) have dropped down to No. 4 in the Eastern Conference standings, with the Indiana Pacers (39-28) moving a half-game ahead of them.

James wowed the crowd with some flashy passing and scoring drives in the paint before finishing with 24 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in 31 minutes. But James didn’t have much help and he displayed some frustration after he had a pass deflected by former teammate Isaiah Thomas for a turnover that later resulted in a Julius Randle dunk for the Lakers. As the Cavaliers called timeout while down 115-94, James palmed the ball and motioned as if he wanted to throw it in frustration before cocking back. That was the last thing James did on the court before exiting for good with 6 minutes, 24 seconds left in the final frame.
LeBron James (24 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists) had his way with the Lakers’ defense, but it wasn’t enough to keep the game competitive. Mark J. Terrill/AP
Larry Nance Jr. — playing against his former team for the first time since he and Jordan Clarkson were traded to Cleveland for Thomas, Channing Frye and a protected first-round pick — had 16 points. He was the only Cleveland starter outside James to score in double-figures.

“I have never played LeBron in L.A.,” said Lakers rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, who finished with five points and seven assists. “Never played against JC and Larry, other than practice. It is going to be a lot of fun.”

The Lakers did have a lot of fun on Sunday night at James’ expense. Thomas, who shared hugs with several of his former Cavs teammates including J.R. Smith at half court before the game, got a little revenge against the Cavs who traded him away after he played only 15 games for the them following his hip surgery.

Thomas — who shot a few glares at good friend Floyd Mayweather Jr., seated near the Cavs’ bench, after making a couple of baskets — had what might have been his best all-around game for the Lakers with 20 points, nine assists and five rebounds. Thomas had six points and two assists during the Lakers’ game-changing run.

Thomas said afterward that he had nothing to prove and that this was not a revenge game for him.

“No, I don’t need to show anybody,” Thomas said. “They know what I can do. I only played 15 games for them, so it’s really not about showing them what I can do. The world knows what I can do and what I bring to the table. I took it as another game and I just wanted to win and we did a helluva job as a team, beating that really good team over there.”

Randle, who had been slowed by an illness in the previous two games, had a career-high 36 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists. Randle is a key piece for the Lakers because they can clear up to $70 million in cap space this summer to pursue two max free agents by parting ways with Randle and stretching Luol Deng’s contract.
Julius Randle scored a career-high 36 points (14 of 18 shooting) against the Cavaliers’ shaky interior defense. Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images
But Randle played on Sunday like a player who was determined to remind the Lakers what they have in the 23-year-old forward and show James at the same time how his game is blossoming. Randle has been on a tear since being inserted into the starting lineup at the beginning of the season, but this was the best performance of his career.

“It was something I always knew I could do,” Randle said “Just take time to continue to learn the game, continue to grow and develop as a player. As a person. Something I knew I could do. I’m not surprised, but it feels good I guess.”
Clarkson, who finished 1-for-8 from the field with just four points and four assists, and Nance stopped by the Lakers’ locker room before the game to say hello to their old friends.

“Yeah, they stopped by [the locker room] on their way in — uninvited,” Lakers coach Luke Walton deadpanned before the game. “It was good to see them. It will be fun. It is going to be a great energy, great environment for tonight.”

Celebrities such as Mayweather, Adam Levine, Jason Sudeikis and Marlon Wayans joined Lakers fixture Jack Nicholson to get their glimpse of James’ only trip to Los Angeles to play the Lakers this season.

They might’ve come to see James but instead watched the Lakers make one big final impression on the free-agent-to-be.

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Los Angeles Lakers had won four straight games behind a stalwart defense. It didn’t come with them to Memphis.

The Grizzlies shot 51 percent from the field and 46 percent from 3-point range, and eight Memphis players reached double figures in a 123-114 victory over the Lakers on Monday.

“We let them move the ball wherever they wanted,” said Lakers coach Luke Walton, whose team had limited opponents to an average of 95.3 points during the winning streak. “… They just didn’t feel us. That’s not how we’ve been playing defense over this stretch.”

Dillon Brooks matched his season best with 19 points while Marc Gasol had 17 points and seven rebounds for Memphis. Tyreke Evans had 15 points and 12 assists. Wayne Selden and James Ennis III added 13 points each.

Brooks converted his first four shots, starting with a pair of 3-pointers. The Grizzlies kept hitting shots into the third, making 12 of 23 to build a 97-77 entering the fourth.

“I just felt confident in my shot,” said Brooks, who finished 6 of 8 from the field, including 4 of 5 from outside the arc. “… Coach (J.B. Bickerstaff) has been stressing shoot and shoot with confidence. Once the first shot went in, I felt good.”

The Lakers were without Lonzo Ball, who injured his left knee in Saturday’s overtime win at Dallas, and Brandon Ingram also didn’t play because of a left ankle sprain.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led Los Angeles with 27 points, while Kyle Kuzma finished with 18. Josh Hart had 16 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter when the Lakers cut a 20-point lead down to single-digits in the final minutes.

“We weren’t aggressive on defense,” Caldwell-Pope said. “We weren’t helping each other. … We couldn’t get stops.”

TIP-INS

Lakers: Los Angeles signed G Gary Payton II to a two-way contract. He appeared in 12 games for the Milwaukee Bucks, six of them starts, averaging 2.5 points and 1.4 rebounds. He scored four points in 12 minutes against Memphis. … The Lakers have lost seven straight road games in the series, and their last win in Memphis was in December 2013.

Grizzlies: This was the 16th annual game for the Grizzlies on Martin Luther King Day. King was killed on April 4, 1968 at the Lorraine Motel a short distance from FedExForum. … The Grizzlies are now 7-9 on games surrounding MLK festivities. … The Grizzlies honored former NBA players Sam Perkins, James Worthy and Anfernee `Penny’ Hardaway, along with WNBA player Swin Cash with the 13th Annual National Civil Rights Museum Sports Legacy Awards. … F Deyonta David recorded his third block — a career-best — in the second quarter. He ended the night with five.

REMEMBERING MLK

As it does annually, the game brings out thoughts from coaches about the importance of playing on the Martin Luther King holiday.

“It’s an absolute honor,” Walton said, adding of King: “What really separates him, is he really emphasized doing it through a peaceful manner.”

Bickerstaff, Memphis’ interim coach, said it is a matter of recognizing the price paid by others in the fight to reach where players are today.
“When you have this opportunity to pay that respect, you do this job with the best of your ability and you give everything you’ve got in honor of those who had to fight those fights for you,” Bickerstaff said.

NO LONZO

Ball said he must wait until he can run better and swelling goes down. When asked if he thought he might be able to test it in the next day or so, he replied: “If it’s like today, probably not.”

UP NEXT

Lakers: Close out a three-game trip at Oklahoma City on Wednesday night.

Grizzlies: Host the New York Knicks on Wednesday night.

For more NBA coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Check out the team sites for the Los Angeles Lakers and the Memphis Grizzlies for more game coverage.

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Paul George isn’t looking for a championship as a selling point when he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer.

The All-Star forward said Wednesday that what matters to him is being on a team pointed in the right direction.

“I’ve got a lot to think about,” George told ESPN before the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 133-96 win over the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. “This summer will be huge. I’ve got a lot to think about. If we’re trending, if we’re going in the right direction, if I feel there is something that we’re building, and there’s a foundation — it would be kind of clueless, just stupid on my behalf to up and leave.

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Russ: OKC winning title top way to keep George
Russell Westbrook says he won’t make any sales pitches to free-agent-to-be Paul George. Noted the reigning MVP of his All-Star teammate: “Sales pitch is gonna be when we win a championship. Beat that pitch.”
“I’m very conscious that we’re only together for a year so far, and we continue to go in an upward trend. It’s best to stick with what we have and work on building. So, I wouldn’t say it’s championship or bust, or championship and I’m out. It’s all about building. If I like where we’re building or the level that we’re going at, it would be stupid to walk away from that.”

George’s comments came in response to those made by teammate Russell Westbrook earlier Wednesday. Westbrook, the reigning league MVP, was asked if he needed to make a sales pitch to George to keep him in Oklahoma City.

“No. Sales pitch is gonna be when we win a championship,” Westbrook said. “Beat that pitch.”

George has been tied to his hometown Lakers for a number of years. That hit a crescendo last summer, when his agent informed the Pacers that George wouldn’t re-sign with Indiana and mentioned the Lakers as a desired destination.

Those talks have recirculated this week with the Thunder in Los Angeles for back-to-back games against the Lakers and Clippers.

For his part, George and those close to him have maintained that his main desire with any potential free-agent destination is a chance to win at the highest level. The Thunder are 21-17; the rebuilding Lakers are 11-26.

But Oklahoma City has surged of late, winning seven of its past nine games, and newcomers George and Carmelo Anthony have started to play better alongside Westbrook.

“The biggest change was myself, Melo, telling Russ he has to be who he is,” George told ESPN. “All of us were kind of afraid to step on toes, deferring. I felt at times Russ was looking to get others involved when sometimes he has shots that he has to take, and it was throwing everybody out of rhythm. Now he knows that we got his back. We trust him, he trusts us. We got a rhythm. We’ve all been shooting the ball well lately. We’re in a group, we’re relaxed, we’re comfortable out there.”

Information from ESPN’s Royce Young was used in this report.

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INDIANAPOLIS — The start was disappointing for the Indiana Pacers.

The finish was great.

Victor Oladipo scored 27 points, including a clutch 3-pointer with 31.1 seconds left, and the Pacers beat the Chicago Bulls 98-96 on Wednesday night.

Bojan Bogdanovic had 17 points for Indiana (14-11), and Darren Collison finished with 14. Myles Turner had 11 points and blocked four shots, and Thaddeus Young finished with 10 points and nine rebounds.

The Pacers outscored the Bulls 29-13 in the fourth quarter.

“I was going out there and playing as hard as I could on both ends of the floor and trying to help us pull it out,” Oladipo said. “We’ve got to learn to not put ourselves in that hole in the first place and try to make sure we avoid that. At the end of the day it was a big win for us and we can build on it.”

The lowly Bulls led by as many as 17, but couldn’t hold off the Pacers in the final moments. Oladipo’s 3 gave Indiana its first lead at 97-96, and he tacked on a free throw with 12.8 seconds left.

Lauri Markkanen missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer in the final seconds of Chicago’s 10th straight loss.

“This one, it stings a lot,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “It’s a really, really hard (loss) because we had control for the majority of it and played really good and hard unselfish basketball. The big message to our team is if we continue to play with that type of effort, if we continue to play the right way, and unselfish, we’re going to start winning games.”

Kris Dunn had 18 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Bulls (3-20), and Robin Lopez scored 16 points. Denzel Valentine finished with 15 points and eight boards.

Chicago looked pretty good for about 3 1/2 quarters. The Bulls went 7 for 15 from beyond the arc on their way to a 55-39 halftime lead.

Turner said the Pacers didn’t take the Bulls lightly. Instead, Indiana just got going late.

“We just didn’t come out as sharp as we’ve been all season,” Turner said. “Defensively we had some lapses, offensive end we weren’t hitting shots, I think we started settling. It was a flat start, but we recovered, thankfully.”

TIP-INS

Bulls: All three of Chicago’s wins have come on Friday. … The Bulls went 8 for 16 at the free-throw line. … Chicago has lost nine of its last 11 games against the Pacers.
Pacers: Indiana’s 39 points at halftime was a season low. … The Pacers improved to 4-8 this season when they are outrebounded.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

The Bulls, averaging a league-low 95.6 points entering Wednesday, held the Pacers to their second-lowest scoring total of the season. Indiana was averaging 108.9 points per game coming into the night, fourth-best in the NBA.

OH, TO BE YOUNG

Young has scored in double figures in 20 of Indiana’s 25 games this season, scoring 20 or more in two of those contests. The 10-year veteran is averaging nearly 33 minutes and 13.4 points per game.

UP NEXT

Bulls: Play at Charlotte on Friday.

Pacers: Host Cleveland on Friday.

Check out the team sites for the Chicago Bulls and the Indiana Pacers for more game coverage.

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Two major pieces of the Portland Trail Blazers say they’ve reached out to Carmelo Anthony in an attempt to sell the New York Knicks star on their team.

All-Star Damian Lillard and teammate CJ McCollum, speaking Wednesday at Lillard’s basketball camp in Beaverton, Oregon, said Anthony sounded intrigued by the idea.

“He can help us a lot; we can help him,” McCollum said, according to The Oregonian. “He wants to play in the playoffs and be competitive. He’s a very talented player. I think if we get him — when we get him — I think [we’re] top three in the West, easy.”

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported over the weekend that Anthony still is counting on the Knicks to carry out their previously agreed upon mandate to trade him to the Houston Rockets.

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Sources: Melo still counting on deal to Rockets
Carmelo Anthony expects the Knicks to resume trade talks soon, and league sources told ESPN he’s counting on the team to trade him to the Rockets.
The 33-year-old forward has been willing to waive his no-trade clause for Houston and the Cleveland Cavaliers, but in recent weeks, he has begun to prioritize a trade to the Rockets to join Chris Paul and James Harden over one to the Cavaliers and LeBron James, league sources said.

Portland was one team that New York and Houston had hoped would facilitate a multiteam trade for Anthony, but league sources told Wojnarowski that the Trail Blazers only plan to participate in a deal for Anthony if he decides to expand his no-trade clause to include them.

That, however, is not an option for Anthony, sources said.

“Obviously, with that being out there and that being a real possibility, I don’t see why I wouldn’t reach out to him and let him know the interest is mutual, if he’s interested in us,” Lillard said, according to The Oregonian. “We had a conversation … so he knew that it wasn’t just the team — but it was myself and CJ — [that] would love to have him here.”

McCollum, who posted a photo of Anthony in a Portland jersey on Instagram over the weekend, felt the Knicks star was “interested” in what the Trail Blazers duo had to say.

“Obviously, I feel like he wants to play with friends, with Banana Boat friends,” McCollum said, according to The Oregonian. “I know he wants to play with [Chris Paul] and LeBron. Those are very good teams, very good options. But I feel like we’re also a very good option.”

Knicks president Steve Mills said earlier this week Anthony could remain with the team this season, despite acknowledging that the organization would continue to pursue a trade involving the 10-time All-Star.

Mills also said that the Knicks would not pursue a buyout of the remaining years on Anthony’s contract.

Anthony, sources told ESPN’s Ian Begley, said to friends as recently as earlier this week that he still expects to end up in Houston.

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Veteran guard Jamal Crawford’s preference would be to join rookie Lonzo Ball with the Los Angeles Lakers if he can get bought out of his contract, a source told The Undefeated’s Marc Spears.

The source said Crawford’s preference is to be waived by the LA Clippers to become a free agent.
Jamal Crawford averaged 12.3 points per game in the playoffs this season. Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports
With his family based in Los Angeles and a solid relationship already in place with Ball, Crawford would like to sign as a free agent with the Lakers.

The Lakers have strong interest in signing Crawford as well, a source said, and have the money to do so. The Lakers will have $17.2 million in room if the cap holds of Thomas Robinson, Tyler Ennis, Nick Young and Metta World Peace are released.

Crawford could possibly start at shooting guard for the Lakers and be a big help as a mentor and shot-maker for the assist-creating Ball.

While Crawford is intrigued by playing for the NBA champion Golden State Warriors, they don’t have much left to offer financially. All they have to offer a free agent is a $5.2 million midlevel exception.

Crawford is slated to make $14.2 million on his contact next season and $3 million is guaranteed on his $14.5 million contract for the 2018-19 season.