The Milwaukee Bucks managed to overcome a big performance from James Harden to top the Houston Rockets 116-109 in the NBA. 

Kyle Kuzma will have an MRI on Thursday after sustaining a lower back contusion in the Los Angeles Lakers' 107-100 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

After just 16 minutes on court at Staples Center, the second-year forward – second to LeBron James in points per game for the Lakers this season with an average of 18.3 – was deemed unfit to return for the second half.

Head coach Luke Walton was already without James (groin), Rajon Rondo (finger) and Michael Beasley (personal reasons) for the loss to the Thunder and will hope Kuzma does not make his injury list any longer.

"He has a contusion on his lower back. He's going to get an MRI," said Walton.

"He got hit somewhere in the game, something happened during the game. You could notice he was starting to limp in those last couple of minutes he was playing.

"He said he was fine. They worked on it at half-time and just said, 'No go.'"

The Lakers led by four points at the start of the fourth quarter but were outscored 29-18 and fell to a third defeat in four matches.

Having also blown double-digit leads against the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Clippers in that run, Josh Hart admitted they are having trouble closing out matches without their senior figures.

"I think some of it is experience. We don't have a 16-year vet [in James] and what's Rondo, a 13 or 14-year vet? That's tough," said Hart, who contributed 13 points and 15 rebounds.

"Obviously, we have two or three-year players trying to close out games and it's something that's new to us. Obviously, we did a little bit last year, but this year we always had Bron [James], we had Do [Rondo], and guys like that to help settle things down and get us in the stuff.

"It's still new, but I think we're all capable of it. But we just got to, when adversity strikes or offense is stalling and the other team is making a run, we've just got to do a good job of turning down OK shots for better shots, getting the ball going, defense going and making it easier for us."

The Los Angeles Lakers insist they will not rush LeBron James back from a groin injury after losing their first outing without him on Thursday.

James was hurt during the Lakers' Christmas Day victory over the Golden State Warriors and no timetable has been set for his return to action.

Without the four-time MVP, who saw his consecutive games streak end at 156, the team slipped to a 117-116 defeat away to the Sacramento Kings, despite leading by as many as 15 points during the fourth quarter.

Bogdan Bogdanovic sealed victory for the Kings with a three-pointer at the buzzer, leaving Lakers head coach Luke Walton to lament the absence of the "best closer" in the NBA.

"This is the first close game we've been in that he's not there," Walton said.

"If LeBron James is playing in that game it probably finishes a little differently. When you get the best closer in the game on your team, then you rely on him to do that. All that said, we made enough plays to win."

However, Walton had confirmed before the game that the Lakers are taking a cautious approach over James' comeback to the court.

The 33-year-old underwent an MRI on December 26 which confirmed a strained left groin, rather than a muscle tear.

"It's one of those things we want to make sure he's healthy before we get him back out there," Walton said.

"That could be an injury where if you come back too early you re-injure it and then you're out longer. We'll be careful and cautious when he starts playing again."

Kyle Kuzma led the way for the LeBron-less Lakers with 33 points in Sacramento, while Lonzo Ball contributed 20 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds in a losing cause.

The Sacramento Kings reigned supreme with a 117-116 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers thanks to Bogdan Bogdanovic's buzzer-beater.

In the Lakers' first game without LeBron James – who is sidelined with a groin injury – Bogdanovic stepped up for the Kings and drilled a three-pointer as time expired to seal Thursday's NBA win.

Bogdanovic came off the bench to lead all Kings players with 23 points.

Kyle Kuzma tried to fill James' shoes, logging 33 points with four assists and nine rebounds, while Lonzo Ball was just short of a triple-double following 20 points,12 assists and nine rebounds. 

 

Harden lifts Rockets

James Harden is the reigning league MVP, and he is making his case for a second campaign. The NBA star scored 45 points, marking the sixth game in a row he has scored 35 points or more as the Houston Rockets topped the Boston Celtics 127-113. Harden also made nine three-pointers, which tied his career-high.

Ben Simmons posted his fifth triple-double of the season in the Philadelphia 76ers' 114-97 victory at the Utah Jazz. The Australian finished with 13 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists.

 

Thompson headlines Warriors' woes

Klay Thompson's slump continued as the Golden State Warriors fell to the Trail Portland Blazers 110-109 in overtime. Thompson scored just 15 points off six of 19 field goal attempts, went two-for-nine beyond the arc and went one-for-four in free throws.

 

Age just a number for Korver

Jazz veteran Kyle Korver may be 37, but he can still shoot threes like he did in his younger years. Korver sank this beauty right before the shot clock ran out at the end of the first quarter.

 

Thursday's results

Houston Rockets 127-113 Boston Celtics
Milwaukee Bucks 112-96 New York Knicks
Sacramento Kings 117-116 Los Angeles Lakers
Portland Trail Blazers 110-109 Golden State Warriors (OT)
Philadelphia 76ers 114-97 Utah Jazz

 

Nuggets at Spurs

The Denver Nuggets will travel to the San Antonio Spurs for the two team's first matchup of the season. The surging Spurs have won seven of their last 10 games, while the Nuggets are half a game behind the Warriors in the Western Conference. Denver will be looking to shake off a tough loss against the Los Angeles Clippers, which saw Nikola Jokic ejected, while the Spurs will try to bounce back from a loss against the Rockets. It will be a clash between two Western Conference teams that look poised for the postseason.

LeBron James talked up the all-round improvements made by Kyle Kuzma and feels their on-court relationship for the Los Angeles Lakers is getting better with each game.

On the surface, it's easy to figure out why LeBron James chose to be a Los Angeles Laker.

A man so impatient to win NBA titles already has three and, by taking a patient approach, may have the chance to add more in Los Angeles. 

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