LeBron James will sit out the Los Angeles Lakers' match against the Denver Nuggets on Monday after re-aggravating his right ankle injury.

James was benched late in the Lakers' 121-114 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Sunday with right ankle soreness.

The four-time MVP had missed 20 matches due to a right ankle injury until recently returning and the Lakers will not risk his health as they battle for playoffs seedings.

The Lakers have dropped three consecutive games coming into Monday's meeting with the Nuggets, as well as losing six of their past seven.

James said on Sunday that he would prioritise getting fully fit over returning too soon in a bid to improve the Lakers' seeding.

LA's recent poor form has seen them slip down to seventh spot in the Western Conference with a 36-28 record.

The Lakers are already without guard Dennis Schroder because of an exposure to a postive COVID-19 test.

There are just two weeks of the NBA regular season remaining and the race for the playoffs is really hotting up.

The top teams in the East are jostling for the first seed, while the Washington Wizards' form has taken them into a play-in place.

The West is even more open, with the top seven in flux and defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers falling into the play-in game as things stand.

Lakers superstar LeBron James even suggested the individual responsible for this format "needs to be fired".

There is still time for James and Co, but players with momentum – identified by our NBA Heat Check, powered by Stats Perform data – will be key.
 

RUNNING HOT...

Jayson Tatum

The Boston Celtics are down in seventh in the East, meaning they are set to go through the play-in, but their 1.0-game deficit to the teams above them would undoubtedly be greater if not for Tatum.

Although the team went 2-2 last week, one of their wins – against the San Antonio Spurs – was particularly memorable.

Tatum put up 60 points in the overtime win, where the Celtics trailed by 32 at one stage. That performance matched Larry Bird's single-game Boston scoring record and ensured he averaged 42.7 over the three games he featured in, up from his prior seasonal mark of 25.7 for the biggest increase of the week.

Aaron Nesmith

Tatum also had some help from the bench as rookie Nesmith found his feet at this level. Last year's first-round pick averaged 3.4 points per game through April 25 and continued this unimpressive form with two points as Tatum sat out against the Orlando Magic. Then he hit form.

Displays of 15, 16 and 16 points meant an average of 8.9 for the week, including 85.7 per cent shooting against the Portland Trail Blazers, making all four attempts from beyond the arc.

It was a timely improvement as fellow wing Evan Fournier, dealing with long-term COVID-19 effects, scored just 10.5 points per game, down from 17.5 for the league's eighth-largest decline last week.

Michael Porter Jr

Nikola Jokic will win the NBA MVP award, but injuries to Jamal Murray and Will Barton appeared to have hit his hopes of team success with the Denver Nuggets until they won four straight last week.

Porter is the Nuggets' third-best scorer but looked better than that as he led the team in points in two of those victories.

Enjoying his first year as a regular starter, Porter had boosted his average to 18.2 points per game with a career-high 39 in the final game of the previous week yet raised those standards even further with 26.8 over four outings.
 

GOING COLD...

Joel Embiid

Jokic's impending individual recognition is in part due to the failure of his MVP rivals to stay fit. Joel Embiid was the frontrunner until he missed 10 games in a row.

The Philadelphia 76ers center might still have returned in time to wrestle back the top honour, but limited minutes last week – even in four Sixers wins – look to have put paid to those hopes.

Only appearing for more than 25 minutes when he contributed 34 points against the Spurs, Embiid averaged 22.5ppg, a significant decrease on his prior 30.0 for 2020-21.

James in LA, another early contender, certainly will not trouble Jokic after he returned for two games, scored 35 points in total and then went down again.

Malcolm Brogdon

The 76ers can afford to give Embiid a light schedule as they focus on an NBA title, but the Indiana Pacers would be happy simply making the playoffs from ninth in the East.

Their hopes were hit by a tough week for Brogdon, who played only 12 minutes in their second game against the Brooklyn Nets before succumbing to a hamstring issue that kept him out of a trip to Oklahoma City.

Brogdon, previously scoring 21.6 points for the year, could only partially be excused by injury, though, having shot five-of-14 against Portland then none-of-five in a brief Brooklyn outing.

Rudy Gobert

The Utah Jazz are wobbling at the top of the West, where they have been joined on 46-18 by the Phoenix Suns following a 2-2 week that included a defeat to their rivals for the first seed.

Phoenix and Deandre Ayton continue to prove tricky opponents for presumed Defensive Player of the Year Gobert, who could not carry the load in Donovan Mitchell's absence.

With 10 rebounds against the Suns – relatively poor by his dominant standards – Gobert averaged 10.3 for the week, down from 13.6, and Utah have now lost four straight against their co-leaders. That is a worry heading into the postseason.

LeBron James' status for the Los Angeles Lakers is unclear ahead of their meeting with the Denver Nuggets after he reinjured his right ankle in Sunday's loss to the Toronto Raptors.

Superstar James was playing for just the second time since missing 20 straight games due to a right ankle sprain, the longest injury absence during his career.

He put up 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists but exited with six minutes and 42 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and did not return to the contest.

James said he has no particular worries over the ankle, but that it is imperative for the team that he is fit and firing ahead of the postseason.

"First half it feels really good, obviously warming up for the game everything is going well," he said.

"The last two games at half-time, at the break, it's gotten a little sore on me, got a little tight, obviously coach decided not to put me back in because of that, that's it.

"I really don't have too much level of concern, but I need to be healthy and make sure my ankle is where it was before my injury.

"I need to be smart with it, talk to my trainer Mike and go over with the coaching staff and some of the players as well, most important thing to me is to be healthy and be at full strength when it really matters.

"It matters now to me because I hate sitting out games and not being out on the floor, but I'm also not helping myself or helping my team when I'm not out there at full strength."

Asked whether it is a case of wait and see for the Denver game, James replied: "That's the plan, the plan is to see how I feel, go from there.

"I definitely want to get healthy, not just for myself but for our team, it's definitely challenging right now, but I'll be fine."

The defending champions are in a lull right now, with the Raptors loss representing a sixth defeat over their previous seven games.

It leaves the Lakers seventh in the Western Conference, a finish that would require them to feature in the play-in tournament to make the playoffs – a concept James clearly has little time for.

"It doesn't matter at the end of the day if I'm not 100 per cent, close to 100 per cent it don't matter where we land," he said.

"That's my mindset, if it happens we end up as sixth, or fifth whatever the case may be, you know the playoff whatever that thing is, whoever came up with that s*** need to be fired, but whatever."

The Lakers have been blighted by injury concerns this season and had starting point guard Dennis Schroder unavailable versus Toronto due to health and safety protocols.

James believes the key to getting the Lakers firing again is having a fully fit roster available.

"Our team is predicated on health, we're a team that we need to be healthy and need to be full, if it's not one thing it's the other," he said.

"Today our starting point guard is not in the line-up, that's the biggest thing down the stretch more than the games we're playing is how healthy we're going to be going into the stretch run."

The Los Angeles Lakers slumped to their sixth loss in seven games with LeBron James finishing their 121-114 defeat to the Toronto Raptors injured in the locker room on Sunday.

James left the court in the fourth quarter due to a sore right ankle, the same ankle which sidelined the Lakers superstar for 20 games until his return against the Sacramento Kings on Friday.

The four-time MVP played 28 minutes, scoring 19 points with seven rebounds and six assists but he could not inspire reigning NBA champions the Lakers to reverse their worrying form ahead of the playoffs.

Toronto forward Pascal Siakam was exceptional with a season-high 39 points, 13 rebounds and four assists, while veteran guard Kyle Lowry also had a double-double with 37 points, including three three-pointers, and 11 assists.

The result means the Lakers slip to 36-28 and sixth spot in the Western Conference, while the Raptors are 27-38.

 

Giannis comes out on top against KD

Giannis Antetokounmpo posted 49 points as the Milwaukee Bucks overcame the star-studded Brooklyn Nets 117-114 in their heavyweight Eastern Conference meeting. Making his return after a minor ankle issue, two-time reigning MVP Antetokounmpo also had eight rebounds and four assists, while Khris Middleton contributed 26 points and 11 rebounds in a key supporting role. Durant did his best to lift the Nets with 42 points and 10 rebounds.

Joel Embiid had his 14th game with 30 or more points and 10 rebounds, with only Antetokounmpo having more this season, as the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers won 113-111 in overtime against the San Antonio Spurs. MVP hopeful Embiid finished with 34 points and 12 rebounds after OT, with Seth Curry adding 22 points.

Devin Booker had 32 points to lead the high-flying Phoenix Suns to a 123-120 victory over the lowly Oklahoma City Thunder.

The New York Knicks kept up their hot run with 122-97 win against the Houston Rockets, fuelled by All-Star Julius Randle's 31 points in three quarters.

C.J. McCollum (33 points), Damian Lillard (26 points and 13 assists) and Jusuf Nurkic (14 points and 11 rebounds) combined to lead the Portland Trail Blazers past the Boston Celtics 129-119. Jayson Tatum's 33 points were not enough for the Celtics. Per Stats Perform, the Trail Blazers are the first team in NBA history to have four consecutive home losses immediately followed by four straight road victories.

 

From hero to zero

Dorian Finney-Smith nailed the game-winner for the Dallas Mavericks against the Washington Wizards on Saturday. But he was struggled in the 111-99 loss to the Sacramento Kings. Finney-Smith was one-for-seven shooting in 35 minutes, missing all five of his three-point attempts for just three points.

 

Timely tip from Simmons

Ben Simmons tipped home in the nick of time after Embiid's attempted buzzer-beating shot missed in the 76ers' win over the Spurs.

 

Sunday's results

Milwaukee Bucks 117-114 Brooklyn Nets
Portland Trail Blazers 129-119 Boston Celtics
New York Knicks 122-97 Houston Rockets
Philadelphia 76ers 113-111 San Antonio Spurs (OT)
Phoenix Suns 123-120 Oklahoma City Thunder
Sacramento Kings 111-99 Dallas Mavericks
Miami Heat 121-111 Charlotte Hornets
Toronto Raptors 121-114 Los Angeles Lakers

 

Nuggets at Lakers

The Lakers (36-28) have a big test to get back on track in the Western Conference against Nikola Jokic's Denver Nuggets (43-21) with playoffs seedings up for grabs.

LeBron James labelled his return from a six-week injury absence as a "good start" despite the Los Angeles Lakers falling to defeat against the Sacramento Kings.

Superstar James endured the longest injury-related layoff of his career and sat out 20 games due to an ankle sprain.

Afforded 32 minutes of action, James returned 16 points from six-of-12 shooting, to go with eight rebounds and seven assists. There were also two steals and five turnovers.

James even had the chance to snatch victory at the death but his three-pointer with a little under three seconds remaining missed, and the Kings added a couple of free-throws to run out 110-106 winners.

The four-time MVP spoke of his desperation to get back on the court.

"For my first game in six weeks, I felt okay. As far as my wind, I felt pretty good. As far as my ankle, it was a little tight at times, obviously," he said.

"But I came out unscathed and pretty good. So, it's a good start. It's been urgency for me to get back ever since I got injured. 

"So, that's just who I am. You guys could have seen the logging of the minutes and hours per day that I was doing as far as rehab and treatment, it was a lot more than I slept. 

"So, over the last six weeks, that's all I've been doing, is having an urgency to get back and play.

"I knew I wasn't going to get back to 100 per cent. It's impossible. I don't think I will ever get back to 100 per cent in my career."

The Lakers have largely toiled in the absence of James, while team-mate Anthony Davis only recently returned for a Los Angeles side blighted by fitness issues this season.

They have now lost five of their previous six games and their form over the past 10 reads 3-7.

The defending champions may not be in title-winning form with the playoffs looming but James insists the team are ready to meet the challenge head on.

"It's only nine games left," James said. 

"It's been a hell of a season, obviously. But we look forward to the challenge. It is what it is. This is the season, and we've got to make the most out of it."

Jayson Tatum tied Larry Bird's Boston Celtics' all-time single game scoring record with a 60-point haul in their 143-140 over-time win over the San Antonio Spurs on Friday.            

Tatum posted 31 points in the fourth quarter and over-time in an incredible individual display, also collecting eight rebounds and five assists.

The Celtics forward led Boston's comeback after trailing by 32 points with a career-high personal total.

He received good support as the Celtics turned around the Spurs' dominant first half, with Tristan Thompson having 15 rebounds, while guard Marcus Smart had 12 assists.

The win keeps the Celtics in the top six in the East with a 34-30 record, while the Spurs are 31-31 and set for the play-in tournament.

 

LeBron returns in defeat

LeBron James made his return from an ankle injury for the first time in 20 matches, but could not inspire the Los Angeles Lakers to victory as they surprisingly went down 110-106 to the Sacramento Kings.

James played 32 minutes, scoring 16 points, with eight rebounds and seven assists, while Anthony Davis made 22 points for LA too.

The 36-year-old looked mobile but speaking after the game, he made the revelation: "I don't think i'll ever get back to 100 per cent in my career."

Devin Booker scored a game-high 31 points as the Phoenix Suns toppled leaders Utah Jazz 121-100 in the top two clash in the West.

The Suns opened up a 16-point deficit at quarter-time and kept the Jazz at arm's length, with Rudy Gobert having a tough game defensively and offensively, with only eight points.

Kevin Durant was rested as the Brooklyn Nets lost 128-109 to the Portland Trail Blazers with Damian Lillard scoring 32 points with seven rebounds and nine assists.

Joel Embiid had 18 points as the Philadelphia 76ers won 126-104 over the Atlanta Hawks.

 

Wayward Nets

The Trail Blazers shot 16-from-36 beyond the arc, going at 44.4 per cent led by Damian Lillard's eight-from-13 but the Nets were far less productive from range. Brooklyn hit 13-from-41 beyond the arc, going at 31.7 per cent with Kyrie Irving only hitting two-from-eight.

 

Record-hunting Russell

Russell Westbrook moved within five triple-doubles of Oscar Robertson's all-time record as the Washington Wizards won 122-93 over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Westbrook had 15 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists.

 

Friday's results

Philadelphia 76ers 126-104 Atlanta Hawks
Boston Celtics 143-140 San Antonio Spurs 
Washington Wizards 122-93 Cleveland Cavaliers
Memphis Grizzlies 92-75 Orlando Magic
Portland Trail Blazers 128-109 Brooklyn Nets
Chicago Bulls - Milwaukee Bucks
Phoenix Suns - Utah Jazz
Los Angeles Lakers - Sacramento Kings

 

Nuggets at Clippers

Nikola Jokic's Denver Nuggets (42-21) make the trip to California to take on one of the West's best, the Los Angeles Clippers (43-21).

Anthony Davis feels he is "starting from zero" with his Los Angeles Lakers team-mates following injury, meaning the defending NBA champions must "figure it out on the fly".

Davis missed more than two months with a strained Achilles, finally returning this week for a double-header against the Dallas Mavericks.

The Lakers are still without LeBron James, though, and Davis does not yet look back to himself.

The forward averaged 26.1 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks last season as the Lakers won the title.

Prior to his injury this year, he had 22.5 points per game, 8.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks, while his shooting from the field improved from 50.3 per cent in 2019-20 to 53.3.

But across two games - both starts - since returning on Thursday, Davis has just 21 points, seven rebounds and a single block in total.

Although he played less than 17 minutes in his first game back, his accuracy from the field has been most concerning, shooting 24.1 per cent having made just seven of his 29 attempts.

The Lakers lost both games to fall to 35-25 in fifth in the Western Conference, now just 1.5 games ahead of the Mavs.

The situation could have been even worse had the Portland Trail Blazers - 2.5 games back in seventh, a dreaded play-in place - not lost four straight.

"It's like you're starting over with the guys and just trying to find a connection with these guys again," Davis said after Saturday's 108-93 defeat.

"They're trying to find a connection with me. So, it's like we're starting from zero, which is tough so late in the season."

He added: "You've got to try to figure it out on the fly, which we're going to have to do."

James, who had 25.4 points, 7.9 assists and 7.9 rebounds and was in MVP contention before he went down, has been out since March 20 with a high ankle sprain.

Dennis Schroder, the team's third-best scorer with 15.6 points, said: "We're going to talk about it.

"I think when Bron comes back, we're going to have a conversation as a team. Because our chemistry off the court is great. But on the court, we've just got to turn it up some more."

Athletes expressed relief and vowed to continue the fight for reforms after a jury in Minnesota found a former police officer guilty in the May 2020 death of George Floyd. 

Derek Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter on Tuesday, nearly 11 months after he knelt on Floyd's neck and back for more than nine minutes during an arrest. 

Floyd's death aged 46 sparked outrage across the United States, with athletes across multiple sports among those who called for justice. 

Tuesday's verdict in Minneapolis provided a measure of progress and sports figures, teams and leagues spoke out after the ruling. 

Basketball star LeBron James' reaction was among the most succinct as he tweeted simply: "ACCOUNTABILITY".

Boxing legend Mike Tyson tweeted: "Guilty. Justice served."

While similiar expressions of relief were common, most continued to lament the crime that sparked the case. 

"George Floyd lost his life, as many others have, unjustly. We can't forget that - that people are losing their lives," Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash told reporters.

"On the other hand, it is a small gesture of justice and possibly hope for the future in that perhaps all the social justice movements - the NBA, the WNBA, the community at large - are really making an impact.

"I just hope that this is the type of statement by our justice system that gives hope and precedence for these type of verdicts to be the norm."

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said Anthony Davis is days away from making his return, while he also provided an update on injured superstar LeBron James.

Davis has been sidelined since exiting the NBA champions' game against the Denver Nuggets on February 14 as he recovers from tendinosis and a calf strain in his right leg.

While there was a slight chance of Davis returning in the series against the NBA-leading Utah Jazz, he is in line to resume his season when the Lakers face the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday.

"We got some good work in after our team meeting this morning," Vogel said on Monday as Davis missed the Jazz showdown.

"He's going to continue to build up over the next two days and see how he's feeling going into that Dallas game."

Davis, who will return on a minutes restriction, was averaging 22.5 points per game this season before the injury – his lowest since his second year in the league with the New Orleans Pelicans (20.8).

The 28-year-old's average of 8.4 rebounds in 2020-21 is the lowest since his rookie season (8.2) in 2012-13.

"The biggest thing is conditioning right now," Vogel added. "He's healthy. But having not played and not really being able to ramp up his physical on-court activity over the last two months, it's going to take some time before he gets his wind under him and obviously, that's the biggest thing.

"Because if his legs aren't under him, we don't want him to be at risk for re-aggravation of the injury or another injury. We want to keep a close eye on that."

The Lakers have been without James since he suffered a high ankle sprain in the team's loss to the Atlanta Hawks on March 20.

James has been averaging 25.4 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game in 2020-21.

Vogel said the 36-year-old has been doing "light work" on the court.

"Just trying to do a little bit more with his activity each day," Vogel said of James.

Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis has been cleared to resume full on-court activities and could return for the upcoming series against the NBA-leading Utah Jazz.

Davis has been sidelined since exiting the NBA champions' game against the Denver Nuggets on February 14 as he recovers from tendinosis and a calf strain in his right leg.

The Lakers have also been without superstar LeBron James due to an ankle injury, but head coach Frank Vogel said the team are close to welcoming back Davis.

Davis missed Thursday's clash with the Boston Celtics, but Vogel did not rule out the eight-time All-Star from potentially returning in the Utah series across April 17 and April 19.

The Lakers are more hopeful Davis will be ready to face the Dallas Mavericks on April 22.

"Good news. He was evaluated again upon the return of this trip," Vogel told reporters on Thursday.

"He has been cleared for full on-court activity. Full practice, anything we want to do with him to begin his real ramp-up to begin his return to play.

"All the court work he's been doing until this point has been to get him to be fully cleared to participate in full practice.

"Obviously he's not playing tonight [Thursday]. It's unlikely he plays in the two Utah games, but not out of the question. Hopefully he is available after that."

Davis, who will return on a minutes restriction, was averaging 22.5 points per game this season before the injury – his lowest since his second year in the league with the New Orleans Pelicans (20.8).

The 28-year-old's average of 8.4 rebounds in 2020-21 is the lowest since his rookie season (8.2) in 2012-13.

Vogel's Lakers (34-21) are fifth in the Western Conference, seven games adrift of the high-flying Jazz (41-14).

Luka Doncic sunk a buzzer-beating three-pointer for the Dallas Mavericks against the Memphis Grizzlies and declared: "Those are the best feelings ever."

The Slovenian took centre stage in Memphis as he posted 29 points, sealing a 114-113 victory with just 1.8 seconds left on the clock to earn the nickname 'Houdini' from his coach Rick Carlisle.

Grayson Allen had only just missed two free throws for the Grizzlies, making the triumph even sweeter for the Mavs.

"I was really surprised when it went in," said Doncic, whose exploits earned praise on Twitter from LeBron James. "Those are the best feelings ever.

"Sometimes you're going to make it, but sometimes you're going to miss it, too.

"You've got to take that, too. I think that's the most important part. If my team trusts me in that moment, I'll keep working on it."

Coach Carlisle compared the Mavs' talisman to the legendary Harry Houdini, conceding his team had pulled off a miraculous escape.

"In those situations, you pull off a win in a game like that once in a blue moon," he said.

"It just doesn't happen very often. Luka made one of the signature, special shots that you're going to see for a long time.

"This is one of those joyous nights where we escaped. We had Houdini. He got us out of here alive.

"He's just a very, very special and unique guy when it comes to these kinds of things. He sees angles and possibilities and has a belief system that very few of us can fathom. Pretty amazing stuff."

The Mavs are now 30-24, sitting seventh in the Western Conference.

The Milwaukee Bucks dropped their second game without Giannis Antetokounmpo going down 116-101 to the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA on Thursday night.

Mavs center Kristaps Porzingis dominated with 26 points including four three-pointers, along with 17 rebounds, with Slovenian guard Luka Doncic top scoring with 27 points.

The Bucks were without two-time MVP Giannis due to knee soreness, missing his third straight game as Milwaukee slipped to 32-19.

Milwaukee produced a 14-0 run in the third with Donte DiVincenzo scoring 22 points and Bobby Portis pulling down 14 rebounds but Dallas dominated the last quarter to take out the win.

The Los Angeles Lakers dropped another game without LeBron James and Anthony Davis as Jimmy Butler dazzled for the Miami Heat in a 110-104 victory.

Butler scored 28 points, with seven rebounds and five assists for Miami who trailed at the main break.

The Lakers have lost six of their past 10 matches with a 32-20 record and are fifth in the West.

 

Clippers blanket Suns, Jazz blow away Blazers

In a crucial clash in the West, the Los Angeles Clippers finished strong to edge the in-form Phoenix Suns 113-103 led by Paul George and Kawhi Leonard.

George had 33 points including seven three-pointers, seven rebounds and three assists, while Leonard scored 27 points, with five rebounds and five assists.

New Clippers recruit Rajon Rondo added 15 points and nine assists off the bench too, as they improved to 35-18, with the Suns 36-15 after their eight-game winning run ended.

Donovan Mitchell scored 37 points as the ladder leading Utah Jazz blew away the Portland Trail Blazers with a 40-19 third quarter to win 122-103.

Jazz center Rudy Gobert had 20 rebounds along with his 18 points while Damian Lillard scored 23 points and had five rebounds and six assists for the Blazers.

The Chicago Bulls were too good for the undermanned Toronto Raptors 122-113 with Deadline Day additions Nikola Vucevic and Daniel Theis starring.

 

New Heat recruit hurt

Heat guard Victor Oladipo played 25 minutes and scored 18 points in their win over the Lakers but he went off late with an apparent left knee injury which will have Miami sweating on their new recruit.

 

 

Kawhi dunks on Suns

The commentators were left staggered when Leonard drove into the key and produced a massive right-hand dunk in the third of the Clippers win over the Suns.

 

Thursday's results

Chicago Bulls 122-113 Toronto Raptors
Miami Heat 110-104 Los Angeles Lakers
Cleveland Cavaliers 129-102 Oklahoma City Thunder
Dallas Mavericks 116-101 Milwaukee Bucks
Los Angeles Clippers 113-103 Phoenix Suns
Detroit Pistons 113-101 Sacramento Kings
Utah Jazz 122-103 Portland Trail Blazers

 

76ers in The Big Easy

Joel Embiid's Philadelphia 76ers (35-16) go to Zion Williamson's New Orleans Pelicans (22-29) looking to re-claim top spot in the East.

Frank Vogel offered his injury-hit Los Angeles Lakers "no excuses" as they were blown out by the Los Angeles Clippers without LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

James is out with a high ankle sprain, while a calf issue continues to keep Davis sidelined.

With new signing Andre Drummond then also ruled out due to a toe injury on his Lakers debut, Vogel was short-handed heading into Sunday's meeting with the Clippers.

But the title-winning head coach still was not impressed by what he saw in a 104-86 loss.

Montrezl Harrell, a former Clipper, led the Lakers in scoring with 19 points, but only fellow center Marc Gasol, who played fewer than 18 minutes, reached double-figures among the starting five.

The reigning NBA champions shot a disappointing 40 per cent from the field, their joint-second worst mark of the season.

Vogel said the Lakers would have to "improve with our offensive execution" and did not accept the injuries to James and Davis as mitigating factors.

"There's no excuses here," he added. "The guys that are playing have what it takes to get the job done, it's that simple."

The team's 86 points were a season low, yet it was also the fifth time in eight games – going back to the meeting with the Atlanta Hawks in which James went down – they have failed to reach 100.

Forward Kyle Kuzma, who had six points on awful two-for-10 shooting, said: "Defensively, we'll be all right. We'll compete, challenge most opponents.

"But offensively, we've got to find ways to play together and put points on the board. You can't win games scoring in the 80s and 90s."

On many a Sunday, I realize that people have looked at the stories they have seen throughout the week with different lenses. I have my own personal take on some of these trending issues and I will share them with you. Welcome to #INCASEYOUMISSEDIT the 2021 edition with Mariah.

 

 Positive signs for Windies batting

West Indies batting has been a matter of concern, especially in the Test format for some time.

As recently, as of July 2020 when West Indies faced England in three Tests, the Jamaica Observer newspaper blared the headline “West Indies bowlers undermined by batting woes” a sentiment shared by many newspapers in cricket-loving nations around the world.

After winning the first Test against England, the West Indies only survived 70.1 overs in the second innings of the second Test. It was even worse in the second innings of the third Test when they lasted a mere 37.1 overs as England completed a 269-run win in Manchester.

However, against Bangladesh and in the just concluded test series against Sri Lanka, the Windies have shown signs of improvement.

Generally speaking, West Indies batsmen do not face enough balls and hence give their wickets away cheaply. Against Sri Lanka, there was a refreshing change in attitude and application.

In the final Test, Captain Kraigg Brathwaite made 126 in the first innings- his ninth Test century, his first as captain and 85 in the second. In all, the skipper batted 813 minutes, the most in a Test for the Windies. In that time, he faced 507 balls, the joint-most by a West Indian in a Test match since Brian Lara's 400* off 582 balls against England in 2004.

Similarly, Kyle Mayers and Jason Holder each spent time at the crease while setting a 377-run target for Sri Lanka. Mayers faced 76 balls for his 55 while Holder scored 71 not out off 88 balls.

In the first Test, Nkrumah Bonner’s maiden century of 113* was an exercise in patience and determination. Batting at number three, the 32-year-old Jamaican faced 274 balls in more than seven hours at the crease.

 There is still a lot of work to be done but the early evidence suggests that the West Indies batsman might finally be on the right path.

 

 Sergio Aguero still has value

 It has been confirmed by Premier League club Manchester City that Sergio Aguero will leave when his contract expires at the end of the season.

However, this does not mean that his career has come to an end.

This season has been a challenging one for the striker, who has had to endure injury, Covid-19, and lack of game time. In his 14 appearances, he has started nine games and scored three goals.

Despite his struggles, he is arguably the best non-English striker to grace the Premier League and the numbers speak for themselves. Aguero is the fourth highest goal scorer in the Premier League history with 181 goals. He also leads the statistics in the rate of scoring in English top-flight football since 1992.

Aguero’s famous goal in injury time against QPR in 2012 when he clinched the club’s first English title in 44 years, is one for the books. Overall, he has helped The Citizens to four Premier League titles, one FA Cup and five League Cups.

Though slowed by age and injury, in Saturday’s game against Leicester City, he worked hard off the ball and contributed to his side’s win, something he has done constantly during his incredible career at Manchester City.

His boots will not be easily filled as was made clear by Pep Guardiola.

“I want to be clear. Maybe we'll find a new player to replace Sergio. In terms of numbers, he might be replaced, but in terms of what he means to the club, it is impossible.” 

 

Why are super teams an issue for some in the NBA?

The news of LaMarcus Aldridge joining the Brooklyn Nets did not sit well with many Los Angeles Lakers fans with many saying the Nets are so desperate for a championship they are buying one. Lakers superstar Le Bron James’ son Bronny also weighed in tweeting, “All this to stop a 36-year-old man in Year 18.”

LA Lakers CEO and owner Jeanie Buss, who sees the move as making the NBA a more compelling product said, “So, bring it on.”   

Personally, I see nothing wrong with the Nets creating a super team because LeBron has done the same many times in the past.

In fact, LeBron created his own super team with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami Heat in 2010-2011. He also helped assemble Kevin Love Kyrie Irving for the championship-winning Cleveland Cavaliers.

 And while the Nets signed the talented LeMarcus Aldridge it is important to note that the Lakers also recently signed two-time all-star centre Andre Drummond, who is averaging 17.5 points and 13.5 rebounds this season despite having not played since February 12.

 

Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG) have announced a "significant investment" into the company by the firm co-owned by LeBron James, RedBird Capital Partners.

The investment, which sees James become part of FSG's ownership group along with his business partners Maverick Carter and Paul Wachter, will help Liverpool address an estimated £120million loss in revenues during the coronavirus pandemic.

FSG said in a statement that the deal, which is part of an ongoing alliance between FSG and RedBird, would help the group pursue growth opportunities, while underlining a focus on "winning".

"Over the years, Fenway Sports Group has been able to attract a dedicated group of executives and partnerships seeking to compete for titles in the most challenging and rewarding landscapes," read the statement.

"Our strategic partnership with Gerry and the entire team at RedBird will enhance our ability to pursue future growth opportunities in a more accelerated way but with the same selectiveness that has served us so well.

"We are also pleased to welcome to our ownership group LeBron, Maverick and Paul, with whom we have enjoyed a successful collaboration for well over a decade. Their addition is an important milestone for FSG and expands and deepens a longtime friendship and relationship that began in 2010.

"To our fans and supporters: winning continues to be the driving force for all of us. The growth of FSG as an organisation allows us to further strengthen our resources and commitment to the communities we serve, and we look forward to having these talented new partners join us in the next chapter of FSG’s evolution."

FSG, which is valued and $7.4bn and whose leadership is comprised of principal owner John W. Henry, chairman Tom Werner and president Mike Gordon, took control of Liverpool in 2010.

The investment from RedBird, which is reported to be a 10 per cent minority holding, will help the club achieve its ambition of redeveloping the Anfield Road Stand.

Gerry Cardinale, founder and managing partner of RedBird, said, "Fenway Sports Group is unique not only for the quality of its sports properties and assets, but for the highly disciplined, results-oriented organisation that John, Tom, Mike and the FSG team have built over the past 20 years.

"RedBird shares the same passion for performance-driven investing, business operations, fan experience and service to the community. We look forward to contributing our experience growing premier sports properties and working alongside this tremendous leadership team, including our fellow new owners LeBron, Maverick and Paul."

Maverick Carter added: "Working with Fenway Sports Group for the past decade has taught LeBron and me so much about the business on a global scale, and we’ve always believed it would lead to something bigger.

"We are proud to be part of this iconic ownership group and are excited about the opportunities that come with that to continue creating change and empowering people of every race, gender and background to be part of the process."

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