DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Dinwiddie have coronavirus, may not return with Nets

NEW YORK (AP) — Spencer Dinwiddie and DeAndre Jordan said Monday they have tested positive for the coronavirus, potentially leaving the Brooklyn Nets without two starters when the NBA season resumes.

Jordan said he won’t be in Florida with the Nets when they return from the suspension of the 2019-20 season, while Dinwiddie told The Athletic that he was experiencing symptoms and it was unclear if he would be at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.

At least six players on the Nets have tested positive for the virus. The other four were back in March, when Kevin Durant said he was one of them.

Both players said they tested positive after returning to New York to rejoin the team. Some players left the city, which was a hot spot at the time, after the NBA halted play.

Dinwiddie said he tested negative for the virus multiple times after returning to Brooklyn and took part in a couple practices. But he has since tested positive and said he has a fever and chest soreness.

His absence would be a significant blow to the Nets, given he has played so well this season with Kyrie Irving out of the lineup because of injuries. He is averaging 20.6 points.

Jordan announced his status on Twitter, saying he learned of his diagnosis Sunday night and it was confirmed again Monday.

The center signed with the Nets last summer along with Durant and Irving. The 2016 U.S. Olympic gold medalist spent most of the season as a reserve but had moved into the starting lineup for both games after Jacque Vaughn replaced Kenny Atkinson as coach in March.

The Nets have a half-game lead over Orlando for seventh place in the Eastern Conference. They are set to face the Magic on July 31 in their first game back.

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LeBron James announces nationwide special in May to honor graduating seniors

For an estimated 3 million American high school seniors, there won’t be a walk across a stage this year. But a televised special across several major networks and backed by LeBron James could help add a sense of community next month in the midst of graduation season.

The LeBron James Family Foundation announced a partnership Wednesday with XQ Institute and The Entertainment Industry Foundation to air an hourlong special on May 16 honoring high school graduates who have had to postpone celebrations for the COVID-19 crisis. The celebrity-fueled event will offer commencement speeches and vignettes and feature appearances by James, the Jonas Brothers, U.S. Soccer star Megan Rapinoe and Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai among others, will be broadcast on NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX as well as multimedia platforms Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat and TikTok among others.

The commercial-free special, called “Graduate Together,” represents the Lakers star’s latest effort in education, which includes sponsored college tuition to students in his native Akron, Ohio, as well as a public school he opened in 2018. James said in a release that he was moved to create something that he hoped could help commemorate an annual rite of passage for the nation’s high school graduates.

“It’s about a shared experience, a journey we’re all on together — students, parents, educators, community members, and everyone around them,” he said. “With that not being possible right now, we’ve been working to find ways to help families get through this really difficult time. These students have worked incredibly hard for this and there’s no way we can let that go unrecognized.”

The event will be helmed by James’ SpringHill Entertainment with input from students and teachers, backed by the American Federation of Teachers. Various celebrities involved with the event announced on social media by sharing high school photos of themselves. Students, teachers and families have been invited to share their own videos and photos on social media using the hashtag #GraduateTogether. Local television stations airing the broadcast will also be able to cut away and share stories in their own communities.

The sweeping collaboration involving multiple networks, media platforms and performers offers perspective into the scale of the crisis — how the experience of social distancing has universally impacted students around the country who have largely been asked to continue school from home, often in challenging conditions.

The partners on the special have also called for donations to support DonorsChoose and America’s Food Fund, nonprofits that support educational and food security goals for those struggling during the coronavirus crisis.

The broadcast is scheduled to air 8 p.m. PT on Saturday, May 16. Other entertainment figures committed to the project include Bad Bunny, Charli D’Amelio, Dixie D’Amelio, Chika, YBN Cordae, Loren Gray, H.E.R., Brandan Bmike Odums, Ben Platt, Henry Platt, Jonah Platt, Yara Shahidi, Lena Waithe and Pharrell Williams.

Working on something special for you high school class of 2020! 🙏🏾 See you May 16th!! @LJFamFoundation @GradTogether @XQAmerica @EIFoundation #GraduateTogether 🎓#MoreThanAnAthlete 👑pic.twitter.com/oKvC2VrqzN

— LeBron James (@KingJames) April 29, 2020

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Suns’ Devin Booker wins NBA 2K20 Players Tournament, Clippers duo out in semis

Devin Booker won the NBA 2K20 Players Tournament on Saturday night, sweeping Phoenix Suns teammate Deandre Ayton in the best-of-three final.

“I played a lot growing up,” Booker said. “It’s all about timing and eye coordination.”

ESPN broadcast the three-day, 16-player Xbox One competition. The last NBA games were played March 11, the day Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus.

Booker’s Houston Rockets topped Ayton’s Los Angeles Lakers 72-62 in Game 1 and the star guard directed the Denver Nuggets to a 74-62 victory over thee Milwaukee Bucks in the second.

“Anyone who thinks they can play 2K, let’s get it,” Booker said.

Booker earned a $100,000 donation to a coronavirus-related relief effort of his choice. Seeded fifth, he beat Denver’s Michael Porter Jr., Washington’s Rui Hachimura and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell to reach the final — also sweeping those matchups.

Ayton topped Chicago’s Zach LaVine, Atlanta’s Trae Young and the Clippers’ Patrick Beverley, using his own Suns to top Beverley in the semifinals.

“I said in the beginning that it was going to be Deandre and I in the championship — and that’s the way it ended up,” Booker said.

The players were seeded by their NBA 2K player ratings.

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Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo applauds LeBron James’ performance

LOS ANGELES — With all the electricity of a playoff game, the NBA’s Western and Eastern Conference leaders – and their respective leading men – clashed Friday night at Staples Center in what might have been a preview of the NBA Finals.

The case of LeBron James vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo tilted in favor of the home team this time, with James rallying his squad from a nine-point, first-half deficit to a playoff-clinching 113-103 victory at the Milwaukee Bucks’ expense.

Afterward, the Bucks superstar stood facing a media scrum, his lip bloodied, his squad having lost for just the 10th time all season and his mind made up: His knee, which buckled badly in the second half was “good,” he insisted.

The 25-year-old reigning league MVP scored 32 points in the loss, two fewer than he’d scored in the teams’ last meeting, a 111-104 Milwaukee victory in December.

On Friday the 6-foot-11 power forward/point guard/small forward/shooting guard went 10 for 21 from the field and 11 for 14 from the free-throw line, grabbed 11 rebounds and added six assists and a steal – but the Bucks were outscored by 11 points when he was on the floor.

On the other end, James – who was serenaded with “M-V-P” chants by a partisan crowd – asserted himself as if he wanted to spark, or perhaps settle, a debate.

James entered Friday’s affair averaging 25.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 10.7 assists per game and having led the Lakers back to the precipice of a playoff berth for the first time since 2013.

Antetekounmpo showed up for work Friday averaging 29.6 points and 13.8 rebounds per game, his 3-point shooting having improved to 30.9 percent from 25.6 last season – helped a bit by his career-high five 3-pointers against the Lakers last time.

“He’s lights out, in all ways,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said pregame of the seventh-year star. “He keeps working on his 3-point shot and his ability to hurt you that way. He … puts a lot of pressure on your defense, (he’s) difficult to guard, great defensively one-on-one, great defensively in weak-side situations.

“He’s been good.”

James, of course, has won three championships in his 17 NBA seasons, and harbors hopes of earning a fourth this season. Antetekounmpo would like this season to earn his first championship – and to thwart James’ desire to do it again.

That bubbling push-and-pull made for compelling theater Friday, even for someone as close to the action as Vogel.

“I enjoy it, all of us coaches, we’re still fans of the game, you know,” Vogel said. “We like to see the best go against the best, and these types of matchups that I’m fortunate to be a part of, get a front-row seat and hopefully can help our superstars beat their superstars.”

Vogel got his wish: His 35-year-old forward/point guard scored 37 points, got to the free-throw line 15 times (making 12 foul shots), grabbed eight rebounds, and recorded seven assists and three steals to lead the Lakers (48-13) past Antetekounmpo’s squad, which was bothered by the Lakers’ length and unable to recover from a 31-17 disparity in free throws.

Even in defeat, Antetekounmpo applauded James’ performance.

“It’s always good playing against one of the best players in the league, like you can feel whenever you bring the ball down, whenever you go against him, you can feel greatness,” said Antetekounmpo, who remained in the game Friday despite his scary fall. “He’s gonna come at you and you gotta be ready to go, gotta be ready to fight against him. … At the end of the day, he’s gonna get his shots up, he’s gonna get his teammates involved. He’s LeBron James, what can you say?”

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Clippers pounce on Grizzlies, end 3-game slide

  • Clippers guard Patrick Beverley, right, drives past Grizzlies guard Ja Morant during the first half of Monday’s game at Staples Center. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Memphis Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks, left, shoots as Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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  • Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George, right, shoots as Memphis Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, left, shoots as Memphis Grizzlies guard De’Anthony Melton defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Memphis Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas, left, tried to get by Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, below, shoots as Los Angeles Clippers forward JaMychal Green defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 24: Paul George #13 of the Los Angeles Clippers dunks the ball during the first half against the Memphis Grizzlies at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 24: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers controls the ball against De’Anthony Melton #0 of the Memphis Grizzlies during the first half of a game at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (12) shoots as Los Angeles Clippers guard Reggie Jackson (1) defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, right, shoots as Los Angeles Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell watches during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 24: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers dribbles past Josh Jackson #20 and Dillon Brooks #24 of the Memphis Grizzlies during the first half of a game at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell, top, dunks as Memphis Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks, left, and guard Ja Morant watch during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell reacts after scoring during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, right, shoots as Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 24: Patrick Beverley #21 of the Los Angeles Clippers tries to grab the ball against Josh Jackson #20 of the Memphis Grizzlies during the second half at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 24: Marcus Morris Sr. #31 of the Los Angeles Clippers fights for position against Jonas Valanciunas #17 and Josh Jackson #20 of the Memphis Grizzlies during the first half of a game at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 24: Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies goes to the basket against the Los Angeles Clippers during the first half at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 24: Montrezl Harrell #5 of the Los Angeles Clippers blocks a shot from Kyle Anderson #1 of the Memphis Grizzlies during the first half at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 24: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Los Angeles Clippers reacts to a play during the first half against the Memphis Grizzlies at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 24: Montrezl Harrell #5 of the LA Clippers dunks over Gorgui Dieng #14 of the Memphis Grizzlies during the first half of a game at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 24: Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies battles Montrezl Harrell #5 of the LA Clippers for a loose ball during the first half of a game at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 24: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers passes the ball past the defense of De’Anthony Melton #0 of the Memphis Grizzlies during the first half of a game at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 24: Montrezl Harrell #5 of the LA Clippers controls the ball against the defense of Josh Jackson #20 of the Memphis Grizzlies during the first half of a game at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 24: Montrezl Harrell #5 of the LA Clippers reacts to being fouled after a layup during the first half of a game against the Memphis Grizzlies at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 24: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers looks to pass during the first half of a game against the Memphis Grizzlies at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 24: Paul George #13 of the Los Angeles Clippers dribbles into the defense of Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies during the first half of a game at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 24: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers looks to shoot past the defense of Gorgui Dieng #14 of the Memphis Grizzlies during the first half of a game against the Memphis Grizzlies at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 24: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers reacts to being fouled during the first half of a game against the Memphis Grizzlies at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 24: Patrick Beverley #21 of the Los Angeles Clippers calls a play during the first half of a game against the Memphis Grizzlies at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 24: Ivica Zubac #40 of the Los Angeles Clippers dunks the ball during the first half of a game against the Memphis Grizzlies at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 24: Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies controls the ball against the defense of JaMychal Green #4 and Montrezl Harrell #5 of the LA Clippers during the first half of a game at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 24: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Los Angeles Clippers dribbles into the defense of Dillon Brooks #24 of the Memphis Grizzlies during the first half of a game at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 24: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Los Angeles Clippers dribbles into the defense of Josh Jackson #20 of the Memphis Grizzlies during the first half of a game at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, right, shoots as Memphis Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 24: Josh Jackson #20 of the Memphis Grizzlies looks to pass the ball against Marcus Morris Sr. #31 of the Los Angeles Clippers during the second half at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 24: Patrick Beverley #21 of the Los Angeles Clippers dribbles upcourt during the first half of a game against the Memphis Grizzlies at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 24: Reggie Jackson #1 of the LA Clippers fights for the ball against the Memphis Grizzlies during the second half at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

  • Memphis Grizzlies guard De’Anthony Melton, left, is hit in the neck while trying to guard Los Angeles Clippers guard Reggie Jackson during the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 124-97. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 24: Patrick Beverley #21 of the Los Angeles Clippers celebrates during the second half of a game as Kyle Anderson #1 of the Memphis Grizzlies looks on at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George, left, and Memphis Grizzlies guard Josh Jackson reach for a loose ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 124-97. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Memphis Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks, right, shoots as Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 124-97. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Clippers forward JaMychal Green, left, shoots as Memphis Grizzlies center Gorgui Dieng defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 124-97. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, left, shoots as Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 124-97. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr., right, shoots as Memphis Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 124-97. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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LOS ANGELES — Before overwhelming the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday, Coach Doc Rivers balked at the suggestion that this season’s Clippers were waiting to flip a switch of some sort.

The gear they hit in Monday’s 124-97 rout? That, in Rivers’ mind, had everything to do with available horsepower – not the heart under the hood.

“I don’t think we are a flip-the-switch team,” the 21st-year head coach said pregame. “I would say anyone who says that doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Because flip-the-switch teams are teams that have been healthy all year and just have chosen not to play. But when you are out of sorts with different lineups, that’s different.”

In their 57th game this season, the Clippers (38-19) sent forth their 29th starting lineup, this one the optimum unit of Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Patrick Beverley, Marcus Morris and Ivica Zubac, who headlined a finally fully healthy roster – something that has happened only five games this season.

The result was a steamroll, and a most convincing recovery from Saturday’s chilly 112-103 loss to the Sacramento Kings – and that irksome 140-114 butt-kicking the last time the Clippers hosted the Grizzlies (28-29).

“That was obviously a big win for us,” said Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins, whose squad used the blowout as a springboard to a seven-game winning streak that launched it into playoff contention.

“(But) now,” he continued, “knowing that we’re going up against a team that’s got most of their roster back, it’s gonna be even a taller task.”

Monday’s performance confirmed that the rest of the NBA has reason to fear an able-bodied Clippers team, which improved to 18-7 when both Leonard and George play.

“This is what we talked about, this is what we dreamed of when this all came together,” George said. “This is the squad and the team that we thought we would be. Just, with us being a new team, we gotta have consistency with games like this, where we come out and we look to dominate and be the aggressors and we look to put teams away early and put our imprint on the game.”

Two days earlier, in their first game back from the All-Star break, the Clippers shot 39.1 percent and committed 19 turnovers in a disjointed effort that ran their losing skid to a season-high three games.

With that one out of the way, fortune shifted the Clippers’ direction, starting with their good health and extending to their defensive energy that stymied the Grizzlies’ ball movement, holding Memphis to 20 assists (7.1 shy of their NBA-leading average) and 16.1 points below their season average.

Offensively, things went L.A.’s way early. The Clippers scored 40 first-quarter points and built a first-half lead as large as 35 points – advantages that stuck even as the Clippers and Grizzlies played almost even the rest of the way.

The Clippers improved to 23-6 at Staples Center, where earlier Monday, Doc Rivers and other Clippers and Grizzlies officials joined many of basketball’s most esteemed dignitaries in a memorial service for Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna.

A few hours after that celebration of life, Kawhi Leonard, one of Kobe’s many protégés in the sport, led all scorers with 25 points in 25 minutes (including none in fourth quarter).

He said he liked what he saw from his squad Monday, but he’ll like it more when they string together these types of willful performances.

“It’s one game,” Leonard said. “I don’t think you can really say what you can see from a team in one game. You have to see consistency … It’s about us going out there and doing the work. We’re talented, we’ve got a good group of players, so it’s just about going out there and making sure we’re doing the work and that’s it.”

And fighting the urge, he said, to hit that proverbial switch.

“I don’t think you can play basketball or win a championship like that,” said Leonard, who shot 10 for 17 from the field and added eight rebounds and three assists. “Human nature allows you sometimes to go out and not be the person you are in (some) games. Things like that happen, but I don’t think any team won the championship that said, ‘Oh we’re just going to win in the playoffs.’”

Montrezl Harrell added 22 off the bench on 9-of-11 shooting and Morris chipped in with 13 points in his fifth game with the team. Landry Shamet (13 points) and JaMychal Green (13) also cracked double figures for the Clippers.

In his return from a hamstring strain, George scored seven points on 3-for-11 shooting, grabbed four rebounds and had four assists in 21 minutes. Beverley came back after being sidelined for five games with a sore groin and recorded six points, three rebounds and two steals while providing his characteristic energy in 19 minutes.

All told, the Clippers shot 50 percent from the floor (47 for 94) and dished 33 assists.

“It’s been,” Rivers said, “a good, long day.”

KAWHI WITH THE LEFT HANDED JAM 😳

🎥: @tacobell #ClipperNation@LAClippers pic.twitter.com/EePP3gJbSB

— FOX Sports West (@FoxSportsWest) February 25, 2020

KAWHI LE🤯NARD

📺@FoxSportsWest | @kawhileonard pic.twitter.com/xORS7Kvhm6

— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) February 25, 2020

Not in @MONSTATREZZ‘s house 🚫🚫🚫#ClipperNation@LAClippers pic.twitter.com/9EkXmwJY32

— FOX Sports West (@FoxSportsWest) February 25, 2020

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Whicker: Ivica Zubac holds the fort until Clippers start firing against Miami

LOS ANGELES — All those 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, from the hand of Landry Shamet, were the sauce.

The meat of the Clippers’ victory over the Miami Heat on Wednesday came on the defensive end, tenderized by center Ivica Zubac.

The Heat led at halftime, 58-55, running the offense through center Bam Adebayo, a first-time All-Star, and getting three 3-pointers from UCSB alum Gabe Vincent (he would miss his eight other shots).

Zubac didn’t really have a low-post guy to play against. “I had to go out on the floor and watch the back cuts,” he said.

But eventually, the game comes into the deep paint, and Zubac was waiting.

He blocked two shots by Kendrick Nunn in the first two minutes of the second half. Miami’s Jimmy Butler left with an injury. Miami was already holding out James Johnson and Justise Winslow, pending a trade with Memphis for Andre Igoudala. The batteries were low.

The Clippers banged home seven 3-pointers in the first 7:10 of the quarter. Behind 87-78, Adebayo got into the lane against Zubac, tried a ball fake, looked outside, looked in again, and Zubac never abandoned his sense of verticality.

So Adebayo was called for a 3-second violation. When Zubac got to the bench he got a rousing high-five from assistant coach Sam Cassell.

“Sam’s always on me,” Zubac said, smiling, “telling me to improve. Tonight I did everything he told me to do, and I did it right.”

And the Clippers went on to stroke 24 3-pointers in 54 tries and run away from Miami 128-111.

“I had to guard a big who handles the ball a lot,” Zubac said. “It’s a different role than usual, not being in the paint. We made a couple of mistakes, but we did a better job in the second half.”

The Heat shot 9 for 25 in that quarter and got blitzed 37-22. Miami played a more insistent fourth quarter and got to within seven with 2:23 left, but the Clippers found Shamet twice in the corner, and those buckets boosted the Clippers to 36-15, second-best in the Western Conference.

“I’ve gotten better at calling out coverages, communication, and being vertical when they’re attacking me in the paint,” Zubac said. “I do a better job of standing in front of the guards than I used to. I can take it to a higher level as far as reading the offenses, reading where all of our guys are, so I can get into the right position.”

Shamet’s 23 points led a 70-point volley from the Clippers’ bench, but Zubac hit all six of his shots and had three blocks and eight rebounds. He is only being asked to play 18 minutes per game and got to 21 in this one.

A year ago Friday, the Lakers shipped Zubac and Michael Beasley to the Clippers for Mike Muscala. It was a crosstown present that the Clippers used to win their way into the playoffs and take two road games from Golden State in their first-round series. As we later saw, the Lakers had to clear space for more established 7-footers, and you can’t keep and pay everybody. But the change has been outstanding for Zubac, who does not turn 23 until March.

The trade deadline is Thursday (noon PT), and teams like the Heat had to go through the motions of a basketball game while pursuing the serpentine logistics of an NBA trade (or two – Miami is reportedly in pursuit of former Clipper Danilo Gallinari, now with Oklahoma City).

For the first time in a long time, the Clippers weren’t really involved in the deadline shuffle, although that can change, of course.

“It doesn’t really feel like the deadline is happening in this locker room,” Zubac said. “Nobody’s really talking or thinking about it. You can’t do anything about it.

“With social media, you see everything that is going on. It’s our job to play against those guys. But I never really thought about it when I was younger. I just wanted to play and that’s all I worried about. If someone wanted to trade for me, I always thought it was a good sign.”

Which, of course, is the way every player in every sport should look at trades, unless you’re being dealt because you have one of those (dramatic whisper) “expiring contracts,” and your value is dependent on how quickly you can be expunged. Otherwise, players should only start worrying when they quit hearing the rumors.

According to Coach Doc Rivers, the Clippers improved with each pass. In one third-quarter possession, all five players on the floor touched the ball, and Kawhi Leonard capitalized with a jumper.

“It was all ball movement,” Rivers said, “because our spacing was so bad in the first half. Guys were saying they could drive the ball and I was saying, no, let’s shoot it. Miami was playing zone and we couldn’t see what we should be doing. In the second half, we did that.”

Generally, other NBA teams should want to trade with the Clippers. It’s preferable to trading baskets.

.@ivicazubac, who grabbed career rebound number 1️⃣0️⃣0️⃣0️⃣ tonight, talks with @Kristina_Pink about his strong night & the victory.#ClipperNation@LAClippers pic.twitter.com/OotTut2fsV

— FOX Sports West (@FoxSportsWest) February 6, 2020

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Cheering for Kobe Bryant was a ticket to Southern California life for many of the region’s Asian Americans

With limited English, 10-year-old James Kim broke the ice at lunch with his new classmates talking about Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, and how they took the Los Angeles Lakers to the championships in 2001.

Now living in Long Beach, cheering for Bryant was how Anne Milo Shanahan still connected with cousins back home in the Philippines.

  • Laker fans gather in front of a mural of Kobe Bryant on the 1300 block of Lebanon Street across from the LA Convention center in Los Angeles Monday, January 27, 2020. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 28: Fans leave condolence message on boards to pay their respects to Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, 13, at a memorial set up outside of Staples Center on January 28, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Kobe his daughter Gianna, were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash on January 26 in Calabasas, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

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  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 28: Fans gather to pay their respects to Kobe Bryant at LA Live on January 28, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 28: Items left by fans to pay their respects to Kobe Bryant at LA Live on January 28, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 28: Fans shoot baskets at a memorial wall near Staples Center in honor of former NBA great Kobe Bryant who, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, died January 26 in a helicopter crash, on January 28, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Kobe and “Gigi” were among nine people killed in the crash in Calabasas, California as they were flying to his Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, where he was going to coach her in a tournament game. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

  • People mourn Kobe Bryant outside of the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Tuesday, January 28, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The ferris wheel at the Santa Monica Pier is lit in purple and gold in honor of LA Lakers legend Kobe Bryant on Tuesday, January 28, 2020.
    (Photo by Axel Koester, Contributing Photographer)

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And, watching the basketball legend run the court on television with her 90-year-old grandmother are special memories for Yvette Tung.

“That’s what you talked to people about,” Tung, 38, of Hacienda Heights, said. “All of a sudden, you have integrated. You’re in LA now.”

Southern California’s Asian American and Pacific Islander community grew significantly in the 2000s, just as Bryant reached his peak with the Lakers. For many in the community trying to find their place in the ever-sprawling region, Bryant was their gateway to Southern California and its culture, to a classroom with few immigrant peers, to a family divided by generations or continents.

And with the news of his death and eight others on Sunday, Jan. 26, in a helicopter crash in the Calabasas hills, several said they still find themselves mourning days later.

“Kobe was our guy,” Josh Chung, 26, of Los Angeles, said. “Now, it’s all gone.”

In 2000, Kim was dropped into foreign surroundings when his family moved from South Korea. He hadn’t watched many Laker games in Korea, but in Burbank he found new friends as he fell in love with the team just “when Kobe and Shaq were going nuts.”

“It was always the topic of conversation you can bring up to people,” Kim said. “Our core friend group was white kids, Mexican kids, half-Asian kids, but we were religiously following Kobe. That was really what tied us together.”

“Ask a Korean” blogger who writes under the pen name T.K. Park moved to Cerritos from Korea as a 10th grader in 1996, just as rookie Bryant was emerging with the Lakers.

“Just starting conversation was so much easier. You had to just talk about the Lakers,” said Park, who now lives on the East Coast. “It’s like magic, where you have to say a certain word and you gain admission into the society.”

Southern California is “self-segregated,” he said, “there’s nothing that really holds it together other than sports.”

And, you didn’t have to be a kid to find a lifeline in Bryant. Tung said her grandmother emigrated from Taiwan to the United States in the mid-1990s. Ready to move beyond the safety of a familiar mahjong club, her grandmother gravitated toward watching Laker games, Tung said.

“She would relate to the small guys because my grandmother used to be a small guard too,” Tung said. “And she really, really appreciated that Kobe makes most of his free throws.”

Her grandmother doesn’t know English well – she calls players by their numbers – but she and Tung can connect watching and talking about the Lakers.

“It’s really been a connecting tissue,” she said.

Shanahan came to the United States from the Philippines when she was turning 5 and has lived in Long Beach ever since. She remembers when Bryant visited the island country in 1998, dancing with the locals and checking out basketball courts.

“It really helped the Filipino community feel close to him,” Shanahan said. “We don’t have a lot of prevalent icons, so he kind of felt like that for many of us.”

Chung said he also saw a dedication in Bryant that resonated with him and a lot of his friends.

“We grew up with people telling us, whether parents or coaches, you have to work hard,” he said, “and that’s that immigrant narrative that a lot of us saw in Kobe.”

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Anthony Davis scores 46 as Lakers’ present trumps their past in win over Pelicans

  • Lakers forward Anthony Davis extends himself to catch a lob pass before finishing with a dunk, as Pelicans center Jaxson Hayes, second from left, and guard E’Twaun Moore, right, watch along with Lakers’ Danny Green during the first half of Friday’s game at Staples Center. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers guard Danny Green, left, shoots as New Orleans Pelicans guard Josh Hart defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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  • New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram, left, is fouled while shooting by Los Angeles Lakers center JaVale McGee during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram, center, shoots as Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis, left, and center JaVale McGee defend during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram, right, shoots as Los Angeles Lakers center JaVale McGee defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • New Orleans Pelicans center Jaxson Hayes, left, shoots as Los Angeles Lakers guard Danny Green defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis, left, talks with forward LeBron James, center, as New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball walks nearby during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, left, tries to drive past New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, right, shoots as New Orleans Pelicans forward Derrick Favors defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James celebrates after scoring during the first half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis dunks during the first half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis, right, celebrates with forward LeBron James after dunking as New Orleans Pelicans guard JJ Redick looks away during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Actor Will Ferrell watches the first half of an NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, right, tries to drive past New Orleans Pelicans center Jaxson Hayes, front left, as guard E’Twaun Moore defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Singer Adam Levine watches the first half of an NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis, center, grabs a rebound away from New Orleans Pelicans guard JJ Redick, right, as guard Lonzo Ball watches during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 123-113. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis yells after scoring during the second half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 123-113. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball, left, dunks as Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 123-113. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • LaVar Ball watches the second half of an NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 123-113. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball, right, tries to get the ball from Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 123-113. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • New Orleans Pelicans center Jaxson Hayes, right, shoots as Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 123-113. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday, left, reaches for the ball held by Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 123-113. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, right, talks with New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson, left, and guard Lonzo Ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 123-113. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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LOS ANGELES — As Brandon Ingram meandered off the Staples Center court, having canned dozens of warm-up shots about an hour before tip-off, a small gathering of fans draped over the barrier of the visitor’s tunnel, holding out gold jerseys with Ingram’s No. 14.

He didn’t hesitate, grabbing the black markers and scribbling his signature, nonchalantly revisiting relics of his once-hopeful past.

Before LeBron James and Anthony Davis, it was Ingram’s jersey that sold here. Staples Center once swelled with cheers for the slender forward and his fellow young teammates. It was a dark era, but Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart represented promise ahead for the down-and-out Lakers franchise.

It didn’t work out. The young core was shipped to New Orleans this summer in the interest of turning hope into actual results. And that tradeoff was the underpinning of Friday night’s 123-113 Lakers victory over the pieces of the puzzle they once thought would fit.

The potential of that trio could not measure up to the tangible, present-day dominance of Davis, who again torched his former team for 46 points on 15-for-21 shooting, muscling in the paint for 13 rebounds and plucking away three steals. He also was perfect at the free-throw line, sinking all 13 of his attempts.

The Lakers (28-7), who have won four in a row following their season-high four-game losing streak, again played it tighter than they had to, frittering away a 24-point lead to just single digits in the final minutes. But nothing summed up the evening’s affairs better than a dunk Davis finished on Ingram’s head while securing victory down the stretch.

“He’s the recipient of our flow on offense, because he’s just as fast as anybody on the floor, more dynamic than anybody that’s on the floor, does it better playing in the interior, playing in the exterior,” James said. “He can do so many things.”

And he’s a Laker because of the summer trade that sent Ingram, Ball and Hart away.

The sellout crowd gave one more big salute to the former Lakers, cheering Ball in his starting lineup introduction, then getting even louder for Ingram – who is enjoying a season as a borderline All-Star. In the first timeout of the first quarter, the team played a tribute video for the trio, with a montage of the silver lining of three losing seasons.

” I appreciate the fans,” Ingram said. “The fans get us going every single night. For it to be an opposing team to give us love like that, I give respect and love to them also.”

But any Lakers fan who witnessed the night’s proceedings would find it impossible to second-guess the trade that sent them away.

Davis punched one of the most impressive baskets of the season in the first quarter, reaching back almost impossibly far for a one-handed alley-oop as the Lakers sprinted to a 42-point first quarter. James joked that Danny Green, who threw the off-target pass behind his head, was “one of the worst alley-oop passers” in NBA history.

But Davis’ most dominant frame was the third, when he scored 19 of the Lakers’ 31 points. He had scored 41 points in the first meeting with the Pelicans, but on a force-feeding of post-up possessions. These 46 came on dunks, above-the-key 3-pointers and all organic shots.

“I think it was just more flowing, we just run the offense and the ball happened to come to me in positions where i was able to score,” Davis said. “I’m finding my way.”

Whereas the young core’s fit with James was tenuous, LeBron looked comfortable at the controls with Davis as his chief weapon. Aside from 17 points, James racked up 15 assists – eight in the first quarter alone – to remain the pace-setter for the rest of the league.

That wasn’t to say the young Pelicans weren’t frisky against their old team. With his father LaVar watching in a courtside seat, Ball had 23 points for the first back-to-back 20-point games of his career. Ingram added 22, helping fuel a fast-break attack that scored 27 points on a Lakers team that was beaten down the floor more than they would like.

But the veteran supporting cast that replaced them had a few bright spots, namely Green who scored 17 of his 23 points (and made five of his 3-pointers) in the first quarter alone. The Lakers were 14 for 29 from 3-point range for the night.

The Pelicans are still awaiting their next star big man: rookie Zion Williamson did some pregame work on the Staples Center court, but he has not yet been cleared to play after being drafted No. 1 overall out of Duke. As they languish in 14th place in the Western Conference, hope will have to keep them nourished through a seemingly long rebuild.

The Lakers? That time is over. They’re living gloriously in the present.

“You’ve got Bron and A.D.,” Ball said. “That’s going to be hard for anybody.”

46 PTS | 15-21 FGM | 13 REB@AntDavis23 powers the @Lakers over NOP for their 4th W in a row. #LakeShow pic.twitter.com/mCZNHdTXpw

— NBA (@NBA) January 4, 2020

AD with the one-handed 🔨! #LakeShow pic.twitter.com/5qAEXOiEWp

— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) January 4, 2020

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Lakers scramble to hold on for win over Phoenix to start new year

LOS ANGELES >> While New Year’s resolutions tend to burn off quickly, the Lakers’ energetic tone to start 2020 didn’t last a full 48 minutes.

After a 43-point first quarter, the West’s No. 1 team seemed destined for a laugher, a blowout victory that would keep them on their course for 2020. But after an impressive shooting faded, and the Lakers (27-7) had to scramble to make sure they started off the year the right way.

It ended up a 117-107 victory over the woeful Phoenix Suns (13-21), which was their third straight win and extended their unbeaten streak against sub-.500 teams to 18-0. But given that they once led by 36 points, the path to that victory could have been more impressive.

“If we continue to play like that then we’re gonna lose games like that, which we don’t want,” Anthony Davis. “We don’t want to come in blowing a 36-point lead.”

The stars showed out: LeBron James had a triple-double (31 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists) before the third quarter ended, and Anthony Davis added 26 points and 11 rebounds. Even among the supporting cast, Kyle Kuzma had 19 points and Avery Bradley got on track with a season-high 18.

But given that the night started with the team 17 for 20 from the field, it was stunning that the Lakers finished shooting under 48 percent on the night. Phoenix started the the fourth quarter on a 16-4 run, as the bench failed to close out the game.

The Suns got as close as 7 points in the final two minutes. The Lakers didn’t start either James or Davis to begin the fourth, but both checked in when the lead dwindled to 12 points. It skewed Frank Vogel’s hopes to give both of his stars an easy night (each ended up playing more about 38 minutes).

“I wouldn’t play them the whole third if I thought we were gonna need them to return,” he said. “Sometimes that works against you if you don’t extend the lead in the final three minutes of the third quarter. It creates a difficult situation but guys in the fourth quarter gotta come in and do their job too.”

“A game of runs” might never have more cleanly defined a single night. The Lakers started off as hot as could be, hitting 11 straight shots after tip-off. All five starters poured in points, including three dunks by Davis and three on-target jump shots by Bradley who broke wildly out of a slump.

The streak didn’t end until Danny Green missed a 3-pointer more than five-and-a-half minutes into the game. Even so, JaVale McGee collected the rebound and dished off to Green, who cruised in for an uncontested dunk. The Lakers already led by 15 points.

James in particular looked rejuvenated after a stretch of three games in which a groin contusion had kept him out of the sky. But he showcased a spring in his step to start 2020 when, after lobbing a pass to Davis for a reverse dunk, he swiped the ball from Jevon Carter and ran the length of the floor for his own slam.

Three quarters passed with no serious threat to the Lakers, then the fourth quarter happened. Outside of Kuzma, the reserves scored just 11 points and shot 4 for 16. Adding to the Lakers’ problems was an injury concern for Alex Caruso, who left the game late with right calf tightness and did not return.

Devin Booker led Phoenix with 32 points. Kelly Oubre had 26. After 12 turnovers in the first half, the Suns had just 3 in the second as they outpaced the Lakers 66 to 43.

The Lakers have often struggled without James on the floor, a problem that was again underscored as the game got close. But James said he never fully checked out even when Vogel signaled that he was probably done.

“He didn’t tell me that he didn’t intend to bring me back into the game, but he kind of gave me a look,” he said. “And I told him I’m gonna stay ready. So I was ready for whatever. Stay ready, you never got to get ready, you know?”

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Clippers overcome Lakers after halftime self-assessment

LOS ANGELES — With his team trailing 63-51 at halftime, Clippers coach Doc Rivers went around the Staples Center locker room like a patient school teacher and asked his players what they thought they needed to do better if they were going to turn things around.

“I asked them to talk,” said Rivers, whose faith in his players’ problem-solving abilities paid off in Wednesday’s 111-106 victory in their Christmas showdown over the Lakers.

“We came in here and we said it at halftime, man,” said Montrezl Harrell, who scored 12 of his 18 points in the second half, when the Clippers outscored the Lakers 60-43. “Doc basically asked everybody on the team, ‘What do you see?’

“Guys gave their answers and the last answer that was given, by one of our teammates, was that they’re just playing harder. And it was that point that Doc was looking for.”

Confirmed Rivers: “I said, ‘So that’s the easiest adjustment we can make all year if that’s true.’”

Whoever said it was speaking the basketball god’s honest truth: The Clippers were getting beaten measurably in the hustle department. In the first 24 minutes, they had only two blocks and two steals to the Lakers’ eight blocks and six steals.

“I mean, they were playing extremely harder than us,” is how Harrell put it. “They were taking it downhill, it was a team that was attacking us the full 24 minutes in the first half. What was we gonna do? Were we gonna keep complaining about it or go out and change it?”

They chose door No. 2.

After taking a good look in the mirror during intermission, it took the Clippers almost the entire third quarter to erase a Lakers lead that had grown to as many as 15 points, but when Landry Shamet stepped into a 3-point shot, it knotted the game at 86.

They kept the momentum going into the fourth quarter, a taut 12 minutes that eventually went the way of Patrick Beverley’s will.

“I gotta get my guys going. I gotta make sure we’re locked in from the beginning to the end,” said the 6-foot-1 guard, who skied for a clutch offensive board with 5:44 to go before coming up with the game-sealing block on LeBron James with 3.6 seconds left.

“(At halftime) we were just saying we gotta start worrying about the game,” said Kawhi Leonard, whose unwavering production Wednesday carried the team throughout the game, when he logged 35 points on 11-for-19 shooting.

“Like, ‘We’re not gonna blow teams out, it’s not gonna be easy. Every night it’s gonna be a battle. Stop worrying about the score. Just play every possession, play hard, if we’re losing, don’t look up, just keep doing what we have to do to win.’

“And I think we did that in the second half.”

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