LOS ANGELES • The Los Angeles Lakers erased a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit on the way to a 121-114 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Sunday, their first victory in the National Basketball Association without LeBron James since their superstar injured his groin in a Christmas Day game.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led the Lakers with 26 points off the bench. Josh Hart added 22 and Brandon Ingram 21 for the Lakers, who outscored the Kings 29-18 in the final period to give James - cheering from the bench on his 34th birthday - extra reason to celebrate.
The Lakers also avenged their last-second defeat at Sacramento on Thursday, when Bogdan Bogdanovic hit a three-pointer at the buzzer. The Lakers went on a 12-0 run late in the fourth quarter to turn a 110-103 deficit with 4min 30sec remaining into a 115-110 lead with less than two minutes left. They ended the game on an 18-4 run.
"We had to lock in defensively and stay to our game plan," Caldwell-Pope said after the game. "We got the stops that throughout the first half we didn't get, when we gave them a lot of second-chance points."
De'Aaron Fox scored 26 points while Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield added 21 each as the Kings lost for the second time in three games, with both of the defeats in Los Angeles. The Kings had lost to the Clippers 127-118 on Wednesday.
Josh Hart scored a season-high 22 points for the Lakers, while Kyle Kuzma added 18. Ingram and Kuzma, who combined for 16 rebounds and 15 assists, have been tasked with picking up the slack for an injured James, who still has no timetable for a return from his groin injury.
In Miami, Karl-Anthony Towns led the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 113-104 victory over the Miami Heat with a stellar game of 34 points, 18 rebounds, seven assists and six blocked shots - a statistical line that drew comparisons to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's 35 points, 19 rebounds, nine assists and eight blocks for the Lakers against Phoenix in 1975.
Towns, who also had three steals, connected on 12 of his 24 shots from the field, including three of six from three-point range.
"I wanted to make the right plays that we needed to win," he said. "I'm glad I was able to make them."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE