NBA: Lakers put Hornets' play-off push on hold, Towns' T-Wolves top Warriors in controversial finish

Charlotte Hornets' Willy Hernangomez (left) and forward Marvin Williams (centre) guard Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James (right) as he drives to the basket in the second half of the game at Staples Center on March 29, 2019.
Charlotte Hornets' Willy Hernangomez (left) and forward Marvin Williams (centre) guard Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James (right) as he drives to the basket in the second half of the game at Staples Center on March 29, 2019.PHOTO: USA TODAY SPORTS/REUTERS

(REUTERS) - LeBron James had 27 points and nine assists, and the Los Angeles Lakers prevented the visiting Charlotte Hornets from moving closer to a National Basketball Association play-off spot with a 129-115 win on Friday (March 29) night.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 25 points, Kyle Kuzma scored 20, Rajon Rondo had a season-high 17 assists, and Lance Stephenson contributed 14 points and a season-high 13 rebounds off the bench for the Lakers, who have won three out of four games for the first time since Dec 8-15.

Kemba Walker scored 24 points to lead the Hornets, who dropped two games behind the Miami Heat for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Charlotte has seven games remaining, five on the road.

Dwayne Bacon finished with 21 points, Miles Bridges scored 17, and Marvin Williams and Frank Kaminsky had 13 points each for the Hornets, who came in riding a season-long four-game winning streak.

James improved to 28-0 in his career against Walker.

Walker scored the first basket of the fourth quarter to pull the Hornets within eight at 101-93 with 9:56 left, but that was the only points they would score in the first 4:24 of the quarter.

Meanwhile, the Lakers extended their lead to 17 points and the Hornets never got back within single digits.

In another game, Karl-Anthony Towns made a tie-breaking free throw with half a second remaining in overtime, giving the Minnesota Timberwolves a 131-130 victory that dropped the visiting Golden State Warriors into a tie for the top spot in the Western Conference.

Kevin Durant fouled Towns as he was breaking for the basket on an inbounds play, and was called for a pushing foul near the hoop even though the pass appeared to be clearly over both players' heads.

Towns made the first of two free throws before missing the second intentionally, which allowed time to run out. The loss allowed Denver, who won earlier in the night at Oklahoma City, to draw even with the Warriors for the top spot in the West at 51-24 with seven games remaining.

The controversial finish followed another potential game-determining call with 5.8 seconds remaining in the extra session and Golden State trailing by three. The ball was inbounded to Durant, who upon catching the pass immediately cast a three-pointer that went in while a foul was being called.

But instead of rewarding Durant with a game-tying hoop and a chance to put Golden State on top at the free-throw line, officials ruled that the foul had occurred in the instant before the shot, erasing the hoop and giving the ball back to the Warriors out of bounds.

Golden State then inbounded to Stephen Curry, who hit a three-pointer from the left corner with 0.5 seconds left on the clock to draw even.

The three-pointer was the 11th of the game for Curry, who finished with a game-high 37 points.

Durant had 23 points to go with 12 rebounds and seven assists while Klay Thompson totalled 20 points, DeMarcus Cousins 16 and Andre Iguodala 14 for the Warriors, who were attempting to sweep the season series from the Timberwolves after three earlier wins. Andrew Wiggins led eight Timberwolves in double figures with 24 points.

Towns recorded a 15-point, 13-rebound double-double for Minnesota, while Josh Okogie chipped in with 21 points, Jerryd Bayless 17, Anthony Tolliver and Gorgui Dieng 14 apiece, Tyus Jones 12, and Dario Saric 10.

Elsewhere, Donovan Mitchell scored 35 points to lead the hosts Utah Jazz to a 128-124 victory over the Washington Wizards.

Joe Ingles added 18 points and 10 assists. Rudy Gobert finished with 13 points and 17 rebounds for the Jazz. Jae Crowder had 18 points and Ricky Rubio chipped in 17.

Utah shot 55.2 per cent from the field to win for the ninth time in 10 games. Bradley Beal scored 34 points while Bobby Portis added 28 points and 13 rebounds to lead Washington.

Thomas Bryant added 11 points and 12 rebounds for the Wizards. Jabari Parker chipped in 15 off the bench.

The Wizards came up short despite shooting 49 per cent from the field.