NBA: Lakers ruin LaMelo Ball's homecoming with Hornets

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (left) guarding Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball, during their NBA match on March 18, 2021.
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (left) guarding Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball, during their NBA match on March 18, 2021.PHOTO: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - LeBron James welcomed LaMelo Ball back to Los Angeles with a 37-point performance Thursday night (March 18), lifting the Lakers to a 116-105 victory over the visiting Charlotte Hornets.

Shooting for a third straight and 100th career triple-double, James contributed eight rebounds and six assists to the Lakers' fourth consecutive win.

Ball, the former standout at Chino Hills High in the Los Angeles suburbs, put on a nice show in his Staples Centre National Basketball Association (NBA) debut. He led the Hornets with 26 points while also finding time for five rebounds and seven assists.

The Lakers were in command most of the way, but a third-quarter push allowed the Hornets to draw even at 64-all on a Ball layup.

Los Angeles was up just 83-78 entering the fourth period and then just 86-85 when Ball nailed a 3-pointer with 10:13 to play. However, the Lakers' Markieff Morris connected on consecutive hoops, including a 3-pointer, James added a jumper and Dennis Schroder buried a 3-pointer in a 10-0 burst that broke the game open.

The 37-point performance was James' ninth game with 30-plus points this season. His high was 46 at Cleveland on Jan. 25.

Schroder backed James with 22 points and a team-high seven assists for the Lakers, who were facing the Hornets for the first time this season.

Kyle Kuzma and Talen Horton-Tucker chipped in with 12 points apiece while Montrezl Harrell was the Lakers' top rebounder with 11 to complement seven points.

Ball's 26-point total was eight shy of his season-best, set against the Utah Jazz on Feb 5. It was his 14th game with 20 or more points in his rookie season and his eighth game with at least 20 points and seven assists.

Terry Rozier added 20 points for the Hornets, who had a four-game winning streak snapped at Denver on Wednesday.

P.J. Washington finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and four blocks for the Hornets. Devonte' Graham had 12 points and Gordon Hayward filled out the box score with seven points, a team-high-tying nine rebounds and a game-high 10 assists.

The Hornets remain in Los Angeles to face Clippers on Saturday night.

Over in Washington, Bradley Beal scored 43 points on 16-of-24 shooting to lead the Wizards to a 131-122 victory over the visiting Utah Jazz on Thursday night.

Russell Westbrook tallied 35 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists for the Wizards, earning his 13th triple-double of the season. Rui Hachimura chipped in 12 points and seven rebounds and Robin Lopez scored 11 points as Washington snapped a five-game losing streak.

The Wizards forced 17 turnovers and turned them into 24 points.

Donovan Mitchell scored 42 points and Joe Ingles added a career-high 34 points for the Jazz. Ingles matched a franchise record with eight made three-pointers.

Rudy Gobert chipped in 10 points and 13 rebounds.

The game between Minnesota Timberwolves and Phoenix Suns saw rookie Anthony Edwards scoring a season-high 42 points and Karl-Anthony Towns added a season-best 41 to lead Minnesota to a 123-119 victory at Phoenix.

Towns made five three-pointers and also contributed 10 rebounds and eight assists as the NBA-worst Timberwolves won for the third time in their past five games.

Edwards knocked down four three-pointers and collected seven rebounds as Minnesota improved to 5-17 on the road.

Devin Booker recorded 35 points and six assists for Phoenix, which lost for just the fifth time in the past 23 games. Mikal Bridges notched 17 points and eight assists, and Chris Paul added 17 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals.

In Portland, Damian Lillard scored 36 points as host Portland beat New Orleans (101-93) for the second time in three days and a sweep of their three-game season series.

Lillard also had 50 points and 10 assists in a 125-124 home victory two nights earlier and 43 points and a career-high-tying 16 assists in a 126-124 victory on Feb 17 in New Orleans. Enes Kanter added 16 points and 13 rebounds and Carmelo Anthony netted 15 for the Blazers.

Zion Williamson had 26 points and 10 rebounds, Brandon Ingram scored 19 and Lonzo Ball put up 15 to lead the Pelicans.

Over in Atlanta, Bogdan Bogdanovic came off the bench to score a season-high 23 points and help Atlanta rout visiting Oklahoma City 116-93.

The Hawks own a seven-game winning streak for the first time since 2016-17 as they kept Nate McMillan's record perfect since he became head coach on March 1.

The Hawks kept Nate McMillan's record perfect since he became head coach on March 1, 2021. PHOTO: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Atlanta also got 23 points and nine assists from Trae Young, who was rested during the fourth quarter, and 19 points and three blocks from John Collins.

The Thunder got 19 points from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Reserve Ty Jerome made a career-high six 3-pointers to finish with a career-best 18 points.

It was a close contest between the New York Knicks and Orlando Magic as Reggie Bullock scored 20 points and came up with a big steal with 5.9 seconds left as host New York held on for a 94-93 victory.

Alec Burks led the Knicks with 21 points and added 10 assists. Julius Randle posted his third triple-double of the season with 18 points, a career-high 17 assists and 10 rebounds.

Evan Fournier scored 23 points for the Magic, who lost their ninth straight game. Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic added 17 apiece.