Nets hold Lakers 122-115 as Nic Claxton battles LeBron James
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LOS ANGELES – Shorthanded and on the verge of collapsing in the fourth quarter, the Brooklyn Nets went straight for Lakers star LeBron James.
“Until it’s over, until we can get our full roster, I think the motto is ‘find ways to win’, and we did it,” said the Nets goalie James Harden.
This time it meant right above James’ head.
Nic Claxton launched a tiebreaker on James with 40.7 seconds left, and Harden and the Nets returned from a weeklong COVID-19 hiatus to beat Los Angeles 122-115 on Saturday night.
Harden had 36 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. The latest assist was a lob that Claxton grabbed with both hands as he hovered over James, who had just helped Los Angeles clear a 20-point deficit. Claxton posted the All-Star 17 times, then made a free throw for a three-point play and a 118-115 lead.
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It had been more than two weeks since Harden last played, running out of time due to a stint in NBA health and safety protocols before the Nets saw their last three games postponed because that they didn’t have enough players.
After “doing a lot of nothing,” as Harden described it. “Lots of video games and binge-watching.”
This one was worth seeing.
Patty Mills added 34 points for the Nets, who were still without Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, among others. Bruce Brown had 16 points and DeAndre ‘Bembry had 15.
“Obviously a lot of our guys were missing, some guys had to step up and they did it tonight,” said Harden.
James tied a season high with 39 points to overtake Kobe Bryant for most career points on Christmas day, but that wasn’t enough to keep the Lakers from reaching five straight losses. Russell Westbrook had 13 points, 11 assists and 12 rebounds for his second career vacation triple-double, and Malik Monk scored 20 points.
James overtook Bryant with the first of two free throws with 3:52 left in the first half of his 16th game at Christmas, tying Bryant’s record for most appearances. James has 422 points on vacation compared to Bryant’s 395.
“I don’t really care how I play if it’s a loss,” James said.
Harden figured he would be able to rest when the Nets took a 102-82 lead in the fourth quarter, only for the Lakers to come back strong and tie him on Monk’s layup on a pass from James with 45 seconds remaining.
Then Harden returned to Claxton on the alley. Westbrook missed a dunk on the other end and Harden made four free throws to claim the victory.
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“It wasn’t supposed to be like this, you know?” Said Harden. “It’s not supposed to be a 39 minute game (for me), but at the end of the day you know I just wanted to win and that’s all that matters.”
The Lakers limp into the new year with a 16-18 record.
“We’re as crazy as everyone else, man, probably even more so because like I said before, we all know what we need to do,” Monk said. “And sometimes we do, and sometimes we don’t, and we’re not going to win like that and everyone knows that.”
Harden is the eighth player to record a triple-double at Christmas, joining the exclusive company after the Knicks’ Kemba Walker did so earlier today. James, Westbrook, Draymond Green, Billy Cunningham, John Havlicek and Oscar Robertson round out the club.
“Sometimes I think he should be more aggressive, but he always plays the right game,” Brown said of Harden’s fifth triple-double this season.
Harden and Westbrook’s triple doubles marked the first time opposing players have made it in the same christmas game.
FIGHT TO END
Westbrook joined Robertson as a second player with several triple doubles at Christmas, which Robertson has done four times. However, Westbrook only made 4 of 20 shots and the Lakers were 23 points ahead with him on the field.
Claxton finished with nine points, six rebounds and five blocks. … Darren Collison had zero points, an assist and two rebounds in 12 minutes in his first game after signing a 10-day contract with the Lakers. The 34-year-old, born in Rancho Cucamonga and played for UCLA, retired in 2019 after playing 10 seasons with New Orleans, Indiana, Dallas, the Clippers and Sacramento. … It was the first event in the newly renamed Crypto.com Arena, marking the start of a more than $ 700 million naming rights deal, considered the largest in the history of home sports. Lakers and NHL Kings. The Clippers have also been tenants since the site opened in 1999, but will move to their own building in Inglewood in 2024.
Nets: At the Clippers on Monday.
Lakers: In Houston on Tuesday.
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