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James scores 32 points as Lakers rally to beat Suns

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – LeBron James shook off an early injury scare to score 32 points and key the Los Angeles Lakers’ 122-119 comeback win over the Phoenix Suns on Friday in his first taste of the NBA’s new in-season tournament.

After a knock to his lower left leg had him hobbing briefly in the first quarter, the 38-year-old superstar settled in and produced another age-defying performance, helping the Lakers snap a three-game losing streak.

He connected on 11 of 17 shots from the field, including three of four from three-point range. He added 11 rebounds and six assists.

James was delighted not only with a first road win of the young season but with a victory in the Lakers’ first game in the new in-season tournament – a Cup-style competition that commissioner Adam Silver hopes will fire players’ competitive instincts and give added interest to early season games with the promise of a trophy and prize money.

“It feels great because it’s an in-season tournament win and we’ll take that,” James told broadcaster ESPN after the game. “We’ll take that for sure. Y’all heard there’s USD500,000 on the line, so we’re going for that. We’re going for that.”

Kevin Durant scored 38 points to lead the Suns, who led by as many as 14 on the way to a 63-55 halftime lead.

LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers attempts a layup against Yuta Watanabe and Jordan Goodwin of the Phoenix Suns. PHOTO: AFP
LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers controls the ball against Jordan Goodwin and Keita Bates-Diop of the Phoenix Suns. PHOTO: AFP

Austin Reaves’ layup with 9:45 left to play gave the Lakers their first lead since the first quarter.

It was part of a 14-0 Lakers run, and Los Angeles were able to make the lead stand up.

“I think we just finally got sick of being out-rebounded,” James said of the Lakers’ improvement on the boards late in the contest. “We kept bodies in front of bodies.

“We finally started hitting our three pointers and that definitely helped us get back into game,” added James, whose Lakers made 12 three-pointers – nine of them in the second half.

While James wasn’t shy about targeting the in-season tournament, Boston star Jayson Tatum was more pleased to see the Celtics end a two-game skid with a 121-107 victory over Brooklyn.

Jaylen Brown scored 28 points and Tatum added 23 in a relatively comfortable victory.

Stung by back-to-back defeats, the Celtics came out strong and led by as many as 17 in a first half in which they made 12 three-pointers.

“Yeah, it would be nice to win (the in-season tournament), but more importantly it was just good to get back in the winning column.

“We lost two in a row, so it was important to come back home and get a win.”

Eight teams will advance from group play to knockout rounds, all culminating with a title match on December 9 in Las Vegas.

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