MIAMI: LeBron James took another stride toward the NBA’s all-time scoring record with a dazzling 46-point performance but could not stop the Los Angeles Lakers falling to a 133-115 blowout against the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday.
The 38-year-old basketball icon rolled back the years with the latest in a string of virtuoso performances, draining a career-best nine three-pointers in what was ultimately a futile effort against a Clippers side led by Paul George and Kawhi Leonard.
James left the court immediately after the Clippers completed a wire-to-wire victory that saw them lead by as much as 23 points at halftime.
James threatened to inspire a fourth-quarter comeback to get the Lakers within 10 points but the Clippers regrouped around George and Leonard and pulled away.
The only consolation for James was that he is now within touching distance of surpassing Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time points scorer.
James needs another 178 points to eclipse Abdul-Jabbar’s tally of 38,387 points, one of the most coveted and longstanding records in basketball.
On current form, James is on track to break the record sometime in the next fortnight.
Lakers coach Darvin Ham admitted his team was not giving James the support his blistering form deserved.
“I’m happy for him, but we’ve got to get better,” Ham said. “We’ve got to give some help in other areas.
“He’s playing at an unbelievable level right now — it’s amazing to be able to watch. But having said that, we want to win games. So everyone can do something a little bit better — myself and my staff included.”
The Lakers fell to 22-26 and are 13th in the Western Conference standings while the Clippers improved to 26-24 to move to fifth.
George led the Clippers scoring with 27 points while Leonard added 25 and Norman Powell 22.
In other games, Bam Adebayo led a fourth-quarter fightback as the Miami Heat shrugged off an injury to Jimmy Butler to edge the pacesetting Boston Celtics 98-95.
Miami were rocked by the withdrawal of Butler shortly before tip-off in Florida as they prepared to face the Eastern Conference leaders and most bookmakers’ favorites for this year’s NBA crown.
But Adebayo stepped up with a 30-point performance as Miami sent Boston spinning to a second straight loss following Monday’s reverse to Orlando.
Adebayo’s haul included a crucial contribution down the stretch as Miami overturned a 10-point deficit with just over eight minutes remaining to close out a hard-fought victory.
The Celtics looked set for a morale-boosting road win as they opened up an 87-77 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
But back-to-back three-pointers from Haywood Highsmith got Miami to within four points.
Adebayo then delivered a hook shot and a dunk in quick succession to make it 87-87 and then scored the go-ahead basket to give Miami a lead they would not relinquish.
“Everybody has to take a bigger responsibility, everybody’s got more added to their plate,” Adebayo said.
“This team is built for that. We’ve had guys in and out of the rotation, injured or not. Just having that willingness to win, that’s all I can ask for from my team-mates.”
Miami’s other main scoring contributions came from Highsmith, with 15 points off the bench, Max Strus (13 points) and Victor Oladipo (12).
Boston’s scoring was led by Jayson Tatum with 31 points while Derrick White added 23 points.
The Celtics welcomed back Robert Williams from injury but were missing defensive stalwart Marcus Smart, Al Horford and Malcolm Brogdon.
Miami improved to 27-22 and are sixth in the Eastern Conference.
Elsewhere on Tuesday, Nikola Jokic returned from a two-game injury absence to lead the Denver Nuggets to a nail-biting 99-98 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
Jokic drained a jump shot with 16.9 seconds remaining to give Denver a one-point lead — and victory — after a battling Pelicans fightback in the fourth quarter.
At Madison Square Garden, meanwhile, a 36-point performance from Julius Randle helped the New York Knicks to a 105-103 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Donovan Mitchell and Jarrett Allen scored 24 points each for the Cavs, but the Knicks dug in for a win that keeps them firmly in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt, one win adrift of Miami.