LOS ANGELES: LeBron James staged the biggest fourth quarter comeback of his two-decade career on Wednesday as the Los Angeles Lakers rallied from a 21-point deficit to defeat the Los Angeles Clippers 116-112.
The 39-year-old NBA icon reeled off 34 points — 19 of them in the fourth quarter — to help the Lakers claim a pulsating victory over their in-form city rivals at the Crypto.com Arena.
It was another storybook performance from the evergreen James, who along with the Lakers had looked to be heading for an emphatic defeat after the Clippers jumped into a 98-77 lead early in the final frame.
But an inspired James helped the Lakers outscore the Clippers 39-16 in the fourth quarter to see them home.
“The game is not ever over until it’s double zeroes (on the play clock),” James told an on-court interviewer after the win.
James was backed by 20 points and 12 rebounds from Anthony Davis, while D’Angelo Russell added 18 and Rui Hachimura 13.
Kawhi Leonard topped the Clippers scoring with 26 points.
Clippers coach Tyronn Lue took responsibility for the loss.
“When you’re up 21 points you can’t lose a game like that,” Lue said. “I don’t think that’s ever happened since I’ve been coaching — to lose a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter.”
In other games on Wednesday, Nikola Jokic bagged his fourth straight triple-double as the Denver Nuggets overpowered the Sacramento Kings 117-96.
Two-time former NBA Most Valuable Player Jokic finished with 14 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists to bag his 19th triple of the season.
The Serbian star had gone into the game facing an intriguing duel with Sacramento’s Domantas Sabonis, who himself has been in blistering form since the All-Star break with three consecutive triple-doubles.
But Sabonis was effectively bottled up by Denver as the Nuggets staged a superb second quarter rally to turn the game around after trailing by 15 points.
Sacramento, missing injured playmaker De’Aaron Fox, had swept into a 47-32 lead to raise hopes of a morale-boosting road victory.
Denver roared back with a 21-4 run to regain control with Jamal Murray, who finished with 32 points, outstanding as the Nuggets opened up a 65-55 half-time lead at the break.
Denver outscored Sacramento 35-17 in the third quarter before coasting to victory by a 21-point margin.
The win leaves reigning NBA champions Denver third in the Western Conference with a 40-19 record, while Sacramento slipped to 33-25 in eighth place.
Elsewhere, Anthony Edwards shrugged off a lingering ankle injury to score 34 points as the Western Conference-leading Minnesota Timberwolves overcame stubborn resistance from the struggling Memphis Grizzlies to grind out a 110-101 victory.
Memphis (20-38) had surged into an early 14-point lead in the first quarter and also led by double digits in the third before Minnesota hit back to claim their 42nd win of the season.
Edwards led the Wolves scoring with 34 points while four other Minnesota players reached double figures.
In Toronto, Luka Doncic celebrated his 25th birthday with a 30-point triple double as the Dallas Mavericks bounced back from Tuesday’s shattering buzzer-beater defeat to Cleveland with a 136-125 win over the Raptors.
A high-scoring first half saw Toronto sneak into a 67-66 lead at the break before Doncic sparked a 40-point third quarter to take the visitors out of reach.
Doncic scored 15 of his 30 points in the third quarter, finishing the game with 16 assists and 11 rebounds to complete his triple.
“Just a normal game, a triple double,” Dallas coach Jason Kidd said of Doncic’s gem. “He was really good. Luka is our leader and he was really good tonight.”
Cleveland were unable to back up Tuesday’s win over Dallas in their road game against Chicago, the Bulls winning 132-123 in double overtime.
Donovan Mitchell could have won it for Cleveland as time expired in the first period of overtime, only to see his 20-foot jump shot miss.