LOS ANGELES, United States, Dec 11 – LeBron James won the final instalment of his long rivalry with Dwyane Wade on Monday, scoring 28 points as the Los Angeles Lakers held on for a 108-105 victory over the Miami Heat at the Staples Center.
James and Wade, who arrived in the NBA together as part of a star-studded draft in 2003, have formed one of basketball’s most famous rivalries and closest friendships over the course of their careers.
Former team-mates at the Miami Heat, where the duo won back-to-back NBA championships in 2012 and 2013, the two faced each other for the last time on Monday with Wade retiring after the 2018 season.
The 31st meeting of the two men finished with a victory for James, who seized control of the contest in the fourth quarter to finish with 28 points, nine rebounds and 12 assists.
Wade scored 15 points off the bench for Miami, whose top scorer was Justise Winslow with 28 points.
The Lakers win means James finished with 16 wins to Wade’s 15 in head-to-head meetings between the two players.
The two NBA icons embraced at the buzzer before swapping jerseys in a mutual show of respect.
“It’s bitter sweet man,” said James. “A lot of emotions for me right now, just knowing that I’m losing a brother in this game that I’ve had so many wars against, so many wars together.
“There’s no better way to end it than here at the Staples Center. We’re going to miss him in this league. That’s for sure.”
– Emotional tribute –
Wade paid an emotional tribute to James. “It’s tough,” he said. “This is what you play for, playing against one of the greatest players ever.
“Whether we were team-mates or whether we were opponents, we brought the best out of each other. I’m just so grateful to have been drafted at the same time as this guy.
“The friendship we have is beyond basketball. But I’m going to miss the shit out of this.”
The win saw the Lakers improve to 17-10 in the Western Conference and was another sign that James’s arrival is starting to bear fruit.
Wade said he is confident James will be able to transform the Lakers into championship contenders.
“He can do anything he wants. He’s shown that, he’s proven that,” he said. “I have no doubt this team will be in the finals at some point.”
Elsewhere Monday, Stephen Curry scored 38 points as the Golden State Warriors improved to 19-9 with a 116-108 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
– Triple for Westbrook –
The Oklahoma City Thunder are in first place in the Western Conference, however, following their 122-113 win over the Utah Jazz.
Paul George scored 31 points and Russell Westbrook recorded his sixth triple double of the season as the Thunder bounced back from their upset loss against the Chicago Bulls on Friday to improve to 17-8.
Former NBA MVP Westbrook’s triple included 12 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
In Philadelphia, Joel Embiid set aside his recent indifferent form to score 24 points as the 76ers kept up the pressure on Eastern Conference leaders Toronto with a 116-102 win over the Detroit Pistons.
Cameroon big man Embiid has reportedly grown increasingly frustrated with his form since the acquisition of Jimmy Butler. Last week he voiced unhappiness at his new positional role in the team following Butler’s arrival.
Against Detroit on Monday, Butler left the court with a groin strain towards the end of the first quarter to allow Embiid to carry the offensive load for the Sixers.
The 24-year-old had no difficulty imposing himself, adding eight rebounds and three assists in addition to his double-digit points tally.
Ben Simmons had 18 points along with Furkan Korkmaz, who had 18 points from the bench for Philadelphia. Simmons also had 10 rebounds to complete a double-double.
Small forward Luke Kennard led the scoring for Detroit with 28 points while Andre Drummond had 21.
The win saw the Sixers improve to 19-9 to hold onto the third place in the Eastern Conference, two games back from leaders Toronto.
Milwaukee are second with 18-8 after easing past the Cleveland Cavaliers 108-92 on Monday.
The Bucks were without star Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was scratched from the starting line-up after complaining of a sore neck.
With Antetokounmpo missing, Eric Bledsoe led the scoring with 20 points and 12 rebounds while Malcolm Brogdon had 18 points with five rebounds and five assists.