LOS ANGELES, United States, Jan 2 – LeBron James had a triple double with 31 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists as the Los Angeles Lakers built up a big first half lead then held on to beat the struggling Phoenix Suns 117-107 on Wednesday.
The Lakers, who own the NBA’s second best record behind Milwaukee, had to hold on in the second half after leading at one stage by 36 points.
With their reserves struggling to maintain the big lead James and Anthony Davis had to return to the game and guide the offense after the Suns got within seven points.
“We have to do a better job of holding big leads,” said Lakers coach Frank Vogel. “We had a dominant performance in the first half. I was proud of how we came out.
“We didn’t play well enough in the third and fourth quarter but you learn lessons when you win.”
The Lakers and other NBA host teams on Wednesday held a moment of silence to pay tribute to former league commissioner David Stern, who died Wednesday following a brain hemorrhage.
James said Stern leaves a superb legacy behind.
“We lost a great visionary,” said James in the Lakers’ locker room after the game. “His vision was to make this game global. I don’t know how many people believed in that with him or thought it could be done.
“This game is now watched in 200 or 250 countries all over the world. Look at the collective group of players we got, Giannis (Antetokounmpo), Dirk (Nowitzki), Manu (Ginobili) and now Luka (Doncic).
“You have to give him so much credit. My prayers and condolences go to his family.
James posted his eighth triple double of the season and Davis scored 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as the Lakers won their third consecutive contest.
Kyle Kuzma added 19 points and Avery Bradley finished with 18 for Los Angeles.
Devin Booker finished with 32 points and Kelly Oubre had 26 for the hapless Suns, who lost their ninth game in their last 11.
The Suns have won just 13 games all year and are 14 games back of the first place Lakers.
– Knicks rout Trail Blazers –
Elsewhere, Julius Randle scored 22 points and Mitchell Robinson made franchise history by shooting a perfect 11-of-11 from the field as the New York Knicks won their third straight by routing the Portland Trail Blazers 117-93.
The Knicks win spoiled the return to New York of former Knick Carmelo Anthony who scored a season high 26 points.
Robinson finished with 22 points while tying the Knicks’ record for the most field-goal makes without a miss. Bernard King (January 1984) and Johnny Newman (January 1988) were also 11-of-11 from the field.
The Knicks, who haven’t won three straight since November 2018, seized control of the contest in the fourth as they outscored Portland 34-16.
Randle, who also had 13 rebounds, posted a double-double while Marcus Morris (18 points), Bobby Portis (17 points) and Reggie Bullock (11 points) also scored in double figures.
Anthony was playing at Madison Square Garden for just the second time since he was traded by the Knicks to the Oklahoma City Thunder in September 2017.
His 26 points was the most he has scored in a game since he potted 28 for the Houston Rockets against the Brooklyn Nets in November 2018.
Also, DJ Augustin and Nikola Vucevic combined for 45 points as the Orlando Magic snapped a four-game losing skid with a 122-101 victory over the Washington Wizards.
The Magic, who have the league’s worst offense, grabbed the lead halfway through the second quarter for a four-point advantage at the half, 62-58.
They built on that in the second half to put the game away.
Augustin finished with a season-high 25 points and Swiss-born Vucevic tallied 20 points and 12 rebounds in the win.
Evan Fournier had 18 points, Markelle Fultz scored 16 and Terrence Ross 15 for Orlando.
Bradley Beal returned from missing two games with soreness in his right leg to lead Washington with 27 points.
In Milwaukee, Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 32 points as the Bucks beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 106-104.
The Bucks improved to 31-5 on the season, the best 36-game start in franchise history. The 1971-72 Bucks led by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar dropped game No. 36 for a 30-6 mark.