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Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis soars through the air for a basket during the second quarter of a game against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center in Houston


First place Lakers thump Rockets, Clippers storm back to beat Bulls

LOS ANGELES, United States, Jan 11Anthony Davis scored a game-high 27 points as the Los Angeles Lakers delivered a dominating all-around performance on Sunday with a crushing 120-102 defeat of the Houston Rockets in Texas.

The Lakers finally hit their stride in the new NBA season, running the Rockets ragged on offense and bottling up their top scorers on defense, especially three-time league scoring champion James Harden, who was held to 20 points and committed seven turnovers.

LeBron James scored 18 points as he and fellow all-star Davis had plenty of help from the bench. Talen Horton-Tucker (17 points), Montrezl Harrell (16) and Kyle Kuzma (13) all came off the bench to reach double figures for the Lakers, who are now a perfect 5-0 on the road to start the season.

The defending NBA champions scored a whopping 32 fast break points and 62 points in the paint, finally looking like the juggernaut team that many had envisioned at the start of the season. But where they really excelled Sunday was on defense, grabbing 39 defensive rebounds and forcing 13 steals.

“We’ve got to be a team who lead games with defense,” said Davis, who returned to the lineup Sunday after sitting out with a sore groin. “Tonight we made shots, but there are going to be nights when we don’t make shots and we can’t control that.

“What we can control is how we play defense. The coach came in at halftime and said our defensive effort was off the charts.”

With both James (ankle) and Davis nursing nagging injuries, getting 54 points from their bench and holding the Rockets to just 46 points in the first half is good sign for the future. Davis also had three blocks.

“Our goal is to be the No. 1 defensive team in the league,” said James. “We came in with the mindset to get stops and get out and do what we do on offense. We able to those things on both sides.

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Christian Wood paced the Rockets with 23 points while Harden also had nine assists. Houston shot just 12 for 41 from behind the arc.

Elsewhere, Kawhi Leonard scored a team high 35 points and surpassed 10,000 career points as the Los Angeles Clippers rallied to edge the Chicago Bulls 130-127.

Leonard earned the bulk of his points during an explosive third quarter in which he scored 21, a career high for one quarter.

He finished with seven three-pointers in the game, including one in the third period that allowed him to reach the milestone.

“We shot the ball well tonight and we got stops at the end of the game,” said Leonard, who hit 14 of 22 shots. “I never make excuses.”

The Clippers scored the first basket of the game but did not lead again until the third quarter when Leonard drained his seventh basket from beyond the arc.

Asked how he has been able to stay focused long enough to reach 10,000 career points, Leonard said, “Just hard work and dedication. I spend hours in the gym. I pretty much grind it out every day, and I have my mind set on a goal.”

The Clippers were able to regroup Sunday after a crushing 115-105 loss two days earlier to the Golden State Warriors, when they surrendered a 20-point lead.

Paul George had 28 points, seven rebounds and nine assists and Lou Williams came off the bench to score 21 points for the Clippers, who averted their first three-game losing streak of the season.

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The Bulls hung in there, but suffered another disappointing close loss. They lost by two points to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday and by four points to the Sacramento Kings two days earlier.

Zach LaVine scored a season-high 45 points and he made 10 three-pointers for the Bulls, who lost their third consecutive game. Garrett Temple added 18 points and Patrick Williams had 17 points. LaVine’s finished just shy of his personal high of 49 points.

Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard delivered a 35 point performance against the Chicago Bulls which propelled him past 10,000 total points for his career © GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP / Harry How

The Clippers outscored the Bulls 42-35 in the third quarter to go into the fourth with the game tied 94-94.

Nicolas Batum completed a four point play with 2:30 remaining in the fourth to give the Clippers the lead for good.

In the final seconds, LaVine put up an airball from three point range and then George nailed two free throws to seal the victory.

Elsewhere, Mike Conley had 22 points and Rudy Gobert grabbed 20 rebounds as the Utah Jazz slipped past the Detroit Pistons 96-86.

– Celtics v Heat postponed –

A general view inside TD Garden in Boston, where the Celtics’ NBA home game against the Miami Heat was posptoned because Covid-19 safety protocols left the Heat with too few players © GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP / Maddie Meyer

The Boston Celtics’ home game against the Miami Heat didn’t even get on court, the contest postponed because of Covid-19 safety measures.

Miami did not have the required number of available players to play the game while the Celtics were down to the NBA minimum of eight.

Also, Nikola Jokic posted another double-double by finishing with 22 points and 10 rebounds for the visiting Denver Nuggets, who cruised to a 114-89 win over the New York Knicks.

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