Basketball / NBA

Raptors beat Lakers; LeBron James struggles with limited minutes


LeBron James is finding it hard to stay chill about his season-ending cool down.

Kawhi Leonard scored 25 points, Norman Powell had 20 and the Toronto Raptors beat James and the Los Angeles Lakers 111-98 on Thursday night.

James scored 29 points and Alex Caruso had a career-high 16 for Los Angeles. The struggling Lakers lost for the sixth time in seven games, further denting their fading playoff hopes.

Earlier this month, after consulting with James’ personal trainer, the Lakers said James would play limited minutes the rest of the season, and might sit out one of any back-to-back games

“It’s challenging for me mentally, because I’m so accustomed to being out on the floor, especially when I’m healthy,” James said. “This is the direction they wanted to go the remainder of the season, given the lack of success we’ve had with our ball club.”

James played 32 minutes Thursday and has not played more than 33 in any of the past four games. His status for Friday’s game at Detroit is not known.

“With the injuries we have and with LeBron watching his minutes, we’ve got to get creative with some of our lineups and make sure we have groups out there that give us a chance to win still,” Los Angeles coach Luke Walton said. “Ultimately, we’re trying to get a win each and every time out.”

Pascal Siakam scored 16 points and Marc Gasol added 15 to help Toronto win its ninth consecutive meeting with the Lakers, extending a franchise record. The Raptors have not lost to the Lakers since Nov. 30, 2014. They also set a franchise record with their 20th victory of the season against a Western Conference opponent.

Rajon Rondo scored 13 points but the Lakers failed to win back-to-back games for the first time since Jan. 15 and 17, when they beat Chicago and won at Oklahoma City.

Los Angeles overturned a 20-point deficit to win at Chicago on Tuesday night, snapping a five-game losing streak. The Lakers kept it close through three quarters against Toronto, the Atlantic Division leader, but couldn’t hang on in the fourth as the Raptors started the quarter with a 13-4 spurt.

The Lakers made 7 of 31 attempts from 3-point range.

“We gave ourselves a chance to stay around and stay in the game,” Walton said, “but to win against a good team on the road, for the most part you’re going to have to knock down more than that.”

Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma shot 3-for-11 and scored seven points. He missed all three of his attempts from long range.

“It just wasn’t my night,” Kuzma said. “You can’t be perfect all 82. I’ve got to be better, for sure.”

Celtics 126, Kings 120

In Boston, Kyrie Irving had 31 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds and the Celtics overcame a 17-point first-half deficit to beat Sacramento.

It was Irving’s second career triple-double. His first was with Cleveland on Feb. 28, 2014, against Utah.

Buddy Hield led the Kings with 34 points. Sacramento lost for the 11th straight time in Boston.

Nuggets 100, Mavericks 99

In Denver, Nikola Jokic hit a falling one-handed shot as time expired to lift the Nuggets over weary Dallas.

Paul Millsap finished with a season-high 33 points for Denver (45-22), which strengthened its hold on the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference.

Jalen Brunson had 20 points for the Mavericks.

Pacers 108, Thunder 106

In Indianapolis, Wesley Matthews tipped in a basket with 1.8 seconds left and Indiana overcame an 18-point deficit to beat Oklahoma City.

Domantas Sabonis scored 26 points against his former team, and the Pacers won their second straight by erasing the Thunder’s lead in the final 15 minutes.

Paul George led Oklahoma City with 36 points in his second trip back to Indianapolis since a blockbuster trade in July 2017.

Jazz 120, Timberwolves 100

In Salt Lake City, Donovan Mitchell scored 24 points as Utah beat Minnesota.

Magic 120, Cavaliers 91

In Orlando, Aaron Gordon scored 21 points, D.J. Augustin added 20 points and seven assists and the Magic routed Cleveland.