LeBron James came up just short of 30,000 points. Oklahoma City nearly got there, too, when Cleveland was unable to stop Paul George, Russell Westbrook or Carmelo Anthony and the visiting Thunder embarrassed the Cavaliers 148-124 on Saturday.
George scored 36 points, Westbrook had 23 and 20 assists and Anthony dropped a season-high 29 points as the Thunder tied the record for the most points given up by a Cleveland team in a regulation game. Philadelphia scored 148 on the Cavs back in 1972. It was Oklahoma City’s fourth win and the Thunder kept James shy of a historic milestone
“I’ve never in my basketball life gave up 148 points, not even probably playing video games,” James said. “They got everything that they wanted. Inside, outside, they had it moving.”
A roller-coaster season in Cleveland is on a steady, accelerating descent. The Cavaliers have lost 10 of 14, and in the last 12 days the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions have been blown out by 28, 34 and 24 points.
It’s gotten so bad, so quickly that coach Tyronn Lue’s job could be at stake.
“I would hope not, but I really don’t know,” James said when asked if Lue could be fired. “I don’t know what’s going to happen with our team. I have no idea what conversations have been going on. Me personally, I’ve been trying to stay as laser-sharp as I can to keep my guys ready to go out and play.
“Obviously, it hasn’t resulted in wins, but I got to stay as fresh mentally as much I can with the struggles. I can’t worry about job securities and trades and things of that nature. I just stay as focused as I can every night to go out and compete and try to help us win ballgames.”
James finished with 18 points and remains seven shy of becoming the seventh player in NBA history to reach the 30,000-point plateau. His next chance is Tuesday when the Cavaliers visit San Antonio.
James entered the fourth quarter within reach of 30,000. But after he missed two shots, James was replaced with 6:37 remaining and the Cavaliers trailing 128-101. The 33-year-old hoped to make history in front of his home fans and family, but it wasn’t to be.
Chicago 113, at Atlanta 97: Robin Lopez scored 20 points, Lauri Markkanen added 19 and the Chicago Bulls easily beat the Atlanta Hawks 113-97 on Saturday night.
The Bulls, coming off a 7-point home loss to defending NBA champion Golden State three days ago, have won four of five. They never trailed, taking an 11-pont lead midway through the first quarter on Lopez’s dunk and going up 17 on Markkanen’s dunk in the closing seconds of the first half.
Dennis Schroder scored 18 points and Dewayne Dedmon had 11 for Atlanta, which showed why it’s spent the season at or near the bottom of the NBA standings.
at 76ers 116, Bucks 94: Joel Embiid had 29 points and nine rebounds and Philadelphia pulled away from undermanned Milwaukee for its seventh win in eight games.
Ben Simmons added 16 points and nine assists, and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot added 16 points in a rare start as the Sixers (22-20) moved past Milwaukee (23-22) for sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
Khris Middleton had 23 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists for the Bucks in their second straight loss. They were without top scorer Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was sitting out the first of two games to rest a sore right knee.
Fellow starter Malcolm Brogdon (family matter) also wasn’t available. Tony Snell (15 points) and Sterling Brown (14 points) moved into the lineup, and the Bucks rallied from 16 points down to tie it before fading in the fourth quarter.
at Pelicans 111, Grizzlies 104: Jrue Holiday scored 13 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter, DeMarcus Cousins had 24 points and 10 rebounds, and New Orleans beat Memphis.
Anthony Davis had 21 points and 12 rebounds but did not score his first points of the second half until he dunked with 1:15 to go in the game, giving the Pelicans a 108-102 lead.
Darius Miller added 12 points in a reserve role for New Orleans, which never trailed but very nearly blew a 21-point lead.
Heat 106, at Hornets 105: Kelly Olynyk scored 14 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, including a free throw with 0.2 seconds left, to help Miami erase a five-point deficit in the final 34 seconds and stun Charlotte.
Wayne Ellington had 26 points on six 3-pointers, Joe Johnson had 22 points and Olynyk was brilliant down the stretch.
Nic Batum scored a season-high 26 points and Kemba Walker had 22 for Charlotte, which had a two-game winning streak snapped.
at Rockets 116, Warriors 108: Chris Paul scored 33 points and 11 rebounds, James Harden had 22 points and Houston held off Golden State to snap its 14-game road winning streak.
Harden stepped back from Stephen Curry for a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to make it 114-108 with 1:10 left. Harden then blocked Curry’s 3-point attempt after a timeout, and Paul made two free throws with 28 seconds left.
Golden State lost away from home for the first time since Nov. 22. The Warriors had won seven straight in Houston.
Kevin Durant led Golden State with 26 points, Draymond Green had 21 and Curry added 19 on a night he went 5 of 15 on 3-point attempts.
at Timberwolves 115, Raptors 109: Andrew Wiggins scored 29 points and Karl-Anthony Towns had all 22 of his points in the second half as Minnesota rallied from an 11-point first-half deficit to beat Toronto.
Playing without leading scorer Jimmy Butler, the Wolves managed to overcome Towns’ early foul trouble and hot perimeter shooting by the Raptors to snap a two-game skid.
Kyle Lowry led Toronto with a season-high 40 points on 14-for-25 shooting, including 6 of 10 from behind the arc. The Raptors shot 54 percent in the first half, when they led by as many as 11.
at Trail Blazers 117, Mavericks 108: Damian Lillard hit his first nine shots — including seven 3-pointers — en route to 31 points, and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Dallas Mavericks 117-108 on Saturday night.
Lillard shot 10 of 15 from the floor and handed out nine assists. CJ McCollum added 26 points for Portland, which won its third straight game overall and season-best sixth straight at home.
Portland tied a season high by making 18 3-pointers. Six Blazers hit at least two shots from behind the arc.
Evan Turner scored 17 points and Al-Farouq Aminu had 13 for Portland.
Wesley Matthews led Dallas with 23 points. Dirk Nowitzki and Dennis Smith Jr. scored 21 points each, with Nowitzki reaching a season high.