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Lakers rout Thunder; Lillard powers Bucks

LEBRON James flirts with a double-double of 19 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a 116-104 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA regular season. | ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LOS ANGELES (AFP) — D’Angelo Russell scored 26 points as the Los Angeles Lakers produced a dominant defensive display to upset the Oklahoma City Thunder, 116-104, on Monday.

Russell and Anthony Davis (24) combined for 50 points while LeBron James added 19 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in an ultimately comfortable win for the 17-time National Basketball Association champions.

Oklahoma City went into the game as leaders of the Western Conference and they started smoothly, opening up a 12-point lead early in the first quarter.

But some stubborn defending and Russell’s hot hand hauled the Lakers back into contention, and a big second-quarter — outscoring the Thunder 27-18 — gave them a lead they held for the remainder of the contest.

“Early on, they made some shots and we turned the ball over, but we didn’t totally collapse,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said.

“We continued to defend. I told the team at half-time: ‘That’s the best defensive half I’ve seen all season.’”

“Kudos to our guys — they stepped up and defended really, really well.”

The Lakers defense restricted Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to 20 points, while Chet Holmgren finished with 15 and Josh Giddey 13.

The defeat knocked Oklahoma City (42-19) out of top spot in the West, with the Minnesota Timberwolves taking over first place. The Lakers improved to 34-29 to sit in ninth.

Elsewhere, Damian Lillard produced a dazzling 41-point display as the Milwaukee Bucks shrugged off the injury absence of Giannis Antetokounmpo to defeat the Los Angeles Clippers, 113-106.

With Antetokounmpo ruled out just before tip-off with a sore Achilles, and Khris Middleton also out injured, Lillard led from the front to help in-form Milwaukee claim a sixth straight victory.

The Clippers looked to have the measure of their opponents, opening up a 15-point lead at one stage in the third quarter.

But Lillard and Bobby Portis caught fire in the fourth as the Bucks outscored the Clippers, 40-25, to pull clear and seal the win before a fired-up Milwaukee crowd.

Lillard finished with four rebounds and four assists along with his 41 points, while Portis stepped up with 28 points and 16 rebounds.

Milwaukee improved to 41-21, leaving them second place in the Eastern Conference behind Boston (48-12).

“We’re just playing together on both sides of the ball,” Lillard said.

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