NBA: Lakers lose again without LeBron, Clippers stop Spurs

The NBA champions Los Angeles Lakers endured a fourth straight defeat since losing superstar LeBron James to injury, falling 109-101 to the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday.

Philadelphia’s Dwight Howard and Danny Green received the championship rings they won last year with the Lakers before the game.

But Howard’s return to Staples Center was short-lived as he was ejected at the end of the first quarter after clashing with Montrezl Harrell.

A confrontation between the two ended with Harrell shoving Howard, with both receiving technical fouls.

A minute later Howard strode into Harrell, prompting another shove and a second technical that spelled the end of Howard’s night.

“Clowns,” was Sixers coach Doc Rivers’ view of the back-and-forth between the two. “It’s ridiculous, on both parts.”

Green, meanwhile, starred for the 76ers against his former team, scoring a game-high 28 points as Philadelphia won despite the absence of star Joel Embiid, who is still nursing a left knee injury.

Dennis Schroder and Harrell scored 20 each for Los Angeles, who have yet to find a way to win with James sidelined by a high ankle sprain and star big man Anthony Davis still “a ways away” from returning from a right calf injury according to coach Frank Vogel.

The Los Angeles Clippers shrugged off the absence of star Kawhi Leonard and the trade of standout reserve Lou Williams to beat the San Antonio Spurs 98-85.

The Clippers used just eight players in notching their second double-digit win over the Spurs in as many nights. Leonard had starred on Wednesday, but sat out Thursday with a sore right foot.

In his absence, Reggie Jackson scored a season-high 28 points for Los Angeles and Paul George added 24 points and 13 rebounds as the Clippers notched a fourth straight win.

It was a wrench, however, to take the court without Williams — a three-time winner of the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award as the league’s top reserve — on tap.

He was traded shortly before Thursday’s deadline in a deal that brings point guard Rajon Rondo to the Clippers from Atlanta.

“Everybody felt it throughout the locker room,” George said. “He’s a presence, not only on the floor but in the locker room, on the bus — he’s a presence that’s going to be missed.”

Elsewhere, CJ McCollum put Portland on the right track and Damian Lillard came through at the end as the Trail Blazers held off the depleted Miami Heat 125-122 on Thursday.

McCollum scored 29 of his 35 points in the first half and Lillard scored 14 of his 22 after the interval — including three free throws in the final second that put the Blazers over the top in a tight back-and-forth battle that featured 24 lead changes — a dozen of them in the final quarter.

In New York, the Knicks rallied from a 17-point third-quarter deficit to beat the Washington Wizards 106-102.

Alec Burks scored 15 of his 27 points off the bench in the fourth quarter. RJ Barrett added 24 points, 10 rebounds and five assists and Immanuel Quickley chipped in 16 points for New York — who trailed until the fourth quarter when they out-scored Washington 39-24.

Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 26 points and nine assists but connected on just eight of 23 shots from the field.

Washington’s Russell Westbrook endured an even worse shooting night, making three of 15 from the field and not a single basket in the second half.

In Sacramento, De’Aaron Fox scored a career-high 44 points to lead the Kings over the Golden State Warriors 141-119.

Fox made 16 of his 22 shots from the field and handed out seven assists, posting his second 40-point game of the season.

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