LOS ANGELES (AP) — LeBron James had 37 points, eight rebounds and six assists, and the Los Angeles Lakers moved back into second place in the Western Conference on Thursday night with their fourth straight victory, 116-105 over the Charlotte Hornets.

Montrezl Harrell #15 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates a P.J. Washington #25 of the Charlotte Hornets foul in front of P.J. Washington #25 during the second quarter at Staples Center on March 18, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

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Dennis Schröder had 22 points and seven assists as the defending NBA champions moved past Phoenix and pulled 1 1/2 games behind the league-leading Utah Jazz with their sixth win in eight games despite playing without All-NBA big man Anthony Davis since Valentine’s Day.

LaMelo Ball had 26 points and seven assists in the dynamic rookie’s Southern California homecoming with the Hornets, who have opened their five-game West Coast trip by losing back-to-back games for the first time since Feb. 5.

Although James didn’t quite record his third consecutive triple-double — which would have been the 100th of his career — he commanded the floor throughout the night and eventually sealed the win on a driving layup with 15 seconds to play.

Ball was impressive in his first meeting with the team his famous family loved — and for which his older brother, Lonzo, played — while he grew up in suburban Chino Hills. Ball won a state title as a freshman and verbally committed to UCLA as a teenager before his father, LaVar, put him on the international odyssey that ended with LaMelo becoming the third overall pick in last year’s draft.

James scored 22 points on 8-for-9 shooting in the first half to stake the Lakers to an early 18-point lead, but the Hornets swiftly tied it with a 19-4 run out of halftime.

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Hornets: Starting big man Cody Zeller didn’t play in the second half, but apparently wasn’t injured. … Ball’s parents haven’t seen him play live during his impressive rookie season, and fans aren’t yet allowed inside Staples Center.

Lakers: Marc Gasol missed his sixth straight game, but was cleared to end his quarantine. He still hasn’t cleared all of the NBA’s health and safety protocols to return to uniform. Gasol hasn’t played since February. … Davis missed his 13th straight game with a right calf injury. … Alex Caruso scored five points in his return from the NBA’s concussion protocol.


Hornets: At Clippers on Saturday.

Lakers: Host Hawks on Saturday.

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