LeBron James moved into second place on the NBA’s all-time regular season points scoring rankings on Saturday but could not prevent the Los Angeles Lakers from slumping to defeat against the Washington Wizards.
James produced a typically virtuoso performance to finish with 38 points and 10 rebounds at the Wizards’ Capital One Arena.
That was enough to power James past Karl Malone into second place in the regular season scorers rankings.
But it did not stop the Lakers from sliding to a jarring 127-119 loss against a Wizards side which had been on a six-game losing streak.
James—who holds the NBA’s outright scoring record for regular season and playoff games—started the game needing just 20 points to surpass Malone’s regular season total of 36,928.
James wasted no time in hunting down Malone’s benchmark, rapidly reaching double figures before moving to 16 points with back-to-back three-pointers early in the second quarter.
The four-time NBA champion then added another three-pointer to tie Malone, before finally taking sole possession of second place with a two-point layup with just over five minutes left in the second quarter.
The Washington crowd gave James an ovation after he reached the milestone, with the Lakers star saluting fans as he basked in the applause.
James’ points haul leaves him with 36,947 career regular-season points, within range of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time record of 38,387 points.
But James’ celebratory moment was diminished after the Lakers suffered another fourth quarter collapse to allow the Wizards to claim victory.
The Wizards outscored the Lakers 34-20 in the final period, completing a comeback from a 16-point deficit to grab the win.
Kristaps Porzingis led the Washington comeback with 16 points in the fourth quarter, part of an overall tally of 27 points.
Talk of the Towns
Elsewhere on Saturday, Karl-Anthony Towns kept up his scoring streak with 25 points as the Minnesota Timberwolves took advantage of the injury absence of Giannis Antetokounmpo to rout the Milwaukee Bucks 138-119.
Towns, who has averaged just under 40 points a game in three appearances this week after a monster 60-point outing on Monday, was six-of-12 from the field, with 11 rebounds and five assists at Minnesota’s Target Center.
The 26-year-old’s form has helped the Timberwolves to a four-game winning streak, victories which keep the club firmly in the hunt for an automatic playoff berth.
Saturday’s win leaves the Timberwolves in seventh place in the Western Conference standings, level with sixth-placed Denver with 42 wins.
The reigning NBA champion Bucks meanwhile dropped to third in the Eastern Conference standings at 44-27.
The Bucks’ trip to Milwaukee had been made more challenging shortly before tip-off with news that Antetokounmpo was out of the starting line-up with knee soreness.
Minnesota duly asserted themselves early on, outscoring the Bucks by an identical 34-28 margin in each of the first two quarters to lead 68-56 at half-time.
They raced into a 24-point lead by the end of the third quarter, effectively killing off the contest down the stretch.
Towns was backed with 25 points from Anthony Edwards, while D’Angelo Russell added 16. Taurean Prince and Naz Reid chipped in with 14 points each from the bench.
Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez and Pat Connaughton all finished with 15 points apiece for Milwaukee.
In Charlotte, Luka Doncic erupted for 37 points but it could not prevent the Dallas Mavericks slumping to an upset 129-108 blowout against the Hornets.
Miles Bridges led the Hornets scorers with 23 points, part of a balanced offensive effort that saw no fewer than seven Charlotte players post double-digit points totals.