LeBron passes Malone on all-time regular season points but Lakers lose again
LOS ANGELES (AFP) - LeBron James moved into second place on the NBA's all-time regular season points scoring rankings on Saturday (March 19) 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 with 36,947 points.
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.
"Just to be a part of this league for as many years as I've been a part of it, to be linked with some of the greatest to ever play this game, guys I've watched or studied, or read about, or inspired to be like, I'm just lost for words for it," James said of his scoring achievement.
"It's an honor for myself, for my friends and family to live these moments, for anyone who's shared my journey."
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 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.
Lakers coach Frank Vogel saluted James' scoring achievement despite the loss.
"It's bittersweet but I think it's important to separate it," Vogel said.
"We can't get caught up in the pain of this loss, and have to recognise what an incredible feat this was.
"LeBron just attacked the game tonight. Just a signature performance in a game where he passes one of the greats."
James said he was unable to let his scoring moment eclipse the sting of defeat.
"At the end of the day all I care about is wins and losses," he said. "I'm sure some day I'll be able to look back at this moment, but right now I can't separate it.
"We had a great opportunity to pick up some more momentum, and played well enough to win this game through 36 minutes, but in the last quarter we let it go."
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.
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.