Warriors face LeBron's Lakers in Christmas NBA feast

New York (AFP) –


LeBron James, coming off an apology for a controversial song lyric post on Instagram, makes his 13th Christmas appearance Tuesday when his Los Angeles Lakers visit reigning NBA champion Golden State.

The Warriors-Lakers contest is part of the league's five-game holiday slate, which also includes Milwaukee at New York, Philadelphia at Boston, Oklahoma City at Houston and Portland at Utah.

James will match the second-most Christmas appearances in NBA history with retired stars Shaquille O'Neal, Earl Monroe and Dolph Schayes plus former Miami and Cleveland teammate Dwyane Wade, although ex-Lakers guard Kobe Bryant owns the record of 16 games played on December 25.

After the Lakers' 107-99 loss Sunday to Memphis, James apologized to ESPN for posting lyrics from the hip-hop song "ASMR" by 21 Savage that included: "We been getting that Jewish money, Everything is Kosher."

"Apologies, for sure, if I offended anyone," James said. "That's not why I chose to share that lyric... I actually thought it was a compliment, and obviously it wasn't through the lens of a lot of people. My apologies. It definitely was not the intent, obviously, to hurt anybody."

James, a four-time NBA Most Valuable Player, led Cleveland into the NBA Finals the past four seasons against Golden State, losing three times but bringing the city a long-awaited first NBA crown in 2016.

James, who departed for the Lakers in July, has reached the past eight NBA Finals and nine overall with a 3-6 record, taking two titles with Miami as well as his crown with the Cavaliers, who now share the NBA's worst record with Phoenix at 8-26.

The Warriors, powered by stars Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, trail the Denver Nuggets by a percentage point in the fight for the Western Conference lead at 23-11 while the Lakers, who haven't made the playoffs since 2013, are fourth at 19-14.

The NBA Christmas lineup, televised to 215 nations, features 38 players from outside the United States, Utah having the most with six.

Australia has the most international players on offer with six, including 2018 NBA Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons with the Philadelphia 76ers as they face the Celtics in the best Eastern Conference matchup on offer.

It's the start of a five-game road trip for the 76ers, who share third in the East with Indiana at 22-12 ahead of fifth-place Boston (19-13) as they try to integrate Jimmy Butler into the lineup following a trade last month with Minnesota.

"We're coming into a really great part of our year. It's starting to get into a real interesting part in that you're playing against really good teams," 76ers coach Brett Brown said.

"I want to see how the bench and our young players are developing," 76ers general manager Elton Brand said. "Can we play with some of these teams that are elite, these West coast teams, on the road? It's a huge stretch for us right now."