Carmelo Anthony relishing increased role as Lakers host Heat

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Carmelo Anthony is taking advantage of LeBron James’ absence and is looking like a young version of himself.

Anthony takes aim at his third 20-point effort in a four-game span when the Los Angeles Lakers host the Miami Heat on Wednesday night.

James is sidelined with an abdominal injury, giving Anthony the opportunity to hoist more shots.

The 37-year-old was on fire Monday when he established season highs of 29 points and seven 3-pointers during a 126-123 overtime win over the visiting Charlotte Hornets. He is averaging 20.7 points during the three games James has missed.

“I’m adapting to what this team needs from me,” said Anthony, who is in his first season with the Lakers. “Knocking down shots when the opportunities come. My teammates look for me to score the basketball. They believe in me and that’s what I’m here to do.”

The 10-time All-Star was recently one of 75 players named to the NBA’s 75th anniversary team. Anthony was once a lethal force with the Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks before his production slid downhill in recent seasons as he bounced around to three teams.

But he has appeared rejuvenated since joining the Lakers and is averaging 17.6 points and shooting a superb 52 percent (39 of 75) from 3-point range.

“I’m not giving defenders a chance to close out,” Anthony said. “I feel good, I’m in a great rhythm and taking advantage of teammates finding me to knock those shots down.”

Overall, Anthony has five 20-point efforts while averaging 28.5 minutes per game off the bench.

There still isn’t a timeline for James’ return, so Anthony figures to continue to have a key role in upcoming games.

The victory over the Hornets came in the opener of a five-game homestand, and it also featured Russell Westbrook’s second triple-double of the season and 186th of his career.

Westbrook had 17 points, a season-high 14 assists and 12 rebounds one game after having just eight points on 1-of-13 shooting in a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Heat arrive in Los Angeles for the second contest of a five-game road trip. They lost the opener 113-96 to the Denver Nuggets on Monday.

Miami will be without forward Markieff Morris after an ugly incident in Monday’s game left him with a neck injury.

Morris gave a hard foul to Denver star Nikola Jokic with 2:39 left in the game and then turned his back and walked away. But Jokic came up behind him and delivered a hard shove that sent Morris sprawling to the floor.

On Tuesday, the NBA issued a one-game suspension to Jokic and fined Morris $50,000 and Miami’s Jimmy Butler $30,000 for his involvement.

“This whole thing could have been a whole lot uglier if Markieff was actually facing Jokic,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said postgame. “The fact that he had his back turned and he made a play like that, blindsiding him, just a very dangerous play.”

Morris delivered his own criticism of Jokic on Tuesday via his Twitter account.

“No doubt I took a hard foul which I always do but I’ve never hit a man with his back turned!” Morris tweeted. “Luckily we built different over here. I can take my licks and keep pushing.”

The actual game went poorly for Miami on Monday as it trailed by as many as 23 points. The Heat have dropped two of three games following a 6-1 start.

Butler scored 31 points for his third 30-point performance of the campaign.

Miami won both regular-season matchups with Los Angeles last season. Of course, the Lakers defeated the Heat in six games in the 2020 NBA Finals.

–Field Level Media

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