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Not even LeBron James can save the hapless Lakers from themselves in humiliating loss to Celtics

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When LeBron James entered the game for his final stretch on Friday, his Los Angeles Lakers trailed the Boston Celtics by 11 points. This was hardly his fault. He was the only Laker with a positive point-differential at that moment. His team had won his minutes by four points … but lost the ones he missed by 15. This is standard LeBron protocol after 19 years. No player in NBA history has done more to lift underperforming teammates than James. An 11-point road comeback is old hat for him at this point. But one player can only do so much.

Three minutes later, he left the game with the Lakers trailing by 19. All told, the Lakers managed to turn a 14-point lead into a 22-point defeat. Such collapses have become commonplace this season. The Lakers blew a 26-point lead to the Thunder mere weeks ago, but LeBron’s return was supposed to prevent such embarrassments. James held up his end of the bargain. He managed to score 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting despite playing through an abdominal injury that just cost him eight games. But the Celtics helped expose a sobering truth about the team that he plays for, one that might never have been true for any other team for which he’s played. Not even LeBron James can save the Lakers from themselves. 

The 8-9 Lakers are the first James team to be below .500 through 17 games since his rookie 2003-04 Cleveland Cavaliers. James was obviously absent for many of those games, but the primary value of acquiring Russell Westbrook was to prevent this exact situation. The Lakers were supposed to have two superstars capable of carrying them when James sat. They didn’t when he was hurt. They didn’t when he needed rest Friday. Of course, they didn’t really have a chance to. Frank Vogel’s bizarre rotations continue to kneecap the Lakers at every turn. 

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In James, Westbrook and Talen Horton-Tucker, the Lakers have three attackers at their best with the ball in their hands. Between the 3:54 and 1:56 marks of the first quarter, all three of them were on the bench while Rajon Rondo ran the offense. With Rondo on the floor this season, the Lakers have scored a paltry 97.2 points per 100 possessions. They predictably lost this stretch by two points. In the second quarter, he played a stretch with both James and Davis on the bench. The Lakers lost that one by another two points. These are inexcusable mistakes. Staggering is standard NBA procedure. It makes sense not to play minutes without at least one of your two best players on the floor. It makes sense to separate players with similar skill sets so you can make the most of what they bring to the table. The Lakers haven’t done that. 

They’re not exactly making the most of their players even in the best alignments, though. Does it really make sense for James, Westbrook and Horton-Tucker to clear out while Avery Bradley works off of a dribble hand-off? 

Late in the third quarter, the Lakers played nearly three minutes with James, Davis, and perhaps their three best shooters: Carmelo Anthony, Wayne Ellington and Malik Monk. This is a lineup made for the James-Davis pick-and-roll that has been their late-game bread and butter over the past two seasons. The Lakers ran it once. On the other hand, they posted up twice in that span and used 14 total post-ups against the Celtics. No NBA team uses even nine per game, and most are below five. This is, again, common sense. They are an inefficient form of offense that bails out lumbering big men. Five of those post-ups came with Enes Kanter, maybe the worst pick-and-roll defender in the NBA, on the floor. That’s the one defensive skill he has. The Lakers didn’t tailor their game-plan to their opponent. 

They didn’t tailor their roster to their superstars either. You know how you drop from No. 1 in defense to No. 18 in a single year? You get rid of all of your best point-of-attack defenders and entrust a 20-year-old with guarding the best opposing scorer. You know how you build a bench in which every player posts a negative plus-minus against your biggest rival? You devote two thirds of your roster spots to players making the minimum salary. You know how you hold yourself to 70 points in the last three quarters against that rival? You introduce a high-usage non-shooter into an ecosystem that relies on low-usage shooters. 

Through 17 games, the Lakers have no discernible identity. The defense that won them the 2020 championship is gone. The transition attack Westbrook was supposed to spearhead has underwhelmed as the Lakers ranked second in pace entering Friday, but only eighth in fast-break points and 15th in points per possession in transition. Even when they roll out simplified lineups that facilitate the style that made them successful offensively over the past few years, they just can’t help but waste those possessions on the wrong kinds of shots. 

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James has lifted plenty of underwhelming teams to unfathomable heights. We’re talking about someone that made the Finals in nine consecutive healthy seasons. But those teams lacked talent. The Lakers lack something deeper. They lack cohesion. They lack common sense. Where James’ worst teams were once overcome by more talented foes, the Lakers are the team with the talent this time. It hasn’t mattered. They won’t get out of their own way. The Lakers are doing this to themselves, and not even LeBron James can overcome his opponent when his own team is standing in the way. 





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How to watch Appalachian State vs. James Madison: NCAA Football live stream info, TV channel, time, game odds

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Who’s Playing

James Madison @ Appalachian State

Current Records: James Madison 2-0; Appalachian State 2-1

What to Know

The James Madison Dukes watched the action from their couches last weekend, but are set to take to the field. James Madison and the Appalachian State Mountaineers will face off in a Sun Belt battle at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Kidd Brewer Stadium. The odds don’t look promising for the Dukes, but the bigger the opponent is, the harder they fall.

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A well-balanced attack led James Madison over the Norfolk State Spartans every single quarter on their way to victory two weeks ago. James Madison claimed a resounding 63-7 win over Norfolk State at home. The game was pretty much decided by the half, when the score had already reached 35 to nothing.

Meanwhile, Appalachian State didn’t have too much breathing room in their contest with the Troy Trojans last week, but they still walked away with a 32-28 victory. Appalachian State QB Chase Brice was slinging it as he passed for two TDs and 279 yards on 34 attempts. Near the top of the highlight reel was Brice’s 53-yard TD bomb to WR Christan Horn in the fourth quarter.

Their wins bumped the Dukes to 2-0 and the Mountaineers to 2-1. Watch the matchup and check back on CBS Sports to find out who keeps up the positive energy and who hits a stumbling block.

How To Watch

  • When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Kidd Brewer Stadium — Boone, North Carolina
  • TV: ESPN Plus
  • Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.)
  • Follow: CBS Sports App
  • Ticket Cost: $40.99

Odds

The Mountaineers are a solid 6.5-point favorite against the Dukes, according to the latest college football odds.

The oddsmakers had a good feel for the line for this one, as the game opened with the Mountaineers as a 7.5-point favorite.

Over/Under: -111

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Series History

This is the first time these teams have played each other within the last seven years.



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UTSA vs. Texas Southern: How to watch NCAA Football online, TV channel, live stream info, game time

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Who’s Playing

Texas Southern @ UTSA

Current Records: Texas Southern 1-2; UTSA 1-2

What to Know

The Texas Southern Tigers will take on the UTSA Roadrunners at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Alamodome. Texas Southern isn’t favored, but they just beat the odds in their last game, so don’t count them out.

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The Tigers kept a clean sheet against the Southern University Jaguars last week and took the matchup 24 to nothing. The squad ran away with 21 points in the first half and mostly just sat on those in the second to pick up the victory.

Meanwhile, it was all tied up 17-17 at halftime, but UTSA was not quite the Texas Longhorns’ equal in the second half when they met last week. The Roadrunners suffered a grim 41-20 defeat to the Longhorns. This contest was a close 17-17 at the break, but unfortunately for UTSA it sure didn’t stay that way. A silver lining for them was the play of RB Brenden Brady, who threw one touchdown in addition to punching in one rushing touchdown.

Texas Southern’s win lifted them to 1-2 while UTSA’s loss dropped them down to 1-2. We’ll find out if the Tigers can add another positive mark to their record or if UTSA can shake off the defeat and take the spring out of Texas Southern’s step.

How To Watch

  • When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Alamodome — San Antonio, Texas
  • TV: STADIUM
  • Follow: CBS Sports App
  • Ticket Cost: $69.00

Odds

The Roadrunners are a big 42-point favorite against the Tigers, according to the latest college football odds.

Bettors have moved against the Roadrunners slightly, as the game opened with the Roadrunners as a 44-point favorite.

Over/Under: -110

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Series History

This is the first time these teams have played each other within the last seven years.



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North Carolina vs. Notre Dame live stream info, TV channel: How to watch NCAA Football on TV, stream online

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Who’s Playing

Notre Dame @ North Carolina

Current Records: Notre Dame 1-2; North Carolina 3-0

What to Know

The North Carolina Tar Heels will be returning home after a two-game road trip. They will take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Kenan Memorial Stadium after a week off. UNC is expected to win — but not by much — so they will need to come into the game prepared for a fight.

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The Tar Heels beat the Georgia State Panthers 35-28 two weeks ago. Among those leading the charge for UNC was RB Omarion Hampton, who rushed for two TDs and 110 yards on 16 carries. Hampton put himself on the highlight reel with a 58-yard TD scramble in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame netted a 24-17 victory over the California Golden Bears last week. RB Audric Estime and RB Chris Tyree were among the main playmakers for Notre Dame as the former punched in one rushing touchdown and the latter snatched one receiving TD.

Notre Dame’s defense was a presence as well, as it embarrassed California’s offensive line to sack QB Jack Plummer six times for a total loss of 47 yards. It was a group effort with four guys contributing.

The wins brought the Tar Heels up to 3-0 and the Fighting Irish to 1-2. A pair of stats to keep an eye on: UNC enters the matchup with 310 passing yards per game on average, good for 21st best in the nation. But Notre Dame comes into the contest boasting the 34th fewest passing yards allowed per game in the nation at 184. These opposing strengths should make for an exciting matchup.

How To Watch

  • When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Kenan Memorial Stadium — Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  • TV: ABC
  • Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.)
  • Follow: CBS Sports App
  • Ticket Cost: $110.00

Odds

The Tar Heels are a slight 2.5-point favorite against the Fighting Irish, according to the latest college football odds.

The line on this game has moved quite a bit since it opened, as it started out with the Fighting Irish as a 1.5-point favorite.

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Over/Under: -110

See college football picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

Notre Dame have won all of the games they’ve played against North Carolina in the last eight years.

  • Oct 30, 2021 – Notre Dame 44 vs. North Carolina 34
  • Nov 27, 2020 – Notre Dame 31 vs. North Carolina 17
  • Oct 07, 2017 – Notre Dame 33 vs. North Carolina 10



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