Luke Walton defends LeBron James after ugly Knicks loss

Lakers coach Luke Walton defended LeBron James after the L.A. star faltered in the final quarter of a 124-123 loss to the Knicks on Sunday.

James, who rested for the loss to the Pistons on Friday, made his comeback two days later at Madison Square Garden and it proved to be one to forget for the legendary forward.

He scored 33 points but saw his shot to win it with 2.3 seconds to play blocked by Mario Hezonja.

James was 4-for-15 from the field in the final quarter, but Walton said his star should not take the blame for a 39th loss in a miserable season.

“He’s one of the all-time great players in our league,” Walton said. “He understands time and score and everything else.

“So, he’s earned that right to take the shots he feels comfortable with. As opposed to some younger guys, you draw things up and tell them what to look for and tell them where to go at what time.

“He’s earned the right to feel that out and take the shots he feels like are going to be good for him.”

The Lakers led by 11 points in the final quarter but were unable to prevent an eighth loss in their last nine games as the Knicks got only their 14th victory of the season.