Giannis Antetokounmpo and the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks humbled the Oklahoma City Thunder 133-86.

The Bucks showed no mercy as they handed the Thunder their worst loss of the season – a 47-point defeat in Milwaukee on Friday.

Bucks star and reigning MVP Antetokounmpo led the way with 32 points and 13 rebounds at home to the streaking Thunder.

The Thunder had won five straight games, but Oklahoma City were no match for the devastating Bucks – who made a season-high 21 three-pointers as they improved to 51-8.

Chris Paul posted 18 points for the Thunder (37-23), while Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (11) was the only other player in double-digits.

Paul George recorded 24 points and Kawhi Leonard added 19 as the Los Angeles Clippers eased past Western Conference rivals the Denver Nuggets 132-103.

It was the Clippers' 40th win of the season as Doc Rivers' team reigned supreme at Staples Center.

 

Williamson stays hot

Zion Williamson became the first player in NBA history to record 20-plus points in 10 straight games before the age of 20. The New Orleans Pelicans rookie finished with 24 points in the 116-104 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Luka Doncic celebrated his 21st birthday on Friday and the Dallas Mavericks star put up 23 points and 10 assists. However, Doncic – playing with an aching thumb – did not have a memorable birthday as the Mavs lost 126-118 at the Miami Heat.

A first career triple-double from Aaron Gordon (17 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists) inspired the Orlando Magic to a 136-125 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Terrence Ross had a season-high 33 points.

It was another big performance from Bradley Beal. The Washington Wizards guard had 42 points and 10 assists in his team's 129-119 defeat to the Utah Jazz.

Derrick Rose's 31 points helped the Detroit Pistons snap a seven-game skid by topping the Phoenix Suns 113-111.

Jonas Valanciunas scored 13 points and collected a career-high 25 rebounds in the Memphis Grizzlies' 104-101 defeat against the Sacramento Kings.

 

McCaw goes scoreless

Patrick McCaw is a three-time NBA champion – twice with the Golden State Warriors and once with the Toronto Raptors – but he did not look like one on Friday. The 24-year-old did not score a point in Toronto's shock 99-96 loss at home to the Charlotte Hornets. He was 0 of six from the field, while he missed both of his three-point attempts in 20 minutes.

Dallas' Dorian Finney-Smith also struggled. Finney-Smith played 27 minutes, going 0 of four from the field and the same from beyond the arc for just three points as a starter.

 

Spider man!

Donovan Mitchell hammered home the slam against the Wizards. He ended the game with 30 points.

 

Friday's results

Orlando Magic 136-125 Minnesota Timberwolves
Atlanta Hawks 141-118 Brooklyn Nets
Charlotte Hornets 99-96 Toronto Raptors
Miami Heat 126-118 Dallas Mavericks
Sacramento Kings 104-101 Memphis Grizzlies
Milwaukee Bucks 133-86 Oklahoma City Thunder
New Orleans Pelicans 116-104 Cleveland Cavaliers
Detroit Pistons 113-111 Phoenix Suns
Utah Jazz 129-119 Washington Wizards
Denver Nuggets XX-XX Los Angeles Clippers

 

Rockets at Celtics

James Harden and the Houston Rockets (38-20) travel to the Boston Celtics on Saturday, riding a five-game winning streak. The Celtics (41-17) have won back-to-back games.

Houston Rockets star James Harden is "extremely confident" the franchise can win the NBA championship.

The Rockets last won an NBA title in 1994-95 but Houston are dreaming big with Harden and fellow star Russell Westbrook leading the way.

Houston, who reached the Western Conference finals in 2015 and 2018 while they lost in the semi-finals last season, are fourth in the west this term with a 38-20 record and Harden is bullish about the team's chances.

"I'm very, very confident," Harden told ESPN. "Extremely confident.

"As long as we stay healthy obviously and every team feels that way, but defensively we've almost got into a rhythm, we're going to be a tough challenge."

Harden was crowned MVP in 2018, while the 30-year-old is also an eight-time All-Star.

However, the former Oklahoma City Thunder guard remains a maligned figure in the league.

"Yeah and I will get it," Harden said when asked if a title will give him the respect he deserves.

Harden is averaging 35.2 points, 7.3 assists and 6.4 rebounds per game for the Rockets this season.

The Rockets are riding a five-game winning streak as they prepare to travel to the Boston Celtics on Saturday.

 

James Harden did not appear to take kindly to light-hearted criticism from Giannis Antetokounmpo during the All-Star break as he suggested the NBA MVP's style of play "takes no skill at all".

Houston Rockets star Harden is renowned for his high usage rate, and All-Star captain Antetokounmpo instead selected Kemba Walker at the recent draft.

The Greek said: "I want somebody that's going to pass the ball."

Then, after the game, which Harden's Team LeBron won, Antetokounmpo claimed Team Giannis had targeted "whoever James Harden was guarding".

Harden was asked about the comments on ESPN's The Jump this week and did not appear amused.

"I average more assists than [Walker], I think," said Harden, who averages 7.3 assists to Walker's 5.0. "I don't see what the joke is.

"But I didn't even see [the comments] - I don't pay attention to stuff like that. I just know they keep mentioning me."

Seemingly referring to Antetokounmpo, he added: "I wish I was seven feet and could just run and dunk. That takes no skill at all.

"I've got to actually learn how to play basketball, how to have skill. I'd take that any day."

Antetokounmpo is the favourite to be named the MVP again, with the Milwaukee Bucks on course to claim the number one seed in the Eastern Conference once more.

However, Harden was not impressed by the 'MVP Ladder' on the league's official website that did not rank him in the top five contenders in mid-February.

"It's crazy. I still lead the league in scoring," he said. "That's something I can't control.

"Around the league, if you named the top five players that are getting double-teamed... Nobody's mentioning that.

"I'm not the type to say it or broadcast it, I'm just going to go out there and try to win games. That's what I've been trying to do."

Anthony Davis felt the Los Angeles Lakers "filled the void" left by LeBron James' absence in the 116-86 win over the Golden State Warriors.

James sat out Thursday's trip to San Francisco due to a sore groin, but All-Star team-mate Davis stepped up with 23 points and six rebounds.

"LeBron, when he's out, it's taking away a lot of things that we do," said Davis after helping his side to a seventh consecutive win.

"It's on all of us to make sure we try to fill those voids, and I think we did that.

"Usually when he's playing and he comes off the floor we kind of take a dip in all aspects of the game. We've got to play how we did tonight when he's playing and he's not on the floor.

"It's good for guys to get those reps. When he comes back we've just got to make sure we keep the same pace, same intensity even when he's not on the floor."

Defeated Warriors coach Steve Kerr conceded runs to the NBA Finals in each of the previous five seasons have taken their toll on his team.

Despite his absence, Kerr cited James as a remarkable example of how to cope with the rigours of going deep into the postseason year after year, although he can see the positives in missing out this time around.

"Watching LeBron, he looks refreshed, he looks recharged," said Kerr. "The idea of eight straight Finals in insane when you think about five here and what it's done and how our players have felt this past year and the injuries that have hit.

"I do believe that when all is said and done, by next year's training camp our guys should feel recharged and refreshed and ready to go.

"Hopefully that's the case. LeBron's also LeBron. He's built differently than most people."

Brett Brown provided a positive update on Joel Embiid's shoulder injury, confirming the Philadelphia 76ers center has sustained "no structural damage".

Embiid left the 76ers' 108-94 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday following a collision with Ante Zizic in the first quarter and did not return.

Philadelphia consequently faced the New York Knicks on Thursday without All-Star duo Embiid and Ben Simmons, who is reportedly set to miss two weeks with a back problem.

The Sixers ran out 115-106 winners at Wells Fargo Center, Tobias Harris stepping up with 34 points on 14-of-21 shooting, and there was more good news for Brown after the game.

"The fact that there is no structural damage, we all hear loudly," said coach Brown, with Embiid to be re-evaluated in a week.

"It's as much from the personal standpoint as it is a selfish coach that he's looking forward to this run home, this final third, the responsibility, no Ben for how long we'll all figure out in time.

"To learn that from his perspective and from the team's perspective, that is exciting news."

Anthony Davis led the way as the Lebron James-less Los Angeles Lakers accounted for the Golden State Warriors 116-86 in the NBA.

James sat out Thursday's trip to San Francisco due to a sore groin, but star Lakers team-mate Davis stepped up with 23 points and six rebounds.

Kyle Kuzma posted 18 points, while Dwight Howard (13), JaVale McGee (12), Rajon Rondo (12) and Avery Bradley (12) all contributed for the Lakers on the road.

It was a seventh consecutive win for Western Conference leaders the Lakers, who improved to 45-12.

Meanwhile, the lowly Warriors were led by Eric Paschall's 23 points off the bench.

 

Harris leads 76ers

In the absence of injured All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris stepped up for the Philadelphia 76ers. Harris posted a game-high 34 points in a 115-106 win over the lowly New York Knicks. The 76ers improved their league-best home record to 28-2. Shake Milton starred from the three-point line, nailing all five of his attempts on his way to 19 points.

Danilo Gallinari scored 24 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder rallied from 19 points down to top the Sacramento Kings 112-108. It was Oklahoma City's fifth consecutive victory.

Domantas Sabonis tallied his 45th double-double of the season to see the Indiana Pacers past the Portland Trail Blazers 106-100. Sabonis finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds. CJ McCollum had 28 points for the Trail Blazers, while Hassan Whiteside put up 18 points and 16 rebounds.

 

Bazemore endures tough night

The Kings lost and Kent Bazemore struggled. The shooting guard was three of 12 from the field and 0 of three from beyond the arc for seven points in 18 minutes.

Sixers recruits Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks – who were both acquired from the Warriors on the deadline – had a chance to impress against the Knicks but failed to do so. In the starting five, Robinson played 21 minutes but was just two of six from the field for a paltry four points. Burks, meanwhile, was two of 10 from the field and made just one of his four three-point attempts as he scored seven.

 

CP3 with the no-look pass

Chris Paul teed up Thunder team-mate Steve Adams in cool fashion.

 

Thursday's results

Oklahoma City Thunder 112-108 Sacramento Kings
Indiana Pacers 106-100 Portland Trail Blazers
Philadelphia 76ers 115-106 New York Knicks
Los Angeles Lakers 116-86 Golden State Warriors

 

Thunder at Bucks

The NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks (50-8) play host to the in-form Thunder on Friday. Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks are riding a four-game winning streak.

The Minnesota Timberwolves have been fined $25,000 for resting star guard D'Angelo Russell, the NBA announced.

Minnesota violated the league's player resting policy after 2019 All-Star Russell – who sat out on February 8 due to a quadriceps injury – did not face the Denver Nuggets on Sunday.

The NBA "deemed Russell a healthy player under the policy that was designed in part to minimise star player absences from nationally televised games".

In a statement, the Timberwolves said: ''While we respect the league's guidelines and standards, we are a player-centric organisation that's focused on learning and optimizing our players' bodies.

''As a new player in our program, we chose to rest D'Angelo in order to learn his body better and to optimise his health during a difficult stretch of games and travel."

Russell – acquired from the Golden State Warriors prior to the trade deadline – is averaging 23.7 points, 6.5 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game this season.

 

 

Joel Embiid sat out the Philadelphia 76ers' game against the New York Knicks due to a shoulder problem.

Embiid did not suit up for Thursday's clash with the Knicks after hurting his shoulder in Wednesday's loss at the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The NBA All-Star reportedly suffered a sprained left shoulder, with the 76ers still evaluating Embiid and hoping to provide another update on Friday.

Embiid is averaging 23.3 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game for the 76ers (36-23), who are fifth in the Eastern Conference.

The 76ers are already without fellow All-Star Ben Simmons due to a back problem.

Joel Embiid will undergo a scan on his injured shoulder and is a doubt for the Philadelphia 76ers' clash with the New York Knicks on Thursday.

The All-Star center managed just eight minutes of Wednesday's 108-94 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Embiid appeared to suffer the setback in a coming together with Cavaliers center Ante Zizic, missing two free throws shortly after, and coach Brett Brown was left in doubt over his fitness.

"I'm really sort of a prisoner to the medical people's information," Brown said, per ESPN. "I haven't checked in. I just left the team. I'm unsure, I really am unsure."

The 76ers are 9-21 on the road after their latest loss at Wells Fargo Center, in stark contrast to a home record that is the best in the league.

Brown also had to contend with the absence of Ben Simmons, out with a back injury, but felt it was a chance for someone else to step up against a struggling Cavs side.

"I feel like when you don't have Joel and you don't have Ben, it's an opportunity for others to put their hand up and declare this is who we are. It is who we are," Brown said. "I felt from that physical standpoint we were C-minus."

Embiid is averaging 23.3 points this season and peaked in Monday's win over the Atlanta Hawks, draining a career-high 49 points.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James will sit out the game against the Golden State Warriors due to a sore groin.

A groin problem means James will not suit up to face the Warriors in the NBA on Thursday, the Lakers announced on Wednesday.

James posted a season-high 40 points in the Lakers' 118-109 win against the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday.

The 35-year-old, who endured an injury-ravaged debut season in Los Angeles, is averaging 25.5 points, 10.6 assists and 7.7 rebounds per game for the Western Conference leaders in 2019-20.

Lakers team-mate Anthony Davis, meanwhile, is listed as probable against the Warriors with a sore left elbow.

Joel Embiid has been fined $25,000 by the NBA for making an obscene gesture on court and using profane language during a television interview.

The Philadelphia 76ers center reacted to Kevin Huerter stealing the ball from him in the final seconds of his team's 129-112 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Monday by raising his middle finger.

Embiid had a career-high 49 points but opted not to go for a half-century in the closing stages, instead dribbling the ball out to run out the clock.

However, when Huerter claimed possession, the 25-year-old responded with a one-finger salute towards his opponent which was picked up by courtside cameras.

Embiid was then asked after the game in an interview if he is the best player in the world, a question stemming from him making such a claim after a recent win over the Brooklyn Nets.

Opting to stand by his previous comment, he referenced the recent All-Star Game in Chicago – having scored 22 points for Team Giannis - and included the use of an expletive, though he quickly said sorry for his choice of words, as well as issuing an on-air apology for his reaction to Huerter.

In a statement, Kiki VanDeWeghe, executive vice-president of basketball operations for the NBA announced Embiid's punishment, with the amount reflective of his "multiple prior violations of acceptable on-court decorum".

The 76ers are in action on Wednesday, hosting the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Giannis Antetokounmpo acknowledged he had last season's Game 6 Eastern Conference Finals defeat to the Toronto Raptors on his mind as the Milwaukee Bucks won in Canada on Tuesday.

Eventual champions the Raptors rallied from a 2-0 series deficit to dump out Antetokounmpo's number one seed Bucks at Scotiabank Arena in May.

But the two teams are leading the way again in the east this year, and Milwaukee brought up 50 wins with a 108-97 success on their first return to Toronto since the playoffs.

Reigning MVP and 2019-20 candidate Antetokounmpo put up 19 points and 19 rebounds, and the victory was particularly encouraging as he witnessed a postseason atmosphere on the road.

"Yeah, you expect that [atmosphere]," he said. "It's the second time we've faced Toronto.

"We got the first one at home, and you know they're going to try to come out, set the tone and play hard. They're a team that don't stop playing hard.

"That's why they win so many games, that's why they're so good. You expect that, and we knew we had to come out here and earn it."

Asked whether he had thought of the previous meeting, the Greek added: "Obviously, obviously.

"You always remember the last time you played here, the performance you had. It was definitely on my mind."

Antetokounmpo would not be distracted, even as rapper Drake brought out WWE championship belts in a nod to a wrestling video the Bucks posted of their star man the previous day.

Toronto icon Drake had played the part of cheerleader as the Raptors roared past Antetokounmpo in May, yet the 25-year-old was not concerned by the superfan's latest attempts to get under his skin.

"I didn't notice that. I just found out about it. Somebody told me," Antetokounmpo said. "When I'm in the game, I'm just locked in, trying to win the game.

"I really don't look outside at the fans, at what they're doing.

"That's good [that Drake wanted to antagonise me]. He cares about me? I didn't know it. I'm just here to win games and help my team win."

LeBron James proved he is still the master after leading the Los Angeles Lakers to victory over the New Orleans Pelicans, but he tipped the apprentice Zion Williamson "to get better and better".

It was the first career meeting between superstar James and exciting rookie Williamson, with the former dropping a season-high 40 points and adding eight rebounds as the Lakers triumphed 118-109 to make it six straight wins in the NBA.

Anthony Davis contributed 21 points despite only going 6-for-21 from the field, adding 14 rebounds and six blocks, while Alex Caruso was also influential for the Lakers.

Speaking after the game, James predicted Williamson – who landed 29 points for the Pelicans, second only to former Laker Brandon Ingram's 34 – will be a star for years to come.

"He's playing exceptional basketball," James said in quotes reported by ESPN. 

"I think his game is going to get better and better, just having that experience. I think today's game is the perfect fit for his game. 

"The high pace, the way they play, it fits his game. It works perfectly, and our game is so many possessions now, so much space, it's perfect for his game, so he's doing exceptionally well with that."

Davis, who moved to LA from New Orleans in July, echoed a similar message in his assessment of Williamson, saying: "He's a great player.

"He's got a quick first step. Very explosive. He's going to continue to get better and better as he goes on."

Williamson was injured for the Pelicans' first two encounters with the Lakers this season but has now scored 20-plus points in nine consecutive games.

The 19-year-old paid tribute to James' performance.

"It was a great experience," Williamson said. "He's an incredible player. 

"His resume speaks for himself. He handled business. He came out here and did what he had to do to help his team get the win."

James also put up eight assists and provided several highlight-reel dunks. Asked to explain why he had so much success, the veteran said: "I was just reading the defense. 

"They went under a lot of my pick-and-rolls; pretty much every team has done that this year, so I just try to make them pay. 

"I was able to get a couple of threes going and then I was being aggressive the rest of the [third] quarter."

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