James Harden and Anthony Davis headline the reserves for next month's NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James and Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets will captain their respective sides – Team LeBron and Team Durant – in the 70th All-Star contest on March 7.

Nets guard and former MVP Harden has been named an All-Star for the ninth consecutive year as he headlines the Eastern Conference reserves, which also includes Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers), Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum (both Boston Celtics), Zach LaVine (Chicago Bulls), Julius Randle (New York Knicks) and Nikola Vucevic (Orlando Magic).

Brown, LaVine and Randle have earned All-Star selection for the first time in their careers.

Lakers star Davis is the pick of the Western Conference reserves, alongside 11-time All-Star Chris Paul of the Phoenix Suns.

Joining the pair as reserves from the west are Paul George (Los Angeles Clippers), Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert (both Utah Jazz), Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers) and Zion Williamson (New Orleans Pelicans) – who is a first-time All-Star.

The All-Star Game rosters will be determined through a March 4 draft, where James and Durant will select from the pool of players voted as starters and reserves in each conference.

The 10 All-Star Game starters were unveiled last week, with Durant, Kyrie Irving (Nets) two-time reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks), Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards) and Joel Embiid (76ers) in the Eastern Conference starter pool.

James, Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors), Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks), Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets) and Kawhi Leonard (Clippers) are in the Western Conference starter pool.

76ers head coach Doc Rivers will coach Team Durant, while Quin Snyder of the Jazz will coach Team LeBron.

The races for the top seeds in each conference in the NBA are getting more interesting.

It was a fascinating seven days of action in the NBA, which saw the Brooklyn Nets surge even with Kevin Durant on the sidelines.

They are on a six-game win streak and trail the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers by only half a game.

However, the Sixers can be encouraged by the form of their top two stars, who each enjoyed extremely productive weeks.

The Los Angeles Lakers are on a two-game losing streak and are two and a half games back of the Utah Jazz in the race for the top seed in the Western Conference.

They will be out to get back to their best this week, and an improvement in three-point shooting from the MVP frontrunner would be beneficial to them doing that.

Here we take a look at some of the best and worst performers across the past week, aided by Stats Perform data.

RUNNING HOT...

Ben Simmons

Simmons missed two games last week due to stomach flu but he was excellent in the pair of games in which he did feature for the Sixers.

He dropped 42 points in the loss to the Utah Jazz and, after a brief spell on the sidelines, was back with 28 in the defeat to the Toronto Raptors.

His points per game average for the week ballooned to 35, Simmons having entered the week putting up 14.13. Philadelphia will need more of the same the rest of the way if the Sixers are to clinch top spot in the East.

Jamal Murray

The Nuggets are in the thick of a crowded playoff race in the Western Conference, and their hopes of reaching the postseason will be boosted if Murray can maintain his form of the past week.

Having come into the week scoring 18.54 points per game, he averaged 35 last week, with that number inflated by a stunning 50-point game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, which saw him shoot 84 per cent from the field and go eight of 10 from three-point range.

He went from putting up just over two triples per game to averaging five and, with a game against a Portland Trail Blazers team two and a half games ahead of them in the standings next up, Murray's success from deep will be pivotal.

Joel Embiid

Arguably the closest challenger to LeBron James for the league MVP award this season, Embiid was a monster on the boards for the Sixers this week.

His 50-point game in the win over the Chicago Bulls on Friday was also the first of two successive outings with 17 rebounds. 

Embiid's rebounds per game average jumped from 10.77 entering the week to 15 over the past seven days.

He will need to continue making that kind of all-round impact in scoring and rebounding if Embiid is to have any hope of denying LeBron the MVP.

GOING COLD...

Derrick Rose

Rose's second week as a New York Knick did not go to plan.

The 2011 MVP had come into the week registering 14.28 points per game, but that dropped to just 5.33 over the course of the last three games.

He endured a dismal week from the field, hitting just five of his 27 shots. Having gotten him out of a bad situation in Detroit, the Knicks will want a lot more from Rose in the coming weeks as they look to cement their grasp on a playoff spot.

Nikola Jokic

While Murray has been outstanding for the Nuggets, their MVP candidate had a down week in one key area of his game.

Denver lost three of their four games last week, and the Nuggets will look for improved play on the boards from Jokic as they target a reversal in fortunes. 

Jokic had been recording 11.5 rebounds per game but that dipped to 8.75 over his past four outings, failing to put up double-digit rebounds in back-to-back games against the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards.

He was back in double figures in each of Denver's last two games, and Jokic will aim to carry that momentum into this week and a key matchup with Portland.

LeBron James

This season has seen LeBron hit threes at his highest rate since joining the Los Angeles Lakers.

He has converted on 36.2 per cent of his attempts from beyond the arc but he suffered a decline from deep last week.

Having entered the week hitting 2.57 threes a game, he averaged just one over the course of the Lakers' last three matchups.

James has not made more than one three in a game since the second meeting in a back-to-back with the Oklahoma City Thunder on February 10.

With LeBron, though, drop-offs are only ever temporary. The MVP frontrunner should resume normal service from three-point range sooner rather than later.

Ben Simmons believes his potential is "scary" after scoring a career-high 42 points against the Utah Jazz.

Playing at center in the absence of Joel Embiid for the Philadelphia 76ers, Simmons converted 15 of his 26 field goals, adding 12 assists and nine rebounds in a fantastic performance.

Utah still won the game 134-123 to make it 19 wins from 20.

Despite playing in a third straight loss, Simmons believes the record night shows he has made huge strides over recent weeks.

"I feel like I'm figuring it out," Simmons said after the game.

"Obviously, my scoring has been a lot higher the past five, six games.

"As long as I can keep doing that and stay locked in and keep working on my mental [game], I think it's scary.

"You have got to keep your foot down. Keep pushing forward offensively with me. Stay dominant - I know what I'm capable of.

"It felt good that I was able to dominate offensively. Defensively I did okay, not great. Offensively, I definitely had to pick up the slack especially if Joel is out. So yes [it was probably my most aggressive game].

"I loved when I saw Rudy [Gobert] was guarding me. I love being able to go at somebody like that. I felt like it was a little bit disrespectful to put him on me, but it is what it is.

"Honestly, I've just been working on my mentality and mental [game] a lot these past few weeks.

"It's not easy to do that. Your mindset will change the way you play or certain things in the game that come natural for certain people. It is all mental.

"People don't realise your mentality is a huge part of the game. For me I continue to work on that. I'm just trying to get better and progress my game and get to that next level.

"But we wanted to get this win bad. We didn't get it, so we've got to move on."

Getting Simmons matched up with Gobert was exactly what coach Doc Rivers had in mind, while he also praised Tobias Harris for a 36-point display.

Rivers said: "I didn't know we were going to get the 42 points out of him! But he did everything - he guarded, did a good job. Played with pace.

"We anticipated once Joel scratched that the lineup that we put on the floor, we were trying to create a lineup where Gobert would guard Ben and that happened.

"The key for us was getting stops and getting it to Ben and getting up the floor. We just felt like there was no way anybody was going to stay with Ben, especially a center.

"Tobias [Harris] was phenomenal as well. Look at those two guys, man!

"Harris has to be straight line, aggressive and powerful. When he plays like that, he's hard to deal with. He played a very decisive game and had very few indecisive plays.

"He is really keeping the game simple, playing with great force, scoring from the three[-point line], off the dribble and the post. He's doing exactly what we believe he can do.

"[Embiid] was just a late scratch. They came to me and told me his back is still stiff. So I don't think this is a long term issue or anything like that. It's just a game missed."

The Sixers are still top of the Eastern Conference at 18-10 and host the Houston Rockets next on Wednesday.

Jordan Clarkson scored 40 points off the bench for the impressive Jazz, who lead the Western Conference with an NBA-best record of 23-5.

Jordan Clarkson and Ben Simmons were drawn into a high-scoring shoot-out as the NBA-leading Utah Jazz powered past the Philadelphia 76ers 134-123 in a mouth-watering showdown.

In a battle pitting the Western Conference-leading Jazz against Eastern Conference pacesetters, the Jazz came out on top thanks to Clarkson's 40 points.

Utah's Clarkson nailed a stunning eight three-pointers as he became first player to come off the bench and score 40 points in less than 30 minutes since 1991.

In response, 76ers All-Star Simmons fired up for a career-high 42 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds, and Tobias Harris put up a 36-point, 10-rebound double-double, but the 76ers could not keep up with the Jazz.

Simmons opened with a career-best quarter of 19 points to give the 76ers a seven-point lead at the first buzzer before Utah took over and claimed an eighth straight win, and a 19th win in 20 games.

Missing Joel Embiid to a back injury, the 76ers' third straight loss opened the door for the Brooklyn Nets to close the gap in the east and they obliged, posting a franchise-record 25 three-pointers in a 132-121 win over the Sacramento Kings.

Kyrie Irving put up 40 points and former MVP James Harden added a triple-double (29 points, 14 assists and 13 rebounds) to lead the Nets to a third consecutive victory as the struggling Kings fell to a fourth straight defeat.

The Philadelphia 76ers topped LeBron James' Los Angeles Lakers in a nail-biting finish, prevailing 107-106 against the reigning NBA champions.

NBA leaders the Lakers had won a franchise-record 10 consecutive away games to open the season heading into Wednesday's showdown in Philadelphia.

But the Eastern Conference-leading 76ers (13-6) handed the Lakers their first road loss thanks to Tobias Harris' 15-foot jumper with 2.4 seconds remaining.

The Lakers rallied from a 100-86 with less than five minutes remaining in the final quarter, using a 13-0 run to hit the front for the first time since the opening period.

But Harris and the 76ers had the final say in a thrilling finish at Wells Fargo Center, where the forward had 24 points and Joel Embiid posted 28 of his own.

James led the visiting Lakers (14-5) with a game-high 34 points and star team-mate Anthony Davis contributed 23 points.

James Harden and Kevin Durant put on a show again as the star-studded Brooklyn Nets outlasted the Atlanta Hawks 132-128 in overtime.

Harden posted 31 points and 15 assists and Durant scored 32 points, while Kyrie Irving finished with 26 points away to the Hawks in Atlanta midweek.

Former MVP Harden became the first Nets player with a 30-point, 15-assist game since Stephon Marbury in 2000, and Durant recorded his 15th consecutive 20-plus point game to start the season.

 

Simmons with another triple-double

76ers All-Star Ben Simmons put up 17 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in a winning effort. It moved Simmons up to 13th on the all-time list for triple-doubles (31) – tied with Luka Doncic and Hall of Famer John Havlicek.

Two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo's 24 points and 18 rebounds lifted the Milwaukee Bucks past the Toronto Raptors 115-108.

The Utah Jazz celebrated their 10th straight win – 116-104 over the Dallas Mavericks – behind Rudy Gobert's 29 points and 20 rebounds. Doncic's 30 points were not enough for the Mavericks.

Bradley Beal had 47 points in a losing effort as the struggling Washington Wizards were beaten 124-106 by the New Orleans Pelicans, who were led by Zion Williamson (32 points) and Brandon Ingram (32 points).

Chris Paul registered 32 points but the Phoenix Suns still went down 102-97 to his former team the Oklahoma City Thunder.

 

Robinson headlines Miami's woes

The Miami Heat are struggling to reach the heights of last season, which saw them make a run to the NBA Finals. Miami have lost four in a row following a 109-82 rout at the hands of the Denver Nuggets. Duncan Robinson was just three-of-11 from the field, making only two-of-10 three-point attempts for eight points in 36 minutes.

 

Sabonis stays hot

Domantas Sabonis was dominant yet again as the Indiana Pacers defeated the Charlotte Hornets 116-106. He recorded his sixth career triple-double with 22 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

 

Wednesday's results

Indiana Pacers 116-106 Charlotte Hornets
Cleveland Cavaliers 122-107 Detroit Pistons
Sacramento Kings 121-107 Orlando Magic
Brooklyn Nets 132-128 Atlanta Hawks (OT)
Denver Nuggets 109-82 Miami Heat
Philadelphia 76ers 107-106 Los Angeles Lakers
Milwaukee Bucks 115-108 Toronto Raptors
San Antonio Spurs 110-106 Boston Celtics
New Orleans Pelicans 124-106 Washington Wizards
Oklahoma City Thunder 102-97 Phoenix Suns
Utah Jazz 116-104 Dallas Mavericks
Golden State Warriors 123-111 Minnesota Timberwolves
Chicago Bulls-Memphis Grizzlies (postponed)

 

Lakers at Pistons

James and the Lakers will look to bounce back when they continue their season-long seven-game road trip against the lowly Pistons (4-13) in Detroit on Thursday.

Doc Rivers saluted the impact and influence of Joel Embiid after his stellar showing drove the Philadelphia 76ers to a 122-110 win over the Boston Celtics.

Two days on from scoring 42 points in seeing off the Celtics, Embiid was on it once more against the same opposition, plundering 38 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.

With Tobias Harris weighing in with 23 points from 10-of-12 shooting, and Ben Simmons coming on strong with 11 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter, Philadelphia had an irresistible combination.

"We're just growing, you can see it," coach Rivers told a post-game news conference.

"When you look at Joel's numbers - 11 from 15 - he didn't force it a lot, made some great plays out. 

"He let it comes to him. Down the stretch when they were starting to trap him, instead of winning the ball he actually was trying to get the ball to move the ball.

"It says so many things to your teammates. Then when Ben got it going it was Joel who was wanting to call the pick and rolls to get him going more.

"I like how the chemistry of this team grows each night. During COVID it's hard to try to get chemistry and you can see it growing."

Rivers applauded the "quick decisions" that Harris made in the game, declaring that on his best form he is an "unbelievable" talent.

"He's a train going downhill," Rivers said. "He's got a beautiful shot. I love how he's playing. I love what confidence he's playing with."

Even when Harris takes to showboating, Rivers is prepared to stomach it.

"It's going to happen and that's fine. He is talented enough to do it, I just don't think he's efficient when he does it."

Rivers said Simmons' impact in the closing quarter was "awesome". As well as his priceless points, Simmons also had 11 assists.

"He's doing so many things for this team. His winning formula is amazing," Rivers said. "Ben does a lot. He can't focus on one thing like focusing on just scoring, he's too good for that for me.

"It would be a waste if that's all we focused on with him.

"What I did like is he went downhill more tonight and finished at the basket. That's what he has to do and that's what we're working on."

There is no doubt Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid is performing at an MVP level following his monstrous double-double midweek, according to Tobias Harris.

The 76ers took down Eastern Conference rivals the Boston Celtics 117-109 thanks to Embiid's 42 points and 10 rebounds in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

Embiid – returning to action following knee soreness – had 22 points in the first half as the three-time All-Star topped 40 points for the second time in three games, joining Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal as the only NBA players with multiple such performances.

There is only one other instance where a Sixers player had a 40 and 10 game on one or fewer turnovers since the three-point era – Embiid himself in 2019.

76ers team-mate Harris hailed Embiid, who is averaging 26.4 points, 11.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game this season.

"It's not sort of, it's for sure MVP-calibre," Harris told reporters of Embiid after the 76ers improved to 10-5, and 8-1 on home court.

76ers head coach Doc Rivers was also full of praise following Embiid's mammoth display, which consisted of 12-of-19 shooting in 34 minutes.

"I'm not surprised at the level," Rivers said. "He's just more talented than even I knew. I knew he was extremely talented, but he has so many more gifts."

Harris, who signed a maximum contract at the start of 2019-20, contributed 22 points to help the 76ers past the Celtics.

His performance was not lost on Embiid, who added: "Tobias had a great night. He's playing at an All-Star level as he should be and he should be an All-Star."

"I just pride myself on doing whatever I can for our team," Harris said. "Making winning plays and the right play out there so that's just been my MO and I know my role as a player and I know what's asked of me night after night to be a leader and also to be a top player on this team and I’m embracing that."

While Ben Simmons did not have the best offensive outing, the two-time All-Star excelled defensively.

Simmons almost recorded a triple-double with 11 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, while he tallied two steals as he defended the likes of Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart.

"I thought Ben was unbelievable defensively," Rivers said. "First of all, we put him on Kemba tonight, we put him on Jaylen Brown tonight, put him on Marcus Smart tonight. It's amazing what he can do for us and tonight was a great example of that."

Ben Simmons insisted he was unfazed about talk over his future with the Philadelphia 76ers after James Harden joined the Brooklyn Nets.

Simmons was the subject of trade rumours as the 76ers were linked to Harden, whose move from the Houston Rockets to the Nets was confirmed on Thursday.

But, after the 76ers' 125-108 win over the Miami Heat on Thursday, the 24-year-old said it was just part of the game.

"This is a business, things like that happen," Simmons told a news conference.

"The only thing I can control is how I approach my workouts, the games and my day-to-day things.

"I'm just trying to be professional and do the right thing and help my team get wins."

Asked if he was happy to be in Philadelphia, Simmons responded: "Of course."

Simmons posted a triple-double of 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds in the win over the Heat.

It was his 30th triple-double in the NBA. Only Oscar Robertson (75 games) and Magic Johnson (190) have managed that quicker than Simmons (228).

Philadelphia head coach Doc Rivers was delighted with Simmons' performance as the 76ers improved to 9-4.

"I thought tonight is who he has to be every night. I loved the way he played. I loved how he played under control, didn't force it, took gaps when they were there," he said.

"He was a presence on the floor for us and not just on the offensive end but on the defensive end as well and that takes us to a different level when he plays like that."

Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are showing they each have the ability to be Defensive Player of the Year, according to Philadelphia 76ers team-mate Danny Green.

The Sixers were 127-112 winners against the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday, with Simmons' 29th career triple-double leading the way.

The 24-year-old, who made the All-Defensive First Team in 2020, also had had a block and a steal to go with his 15 points, 11 assists and 12 rebounds, of which 11 were on the defensive end.

Team-mate Embiid - twice selected to the All-Defensive Second Team - balanced his 19 points with 11 defensive rebounds, a steal and an assist, too.

Green said of the pair after Philly moved to 5-1 at the top of the East: "They can be monstrous for us defensively.

"I think they have the potential, both of them, to be Defensive Player of the Year with their size, ability, reflexes, their footwork."

Coach Doc Rivers was on the same page, too, adding: "Ben has been, in my opinion, as good as anyone in the league defensively.

"Then having Joel to back him up, that combination defensively allows you to do a lot of things that you probably wouldn't do when you have the size of those two guys."

But the Sixers' two star names were not the only players contributing on both ends of the floor against Charlotte.

Tobias Harris was particularly impressive in a dominant display that led his team in scoring with 24 points but also included nine rebounds, six assists, four steals and three blocks.

Six games into the season, Harris is averaging career highs in rebounds (8.5), assists (3.2, same as 2019-20), steals (1.5) and blocks (1.5), and Simmons has noted the improvement.

"On both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively, he's been amazing," he said. "He's been an amazing factor for our team and he's going to be if we want to win a championship."

Simmons added: "We've got a good group, the chemistry's good off the floor. It makes it even better when you're winning, playing the right way, sharing the ball.

"Guys aren't worried about who's scoring the ball, as long as we're scoring and winning games.

"That's what it's all about for us. Our goal is to win a championship, and to do that, we need everybody."

Ben Simmons led the way with his 29th career triple-double as the Philadelphia 76ers claimed top spot in the NBA Eastern Conference with a 127-122 win over the Charlotte Hornets.

Simmons dropped 15 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists as Philly opened up a 15-point first quarter lead and never looked back to go 5-1.

Joel Embiid contributed with a double-double of 19 points and 14 rebounds, while Tobias Harris top scored with 24 points as the 76ers claimed a third straight victory.

Ben Simmons (15 PTS, 12 REB, 11 AST) puts up a triple-double as the @sixers move to 5-1!

Tobias Harris: 24 PTS, 9 REB, 6 AST, 4 STL, 3 BLK
Seth Curry: 21 PTS (8-11 FGM), 6 AST
Joel Embiid: 19 PTS, 14 REB
Terry Rozier: 35 PTS, 7 3PM pic.twitter.com/ZgvqSUC9kp

— NBA (@NBA) January 3, 2021

The Atlanta Hawks (4-2) fell off the pace in the East following a 96-91 loss against the Cleveland Cavaliers as Colin Sexton scored 13 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter to snatch the win. 

John Wall led the scoring with 28 points as the Houston Rockets made it back-to-back triumphs against the Sacramento Kings, 102-98, in Texas.

Christian Wood posted a double-double with 15 rebounds and 20 points as the Rockets improved from 0-2 to 2-2 since Wall’s arrival, while James Harden was sidelined with an ankle injury.

Big scorers come up short for Magic, Pacers

Nikola Vucevic dazzled, putting up 30 points and 13 rebounds, but it was not enough to prevent the Orlando Magic slipping to 4-2 after a 108-99 loss against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Six OKC players hit double-figures in an all-round team effort as Darius Bazley top scored with 19 points and 12 rebounds.

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