LeBron James inspired the Los Angeles Lakers to a sixth straight win, while the Milwaukee Bucks secured their 50th victory of the NBA season.

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

Anthony Davis had a double-double of 21 points and 14 rebounds, while James went 17-of-27 from the field while also contributing eight rebounds and six assists.

The top pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, Zion Williamson poured in 29 points for the Pelicans.

In a battle between the Eastern Conference's top two, the Bucks were too good for the Toronto Raptors 108-97.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 19 points, 19 rebounds and eight assists as Milwaukee improved to 50-8.

 

Terrific Tatum, super Sabonis

Jayson Tatum lifted the Boston Celtics past the Portland Trail Blazers 118-106 with 36 points, going eight-of-12 from three-point range.

Domantas Sabonis' 21 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists helped the Indiana Pacers thrash the Charlotte Hornets 119-80.

Zach LaVine's 41 points were not enough for the Chicago Bulls, who were edged by the Oklahoma City Thunder 124-122.

 

Horrible Hornets

Charlotte are now 3-7 in their past 10 after the heavy loss to the Pacers. Terry Rozier went two-of-13 from the field for five points in 26 minutes.

 

LeBron, Caruso combine

Alex Caruso delivered a pass through his legs for James to dunk home.

Tuesday's results

Indiana Pacers 119-80 Charlotte Hornets
Milwaukee Bucks 108-97 Toronto Raptors
Oklahoma City Thunder 124-122 Chicago Bulls
Denver Nuggets 115-98 Detroit Pistons
Los Angeles Lakers 118-109 New Orleans Pelicans
Boston Celtics 118-106 Portland Trail Blazers
Sacramento Kings 112-94 Golden State Warriors

 

Celtics at Jazz

The Celtics (40-17) look for back-to-back wins when they visit the Utah Jazz (36-21) on Wednesday.

LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers came out on top 114-112 against Jayson Tatum's Boston Celtics in the NBA on Sunday.

James nailed a fallaway jump shot with 30 seconds remaining as the Lakers prevailed, despite Tatum's 41 points at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

"I had been setting him [Tatum] up all night with the back-down to the drop step to the baseline," James said. "I figured he would sit on it, thinking I would try it again, so I just went to my back-down, gave a little Dream Shake to the baseline and was able to open up the middle and get my fadeaway."

Lakers superstar James finished with 29 points, nine assists and eight rebounds for the Western Conference leaders, who extended their winning streak to five games as Celtics great Bill Russell watched from the sideline.

Anthony Davis posted 32 points and 13 rebounds, while the Celtics played without Kemba Walker (left knee soreness) for the second straight game.

The Milwaukee Bucks did not play on Sunday but the NBA leaders still made history thanks to the Chicago Bulls.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks became the fastest team in NBA history to clinch a playoff spot after the Chicago Bulls beat the Washington Wizards.

The Bucks secured a postseason berth through 56 games on February 23, topping the Golden State Warriors' record – set on February 25 in 2017 after 58 appearances.

 

Zion stars in San Francisco

Zion Williamson flexed his muscles with 28 points and seven rebounds as the New Orleans Pelicans soared past the lowly Golden State Warriors 115-101. Jrue Holiday scored 11 of his 23 points in the final quarter.

A career-high 53 points from Bradley Beal were not enough for the Wizards, who went down 126-117 to the Bulls. Coby White's 33 points saw him join Michael Jordan as the only Bulls rookies with 30 or more points in successive games.

Double-doubles from Serge Ibaka (15 points, 15 rebounds) and Kyle Lowry (16 points, 11 assists) inspired defending champions the Toronto Raptors to a 127-81 demolition of the Indiana Pacers.

A 131-103 win over the San Antonio Spurs was memorable for the Oklahoma City Thunder. It was Oklahoma City's largest victory margin ever against the Spurs. Chris Paul (12 points, 10 assists), Steven Adams (21 points, 14 rebounds) and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (22 points, 13 rebounds) all had double-doubles for the Thunder.

 

Spurs struggle

San Antonio had a night to forget away to the Thunder. The Spurs were just 36.9 per cent from the field, making just 38 of 103 shots. Stars LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan both struggled. Aldridge was three of 10 from the field and he missed all five three-point attempts for eight points. Meanwhile, DeRozan was four of 12 for 11 points.

 

Zion with the slam!

The 2019 number one pick and Pelicans rookie provided another highlight against the Warriors.

 

Sunday's results

Los Angeles Lakers 114-112 Boston Celtics
Denver Nuggets 128-116 Minnesota Timberwolves
Toronto Raptors 127-81 Indiana Pacers
Chicago Bulls 126-117 Washington Wizards
Oklahoma City Thunder 131-103 San Antonio Spurs
New Orleans Pelicans 115-101 Golden State Warriors
Portland Trail Blazers 107-104 Detroit Pistons

 

Hawks at 76ers

The Philadelphia 76ers (35-22) are expected to be without injured All-Star Ben Simmons for Monday's visit of the Atlanta Hawks (17-41). Simmons hurt his back in the loss away to the NBA-leading Bucks. Awful on the road, the 76ers – currently fifth in the Eastern Conference – boast the best home record in the league at 26-2.

The Philadelphia 76ers lost Ben Simmons to injury in another NBA road defeat on Saturday, while the Miami Heat paid tribute to Dwyane Wade.

Simmons left a 119-98 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in the first quarter after aggravating an existing back problem and will reportedly undergo an MRI on Sunday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo relished his fellow All-Star's absence, putting up 31 points and 17 rebounds in a double-double that condemned Philadelphia to a sixth successive away loss.

The 76ers (35-22) sit fifth in the Eastern Conference, one place behind the Heat (36-20) following their 124-105 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The win added to a memorable occasion as Miami welcomed former favourite Wade back to AmericanAirlines Arena, officially retiring the number three jersey he wore during the team's NBA championships in 2006, 2012 and 2013.

Wade, 38, retired at the end of last season after returning to the Heat for his career swansong.

 

Harden hot in valuable Houston victory

James Harden hit a game-high 38 points while Russell Westbrook went 14-of-26 for 34 points as the Houston Rockets topped the Utah Jazz 120-110.

The Jazz struggled to handle Houston's small-ball approach and are now level with the Rockets at 36-20.

Kawhi Leonard tallied 31 points and eight rebounds but the Los Angeles Clippers lost for the third time in as many games, going down to the Sacramento Kings 112-103.

Meanwhile, the Atlanta Hawks overcame a nine-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to beat the Dallas Mavericks 111-107.

Trae Young and John Collins each recorded double-doubles to inspire the Hawks to their 17th win of a lean campaign.

 

Kawhi a lone performer for cold Clippers

Leonard did his part against the Kings at Staples Center but the reigning MVP had little help from his fellow Clippers starters, all of whom failed to reach double figures for points.

Reggie Jackson and Landry Shamet were particularly culpable, the pair making just three of their combined 12 three-point attempts.

 

Bam drops the hammer

Fresh from winning the Skills Challenge on NBA All-Star Weekend, Heat big man Bam Adebayo put on another show with a huge dunk against the Cavaliers.

 

Saturday's results

Sacramento Kings 112-103 Los Angeles Clippers
Brooklyn Nets 115-86 Charlotte Hornets
Atlanta Hawks 111-107 Dallas Mavericks
Miami Heat 124-105 Cleveland Cavaliers
Phoenix Suns 112-104 Chicago Bulls
Milwaukee Bucks 119-98 Philadelphia 76ers
Houston Rockets 120-110 Utah Jazz

 

Celtics at Lakers

LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers entertain Jayson Tatum's Boston Celtics in the pick of Sunday's seven games.

Giannis Antetokounmpo starred as the Milwaukee Bucks resumed their NBA season with a comfortable win, while the Houston Rockets cruised on Thursday.

Back in action after the All-Star break, the Bucks improved to 47-8 with a 126-106 victory over the Detroit Pistons.

Antetokounmpo finished with a double-double of 33 points and 16 rebounds, while Khris Middleton poured in 28 points.

Eric Bledsoe went eight-of-14 from the field for his 19 points and Brook Lopez contributed 18 for the Bucks.

The Rockets were untroubled by the Golden State Warriors in a 135-105 thrashing.

James Harden (29 points and 10 assists) and Russell Westbrook (21 points and 10 assists) finished with double-doubles.

All five of Houston's starters finished with double-digits for points, with Robert Covington adding 20.

 

Young red-hot as Embiid lifts 76ers

Trae Young had a career-high 50 points in the Atlanta Hawks' 129-124 win over the Miami Heat.

Joel Embiid's double-double of 39 points and 16 rebounds helped the Philadelphia 76ers past the Brooklyn Nets 112-104 after overtime.

Malik Monk's 25 points off the bench helped the Charlotte Hornets beat the Chicago Bulls 103-93.

 

Bulls' slump continues

The Bulls' loss was their seventh straight as they were left with a 19-37 record and in 11th in the Eastern Conference.

 

Young from deep

Young went eight-of-15 from three-point range in a dazzling display.

Thursday's results

Milwaukee Bucks 126-106 Detroit Pistons
Atlanta Hawks 129-124 Miami Heat
Philadelphia 76ers 112-104 Brooklyn Nets
Charlotte Hornets 103-93 Chicago Bulls
Sacramento Kings 129-125 Memphis Grizzlies
Houston Rockets 135-105 Golden State Warriors

 

Grizzlies at Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers (41-12) resume their campaign against the Memphis Grizzlies (28-27) at the Staples Center on Friday.

Zion Williamson dunked so hard during the NBA Rising Stars Challenge that he broke the backboard but jokingly suggested it may not have been his fault.

The rim was left askew after the New Orleans Pelicans rookie threw down a pass from Trae Young late in the second quarter of Team USA's 151-127 defeat of Team World at the United Center on Friday.

Arena staff at the venue for this year's All-Star festivities had to re-align everything during half-time, when Williamson discovered what had happened from team-mates.

Asked if he realised what he had done, Williamson said: "Not at all. I went into half-time and my team-mates started telling me about it.

"I don't know which dunk it was on, but I don't think it was me!"

The first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and Ja Morant, who played together for AAU team the South Carolina Hornets in 2014, caught the eye with some sensational plays.

Morant produced a through-the-legs alley-oop pass for a Williamson slam, but it was a different sequence that caused the Pelicans star to reflect on how far he and his former team-mate have come.

Asked for his favourite moment from the game, Williamson responded: "When Ja threw me the lob from half court. Reminisced on that, back to ninth grade.

"It was crazy honestly because after I caught it and we got a timeout or subbed out, I was thinking about our Hornets days and never in a million years would I have thought would we have been in this game or be in the situations we're in, so it would've been that moment."

Prior to taking to the floor, Williamson met Barack Obama at an NBA Cares event in Chicago and explained why he developed a newfound appreciation for the former United States president.

"First off he's a cool dude man, it's Obama, c'mon," said Williamson. "I gained so much more respect for him just by him saying that [he kept up with my games].

"I was like you probably have one of the most busy schedules and you're able to keep up with a rookie, superstars, college people, even high school people, and tell them their stats, what they've been doing good, what they can work on.

"When he told me that I just gained so much more respect for him."

Williamson was not born until after Michael Jordan had led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships, but he still has a great respect for the 14-time All-Star's exploits.

"It was my mom that led me to watching Michael Jordan and the Bulls. I asked her when I first started playing who should I go watch and she told me Jordan, [Larry] Bird and Magic [Johnson]," he said.

"I think I started with Magic, I was like man he can pass the ball. Bird, he can shoot and is an all-around player but when I got to Jordan she told me to watch full games, not highlights.

"I watched full games and as a kid the stuff he was doing was incredible to watch. Getting a steal, saving it and then doing a backwards layup or floating through the lane through three people, dunking it.

"So as a kid that really caught my attention and from then I just watched every full game Michael Jordan clip I could find."

A Ben Simmons triple-double inspired the Philadelphia 76ers to a 110-103 victory at home to Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers in the NBA.

Simmons posted his second successive triple-double, finishing with 26 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for the 76ers in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

It was his sixth triple-double of the season and 30th of his career as the 76ers – who already boast the NBA's best home record at 25-2 – won their third straight to improve to 34-21 for the campaign.

Josh Richardson scored 17 of his 21 points in the final quarter, while Joel Embiid contributed 26 points at Wells Fargo Center.

Clippers superstar Leonard had 30 points for the visitors, who fell to 37-17 in the Western Conference.

Meanwhile, the Houston Rockets snapped the Boston Celtics' seven-game winning streak.

James Harden registered 42 points and Russell Westbrook had 36 points to go with 10 rebounds as the Rockets trumped the Celtics 116-105 in Houston.

Gordon Hayward top scored with 20 points for the Celtics against the Rockets, who ended a run of back-to-back losses.

 

Zion stars as Pelicans soar

Zion Williamson produced another dominant performance. The star rookie had a season-high 31 points and nine rebounds in just 28 minutes as the New Orleans Pelicans topped the Portland Trail Blazers 138-117.

Zach LaVine put up 41 points but the Chicago Bulls still lost 126-114 at the Washington Wizards, who were led by Bradley Beal's 30.

The San Antonio Spurs snapped a five-game skid by beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 114-106 thanks to LaMarcus Aldridge's 25 points and 14 rebounds.

 

George struggles in Philadelphia

Paul George never got going against the 76ers. The Clippers star was just three of 15 from the field and one of four from three-point range for 11 points in 35 minutes. He did have 12 rebounds for a double-double, but it was far from George's usual best.

After back-to-back games of 30 or more points off the bench, Furkan Korkmaz was drafted into Philadelphia's starting five at the expense of Al Horford. However, Korkmaz had a game to forget. In 23 minutes, he was scoreless – 0 of five from the field, while he missed all four of his attempts from beyond the arc.

 

Simmons… somehow

The Australian All-Star put on a show in Philadelphia. This incredible piece of improvisation sent the 76ers on their way.

 

Tuesday's results

Philadelphia 76ers 110-103 Los Angeles Clippers
Washington Wizards 126-114 Chicago Bulls
New Orleans Pelicans 138-117 Portland Trail Blazers
San Antonio Spurs 114-106 Oklahoma City Thunder
Houston Rockets 116-105 Boston Celtics

 

Raptors at Nets

Riding a franchise-record winning streak, NBA champions the Toronto Raptors (40-14) will look to make it 16 straight victories when they visit the Brooklyn Nets (24-28) on Wednesday. The NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers are also in action.

Struggling NBA franchise the New York Knicks are worth $4.6billion, according to Forbes.

The Knicks have endured a tough time on the court, without a playoff appearance since 2012-13 as they continue to languish at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

New York have already sacked their head coach David Fizdale and replaced president Steve Mills this season.

However, the Knicks are the NBA's priciest team, ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors, per the magazine's calculations.

The average NBA team are now worth at slightly more than $2.1b.

 

NBA Team Values 2020:

New York Knicks ($4.6b)
Los Angeles Lakers ($4.4b)
Golden State Warriors ($4.3b)
Chicago Bulls ($3.2b)
Boston Celtics ($3.1b)
Los Angeles Clippers ($2.6b)
Brooklyn Nets ($2.5b)
Houston Rockets ($2.475b)
Dallas Mavericks ($2.4b)
Toronto Raptors ($2.1b)
Philadelphia 76ers ($2b)
Miami Heat ($1.95b)
Portland Trail Blazers ($1.85b)
San Antonio Spurs ($1.8b)
Sacramento Kings ($1.775b)
Washington Wizards ($1.75b)
Phoenix Suns ($1.625b)
Denver Nuggets ($1.6b)
Milwaukee Bucks ($1.58b)
Oklahoma City Thunder ($1.575b)
Utah Jazz ($1.55b)
Indiana Pacers ($1.525b)
Atlanta Hawks ($1.52b)
Cleveland Cavaliers ($1.51b)
Charlotte Hornets ($1.5b)
Detroit Pistons ($1.45b)
Orlando Magic ($1.43b)
Minnesota Timberwolves ($1.375b)
New Orleans Pelicans ($1.35b)
Memphis Grizzlies ($1.3b)

The Los Angeles Clippers handed the Cleveland Cavaliers the worst home loss in their history, while Memphis Grizzlies rookie Ja Morant posted his first NBA triple-double.

Lou Williams scored 25 points as the Clippers crushed the Cavaliers 133-92 in Cleveland on Sunday.

Cleveland's previous worst home loss was a 39-point defeat against the Chicago Bulls in 2012.

Paul George contributed 22 points for the Clippers, who were playing without star Kawhi Leonard (sore knee) following Saturday's embarrassing 142-115 loss to the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves.

Andre Drummond started his first game for the Cavs since being traded by the Detroit Pistons at the deadline and he posted 19 points and 14 rebounds.

Grizzlies sensation Morant had a night to remember as Memphis defeated the Washington Wizards 106-99.

Morant put up 27 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds to help the Grizzlies see off the Wizards in Washington.

 

Furkan stars off the bench… again

There is no stopping Furkan Korkmaz at the moment. After posting a career-high 34 points against the Grizzlies, Korkmaz had 31 in the Philadelphia 76ers' 118-111 victory over the Chicago Bulls. He was 12 of 17 from the field and six of 11 from three-point range. Ben Simmons recorded his fifth triple-double (19 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists) of the season on Australian Heritage Night in Philadelphia, while Joel Embiid scored 28 points and 12 rebounds.

Trae Young came up big for the Atlanta Hawks, who prevailed 140-135 against the New York Knicks after double overtime. Young had 48 points and 13 assists – the ninth time he has scored at least 40 points this season. John Collins added 32 points and 16 rebounds for the Hawks. The Knicks were led by Julius Randle's 35 points and 18 rebounds.

The Boston Celtics won their seventh straight game behind a balanced performance from their starters, who all had double-digit points, headlined by Jayson Tatum (26, 11 rebounds) and Kemba Walker (27).

Russell Westbrook (39 points) and James Harden (28 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) starred but the Houston Rockets lost 114-113 at home to the Utah Jazz. Jordan Clarkson contributed 30 points off the bench for the Jazz.

 

Horford struggles again

Much has been made about Al Horford and his impact, or lack thereof, in Philadelphia. The high-profile recruit did not score a point against the Bulls. He was 0 of six from the field and missed both shots from beyond the arc in 30 minutes of action.

Austin Rivers did not make a shot from the field after 19 minutes. The Rockets guard was 0 of four from the floor, while he missed both of his three-point attempts.

 

Bojan stuns Rockets

With 1.6 seconds remaining, Bojan Bogdanovic nailed a buzzer-beating three to silence the Rockets in Houston.

 

Sunday's results

Boston Celtics 112-111 Oklahoma City Thunder
Memphis Grizzlies 106-99 Washington Wizards
Atlanta Hawks 140-135 New York Knicks (Double OT)
Philadelphia 76ers 118-111 Chicago Bulls
Utah Jazz 114-113 Houston Rockets
Los Angeles Clippers 133-92 Cleveland Cavaliers
Portland Trail Blazers 115-109 Miami Heat

 

Timberwolves at Raptors

Amid a franchise-record 14-game winning streak, reigning champions the Toronto Raptors (39-14) welcome the Minnesota Timberwolves (16-35) to Scotiabank Arena on Monday.

Russell Westbrook scored 41 points as the new-look Houston Rockets upstaged the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Lakers 121-111 in NBA action.

While Rockets team-mate James Harden struggled, Westbrook was red hot in a stunning performance to take down rivals the Lakers at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Thursday.

Robert Covington made his debut for the Rockets, who traded away center Clint Capela prior to the deadline in a bid to become smaller and faster on the court, and he impressed with 14 points – including four three-pointers.

Double-doubles from LeBron James (18 points, 15 assists) and Anthony Davis (32 points, 13 rebounds) were not enough for the Lakers.

The NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks defeated the struggling Philadelphia 76ers 112-101 earlier on Thursday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo produced another dominant performance with 36 points and 20 rebounds as the Bucks improved to 44-7 for the season.

Antetokounmpo had 30-plus points and 15 or more rebounds for the fifth consecutive game and the 14th time this season. Antetokounmpo also became just the fifth player in Bucks history to record a 30-20 game and the first since 1996.

 

Zion flexes muscles… again

Zion Williamson continues to star. The 2019 number one pick posted his fourth consecutive 20-point game – the longest streak among rookies this season. Williamson finished with 21 as the New Orleans Pelicans topped the Chicago Bulls 125-110.

Damian Lillard put up 26 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Portland Trail Blazers past the San Antonio Spurs 125-117.

 

More woes for 76ers & Embiid

Much had been made about Philadelphia's form on the road and their chemistry, or lack thereof. And the 76ers crashed to their fourth straight loss – dropping to 9-19 away from home. Joel Embiid put up 19 points and 11 rebounds but it was a rough night for the All-Star. Cutting a dejected figure, Embiid was just six of 26 from the floor and three of 10 from three-point range. The 76ers struggled with 37.4 per cent shooting, hitting just 37 of 99 shots.

Harden was far from his best in Los Angeles. Harden was three of 10 from the floor and one of six from beyond the arc for 14 points in 35 minutes.

 

LeBron with the reverse jam!

James turned back the clock with a monster dunk against the Rockets.

 

Thursday's results

New York Knicks 105-103 Orlando Magic
New Orleans Pelicans 125-119 Chicago Bulls
Milwaukee Bucks 112-101 Philadelphia 76ers
Portland Trail Blazers 125-117 San Antonio Spurs
Houston Rockets 121-111 Los Angeles Lakers

 

Raptors at Pacers

Can the red-hot Toronto Raptors (37-14) extend their winning streak to 13 games? The defending champions are on the road against Eastern Conference rivals the Indiana Pacers (31-20) on Friday.

James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo starred in respective wins for the Houston Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA on Sunday.

Harden guided the Rockets past the New Orleans Pelicans 117-109 with 40 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.

The star guard went 12-of-24 from the field, while Russell Westbrook (22 points) and Ben McLemore (22) were also strong contributors.

Zion Williamson continued the fine start to his NBA career, finishing with 21 points and 10 rebounds in his sixth game for the Pelicans.

The Bucks bounced back from their loss to the Denver Nuggets on Friday by cruising to a 129-108 victory over the Phoenix Suns.

Like Harden, Antetokounmpo fell just short of a triple-double, finishing with 30 points, 19 rebounds and nine assists.

Khris Middleton, meanwhile, went nine-of-15 from the field for his 25 points.

 

Jokic, Drummond shine

Nikola Jokic had 39 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, but the Denver Nuggets fell to the Detroit Pistons 128-123 after overtime.

Andre Drummond led the way for Detroit – who lost Derrick Rose to groin soreness – with 21 points and 17 rebounds.

Terence Davis poured in a career-high 31 points, going 12-of-15 from the field, in the Toronto Raptors' 129-102 win over the Chicago Bulls. Defending champions Toronto tied a team record with their 11th straight win.

 

Bulls duo struggle

Tomas Satoransky and Luke Kornet both went three-of-11 from the field in the Bulls' loss to Toronto.

 

Zion, Lonzo combine

Lonzo Ball tossed an alley-oop to Williamson during the Pelicans' defeat.

Sunday's results

Detroit Pistons 128-123 Denver Nuggets
Houston Rockets 117-109 New Orleans Pelicans
Milwaukee Bucks 129-108 Phoenix Suns
Toronto Raptors 129-102 Chicago Bulls

 

Spurs at Clippers

The Los Angeles Clippers (34-15) will try to close the gap to the Lakers (37-11) atop the Western Conference when they host the San Antonio Spurs (22-26) on Monday.

Kyrie Irving put his stunning performance against the Chicago Bulls down to having a "Kobe mentality" after he scored a season-high 54 points on Friday.

The point guard made 19 of his 23 shot attempts in the Brooklyn Nets' 133-118 home victory - including hitting 10 in a row in the first half - as he surpassed his 50-point haul against the Minnesota Timberwolves back in October.

Irving revealed he was inspired by friend Kobe Bryant - who died in a helicopter crash last Sunday - after finishing with an astonishing 82.6 shooting percentage from the field.

He was also spurred on by the raucous support inside a sold-out Barclays Center, with chants of "MVP" from the crowd after the 27-year-old made a pair of free throws with just under four minutes remaining.

"I'm just happy to be back playing the game I love the most," Irving said in his on-court interview with YES Network.

"The most beautiful sound is just hearing these fans out here, having my family here, it just makes it all worth it

"The decision to come back home is well worth it. I'm cemented, I'm here, I'm grounded, I'm rooted. Just happy.

"I'm happy for my team-mates as well, they did a great job of giving me confidence. I hit a few shots in the first half and had to keep it going. The Kobe mentality, the Mamba mentality, is to keep going. It's all good."

Spencer Dinwiddie contributed 20 points off the bench while Taurean Prince, Jarrett Allen and Garrett Temple also reached double figures for the Nets, who improved to 21-26 for the season.

LeBron James shed tears, Usher sang 'Amazing Grace' and Staples Center fell silent in reverence to Kobe Bryant as the Los Angeles Lakers returned to the floor on Friday.

Fans crowded outside the venue and those inside, including the players, donned replica Bryant jerseys amid heartfelt tributes to a franchise legend and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.

An emotional video played on the big screen and a 24.2 second moment of silence was taken to honour all seven victims of Sunday's helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.

James read their names and gave a speech asking for the event to be a "celebration" of Bryant before the on-court action against the visiting Portland Trail Blazers began.

After a subdued start, Damian Lillard lifted the energy in the third quarter, hitting 23 points en route to a game-high 48 to issue the Lakers a 127-119 loss.

Lillard became the first NBA player to make 40 three-point shots in a five-game span and the first to record at least 35 points, five rebounds, five assists and five three-pointers in five straight games.

Irving inspires Nets, Nuggets upset Bucks

On the other side of the country, an inspired Kyrie Irving paid a personal tribute to his old mentor in fitting fashion.

The Brooklyn Nets guard, who earlier in the week vowed to "carry the torch", shot 19-of-23 from the floor and hit seven three-pointers as he tallied 54 points, five rebounds and five assists in a 133-118 win over the Chicago Bulls.

James Harden (35 points, 16 rebounds) and Russell Westbrook (32 points, nine assists) did likewise, the pair leading the Houston Rockets to a 128-121 victory against the Dallas Mavericks, who were without the injured Luka Doncic.

Giannis Antetokounmpo played his part, putting up 31 points in a double-double at Fiserv Forum, but the Milwaukee Bucks failed to prolong their nine-game winning run, losing to the Denver Nuggets 127-115.

The Toronto Raptors had more success preserving a streak, recording a 10th successive victory thanks to Pascal Siakam's 30 points in a 105-92 road win over the Detroit Pistons.

Zion Williamson posted a career-high 24 points in 29 minutes to outscore draft rival Ja Morant at Smoothie King Center, the New Orleans Pelicans topping the Memphis Grizzlies 139-111.

 

Rubio struggles in Suns loss

The Phoenix Suns might have avoided a late 111-107 home loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder had Ricky Rubio made more of his shooting opportunities, the Spaniard going two-of-eight from the floor for eight points in 30 minutes.

 

Lillard too hot for Lakers

The Lakers simply could not stop Lillard, the All-Star reserve delivering a clinic in long-range shooting.

 

Friday's results

Toronto Raptors 105-92 Detroit Pistons
Houston Rockets 128-121 Dallas Mavericks
Brooklyn Nets 133-118 Chicago Bulls
New Orleans Pelicans 139-111 Memphis Grizzlies
Oklahoma City Thunder 111-107 Phoenix Suns
Denver Nuggets 127-115 Milwaukee Bucks
Portland Trail Blazers 127-119 Los Angeles Lakers

 

76ers at Celtics

Due to knee soreness, the Boston Celtics (32-15) could be without Kemba Walker for Saturday's game against the Philadelphia 76ers (31-18).

Kyrie Irving returned to the court and helped the Brooklyn Nets to victory on Wednesday, while Damian Lillard continued to press his NBA All-Star claims.

In his first game since close friend Kobe Bryant's death, point guard Irving posted 20 points, five rebounds and five assists as the Nets prevailed 125-115 against the Detroit Pistons.

Irving, who skipped Brooklyn's last game, fought back tears as Barclays Center paid a pre-game tribute to Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and the other seven victims of Sunday's helicopter crash.

Overlooked for an All-Star starting spot, Lillard boosted his hopes of being named among the reserves with a first career triple-double.

The 29-year-old tallied 36 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists to take the Portland Trail Blazers to a 125-112 victory over the Houston Rockets, who were led by Russell Westbrook's 39 points and 10 rebounds.

 

Oladipo delivers in magical comeback

Victor Oladipo put 12 months of injury rehabilitation behind him with a clutch three-pointer as the Indiana Pacers beat the Chicago Bulls 115-106 in overtime. Finally recovered from a ruptured quad tendon, the former number two overall draft pick completed 21 minutes off the bench and hit a long-range shot in the closing seconds to send the game into an extra period.

DeMar DeRozan dropped a season-high 38 points on 11-of-19 shooting to see the San Antonio Spurs to a slump-busting 127-120 win over the Utah Jazz. Utah suffered their second successive loss despite Rudy Gobert's double-double and 31 points from Donovan Mitchell.

Dillon Brooks had 27 points and Jonas Valanciunas a double-double as the Memphis Grizzlies extended their winning streak to four games, defeating the New York Knicks 127-106.

 

Gordon goes cold

After hitting 50 points two days earlier, Eric Gordon came crashing back to reality in Portland. The 31-year-old guard went two-of-10 from the floor for eight points against the Trail Blazers, making just one of his eight three-point attempts.

 

Dinwiddie dazzles

Spencer Dinwiddie's 28 points against the Pistons included a neat reverse layup.

 

Wednesday's results

Indiana Pacers 115-106 Chicago Bulls
Memphis Grizzlies 127-106 New York Knicks
Brooklyn Nets 125-115 Detroit Pistons
San Antonio Spurs 127-120 Utah Jazz
Portland Trail Blazers 125-112 Houston Rockets
Oklahoma City Thunder 120-100 Sacramento Kings

 

Jazz at Nuggets

The Jazz (32-15) are back on the road on Thursday with a big Western Conference clash against the Denver Nuggets (32-15), who will be looking to rebound from their recent loss to the Grizzlies.

An emotional Luka Doncic led the Dallas Mavericks to a 107-97 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, while the short-handed Houston Rockets topped the Utah Jazz.

Emotions were still raw on Monday following the tragic death of Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, who was killed in a helicopter crash, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, on Sunday.

Suiting up for the road game in Oklahoma City, Mavericks star Doncic posted 29 points and 11 rebounds for Dallas – who have retired Bryant's iconic number 24 jersey.

"I broke down after the first quarter," Doncic said. "That was when it really hit me. It was really hard to explain."

The Thunder were without star guard Chris Paul, who sat out his first game of the season to mourn the loss of friend Bryant. Oklahoma City cited personal reasons.

Eric Gordon scored a career-high 50 points as the Rockets defeated the high-flying Jazz 126-117 in Utah.

In the absence of James Harden and Russell Westbrook, Gordon became the first Rockets player besides the former to score 50 points in a game since Hakeem Olajuwon had 51 in 1996, per Stats Perform.

 

Career night for Hield

A career-high 42 points from Buddy Hield helped the Sacramento Kings outlast the Minnesota Timberwolves 133-129 in overtime. The Kings rallied from a 27-point deficit in Minnesota.

DeMar DeRozan put up 36 points and 10 rebounds in the San Antonio Spurs' narrow 110-109 defeat the Chicago Bulls.

Bam Adebayo's third triple-double of the season (20 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists) inspired a 113-92 victory for the Miami Heat against the Orlando Magic. "It was about honouring Kobe," Adebayo said. "I felt like I had the 'Mamba Mentality' tonight ... I never got to meet him but he's here in spirit."

The Jazz lost but Donovan Mitchell starred with 36 points against the soaring Rockets.

 

Tough outing for Ingles

Usually a strong contributor, Joe Ingles struggled for the Jazz. The Australian was two of eight from the floor and one of seven from three-point range for just seven points in 33 minutes.

 

Timberwolves honour Bryant

Teams across the league have continued to honour five-time champion and 2008 MVP Bryant. On Monday, the Timberwolves opened the game by taking an eight-second backcourt violation and Sacramento took a 24-second shot-clock violation in hour of the two numbers Bryant wore in his famed 20-year career. While taking their violation, Timberwolves star Andrew Wiggins placed the ball on the free throw line – where Bryant scored to eclipse Michael Jordan for third place on the NBA's scoring list in December 2014.

Monday's results

Cleveland Cavaliers 115-100 Detroit Pistons
Miami Heat 113-92 Orlando Magic
Dallas Mavericks 107-97 Oklahoma City Thunder
Chicago Bulls 110-109 San Antonio Spurs
Sacramento Kings 133-129 Minnesota Timberwolves (OT)
Houston Rockets 126-117 Utah Jazz

 

Celtics at Heat

It is an Eastern Conference blockbuster as the Heat host the Boston Celtics on Tuesday. The Heat (32-14) are second in the east, while the Celtics (30-15) are fourth. The showdown between the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers was supposed to headline play, but the clash has been postponed following Bryant's death.

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