Devin Booker was the most notable omission as six first-timers won NBA All-Star selection among the 14 reserves named on Thursday.

Jimmy Butler, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook headlined the list of players selected by NBA coaches to round out the roster options for Team LeBron and Team Giannis.

Phoenix Suns guard Booker was denied a place despite averaging 27.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 6.4 assists through 44 games this season.

Oklahoma City Thunder veteran Paul, Houston Rockets star Westbrook, Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz youngster Donovan Mitchell snatched Western Conference guard spots, the latter handed his maiden selection alongside team-mate and fellow first-timer Rudy Gobert.

Brandon Ingram, Bam Adebayo, Jayson Tatum and Domantas Sabonis will also be among the newcomers at United Center in Chicago on February 16.

Suns general manager and three-time NBA champion James Jones questioned Booker's absence.

"I've played with and against multiple All-Stars in this league and Devin Booker is undoubtedly an NBA All-Star," Jones said in a statement.

Frenchman Gobert's inclusion alongside Sabonis (Lithuania), Ben Simmons (Australia) and Nikola Jokic (Serbia) plus starters Luka Doncic (Slovenia), Joel Embiid (Cameroon), Pascal Siakam (Cameroon) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece) lifts the number of international players to eight, a record for an All-Star Game.

The 2020 edition will feature several format changes to honour Kobe Bryant after the Los Angeles Lakers legend, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others died in a helicopter crash on Sunday.

Among them will be a 'target score' to chase in a timeless fourth quarter, the figure being the leading team's tally after three periods plus 24 points - representing the number Bryant wore during the second half of his glittering NBA career.

LeBron James and Milwaukee Bucks forward Antetokounmpo, the designated captains, will select their teams from the available player pool on February 6.

 

Eastern Conference reserves:

Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics), Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers), Domantas Sabonis (Indiana Pacers), Jimmy Butler (Miami Heat), Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks), Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors), Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat)

Western Conference reserves:

Chris Paul (Oklahoma City Thunder), Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers), Brandon Ingram (New Orleans Pelicans), Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz), Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz), Russell Westbrook (Houston Rockets), Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)

NBA leaders the Milwaukee Bucks topped the Boston Celtics 128-123 thanks to Giannis Antetokounmpo's double-double.

Antetokounmpo scored 32 points and collected 17 rebounds as the Bucks (37-6) extended their winning streak to five games on Thursday.

It was the 35th double-double of the season for reigning MVP Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee.

Kemba Walker posted a game-high 40 points for the Celtics (27-13) on the road.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Clippers made it back-to-back wins via a 122-95 victory over the Orlando Magic.

Orlando ended the Los Angeles Lakers' winning streak on Wednesday, but they were unable to back up that performance against the Clippers.

Kawhi Leonard led the Clippers with 32 points, five assists and five rebounds in LA, where Montrezl Harrell added 21 points and Jamychal Green put up 11 points and 13 rebounds.

 

Ingram and Mitchell explode for career highs in shoot-out

Brandon Ingram recorded a career-high 49 points to lead the New Orleans Pelicans to a stunning 138-132 overtime victory against the Utah Jazz, who had their 10-game winning streak snapped. Jazz star Donovan Mitchell tied his career high with 46 points.

Will Barton (31 points) and Nikola Jokic (23 points, 12 rebounds), Michael Porter Jr. (18 points, 10 rebounds) and Malik Beasley (27 points) helped the Denver Nuggets outlast the Golden State Warriors 134-131 in OT.

 

Hayward struggles

It was a tough night for Celtics star Gordon Hayward. Struck down by injuries during his time with Boston, Hayward was one of 10 from the floor and one of nine from three-point range for seven points in 32 minutes.

The Pelicans soared but Lonzo Ball did not. While managing 13 assists, Ball had just five points on two-of-12 shooting from the field and one-of-five from beyond the arc in 42 minutes.

 

Tatum leaves opponents in a spin

In fine form this season, Boston's Jayson Tatum sent one opponent to the floor while he turned another en route to the basket.

 

Thursday's results

Phoenix Suns 121-98 New York Knicks
Milwaukee Bucks 128-123 Boston Celtics
New Orleans Pelicans 138-132 Utah Jazz (OT)
Denver Nuggets 134-131 Golden State Warriors (OT)
Los Angeles Clippers 122-95 Orlando Magic

 

Bulls at 76ers

The Philadelphia 76ers will look to generate some momentum when they host the Chicago Bulls on Friday. The 76ers (26-16) are 19-2 at home and 7-14 on the road as they welcome the Bulls (15-27) to Wells Fargo Center.

Gregg Popovich defended Team USA and hit out at a "ridiculous" lack of respect for other nations at the FIBA World Cup after the reigning champions ended their campaign with an 87-74 victory over Poland.

A significantly weakened US squad - missing a host of star names but still packed with NBA experience - saw their title defence ended by France at the quarter-final stage earlier this week, before also losing to Serbia.

That meant Saturday's triumph at Beijing's Wukesong Sport Arena, in which Donovan Mitchell starred with 16 points and 10 assists, was only enough to secure seventh place for the country that won gold at each of the last two World Cups.

Popovich nevertheless said he was proud of his players' efforts as he firmly rejected some of the criticism that has come the USA's way.

"Some people want to play the blame game, there's no blame to be placed anywhere," the veteran head coach was quoted as saying by ESPN. "They want to play the shame game, like we should be ashamed because we didn't win a gold medal?

"That's a ridiculous attitude. It's immature, it's arrogant, and it shows that whoever thinks that doesn't respect all the other teams in the world and doesn't respect that these guys did the best they could.

"Their effort was fantastic. You give people credit for what they did, and that's it. But it's not a blame and shame game, that's ridiculous."

Mitchell was one of five players to put up a double-figure points tally in the USA's final game, along with Joe Harris (14), Khris Middleton (13), Derrick White (12) and Harrison Barnes (10). Middleton also contributed six rebounds and half a dozen assists.

Poland, playing their first World Cup since 1967, were paced by Mateusz Ponitka (18 points), Adam Waczynski (17) and A.J. Slaughter (15).

The outcome was decided early with Team USA scoring the game's first 10 points and stretching their lead to 14 by the end of the first quarter.

They led 47-30 at half-time, aided by Poland's inability to hit from three-point range. The underdogs missed their first 13 shots from behind the arc before finally getting one to fall with a minute and 28 seconds to play before the interval.

Poland did rally in the second half, getting as close as seven points with four minutes and seven seconds left in the third quarter, but the Americans responded with a 9-2 run and ran out comfortable winners.

Serbia secured fifth spot with a 90-81 victory over Czech Republic later in the day, Bogdan Bogdanovic the star of the show with 31 points.

Gregg Popovich defended Team USA and hit out at a "ridiculous" lack of respect for other nations at the FIBA World Cup after the reigning champions ended their campaign with an 87-74 victory over Poland.

A significantly weakened US squad - missing a host of star names but still packed with NBA experience - saw their title defence ended by France at the quarter-final stage earlier this week, before also losing to Serbia.

That meant Saturday's triumph at Beijing's Wukesong Sport Arena, in which Donovan Mitchell starred with 16 points and 10 assists, was only enough to secure seventh place for the country that won gold at each of the last two World Cups.

Popovich nevertheless said he was proud of his players' efforts as he firmly rejected some of the criticism that has come the USA's way.

"Some people want to play the blame game, there's no blame to be placed anywhere," the veteran head coach was quoted as saying by ESPN. "They want to play the shame game, like we should be ashamed because we didn't win a gold medal?

"That's a ridiculous attitude. It's immature, it's arrogant, and it shows that whoever thinks that doesn't respect all the other teams in the world and doesn't respect that these guys did the best they could.

"Their effort was fantastic. You give people credit for what they did, and that's it. But it's not a blame and shame game, that's ridiculous."

Mitchell was one of five players to put up a double-figure points tally in the USA's final game, along with Joe Harris (14), Khris Middleton (13), Derrick White (12) and Harrison Barnes (10). Middleton also contributed six rebounds and half a dozen assists.

Poland, playing their first World Cup since 1967, were paced by Mateusz Ponitka (18 points), Adam Waczynski (17) and A.J. Slaughter (15).

The outcome was decided early with Team USA scoring the game's first 10 points and stretching their lead to 14 by the end of the first quarter.

They led 47-30 at half-time, aided by Poland's inability to hit from three-point range. The underdogs missed their first 13 shots from behind the arc before finally getting one to fall with a minute and 28 seconds to play before the interval.

Poland did rally in the second half, getting as close as seven points with four minutes and seven seconds left in the third quarter, but the Americans responded with a 9-2 run and ran out comfortable winners.

Rudy Gobert starred as France ended the United States' title bid with a 89-79 shock victory in the FIBA World Cup quarter-finals.

Defending champions USA lost their first game in the tournament since 2006 as their star-studded line-up failed to deliver and France advanced to the last four.

Gobert was the main man for France, with the Utah Jazz center netting 21 points and amassing 16 rebounds, along with two assists, while making a superb block with just under a minute to play.

France spoiled an impressive performance from Donovan Mitchell, Gobert's NBA team-mate, who led Team USA with 29 points.

Only two other Americans scored in double figures as Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker finished with 11 and 10 points respectively.

Both teams had similar shooting numbers, but France dominated on the boards and won the rebound battle 44-28, while also shooting 17 more free throws.

Players for Team USA are well aware of the opportunity they have coming up in the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

Not just to represent their country, but to learn from coaching greats like Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr.

"I've really tried to kind of pick their brains," Team USA guard Donovan Mitchell said during training camp in Las Vegas earlier this month. "Picking everybody’s brain, coaches that have had such impact on this game, figuring out how to be a better overall player. Whether it's my approach to the game, whether it's a decision I make in the game defensively, offensively, whatever it may be."

Everyone wants to learn this year on Team USA. Mitchell said so on more than one occasion and plenty of players echoed the sentiment. Every single one of them talked about their excitement, specifically when it comes to playing for Popovich.

It's not hyperbole to call the San Antonio Spurs coach an NBA legend.

Popovich has won five NBA titles in San Antonio and three Coach of the Year awards. Only two coaches in the history of the league have more titles than him (Phil Jackson with 11 and Red Auerbach with nine) and two more have tied him in championships (Pat Riley, John Kundla).

He has as much respect as anyone in the NBA and his level of knowledge can be magnetic.

"We all grew up watching Pop, now we're playing against him," Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker said. "We know how much of a legend he is, he's just an unbelievable coach, so for me to get the opportunity to play for him, for him to pick me to be a part of this team, it's a blessing."

This isn't the first time Popovich has been in a situation to rub off on players from around the NBA. He also was an assistant for the national team in the early 2000s and was on the bench when Team USA earned a bronze medal in the 2004 Olympics.

That was a tough moment for Popovich, even though he was only an assistant on Larry Brown's USA staff. The bronze medal broke a string of three straight golds for Team USA at the Olympics and it remains the only time the United States has earned less than gold in the last seven Games.

Mike Krzyzewski's decision to step down as Team USA head coach after the Rio Olympics opened up an opportunity for Popovich to take over, but he has his hands full in San Antonio and taking the head coaching job for a national team is a big decision. It was not guaranteed he would coach this team in 2019 at the FIBA World Cup in China but, eventually, he gave in.

"I thought about it," he said earlier this month, via ESPN. "I met with Mr. [Jerry] Colangelo [Team USA's managing director]. I took a little bit of time. We talked several times. I knew what I was getting into. It's your country. You say yes. You man up and try to surround yourself with as much brainpower as you can."

In a way, the role provides Popovich with a shot at redemption for his country. It's a tough shot as this FIBA roster was marred by withdrawals and injuries and goes into the World Cup lacking the usual star power of a USA team.

Team USA will have to figure some things out and has dealt with some challenges on the court already with a loss to Australia last week, which broke a 78-game winning streak in international play.

Kerr put the state of this team — and Popovich's foray back onto its coaching staff — into great perspective as the World Cup creeps closer.

"The whole game is trying to put the puzzle together," said Kerr, the Golden State Warriors head coach who is assisting Popovich.

It is a puzzle Popovich was willing to figure out and one his players are embracing alongside him as he shows them how to fit the pieces into place ahead of Sunday's tournament opener against the Czech Republic in Shanghai.

"Seeing him when you play against him, you don't get to see this side of Pop that those guys in San Antonio see," Celtics guard Marcus Smart said. "So being here and able to play for him, he's a fun guy, he jokes a lot, I didn't know he was a jokester like that.

"He jokes a lot, but he's about business … you know he's really good about making sure to have fun and just staying loose and get you right, (and) he's a guy you really want to have coach you."

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