Giannis Antetokounmpo is confident of ending his wait for a first NBA All-Star Game win after learning of his Team LeBron team-mates.

Milwaukee Bucks superstar Antetokounmpo is making his fifth All-Star appearance this week but has ended on the losing side on all four prior occasions.

The two-time MVP was a team captain in the previous two years but was on the board this time and selected first by LeBron James.

Only once previously, in Antetokounmpo's All-Star bow in 2017, have the pair appeared together. The 'Greek Freak' led the team in scoring with 30 points, but they came up short.

That miserable record will come to an end in Atlanta in 2021, though, according to Antetokounmpo.

Alongside the Bucks forward, James took Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic and Stephen Curry as starters to produce an exciting blend of size and shooting.

"That's the starting five? Yeah, it's over guys," Antetokounmpo said. "Me, LeBron, Luka, Jokic and Steph? Man, that's a good starting five."

While Antetokounmpo is yet to taste victory at the annual event, James has three straight wins as captain of Team LeBron since the move away from the previous East versus West format in 2018.

The Los Angeles Lakers veteran is a three-time All-Star Game MVP and his newest team-mate is looking forward to linking up.

"He just makes plays," Antetokounmpo said of James. "Most of the time you're just wide open and I've never been used to that with somebody else creating the attention and me being wide open all the time.

"So, I've just got to do my job, make the right play, too, and do what I always do: just play hard and hope I can help him get a win."

Antetokounmpo was speaking after posting 26 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists, two steals and a block in Milwaukee's dramatic 112-111 win over the Memphis Grizzlies.

LeBron James selected two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo with his number one pick for the NBA All-Star Game, while Kevin Durant drafted Brooklyn Nets team-mate Kyrie Irving.

On Thursday, team captains James and Durant filled out their rosters for Sunday's All-Star contest in Atlanta.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar James and Milwaukee Bucks forward Antetokounmpo often go head-to-head in the All-Star Games as respective captains, but that is not the case this year.

Antetokounmpo will team up with James, who also selected Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry, Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic and the Denver Nuggets' MVP candidate Nikola Jokic as starters.

Team LeBron's reserves are Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers), Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers), Chris Paul (Phoenix Suns), Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics), Paul George (Los Angeles Clippers), Domantas Sabonis (Indiana Pacers) and Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz).

Durant – sidelined as he nurses a hamstring injury – turned to Brooklyn star Irving with the second overall pick in the All-Star draft.

MVP candidate and 76ers star Joel Embiid, Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, Washington Wizards sharpshooter Bradley Beal and Jayson Tatum of the Celtics are the other starters for Team Durant.

The reserves drafted by Durant are James Harden (Nets), Devin Booker (Suns), Zion Williamson (New Orleans Pelicans), Zach LaVine (Chicago Bulls), Julius Randle (New York Knicks), Nikola Vucevic (Orlando Magic) and Donovan Mitchell (Jazz).

Team LeBron have won the past three All-Star Games after topping Team Giannis 157-155 in Chicago last year.

The Los Angeles Lakers are still the defending NBA champions, but they are not without their weaknesses. Ones that the league's other premier teams are beginning to exploit.

The NBA's oldest team wheezes into the All-Star break with losses in six of their last eight games and looking up at the Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns – and possibly cross-town rivals the Los Angeles Clippers – in the Western Conference standings. And although that entire rough stretch has come with Anthony Davis sidelined by an Achilles' strain, the difference-making forward's absence does not solely explain the Lakers' slump.

There is no debate that the Lakers are a far better team with Davis on the floor, but the offensive struggles that have been exposed during the team's recent descent into mediocrity were in reality present even when the perennial All-Star was healthy. In 21 games since January 30, the Purple and Gold rank 22nd in the NBA in points per game, 24th in offensive rating, and dead last in three-point percentage with a 31.0 percent success rate from beyond the arc.

Granted, the Lakers were not a prolific perimeter shooting team during last year's championship run. Their ratio of points from three-pointers to total points stood at 29.1 percent, which ranked 25th in the NBA. That was 2019-20, however. This is 2020-21, a season in which triples are being taken and made at historic levels, and it is no coincidence that the teams that currently rank in the top four in three-point percentage (Clippers, Brooklyn Nets, Jazz, Milwaukee Bucks) also happen to own four of the top seven winning percentages.

The Jazz seemingly provided the blueprint on how to attack the Lakers when they knocked down 22 threes in handing the Los Angeles franchise their most lopsided loss of the season, a 114-89 defeat on February 24. The Suns followed the plan to a T when they drained 16 triples in a win earlier this week.

Truth is, those teams' methods were more of a trend than a discovery. The Lakers have allowed 14 or more three-pointers only 10 times in 37 games thus far, but they have lost eight of those contests. Just six teams have a lower winning percentage than the Lakers when permitting that many treys in a game, and none of them would be headed to the playoffs right now (for the record, those teams are the Minnesota Timberwolves, Sacramento Kings, Orlando Magic, Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks).

The initial reaction may be to believe that this is some sort of defensive issue, but it is not. The Lakers still lead the league in defensive rating and rank in the top 10 in three-point percentage defense. But it is become more than apparent that they have had trouble keeping up against opponents that can bomb away from long range with high proficiency, a real potential problem down the road should they meet the Jazz or Clippers in the playoffs, or the Nets in a possible Finals scenario.

The Lakers have one player, the streaky Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who is shooting 38 percent or better from beyond the arc while taking at least three three-pointers per game. The Clippers have seven such players, the Jazz six. The Nets have five, as do the Denver Nuggets, who have battled inconsistency and injuries but showed in a dominant win over the Lakers last month that they are still plenty dangerous.

Getting Davis back will surely help matters, as the chart below illustrates the offensive impact he brings when on the floor.

LAKERS, WITH/WITHOUT ANTHONY DAVIS ON COURT, 2020-21

(/100 = per 100 possessions)

With/Without

Points/100 – 112.8/106.4

FG Pct – .498/.469

Three-Pt Pct – .371/.338

Turnovers/100 – 13.9/15.5

 

The difference Davis makes, particularly from a shooting efficiency perspective, is more than evident. But is that enough, especially with there being no guarantee he will remain healthy throughout the postseason grind?

In hindsight, the contributions Danny Green made to last year's title run as a floor stretcher and perimeter defender may have been seriously undervalued. Wesley Matthews was supposed to fill that role following Green's initial trade to the Oklahoma City Thunder (before joining the Philadelphia 76ers) for Dennis Schroder, but he is shooting a career-worst 33.7 percent on threes and has been a complete non-factor offensively during the Lakers' current rut.

Caldwell-Pope's shot has gone south of late as well. In fact, he has had one of the steepest individual drop-offs from the perimeter over the last month-plus.

LARGEST DECREASE IN THREE-POINT PCT, PRE-FEBRUARY VS. REST OF SEASON – 2020-21

(min, 3.0 3PA/individual game)

Pre-Feb Since 2/1 Diff.

Tobias Harris, Phi – .464/.279/-.185

Wayne Ellington, Det – .505/.333/-.172

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, LAL – .478/.317/-.161

Garrett Temple, Chi – .408/.255/-.153

Desmond Bane, Mem – .520/.377/-.143

 

To summarise, the Lakers do not necessarily need another shooter if they are operating at full strength, though bringing one in surely would not hurt. That brings us to the next question – who could or should general manager Rob Pelinka be targeting at the trade deadline for some added reinforcements?

In a perfect world, the answer would be Bradley Beal should the Washington Wizards be open to parting with the league's current leading scorer. That is also a complete fantasy since the Lakers have neither the assets nor cap flexibility to pull off such a blockbuster. Even a less pricey option like JJ Redick is not realistic. Pelinka will need to do some bargain-hunting if he wants to buy.

Here are a few likely available options that seem to fit the Lakers' needs and price range:

Wayne Ellington, Pistons

Though he has been off the mark lately (see above), the 33-year-old journeyman is still hitting at an over 43 percent clip on three-pointers, is on a cheap contract and can likely be had for minimal cost with Detroit in the midst of a massive rebuild. Ellington would be a liability on the defensive end, but those deficiencies could be mitigated by the Lakers' strong supporting cast.

Ben McLemore, Rockets

McLemore is having a terrible year for a terrible Rockets team, but he shot 40 percent or better from three-point range in each of the previous two seasons and may benefit from a change of scenery. Team-mate Sterling Brown does not have McLemore's overall track record, but he is shooting above 40 percent on threes this season and could be a target as well.

George Hill, Thunder

A onetime team-mate of LeBron James in Cleveland, Hill would be an excellent fit as a sharp-shooting, savvy veteran who can alleviate some ball-handling duties from the King and Schroder. Though clearly not part of the Thunder's long-term plans, Hill's value and $9.6million salary still may be a tad too costly for the Lakers, who might have to part with a young asset like Kyle Kuzma to get a deal done.

The Lakers will not be making major moves at the deadline, nor should they have to with a roster that is deep, experienced and sports two of the game's best players. But in a season that is unveiled several legitimate challengers to their throne, playing it safe may just be the greatest risk.

Joel Embiid enhanced his MVP credentials with a monster double-double as the Philadelphia 76ers trumped the NBA-leading Utah Jazz in a thrilling battle, 131-123 after overtime.

Embiid hit a game-tying three-pointer with 5.3 seconds remaining to force OT – Eastern Conference leaders the 76ers outscoring the Jazz 13-5 in the additional period to reign supreme in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

MVP candidate Embiid finished with 40 points and 19 rebounds to fuel the 76ers to back-to-back wins heading into the break, with the All-Star Game scheduled for Sunday.

Sixers team-mate Tobias Harris scored 11 of his 22 points in overtime as the 76ers improved to 24-12.

Jazz star Donovan Mitchell, who was ejected with 30.8 seconds remaining in OT, recorded 33 points in the road loss – Utah (27-9) suffering back-to-back losses.

James Harden showed no mercy in his first game against the Houston Rockets since January's blockbuster trade to the Brooklyn Nets.

Former MVP Harden had 29 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds for his eighth triple-double since joining the Nets, who downed the injury-hit Rockets 132-114.

 

McConnell makes history

T.J. McConnell put up 16 points on eight of eight shooting, 13 assists and 10 steals off the bench in the Indiana Pacers' 114-111 win at the Cleveland Cavaliers. McConnell became the first player in NBA history to record 10-plus steals and make 100 per cent of his field-goal attempts in a game, per Stats Perform. He also became only the 10th player with a 10-plus steal triple-double since steals began being tracked in 1973-74.

Trae Young ended the game with 32 points as the Atlanta Hawks edged the Orlando Magic 115-112.

The Chicago Bulls trumped the New Orleans Pelicans 128-124 behind Zach LaVine's 36 points.

Triple-doubles from Mason Plumlee (14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists) and Dennis Smith Jr. (10 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists) inspired the Detroit Pistons to a 129-105 win over the Toronto Raptors. Norman Powell had a game-high 36 points for the Raptors.

 

Lakers' poor form continues

Playing without LeBron James for the first time this season and with Anthony Davis already sidelined, defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers went down 123-120 to the Sacramento Kings. The Lakers have lost six of their last eight games, falling into a tie for third place in the Western Conference heading into the All-Star weekend.

The Rockets have lost 13 games in a row – the franchise's longest skid since dropping 15 straight in 2001.

 

Lillard sinks Warriors

Damian Lillard (22 points) scored the final eight points for the Portland Trail Blazers, including the game-winning three with 13.7 seconds remaining, in a 108-106 win against the Golden State Warriors. Stephen Curry's 35 points were not enough for the Warriors.

 

Wednesday's results

Indiana Pacers 114-111 Cleveland Cavaliers
Philadelphia 76ers 131-123 Utah Jazz (OT)
Detroit Pistons 129-105 Toronto Raptors
Brooklyn Nets 132-114 Houston Rockets
Atlanta Hawks 115-112 Orlando Magic
Charlotte Hornets 135-102 Minnesota Timberwolves
Chicago Bulls 128-124 New Orleans Pelicans
Dallas Mavericks 87-78 Oklahoma City Thunder
Portland Trail Blazers 108-106 Golden State Warriors
Sacramento Kings 123-120 Los Angeles Lakers

 

Clippers at Wizards

The Los Angeles Clippers (24-13) will look to snap a run of back-to-back defeats before the All-Star break when they visit the lowly Washington Wizards (13-20) on Thursday.

LeBron James will miss the Los Angeles Lakers' game against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday, his first absence of the NBA season.

The Lakers fell to a 114-104 home loss against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday, despite 38 points from James, who was an impressive 16-for-24 from the field.

Defending champions the Lakers have lost five of their past seven games as injuries begin to pile up.

James was listed as probable to play ahead of the Phoenix game with a left ankle sprain suffered earlier in the season.

He will now sit out of the second game of a back-to-back when the Lakers travel to take on the Kings.

After having a rest and receiving some treatment, it is still expected James will play in his 17th straight All-Star Game on Sunday.

With Anthony Davis already ruled out, Kyle Kuzma and Marc Gasol missed out against the Suns.

"We play so well the last two games, we get back into a rhythm, and then we find out [on the day of the game] that two of our big guns were out," James said after the game, per ESPN.

"It is definitely deflating, especially when you were playing poorly [losing four in a row] and then you get in a good rhythm [with two wins]."

Missing time will not sit well with James, who last month insisted he did not believe in rest amid calls for him to be given a breather to cope with a gruelling schedule.

Despite their recent struggles, the Lakers are third in the Western Conference at 24-12, just behind the Suns (23-11).

Lakers coach Frank Vogel added: "I'm happy with how we are competing. 

"Our guys are giving great effort and great hustle and great fight. You understand there is a big picture here, and guys are keeping the big-picture mindset."

The surging Suns won despite an ejection for star shooting guard Devin Booker, who had 17 points before being removed in the third quarter.

Dario Saric had 21 points off the bench, 10 of those coming in the fourth quarter.

James, 36, is averaging 25.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game this season, his third with the Lakers.

LeBron James' performance was not enough as defending NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers lost 114-104 at home to the Phoenix Suns.

James posted a game-high 38 points, but the Lakers still went down to the Suns, who ended the team's run of back-to-back wins on Tuesday.

The Lakers had won 10 of their last 12 games against Phoenix – including sweeping the season series 3-0 last term – but a season-high 21 points from Dario Saric off the bench gave the Suns a rare victory.

Aside from Dennis Schroder (17 points), Talen Horton-Tucker (16 points) and Markieff Morris (12 points), James did not have much support as the Lakers continue to play without injured star Anthony Davis.

With the result, Phoenix extended their winning streak to three games.

 

Beal makes franchise history, Jokic dominates

Bradley Beal became the fastest player to reach 1,000 points in a season in Washington Wizards history – his 31st game of the campaign, surpassing the 33-game record held by Gilbert Arenas (2006-07) and Bernard King (1990-91). Wizards star Beal had 23 points in Washington's 125-111 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. Memphis' Ja Morant went off for 35 points and 10 rebounds.

Nikola Jokic produced another masterclass to inspire the Denver Nuggets' 128-97 rout of the Milwaukee Bucks. Jokic put up 37 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds for his ninth triple-double of the season and 50th of his career – the third-fastest player to the half-century mark in NBA history. A 27-point performance from two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo was not enough to prevent the Bucks from having their five-game winning streak snapped.

Paul George stepped up in the absence of injured team-mate Kawhi Leonard with a game-high 32 points, but the Los Angeles Clippers still lost 117-112 to the Boston Celtics.

Double-doubles from Trae Young (18 points and 10 assists) and Clint Capela (10 point and 17 rebounds) gave the Atlanta Hawks a 94-80 victory over the Miami Heat in Nate McMillan's debut as interim head coach following Lloyd Pierce's exit.

 

Heat fizzle out

It was a forgettable outing for the Heat in Miami. Their six-game winning streak ended abruptly on the back of a woeful shooting display. Miami shot just 37 per cent from the field, while they were only 27.3 per cent from three-point range. Tyler Herro was three-of-12 shooting as he converted just three of seven attempts from beyond the arc.

 

LeBron says no!

There was no way past James as he denied Phoenix's Deandre Ayton at the rim in the second quarter on Tuesday.

 

Tuesday's results

Memphis Grizzlies 125-111 Washington Wizards
Boston Celtics 117-112 Los Angeles Clippers
San Antonio Spurs 119-93 New York Knicks
Atlanta Hawks 94-80 Miami Heat
Denver Nuggets 128-97 Milwaukee Bucks
Phoenix Suns 114-104 Los Angeles Lakers
Detroit Pistons-Toronto Raptors (postponed)

 

Jazz at 76ers

The NBA-leading Utah Jazz (27-8) will travel to face Eastern Conference pacesetters the Philadelphia 76ers (23-12) in a blockbuster showdown on Wednesday. Both teams are coming off losses.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is sticking to his guns despite coming in for criticism after stating that athletes like LeBron James should steer clear of politics.

The Milan forward found himself at the centre of controversy after saying the likes of James should "do what you're good at" rather than engage in any kind of activism.

Los Angeles Lakers star James hit back and vowed never to "just stick to sports", insisting he had a role to play as a voice against racism and other pressing societal issues.

James is a friend of former United States president Barack Obama and his own foundation supports a school that is aimed at helping disadvantaged children. 

But Ibrahimovic, who has also been criticised for agreeing to appear in the Sanremo music festival amid the Serie A season, refused to back down.

"Racism and politics are two different things. Athletes unite the world, politics divides it," said the 39-year-old, who was injured in Sunday's 2-1 win over Roma and could be sidelined for up to three weeks, which would rule him out of facing former club Manchester United in the Europa League later this month.

"Everyone is welcome in our environment, it doesn't matter where you come from and we are doing everything to bring people together.

"My message? Athletes should be athletes, politicians should be politicians."

Responding to questions over his appearance at the music event, which spans four days, while Milan fight for the title, the Swede added: "I'm a professional and anyone who knows me, knows that. When I play football I'm only focused on that.

"I want to help Milan, and to give a lot to Italy for everything that it has given me over the years, not only in football.

"I had the chance to be a guest at the festival, one of the most important in Italy, and decided to participate."

LeBron James feels the Los Angeles Lakers are finding their rhythm without Anthony Davis after a comfortable 117-91 win over the Golden State Warriors on Sunday.

Davis is averaging 22.5 points, three assists and 8.4 rebounds this season, as well as 1.8 blocks, 1.3 steals and two turnovers per game.

However, he has been absent since sustaining a calf injury on February 14 and the Lakers had lost five of six without Davis prior to winning their past two.

Against the Warriors, six Lakers players reached double figures, with James putting up 19 and able to play a season-low 24 minutes such was their dominance.

"When you lose a mega piece like AD, it's going to take some time offensively and defensively how we want to play, what's going to be our rhythm," James said after his 1,300th regular-season game. 

"The last couple of games we've done a good job of trying to say, 'This is where we're going to have the ball, this is where we'll be effective, this is where we need to run'. Guys are just staying ready."

This season the Lakers are trying to repeat the championship success they enjoyed in the disrupted 2019-20 campaign.

Opposition coach Steve Kerr knows a thing or two about repeats, having won three straight with the Chicago Bulls as a player – he individually won four in a row having then joined the San Antonio Spurs – while the Warriors won three in four seasons, including going back-to-back in 2017 and 2018.

Kerr suggested the unusual circumstances caused by the coronavirus pandemic meant this season might be the toughest ever to try to complete a repeat – a notion James felt might have some merit.

"It's been extremely tough, you literally have to self-motivate yourself every single day," he added.

"We're playing every other day, if not back-to-backs, there's not much down time so you have to motivate yourself. 

"Us and Sac [the Sacramento Kings] and the Clips [the Los Angeles Clippers] and Golden State, we don't have the luxury of having fans right now. 

"I've been watching a lot of games of late, and there's been 1,500, 2,000 fans, whatever the case may be, and it gives you an extra boost. 

"I'm just waiting, hopefully sooner rather than later we can have fans here in California, especially here at Staples. 

"It's very challenging, got to have the self-discipline, self-motivation and have trust in your team-mates to know you'll get the energy."

The Lakers are second in the West following their win and now have a 24-11 record for the season.

Stephen Curry believes opponents play harder against the Golden State Warriors due to their past success, with LeBron James' Los Angeles Lakers getting the better of them on Sunday.

Prior to a 2019-20 campaign that was wrecked by injuries, the Warriors had reached the NBA Finals in five consecutive seasons.

On four of those occasions they met James, then with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and won three titles. Golden State swept the Cavs in 2017-18 shortly before James left for the Lakers.

James and LA made the most of Golden State's tough year last time out as they claimed the championship - the four-time MVP's fourth ring - but Curry believes there is still tension when the Warriors meet their old foe.

A threat again as Curry averages 29.5 points per game - fourth-most in the league - Golden State fell to 19-16 and eighth in the West with a 117-91 defeat to the Lakers.

Curry scored only 16 points, by far his lowest return in the whole of February, while LA were already 20 points clear after a first quarter in which the Warriors shot 8-of-22 from the field and 2-of-11 from three as their opponents went to the free-throw line 16 times.

The superstar guard suggested the Lakers were motivated to beat Golden State, but he also acknowledged his team had to show more.

Curry said: "Draymond [Green] said it a little bit at halftime - we have to remember, even when we're playing well, when we've won three in a row, teams still want to beat us and beat us bad.

"They still have a lot of memories from the last five, six years.

"A lot of that is that you have to - against the really good teams, with the discipline that separates a good team from a great team - show up.

"We've done a great job of not fouling teams, and then you get the best defense in the league set with possessions and easy points. They thrived off that and they brought a bit more energy in the first quarter.

"Those little things that we can control - we can't control makes and misses every night - you can control being defensively smart, not fouling, you can control your energy and your effort and your competitiveness.

"We've done a really good job of that and then tonight we didn't have any of it, and it shows in the score."

Giannis Antetokounmpo starred as the Milwaukee Bucks rallied past the Los Angeles Clippers 105-100 in NBA action on Sunday.

Antetokounmpo posted 36 points – 17 in the final quarter – 14 rebounds and five assists for the Bucks, who used a game-closing 9-0 run to extend their winning streak to five games.

Two-time reigning MVP Antetokounmpo became the first Bucks player with 35-plus points in four consecutive games since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1973.

Meanwhile, LeBron James appeared in his 1,300th regular-season game as defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers eased past the Golden State Warriors 117-91.

James scored 19 points in his milestone game – the four-time NBA champion becoming the 23rd player in league history to appear in that many regular-season contests.

 

Beal stars again

Bradley Beal put on a show with 46 points for the Washington Wizards, who still narrowly lost 111-110 to the Boston Celtics. In his last three games in Boston, Beal has tallied 44, 41 and 46 points. According to Stats Perform, he is the first player to score 40-plus points in three successive road games against the Celtics since Abdul-Jabbar between 1970 and 1971.

The Memphis Grizzlies crushed the Houston Rockets 133-84. On February 1, the Grizzlies won at the San Antonio Spurs by 31 points while they humbled the Rockets by 49 on Sunday. They are the second team in NBA history to have two 30-plus point road wins in the same state in the same month, according to Stats Perform. The other team was the Washington Bullets (now known as the Wizards) in 1968.

Devin Booker recorded 43 points, while Deandre Ayton (22 points and 10 rebounds) and Chris Paul (11 points and 15 assists) contributed double-doubles in the Phoenix Suns' 118-99 success away to the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves.

John Collins' 34-point, 10-rebound double-double was not enough for the Atlanta Hawks, who went down 109-99 to the Miami Heat.

P.J. Washington's 42 points helped the Charlotte Hornets edge the Sacramento Kings 127-126. Sacramento led by eight points with just over a minute remaining before Charlotte rallied at the death.

 

Rockets crash as Clippers capitulate

The Rockets have suffered 11 consecutive defeats after being embarrassed by the Grizzlies. Houston are now riding their longest losing streak since a 15-game skid in 2001.

All-Star pair Kawhi Leonard (25 points and nine rebounds) and Paul George went cold in the final quarter for the Clippers. Leonard and George combined to shoot three-for-15 and scored just six points in the fourth period against the Bucks. The Clippers were scoreless over the final four minutes of the game.

 

Giannis with the slam!

It was a masterclass in Milwaukee, where Antetokounmpo flexed his muscles with a monster dunk during the closing stages.

 

Sunday's results

Los Angeles Lakers 117-91 Golden State Warriors
Memphis Grizzlies 133-84 Houston Rockets
Miami Heat 109-99 Atlanta Hawks
New York Knicks 109-90 Detroit Pistons
Boston Celtics 111-110 Washington Wizards
Milwaukee Bucks 105-100 Los Angeles Clippers
Charlotte Hornets 127-126 Sacramento Kings
Phoenix Suns 118-99 Minnesota Timberwolves
Chicago Bulls-Toronto Raptors (postponed)

 

Nets at Spurs

After their eight-game winning streak came to an end in the absence of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on Saturday, the high-flying Brooklyn Nets (22-13) will look to bounce back against the Spurs (17-12) on Monday.

For four straight years, meetings between LeBron James and the Golden State Warriors decided the NBA title.

James' Cleveland Cavaliers faced the Warriors in the Finals in consecutive seasons between 2015 and 2018, winning only once as Golden State earned three championships.

James left Cleveland after the Warriors' most recent triumph, though, and his move to the Western Conference with the Los Angeles Lakers means he can no longer face his old rivals in the title decider.

But games between James and Golden State remain blockbuster affairs and they will go at it again on Sunday.

The Lakers swept a threadbare Warriors team in the 2019-20 regular season before James claimed his fourth ring, but Stephen Curry and Golden Stave have already gained revenge once already this year.

And momentum is with the travelling outfit heading into this clash.

 

TOP PERFORMERS

Dennis Schroder - Los Angeles Lakers

As the 23-11 Lakers lost four straight games prior to beating the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday, the continued absence of Anthony Davies appeared the most obvious factor in their poor form.

But that wretched run coincided with Schroder's lay-off due to the league's health and safety protocols. He returned against Portland and scored 22 points, improving his personal record to 23-7 on the year.

A Sixth Man of the Year contender last season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Schroder has started all 30 of his appearances for the Lakers and provided James with some much-needed help on the offensive end.

Schroder, who weighed in with a season-high 25 points in January's defeat to the Warriors, leading LA in scoring, has averaged 14.5 points and 4.2 rebounds this term.

Stephen Curry - Golden State Warriors

Two-time MVP Curry is putting together another astonishing season, back fit and firing after playing just five games in 2019-20.

He has averaged 29.9 points per game this season, a mark that sits second in the NBA – behind Bradley Beal's 32.8 on a poor Washington Wizards team – and second in Curry's own career, narrowly trailing the 2015-16 campaign (30.1).

A remarkable level of consistency has made Golden State a force again in the west at 19-15 and yet Curry is actually improving as the season goes on.

He has averaged 33.4 points this month, with his lowest return 24 at Indiana, still enough to match the Pacers' top-scoring Malcolm Brogdon.

KEY BATTLE - LEBRON AND DRAYMOND TO RENEW ACQUAINTANCES?

The 2019-20 season was a forgettable one for the injury-hit Warriors, but Draymond Green is unlikely to have let the third and final game against the Lakers slip from his memory.

Green was ejected for two technical fouls in quick succession, departing after less than 10 minutes of action – his fewest minutes in any of the 12 NBA games he has been ejected from.

James, a direct opponent in many of those Finals battles, was not involved due to injury but was spotted laughing at his furious rival's misfortune.

Without the distraction of Davis, Green should have the opportunity to go up against James and perhaps serve a reminder of his talents as one of the league's outstanding defensive players of the past decade.
 

HEAD TO HEAD

Both teams have had runs as the league's dominant team, but the Lakers boast the superior head-to-head regular-season record, with 255 wins to Golden State's 169.

Since James moved to Los Angeles, they have met eight times, winning four apiece, although the Lakers' main man has only appeared in four of those games.

He has a 3-1 record against the Warriors as a Laker, with the sole defeat the 115-113 reverse earlier this season.

LeBron James has vowed never to "just stick to sports" after footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic said he did not support the NBA star getting involved with politics. 

Los Angeles Lakers superstar James has been a powerful voice against racism and police brutality, among a host of social issues, in the United States. 

James is a friend of former United States president Barack Obama and his own foundation supports a school that is aimed at helping disadvantaged children. 

Milan striker Ibrahimovic told Discovery+ Sport in Sweden: "He's phenomenal what he's doing, but I don't like when people, when they have some kind of status and they do politics at the same time as what they're doing. 

"Do what you’re good at, do the category you do. I play football because I'm the best in playing football, I don't do politics. 

"If I would be a political politician, I would do politics. That is the first mistake people do when they become famous and they come in a certain status. 

"Stay out of it, just do what you're best at, because it doesn't look good." 

That outburst was shot down by NBA star James, who said it was important to use his platform to shine a light on inequalities and injustice. 

"At the end of the day, I would never shut up about things," James said. 

"That's wrong. I appreciate about my people and I appreciate about equality, social injustice, racism, systematic voting, voter suppression, things that go in our community, because I was a part of my community at one point and seeing things what's going on. 

"I see what's going on still because I have a group of 300-plus kids at my school that's going through the same thing and they need a voice and I'm their voice. 

"I use my platform to continue to shed light on everything that may be going on, not only in my community but around this country and around the world. There's no way I will ever just stick to sports because I understand this platform and how powerful my voice is." 

James pointed to the time when Ibrahimovic complained of being racially discriminated against in his native Sweden three years ago, because he did not have a traditionally Swedish name.

At the time, Ibrahimovic spoke of "undercover racism" in the Swedish media.

James, therefore, expressed surprise at why Ibrahimovic would make his latest claims.

"I speak from a very educated mind," James said, "so I'm kind of the wrong guy to actually go at, because I do my homework."

There is an age-old argument about which footballer is the greatest of all time: Pele or Diego Maradona, Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, or the alternative option named by Zlatan Ibrahimovic?

Although some may expect the charismatic Swedish star to bestow such an honour upon himself, the 39-year-old believes the all-time best is prolific Brazilian forward Ronaldo.

Ronaldo starred for PSV, Barcelona, Inter and Real Madrid during a distinguished 14-year European club career, claiming the Ballon d'Or in 1997 and 2002, and earning countless other prizes and awards.

'Il Fenomeno' helped his nation lift the World Cup twice, in 1994 and 2002, and was once a runner-up in 1998, while scoring 62 goals in 98 international caps for the Selecao.

"I always tell everyone who plays with me: Ronaldo is football. That Ronaldo is football," said Ibrahimovic.

"The way he moved, the way he did those stepovers, those mazy runs. In my view, he is the best player in history, no doubt about it."

While the Milan striker was in his homeland speaking to UEFA and Discovery+ about his career, he also voiced strong opinions about NBA superstar LeBron James.

While Ibrahimovic recognises the 17-time All-Star's talent, he does not agree that athletes should use their platform for political reasons, like campaigning for justice and social change.

"What he does is phenomenal, but I don't like it when people with a certain status talk about politics," he said.

"Do what you are good at. I play football because I am the best at it. If I was a politician, I’d have gone into politics.

"This is the first mistake that famous people make when they feel like they've arrived.

"I think it's better to steer clear of these issues and do what you're good at."

LeBron James called on the depleted Los Angeles Lakers to remain confident despite suffering a fourth straight loss, this time against an in-form Utah Jazz team who set an NBA record. 

The Jazz hit 22 three-pointers as they shot 46 per cent from deep in a resounding 114-89 triumph on Wednesday, in the process improving to 26-5 for the season.

While Utah lead the way in the Western Conference, the Lakers are suffering a dip that has coincided with the absences of key duo Anthony Davis and Dennis Schroder through injury.

James acknowledged it is a "tough stretch" for the reigning champions, though even with the poor recent run they still boast a 22-11 record.

"It's challenging for all of us, especially some of our young guys and some of our guys who haven't been in the position before where they need to do a little bit more than what they are asked to in a normal situation," James said. 

"Everyone is speaking about AD [Davis], and that's obviously a big hit, but we also haven't had Dennis down this stretch too. He's a big piece of our puzzle as well.  

"But it's always about staying confident, continuing to give my team-mates the courage and confidence out there on the floor, and make plays. 

"It's a tough stretch for us, but this won't define who we will be for the rest of the season."

As for the Jazz, they are the first team in NBA history to make 50 threes over a two-game span, having finished with a franchise-record 28 in a blowout triumph over the Charlotte Hornets.

They have now won 14 straight home games by double digits, the second-longest streak posted in the NBA, behind only the Phoenix Suns (15) in the 1989-90 season.

"They came back with the same roster, but what I noticed, more than anything, is that those guys are fully healthy," James told the media.

"Mike Conley is back to himself; you can see that with the way he's moving on the floor and it's trickled down to everyone else. They are playing some really good ball and are a really good team."

Rudy Gobert did not attempt a three but still contributed 18 points, as well as nine rebounds. Conley, meanwhile, landed four of his six attempts from beyond the arc, as well as eight rebounds and eight assists.

"It's all about getting better," Gobert said. "We did a great job sharing the ball offensively. When we defend and we share the ball, it's hard to beat us."

LeBron James was left helpless as the Utah Jazz destroyed the Los Angeles Lakers, 114-89, with the defending champions slipping to a fourth straight loss.

James was the game's top scorer with 19 points while six Jazz players hit double-figures, with Rudy Gobert and Jordan Clarkson dropping 18, and the NBA leaders raced away with this contest between two championship contenders.

Utah stormed to a 16-point half-time lead before restricting the Lakers to a season-low 17-point third quarter, and the hosts once again set the bar high from downtown, shooting 22 threes, including a franchise-high 14 in the first half.

The lifeless Lakers offered little resistance while slipping to their biggest loss of the season as the Western Conference leaders cruised to a 22nd win in 24 games.

The Jazz's league-leading 15-2 home record improves them to 26-6 overall.

With Anthony Davis joined by Dennis Schroder on the sidelines, Montrezl Harrell (16 points) and Markieff Morris (12 points) were the only other Lakers players to hit double-figures as their record fell to 22-11.

Gallinari writes Hawks and NBA history

Danilo Gallinari set an Atlanta Hawks franchise record of 10 three-pointers in the 127-112 win against the Boston Celtics.

The Italian veteran had the best shooting day of his career, burying 13 of his 16 attempts from the field, while putting up a personal-best 38 points. 

Siakam ineffective for Raps

Pascal Siakam was only able to put up five points from his 24 minutes on court in the Toronto Raptors' 116-108 defeat by the Miami Heat.

The Raps center landed one of six field-goal attempts, sinking one of his three from distance and adding a pair of free throws, before being benched in the fourth quarter.

 

Dort beats the clock and comes up clutch 

Luguentz Dort's three-point buzzer-beater earned the Oklahoma City Thunder a dramatic 102-99 win over the San Antonio Spurs, after a career-high 42 points from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

The Canadian becomes only the third player in franchise history to sink a game-winning three since the move to Oklahoma, joining Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Wednesday's results

Atlanta Hawks 127-112 Boston Celtics
Golden State Warriors 111-107 Indiana Pacers
Cleveland Cavaliers 112-96 Houston Rockets
New Orleans Pelicans 128-118 Detroit Pistons
Oklahoma City Thunder 102-99 San Antonio Spurs
Miami Heat 116-108 Toronto Raptors
Chicago Bulls 133-126 Minnesota Timberwolves
Charlotte Hornets 124-121 Phoenix Suns
Utah Jazz 114-89 Los Angeles Lakers

 

Pelicans at Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led the Milwaukee Bucks (19-13) to third in the east and they host the Zion Williamson-inspired New Orleans Pelicans (14-17) on Thursday.

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