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.

All eyes in the NBA will be trained on Houston on Wednesday as the Rockets host James Harden and the Brooklyn Nets.

Harden was an outstanding player with the Rockets, winning the 2018 MVP award and twice reaching the Western Conference Finals, but he is unlikely to receive a warm welcome.

The nine-time All-Star decided in the offseason he wanted to leave Houston and worked to force a trade.

Although the Rockets initially resisted, a blockbuster deal was eventually agreed with the Nets, who pipped the Philadelphia 76ers to the signing.

Harden, slow by his lofty standards in the first eight games of the season in Houston, has rediscovered his best form in the NBA's newest 'big three' with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.

Both the player and his former team, struggling badly at 11-22, will be determined to come out on top in this first meeting since they parted ways.


TOP PERFORMERS

Houston Rockets - John Wall

Even with Harden's numbers declining at the start of 2020-21, no Houston player has been able to match the 24.8 points he scored on average across those eight games.

Christian Wood (22.0) has come closest, yet an ankle injury has limited him to just 17 games. The Rockets have lost 12 in a row since he went down a month ago.

So, Wall, who missed the entirety of the Washington Wizards' 2019-20 campaign with a torn ACL, has had to step into the breach.

Although Houston's form is awful, Wall at least comes into this clash on somewhat of a roll, playing 10 straight games and scoring 32 points last time out against the Cleveland Cavaliers, his best return since December 2018.

Brooklyn Nets - James Harden

Wall is not alone in being asked to do some heavy lifting, as Harden, the third man signed to the 'big three', has operated without either Irving or Durant due to injuries at times in the early stages of his Brooklyn career.

He has done so admirably, however, averaging 25.3 points, 11.3 assists and 8.7 rebounds since leaving the Rockets.

With Irving returning following a back issue against the San Antonio Spurs on Monday, Harden scaled new heights, becoming the first player to post 30 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds in a game without a single turnover since individual turnovers were first tracked in 1977-78.

It was his seventh triple-double of the season already, a mark he only once passed in Houston colours (22 in 2016-17).
 

KEY BATTLE - CAN HOUSTON GET TO HARDEN?

Irving claimed after the Spurs game there would be "no animosity" and "no tension" in Houston "on the court or about James in my presence or anybody else's presence". That seemed optimistic.

Harden's parting shot at the Rockets, where he claimed to "have done everything that I can", prompted angry responses from Wall and the since-waived DeMarcus Cousins.

Given Wall and Cousins had each been team-mates of Harden for only eight games, it stands to reason that some of his long-standing colleagues might have been even more frustrated.

With the Nets a far superior outfit to the Rockets, the conversation around Harden on the court might prove as interesting as any matchup. The Brooklyn man will have to handle the heat.
 

HEAD TO HEAD

The Rockets have had the better of this series, boasting a 64-32 regular-season record, most recently winning in December 2019 when lifted by 44 points from Harden.

The 31-year-old has a 14-15 record against the Oklahoma City Thunder, his only other former team, averaging 28.2 points.

In Harden's three years with OKC, he was 6-6 against Houston.

James Harden is hopeful he will feel the love on his return to face the Houston Rockets for the first time with the Brooklyn Nets.

The Rockets (11-22) host Harden and the Nets at Toyota Center on Wednesday as they attempt to halt a miserable 12-game losing streak.

Last month Harden apologised for the "drama" surrounding his exit from the Rockets and wished his trade to the Nets could have been a smoother process.

Former NBA MVP Harden moved to the Nets after playing more than eight seasons with Houston and still feels part of the community, which he has been helping in the aftermath of the recent devastating storm in Texas.

"The love and the appreciation that I've given to that city and that I still give to that city, I'm hoping that the favour can be returned," Harden, who rejected a new contract with the Rockets last year, told ESPN.

"[I hope I will be] received with love.

"I thought I would never leave that franchise. I thought I was going to be in Houston, obviously, for the rest of my career. 

"Things happened. I've got different goals, and I've seen a different vision for myself and my career and my family.

"It doesn't change the fact of how I feel about the city. But it just didn't go as well - as smooth - as I planned." 

Perhaps reflecting on J.J. Watt's recent exit from the Houston Texans in the NFL, Harden added: "The communication between myself and the front office got a little shaky. 

"And now I look back at it and I see these other scenarios, other situations that are happening, specifically around other players that are in Houston, in different sports. 

"Their transition is going very smooth and I would've hoped for mine to go that smooth, but it didn't. I am where I am now.

"I feel like I'm a part of the community. Me now being in Brooklyn, it hasn't changed the way I feel about that city and everything it's done for me. 

"So whether it's trying to feed as many people as I can, get water, as much water as I can to the people that need it."

As Houston struggle, the Nets are at 23-13 after winning nine of their last 10, with Harden recording 30 points, 15 assists and 14 rebounds in a dramatic overtime win over the San Antonio Spurs on Monday.

Star trio Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have only played seven games together so far.

"I'm just excited for us, as a whole, to be able to play as many games as we can together because the potential that we have is very, very scary," Harden added.

"We're still just doing whatever it takes to come away with wins. The potential is going to be scarier when [Durant] gets back. But for right now, we're holding it down, and we're coming together as a team."

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."

Joel Embiid felt he "dominated" Myles Turner once more as he boosted his Defensive Player of the Year hopes in the Philadelphia 76ers' win against the Indiana Pacers.

Embiid posted 24 points, five assists and 13 rebounds – all on the defensive end – as the Sixers raced to a 130-114 victory, improving to 23-12 at the top of the East.

It was a fourth defeat in a row for the Pacers and a punishing night for center Turner, who had promised to "step up to the challenge" of taking on MVP contender Embiid.

Turner is now 4-7 against Embiid in their career regular-season matchups, only once surpassing 11 points – his contribution on Monday – across those 11 games (25 points in March 2018).

By contrast, Embiid has averaged 28 points against the Pacers and enjoyed two of his 12 career 40-point games in meetings with Turner.

"He's a great player and I have a lot of respect for him," Embiid said of Turner, who joined the NBA the year before him.

"I say this respectfully: that's a matchup that I have dominated since I got to the league."

While Embiid looks to be going toe-to-toe with LeBron James for the MVP award, he says a DPOY challenge is also on the cards.

Rudy Gobert is widely considered the leading candidate for the outstanding Utah Jazz, topping the charts for defensive rebounds with 9.9 per game, Turner has been mooted as an alternative.

He has a sublime 3.4 blocks per game – well clear of second-placed Gobert's 2.8 – but could not live with Embiid, who averages 9.2 defensive rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 1.2 steals.

"[Turner] is a great defender," Embiid said. "He leads the league in blocks, he should be up there for Defensive Player of the Year, and that's also one of my goals.

"In those types of matchups, that's where you've got to take advantage. Especially if I have my eyes set on being the Defensive Player of the Year."

James Harden produced a triple-double as the Brooklyn Nets survived in overtime to claim a 124-113 win over the San Antonio Spurs on the road.

The Nets led by 10 points late in the game, but the Spurs forced overtime after the returning Kyrie Irving missed a lay-up and guard Dejounte Murray scored after falling to his knees on the transition.

But Brooklyn steadied the ship in overtime, with Harden finishing with 30 points, 14 rebounds and 15 assists, with good support from Irving (27 points) and Bruce Brown Jr. (23 points).

Zion Williamson scored 15 of his 26 points for the game in the third quarter as the New Orleans Pelicans toppled Western Conference leaders Utah Jazz 129-124.

The former number one pick's third quarter output was the second best of his career to date.

 

Doncic delights, Jokic goes big

Luka Doncic was one assist shy of a triple-double as he led the Dallas Mavericks to a 130-124 victory over the Orlando Magic, who have lost four in a row.

The in-form Slovenian All-Star finished with 33 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists for the Mavs, while Nikola Vucevic did his best for Orlando, with 29 points, 15 boards and eight assists.

Bojan Bogdanovic (31 points) was nailing three-pointers for fun for the Jazz, but the Pelicans' third quarter was the difference, piling on 40 points to 24.

Big Serbian Nikola Jokic posted 39 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists as the Denver Nuggets beat the Chicago Bulls for the eighth straight time 118-112.

Joel Embiid put up 24 points as the Philadelphia 76ers got past the Indians Pacers 130-114.

No launch for Rockets

The Houston Rockets suffered their 12th consecutive defeat, going down 101-90 to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The result leaves the Rockets heading towards the foot of the table with a 11-22 record, including nine defeats at home.

 

Downtown Trail Blazers

Carmelo Anthony posted a season-high 29 points which included six three-pointers in the Portland Trail Blazers' 123-111 win over the Charlotte Hornets.

Anthony's six three-pointers helped the Trail Blazers set a new franchise record for most in one game, finishing with 24.

Monday's results

Philadelphia 76ers 130-114 Indiana Pacers
Dallas Mavericks 130-124 Orlando Magic
Denver Nuggets 118-112 Chicago Bulls
New Orleans Pelicans 129-124 Utah Jazz
Brooklyn Nets 124-113 San Antonio Spurs (OT)
Cleveland Cavaliers 101-90 Houston Rockets
Portland Trail Blazers 123-111 Charlotte Hornets

 

Playoffs contenders face off

There are three clashes between top contenders on Tuesday, led by the Los Angeles Lakers (24-11) and Phoenix Suns (22-11) meeting, along with the San Antonio Spurs-New York Knicks and Boston Celtics-Los Angeles Clippers clashes.

Zion Williamson's 15-point third quarter in Monday's shock win over the Utah Jazz was "incredible" according to New Orleans Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy, who again called on the referees to give him more protection.

The former number one draft pick was integral to the Pelicans' 129-124 victory over the Western Conference leaders, finishing with a double-double of 26 points and 10 rebounds to go with five assists.

Utah pulled to within one point with 45 seconds to go before Williamson was ice cool with two free-throws.

The Pelicans got the jump in the third, when they outscored Utah 40-24 and opened up an 11-point buffer at the last change, led by Williamson with his second most prolific quarter in his NBA career to date.

"The third quarter was incredible," Van Gundy told reporters about 20-year-old Williamson post-game.

"They did a much better job on him in the fourth. In the third quarter he was overwhelming."

The Pelicans improved to a 15-19 record with the win to stay in the playoffs hunt and Williamson said it was all about their "want".

"We've found ourselves in situations like this all the time," Williamson told Fox post-game after trailing by five at half-time.

"It's a matter of want. Tonight we wanted it more. We came out with better energy in the third and got the win."

Meanwhile, Van Gundy once again lamented the lack of calls that Williamson was receiving from the officials, having made the same point after their loss to the Milwaukee Bucks recently.

"Some day he's going to start to get the calls he deserves to get," the Pelicans coach said.

"Any game he's not shooting 10 free-throws or more, I'm guaranteeing they're missing some calls."

The Atlanta Hawks have fired head coach Lloyd Pierce as they look to re-ignite a season that, so far at least, has failed to live up to expectations.

Atlanta added Bogdan Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari, Rajon Rondo and Kris Dunn to their roster in the hope of making it back to the playoffs for the first time since the 2016-17 campaign. 

However, hampered by injuries to key players, they sit down in 11th place in the Eastern Conference standings with a 14-20 record. 

Pierce - appointed as the 13th full-time head coach in the franchise's history in May 2018 – has paid the price for the on-court struggles, his tenure in charge ending with a 63-120 overall record. 

"We would like to thank Lloyd for his work and commitment to not only the Hawks organisation but the city of Atlanta," said Travis Schlenk, Atlanta's president of basketball operations and general manager.

"He and his wife, Melissa, are tremendous people who have made a positive impact throughout the city.

"We have high expectations for our team on the court and we believe by making this change now that we can have a strong second half of the season."

Atlanta did not immediately name an interim replacement for Pierce. They are next in action on Tuesday, going up against the Miami Heat.

 

The past week in the NBA saw the Brooklyn Nets do something they hadn't previously done since February 9... lose a game.

Brooklyn's defeat to the Dallas Mavericks gave a boost to their rivals for the top seed in the Eastern Conference, headed by the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Milwaukee Bucks, another of those competitors, enjoyed a superb week with reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo unsurprisingly coming to the fore.

Meanwhile, out west, Devin Booker strung together a series of performances that justified his place in the All-Star game.

By contrast, two players significantly more familiar with that contest suffered dips in form.

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

 

RUNNING HOT...

Giannis Antetokounmpo

The Bucks are firmly back in contention for the top seed in the East after stretching their winning run to five games, with three of those victories coming in the past week.

Antetokounmpo was predictably pivotal to their success, tallying over 30 points in each matchup to extend his streak to four games in that regard.

He finished the week with back-to-back double-doubles against the New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Clippers, scoring 36 points in the latter game.

His points per game average jumped from 28.37 to 37, Antetokounmpo and the Bucks sending a message that they are still very much a contender for the title.

Devin Booker

The All-Star snub who was later added as a replacement showed why he deserves his place in the showcase this past week.

Booker averaged 33 points across the Phoenix Suns' three games, an impressive improvement on his previous season-long average of 24.28.

He capped it in stunning fashion, dropping 43 in the win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, which saw him go 15 for 26 from the field.

At 22-11, the Suns will loom as a dangerous playoff team should he continue that kind of form.

James Harden

Brooklyn may have finally seen their eight-game winning streak come to an end, but it was a positive week for Harden individually.

Absent the other two members of the Nets' big three, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, Harden could not prevent them from falling to defeat to the Mavericks.

However, he was more prolific from beyond the arc this past week, averaging 4.67 made threes having entered the week putting up 3.08 per game.

Harden is converting threes at the highest rate of his career. He is shooting 39.7 per cent from beyond the arc and 41.8 per cent since his trade to Brooklyn from the Houston Rockets.

But he is attempting only 8.2 a game, the fewest since the 2015-16 season (8.0). If he continues to shoot more from deep and maintains his consistency in converting those attempts, a loaded Nets team will have yet another dimension.

GOING COLD...

Paul George

An up-and-down week for the Clippers started brilliantly for George, who racked up 30 points in a win over the Washington Wizards, going six of seven from three-point range.

But he tailed off thereafter, following up two 13-point efforts against the Memphis Grizzlies with a mediocre 16-point display in the loss to the Bucks.

His points per game average fell from 24.36 entering the week to 18 over the past seven days, and the Clippers will need a lot more from him if they are to earn a top-two seed in the West.

Terry Rozier

The man known as 'Scary Terry' did little to terrify opponents over the past week.

Rozier entered the week averaging a career-high 21.15 points per game but that dipped to 13.5 over the four games the Charlotte Hornets contested in the last seven days.

He put up 24 points in a loss to the Golden State Warriors but could not manage more than 12 in his other three outings.

Still averaging 20.2 a game for the season, the Hornets will want Rozier to deliver the kind of performance he did against Golden State consistently as they seek a first playoff berth since 2015-16.

Stephen Curry

Among the players to suffer the biggest decline in three-point shooting this past week was the man most consider the greatest shooter of all time.

Curry had been converting 5.03 three-pointers a game for the season but hit on an average of 3.25 a game as the Warriors won three of four last week.

He still enjoyed a 37-point outing against the New York Knicks, scoring seven triples in that triumph, but was one for 11 from deep versus the Indiana Pacers and two for seven in Sunday's loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

However, with Curry experiencing a season in which he is averaging his highest points per game tally (29.5) since his unanimous MVP season of 2015-16 (30.1), the smart money says he will soon return to form from beyond the arc.

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo relishes going up against the best in the world, saying it feels like "greatness" after taking down Kawhi Leonard's Los Angeles Clippers in a rallying display.

Antetokounmpo posted 36 points, including 17 in the final quarter, and 14 rebounds as the Bucks outlasted the Clippers 105-100 in NBA action on Sunday.

Two-time reigning MVP Antetokounmpo fuelled a game-closing 9-0 run to help extend Milwaukee's winning streak to five games.

Antetokounmpo became the first Bucks player with 35-plus points in four consecutive games since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1973 as Leonard and fellow All-Star Paul George struggled during the closing stages.

Leonard (25 points and nine rebounds) and George (16 points) went cold in the final quarter for the Clippers, combining to shoot three-for-15 and scoring just six points as the visitors were scoreless over the last four minutes of the game.

"It was individual pride," Antetokounmpo said of taking on the All-Star duo. "It is pride. It is an ego thing. Personally, I love that going down the stretch.

"I feel like it's greatness. When you go against the best in the world down the stretch and you are trying to get a stop and they are trying to score on you to win the game, it's greatness developing at that moment."

After dropping five straight games, the Bucks are now riding a winning streak in the Eastern Conference.

The Bucks (21-13) are one game adrift of leaders the Philadelphia 76ers (22-12) in the east.

"When we lost five, a lot of people were panicking," Antetokounmpo said. "Now, we win five and no one is talking about it. That is how it goes.

"Being able to get out of it, snap out of it ... that is what matters. This is important ... it's not over. We are not done yet. We might go again on a seven-game losing streak, 10. Hopefully not. I don't want to put it out in the universe. [But] there is no panic."

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.

On many a Sunday, I realize that people have looked at the stories they've seen throughout the week with different lenses. I have my own personal take on some of these trending issues and I will share them with you. Welcome to #INCASEYOUMISSEDIT the 2021 edition with Mariah

 Big names in Windies T20 and ODI squads; execution will be the key.

Last Friday, West Indies named T20I and ODI squads as they get ready for the upcoming series against Sri Lanka beginning on March 3 in Antigua. These matches will serve as preparation for the team that hopes to successfully defend the ICC T20 World Cup title in India later this year. On paper, the team looks strong. However, teamwork will be among the keys to success for Kieron Pollard’s men.

The recall of Chris Gayle and Fidel Edwards did not come as a surprise as the selectors believe both still have a lot to offer. The 41-year-old Gayle last played for the Windies in 2019 when he scored 72 against India in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

The Universe Boss is heading into the series against Sri Lanka in good form. Before he returned to the Caribbean, Gayle had scores of 39 and 68, playing for the Quetta Gladiators against the Karachi Kings and Lahore Qualanders, respectively.

Gayle’s experience will prove invaluable to the West Indies having scored 13,691 runs in T20I with 22 hundreds. His influence in the dressing room is also expected to be a significant factor.

Edwards returns to the team after an absence of nine years but at 39, he is still able to generate 90mph deliveries that CWI will hope he uses to add to his 26 T20I scalps.

Experience aside, the selectors have included a number of younger players who are expecting to make their debuts during the series. Guyana’s Kevin Sinclair and Trinidad’s Akeal Hosein impressed with recent performances in Bangladesh and during the CG Insurance Super 50 competition.

Both players played in the finals of the Super 50 tournament on which the 21-year-old Sinclair picked up five wickets and scored 47 runs for the Guyana Jaguars. Hosein impressed for the Trinidad Red Force taking eight wickets at a miserly economy rate of 4.18.

The mixture of youth and experience will need a strong leader and the West Indies are blessed with that in the form of Kieron Pollard, who in recent months, won the CPL and the Super50 and had a leadership role in the Mumbai Indians winning the IPL late last year.

His wisdom, experience and will to win will be key to any success the Windies have against the Sri Lankans and future series.

“Winning is the only thing,” he said after claiming the Super50 title on Saturday. It is imperative his team believes that as well.

 

 Red Force too hot to handle!

The Trinidad and Tobago Red Force won all seven of their matches to lift the Sir Clive Lloyd Trophy on Saturday after smashing the Guyana Jaguars by 152 runs in the final at the Coolidge Cricket Ground.

The aptly named Red Force scored an imposing 362-5 and then restricted Jaguars to 210 from 43.5 overs.

It was an all-around team effort that resulted in the domination of a strong Jaguars team.

Lendl Simmons saved his best performance with the bat for the final scoring 146, the highest score in a 50-over final and he was supported by Evin Lewis’ 57, 47 from Dwayne Bravo and a quick-fire 39 from Nicholas Pooran.

Their bowlers, led by Ravi Rampaul’s 4-52 and Jayden Seales, who picked up 3-40 and Anderson Phillip 2-40 decimated the opponent’s batting notwithstanding a courageous unbeaten 97 from Raymon Reifer.

The team’s dominance came down to the consistency of each member. Jason Mohammed was the highest run-scorer with 327. He scored a century (122) and averaged an excellent 81.75 for the tournament. Lewis, who had a high score of 107, was the second-highest run-scorer with 318 at an average of 45.42.

Simmons was also among the top-five run-scorer for the 2020 champions and was the only batsman with more than one century in the tournament.

The veteran Ravi Rampaul’s 14 wickets were the second-best haul for the tournament, just three behind fellow finalist Gudakesh Motie’s 17 for the Jaguars.  However, all their bowlers contributed to the team’s success this season.

Leave the NBA logo as it is else change it to Michael Jordan!

The NBA logo is a timeless classic, a representation of love and respect for the game. It remains a silhouette of Lakers great Jerry West since 1969.

However, in recent times, Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving has called for it to be changed to an image of late Laker great Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in January 2020, and whose contributions to the game cannot be accurately quantified.

“Gotta Happen, idc what anyone says,” Irving said on Instagram.

Irving’s call has been endorsed by Bryant’s widow Vanessa.

 While I understand the call for the change, it must be noted the G.O.A.T discussion in the NBA starts and ends with Michael Jordan, a person who Kobe admired greatly.  Having played 15 seasons and winning six championships with the Bulls, he should be considered as the logo replacement.

Apart from the statistics which are compelling - 11 All-Star teams, 5 MVP awards, 10 scoring titles – Jordan’s killer instinct and obsession with winning are qualities that embody the NBA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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