Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said star Stephen Curry "did not feel well" prior to the team's buzzer-beating loss to the Charlotte Hornets.

Curry was ruled out just moments before tip-off as the Warriors suffered a last-gasp 102-100 defeat against the Hornets on Saturday.

Two-time MVP Curry took part in the warm-up before he was replaced by Mychal Mulder in the starting five.

"Going through his usual warm-up routine, he just did not feel well at all," Kerr said post-game, discussing Curry's absence.

"And so he came back in, saw the Charlotte team doctor, went out tried to warm up and just wasn't feeling good.

"So we made the decision, the training staff and Steph and I, we all made the decision to not play him.

"We'll see how he's doing [Sunday] ... There were no [COVID-19] protocols in place. Just him feeling sick."

Curry is averaging 29.9 points, 6.2 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game for the Warriors (16-15) this season.

It remains to be seen whether Curry will feature against the New York Knicks on Tuesday, with Kerr adding: "Hopefully. We'll see how he's feeling the next couple of days."

"Our offense is based on Steph," Kerr said. "Obviously our pace, everything else. So it took us some time to get our feet on the ground but once we did I thought we really competed well and did everything necessary to win the game. We fought, we competed together."

Kevin Durant will sit out his fourth consecutive NBA game when the Brooklyn Nets face the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.

Nets star Durant has sat out games against the Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings due to a left hamstring strain.

The former NBA MVP also missed three games due to the league's health and safety protocols before returning for his reunion with the Golden State Warriors last week.

Speaking on Saturday, Nets head coach Steve Nash told reporters: "I don't have a timeline, but he's out for tomorrow. So still just trying to regain that strength and his rehabilitation.

"Like I keep saying, I don't think this is a long-term thing. But there are elements of maybe it being, taking a few more days than we thought or just being cautious.

"I think right now both are necessary. I don't think he's ready, I think he needs more time, but we're also definitely going to be cautious."

Durant is averaging 29.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game for the star-studded Nets this season.

The Nets (19-12) have won all three games in Durant's latest absence to be second in the Eastern Conference, behind the Philadelphia 76ers (21-10).

Tyronn Lue relished seeing Kawhi Leonard and Paul George return from injury as the Los Angeles Clippers impressively beat the Utah Jazz.

The Jazz had won nine straight games and 20 of their last 21 NBA contests coming into Friday's game.

However, their streak came to an end as the Clippers emerged triumphant 116-112 in a battle between two championship contenders.

Leonard led the way for the home Clippers with 29 points as they improved to 22-9.

Donovan Mitchell had a game-high 35 points, but the Western Conference leading Jazz fell to 24-6.

Leonard had missed the previous three games with a lower leg contusion, while George was back after seven games out with a swollen toe.

The win came two days after the Clippers had lost by 18 to the Jazz playing without Leonard, George and Nicolas Batum.

"They are the best team in the NBA right now, record-wise, we knew that they won 20 of 21 coming into it – we understood that," Lue said after the win. 

"We got our guys back and we wanted to win this game and the guys went out and did a hell of a job.

"Our defense was pretty good until the heroics of Donovan Mitchell down the stretch.

"Pat Beverley and PG, we did a decent job on that first half and second half, he [Mitchell] got going, that's what great players do. 

"Overall, defensively, I thought we were pretty good like I said until the last 40 seconds or whatever it was of the game."

George had 15 points, six rebounds and five assists in 27 minutes.

"I wasn't ready to play 30-plus," he said. "Got to get back to that basketball conditioning.

"I probably would have hurt the team if I'd been on the floor past the minutes I was."

The Jazz were outrebounded 45-38, leaving Mitchell and Rudy Gobert clear where the game was lost.

"We lost the game on the boards," said Mitchell. "It was second-chance points that really hurt us. 

"If you look at the overall game, we played solid defense throughout, but they just came out there and got the extra boards and rebounds and we just got to do a better job of that.

"This is a bump in the road and a good one."

Gobert feels the loss will ultimately benefit the Jazz.

He said: "If we get those rebounds, we win this game. [The Clippers are] a very good team.

"They came out rested, they came out ready and it felt like a playoff game – the intensity, the tough shots that they were making all night. 

"It was a good opportunity for us to just keep getting better."

Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone described the efficiency of Jamal Murray's 50-point haul as "remarkable".

Murray went 21-of-25 from the field and eight-of-10 from three-point range to post 50 points in the Nuggets' 120-103 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday.

Malone lauded the guard's performance after the Nuggets improved their record to 16-13.

"I've been around a lot of great players, I've been in the league for a long time, I've seen many 50-point games," he said.

"To do it as efficiently as he did is really remarkable."

Nikola Jokic finished with a triple-double of 16 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for the Nuggets.

Murray said the Nuggets' numerous threats made his life easier against the Cavaliers.

"I can shoot a little bit. Once I see a few go down, I just took off from there and kind of mixed it up," he told Altitude TV.

"I was able to get to the rim on them when they tried to change the coverage and we've got a lot of weapons. You can't just flat-out double me when I'm hot, you've got a 'Joker' [Jokic], who's MVP of the season, he'll pick you apart if you're playing four on three especially.

"I feel like it was just a tough task to be able to deal with both of us and the rest of the team as well."

The Los Angeles Clippers ended the Utah Jazz's winning run in the NBA on Friday, while Joel Embiid and Jamal Murray posted 50-point games.

The Clippers snapped the Jazz's nine-game winning streak with a 116-112 victory in a clash between two NBA championship contenders.

Kawhi Leonard led the way for the Clippers with 29 points as they improved to 22-9.

Donovan Mitchell had a game-high 35 points, but the Jazz's winning run came to an end, with the Western Conference leaders now 24-6 this season.

Embiid's career-high 50 points, 17 rebounds and five assists helped the Philadelphia 76ers past the Chicago Bulls 112-105.

He is the first 76ers player to score 50-plus points since Allen Iverson in 2005.

Murray, meanwhile, was spectacular in the Denver Nuggets' 120-103 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The guard was an incredible 21-of-25 from the field, and eight-of-10 from three-point range, for his 50-point haul.

Murray and Embiid were the first NBA pair with 50-plus points on 65 per cent-plus shooting on the same day since Tom Chambers and Patrick Ewing on March 24, 1990, as per Stats Perform.

Nikola Jokic had a triple-double of 16 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in the Nuggets' win.

 

Giannis leads Bucks, Curry's Warriors fall short

Giannis Antetokounmpo's double-double of 29 points and 19 rebounds saw the Milwaukee Bucks past the Oklahoma City Thunder 98-85.

Stephen Curry had 29 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds, but the Golden State Warriors were beaten by the Orlando Magic 124-120.

Magic star Nikola Vucevic finished with a triple-double of 30 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists.

Despite a double-double from Trae Young (31 points and 11 assists), the Atlanta Hawks went down to the Boston Celtics 121-109.

 

Wayward VanVleet

Fred VanVleet went four-of-20 from the field for just 12 points in 37 minutes, but the Toronto Raptors still got past the Minnesota Timberwolves 86-81.

 

Edwards' incredible dunk

Anthony Edwards was three-of-14 from the field for just seven points in 34 minutes in the Timberwolves' loss, yet the 2020 top draft pick produced a monstrous dunk.

Friday's results

Orlando Magic 124-120 Golden State Warriors
Denver Nuggets 120-103 Cleveland Cavaliers
Boston Celtics 121-109 Atlanta Hawks
Philadelphia 76ers 112-105 Chicago Bulls
Phoenix Suns 132-114 New Orleans Pelicans
Memphis Grizzlies 109-95 Detroit Pistons
Milwaukee Bucks 98-85 Oklahoma City Thunder
Toronto Raptors 86-81 Minnesota Timberwolves
Los Angeles Clippers 116-112 Utah Jazz

 

Heat at Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers (22-8) look to bounce back from their loss to the Brooklyn Nets when they host the Miami Heat (12-17) on Saturday in what is a rematch of last year's NBA Finals.

Joel Embiid credited his team-mates after his incredible performance in the Philadelphia 76ers' win over the Chicago Bulls.

Embiid posted a career-high 50 points, to go with 17 rebounds and five assists, in the 76ers' 112-105 victory in the NBA on Friday.

But the All-Star paid tribute to his team-mates after the 76ers improved to 20-10.

"We did it as a team. It wasn't a one-man effort, we all worked together," Embiid told ESPN.

"My team-mates found me, I found them, we shared the ball, we moved the ball and we actually played better defense than we've been playing the past couple of games which makes me happy. It starts on defense and I'm pretty happy about what we did on that end."

Embiid added: "That's my job, that's why they pay me, defensively just being the best defensive player of the year because you know my aspirations are to win that defensive player of the year.

"Offensively doing whatever I'm needed to, if I need to get them open that's what I'm going to do, if I need to score that's what I'm going to do, if I need to set screens that's what's I'm going to do, so we did it as a team."

After back-to-back wins, the 76ers are top of the Eastern Conference.

LeBron James was 'honoured' to share the esteemed company of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone after becoming the third player in NBA history to clock up 35,000 points.

The Los Angeles Lakers star achieved the feat in a 109-98 loss against the in-form Brooklyn Nets at Staples Center, matching Hall of Fame duo Abdul-Jabbar and Malone.

Hours before tip off, the 36-year-old was named a team captain in the 2021 All-Star game, becoming the first player to be selected 17 straight times, and he went on to put up 32 points on Thursday to reach a notable milestone.

"First of all I'm very humbled and very grateful to be part of a great league," said James after his latest landmark. 

"It's a privilege to do what I love to do, which is to play the game of basketball and inspire the youth.

"For me to be linked with some of the greatest who ever played this game is always an honour.

"I've always just wanted to go out there and play the game the right way, inspire my team-mates, inspire the people that watch me and just try to be as good as I can be every single night.

"I don't put a ceiling on my ability or what I can do as far as this game and I've had some pretty good moments."

James' exploits came in a losing effort as the NBA's number two defense fell to its leading offense.

James Harden powered up the Nets with his 19th double-double (23 points, 11 assists) of the season, while Joe Harris showed his three-point prowess, dropping six of seven attempts to clock up 21 total points.

Brooklyn rallied midway through the first half, opening up an 11-point lead. It was one they never relinquished to move to 19-12, while the Lakers fell to 22-8.

The Lakers were without the injured Anthony Davis and lost Dennis Schroder because of the NBA's health and safety protocols.

James, however, was not looking for excuses.

"Obviously missing AD and then our starting point guard in Dennis Schroder, it was a big a blow for us," he said.

"We just didn't play to our capabilities, but give them credit."

LeBron James became third player in NBA history to clock up 35,000 points but could not prevent the Los Angeles Lakers falling 109-98 against the in-form Brooklyn Nets.

James needed 15 points to join esteemed company in Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone, and it took him until just before half-time to achieve the feat at Staples Center.

Hours before tip off, the 36-year-old was named a team captain in the 2021 All-Star game, becoming first player to be selected 17 straight times, and he went on to put up 32 points on Thursday.

But it was not enough for the NBA’s number one defense, as the Nets extended their winning run to five games, with Kyrie Irving returning from back tightness to boost the NBA’s number one offense.

James Harden powered up the Nets with his 18th double-double (23 points, 11 assists) of the season, while Joe Harris showed his three-point prowess, dropping six of seven attempts, to clock up 21 total points.

Brooklyn rallied midway through the first half, sinking seven from 11 shots from downtown to open up an 11-point lead. It was one they never relinquished to move to 19-12, while the Lakers fall to 22-8.
 

Red-hot Butler does it again

Jimmy Butler recorded his third straight triple-double (13 points, 13 assists, 10 rebounds) in the Miami Heat's 118-110 win against the Sacramento Kings, while Bam Adebayo also got in on the act with 16 points, 10 assist and 12 rebounds. They are the only teammates to ever record same-game triple-doubles in multiple games.

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James and Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant have been named as team captains for the 70th NBA All-Star game on March 7.

Serving as a team captain for the fourth straight year, James received the most votes to earn his 17th All-Star appearance, and is joined in the Western Conference starters pool by Golden State Warriors’ three-point specialist Stephen Curry, who is selected as an All-Star for the seventh time.

Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers is named an All-Star for the fifth time, while Denver Nuggets centre Nikola Jokic makes a third appearance, and the Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic is called up for a second time to round off the starters pool from the west.

Battling both Father Time and his opponent, LeBron James remains a nearly unstoppable force in his 18th season. 

Averaging 25.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and 7.9 assists, James is once again posting impressive numbers for the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers while playing every game so far this season.

With Los Angeles off to a 22-7 start, James appears to be the early favourite for MVP, which would put James in rarified air with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell and Michael Jordan as the only players to win the award at least five times. 

James, who won his first MVP award after the 2008-09 season, would also secure the record for the most time between MVP honours if he were to win again – a fitting tribute for a player who has broken the rules of basketball longevity.

As good as James has been this season, his lead in the race is narrow, and perhaps his three most deserving rivals come from the center position, despite the league's embrace of "small ball". 

Whether it be the "seven seconds or less" Phoenix Suns teams of the mid-2000s, the perimeter-fueled Golden State Warriors teams that won three titles or the Houston Rockets' dramatic downsizing last season that left 6ft 5in P.J. Tucker defending 7-footers, the NBA has been trending small for the better part of the last two decades.  

Shaquille O'Neal is the last true center to win MVP in 1999-00, although Tim Duncan played plenty of center during his 2001-02 and 2003-03 MVP campaigns. Some pundits have even forecasted the extinction of the true center as the league leans toward perimeter play and positional versatility.  

Yet three centers – Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets, Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers and Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz – are assembling compelling cases to be voted this season's MVP.  

Jokic is the focal point of the Nuggets' offense, on pace to dish out the most assists ever by a player 7 feet or taller at 8.6 per game. He is also averaging a team-high 27.4 points, 11.1 rebounds and 1.57 steals.  

With Jokic on the court, the Nuggets score 117.2 points per 100 possessions – better than any team's full-season numbers – while shooting 49.9 percent from the field. When Jokic sits, Denver's offense operates with the efficiency of league-worst Cleveland, shoots just 42.5 percent, makes fewer 3-pointers and commits more turnovers.  

The Serbia native has helped the Nuggets navigate several absences due to COVID-19 protocols, but with a 15-13 start – eighth in the West – MVP voters are typically hesitant to vote for a team outside the top four in its conference. And while Jokic has improved on defense over the last few seasons, his weaknesses on that side of the floor are a fair argument against him being named more valuable than any other player.  

Embiid, on the other hand, is a two-time All-Defensive Team selection who is also turning in his best offensive season by a wide margin. His 29.7 points per game are on pace to be the most by a 7-footer since 1999-00 (Shaquille O'Neal, 29.7), while shooting career bests of 54 percent from the field and 39.7 percent from 3-point range.  

Embiid is also a tremendous free throw shooter, regardless of position, making 85.1 percent this season. He is even better in high-stakes situations, making 88.5 percent of his free throws in the fourth quarter and overtime, including a 19-for-20 mark in the last three minutes of a game.  

With Embiid on the court, the Sixers have a net rating of +11.2 points per 100 possessions but are -5.7 per 100 possessions when he is off the court. Embiid is vital to his team, with the 76ers going 18-5 when he plays and 1-5 when he rests.  

While Embiid's time off the court shows just how valuable he is when he plays, it also may keep him from winning MVP this season. At his current workload, he is on pace to miss 15 of the Sixers' 72 games, more than 20 per cent. Embiid has played just under 748 minutes this season, while James and Jokic have played over 1,000 each.  

Gobert has played nearly 878 minutes for the Jazz, appearing in every game and leading Utah to a league-leading 24-5 record.

While his 14.2 points per game fail to measure up to his competitors' numbers, Gobert slots perfectly into the "best player on the best team" role that Giannis Antetokounmpo has occupied over the last two seasons and has added 13.4 rebounds and a career-high 2.69 blocks per game.  

Gobert is second in the league in plus-minus per 48 minutes at +15.3 (min. 500 minutes played), trailing only teammate Mike Conley at +18.9. 

The Jazz have surrounded Gobert with a roster mostly consisting of average or worse defensive players yet still rank third in the NBA, allowing 106 points per game.  

When Gobert is on the floor, Utah holds opponents to 101.6 points per 100 possession, fewer than any team's full-season numbers this year. And while Gobert ranks second in the NBA in blocked shots, his defensive impact extends beyond traditional numbers.  

Utah's opponents have attempted just 18.8 free throws per game – second fewest in the NBA – and Gobert's intimidating presence in the middle appears to be why. With Gobert on the court, Utah's opponents are attempting just 15.2 free throws per 100 possessions. When Gobert sits, that number balloons to 24.2.  

Ultimately, though, Gobert's limited offensive role makes him an outside candidate for MVP unless the Jazz finish the season on a historically great run.  

Gobert's skew toward defense, Jokic's skew toward offense and Embiid's limited availability could all open the door for LeBron – a worthy candidate in his own right – to take home his fifth MVP after this season.   

This trio of centers, however, has proven that there is still room for the big man to dominate in the modern NBA.  

Staples Center will stage a clash of heavyweights on Thursday as the Los Angeles Lakers host the Brooklyn Nets, though it might not be quite the spectacle once hoped for.

Of course, most sporting contests are not quite what they used to be, owing to the lack of spectators allowed in the arenas.  

But the absence of Lakers star Anthony Davis with a calf injury, along with Kevin Durant's hamstring problem, which may keep the Nets forward out of a third straight game, further depletes a matchup that could be repeated in the NBA Finals.  

Yet LeBron James is still performing at the peak of his powers and the Nets' guard combination of James Harden and Kyrie Irving is firing on all cylinders, with the former dropping 38 points in a comeback from a 24-point deficit against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday.  

Therefore, there will still be plenty to intrigue in this marquee showdown, even if the first meeting of LeBron and KD since Christmas Day 2018 is further delayed.  

TOP PERFORMERS

LeBron James - Los Angeles Lakers

James is the MVP frontrunner and he has maintained his remarkable levels of excellence this month, in which he has a pair of triple-doubles. 

He has successive double-doubles in his last two games, tallying at least 30 points for the fifth time this season in the win over the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves last time out. 

With Davis on the sidelines, LeBron will have to carry the bulk of the burden again if the Lakers are to claim their 23rd win.

Kyrie Irving - Brooklyn Nets

Despite sitting out Brooklyn's astonishing fightback against the Suns because of a sore back, no member of the Nets has been more prolific in the month of February than Irving.  

The man who helped LeBron deliver a title to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016 is averaging a team-high 29.8 points per game this month. Harden is next with an average of 24.4.  

He is shooting 55.5 per cent from the field and 48.8 per cent from three-point range, while his season-long average of 28.3 points a game is a career-high.  

Irving will, however, be hoping for a better performance than the one he produced in his sole game against the Lakers last year, when he went seven of 17 from the field in a 15-point loss.

KEY BATTLE - WHICH 'OTHERS' WILL STEP UP?

Though the Nets will still have the best backcourt in the league at their disposal, the injury issues surrounding Durant and Davis increases the spotlight on the lesser-heralded members of the two supporting casts.  

The Lakers will be looking for more of the same from Dennis Schroder, the guard rising to the challenge in Davis' absence against the Timberwolves and scoring 24 points.  

For the Nets, the onus may be more on Joe Harris, who has impressive numbers in terms of field goal percentage (57.5) and three-point shooting (51.1 per cent) for the month of February.  

This potential Finals preview could well be decided by which team's 'others' can best fill the void if Durant joins Davis in playing the role of spectator.

HEAD TO HEAD

It's the first meeting this season between the Lakers and Nets, though recent history suggests Brooklyn can afford to be confident even if they are without Durant. 

The two teams split the season series last term, but the Nets have won three of the last four games having swept the season series in 2018-19. 

All three of those victories came by a single-digit margin.

Stephen Curry trusted the rhythm he found to propel the Golden State Warriors to victory over the Miami Heat would come despite setting a personal record for missed three-point attempts.

Through three quarters against the Heat at Chase Center, Curry had 14 points on 2-of-15 shooting from beyond the arc. He had attempted at least 15 three-pointers in 47 prior regular season games, but this was the first time he had made just two.

The two-time NBA MVP found his range with two minutes and 26 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and laid on two assists for Kent Bazemore to help the Warriors force overtime.

Curry missed his first three shots in the additional period but hit a go-ahead three with 1:15 remaining and made a phenomenal step back jumper from 28 feet to put Golden State up six with 17 seconds left.

He finished the game on 5-of-20 shooting from beyond the arc – the first time in his career he has missed 15 threes in a game in the regular season and playoffs. His previous worst came in the defeat to the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 2 of the 2015 NBA Finals.

"I probably took five bad ones. I'd say, the rest of them were off the dribble in rhythm or catch and shoot wide-open, I just was missing," Curry said of his display against Miami, in which he finished with 25 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds.

"So, knowledge and confidence is huge, and understanding that eventually I'll find the right rhythm, the right look and make a big one, and thankfully it happened at the end of regulation and then in the two in overtime.

"I tried not to think of the percentages during the game when you know like, 'Damn, I missed about 17 of these.' That doubt can sometimes creep in, you've got to kick it out and just shoot with confidence and keep shooting."

He added: "You play enough games and go through enough experiences, you know what it's like to kind of feel a little lost when shots aren't falling, and you know how you mentally react to it and what you can do to keep your confidence and stick with it.

"It's just bread over time ... I've been shooting since I was nine. You got to be able to figure out how to get through some bad shooting games."

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was unsurprised to see Curry still play a crucial role even when he was enduring an off shooting performance.

"This is so typical of Steph. He's just the kind of player and the kind of person who can be in the midst of one of his worst shooting nights of the year and still hit three enormous shots to help us win the game. So really an amazing team win and a lot of fun," said Kerr.

"I just think he hasn't just built up his body and his skill over the years, I think he's built up his mind.

"And he's so strong-willed that he doesn't let things bother him and he knows that the law of averages are going to play out. He has so much belief in his shot that he's going to keep shooting.

"It's the same reason he shoots three-quarter court shots when there's still time on the clock. He doesn't care about the percentage. He actually believes that's a shot he can make, so he takes it.

"And same thing applies when he's in the midst of a tough night, he always believes the next one is going in. He's got an incredibly powerful belief in himself."

Joel Embiid led the Philadelphia 76ers to victory over the Houston Rockets despite a back issue but is not alarmed by the ongoing injury.

All-Star center Embiid has been dealing with back tightness since a fall in the win against the Los Angeles Lakers in January, though he has only missed two games.

With Ben Simmons sitting out against the Rockets due to illness, Embiid was keen to take part against the Rockets on Wednesday and he put up 31 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.

It was the 26-year-old's 12th straight game with at least 25 points, joining Allen Iverson and Wilt Chamberlain as the only 76ers players to achieve that feat.

Philadelphia led by 26 points at halftime but Houston cut the deficit to four during the final quarter, meaning Embiid was on the floor a lot longer than he had initially planned.

"It was pretty tight, but I just wanted to make sure we got the win and that's all that matters," said Embiid.

"I wanted to give it a shot for five more minutes [in the second half], obviously things changed and I had to adjust to it but the whole game it was pretty tight. But I'll be fine.

"It's not alarming. As NBA players we're playing every single night and the body is sore, you've just got to take care of yourself. It's normal.

"It's tightness. Some days its tighter than usual, some days it's not. After the [Phoenix] Suns game it got tighter than usual and today when we started it was tighter than usual, so it's just some days and I've just got to go home and continue to do what I've been doing and I'll be fine."

The 76ers had 13 turnovers in the second half and Embiid accounted for five of those. It took the team's total for the game to 20.

"They started making some shots, we had a couple turnovers – especially me," Embiid said when asked to explain the Rockets' resurgence.

"We had a stretch where at least six possessions in a row we had nothing going on and they just came back down the other end and just started making shots.

"We've just got to learn how to close games when needed. There's a lot to learn but we got the win."

Head coach Doc Rivers added: "It just got sloppy. It happens. We had a big lead, probably didn't have a lot left in the tank.

"We really had some unforced turnovers, which you don't like. Teams like Houston are going to keep throwing the ball at the rim and if you turn the ball over you're going to allow them back in the game.

"I don't think it was the pressure it was more us and we had a lot of self-inflicted wounds."

Embiid also praised Matisse Thybulle, who thrived in the zone defense despite the absence of Simmons and had a game-high four steals.

"When you've got Matisse in the game, I feel like that's our best defense. He gets his hands on everything," said Embiid.

"I think he has the potential to be the best defender in the league, just the way he moves, the way he wins on defense. He's got great hands, so that's one of the reasons why we do it.

"We did it in Indiana in that fourth quarter and he completely changed the game and tonight we basically did it the whole game, he was all over the place.

"I think he has a chance, especially when it comes to All-NBA Defensive Teams."

LeBron James doesn't yet look close to being ready to end his basketball career, but he's already planning his next career move.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar James is considering moving into the music business.

The four-time NBA champion has a contract until the end of the 2022-23 season, by which time he will be 38 years old.

James is hoping he can move from producing the goods on the court to producing in the studio but is not planning on rapping himself.

The 16-time All-Star would instead look to rope in friends to help with vocals, but said he was just "thinking out loud".

"My love for music is INSANE!!! I think I'm going to do an album," tweeted James.

"Oh no I won't be rapping or anything like that. I'm not crazy, I know what I'm great at, but I tell you one thing I do have; so many friends that can [rap]!"

LeBron already has experience in the music business, having been an executive producer on 2 Chainz's album 'Rap or Go to the League'.

There is no doubt James' attention will be solely on basketball on Thursday, though, with the Lakers entertaining the Brooklyn Nets.

Joel Embiid's return fuelled the Philadelphia 76ers' to a drought-ending 118-113 win over the Houston Rockets in the NBA on Wednesday.

Embiid had scored 35 points in back-to-back games before back tightness caused him to miss Monday's defeat to the high-flying Utah Jazz – a third straight loss – but the three-time All Star came back in style.

The star center claimed a 31-point, 11-rebound double-double, adding nine assists, as the 76ers dug deep against the Rockets to condemn Houston to a seventh defeat in a row midweek.

Philadelphia's win improved the 76ers to 19-10 atop of the Eastern Conference, while Western Conference leaders the Jazz extended their winning run to nine games with a 114-96 triumph against the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Jazz have won 20 of their past 21 games to set the pace in the NBA this season.

Elsewhere, the Portland Trail Blazers made it a 3-0 road trip with a 126-124 win against the New Orleans Pelicans as Damian Lillard scorched to 43 points and 16 assists after dropping the winning three-pointer in the final seconds.

Pelicans star Zion Williamson hit back with a career-high 36 points for the hosts, but Portland snatched a sixth consecutive win.

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