Doc Rivers has backed his old team the Los Angeles Clippers to battle it out with the LA Lakers to take the honours in the Western Conference.

The Clippers spoiled Rivers' return as they downed his Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers 122-112 on Saturday.

It was Rivers' first meeting with the Clippers since he was fired in the offseason, having let slip a 3-1 series lead in the second round of the playoffs against the Denver Nuggets.

But it was not a warm welcome on the court, where the 76ers had their four-game winning run brought to a grinding halt.

Kawhi Leonard put up 19 of his 28 points in a dazzling first half, with Paul George contributing 24.

It left Rivers in no doubt as to who the leading contenders are in the West, with the Clippers and the Lakers getting the nod ahead of the Utah Jazz – who currently lead the way in the standings – the Nuggets and the Portland Trail Blazers.

"I thought Denver had a great trade deadline – they did great moves," Rivers said. "Utah is playing unbelievable basketball, so they are going to be right there. Portland, I thought improved their team as well.

"But I still think it's the Lakers and the Clippers."

With Ty Lue now at the helm, Rivers acknowledged there are many differences to the team he coached, but pointed out that the Clippers had a solid platform to build on following his departure.

"They're a different team," Rivers said. "They don't have a lot of the same guys, [but] they run a lot of the same stuff that I run.

"Going through [their plays at] shootaround today, I thought we were going through our shootaround at times. But I wouldn't have changed much offensively, either. I mean, they were pretty darn good last year.

"The difference is they've had a chance to practice together, you know? And you can see that. I think they've given the ball to PG [George] more, which I think has helped him. So they've made some good changes.

"The biggest change I see also is defensively. I think they are a better defensive team. It's funny, the numbers don't exactly say that, but when I watch them, I think they're going to be a better defensive team, one of the better defensive teams when the playoffs start."

Terance Mann had a season-high 23 points for the Clippers on 10-of-12 shooting from the field, while he made both of his three-point attempts.

The 76ers had a six-game road winning run ended, despite a game-high 29 points from Tobias Harris.

The Los Angeles Clippers spoiled Doc Rivers' return as they topped the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers 122-112 in the NBA.

Rivers reunited with the Clippers for the first time since being fired and joining the 76ers in the offseason, having led the Los Angeles franchise to six playoff appearances.

But Rivers did not have much to celebrate after the 76ers had their four-game winning streak snapped on Saturday.

Kawhi Leonard posted 28 points – 19 in the first half – and Clippers team-mate Paul George added 24 of his own in Los Angeles.

Terance Mann had a season-high 23 points for the Clippers on 10-of-12 shooting from the field, while he made both of his three-point attempts.

The 76ers had a six-game road winning run ended, despite a game-high 29 points from Tobias Harris.

 

Mitchell sparks Jazz

Donovan Mitchell put up 35 points as the NBA-leading Utah Jazz defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 126-110. Mitchell was efficient in Utah, where he was 12-of-17 shooting from the field, to go with his five three-pointers from seven attempts in 28 minutes. All-Star team-mate Rudy Gobert (16 points and 14 rebounds) contributed a double-double.

Gregg Popovich became the third coach in NBA history to reach 1,300 regular-season wins following the San Antonio Spurs' 120-104 victory against the Chicago Bulls. Only Don Nelson (1,335) and Lenny Wilkens (1,332) have had 1,300 wins or more. All-Star Nikola Vucevic had 21 points and nine rebounds in his debut for the Bulls after being traded by the lowly Orlando Magic.

Zion Williamson's 38 points led the New Orleans Pelicans past the Dallas Mavericks 112-103. Tim Hardaway Jr. had 30 points off the bench for the beaten Mavericks.

Russell Westbrook's triple-double of 19 points, 19 rebounds and 10 assists fuelled a 106-92 win for the Washington Wizards against the Detroit Pistons.

The Milwaukee Bucks were upstaged 102-96 by the New York Knicks despite double-doubles from two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (23 points and 10 rebounds), Jordan Nwora (21 points and 10 rebounds) and Brook Lopez (12 points and 10 rebounds).

 

Awful Richardson

The Mavericks went down to the Pelicans and Josh Richardson struggled. The shooting guard finished one-of-11 from the field. Richardson missed all four of his attempts from beyond the arc for a measly four points in 34 minutes.

Mike Scott – in the starting five for the 76ers – finished with just three points in Los Angeles. He was one-of-six from the field, making just one three-pointer in 29 minutes.

 

Barnes calls game!

With the Sacramento Kings trailing 98-97, Harrison Barnes nailed a buzzer-beating three after catching a full-court pass to sink the Cleveland Cavaliers. De'Aaron Fox's 36 points set the tone for the Kings, who edged the Cavaliers 100-98.

 

Saturday's results

Washington Wizards 106-92 Detroit Pistons
New York Knicks 102-96 Milwaukee Bucks
Houston Rockets 129-107 Minnesota Timberwolves
San Antonio Spurs 120-104 Chicago Bulls
New Orleans Pelicans 112-103 Dallas Mavericks
Boston Celtics 111-94 Oklahoma City Thunder
Utah Jazz 126-110 Memphis Grizzlies
Los Angeles Clippers 122-112 Philadelphia 76ers
Sacramento Kings 100-98 Cleveland Cavaliers

 

Suns at Hornets

The high-flying Phoenix Suns (30-14) – second in the west – will visit the in-form Charlotte Hornets (23-21) on Sunday. Charlotte have won three straight games to sit fourth in the Eastern Conference.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have shut down five-time All-Star Al Horford for the remainder of the season as the NBA franchise prioritise youth development.

Horford arrived from the Philadelphia 76ers at the start of the season and the veteran has had a significant impact on the rebuilding Thunder.

But the 34-year-old will not feature for the Thunder again in 2020-21, though he plans to remain with his team-mates and train in Oklahoma City ahead of an expected trade.

"We've talked with Al from the time he became a member of the Thunder this offseason about the many ways in which he would be able to help us as we entered the early stages of the necessary transition of our team," Thunder general manager Sam Presti said in a statement on Saturday.

"From day one Al has been a consummate professional and has had a tremendous influence on the team on and off the floor with his work ethic and total commitment to his team-mates.

"Our conversations have been open and ongoing about how to maximise this season for him personally as well as the development of our team.

"Al has been nothing short of spectacular and will remain a part of the team as we build on an approach and mentality that we have taken for some time."

Horford has been averaging 14.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game for the Thunder this season.

Throughout his career, Horford is averaging 13.9 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists in the NBA.

Horford, who has two years and $53million on his contract, added: "When I arrived, I understood the direction of the team, we had a great individual plan in place for me, and I feel like as a result I've played really good basketball for the Thunder.

"At the same time, I know what it's like to be a young, aspiring player, and at this point in the season I understand how important playing meaningful minutes is for their careers and their development.

"I also understand how important it is for the organisation to give them that opportunity. I'm looking forward to supporting the guys who supported me, watching them continue to play the right way and play together as we have throughout the season, while still being around the team and continuing my training."

LaMarcus Aldridge has agreed to join the star-studded Brooklyn Nets for the rest of the NBA season, according to his agent.

Aldridge – a seven-time All-Star – agreed to a contract buyout with the San Antonio Spurs earlier this month.

Now, the 35-year-old star will join forces with James Harden, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Blake Griffin in Brooklyn as the Nets eye their first NBA championship.

Aldridge's agent Jeff Schwartz confirmed the deal to ESPN on Saturday.

Averaging 19.4 points and 8.3 rebounds in his 15 NBA seasons, including nine with the Portland Trail Blazers, Aldridge has not played since March 1.

Aldridge is averaging 13.7 points and 4.5 rebounds per game in 2020-21.

Steve Nash's Nets (31-15) are second in the Eastern Conference, one-and-a-half games behind the Philadelphia 76ers (32-13).

James Harden says he feels like the MVP of the NBA following his latest dominant display in the Brooklyn Nets' 113-111 win over the Detroit Pistons on Friday.

Harden returned from neck soreness to score 44 points for the Nets, his largest haul since joining Brooklyn from the Houston Rockets in January.

He also contributed 14 rebounds and eight assists in a decisive performance.

"I feel like I am the MVP," Harden said. "I don't want to speak individually on myself. I'm just going to leave it at that.

"I just try to go out there every single night and bring my team-mates everything I can."

The 31-year-old guard, who averages the most minutes per game in 2020-21, tops the statistics for assists per game this season, with 11.2. He is also averaging 25.3 points and 7.9 rebounds.

Denver's Nikola Jokic, Philadelphia's Joel Embiid, Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo and Lakers star LeBron James are among the favourites to win the MVP along with Harden.

Harden added: "Tonight, Detroit's game plan and schemes were to take away the lob pass and not let our bigs get lobs and shooters to get shots.

"That allowed me to get to the basket and shoot layups all night. Games are different and I just take what the defense gives me. The next game we might get more lobs than shots.

"Just play the game the right way and try to be efficient in doing it."

James Harden returned from neck soreness with a 44-point haul to lead the Brooklyn Nets to a 113-111 win over the Detroit Pistons in the NBA on Friday.

As well as his personal Nets high 44 points, which included four three-pointers, Harden had 14 rebounds and eight assists.

Harden set up Blake Griffin for an alley-oop as the new recruit contributed 17 points against his former side.

Detroit had an 11-0 final-quarter stretch, led by back-to-back three-pointers from Frank Jackson, to ensure a tense finale.

But Cory Joseph missed a point-blank look to send the game to overtime on the buzzer, enabling Brooklyn to improve to 31-15.

The Los Angeles Lakers snapped their losing run without LeBron James, with a 100-86 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Montrezl Harrell starred off the bench with a double-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds as they steadied to 29-17 record.

Zion puts up career-best haul in defeat

Former number one draft pick Zion Williamson put in a huge display with a career-high 39 points, going 16-of-19 from the field, 10 rebounds and five assists, but it was not enough as the New Orleans Pelicans lost to the Denver Nuggets 113-108.

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic underlined his MVP credentials with 37 points, six rebounds and nine assists. He scored 22 of his 37 in the second half.

The Milwaukee Bucks were toppled by the Boston Celtics 122-114, with forward Jayson Tatum scoring 34 points and guard Marcus Smart adding 23. Tatum had an injury scare but played on.

Reigning two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo was quiet by his standards with only 16 points, while he had eight rebounds and five assists. The Celtics stay in the playoffs hunt with a 22-23 record, while the Bucks slip to 29-15 in third in the East.

Donovan Mitchell had 35 points along with five rebounds and six assists as the top-of-the-table Utah Jazz defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 117-114 to secure their fourth straight win.

The Portland Trail Blazers edged the Orlando Magic 112-105 without Damian Lillard, with CJ McCollum starring with 22 points, five rebounds and seven assists.

Chris Paul got the edge over Kyle Lowry as the Phoenix Suns won 104-100 at the Toronto Raptors. Paul had 19 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

Heat slide to sixth straight loss

The Miami Heat may have got busy on NBA trade deadline with the addition of Victor Oladipo but he did not play as they lost their sixth straight, going down 110-105 to the Charlotte Hornets.

 

Timberwolves' 22-0 hot streak

The Minnesota Timberwolves' 22-0 run to secure their 107-101 win over the struggling Houston Rockets was the first 22-0 (or better) game-ending run since the Los Angeles Clippers in the 1998-99 season.

 

Friday's results

Brooklyn Nets 113-111 Detroit Pistons
Boston Celtics 122-114 Milwaukee Bucks
Phoenix Suns 104-100 Toronto Raptors
Denver Nuggets 113-108 New Orleans Pelicans
Minnesota Timberwolves 107-101 Houston Rockets
Portland Trail Blazers 112-105 Orlando Magic
Charlotte Hornets 110-105 Miami Heat
Indiana Pacers 109-94 Dallas Mavericks
Utah Jazz 117-114 Memphis Grizzlies
Atlanta Hawks 124-108 Golden State Warriors
Los Angeles Lakers 100-86 Cleveland Cavaliers

 

76ers at Clippers

Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia 76ers (32-13) visit the Los Angeles Clippers (30-16), who are third in the West, on Saturday.

James Harden has been declared fit to return for the Brooklyn Nets against the Detroit Pistons on Friday.

The nine-time All-Star missed the Nets' previous game at the league-leading Utah Jazz earlier this week due to neck soreness.

Coach Steve Nash said: "It was the smartest and safest decision to protect him from himself and take him out of the lineup, because he's struggling."

Harden was initially listed as questionable for the game in Detroit, but he was later upgraded to available.

The Jazz game was only the second Harden has missed since arriving in Brooklyn from the Houston Rockets, both of which have been lost. He has a 23-7 record in 30 starts for the Nets.

With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the other members of the team's 'big three', enduring extended spells on the sidelines, Harden has been Nash's key man.

He has averaged 25.4 points in 38.5 minutes per game since his trade, as well as 11.5 assists and 8.7 rebounds for 11 triple-doubles.

Brooklyn are 30-15 on the year, third in the East behind the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks.

Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers did little to disguise his irritation after Dwight Howard was ejected on his return to the Staples Center.

Howard and fellow former Los Angeles Laker Danny Green were presented with their 2020 championship rings before Thursday's encounter, which the Sixers won 109-101.

That was little thanks to Howard, who was dismissed by referee Jane Fitzgerald between the first and second quarters after intentionally walking into the Lakers' Montrezl Harrell.

Howard and Harrell had already been called for double technical fouls and the former's punishment as the altercation resumed meant an automatic disqualification

"Clowns. Guys just joking around. It's ridiculous on both parts. I didn't like, it, bottom line," Rivers said in an immediate reaction on the court and victory over the slumping Lakers did not soften his view too much.

"I just thought it was a very selfish play," he said, per ESPN.

"You got one tech, you can't get another one. We just have to have better discipline.

"I get it. I know there's a lot of emotion. But we had one center on our team, and he got thrown out.

"I was not very happy with that one. I know it's an emotional game. But he's a veteran. We got to have better discipline."

Harrell joined the Lakers in the immediate aftermath of Howard's surprise switch to Philadelphia.

Although the source of their bad blood remains unclear, Harrell was unrepentant afterwards, having theatrically waved Howard off the court as he remonstrated with Fitzgerald.

"I'm not backing down from nobody, man. I don't take that lightly. I don't take none of that disrespect," he said.

"You're not gonna push me all around the court and just feel like you're gonna big-boy me and just attack me or whatever.

"It's not in my blood, it will never be in my blood. I don't care what nobody feels about it, I don't care who don't like me. It is what it is."

Rajon Rondo has joined the Los Angeles Clippers from the Atlanta Hawks, with Lou Williams moving in the other direction.

Along with acquiring former Sixth Man of the Year Williams, the Hawks will also gain two future second-round draft picks.

The deal means the 35-year-old Rondo makes a swift return to Los Angeles, where he won his second NBA championship with the Lakers last season.

He joined the Hawks on a two-year, $15million deal, but the lure of a reunion with Clippers coach Tyronn Lue, who built a close relationship with Rondo as an assistant at the Boston Celtics between 2011 and 2013, proved significant.

"He's fiery, that's what we need," Lue said after the Clippers beat the San Antonio Spurs 98-85 on Thursday, as quoted by ESPN.

"He's tough. He understands the game. And he respects people as a straight shooter and will tell them the truth.

"That was my biggest thing in Boston, was being honest with him and telling him the truth and keeping it real with him."

Lue said he was "not sure right now" whether Rondo would start or come off the bench.

Williams, 34, is certainly a masterful exponent when cast in the latter role, having won three of the past six Sixth Man of the Year awards, which recognises the best performing substitute in the league.

"He's going to be missed for everything he brought and not just basketball," Lue said of the point guard, who passed 15,000 career points during the Clippers' game with the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday.

"I just think he was a great person. That's what I love the most.

"We all knew he was a great basketball player, but just him as a human being and what he stood for and how he always boosted the morale of the team with everyone around him. That's what we are going to miss the most.''

Toronto Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri said he is happy with the team's position after they opted to keep in-demand star Kyle Lowry.

Lowry was tipped to leave the Raptors for either the Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers or Los Angeles Lakers on the NBA's trade deadline but a move did not materialise.

Now, Lowry – a championship winner in Toronto and widely considered the greatest player in Raptors history – remains part of the franchise, who are outside of the playoff race in the Eastern Conference at 18-26.

Asked about the 35-year-old guard after the dust settled as Norman Powell was traded away, Ujiri told reporters: "Honestly, we didn't know which way it was going to go.

"Because we've really talked about looking at this team in every direction that it could go.

"We came to a point where we were comfortable with any direction that it went."

Six-time All-Star Lowry is on an expiring contract but will now see that deal out before heading for free agency, having been with the Raptors since a 2012 trade from the Houston Rockets.

Lowry has averaged 17.6 points, 7.1 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 1.5 steals in that time and started all 24 playoff games in 2018-19, scoring 15.0 points, as Toronto won their first NBA title.

"We'll talk about it then," Ujiri said. "I think we'll talk about them when the time comes at the end of the season. But I think we all know the respect and the sentiment about Kyle and this ball club, and what he's done not only for the city, the team, the country, the league.

"Honestly, our team can go in many different directions. I keep saying it. We are comfortable with whatever direction we go. Maybe we lost a chance here, but we also think we gained a chance in some other things going forward.

"This team, especially with what we've gone through this year, could pivot in many different directions. This is where we find ourselves now."

As for Powell, he left for the Portland Trail Blazers in the middle of his most prolific season in the NBA.

Powell is shooting 43.9 per cent from three-point range, ranking 10th in the NBA and third among those with 200 or more attempts from beyond the arc.

Gary Trent Jr, moving in the opposite direction, is also enjoying a career year in his third campaign, making the most of increased opportunities amid C.J. McCollum's injury woes for the Blazers to score 15.0 points in 30.8 minutes.

"Gary Trent is I think a 23-year-old player with lots of upside, shooter, defender, fits our core team," Ujiri said. "That's what we're excited about."

The Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers heaped further misery on the short-handed Los Angeles Lakers following a 109-101 win in the NBA on Thursday.

Defending champions the Lakers lost their fourth consecutive game in the absence of injured stars LeBron James (ankle) and Anthony Davis (calf) as the 76ers stayed hot.

Danny Green haunted his former team in Los Angeles to guide the in-form 76ers to their fourth successive victory.

Green and Dwight Howard – who tasted success with the Lakers last season before both joined the 76ers – received their championship rings pre-game at Staples Center.

Green hit eight of 12 three-pointers – more than any Lakers player has made this season – for a game-high 28 points, while Howard was ejected at the end of the opening quarter.

Kyle Kuzma (25 points) and Dennis Schroder (20 points and 11 assists) led the slumping the Lakers, who suffered their sixth straight home defeat to the 76ers.

 

Fox has night to remember

De'Aaron Fox posted a career-high 44 points to lead the Sacramento Kings to a crushing 141-119 win against the Golden State Warriors. He was 16-of-22 from the field, to go with seven assists and three steals against the Stephen Curry-less Warriors. Tyrese Haliburton added 21 points with a career-high six three-pointers as Richaun Holmes contributed a double-double of 25 points and 11 rebounds.

Paul George's double-double (24 points and 13 rebounds) helped the Los Angeles Clippers top the San Antonio Spurs 98-85 in the absence of injured star Kawhi Leonard (foot). Ivica Zubac (10 points and 13 rebounds) and Terance Mann (10 points and 12 rebounds) also had double-doubles, while Reggie Jackson top-scored with 28 points.

The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Miami Heat 125-122 behind C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard. McCollum put up 35 points, while Lillard had 22 of his own away to the Heat. Enes Kanter also finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds as veteran Carmelo Anthony scored 20 points off the bench.

 

Westbrook struggles from the field

Russell Westbrook might have finished just shy of a triple-double (13 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists) but he was far from his best shooting. The former MVP was just three-of-15 from the field. Westbrook also missed all five of his attempts from beyond the arc, while tallying eight turnovers as the New York Knicks stormed back to trump the Washington Wizards 106-102.

 

The windmill!

There was not much to celebrate for the Warriors on Thursday. But Juan Toscano-Anderson's slam after stealing the ball provided a highlight on the road in Sacramento.

 

Thursday's results

Philadelphia 76ers 109-101 Los Angeles Lakers
Portland Trail Blazers 125-122 Miami Heat
New York Knicks 106-102 Washington Wizards
Los Angeles Clippers 98-85 San Antonio Spurs
Sacramento Kings 141-119 Golden State Warriors

 

Nets at Pistons

The Brooklyn Nets (30-15) will look to keep pace with the 76ers in the east when they visit the lowly Detroit Pistons (12-31) on Friday.

Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey said he is feeling "very good" about the team's championship chances after the Eastern Conference leaders acquired George Hill.

The 76ers were active on Thursday's NBA trade deadline, dealing for veteran guard Hill from the Oklahoma City Thunder in a three-team deal.

Ignas Brazdeikis also arrived from the New York Knicks as the 76ers sent Tony Bradley and two second-round picks (2025 and 2026) to Oklahoma City and Terrance Ferguson, Vincent Poirier, the rights to Emir Preldzic, a 2021 second-round pick and the Miami Heat's 2024 second-round pick to New York.

The 76ers have not won the NBA Finals since 1983, but Doc Rivers' Philadelphia top the Eastern Conference this season in their pursuit of a drought-ending championship.

"I think we feel very good about the roster we have and about our chances to win the championship," Morey told the media after acquiring Hill.

"I think Doc had some comments recently about looking for a two-way guard and it was one of very few needs for us, and that’s what we got with George. A veteran two-way guard who can shoot at a very high level, who can defend at a high level."

Hill – in his 13th NBA season – has appeared in 14 games (all starts) with the Thunder in 2020-21, averaging 11.8 points, 2.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 26.3 minutes per game.

The 34-year-old has shot 50.8 per cent from the field, 38.6 per cent from three-point range since joining the Thunder from the Milwaukee Bucks at the start of the season.

Hill has a career average of 11.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 27.7 minutes per contest as he prepares to join forces with All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons in Philadelphia.

However, Hill – who has also played for the San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers, Utah Jazz, Sacramento Kings and Cleveland Cavaliers – has been sidelined since January after undergoing a surgical procedure on his right thumb.

"I don't want to give a timeline, it's not long," Morey said. "He had an issue where he chose to have surgery on it so that it'll never be an issue again.

"Once he's back, it's something that will never bother him again. So we're very optimistic about him for the future."

The 76ers, meanwhile, were reportedly in the mix to deal for Toronto Raptors star Kyle Lowry on Thursday.

Lowry was linked with the 76ers, Heat and champions the Los Angeles Lakers before Toronto opted to retain the franchise favourite.

Asked about NBA champion Lowry, Morey told reporters: "I can't specifically address a player on another team. Obviously at the trade deadline you have lots of options that were out there.

"All I can say is we're very excited about the option we ended up with. I think we did the deal about two hours before the deadline and we took an option that we thought really upgraded our team this year on both ends and at the same time kept all our optionality in the future."

Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard will miss Thursday's clash against former team the San Antonio Spurs due to foot soreness.

Leonard starred in the Clippers' 134-101 win over the Spurs on Wednesday, scoring 25 points and seven rebounds.

But Leonard – who helped the Spurs to the NBA championship in 2014 – will sit out the second of the back-to-back games with a right foot issue.

"[It is] something that just came up. [We] want to be cautious," Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue said pre-game.

Leonard spent seven years in San Antonio, where he made his debut in 2011 before leaving the Spurs for the Toronto Raptors in 2018.

The five-time All-Star won NBA titles with both the Spurs and Raptors prior to joining the Clippers in 2019.

Leonard – a two-time Finals MVP – has been averaging 25.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game for the Clippers this season.

The Clippers (29-16) are third in the Western Conference, behind the NBA-leading Utah Jazz (32-11) and Phoenix Suns (29-14).

Perhaps the biggest development at the NBA's trade deadline on Thursday saw a big player staying put as Kyle Lowry remained with the Toronto Raptors.

Veteran point guard Lowry, on an expiring contract, was seen as a potentially key pick-up for either the Philadelphia 76ers, the Los Angeles Lakers or the Miami Heat as they chase the title.

But the Raptors did not get a deal that appealed to them and will allow their greatest ever player to reach free agency.

There were significant moves elsewhere, though, as teams seized the last opportunity to agree trades.
 

ONE OUT IN TORONTO

Toronto, playing the season in Tampa, may have held on to Lowry, but they do not appear in contention this year at 18-26 and did deal Norman Powell.

The Portland Trail Blazers brought in the wing, one of the league's best three-point shooters in 2020-21, as Gary Trent Jr and Rodney Hood moved in the opposite direction.

Rather than one of the Raptors' shooters, the Heat will rely on Victor Oladipo, recruited from the Houston Rockets, over the coming months.

Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk and a draft swap was enough to do a deal with the Rockets.

Nemanja Bjelica also went to Miami from the Sacramento Kings for Maurice Harkless and Chris Silva.

And the Heat are said to be favourites for LaMarcus Aldridge after he was bought out by the San Antonio Spurs. Andre Drummond, another potential buyout, was not traded by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

THREE GO IN ORLANDO

As Toronto resisted the urge to take whatever they could get, the Orlando Magic did the opposite and cashed in.

All-Star Nikola Vucevic was a surprising early exit on Thursday as he went to the Chicago Bulls, along with Al-Farouq Aminu, in return for Otto Porter Jr, Wendell Carter Jr and two first-round picks.

Chicago added Daniel Theis from the Boston Celtics, but Lonzo Ball stayed put at the New Orleans Pelicans, while it was far from Orlando's only outgoing.

Evan Fournier headed to the Celtics, and the Denver Nuggets won the race for Aaron Gordon. His signing, along with Gary Clark, cost the Nuggets a first-round pick as well as Gary Harris and RJ Hampton.

Denver also added JaVale McGee in a deal with the Cavs.

RONDO RETURNS TO LA

Rajon Rondo, a team-mate of McGee's on the title-winning Lakers last season, has moved back to LA to join the Los Angeles Clippers.

Rondo played a big role in the playoffs for the Lakers and his signing cost the Clippers three-time Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams, sent to the Atlanta Hawks.

Western Conference rivals the Dallas Mavericks got two shooters from the Pelicans in the form of JJ Redick and Nicolo Melli, parting with James Johnson, Wes Iwundu and a second-round pick.

The Sixers landed George Hill in a three-team trade involving the Oklahoma City Thunder and the New York Knicks, while the Charlotte Hornets brought in Brad Wanamaker.

A late trade for Toronto Raptors great Kyle Lowry did not materialise on Thursday for either the Los Angeles Lakers or the Miami Heat, who signed Victor Oladipo.

The trade deadline passed with Lowry, widely considered the greatest player in Toronto's history, still on the Raptors.

The point guard, who turned 35 on Thursday, said it felt "weird" walking off the court on Wednesday knowing it might be his last appearance for the team.

Lowry played a part in the Raptors snapping a nine-game losing run against the Denver Nuggets, but links to the Philadelphia 76ers, the Lakers and the Heat had persisted in the days leading up to the deadline.

Reports on Thursday continued to detail interest from defending champions LA, in need of reinforcements amid injuries to Anthony Davis and LeBron James, and their 2020 Finals opponents Miami.

But The Athletic's Shams Charania said Toronto were struggling to agree terms with either team as they demanded a young guard in return.

The Lakers reportedly offered Dennis Schroder and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope but withheld Talen Horton-Tucker, while the Heat included Duncan Robinson but not Tyler Herro.

It meant the deadline ticked by before ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Lowry would not be moving.

Six-time All-Star Lowry is on an expiring contract but will now see that deal out before heading for free agency, having been with the Raptors since a 2012 trade from the Houston Rockets.

He has averaged 17.6 points, 7.1 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 1.5 steals in that time and started all 24 playoff games in 2018-19, scoring 15.0 points, as Toronto won their first NBA title.

The failure to secure a trade for Lowry meant Toronto lost only one key man on Thursday as sixth-year wing Norman Powell left for the Portland Trail Blazers in the middle of his most prolific season in the NBA.

The 27-year-old, who has a career 9.9 points, has averaged 19.6 per game in 2020-21 despite the team's struggles, establishing himself as a regular starter for the first time.

Powell is shooting 43.9 per cent from three, ranking 10th in the NBA and third among those with 200 or more attempts from beyond the arc.

Gary Trent Jr, moving in the opposite direction, is also enjoying a career year in his third campaign, making the most of increased opportunities amid CJ McCollum's injury woes for the Blazers to score 15.0 points in 30.8 minutes.

Meanwhile, Miami focused their attention on Oladipo, who found a third team of the season.

The 28-year-old guard started the year with the Indiana Pacers before he was moved to the Rockets as they dealt James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets.

With Houston loading up on draft picks and setting themselves up for a lottery selection in a difficult year, though, Oladipo - scoring 21.2 points per game - was traded again.

The Heat secured support for Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo in another title push and in return offered Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk and a draft swap to the Rockets, The Athletic said.

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