Giannis Antetokounmpo starred as the Milwaukee Bucks overturned a 19-point deficit to eventually trump Eastern Conference leaders the Philadelphia 76ers 109-105 in overtime.

Milwaukee faced an uphill task in the second half, but the Bucks went ahead 91-84 thanks to Jrue Holiday's three-pointer with 52.3 seconds remaining in regulation on Wednesday.

The 76ers, however, went on a 9-2 run during the final 40 seconds – Furkan Korkmaz's three forcing OT 0.4 seconds from the end in the fourth period.

But Antetokounmpo and the Bucks were not to be denied a big NBA win in Philadelphia, where the Milwaukee superstar posted 10 of his 32 points in overtime.

Antetokounmpo also had 15 rebounds and five assists to lead the Bucks – who had been held their lowest-scoring first half of the season – to their fifth successive win.

Ben Simmons' triple-double of 13 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds – to go with two steals and two blocks – were not enough to prevent the 76ers having their six-game winning streak snapped.

The Bucks are within one and a half games of the 76ers, who now share the same 28-13 record as the star-studded Brooklyn Nets.

James Harden put on a show with a triple-double as the shorthanded Nets defeated the Indiana Pacers 124-115.

Without Kyrie Irving (groin) and Kevin Durant (hamstring), Harden scored 40 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds to lead Brooklyn to their 14th win in 15 games.

Harden, who recorded his 11th triple-double of the season, joined Vince Carter as the only players in Nets history with a 40-point triple-double.

 

Jokic leads the way, Doncic stars

MVP candidate Nikola Jokic was at it again. The Denver Nuggets star finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a 129-104 win over the Charlotte Hornets. It was his 10th triple-double of the season and 51st overall. Jokic also had his 228th double-double to surpass Dikembe Mutombo for the franchise record.

Russell Westbrook's triple-double (26 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists) was his 12th of the season. The Washington Wizards, however, lost 121-119 to the Sacramento Kings.

A 43-point performance from Norman Powell was not enough as the Toronto Raptors lost 116-112 to the Detroit Pistons, who snapped a four-game skid.

Draymond Green recorded his 27th career triple-double and third his season thanks to a season-high 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. He also passed Chris Mullin (3,416) for fifth place on the Golden State Warriors' all-time assists list. The Warriors beat the lowly Houston Rockets 108-94.

 

Franchise-record losing streak in Houston

Things cannot get much worse for the embattled Rockets, who crashed to a franchise-record 18th consecutive defeat. The run surpasses the 17 straight losses by the San Diego Rockets in 1968. It is the first time the Rockets have lost nine successive home games since dropping 11 in a row in 1983.

Kendrick Nunn struggled in the Miami Heat's 89-85 defeat at the Memphis Grizzlies. He was two-of-10 shooting, while making just one of five three-point attempts for five points. Goran Dragic was also poor shooting – two-of-11 from the field as he also missed all four efforts from three-point range in 28 minutes.

 

Fox calls game!

With the scores tied at 119-119, Sacramento star De'Aaron Fox stepped up to nail a jumper 0.7 seconds from the end.

 

Wednesday's results

Detroit Pistons 116-112 Toronto Raptors
Brooklyn Nets 124-115 Indiana Pacers
Milwaukee Bucks 109-105 Philadelphia 76ers (OT)
Sacramento Kings 121-119 Washington Wizards
Cleveland Cavaliers 117-110 Boston Celtics
San Antonio Spurs 106-99 Chicago Bulls
Golden State Warriors 108-94 Houston Rockets
Denver Nuggets 129-104 Charlotte Hornets
Dallas Mavericks 105-89 Los Angeles Clippers
Memphis Grizzlies 89-85 Miami Heat

 

Hornets at Lakers

LaMelo Ball and the Hornets (20-18) will visit LeBron James and defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers (27-13) on Thursday.

Damian Lillard scored a season-high 50 points, including 20 in the last quarter, as the Portland Trail Blazers produced a remarkable comeback to snatch a last-gasp 125-124 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday.

The Pelicans led by 17 points late in the third term and Brandon Ingram had the chance to ice the game late on, before missing two free-throws as Portland snatched victory.

Lillard was the catalyst with his 20 final-quarter points, totalling 50 for the game, along with 10 assists and six rebounds. He also finished with six three-pointers and 18 of 18 free-throws.

He coolly scored two free-throws after Nickeil Alexander-Walker's costly fumble turned over possession. Zion Williamson had one last chance to steal victory but missed from a good close look.

The result improved Portland's record to 23-16 as they stay firmly in playoff contention while the Pelicans slipped to 17-23, despite Lonzo Ball's career-high 17 assists.

Lillard is now tied with LeBron James in seventh for all-time most 50-point NBA games.

Meanwhile, James had the 99th triple-double of his career with 25 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists, while Montrezl Harrell was equal top scorer for the Los Angeles Lakers in a 137-121 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Smooth Jazz back among winners

Rudy Gobert scored 11 of his 16 points in the final period as the Utah Jazz bounced back from their loss to the Golden State Warriors with a 117-109 win over the Boston Celtics.

Gobert, who also had 12 rebounds, was well supported by Donovan Mitchell (21 points and five assists) and impressive sixth man Jordan Clarkson (20 points and three assists) as the Jazz stormed home to edge past Boston.

Without Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris stepped up for the Philadelphia 76ers with 30 points in a thrilling 99-96 triumph over the New York Knicks.

Ben Simmons had 16 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists for the 76ers, who trailed by nine at the final change before a dominant fourth quarter.

Jimmy Butler starred with 28 points, 12 rebounds and four assists as the in-form Miami Heat made it five wins in a row with a 113-98 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Miami center Bam Adebayo also returned from injury with 14 points, nine rebounds and six assists.

Nate McMillan is yet to lose as head coach at the resurgent Atlanta Hawks, who claimed their sixth consecutive win, beating the Houston Rockets 119-107, led by Danilo Gallinari with 29 points.

 

No lift-off as Rockets grounded

While Atlanta have turned their season around with a coaching change, Houston have now lost 17 in a row. Stephen Silas is left scratching his head, with his side going from 11-10 to 11-27.

 

Big blocks

There were some huge blocks on Tuesday but 76ers veteran Dwight Howard stole the show early in the fourth, putting Julius Randle on the floor with an emphatic swat.

 

Tuesday's results

Utah Jazz 117-109 Boston Celtics
Miami Heat 113-98 Cleveland Cavaliers
Chicago Bulls 123-102 Oklahoma City Thunder
Atlanta Hawks 119-107 Houston Rockets
Philadelphia 76ers 99-96 New York Knicks
Portland Trail Blazers 125-124 New Orleans Pelicans
Los Angeles Lakers 137-121 Minnesota Timberwolves

 

Bucks at 76ers

The 76ers, without the injured Embiid, take on Giannis Antetokounmpo's Milwaukee Bucks in a blockbuster clash on Wednesday.

Draymond Green posted his 26th career triple-double and Stephen Curry scored 32 points as the Golden State Warriors took down the NBA-leading Utah Jazz 131-119.

Green dominated in San Francisco, where the three-time NBA champion had 11 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists to help the Warriors snap their four-game losing streak on Sunday.

The Warriors are 25-1 when Green has a triple-double – the 96.2 win percentage is the highest by any player in NBA history with 10-plus triple-doubles.

Birthday boy Curry nailed six three-pointers to go with nine assists at home to the Jazz, while Andrew Wiggins added a season-high 28 points.

The Warriors triumphed despite Rudy Gobert's 24 points and career-high 28 rebounds (also a franchise high) as fellow All-Stars Donovan Mitchell (24 points) and Mike Conley (23 points) made solid contributions.

Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, meanwhile, combined to lead the New Orleans Pelicans past the Los Angeles Clippers 135-115.

The Pelicans stunned the Clippers behind Williamson (27 points) and Ingram (23 points) in New Orleans, where Kawhi Leonard had 23 points for the visitors.

 

Perfect Thybulle

No Joel Embiid? No worries for the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers, who crushed the San Antonio Spurs 134-99. While Ben Simmons returned from an enforced absence due to coronavirus tracing, Matisse Thybulle dazzled in Philadelphia. He was four-of-four shooting from the field, while he made both of his three-point attempts for 10 points in 17 minutes off the bench. Tobias Harris posted a team-high 23 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Seth Curry had 21 points, including three triples, while Danny Green made four of seven shots from beyond the arc. The 76ers won their fifth straight game as they welcomed a limited number of fans back to Wells Fargo Center.

It was a career-high night for Anthony Edwards, who registered 34 points to help the Minnesota Timberwolves top the Portland Trail Blazers 114-112. Portland lost despite a game-high 38 points from All-Star Damian Lillard.

Norman Powell had 32 points, but the Toronto Raptors still lost 118-95 away to the Chicago Bulls, who were fuelled by a career-best 23 points from rookie Patrick Williams.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (30 points) and Aleksej Pokusevski (23 points and 10 rebounds) inspired the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 128-122 win against the Memphis Grizzlies. The 19-year-old Pokusevski became the youngest player in Thunder history to score 20-plus points. He also became the second youngest player in league history to score five three-pointers, behind only LeBron James.

 

No magic for free-falling Orlando

All-Star center Nikola Vucevic put up 38 points, including 17 in the third quarter, and 10 rebounds for his 26th double-double but not even that was enough for the slumping Orlando Magic. They lost 102-97 – their eighth consecutive defeat.

Zach LaVine has been red-hot for the Bulls this season, but the All-Star was far from his best in the team's win. He was just four-of-10 shooting, while making just one of his five three-point attempts for 15 points in 34 minutes.

The less said about San Antonio's performance, the better. Gregg Popovich's Spurs were just four-of-21 from beyond the arc – shooting at 19 per cent against the 76ers, who were 51.7 per cent when it came to three-pointers.

 

Tomahawk slam!

Jaxson Hayes produced a memorable moment for the Pelicans. His season-high 17 points included a powerful dunk over Reggie Jackson in the third quarter.

 

Sunday's results

Oklahoma City Thunder 128-122 Memphis Grizzlies
Golden State Warriors 131-119 Utah Jazz
Philadelphia 76ers 134-99 San Antonio Spurs
Miami Heat 102-97 Orlando Magic
Atlanta Hawks 100-82 Cleveland Cavaliers
Boston Celtics 134-107 Houston Rockets
Minnesota Timberwolves 114-112 Portland Trail Blazers
New Orleans Pelicans XXX-XXX Los Angeles Clippers
Chicago Bulls XX-XX Toronto Raptors

 

Knicks at Nets

Bragging rights will be on the line when the star-studded Brooklyn Nets (26-13) host city rivals the New York Knicks (20-19) on Monday. James' Los Angeles Lakers (25-13) are also in action against the Warriors (20-19).

The Los Angeles Lakers returned to winning ways in their first game since the All-Star break, LeBron James helping the NBA champions to a 105-100 victory over the Indiana Pacers.

The Lakers had dropped back-to-back games prior to Sunday's All-Star Game in Atlanta, but they snapped their skid at home to the Pacers on Friday.

James – who sat out the loss to the Sacramento Kings before the break – posted 18 points and 10 assists for his 16th double-double of the season.

But it was Kyle Kuzma who top-scored for the Lakers off the bench, putting up 24 points – including 15 in the final quarter – 13 rebounds and two steals.

Eastern Conference leaders the Philadelphia 76ers extended their winning streak to four games after topping the lowly Washington Wizards 127-101.

However, Philadelphia's triumph was overshadowed by a knee injury to MVP candidate and All-Star Joel Embiid.

Embiid will have an MRI after appearing to hyperextend his knee in a scary fall in the third quarter – the 76ers big man hobbled to the locker room in pain.

He had 23 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two blocks prior to the injury in Washington.

 

Westbrook reaches milestone

While Russell Westbrook saw his league-leading streak of 13 double-doubles come to an end, the Wizards star surpassed 21,000 career points. With 25 points, eight assists and five rebounds, Westbrook joined James and Oscar Robertson as the only players with at least 21,000 points, 6,000 rebounds and 7,000 assists in their careers.

The 76ers snapped a 10-game losing streak away to the Wizards. Philadelphia also swept the Wizards for the first time since 2008-09.

Goran Dragic scored 20 of his 25 points in the final period as the Miami Heat defeated the Chicago Bulls 101-90. Jimmy Butler led the Heat with 28 points against his former team.

The Denver Nuggets edged the Memphis Grizzlies 103-102 behind Nikola Jokic's double-double of 28 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists.

 

Cavs crumble, Rockets lose again

It was a forgettable outing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were humbled 116-82 by the New Orleans Pelicans. Cleveland scored just nine points in the third quarter. The Cavaliers shot 34.1 per cent from the field. Kevin Love – in his first game back since December – was one-of-four shooting, while he made only one of three attempts from beyond the arc for four points in 10 minutes. Isaac Okoro was one of eight from the field, while he missed both three-pointers for two points in 29 minutes.

The Orlando Magic were also swept aside 104-77 at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs. Michael Carter-Williams finished with five points on two-of-nine shooting, making just one of his three shots from beyond the arc.

The Houston Rockets were no match for the NBA-leading Utah Jazz – 114-99 – in the absence of Victor Oladipo, Christian Wood and Danuel House Jr. Ben McLemore was three-of-14 from the field for eight points. The Rockets guard was also two-of-six from three-point range. It was Houston's 15th straight loss.

 

Rudy says no!

After featuring in the All-Star Game, Utah's Rudy Gobert was back to business with a double-double (14 points and 13 rebounds). He put up six blocks, including an emphatic effort in the third period.

 

Friday's results

Philadelphia 76ers 127-101 Washington Wizards
Denver Nuggets 103-102 Memphis Grizzlies
New Orleans Pelicans 116-82 Cleveland Cavaliers
Miami Heat 101-90 Chicago Bulls
San Antonio Spurs 104-77 Orlando Magic
Los Angeles Lakers 105-100 Indiana Pacers
Utah Jazz 114-99 Houston Rockets

 

Pistons at Nets

The lowly Detroit Pistons (10-27) – bottom of the Eastern Conference – will visit the in-form Brooklyn Nets (25-13) on Saturday. Brooklyn have won three straight, while Detroit have dropped back-to-back games.

 

Kyrie Irving posted 40 points to lead the Brooklyn Nets past former team the Boston Celtics 121-109.

In the team's first game back since the NBA All-Star break, Irving – who left the Celtics in 2019 – starred as the Nets recorded their 12th win in 13 outings.

Former MVP James Harden had 22 points and 10 rebounds on Thursday, in the absence of star team-mate Kevin Durant (hamstring) and recruit Blake Griffin.

The Celtics were fuelled by Jayson Tatum's 31 points, but still had their four-game winning streak snapped.

Two-time reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo guided the Milwaukee Bucks to a comprehensive 134-101 victory over the New York Knicks.

Antetokounmpo – named All-Star Game MVP after starring for Team LeBron in Atlanta on Sunday – continued where he left off for the Bucks.

He had 24 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in 29 minutes for his fifth triple-double of the season.

Bucks team-mate Bryn Forbes (21 points) nailed the most threes without missing in Bucks history after going seven of seven from beyond the arc.

 

Young stars as Hawks soar

Trae Young put up 37 points as the Atlanta Hawks topped the Toronto Raptors 121-120. Atlanta trailed by 15-plus points in the fourth quarter in each of their last two games but came back to win both. According to Stats Perform, they are the only team in the past 15 years to overcome a 15-plus point fourth-quarter deficit to win back-to-back games. Norman Powell's 33 points and double-doubles from Kyle Lowry (17 points and 12 assists) and Aron Baynes (11 points and 15 rebounds) were not enough for the Raptors.

The Miami Heat defeated the Orlando Magic 111-103 behind Jimmy Butler's 27 points and 11 assists. All-Star Nikola Vucevic's double-double of 24 points and 17 rebounds was not enough for the Magic.

No Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons? No worries for the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers. Tobias Harris scored 24 points to lift the 76ers to a third consecutive win – a 127-105 success against the Chicago Bulls.

Devin Booker's 35 points inspired the Phoenix Suns to a 127-121 victory against the Portland Trail Blazers, who had 30 points from All-Star Damian Lillard.

All of the Sacramento Kings' starters were in double figures for points) as they took down the Houston Rockets 125-105 – De'Aaron Fox (30), Richaun Holmes (20 and 11 rebounds), Harrison Barnes (20 and 11 rebounds), Buddy Hield (20) and Marvin Bagley III (11).

 

Ball struggles

The Charlotte Hornets beat the Detroit Pistons 105-102, but it was a rough night for rookie LaMelo Ball. In 29 minutes, Ball made just three of 11 from the field and nailed only one of five three-point attempts for seven points.

After his All-Star appearance, Knicks forward Julius Randle finished three-of-12 shooting for seven points.

Stephen Curry won the All-Star Three-Point Contest, but he was far from convincing in the Golden State Warriors' 130-104 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. He made just one of eight three-pointers, finishing with 14 points on six-of-16 shooting.

 

Snell with the buzzer-beating three

With the Hawks trailing 120-118, Tony Snell called game after sinking a three as time expired.

 

Thursday's results

Brooklyn Nets 121-109 Boston Celtics
Atlanta Hawks 121-120 Toronto Raptors
Miami Heat 111-103 Orlando Magic
Philadelphia 76ers 127-105 Chicago Bulls
Milwaukee Bucks 134-101 New York Knicks
Minnesota Timberwolves 135-105 New Orleans Pelicans
Oklahoma City Thunder 116-108 Dallas Mavericks
Charlotte Hornets 105-102 Detroit Pistons
Los Angeles Clippers 130-104 Golden State Warriors
Phoenix Suns 127-121 Portland Trail Blazers
Sacramento Kings 125-105 Houston Rockets

 

Pacers at Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers (24-13) will return to action following the All-Star break, hosting the Indiana Pacers (16-19) on Friday. LeBron James' Lakers have lost back-to-back games.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

McConnell makes history

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

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

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

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

 

Lakers' poor form continues

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

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

 

Lillard sinks Warriors

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

 

Wednesday's results

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

 

Clippers at Wizards

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

James Harden said he was not trying to show off after his triple-double fuelled the high-flying Brooklyn Nets in the former NBA MVP's first game against the Houston Rockets since his blockbuster trade.

Harden showed no mercy on Wednesday, his 29 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds guiding the Nets to a 132-114 victory over the Rockets in Houston.

The former Rockets star received a mixed response from fans at Toyota Center midweek following the "drama" surrounding his January exit, having demanded a trade after more than eight seasons.

After condemning the struggling and injury-hit Rockets to a 13th consecutive defeat, Harden reflected on his return to Houston.

"I'm excited," Harden said. "We got a win. We've been playing very, very good basketball, and to finish out strong like this to in the All-Star break means a lot to us. Hopefully we can get guys healthy; KD [Kevin Durant], Jeff [Green], TLC [Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot], and after the break just keep rolling.

"As far as playing in Houston, a lot of mixed emotions from the fans, but knew that was gonna happen. I just wanted to come out here and give them a show."

Led by Harden, the Rockets reached two Western Conference Finals, while Houston earned three semi-final appearances after the nine-time All-Star was acquired from the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012.

The Rockets are planning to retire Harden's number 13 jersey in Houston.

"Hopefully I did something right," Harden said. "Obviously I came up short of a championship, but the work on and off the court that I put in over the past eight years was elite you know.

"I think that's the only thing I didn't do, or didn't accomplish is a championship, which is difficult to attain, but as far as bringing excitement to this city, taking care of the fans on and off the court is something that I try to contribute, so hopefully that outweighs that."

Harden has starred since joining Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn, where he has already tallied eight triple-doubles in a Nets uniform – second in franchise history behind Jason Kidd.

On Wednesday, Harden ensured the Nets closed out the first half of the NBA season with their 10th win in 11 games heading into the All-Star break.

The Nets, who have recorded seven straight road wins, are 24-13 ahead of Sunday's All-Star Game in Atlanta – only half a game behind the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference.

"So far, so good. Everything that I signed up for," added Harden. "Top to bottom, it's been great. Adversity has hit us as far as not missing any games, so we've been playing every other day schedule wise and then we're affected by injuries, guys in and out of the line-ups, crazy, weird things happening, but I think we've fought through adversity and we're in a really good position.

"Now we know each other a little bit better. Now it's time to get some rest, take care of your body and be ready to go. Second half is gonna be huge for us in the sense of how fast we can get off to a great start. Everybody goes through the same thing. There’' no excuses, and we're not here to make any."

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."

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.

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.

Sergio Scariolo made sure it was business as usual for the Toronto Raptors despite the absence of six coaches – and one key player – for the victory over the Houston Rockets.

Head coach Nick Nurse and five of his assistants were unable to be involved with the team for Friday's game due to health and safety protocols amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The Raptors also recently lost assistant Chris Finch – who has taken over as head coach at the Minnesota Timberwolves – from their staff, yet Scariolo smoothly stepped up to take on the lead role, despite receiving little notice about his unexpected promotion.

Nurse had a video call with his temporary replacement prior to the game, with Toronto going on to triumph 122-111 to move to 17-17 for the season.

"It was different, because everything happened so fast. We had to re-adjust tasks, timing, schedule, so we had to go a little bit on the fly," Scariolo explained to the media after the game.

"But the players did a great job, and the remaining coaches – the few guys left – were great. The guys who were not with us tonight did a great job also, in terms of the game preparation.

"Coach Nurse was always there – we had a Zoom call before the game. This is teamwork, basically. There is a guy who stays on the sidelines who makes so decisions, but within coach Nurse's philosophy this has always been about teamwork, about a group, so I felt pretty comfortable."

The Raptors - who are playing their home games this season in Florida due to travel restrictions in place during the global pandemic, were also without Pascal Siakam due to NBA protocols.

However, 30 points from Norm Powell and 25 and 20 respectively from backcourt duo Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry saw them overcome the Rockets.

It helped that Scariolo knows all about the responsibilities of taking charge, too. As well as working for the Raptors, the Italian is also the head coach of the Spanish national team, leading them to a silver medal at the London Olympics in 2012, followed four years later by bronze in Rio.

Having only just returned from international duty with Spain, the 59-year-old went through a period of quarantine before joining up again with the Raptors - a unique set of circumstances that allowed him to be available to cover for absent colleagues.

"I think this is a subject for a book, rather than an answer!" Scariolo told the media.

"I came back on Monday and was tested immediately after the trip from Poland, we had played there, played two games. Fortunately we won both, so it was worth the effort to go back and forth.

"I quarantined and got tested every day, then travelled to Miami by car by myself. I stayed totally separated from the coaches and the players. Then yesterday we had this situation coming out.

"I was working on preparing for this game as normal, then suddenly at night I got a few texts and realised things were going to change."

LeBron James helped the Los Angeles Lakers end their losing streak, while Jimmy Butler inspired the Miami Heat.

James' double-double of 28 points and 11 rebounds saw the Lakers snap their four-game losing run with a 102-93 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday.

Dennis Schroder contributed 22 points, while Montrezl Harrell (17 points) and Alex Caruso (10) finished with double-digits off the bench.

Butler was in fine form as the Heat overcame the Utah Jazz, who have the best record in the NBA, 124-116.

He went 12-of-22 from the field for his 33 points, while also contributing 10 rebounds and eight assists.

Miami (16-17) had five players in double-figures for points, including Goran Dragic (26).

Donovan Mitchell finished with 30 points for Utah (26-7).

 

Green guides Warriors, Lowry shines

Draymond Green posted a triple-double of 11 points, 19 assists and 12 rebounds in the Golden State Warriors' 130-121 win over the Charlotte Hornets. Green was the first Warriors player to reach 19 assists since Baron Davis in 2008.

For the Hornets, Malik Monk had 25 points in 25 minutes, including five three-pointers. He has at least 20 points and four three-pointers off the bench in three consecutive games. The only other Charlotte reserve to do that in three-plus straight is Dell Curry (March 1995), as per Stats Perform.

Kyle Lowry did likewise for the Toronto Raptors, his 20 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists seeing them past the Houston Rockets 122-111.

Kemba Walker poured in 32 points as the Boston Celtics overcame the Indiana Pacers 118-112.

The Los Angeles Clippers thrashed the Memphis Grizzlies 119-99, with Kawhi Leonard (30 points, nine rebounds and seven assists) starring.

 

Rockets crash to another loss

The Rockets slumped to their 10th consecutive defeat with the loss to the Raptors. Victor Oladipo (27 points) and John Wall (21) combined for 48 points, but they went 18-of-42 from the field in total.

 

Brilliant Butler

Butler was in incredible form to get Miami past Utah.

Friday's results

Boston Celtics 118-112 Indiana Pacers
Toronto Raptors 122-111 Houston Rockets
Sacramento Kings 110-107 Detroit Pistons
Miami Heat 124-116 Utah Jazz
Phoenix Suns 106-97 Chicago Bulls
Los Angeles Clippers 119-99 Memphis Grizzlies
Oklahoma City Thunder 118-109 Atlanta Hawks
Golden State Warriors 130-121 Charlotte Hornets
Los Angeles Lakers 102-93 Portland Trail Blazers

 

Mavericks at Nets

The Brooklyn Nets (22-12) have won eight straight and will take on Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks (15-16) on Saturday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gallinari writes Hawks and NBA history

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

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

Siakam ineffective for Raps

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

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

 

Dort beats the clock and comes up clutch 

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

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

Wednesday's results

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

 

Pelicans at Bucks

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

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