Milwaukee Bucks star and two-time reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo said he is not Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant after making history with a third consecutive triple-double.

Antetokounmpo led the Bucks to their fourth consecutive victory on Monday, Milwaukee topping the lowly Washington Wizards 133-122.

He had 31 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists in a dominant display on the road in Washington to become the first Bucks player with three successive triple-doubles.

Antetokounmpo also became the first reigning MVP with three consecutive 20-point triple-doubles since Hall of Famer Michael Jordan in 1988-89, per Stats Perform.

"I don't do that, I'm not Kobe," Antetokounmpo told reporters after being asked when he knew to take control of a game during the closing stages – the Bucks saw a 26-point lead cut to seven in the final minutes before Antetokounmpo scored the next four points to stop the rallying Wizards.

"I just try to be a basketball player. I don't look at the clock and say, 'Oh now we are up two or we're down two, let me take over the game.'

"No, I just make the right decision at the right moment. Sometimes it's going to be score, sometimes it's going to be pass."

Since 1983, only three players have had more games with 31 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists – Russell Westbrook (five), Larry Bird (five) and Luka Doncic (four).

Antetokounmpo (seven) also surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) with the most 30-point triple-doubles in franchise history.

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer added: "He's been in a good place mentally.

"The way he's playing and creating for others and creating for himself and getting to the free throw line, he's in a good place. He's playing great basketball."

James Harden revelled in his history-making triple-double as the star-studded Brooklyn Nets stayed hot in the NBA.

Harden posted a triple-double of 21 points, 15 assists and 15 rebounds to fuel the in-form Nets to their fifth consecutive victory – a 117-112 win over rivals the New York Knicks on Monday.

Former MVP Harden became the first Nets player in franchise history to have a 15-plus point, 15-plus assist and 15-plus assist game.

Nets superstar Harden is averaging 25.0 points, 11.1 assists and 8.1 rebounds per game this season.

After the Nets (27-13) recorded their 13th win in 14 games, Harden was asked about triple-doubles and he told reporters "Whatever it takes. Like rebounding, I try to go help it, especially when we're small.

"I know I have to go rebound the basketball a little bit more. I know I have to put my body on bigs a little bit more because I'm not athletic enough or big enough to be able to jump with them. I've got to use my body just being crafty around that rim as far as rebounding.

"And then playmaking, it's just getting my team-mates shots and getting our bigs easy opportunities at the rim. Offensively, I'm not being as efficient as I want to be, but that's come and that's the least of my worries, the least of my concerns.

"I'm just excited and happy to continue this journey with these guys. We're playing some pretty good basketball right now."

Nets team-mate Kyrie Irving had a game-high 34 points as Brooklyn won the Battle of the Boroughs against the Knicks.

"As a kid, obviously New Jersey versus New York, that was a big thing," Irving added. "Whether the Knicks were at Continental Airlines Arena, or New Jersey was at MSG, now that Brooklyn versus New York, kind of the whole entire area, a lot of people I see on Instagram and Twitter, media outlets, just New York, New York versus this whole big thing.

"But I think as players we feel it naturally. But obviously, being from here, it's a little bit of have a different sentiment, because I got to go home and actually be around Knicks and Nets fans. It's my family. So it's basketball, it's competition. It's a world sport. So it's just nothing but respect. But obviously you want to come out here and just have fun going against New York Knicks. They've been playing well season so well, Coach, team, and just appreciate the opportunity."

James Harden made history as the Brooklyn Nets earned bragging rights against rivals the New York Knicks following their 117-112 win in the NBA on Monday.

Harden posted a triple-double of 21 points, 15 assists and 15 rebounds to fuel the in-form Nets to their fifth consecutive victory.

The former MVP became the first Nets player in franchise history to have a 15-plus point, 15-plus assist and 15-plus assist game.

Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 34 points for the star-studded Nets, who won for the 13th time in 14 games.

A 33-point and 12-rebound double-double from All-Star Julius Randle was not enough for the Knicks in the Battle of the Boroughs.

Giannis Antetokounmpo recorded his third straight triple-double to lead the Milwaukee Bucks past the lowly Washington Wizards 133-122.

Two-time reigning MVP Antetokounmpo had 31 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists as the Bucks extended their winning streak to four games.

Antetokounmpo became the first reigning NBA MVP with three consecutive 20-point triple-doubles since Hall of Famer Michael Jordan in 1988-89, while he is the first Bucks player with three successive triple-doubles.

Big games from Bradley Beal (37 points) and Russell Westbrook (23 points and 17 assists) were not enough to inspire the Wizards.

 

LeBron lifts Lakers, Curry makes history

LeBron James produced another dominant display as defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers routed the Golden State Warriors 128-97. James put up his fourth triple-double of the season – 22 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.

Warriors star Stephen Curry finished with 27 points, three rebounds, two assists and three steals. With his second assist of the night, Curry (4,856) surpassed Guy Rodgers (4,855) as the franchise's all-time assists leader. He also nailed a three-pointer in his 100th consecutive game, the third three-point streak of at least 100 games in NBA history. Curry holds the record with a 157-game three-point run between 2014 and 2016.

MVP candidate Nikola Jokic put up 32 points and 14 rebounds in the Denver Nuggets' 121-106 win at home to the Indiana Pacers – his 35th double-double of the season.

Luka Doncic recorded a triple-double of 25 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds, but the Dallas Mavericks lost 109-99 to the Los Angeles Clippers. With his 34th career triple-double, Doncic moved ahead of Bob Cousy for 11th on the all-time list.

 

Morant and George lack efficiency

Both Ja Morant and Paul George tallied double-digit points for their respective teams, however, it was far from convincing. Morant was four-of-12 shooting for 15 points in 29 minutes as the Memphis Grizzlies went down 122-99 to the Phoenix Suns, while Clippers star George had 15 points on five-of-18 shooting.

 

Poetry in motion

James was at his brilliant best against the Warriors, highlighted by a driving run to the basket in the second quarter.

 

Monday's results

Charlotte Hornets 122-116 Sacramento Kings
Milwaukee Bucks 133-122 Washington Wizards
Brooklyn Nets 117-112 New York Knicks
San Antonio Spurs 109-99 Detroit Pistons
Los Angeles Clippers 109-99 Dallas Mavericks
Denver Nuggets 121-106 Indiana Pacers
Phoenix Suns 122-99 Memphis Grizzlies
Los Angeles Lakers 128-97 Golden State Warriors

 

Knicks at 76ers

The Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers (27-12) will put their five-game winning streak on the line when they host the Knicks (20-20) on Tuesday.

Nicolo Barella said he is inspired by Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James and former NBA MVP Allen Iverson as the Inter midfielder discussed his love of basketball.

Barella has established himself as one of the best midfielders in Serie A and Europe amid Inter's Scudetto charge this season.

The 24-year-old Inter and Italy star has scored three Serie A goals and supplied five assists for the Nerazzurri, who are nine points clear atop the table.

Barella revealed he wears the number 23 jersey because of four-time NBA champion James, while also highlighting his admiration for Philadelphia 76ers great Iverson.

"I played basketball for four years. There was a lot of competition in my family, but my cousins are better than me," Barella told Sky Sport Basketball Conversation.

"I discuss basketball with Romelu Lukaku, Achraf Hakimi and Lautaro Martinez. We follow NBA. When I join the national team, I talk about it with Davide Calabria, Mattia Perin and Giorgio Chiellini.

"Allen Iverson's jersey was one of the first ones I bought. Seeing someone like him dominating among the giants was an important source of inspiration for me. In addition to his technical skills, his attitude impressed me.

"I wear the number 23 shirt, because LeBron James also inspires me. I used to have the number 24 because it's the day when my daughter was born. I had a little argument with my wife for this change, but in the end, she understood.

"What impresses me about LeBron is the fact that he manages to change a team, bringing all his team-mates to the highest level.

"Cristiano Ronaldo is the LeBron James of football. He has talent, desire to work hard, and longevity and he brings his desire to win in every team.

"Winning the NBA is like winning the Champions League, it's more important than a Scudetto, even if I hope I can win one sooner or later."

The NBA's top-ranked defense will be aiming to slow down the leading offense when the New York Knicks make the short trip to play the Brooklyn Nets. 

The in-form Nets have won 12 of their previous 13 games to rise up the Eastern Conference, the impressive run of form leaving them just a game back of the Philadelphia 76ers, who lead the way in the standings. 

But while they were always expected to be near the summit, particularly following the arrival of James Harden from the Houston Rockets, the Knicks have been one of the surprise packages so far. 

A first playoff appearance since 2013 is a distinct possibility, with coach Tom Thibodeau building solid foundations for a franchise that has chopped and changed in the hope of finding success.

TOP PERFORMERS

New York Knicks - Julius Randle

Randle has excelled since moving to the Big Apple, leading to a first All-Star appearance this year. The seventh overall pick by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2014 averages 22.9 points and 11 rebounds through 39 games, as well as 5.7 assists.  

His 375 defensive rebounds puts him inside the top three in the league, while he has also contributed 31 steals as the Knicks have tightened up under Thibodeau.  

Having registered a season-low seven points as the Knicks returned from the All-Star break with a lopsided loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, Randle bounced back with 26 in a resounding triumph over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday.

Brooklyn Nets - James Harden

Since joining the Nets, Harden has recorded nine triple-doubles, the latest of them coming in a 100-95 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Saturday that saw him score his team's final 10 points of the contest.  

While he was the focal point for Houston, the two-time MVP no longer has to carry the offensive burden in the same way for star-studded Brooklyn. He is shooting at a career-high 48.9 per cent from the field though, while his improved success from deep (39.7 per cent) has been noticeable.  

Harden has also demonstrated his ability as a passer too, his tally of 363 assists comfortably the most by any player, averaging out at a whopping 11 a game.

KEY BATTLE - A CASE FOR THE DEFENSE

The continued absence of Kevin Durant has not prevented the Nets from putting up points. They average 120.6 a game, while their combined field goal percentage of 49.9 is also the best by any team in the NBA.  

However, the Knicks have given up a league-low 105 points per outing. Randle and his fellow big men will look to dominate when it comes to rebounding, while the visitors will hope to get better at capitalising on turnovers – their average of 14 points when gaining possession in such circumstances ranks them 29th out of 30 teams.  

"It starts with our effort, our defense, those are the most important things," Immanuel Quickley, who has impressed in his rookie season, averaging 12.5 points, said ahead of the game. 

"We try to have that defensive mindset coming into games, then let everything take care of itself. The little things – defense, rebounding, energy, effort – give you a chance to win every night." 

HEAD TO HEAD 

These neighbours have met in 200 regular-season games, the Knicks narrowly leading 101-99 overall. 

Last season's four-game series was split 2-2, while the Nets prevailed 116-10 in January of this year, Durant – who has missed Brooklyn's last 11 games due to a heal issue – leading the way with 26 points in the absence of Kyrie Irving and with the Harden trade yet to be completed.  

Stephen Curry has "revolutionised basketball" as the point guard continues to show he is back to his best for the Golden State Warriors this season.  

Curry saw his 2019-20 campaign ruined by a hand injury, restricting him to just five games. Already without Kevin Durant, who had left to join the Brooklyn Nets, and Klay Thompson, the Warriors unsurprisingly went from NBA finalists to bottom of the pile in the Western Conference.  

However, the return of their talismanic point guard has helped improve fortunes for a franchise that has become accustomed to challenging for the title.  

Still without fellow 'Splash Brother' Thompson, who is sidelined again for another season, Curry has stepped up to carry the load.  

He is averaging 29.3 points while playing 34 minutes per game. His tally of 176 made three-pointers is comfortably the most in the league, and he is shooting an impressive 41.1 per cent from deep, even while having a target on his back as opposing teams focus on shutting him down.  

What makes it so hard to keep a lid on Curry, though, is his ability to get a bucket from anywhere, including from off the court during pre-game warm-ups.

Anderson Varejao believes his former Golden State team-mate has changed the game by extending the range for shooters, starting a trend that others have since followed in the league. 

"Steph Curry is a guy who trains so much," Varejao, who played for the Cleveland Cavaliers for over a decade before joining the Warriors, told Stats Perform News. 

"All that stuff he does, shooting the ball from mid-court, he revolutionised basketball.   

"In the past, if a player, in a counter-attack, stopped and shot, the coach would look at him, if not take him out.

"Many times, players left the game even after hitting the ball in the basket, like, 'hey, what are you doing? Are you crazy? We don't play like that'.   

"But nowadays he is a guy that shoots all the time, and you have to understand it, as a coach. He shoots three, four, five steps before the three-point line."

Curry turned 33 on Sunday and is fast approaching 750 regular-season games for the Warriors, a team who hit the jackpot when selecting the Davidson standout with the seventh overall pick in the 2009 draft.  

However, having had an enforced year off, there is little sign of him slowing down. Indeed, his numbers this season have seen him included in the MVP conversation, an award he won in 2015 and 2016.  

He celebrated his birthday with six three-pointers in the Warriors' impressive win over the Utah Jazz, finishing with 32 points and nine assists to help the team bounce back from a disappointing defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers following the All-Star break.  

"It's like that ageing wine, right? Keep it in the cellar and watch it get stronger and better. I'm just enjoying the ride," he told NBC Sports after silencing the Jazz, the last team to reach double digits for losses this season.  

Curry's play has the Warriors hovering around .500 and in the playoff picture. There is still a long way to go yet this season, but the face of the franchise is certainly all the way back after a lost year in his hall-of-fame career.

Drew Brees is a "legend" who will be sorely missed after announcing his retirement, fellow New Orleans favourite Zion Williamson said. 

Brees called time on his glittering 20-year NFL career on Sunday, with glowing tributes pouring in for the quarterback. 

And Pelicans star Williamson, fresh from a 135-115 win over the Los Angeles Clippers, praised someone whose welcoming words have stuck with him. 

Williamson was the top pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and received a special message from Brees, who has had a lasting impact on the 20-year-old.

"He's a legend in the game, I think everybody knows that he's a legend," said Williamson, who is 22 years Brees' junior. 

"He gave his heart and soul to the game. I know a lot of people are sad to see him go. 

"Drew told me I think the truest thing anybody has ever told me, my first game in New Orleans – you love your city, they'll love you right back. 

"Whenever new people come and visit, that's the same thing I tell them. That's the kind of influence he's had on me." 

Brees is a 13-time Pro Bowler and was MVP in the Saints' Super Bowl win over the Indianapolis Colts in February 2010. 

The 42-year-old retires as the all-time leader in passing completions (7,142) and passing yards (80,358).

Kawhi Leonard revealed his concern over the Los Angeles Clippers' lack of consistency after a 135-115 defeat to the New Orleans Pelicans. 

The Pelicans put on a fine showing, led by 27 points from Zion Williamson and 23 from Brandon Ingram in New Orleans as the Clippers were soundly beaten. 

Leonard had 23 points for the visitors, but it was a seventh defeat in 11 for  Tyronn Lue's men, who were 21-8 before that. 

"It's very concerning," said Leonard. "[If] we want to have a chance at anything, you've got to be consistent. 

"You know, that's what the great teams do, they're consistent. They have their nights when the energy's not there, but it's all about consistency, from teams to players to coaches. 

"That's what makes a team great, players great, coaches great; a consistency of being, wanting to win, and doing pretty much the same habits of winning."

Clippers coach Lue was frustrated by his team's failure to match the fight shown by the Pelicans and conceded they would have to be much better to stand a chance against Luka Doncic's Dallas Mavericks on Monday, having suffered a 124-73 thrashing against them earlier this season.

"Teams are going at us, and we got to put up more resistance," Lue said.

"I am not discouraged, because we have shown what we can do, and we can play at a high level. But we got to do it every single night. We can't keep talking about it.

"We got to f****** ... sorry, we got to do it.

"If we play like this again tomorrow, it can be another 50-point loss. We got to be ready, got to be prepared, and we got to have our stuff together, man."

The Philadelphia 76ers cruised in their first game without injured superstar Joel Embiid as Tobias Harris highlighted the team's collective effort.

NBA MVP candidate Embiid will spend at least two weeks on the sidelines due to a left knee bone bruise.

The 76ers were sweating on Embiid's fitness after he appeared to hyperextend his knee in a scary fall following a dunk in the third quarter of Friday's 127-101 rout of the Washington Wizards.

But Embiid escaped major damage and the Eastern Conference-leading 76ers crushed the San Antonio Spurs 134-99 in his absence on Sunday.

"We need everybody," Harris – who led the 76ers with 23 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and two steals – said post-game. "Everybody has to stay ready and be ready to step up night after night.

"With Joel being out for some time, it's on us to find different things and make our chemistry even stronger until he comes back.

"We know how important he is and the impact he brings to the game night in, night out with the level he has been playing at. We want to be able to maintain that type of intensity.

"It's a culture and attitude we've been building day after day, a winning-type attitude; next guy up mentality. It's been huge for us all year long, especially tonight and the games without guys."

Goodnight, Sixers Twitter. pic.twitter.com/hWgKZKm6UX

— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) March 15, 2021

Embiid, who posted 23 points before exiting against Washington, is averaging a career-high 29.9 points per game – second only to Wizards star Bradley Beal (32.1) in the NBA.

Philadelphia's Embiid is fourth in the league points, assists and rebounds per game (44.6), behind Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic (46.8), reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (46.7) of the Milwaukee Bucks and Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (45.8).

The 26-year-old Embiid has also been averaging career highs in field-goal percentage (52.5) and three-point percentage (42.2).

"I was happy with the news," said 76ers head coach Doc Rivers. "It looked bad, but, obviously, we never know and that's what I was saying that night. We had to wait and see and it turned out in our favour, in a lot of ways."

Rivers added: "He's great. I don't think anybody's in great spirits, but he was happy that it wasn't as bad as a lot of people thought it was probably, including himself in that so he was in a pretty good place.

"Now that he knows all it takes is rehab, he has a game plan, we have a game plan, and we're moving forward with it."

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).

Golden State Warriors star Klay Thompson said 2020 was "the worst year of my life" as he looks to return to the NBA next season following an Achilles injury.

Thompson suffered an Achilles injury ahead of the 2020-21 season, having torn his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the 2019 NBA Finals, which forced the five-time All-Star sit out the entire 2019-20 campaign.

Reflecting on a tumultuous period as he continues to recover, three-time NBA champion Thompson told reporters on Sunday: "It was probably the worst year of my life, guys.

"It feels good to be back here. I feel love when I'm back in the Warriors facility. My roots are here. [The pandemic] was not easy on anybody. Everyone had their own little trials and tribulations in 2020, but that was it for me -- was losing my grandma Mary, tearing my Achilles, I still think about Kobe every single day.

"There's not a day I don't think about him. And not being able to have that last convo with him ... it was a tough year, guys. Not only for me but I'm sure for all of you. I'm looking forward to the future, that's for sure."

Asked about being ready for the start of the 2021-22 season, Thompson replied: "Absolutely. It could be a few weeks after, maybe a month after, but it's definitely going to be geared toward the very beginning of the season."

On the mental challenges following two consecutive season-ending injuries, Thompson added: "It's way harder than any basketball game I've ever had to play. Way harder than any conditioning drill or practice.

"The mental toll is not very fun. You always guess if you're going to be the same player you once were, so you have those natural thoughts, but you can't let those overtake you and you got to realise that this is not unique just to me.

"So many athletes have been through this. Although I was used to playing 100 games a year for the first eight years of my career, this is just a new set of challenges, and with my style of play I feel like could be effective 'til my late 30s, so I'm not going to feel sorry for myself right now.

"I'm just going to keep buckling down and keep doing what I love to do."

Since being drafted by the Warriors with the 11th pick in 2011, the 31-year-old Thompson is averaging 19.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game in his career.

Caris LeVert was "just happy to be on court again" after finally getting the chance to make his debut for the Indiana Pacers.

LeVert joined the franchise via a trade in January, a move that dramatically changed his life before he even made an appearance for the Pacers.

A small, cancerous mass was discovered on his left kidney during a team physical and medical test prior to the deal going through, with the 26-year-old undergoing surgery to have it removed.

Having now fully recovered, he was able to return to action on Saturday, contributing 13 points and seven rebounds as Indiana defeated the Phoenix Suns 122-111, just their second win in eight outings.

While admitting to having "heavy legs", LeVert was just grateful to be back, particularly as he had no idea after his operation when exactly he would be cleared to return.

"The main thing for me was trying to contribute to a win," LeVert, who played 27 minutes, told the media.

"This was maybe my second time going five-on-five since everything happened - there was a little bit of heavy legs due to my conditioning, but that will come back. I'm just glad we got the win."

He added: "I think a month and a half ago, two months ago, I didn't even know if I was going to be out here, especially this soon with everything that happened.

"There is definitely a level of gratefulness - I'm just happy to be on the court again."

Asked if his presence made a difference for the Pacers, he replied: "I just tried to come out and give great energy, contribute in any way that I could."

LeVert was averaging 18.5 points per game for the Nets before being involved in a blockbuster four-team trade that was headlined by James Harden ending up with Brooklyn.

Indiana actually drafted the shooting guard 20th overall in 2016, though they traded his rights to the Nets before he had played a game.

Pacers coach Nate Bjorkgren is glad to have LeVert on his roster now, praising his attitude as he waited to make a comeback.

"He energised our team, and his character level is so high," Bjorkgren said.

"He's such a good person. He's been a great team-mate throughout this entire time that he's been out, so our guys were very happy to have him back out there on the court."

Carmelo Anthony insisted he never lost confidence in his own abilities during his time out of the NBA after moving up into 11th place on the all-time scoring list.

Anthony landed a pull-up jumper in the fourth quarter of the Portland Trail Blazers' victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday, the bucket carrying him past Hakeem Olajuwon to sit just outside the top 10 for points.

The 36-year-old finished with a team-high 26 points in a 125-121 triumph that sees Portland improve to 22-15 in the Western Conference. He is averaging 14.1 points for the season, his second with the franchise.

The third overall pick in 2003 appeared at one stage to be out of the league, playing just 10 games in the 2018-19 season. After failing to find a role with the Houston Rockets, he was subsequently waived by the Chicago Bulls following a trade.

While some may have believed his NBA time was up when he did not feature for just over a year, Anthony always retained the belief he could still have an impact at the highest level.

"I did give the people what they wanted, I was away from the game for a year and change, they wanted me to get out of the game and retire," Anthony told the media.

"You hear all that stuff, man. I've never lost confidence in myself. I've given this game too much to lose any kind of confidence out there.

"I believe in myself, if nobody else believes in me. That's the key - believing in yourself.

"I believe in my abilities, my skill level, my talent, my knowledge for the game of basketball, but also my love for the game of basketball. When you have all of that in one, nobody can take that joy away from you."

Anthony now has 26,955 points in a career that started with the Denver Nuggets. He joined the New York Knicks via a trade in 2011 and is seventh all-time in points scored for the franchise.

As for the all-time list, Elvin Hayes (27,313) occupies 10th position ahead of Anthony, while Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) sits top.

Asked about passing Hall of Fame center Olajuwon, Anthony replied: "I can't put it into words, it's a great feeling to know that I'm still able to do this and continue to have opportunities to move up on that list.

"Any time you can start creeping up on a top-10 list, that's when things start getting special. I'm here, I'm happy and I'm excited."

Giannis Antetokounmpo said the Milwaukee Bucks were "beautiful to watch" as they fought back to beat the Washington Wizards, finally winning from 10-plus points behind. 

The Bucks trailed 60-48 at one point, but Antetokounmpo finished with a stunning 33 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in a 125-119 victory. It was his sixth triple-double of the season. 

He found sturdy support from guards Jrue Holiday (18 points and eight rebounds) and Donte DiVincenzo (10 points and 13 rebounds), while Russell Westbrook scored 42 points and had 12 assists and 10 rebounds in a losing cause for the Wizards. 

It was the first time this season the Bucks have come back to win from a double-digit deficit. They were 0-13 on that front before Saturday night. 

"It's good. We're getting better, figuring out ways to play, make the right play, just compete out there," said Antetokounmpo. 

"As much as it doesn't show today - they still got 119 points - I like the way we defended. And we're going to get a lot better at that. 

"Today we were able to keep our composure, stay together and execute and get back to the game, and when we came out in the third quarter we were ready to play and it was beautiful to watch, just how ready we were. 

"When we were down, we responded, that was the beautiful part. We can always get better, defensively we can get better, offensively we can execute better, and that's what we're trying to do."

Westbrook tied the game with a three-pointer with 41 seconds to go but then missed a shot in the closing stages, allowing the Bucks to pull clear. 

"Some day that guy's going to have 40, 50, 35 points, but at the end of the day there's going to be some close games," Antetokounmpo said. 

"So it doesn't matter, the stats sheet, it doesn't matter what a guy has done before that, for that last minute can you execute now, can you find the open guy, can you make the tough shots, can you get a stop? We were able to do that today and I'm very happy. 

"Hopefully we can carry this over to the next game and keep getting better than that."

James Harden produced another triple-double as the in-form Brooklyn Nets won 100-95 over the Detroit Pistons on Saturday.

The Nets moved to 12-1 from their past 13 games, improving their overall record to 26-13 with their fourth consecutive victory.

Harden led the way with 24 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, although he was 0-for-six from three-point range, inviting Detroit into the game.

Kyrie Irving (18 points) also struggled to find his radar, but Landry Shamet lifted from range, with 15 points including a trio of three-pointers.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Russell Westbrook starred but the Greek forward's Milwaukee Bucks came out on top in a 125-119 win over the Washington Wizards.

Antetokounmpo finished with a sensational 33 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in a thrilling win, receiving good support from guard Jrue Holiday (18 points and eight rebounds) and center Donte DiVincenzo (10 points and 13 rebounds).

Westbrook scored 42 points for the Wizards along with 12 assists and 10 rebounds, while Rui Hachimura had 29 points and 11 boards.

In a tight match where only one point split the sides at half-time, Westbrook tied the game with a three-pointer with 41 seconds to go.

But Westbrook missed a chance to draw level again with 25 seconds to go at 121-119, allowing the Bucks to run away with it.

LaMelo shines, Charlotte's franchise record

LaMelo Ball impressed again with 23 points, six assists and nine rebounds in the Charlotte Hornets' 114-104 win over the Toronto Raptors.

The 2020 third pick helped Charlotte find their range as they shot a franchise record 11 three-pointers in the opening quarter, with Ball finishing the game with six of his own.

Kristaps Porzingis (25 points and six rebounds) and Luka Doncic (21 points and 12 assists) guided the Dallas Mavericks to a 116-103 victory over the Denver Nuggets.

Malcolm Brogdon scored 25 points and Domantas Sabonis had a triple-double as the Indiana Pacers enjoyed a 122-111 win against the Phoenix Suns.

Trae Young had 28 points as the Atlanta Hawks collected their fourth straight win, beating the Sacramento Kings 121-106.

 

Triple-doubles galore

There were five triple-double in one day, which is a new NBA record, produced by Harden, Antetokounmpo, Westbrook, Sabonis and New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (26 points, 12 assists and 12 rebounds against the Oklahoma City Thunder).

Hornet stung

Hornets guard Terry Rozier was forced out of his side's win over Toronto with a "left leg contusion" which will be a worry moving forward. He initially tried to play through it but eventually limped out of the game with 17 points to his name.

 

Saturday's results

New York Knicks 119-97 Oklahoma City Thunder
Charlotte Hornets 114-104 Toronto Raptors
Brooklyn Nets 100-95 Detroit Pistons
Milwaukee Bucks 125-119 Washington Wizards
Atlanta Hawks 121-106 Sacramento Kings
Portland Trail Blazers 125-121 Minnesota Timberwolves
Dallas Mavericks 116-103 Denver Nuggets
Indiana Pacers 122-111 Phoenix Suns

 

Pistons at Nets

Another bumper Sunday with nine games to come, including the Philadelphia 76ers taking on the San Antonio Spurs with Joel Embiid out, while the Utah Jazz face the out-of-sorts Golden State Warriors.

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