LeBron James believes he should have more than four MVP awards as the Los Angeles Lakers superstar staked his claim for another NBA honour on Thursday.

James posted 37 points to lead defending champions the Lakers past the Charlotte Hornets 116-105 in Los Angeles.

The 36-year-old has been averaging 25.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and 8.0 assists per game for the Lakers, who have won four straight games since the All-Star break.

James was crowned the NBA's best player in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013 and as the four-time league champion contends for this year's honour, he feels worthy of more.

"I should have more than four... But I don't, and I don't sit around crying about it," James told reporters post-game.

Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six), Michael Jordan and Bill Russell (both five) have won more MVP awards than James.

Since James last claimed the honour in 2013, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry (twice), Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo (twice) have been named the league's best.

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel strongly endorsed James as the 2020-21 MVP, adding: "He's the MVP of the league so far, in my opinion.

"He's the best player to ever play the game, in my opinion.

"It's a mistake on the voters' part to go season after season without voting the best player in the league."

In the absence of injured star Anthony Davis, the Lakers have returned to form following the All-Star Game.

The second-placed Lakers (28-13) are only one and a half games behind the NBA-leading Utah Jazz (29-11) in the Western Conference.

"We haven't really talked about it," James said of the conference race. "If it gets to a point where we can capture it, why not? But we haven't talked about seeding all year.

"We've gotten better since the break, but the most important things for our ballclub is playing championship basketball every night and being healthy."

Washington Wizards star Russell Westbrook made history in a shock 131-122 win over the NBA-leading Utah Jazz.

Westbrook posted 35 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists for his 13th triple-double of the season to guide the struggling Wizards past the high-flying Jazz on Thursday.

Former MVP Westbrook became the first player in franchise history to record at least 35 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists in a game as the Wizards snapped a five-game losing streak.

Wizards team-mate Bradley Beal had a game-high 43 points at home to the Jazz, who were led by Donovan Mitchell's season-high 42 points.

Joe Ingles added 34 points for the Jazz, who still have the league's best record at 29-11 despite the loss.

LeBron James flexed his muscles with 37 points as defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Charlotte Hornets 116-105.

James also had eight rebounds and six assists to help the Lakers to their fourth straight win since the All-Star break – Dennis Schroder chipped in with 22 points of his own.

Rookie of the Year contender LaMelo Ball recorded a team-high 26 points, seven assists and five rebounds for the Hornets in his first meeting against James in Los Angeles.

 

Edwards sets franchise record, Randle stays hot

It was an unforgettable outing for Anthony Edwards, who posted a career-high 42 points in the Minnesota Timberwolves' 123-119 win at the Phoenix Suns. It set the record for most points by a rookie in franchise history, eclipsing Zach LaVine's 37 in 2015. Timberwolves team-mate Karl-Anthony Towns also had 41 points and 10 rebounds in a monster performance. Devin Booker put up 35 points for the Suns, but it was not enough.

Julius Randle had 18 points, 17 assists and 10 rebounds to lead the New York Knicks past the Orlando Magic 94-93. His third triple-double of the season saw the All-Star become the first Knicks player with three-plus triple-doubles in a season since Michael Ray Richardson (seven) in 1981-82.

Damian Lillard followed up his season-high 50 points with 36 in the Portland Trail Blazers' 101-93 victory against the New Orleans Pelicans. Fellow All-Star Zion Williamson recorded a double-double of 26 points and 10 rebounds for the Pelicans.

The Atlanta Hawks soared to their seventh straight win thanks to a 116-93 success against the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder.

 

Thunder struggle from the floor

The Thunder went down to the Hawks behind a poor shooting display. Oklahoma City were at just 36.2 per cent from the field, compared to Atlanta's 54.0 per cent. Aleksej Pokusevski finished two-for-11 from the floor, while missing all three of his attempts from beyond the arc for four points. Veteran Al Horford (11 points) was three of 13.

C.J. McCollum struggled in Portland's win. He was just three-of-16 shooting for 11 points in 21 minutes. He also made three of six three-pointers at home to the Pelicans.

 

LeBron says no!

James was at his brilliant best at both ends of the floor, denying the Hornets with a block late in the fourth quarter.

 

Thursday's results

Washington Wizards 131-122 Utah Jazz
Atlanta Hawks 116-93 Oklahoma City Thunder
New York Knicks 94-93 Orlando Magic
Minnesota Timberwolves 123-119 Phoenix Suns
Portland Trail Blazers 101-93 New Orleans Pelicans
Los Angeles Lakers 116-105 Charlotte Hornets

 

Nets at Magic

The red-hot Brooklyn Nets (28-13) will put their six-game winning streak on the line when they visit the struggling Magic (13-27) on Friday.

When the Brooklyn Nets signed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the 2019 offseason, it was apparent that the team were destined to eventually become a juggernaut.

With two stars and the talent behind them to either keep a deep bench or trade for a third star, the Nets were always in position to become a contender, even with Durant sitting out last season to rehabilitate his ruptured Achilles.

Because of Brooklyn's pedigree, Steve Nash – the former two-time MVP turned first-year head coach – will not be considered for Coach of the Year.

But Brooklyn's road to title contention has been a bumpy one, and Nash has helped guide the Nets to the top of the Eastern Conference – alongside the Philadelphia 76ers – despite challenging circumstances.

The Nets have won six games in a row to climb to 28-13, tied with the 76ers for the best record in the East, but it can be easy to forget the obstacles Brooklyn have faced in the first half of the season. 

One look at the Nets' first game of the season, a 125-99 win over the Golden State Warriors, serves as a reminder of this team's dramatic metamorphosis.

Spencer Dinwiddie started in the backcourt alongside Irving to open the season but played just three games before suffering a ligament tear in his right knee, ending his season.

Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Landry Shamet and Taurean Prince combined to play over 80 minutes in the season opener and only now remains in Brooklyn after the James Harden trade – Shamet.

Since the Nets traded away much of their depth, Nash has tinkered with line-ups and found gems further down the bench to supplement the team's star-power.

Bruce Brown, who was acquired in November for virtually nothing, has morphed into a versatile role-player who is very efficient from the floor.

Brown played a total of 13 minutes in the Nets' first seven games this season but has become a key member of the team's rotation, starting in 23 games and guarding much taller players in Brooklyn's smaller line-ups. Brown is shooting 55.5 per cent from the floor this campaign and averaged 18.0 points during a six-game stretch before the All-Star break. Brooklyn are 11-2 when Brown scores in double figures this season and 7-0 when he scores at least 15.

Tyler Johnson was also an afterthought to start the season, appearing in just seven of Brooklyn's first 24 games. Since then, Johnson has played just under 20 minutes per game while developing into a reliable floor-spacer, shooting 42.4 percent from beyond the three-point arc this term and going five for eight from deep in his only start.

Journeyman Jeff Green is scoring 11.9 points per game since the Harden trade – compared to 6.1 before the deal – and has even started at center when DeAndre Jordan has been forced to miss games.

While Nash has been blessed with three star players on his roster, even the trio of Durant, Irving and Harden has faced hardships.

Irving took an indefinite leave of absence for personal reasons in early January without communicating with the team first. While he only missed seven games, the mystery of Irving's absence left the Nets in a state of uncertainty and left Nash to answer for his star guard amid a barrage of media questions.

Nash showed the savvy of a veteran head coach and the sensitivity required in the new-age NBA by not vilifying Irving. A more authoritarian coach could have used the media to force Irving back, a move that may have jeopardised a relationship with a star player and eroded the trust of the entire team.

Irving returned with back-to-back 30-point games and is averaging career highs with 27.6 points per game, 52.0-percent shooting from the field and 41.5-percent shooting from beyond the arc.

Then there is Durant, who has reminded the world that he may have been the best player in the NBA before rupturing his Achilles in the 2019 NBA Finals, but the former MVP has missed more games than he has played this season.

After two stints in league COVID-19 protocols, Durant has been sidelined for over a month with a hamstring strain and is expected to be out another week or two after having a routine MRI to track progress.

In all, the Nets have had 21 different starting line-ups this season, second only to the Houston Rockets' 26. That number is likely to increase soon, once Blake Griffin is ready to make his Brooklyn debut.

Only sharpshooter Joe Harris has played in every game for the Nets in 2020-21.

While Harden has been reliably excellent since moving to Brooklyn, Irving has missed 12 games and Durant has been absent for 22. The trio have been on the floor for just 186 minutes so far, less than 10 percent of Brooklyn's season.

Those minutes, however, have been transcendent, bucking a recent trend of power trios going through growing pains before hitting their stride.

With Durant, Irving and Harden on the floor at the same time, the Nets are averaging 120.6 points per 100 possessions. And while some pundits envisioned this offensive-minded trio taking turns in isolation plays, 64.8 percent of the Nets' field goals have been assisted when they all play together, more than when one or more of the stars is relegated to the sideline.

It is hard to deny Nash credit for the quick chemistry between Durant, Irving and Harden, and his ability to fill gaps with role players has kept Brooklyn playing well even when the stars are sitting.

The Nets' star-power makes Nash virtually ineligible to win Coach of the Year, an award that typically goes to an over-performing team that are good but not great. While Durant, Irving and Harden will receive accolades for the Nets' season, a lesser coach certainly could have derailed this runaway train given the numerous challenges.

Yes, the Nets have elite talent. But Nash has done plenty to maximise that talent while largely flying under the radar.

Stephen Curry is not expected to miss an extended period of time as a result of the "scary" back injury sustained in the Golden State Warriors' win over the Houston Rockets, Steve Kerr has said.

The Warriors ran out 108-94 victors at Toyota Center on Wednesday despite losing their talisman to a freak injury on the final play of the third quarter.

After missing with an off-balance three-point attempt, Curry could not stem his momentum, collided with the risers at courtside and was unable to break his fall.

Curry, who suffered a tailbone contusion as a result of the incident, initially tried to get back up but went to the locker room for treatment and was ruled out for the rest of the game.

Head coach Kerr said he was unable to give an immediate timeframe for Curry's return, though he is confident it will not be a long absence.

"He says he's going to be fine long term," Kerr said. "It's going to bother him, though, for definitely the next few days. 

"I've no idea if he'll play in Memphis [on Friday], but he seems to be feeling like he'll be okay over the next week or so, but we'll see.

"And please don't take that to mean that I'm saying he's going to be out for a week. He could be practicing [Thursday] for all I know, but we'll give you an update as soon as we have one."

Kerr, who said Curry does not need an X-ray or additional tests, added: "I didn't see it at first, and then after the buzzer sounded, I saw everybody getting up to look at what was happening. 

"So, it was scary. He told me after that he started backpedalling and normally he would have basically fallen back into the fans sitting courtside, but there's nobody there, obviously. 

"So, he said he sort of took that step expecting to stop and he just kept going and fell right on his tailbone, on that piece of metal on the sidelines that holds the stands in place."

The Warriors are 21-20 as a result of the victory, which provided a riposte to the 128-97 blowout they suffered against the Los Angeles Lakers last time out.

Draymond Green says he and the rest of the roster have to step up if they are to be without Curry.

"Hopefully it's not too long but at the end of the day, the most important thing is his health," Green said. 

"When you're dealing with a tailbone injury, if that's not right, other things tend to shut down and you start to use other muscles that you shouldn't be using. 

"Next man up, but other guys got to continue to step up, including myself."

"Is there something wrong with having fun?". That was Giannis Antetokounmpo's response after Dwight Howard and the Philadelphia 76ers took exception to his celebration in the Milwaukee Bucks' overtime win.

Antetokounmpo fuelled the Bucks to a hard-fought 109-05 victory against the Eastern Conference-leading 76ers behind a game-high 32 points, 15 rebounds and five assists in NBA action on Wednesday.

The Bucks had trailed by 19 points in the second half before two-time reigning MVP Antetokounmpo led the rally, capped by his 10 points in overtime.

After starring in OT, Antetokounmpo celebrated a turnaround jumper by sitting down on the court at Wells Fargo Center and smiling into the camera – drawing boos from the 76ers fans in attendance.

76ers big man Howard, whose team's six-game winning streak was snapped, said post-game: "I wanted to go and Stone Cold Stunner [a popular wrestling move in the WWE] him, but I had already got one tech.

"It's basketball. He wanted to have fun, but we'll see these guys again. Today we allowed them to get back into the game. We did it. We can't control that.

"But he had a hell of a game. Hit some tough shots late at the end of the game, reigning MVP, and he had a great game. I'm not one to talk trash or say anything negative, but we'll see them again and it'll be a different result."

In response to Howard's comments, Antetokounmpo told reporters: "I don't think there's anything wrong with having fun. I just like to have fun. In the first half, I was not having fun.

"I kind of talked to myself at the half and said, 'No matter how bad the game is, you can't forget what you have to do, which is have fun'.

"Obviously, there's a couple times where I exaggerate, but I don't want to take anything back. I wasn't thinking, 'Oh, I'm going to sit down.' I was having fun. I was talking to my team-mates -- I was talking to them. I was just trying to be in the moment. But I was just having fun."

The Bucks were held to their lowest-scoring first half of the season by the 76ers, before fighting back to take down the hosts on the road.

Milwaukee are within one and a half games of the 76ers in the Eastern Conference amid a five-game winning streak.

"When the game starts, you try to get into your rhythm, but you're not stepping the right way. ... It's just hard to get into a rhythm," said Antetokounmpo, who scored 28 points in the second half and overtime. "And the way I try to get into a rhythm is to get everybody involved.

"I try to move the ball a little bit, move my legs, move my body a little bit. But going into the second half, I wanted to be a little more aggressive, but I knew I could not come right out of the gate and be aggressive. I had to slowly build up to it.

"But going down the stretch, I was just trying to be aggressive. ... My teammates need me to keep making the right play, and they need me to stay aggressive, so that's what I tried to do."

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash hailed James Harden following his "remarkable performance" against the Indiana Pacers, the NBA superstar recording a monster triple-double.

Harden led the way with 40 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds as the red-hot Nets defeated the Pacers 124-115 in Indianapolis on Wednesday.

Former MVP Harden, who was 13 of 27 from the field en route this 11th triple-double of the season, put up 14 points, six rebounds and four assists in the final quarter to guide the Nets to their 14th win in 15 games.

Harden joined Vince Carter as the only players in Nets history with a 40-point triple-double.

"It's a remarkable performance," Nash said post-game midweek.

"He made some huge plays down the stretch. ... All the other guys played their part, but James was the main guy, as we've come to expect."

The Nets were outscored 40-25 in the opening quarter but fought back to take down their Eastern Conference rivals on the road.

Brooklyn – who played without Kyrie Irving (groin) and Kevin Durant (hamstring) – now share a 28-13 record with the Philadelphia 76ers atop the east.

"Our effort was great as a team, especially after that 15, 20 deficit," said Harden, who became the first Nets player in franchise history to have a 15-plus point, 15-plus assist and 15-plus assist game in Monday's victory against the New York Knicks.

"When we started to come back in the second quarter, and even in the second half we were great defensively.

"You know, just being more physical, communicating more, seeing what they were trying to do and taking it away and that is all it was."

Harden added: "Obviously we don't want to get used to having KD and Kyrie out of the line-up but if we do then guys have to be ready to step up. I think Tyler [Johnson] did a really good job throughout the course of the game.

"Once again we preach every night is going to be somebody different. And so be ready and be prepared for the opportunity. Take advantage of it."

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.

The Milwaukee Bucks have reportedly acquired P.J. Tucker from the Houston Rockets as the Eastern Conference contenders eye the NBA Finals.

Led by two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks are in championship mode after losing in the semi-finals last season, having fallen in the Conference Finals in 2018-19.

The Bucks are fortifying their postseason push by sending D.J. Augustin and D.J. Wilson to the struggling Rockets for Tucker and Rodions Kurucs, according to ESPN.

Milwaukee and Houston are also reportedly redirecting draft picks as part of the deal.

Tucker has been on the outer in Houston, where he and the Rockets agreed for the veteran to stay away from the team until a trade could be found.

The 35-year-old will bring playoff experience to the Bucks, having spent four years with the Rockets, which included a trip to the Western Conference Finals and back-to-back semi-final appearances.

Tucker has struggled in 2020-21, averaging career lows for points (4.4), field goal percentage (36.6) and three-point percentage (31.4) amid Houston's woes.

Meanwhile, the Miami Heat traded Meyers Leonard and a 2027 second-round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Trevor Ariza.

Leonard – a part of Miami's run to last season's NBA Finals – will not be reporting to Oklahoma City and will not be an active member of the organisation, the Thunder said in a statement.

It comes after Leonard, who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in February – was fined $50,000 by the NBA for an anti-Semitic slur last week.

Ariza – an NBA champion in 2009 – lands in Miami, having not played a game in a year after the 35-year-old opted out of the Orlando bubble amid the coronavirus pandemic in 2019-20.

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash said Kevin Durant has showed "improvement" in his recovery from a hamstring injury, but a return is still a few "weeks" away.

Durant has been sidelined since February 13 due to a right hamstring strain, which forced him to sit out the NBA All-Star Game this month.

While Durant is on track with his recovery, Nash said the former MVP still has work to do.

"We're monitoring it and expect him to make a full recovery," Nash said ahead of Brooklyn's clash with the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday.

"And hopefully it won't be too long. But he's probably got a couple weeks of ramp-up left."

Durant made his long-awaited debut for the Nets this season after sitting out the 2019-20 campaign due to an Achilles injury sustained with the Golden State Warriors in the 2019 Finals.

"If he continues to improve and closes the gap on the healing and also puts himself in a position to return safely to play, he'll be back out," Nash added.

"So we'll see. That's kind of up to his body and however long that takes."

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

LeBron James has not been doing anything different in recent matches but the Los Angeles Lakers' shooters have "come alive" since the All-Star break, says head coach Frank Vogel.

Superstar James registered a second consecutive triple-double in as many nights as the Lakers outclassed the NBA-worst Minnesota Timberwolves 137-121.

James, who had 22 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, now needs just one more to rack up a landmark 100th career triple-double, while it marked his fifth of this season.

Prior to the All-Star game, the Lakers had lost six times in eight games but are now on a three-game winning streak, with James at the heart of team's impressive fortunes.

But Vogel insists it is merely a case of the team being hotter with the ball, saying: "I honestly don't think [James] has been playing that differently than what he was doing leading into the break

"I just think our shooters have come alive. I think we hit a little bit of a wall coming into the break, and then our shooters got their legs under them a little bit, and in the last three games they've been hitting shots, so his assist totals are up."

Several players contributed for the Lakers, with Dennis Schroder putting up 16 points and seven assists, while Kyle Kuzma also had 16 points.

Youngster Talen Horton-Tucker followed up an 18-point showing versus the Golden State Warriors with 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

The last two games have seen Horton-Tucker excel against two 2020 first-round draft picks in James Wiseman and Anthony Edwards, and James said the 20-year-old – selected in the second round in 2019 – will only continue to grow in stature.

"It's something we've talked about all year, if you go back to the draft Talen Horton-Tucker would not go in the second round," James said about his team-mate. 

"We're super-duper lucky and blessed to grab him when we grabbed him. His ability to get downhill, his ability to get to the lane and finish or his ability to make the extra passes, he's a big guard, but with great handle and great balance. 

"This is Talen's rookie year too pretty much, he's learning, he'll continue to get better, he's a damn good player right now he'll continue to get better and better."

Damian Lillard described the process required to become a lethal shooter after scoring a season-high 50 points, with the Portland Trail Blazers star lauding Stephen Curry as the greatest in the NBA.

Lillard's haul included 20 in the final quarter as Portland secured a stunning 125-124 comeback victory over the New Orleans Pelicans, having been 17 points behind in the fourth.

The Pelicans were inspired by Lillard's glorious display as he added 10 assists and six rebounds, finishing 18 of 18 from free-throws.

Lillard is now tied with LeBron James in seventh for all-time most 50-point NBA games, while he became only the fourth player to have racked up at least 16,000 points and dished out at least 4,000 assists in their first nine seasons.

Asked by the TNT post-match team how he became such a brilliant shooter, Lillard emphasised the work ethic needed and singled out Golden State Warriors hero Curry as the best in the business.

"It's just putting a lot of time into it," he said.

"We got some great shooters in our league. Obviously we think of Steph Curry first when we think of shooters, the greatest shooter to ever play in our league.

"He'll tell you the same thing, that it's a lot of reps. Whether people are watching or whether you get credit for it or not, you put the time in and you do it at a game pace, you do it with focus, you do it where you hold yourself to a certain standard.

"You make 10 in a row at each spot at the end of your workout when you're tired and you probably don't want to do it, it's things like that over and over again over the years.

"You get better from the reps, but more so than physically you get better mentally and more confident in it because you've done it so often and you've done it when you're tired, you've done it when you didn't want to.

"Then in the moments – whether it's first quarter, second quarter, third quarter, a tough shot, an easy shot – you've got the ultimate confidence that it's going to go in.  

"I think confidence is the biggest thing for shooters, right next to just getting the reps in and knowing in your heart that you didn't cheat it, you put the time in and you deserved to make those shots and you expect that result."

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

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.

Stephen Curry said it was "embarrassing" for the Golden State Warriors to crumble so woefully to the Los Angeles Lakers on the night he made franchise history.

A 128-97 loss came a day after the Warriors beat the Utah Jazz, with Curry, now the team's all-time assists leader, disheartened to be part of such a feeble showing.

For the Warriors it was another 20-plus point defeat, having suffered such losses to the Clippers and the Suns already in March.

Curry said: "We've got to play better. We have to develop a winning attitude every single night, and honestly, we've got to get sick of getting blown out, because that's embarrassing.

"We have to have some pride about how we're playing. You can lose games - that's going to happen - but not like that."

Curry added: "Winning is hard in this league. We all know that, and we all know you can't just show up, and momentum's not just going to carry just because you played well the game before.

"We talk about the margins and where we are as a team. If you want to beat the good teams, you can't have any cracks in the armour."

Curry scored a team-high 27 points and went past Guy Rodgers to become the player with the most assists in regular-season play for the Warriors, reaching 4,856 for his career with the team.

He had only two assists against the Lakers but has a career average of 6.6 per game, alongside a points average of 23.8.

"It's special. It's kind of a longevity award," Curry said of his new assists mark.

"But in terms of playing for the same franchise for 12 years and hopefully a lot longer, there's been some greats that have come through here for however long.

"And anytime you've done something or reached a level that is the top of the list for a franchise, it's pretty special. I wish it was under different circumstances obviously, with the game tonight.

"But I can take a second and appreciate that for sure, because a lot goes into that. I've had a lot of great team-mates over the years.

"Obviously I love to score, but the ability to set other guys up and assists only count if other people make baskets, so it makes it a pretty special record."

LeBron James said he takes pride in having a "triple-threat game" after closing on a landmark 100th career triple-double in the Los Angeles Lakers' rout of the Golden State Warriors.

The four-time MVP posted 22 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds to help the Lakers to a 128-97 victory at the Chase Center on Monday, ending a two-game losing streak on the road.

It was the 98th time James had posted a triple-double in his legendary career and he spoke about what it meant to have so many weapons in his arsenal.

"For me, I've always wanted to have a triple-threat game," he told reporters.

"One where I can pass the ball. I love passing ball to my team-mates, giving those guys good looks.

"Being able to rebound, that's always important, rebounding wins championships as the great Pat Riley would say.

"And then being able to score a little bit too, that's probably the least out of the three for me, but being able to be out on the court and control the game in three facets of the game - it's always been important for me to do it in a win, the losses never mean much to me.

"To do it in a win and make an impact on the game, when it happens in the flow of a game that's what's more important."

James' performance was particularly important given the Lakers have been hit by injuries. Marc Gasol, Kostas Antetokounmpo (both health and safety protocols), Anthony Davis (strained right calf), Jared Dudley (torn MCL in right knee) and Alex Caruso (concussion protocol) were all unavailable for the defending champions.

Davis has been missing for a month but has been a vocal presence on the sidelines for the Lakers.

"I just think he's trying to lead any way possible, obviously he can't be on the floor and do things he does at a high level," James said of his team-mate.

"He's just giving his words to a lot of guys, being there for them, showing them things on the iPad, showing them films during course of a game, being as helpful as he can be to our ball team."

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."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.