The Philadelphia 76ers topped LeBron James' Los Angeles Lakers in a nail-biting finish, prevailing 107-106 against the reigning NBA champions.

NBA leaders the Lakers had won a franchise-record 10 consecutive away games to open the season heading into Wednesday's showdown in Philadelphia.

But the Eastern Conference-leading 76ers (13-6) handed the Lakers their first road loss thanks to Tobias Harris' 15-foot jumper with 2.4 seconds remaining.

The Lakers rallied from a 100-86 with less than five minutes remaining in the final quarter, using a 13-0 run to hit the front for the first time since the opening period.

But Harris and the 76ers had the final say in a thrilling finish at Wells Fargo Center, where the forward had 24 points and Joel Embiid posted 28 of his own.

James led the visiting Lakers (14-5) with a game-high 34 points and star team-mate Anthony Davis contributed 23 points.

James Harden and Kevin Durant put on a show again as the star-studded Brooklyn Nets outlasted the Atlanta Hawks 132-128 in overtime.

Harden posted 31 points and 15 assists and Durant scored 32 points, while Kyrie Irving finished with 26 points away to the Hawks in Atlanta midweek.

Former MVP Harden became the first Nets player with a 30-point, 15-assist game since Stephon Marbury in 2000, and Durant recorded his 15th consecutive 20-plus point game to start the season.

 

Simmons with another triple-double

76ers All-Star Ben Simmons put up 17 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in a winning effort. It moved Simmons up to 13th on the all-time list for triple-doubles (31) – tied with Luka Doncic and Hall of Famer John Havlicek.

Two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo's 24 points and 18 rebounds lifted the Milwaukee Bucks past the Toronto Raptors 115-108.

The Utah Jazz celebrated their 10th straight win – 116-104 over the Dallas Mavericks – behind Rudy Gobert's 29 points and 20 rebounds. Doncic's 30 points were not enough for the Mavericks.

Bradley Beal had 47 points in a losing effort as the struggling Washington Wizards were beaten 124-106 by the New Orleans Pelicans, who were led by Zion Williamson (32 points) and Brandon Ingram (32 points).

Chris Paul registered 32 points but the Phoenix Suns still went down 102-97 to his former team the Oklahoma City Thunder.

 

Robinson headlines Miami's woes

The Miami Heat are struggling to reach the heights of last season, which saw them make a run to the NBA Finals. Miami have lost four in a row following a 109-82 rout at the hands of the Denver Nuggets. Duncan Robinson was just three-of-11 from the field, making only two-of-10 three-point attempts for eight points in 36 minutes.

 

Sabonis stays hot

Domantas Sabonis was dominant yet again as the Indiana Pacers defeated the Charlotte Hornets 116-106. He recorded his sixth career triple-double with 22 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

 

Wednesday's results

Indiana Pacers 116-106 Charlotte Hornets
Cleveland Cavaliers 122-107 Detroit Pistons
Sacramento Kings 121-107 Orlando Magic
Brooklyn Nets 132-128 Atlanta Hawks (OT)
Denver Nuggets 109-82 Miami Heat
Philadelphia 76ers 107-106 Los Angeles Lakers
Milwaukee Bucks 115-108 Toronto Raptors
San Antonio Spurs 110-106 Boston Celtics
New Orleans Pelicans 124-106 Washington Wizards
Oklahoma City Thunder 102-97 Phoenix Suns
Utah Jazz 116-104 Dallas Mavericks
Golden State Warriors 123-111 Minnesota Timberwolves
Chicago Bulls-Memphis Grizzlies (postponed)

 

Lakers at Pistons

James and the Lakers will look to bounce back when they continue their season-long seven-game road trip against the lowly Pistons (4-13) in Detroit on Thursday.

James Harden insisted the best is yet to come for the Brooklyn Nets and their 'Big Three' as the former NBA MVP familiarises himself with fellow superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

The Nets have emerged as serious championship contenders after acquiring Harden in a blockbuster trade from the Houston Rockets earlier in January, teaming him up with Durant and Irving.

There have been teething problems – Harden, Durant and Irving are all dominant ball-handlers – but the Nets completed a sweep of the Miami Heat thanks to Monday's 98-85 win.

Harden posted 20 points and eight assists, Durant had 20 points and 13 rebounds, while Irving put up 16 points of his own at Barclays Center.

Asked about figuring out his role with the Nets, having only spent a matter of weeks in Brooklyn, eight-time All-Star Harden said: "I was in I was in a role for eight years, controlling the ball, dominating the ball. Now it's a different experience for me, but it's still great.

"It's still basketball at the end of the day. And I'm lucky to be able to do more than just one thing on the basketball court. So, it's fun. Like I said before it's a game within the game, you got to pick and choose when to be aggressive, when it gets your shooters going, when to let KD and Kyrie get going.

"Once we get a rhythm and flow and we kind of start to feel each other out more, it'll be a lot easier for us, and our team will have a lot more flow throughout the course of the game.

"Right now we're trying to find it, and we show a really good glimpses of it, but it'll be more consistent."

Two-time NBA Finals MVP Durant – also a league MVP – stayed hot as the Nets took down the Heat again.

Durant registered his 14th consecutive double-double, becoming the fourth player in league history to do so alongside Wilt Chamberlain, Adrian Dantley and Dominique Wilkins.

On former Oklahoma City Thunder team-mate Harden, Durant added: "Feels like he just transferred to a new school and he's trying to figure out the curriculum.

"And it's going to take some time to figure out who your teammates are, what your rotations are in the game, when to be aggressive, when to score, pass.

"As a scorer and the focal point of your offense, sometimes the balance between score and pass -- you got to figure that out each night."

Brooklyn's first-year head coach Steve Nash said of Harden: "Would I like James to be more aggressive? Yes. Will he be more aggressive in time? I think so.

"I think once he gets more comfortable with his team-mates, when he gets in better shape, when he's adapted to this whole new environment, we'll see an improved James scoring the ball."

Kyrie Irving revelled in a hard-fought victory for the Brooklyn Nets over the Miami Heat after he went into a "winning" zone in the fourth quarter.

The Nets got back on track after consecutive defeats to the Cleveland Cavaliers by overcoming the Heat 128-124 on Saturday.

Up against an inspired Bam Adebayo, who scored a career-best 41 points, Brooklyn relied on the star power of Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden to get them over the line.

"It's not every day you see this collection of guys playing together in NBA history, so we want to take full advantage of that," Irving told reporters.

Irving proved decisive, with 18 of his 28 points coming in the fourth quarter, including three three-pointers.

"It's winning time," Irving told reporters while explaining his mentality in the final quarter.

"I've always said that throughout my career. When it gets down to that point, obviously you just want to buckle down on the defensive end, get stops, and I felt like we did that.

"We had two losses where we had to learn a lot very quickly and we just moved on to the next night. I feel like we gave the effort in spurts, and obviously we want to have more consistency in that, and that'll take time. I'm happy with the effort."

While Durant topped the Nets' scoring with 31 points, Harden also stepped up to the plate, posting 12 points and 11 assists with seven rebounds.

"It feels good not to have to score so much to give ourselves a chance to win a game," eight-time All-Star Harden said.

"I can go out there and just be a playmaker and shoot my shot when it's available and still get guys involved, and still have a chance to win the game.

"That's a change. But for me just being the player that I am, impacting the game in other ways other than scoring."

Durant, meanwhile, hailed Irving as the difference-maker.

"You've seen how special and talented and hard-working Kyrie is," Durant told reporters. "He works on all of those shots every day and he comes in with that mentality that especially late in the games he'll have to knock those down for us.

"He's an all-world player, he's a great team-mate but when the ball is in his hands late in the game, our team is just so unpredictable because he can make the pass, he can score in the mid-range, score in the three-point area, get to the basket and we've got weapons around him that makes it tough to guard.

"We're going to need that from him going forward and he was phenomenal in the fourth."

Though the Nets' star trio ultimately claimed the win, Miami's Adebayo was at his best, finishing with five rebounds and nine assists in addition to his 41 points.

"It was about time Bam had 40 in terms of getting a lot of those moves that he's been working on in the offseason," said Irving, who – against coronavirus protocols – attempted to swap jerseys with Adebayo on the court before a Heat official intervened.

"Just watching him grow since high school, be able to take over at this point for kind of an undermanned Miami team, it's good to see."

James Harden says the Brooklyn Nets must be "more engaged" on defense after a second successive loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers again exposed their weakness.

According to Harden, who made the point repeatedly in a brisk post-game news conference, it is communication that the Nets need to work on to reach their potential.

With Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in their ranks, such potential is obviously something very special indeed.

But as Harden stressed, all their scoring power will be negated if they leak too many points to the opposition, as they did in sliding to Friday's 125-113 defeat.

It was a result that sent Brooklyn sliding to 9-8 this season, and recent arrival Harden hopes there can be improvement in the games ahead.

He said: "Our communication, our position, we never really had practice time so we're learning on the fly.

"It's just constant effort. We've got to be more accurate on loose basketballs, do a better job on rebounding basketballs, and then do a better job of keeping our man in front of us.

"There are some of the aspects we can get better on. If we do those things, then the schemes and all those plays we can figure those out later, the principles are those small things.

"I've got to be a little more aggressive. Honestly, our problem isn't offense. We scored 113 points tonight and even in the last game it was more than enough to win the game.

"Defensively we have to be more engaged."

That last game, to which Harden referred, was the 147-135 double-overtime loss to the Cavs.

The former Houston Rockets player and eight-time All-Star said it is "little tweaks" that are required, starting from Saturday's clash with the Miami Heat.

"Individually, our communication from the other four guys - the four guys that aren't guarding the ball - has to communicate on where the help is, where to send the dribbler, and just communicate, have each other's back," Harden said.

"Once our communication from all five guys are in sync, our defense will be that much better.

"But it seems like we're on an island out there and we have to all do a better job, including myself, of communicating and helping each other out defensively and that will happen."

With Durant absent after an Achilles problem, Harden bagged 19 points and 11 assists and Irving scored a game-high 38 points.

And while the combination of the three Nets superstars seems sure to click, Harden knows what the priority must be.

"As much as we can talk about scoring - we're very good at scoring - we've got to round up some stops and once we get that going we'll be in the lead on both sides of the ball, but right now our problem is defense," Harden said.

"[On Saturday] we've got another chance to get better."

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash was reluctant to overreact after another humbling loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but he insisted his star-studded line-up must improve as Kyrie Irving embraces the challenge.

Despite boasting Irving, James Harden and Kevin Durant, the Nets were swept by the Cavaliers in Cleveland following Friday's 125-113 defeat.

After losing 147-135 to the Cavaliers in double overtime on Wednesday, the Nets were again beaten by Cleveland, this time in the absence of Durant (Achilles rehab).

Despite boasting All-Stars and former MVPs in Irving, Harden and Durant, Brooklyn's defensive fragilities were exposed after being outrebounded 50-29 on Friday, while the Nets allowed 134 points in the paint across the two games.

"I don't want to overreact — but it is something we have to continue to chip away at," first-year coach Nash said afterwards. "We have to build that resolve, that hunger that desire to win some hustle battles, to win the turnover margin, to win the rebounding margin. Win in other ways.

"We've got a lot of things to work on. There's a lot to clean up. It's very early. It's relatively knew having Ky back after two weeks. James joining the team. Kevin sitting out tonight. It’s a lot thrown at us. So, you know, I don't want to overreact, but we are going to urge the guys to clean up as much as we can the hustle areas. But also, schematically, just continue to refine and get better and you know how this league is.

"A few days ago, we were on a four-game winning streak and now we under performed in two games. So, we've got to find a way to get ourselves playing a little cleaner, a little sharper, trying to clean up some of these categories that we're not competing well enough in."

Irving led the Nets with a game-high 38 points on the road, while Harden put up 19 points and 11 assists – his fourth double-double in as many appearances since joining in a blockbuster trade from the Houston Rockets as Brooklyn fell to 9-8 in the Eastern Conference.

Nash added: "You see you see the records. We've done well against better teams. But we've talked to them about having a target on our backs and that you're gonna get people's best shots. They'll be excited to play the guys that we have on our roster. So there's a certain element of that.

"We have to make them aware of that discrepancy in the effort against the team we're playing, but also just overall that we stick to what we will what our path is. And it's not a normal season, so it's not going to be two days between games sometimes where you can practice. It's going to be very rare. We're gonna have to really keep chipping away. It's gonna be small margins and small growth, but continually have that be our plan and not get sideways over a couple of losses.

"So we got to demand, we got to expect, we got to push and at the same time we got to understand that it's not going to be straightforward this season because of the parameters that were facing."

The Nets have dropped consecutive games since Irving returned from a seven-game absence due to personal reasons, and he said: "Whatever we have to do moving forward, like I said this was two humbling losses.

"… now we lost tonight's game, back-to-back. Now what are we gonna do? Nothing more but to pick ourselves up out there as competitors, go home, talk about it. And now we play in less than 24 hours. So I'm looking forward to the challenge with my team-mates."

Steve Nash admitted the Brooklyn Nets were "a little lost at times" during Wednesday's defeat to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Nets' 'Big Three' of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving played together for the first time, but Brooklyn fell to the Cavs 147-135 after double overtime.

Durant (38 points and 12 rebounds), Irving (37 points) and Harden (21 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds) combined for 96 points, yet Collin Sexton (42 points) inspired the Cavs.

Nets head coach Nash said it was normal to see his new-look team struggle at times.

"This is the first night that we've had everyone on the floor together. We seemed a little lost at times, which is natural because we haven't played together so there's a little indecision," he told a news conference.

"We started the game turning the ball over, I think we had seven or eight in the first quarter. We cleaned it up, got ourselves back in the game. Obviously, we have to defend better, but I stay positive.

"These guys, it's the first night out together, we're just getting a feel for each other and this is going to be a process that's going to take the entire year. While we're all disappointed, we've got lots to build on, lots to grow and lots more opportunities."

The Nets gave up 20 points in the second period of overtime to lose the game.

Nash said the defense would be a key focus for Brooklyn (9-7) as the season goes on.

"We had breakdowns all over the place. We've got a lot of work to do, we know that," he said.

"We know that we have a very offensive team right now so we have to find ways to defend, to get connected, to be on the same page and that's going to take some time.

"It's definitely early doors as far as this new team, this new group, [are] learning to defend together and how we can be effective defensively, and that's got to be the part of our game that we're going to focus on the most going forward."

The Nets face the Cavs again on Friday.

Joel Embiid produced another mammoth performance to lead the Philadelphia 76ers past Eastern Conference rivals the Boston Celtics 117-109 on Wednesday.

Embiid posted 42 points and 10 rebounds – going 12 of 19 from the floor in Philadelphia, where the three-time NBA All-Star scored 22 points in the first half.

Returning to action following knee soreness, Embiid topped 40 points for the second time in three games as he joined Bradley Beal as the only NBA players with multiple such performances.

There is only one other instance where a Sixers player had a 40 and 10 game on one or fewer turnovers since the three-point era – Embiid himself in 2019.

Luka Doncic recorded another triple-double as the Dallas Mavericks beat the Indiana Pacers 124-112 to snap a three-game losing streak.

Doncic put up 13 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists for his fifth triple-double of the season – tied for the most alongside Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic – and 30th of his career.

The 22-year-old is the youngest player to reach 30 career triple-doubles, while he is the second-fastest in terms of games played (146), eclipsing Magic Johnson (190) but behind Oscar Robertson (75).

 

Irving stars on return but Sexton outshines Nets trio

After a seven-game absence due to personal reasons, Kyrie Irving had 37 points in the Brooklyn Nets' 147-135 double overtime loss against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Kevin Durant led the Nets with 38 points and 12 rebounds, and fellow superstar James Harden finished with a triple-double of 21 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. However, Collin Sexton's 42 points lifted the Cavaliers past Brooklyn's 'Big Three'.

Clint Capela had 27 points and a career-high 26 rebounds for the Atlanta Hawks, who outlasted the Detroit Pistons 123-115 in overtime. Trae Young scored 38 points and John Collins registered 31 points, while Detroit's Jerami Grant posted a career-high 32 points.

 

Lowry's shooting woes

While collecting 10 rebounds and tallying seven assists, Kyle Lowry was far from his best in the Toronto Raptors' 111-102 loss to the Miami Heat. Lowry was just two-of-12 from the field, while he made just one of 10 shots from three-point range for eight points in 36 minutes.

 

Anthony on the buzzer!

Cole Anthony did it all at the death. He grabbed the rebound and ran the length of the court before sinking the buzzer-beating shot to lift the Orlando Magic past the Minnesota Timberwolves 97-96.

Wednesday's results

Cleveland Cavaliers 147-135 Brooklyn Nets (OT)
Dallas Mavericks 124-112 Indiana Pacers
Philadelphia 76ers 117-109 Boston Celtics
Atlanta Hawks 123-115 Detroit Pistons (OT)
Miami Heat 111-102 Toronto Raptors
Orlando Magic 97-96 Minnesota Timberwolves
Phoenix Suns 109-103 Houston Rockets
Golden State Warriors 121-99 San Antonio Spurs
Los Angeles Clippers 115-96 Sacramento Kings
Washington Wizards-Charlotte Hornets (postponed)
Portland Trail Blazers-Memphis Grizzlies (postponed)

 

Lakers at Bucks

LeBron James and defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers (11-4) travel to face Giannis Antetokounmpo's Milwaukee Bucks (9-5) on Thursday. Both teams are coming off losses.

Kevin Durant said his first game alongside James Harden and Kyrie Irving for the Brooklyn Nets "felt perfect" despite a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Irving returned and the Nets had their 'Big Three' together for the first time following the blockbuster arrival of former MVP Harden, but fell to the Cavs 147-135 after double overtime on Wednesday.

Durant (38 points and 12 rebounds), Irving (37 points) and Harden (21 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds) combined for 96 points, yet it was Collin Sexton (42 points) who inspired the Cavs.

Despite the loss, Durant – who became the second Net ever to post three straight 30-plus point games – was happy with how the game felt alongside his two superstar team-mates.

"It felt right, it felt perfect, it felt like we belong together," he told a news conference.

"It felt like this journey together is going to be fun. It was tough first start, especially it was an up and down game for us, but I like where we are."

The Nets' loss saw them slip to 9-7 and they sit fifth in the Eastern Conference.

But Durant is looking ahead, with the Nets facing the Cavs again on Friday.

"Obviously we'd love to win the basketball game, that's the most important thing and we're definitely disappointed about that, but we have a long season ahead of us, just keep plugging away," he said.

"I like where we are, I like the comradery that we have and we're building.

"The communication from the coaching staff to the players is at a high level so looking forward to keep building, keep grinding, we've got the same team next game."

Kyrie Irving is ready to play again and looks set to line up for the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday after a run of seven missed games.

The six-time All-Star has been absent for personal reasons and received a hefty punishment for breaching NBA health and safety protocols while away from the team.

That was imposed after Irving was filmed apparently attending a large birthday gathering while not wearing a mask.

But Irving confirmed on Tuesday he is back in training with the team, putting him in line to face the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday evening.

Explaining his absence, Irving said on Tuesday: "There's been a lot of family and personal stuff going on, so I just want to leave it at that."

Coach Steve Nash said: "I expect him to play tomorrow. It's great to have Kyrie back in the building. We've missed him and I'm excited to get him back out on the floor."

Irving was fined $50,000 by the NBA and docked over $800,000 in salary for the two games he missed while ordered into quarantine by the league.

He will have a notable new teammate on his return to action, with the Nets having landed James Harden from the Houston Rockets.

Harden, an eight-time All-Star, bolsters the scoring power already in Brooklyn's ranks, with Irving averaging 27.1 points per game in his seven outings for the team this season and Kevin Durant posting 30.6 PPG in 11 appearances.

The new arrival meets with Irving's approval.

"I'm very excited to have James here," Irving said. "We're just moving on to the next phase of developing as a team, building some camaraderie and having fun.

"It's just really exciting to be able to play with great players."

He spoke of the experience that Harden brings and said: "Adding that to our locker room is going to be great for us."

Without Irving, the Nets have won five of their past seven games to improve to 9-6 for the season.

Kevin Durant and James Harden feel experience has proven key in a "seamless" transition to their partnership with the Brooklyn Nets.

The former Oklahoma City Thunder duo combined to impressive effect as the Nets battled to a 125-123 win at home to the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday.

Durant won the game courtesy of a three-pointer with 36 seconds remaining to reach 30 points, while adding nine rebounds and six assists.

Harden followed up his dream debut against the Orlando Magic with 34 points, 12 assists and six rebounds.

It is the first time two team-mates have had at least 30 points in each of their opening two games for a franchise, per ESPN.

"We have been through a lot in this league," Durant said about his link-up with Harden.

"Experienced a lot, and for us to bring it together now and combine what we've learned over this time and try to play great basketball, I think it was pretty seamless for us.

"It was an easy transition, especially with James handling the ball a lot coming in. So we're still trying to find our way, and we've still got room to improve, but it's a solid start."

Harden is yet to practice with the Nets since his blockbuster trade from the Houston Rockets.

"We were young in Oklahoma City," Harden – who impressively followed up his triple-double against the Magic – said when asked about his connection with Durant.

"We are grown men now. We know what we want. We really know the game of basketball now. 

"We are not those young guys that want to run around and just shoot and dunk all day.

"And then for me, I sit back and I know what player Kevin Durant is. He's one of the best players to ever touch a basketball. This is a huge win for us."

With four straight wins moving them to 9-6, the Nets are next in action at the 6-7 Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday.

The Nets' other star, Kyrie Irving, is set to return to practice on Tuesday. He missed his seventh straight game against the Bucks, who got 34 points from Giannis Antetokounmpo.

"This is what they do – they wake up, come to the game and they score 30," Antetokounmpo said. 

"If you're not aggressive and you're not locked in against them, they're going to score 50."

Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving could make his long-awaited return after being listed as questionable for Monday's game against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Irving has missed the Nets' past six games due to personal reasons, while he sat out Saturday's win over the Orlando Magic due to the NBA's health and safety protocols amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It came after the NBA fined Irving $50,000 and docked the six-time All-Star over $800,000 in salary for the two games missed while in quarantine after video footage emerged of him appearing to attend a family birthday party without a mask.

The 2016 NBA champion, though, is now nearing a Nets return as he prepares to link up with superstar team-mates Kevin Durant and James Harden.

"Hopefully, we're close," Nets head coach Nash said after beating the Magic. "I can't really give you a firm update on that. We have to assess that as we go. We do want to make sure he ramps accordingly so that he's not susceptible to unnecessary injury and protect him the best we can.

"But hopefully, it will be a short period of time. That is to be determined, though."

Harden – acquired from the Houston Rockets in a blockbuster trade on Thursday – became the first player in NBA history to post a 30-point triple-double in his debut for a new team after title contenders the Nets outlasted the Magic 122-115.

Former MVP Harden finished with 32 points, a franchise-record 14 assists, 12 rebounds and four steals.

Reuniting with ex-Oklahoma City Thunder team-mate Harden, Durant led the way with a game-high 42 points as the Nets improved to 8-6 following a third consecutive win.

Durant also made franchise history for most consecutive 25-plus point games with nine.

Rafael Stone insisted James Harden's comments after two losses to the Los Angeles Lakers did not impact the Houston Rockets' trade plans.

Harden was traded to the Brooklyn Nets days after saying he had done everything he could in Houston.

After back-to-back losses to the Lakers, the eight-time All-Star also said: "This situation is crazy. It's something that I don't think can be fixed."

But Stone said Harden's comments, which drew criticism from team-mates John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, were irrelevant to the Rockets' plans.

"They did not affect me at all. In a trade there are multiple parties so I have no idea if it affected other teams," Stone told a news conference on Sunday.

"But I can guarantee you it did not affect us."

The Rockets acquired Victor Oladipo from the Pacers, sending former Nets guard Caris LeVert to Indiana.

As part of the Nets trade that involved the Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston also brought in Rodions Kurucs and Dante Exum, plus four first-round picks, to go with four first-round pick swaps.

Stone is happy with the deal the Rockets ended up with as he lauded two-time All-Star Oladipo.

"I don't think it's appropriate to talk about the other deals," Stone said.

"I would say what is super exciting about this deal is it gives us flexibility and in the NBA, picks, especially high picks, are the best currency. Everybody likes them, everybody values them, so that was great organisationally, it gave us flexibility to do different types of deals as they come up this year, next year, whatever.

"We were able to get Victor Oladipo as part of it along with Rodi and Dante, but Victor is a guy we're really excited about. I think he's excited to be here and we think he's very talented so that was not insignificant from our perspective."

The Rockets hold a 4-7 record this season and are 14th in the Western Conference.

On many a Sunday, I realize that people have looked at the stories they've seen throughout the week with different lenses. I have my own personal take on some of these trending issues and I will share them with you. Welcome to #INCASEYOUMISSEDIT the 2021 edition with Mariah.

  1. Windies men- Nothing to lose so much to gain!

It is no secret that as the West Indies get set to face Bangladesh on January 20, in their first One-Day International, the home side is the overwhelming favourite, especially because of their track record of winning at home. The Windies enter against a backdrop comprising of several senior players opting out, Hayden Walsh Jr getting Covid-19 mere days before the first ODI, eight players making their ODI debut and the captain, Jason Mohammed, who last played for the Windies in 2018. Despite all these factors, they walk into this series with nothing to lose and so much to gain.

It is easy to point out the lack of experience in the Windies team. Simply put, as I mentioned before, eight of the players suiting up will be making their debuts. In the ODI setup, Rovman Powell is the most experienced having played 34 matches with the skipper Jason Mohammed ranked second with 28. While this is enough to say the Windies team is inexperienced we must also note that Bangladesh also has three uncapped players - off-spinner Mahadi Hasan and pacers Shorful Islam and Hasan Mahmud.

Similarly, it is natural to feel uneasy that ODI skipper Jason Mohammed has been out of Windies cricket since 2018. However, we cannot forget that Mohammed previously captained the Windies in an ODI against England in 2017 and in three T20Is during their 2018 Pakistan tour.

It was during a similar situation when key players refused to play and CWI thrust Mohammed to the helm.

All things considered, it is not always a disadvantage to be the underdogs if the team is physically and mentally ready. In World-Cup-winning captain Clive Lloyd’s open letter to the team, he highlighted that he made his debut on short notice against India 1966. He got his call up just hours before the game and went on to score 82 and 78. 

And, in that is the bigger picture. A ticket to the World Cup awaits any player who seizes this moment. Wicketkeeper/batsman Joshua Da Silva impressed on his Test debut in New Zealand where he scored an impressive half-century.

Batsman Kjorn Ottley is another player who could force his way into the first team. In 2019, he played for Barbados in the 50-over competition and scored 325 runs in the nine innings at an average of 54.16.  All-rounder Akeal Hosein will be eager to transfer his CPL form into this format of the game.

The 27-year-old was the leading wicket-taker in T&T’s 2020 first-class season with a total of 36 wickets at an average of 20.61. 

 

  1. Brooklyn Nets Success: One Word- Sacrifice.

News of James Harden leaving the Houston Rockets and joining the Brooklyn Nets did not sit very well with me as a Rockets supporter. It took me a few days to process his exit. However, as Harden’s biggest supporter and critic I understand the reason for the move. The three-time NBA scoring champion is desperate to win a Championship and he is not getting younger. However, if the Nets are to be successful it comes down to a key factor - sacrifice.

 The “Big Three” of James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant can only work well if they share the ball. Over the last 10 seasons, all three players have ranked in the top 10 in the highest usage rate in clutch time. Harden described it best while addressing the media. 

“When it comes to facilitating it depends on the flow of the game. Some nights I’ll be a facilitator. Some nights I might get it going and score the ball at a high clip. That is the beauty of being versatile and being able to do more than one thing. Same with Kevin and same with Kyrie. Every night is going to be different.”

 Each of the three players will be required to sacrifice whatever is going on behind the scenes of their lives if they are to win a championship. Irving was fined USD$50,000 for breaching the NBA Covid-19 protocols after a video surfaced on social media that showed him at a birthday party with no mask.

He also made an appearance at a Zoom fundraiser for a progressive political candidate half-hour before the tipoff of a Nets game.  He needs to show up mentally and physically.  Harden is out of shape and will have to avoid getting into Covid-19 trouble again. Additionally, it will be in the team’s best interest if KD stays injury free and avoids getting the virus again.

 In order for the Nets to get the best of the Harden trade all egos have to be put aside and the players need to allow rookie head coach Steve Nash and assistant coach Michael  D'Antoni to do their jobs without interference.

A positive to draw from this is Harden has worked well with D’Antoni at the Rockets and even cited his move had a lot to do with the influence of the assistant coach.

Kevin Durant, without a doubt, is a selfless player. He sacrificed his Achilles when he returned to the 2019 NBA finals too soon.  His value to the team goes without saying, however, a key element of the Nets success this season will be his acceptance of the leadership role. 

The Brooklyn Nets are championship contenders for 2021. The big question is then “Who is selfless enough to step back?” 

  

  1. Widespread vaccination and speedy rollout can ensure the Tokyo Olympics proceed.

Japanese government officials say they are committed to hosting the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo despite a recent rise in Covid-19 cases.  Reports indicate that the international Olympic Committee is working on ways to ensure that athletes are vaccinated so the event can proceed safely in July.

As of Friday, 15 January, Tokyo confirmed 2001 new infections. The number of new infections and the shortage of hospital beds are making it difficult to hospitalize coronavirus patients.  Deputy head of the Tokyo Medical Association Masataka Inakuchi has warned that the number of hospitalized coronavirus patients could rise to approximately 4600 in a week and 7000 in two weeks.

One can only hope that there will be widespread vaccination rollouts and speedy distribution in Tokyo so the Olympic Games can proceed without any further delay. 

 

 

James Harden made NBA history on his Brooklyn Nets debut after dazzling with a triple-double in the 122-115 win against the Orlando Magic.

Harden became the first player in NBA history to post a 30-point triple-double in his bow for a new team after the Nets outlasted the Magic on Saturday.

Former MVP Harden – who swapped the Houston Rockets for the Nets in a blockbuster trade on Thursday – finished with 32 points, a franchise-record 14 assists, 12 rebounds and four steals.

The eight-time All-Star also became the seventh player in NBA history with a triple-double in their team debut, joining Russell Westbrook, Elfrid Payton, Lewis Lloyd, John Shumate, Nate Thurmond and Oscar Robertson.

Reuniting with former Oklahoma City Thunder team-mate Harden, Durant led the way with a game-high 42 points as the Nets improved to 8-6 following a third consecutive win.

Durant also made franchise history for most consecutive 25-plus point games with nine.

 

Lillard inspires Blazers

Damian Lillard had a game-high 36 points as the Portland Trail Blazers topped the Atlanta Hawks 112-106. Double-doubles from Trae Young (26 points and 11 assists) and Clint Capela (25 points and 15 rebounds) were not enough for the visiting Hawks.

Shake Milton put up 28 points off the bench in the Joel Embiid-less Philadelphia 76ers' narrow 106-104 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. Ben Simmons fell just short of a triple-double after recording 11 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists.

Christian Wood scored 24 points and collected 18 rebounds as the shorthanded Rockets went down 103-91 to the San Antonio Spurs.

Derrick Rose was efficient in the Detroit Pistons' 120-100 upset of the Miami Heat. He was eight-of-12 shooting from the field, while making three of his five three-point attempts for 23 points in 21 minutes.

 

Covington struggles

While the Trail Blazers won, Robert Covington failed to get going shooting-wise after collecting 10 rebounds. He was one-of-13 from the field and just one-of-seven from beyond the arc for three points in 28 minutes.

A championship winner with the Los Angeles Lakers last season, veteran Rajon Rondo was scoreless for the Hawks. Rondo missed all three of his field-goal attempts in nine minutes of action.

 

Morant returns in style

Ja Morant sprained his ankle on December 28 but the Grizzlies star made his comeback following an eight-game absence. Morant had 17 points, including this alley-oop.

 

Saturday's results

San Antonio Spurs 103-91 Houston Rockets
Brooklyn Nets 122-115 Orlando Magic
Toronto Raptors 116-113 Charlotte Hornets
Detroit Pistons 120-100 Miami Heat
Memphis Grizzlies 106-104 Philadelphia 76ers
Portland Trail Blazers 112-106 Atlanta Hawks
Indiana Pacers-Phoenix Suns (postponed)

 

Pacers at Clippers

The Indiana Pacers (8-4) will visit the in-form Los Angeles Clippers (9-4) – who have won three straight games – on Sunday.

Brooklyn Nets superstar James Harden revelled in his record-setting debut, while head coach Steve Nash heaped praise on the former NBA MVP.

Harden became the first player in NBA history to post a 30-point triple-double in his bow for a new team after the Nets outlasted the Orlando Magic 122-115 on Saturday.

Eight-time All-Star Harden swapped the Houston Rockets for the Nets in a blockbuster trade on Thursday, and his first game in a Brooklyn jersey resulted in 32 points, a franchise-record 14 assists, 12 rebounds and four steals.

Afterwards, Harden said: "It felt really good [to get the win]. The guys got after it.

"Individually, I've got to stop turning the basketball over, but that comes with chemistry, that comes with practice, that comes with watching film.

"So, first game I'm glad to get a win and we've just got to keep going."

On the record, Harden was asked what it meant, and he told YES: "Nothing, I'm just happy we came away with the win. Those stats don't mean anything."

"When you're paying with really, really good players, it's pretty easy," Harden said. "For me, I just gotta learn reads, learn where guys like the ball, just learn our personnel individually so once I get that, the turnovers will cut down, I can be more efficient."

Disgruntled in Houston as he eyed an exit from the Rockets, Harden arrived in Brooklyn out of form, but the sharpshooter showed what the Nets are getting in a super team that also consists of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

Harden was eight-of-18 from the field and three-of-10 shooting from three-point range in 40 minutes, while he also had nine turnovers.

First-year coach Nash, who now leads a genuine championship contender, hailed Harden post-game.

"I can't say I'm surprised," Nash said. "We had a pretty big simple size of him doing that [for] however many years in he's been in the league. But it's still not easy. He's still not in his best condition yet, he's joined a new group.

"Basically no practice time, and figured it out on the fly. He had a bunch of turnovers just because he's new to the team and the group and you’re thrown out there in an NBA where the other team is an excellent coached-basketball team....But all the things he did on the floor were incredible for his first game."

Reuniting with former Oklahoma City Thunder team-mate Harden, Durant led the way with a game-high 42 points as the Nets improved to 8-6 following a third consecutive win.

Durant also made franchise history for most consecutive 25-plus point games with nine.

"James, he played the same way he always played, to be honest," Durant said. "He played the same way he was playing in Houston, being a pass-first guard, trying to get guys good looks. He played the same way.

"Coach put him at the point, I think that's his natural position, is point and combo guard. For him to get 14 assists, 12 rebounds for us at the point guard was key."

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