Lonzo Ball will be out for up to eight weeks after he undergoes knee surgery this week, the Chicago Bulls announced on Thursday. 

After sitting out the past three games, the decision has been made for Ball to have arthroscopic surgery on his left knee – reportedly to repair a torn meniscus. 

A statement from the Bulls read: "Following an initial period of rest and targeted intervention, Bulls guard Lonzo Ball will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and is expected to return in 6-8 weeks." 

Ball is averaging 13 points, 5.1 assists and 5.4 rebounds for the Eastern Conference-leading Bulls this season. 

Chicago were 6-2 in the eight games Ball has missed this campaign, all of which have come since Boxing Day. 

The Bulls ended a four-game losing streak against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday and take on the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday. 

Lonzo Ball joined the long list of Chicago Bulls players to enter the NBA's health and safety protocols ahead of Sunday's game against the Indiana Pacers.

Ball will not face the Pacers and the guard faces at least 10 days out of action unless he records two negative COVID-19 tests.

The 24-year-old is the 13th man on the Bulls roster to enter the protocols this month.

Three of Chicago's matches have been postponed in December due to the squad being so severely depleted.

Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan have since been given the green light to return, while Ayo Dosunmu, Matt Thomas, Alize Johnson, Devon Dotson, Coby White and Javonte Green have also cleared protocols.

Tony Bradley, Alfonzo McKinnie, coach Billy Donovan and now Ball are absent.

Stephen Curry had a wayward shooting game but moved closer to Ray Allen's all-time record as the Golden State Warriors were humbled 102-93 by the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.

Joel Embiid scored a game-high 26 points along with nine rebounds and four assists for the 76ers, who ended the game with a 41-20 run to improve their record to 15-12.

Curry, who started the game 10 triples away from Allen's all-time NBA record for most three-point attempts made, finished with 18 points including three triples.

As a result, two-time MVP Curry is seven three-pointers away from breaking Allen's mark of 2,973 career triples.

Curry drained two three-pointers late in the second quarter but did not add to his tally until the fourth quarter, shooting a disappointing three-of-14 from beyond the arc. The guard finished the game shooting 30 percent from the field.

 

Jokic stars but triple-double run ends

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic's run of three straight triple-doubles ended but he still managed a double-double with 35 points and 17 rebounds in the Denver Nuggets' 127-112 win over the San Antonio Spurs.

Reggie Jackson hit a late two-pointer with 2.2 seconds left to lead the Los Angeles Clippers past the Orlando Magic 106-104, finishing the game with 25 points in Paul George's absence.

The Utah Jazz extended their winning streak to seven games as Donovan Mitchell had 28 points with Ruby Gobert grabbing another double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds in their 123-98 win over the Washington Wizards.

 

Turnovers cost Bulls vs Heat

Point guard Lonzo Ball committed five turnovers and only managed 15 points as the Chicago Bulls lost 118-92 to the Miami Heat. Zach LaVine was also guilty of four turnovers, although he finished with 33 points including seven three-pointers.

The Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls lost draft picks for early free-agent discussions that led to recruiting Kyle Lowry and Lonzo Ball respectively, the NBA announced on Wednesday.

Lowry swapped the Toronto Raptors for the Heat, who acquired the NBA champion in a sign-and-trade three-year, $85million deal that sent Goran Dragic and Precious Achiuwa the other way.

Ball – a restricted free agent – was traded to the Bulls by the New Orleans Pelicans on a four-year, $80m contract for Garrett Temple and Toms Satoransky.

The NBA investigated the moves and punished the Heat and Bulls with the loss of second-round drafts picks because of premature discussions.

Miami and Chicago were found to have violated league rules governing the timing of this season's free-agency discussions.

"While we disagree, we accept the league's decision," the Heat said in a statement.

The Bulls added: "We are glad this process has concluded and look forward to the rest of our season."

In his first season with the Heat (13-8), six-time All-Star Lowry has been averaging 12.5 points, 7.7 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game, while shooting at 42.6 per cent and 31.0 from the three-point range.

Ball has starred for the new-look Bulls (14-8) in 2021-22, averaging 12.5 points, 4.8 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game – he has been shooting a career-high 42.6 per cent from the floor and a career-best 44.4 per cent from beyond the arc.

Nikola Jokic's return proved the perfect tonic for the slumping Denver Nuggets after the reigning MVP helped snap a six-game slide in a 120-111 victory over the Miami Heat.

All eyes were on Jokic, who had missed four straight games because of a wrist injury amid Denver's worst six-game stretch since the 2014-15 season.

There was also plenty of interest as the Nuggets and Heat renewed hostilities for the first time since Jokic and Miami's Markieff Morris were involved in a dustup on November 8.

Jokic received a one-game ban after shoving Morris in the back as tempers flared – the Nuggets star reacting angrily after the Heat veteran came in with a hard foul, catching his opponent with a left elbow to the chest.

While the Heat were shorthanded in the absence of Morris – who has missed 11 consecutive games since the incident, Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro, Miami fans let their feelings known, booing Jokic every time he touched the ball.

Jokic, with his two brothers behind the Denver bench, was not fussed as he posted 24 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists.

Double-doubles from Bam Adebayo (24 points and 13 rebounds) and Kyle Lowry (17 points and 14 assists) were not enough for the Heat.

 

Doncic matches Robertson

Luka Doncic had 25 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds in the Dallas Mavericks' 114-96 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He tied Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson for the most triple-doubles (38) before turning 23. Mavericks star Doncic celebrates his 23rd birthday in February.

Lonzo Ball earned family bragging rights after the Chicago Bulls outlasted the Charlotte Hornets 133-119. Up against brother LaMelo and the Hornets, Lonzo's Balls prevailed thanks to Nikola Vucevic (30 points and 14 rebounds), DeMar DeRozan (28 points) and Zach LaVine (25 points). According to Stats Perform, Chicago are the first team to have a starting guard (LaVine), starting forward (DeRozan) and starting center (Vucevic) have 25-plus points, five-plus rebounds and five-plus assists in the same game since the Orlando Magic in January 1994. LaMelo Ball's 18 points and 13 assists were not enough for the Hornets.

Seth Curry put up 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting as the Philadelphia 76ers held on to beat the Magic 101-96 at home. The 76ers are riding a five-game winning streak against the Magic – their longest such streak against Orlando.

Jonas Valanciunas nailed seven of his three-point attempts as he torched the Los Angeles Clippers in a 39-point and 15-rebound performance, the New Orleans Pelicans triumphing 123-104.

 

Lillard struggles in Blazers loss

Much was said about All-Star Damian Lillard heading into the season amid question marks over his future with the Portland Trail Blazers. Had he outgrown the smalltown market? Well, his topsy-turvy campaign continued after scoring just 11 points on four-of-12 shooting from the floor in the 129-107 defeat at the Utah Jazz.

Rookie of the Year candidate Josh Giddey had a game to forget as fellow strugglers the Houston Rockets eased past the Oklahoma City Thunder 102-89. In 25 minutes, Giddey made only one of his nine shots from the field, missing his five three-point attempts for two points in total.

Lonzo Ball believes the Chicago Bulls are "one of the top teams in the NBA" after their 121-103 win over the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center.

DeMar DeRozan was the star of the show with 38 points, while Ball added 27 of his own to go with 26 from Zach LaVine as the Bulls secured an impressive victory on Monday.

It was their first win against the Lakers since 2016, having gone eight games without success, and they move to 10-4 for the season.

The visitors were particularly deadly from three-point range, hitting 44.1 per cent (15 from 34 attempts), with Ball himself sinking 7 from 10. The Lakers managed just 18.8 per cent of theirs (six from 32).

"I think we are one of the top teams in the NBA," Ball said. "We've still got a lot to improve on and a long way to go, but I think we're moving in the right direction."

The Lakers struggled again in the absence of LeBron James (abdominal strain), with Talen Horton-Tucker (28 points), Russell Westbrook (25) and Anthony Davis (20) unable to do enough to tame their opponents.

Indeed, it was a Los Angeles native, DeRozan – reportedly considered by the Lakers in free agency before the season – who ran the game.

A day after putting up 35 points against the Clippers in the same arena, the 32-year-old went three better, and he acknowledged after the game that the extra motivation of playing in LA may have been a factor.

"Every night you've got to find some type of extra motivation," said DeRozan. "We've got a couple of guys that played [in LA], [others] from here. Just having that extra juice, that energy to go out there and compete, is always beneficial."

Meanwhile, the Lakers go to 8-7 and are 3-4 since James was sidelined. Another bad night for Frank Vogel's team was compounded when Davis was ejected for dissent.

Having lost his shoe after a missed shot, Ball retrieved it and gave it back to Davis, who was putting it on when the referee gave the ball to the Bulls to take out of bounds.

Davis made a comment to the official, before being given a technical and ejected from the game.

Of the incident, Vogel said: "Typically, the ref will let the guy get his shoe on, have some common sense.

"Quick inbounds. AD said that's 'BS,' which happens about 15 times in the NBA, every game. OK. Quick tech. Ejection. That's all I'm going to say about that."

Heading into the 2021-22 season, the Chicago Bulls were viewed as a team that could possibly contend for a play-in game, and maybe, just maybe even secure a postseason berth in the Eastern Conference.

Sure, no team compiled more losses over the previous four seasons than the Bulls' 199 defeats, but executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas had a busy offseason constructing a lineup that on paper looked like it had the pieces to compete in the East.  

The biggest questions on the onset of the season were how long it would take the new additions to build chemistry and how soon until they could become competitive.

The Bulls have quickly answered those questions.

Chicago have opened with six victories in their first seven games and are coming off two signature wins – Saturday's victory over the previously undefeated Utah Jazz and Monday's 19-point comeback on the road against the Boston Celtics.

Karnisovas began building what he hoped would be a playoff team at last season's trade deadline by adding two-time All-Star center Nikola Vucevic, but the Bulls ultimately stumbled down the stretch as Zach LaVine missed 11 games in April and May while in the league's health and safety protocols.

The roster overhaul continued in the offseason with the acquisition of four-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan and point guard Lonzo Ball in separate sign-and-trade deals, and now with multiple scoring options, an offense that moves the ball and an improved defense, the Bulls are a complete team. Their net rating of 9.6 trails only the Miami Heat and the Jazz – the league's only other 6-1 teams.

For the past few seasons, the Bulls' offense revolved around the play of LaVine. A first-time All-Star in 2020-21, LaVine accounted for 19.6 per cent of Chicago's scoring over the past three seasons – the eighth-highest percentage for any player with at least 4,000 points scored for a single team over that span.

He now has a running mate in DeRozan to help shoulder the burden, and the early returns have been fantastic.

With LaVine nursing a left thumb sprain on his non-shooting hand, DeRozan has stepped up offensively, producing back-to-back 30-point games against the Jazz and the Celtics.

His game compliments with the Bulls' offense, as he is able to score from mid-range while relying on his team-mates to knock down threes. DeRozan is shooting 54.1 per cent on 37 jumpers attempted between 10 and 15 feet, and his 21 field goals made from the elbow are the most in the league.

He played a big part in Chicago's frantic fourth-quarter comeback win over the Celtics, and he has been a huge contributor down the stretch in the first few weeks of the season.

His 50 fourth-quarter points trail only Giannis Antetokounmpo's 51 for the most in the league, and he has been clutch at the foul line in the final period, making 12 of 13 free throws. LaVine has been slightly better from the line in the fourth, making all but one of his 17 attempts.

Getting to the foul line has been a major point of emphasis this season under second-year Bulls coach Billy Donovan, and they have been succeeding.

After ranking last in the NBA in free throws attempted per game last season at 17.5 – the lowest mark in franchise history – Chicago are ninth this season at 21.6. That improvement of 4.1 free throws attempted per game is the largest increase in the league.

Cutting down on turnovers is another area the Bulls were looking to clean up after ranking 27th in the league last season at 15.1 per game, and again, they have seen the biggest improvement in the NBA. Averaging 2.2 fewer turnovers per game this season, Chicago rank third in the league at 12.9 per game and have the league's seventh-lowest turnover rate at 11.9 per cent.

 

LaVine has been one of the biggest factors in the team's improvement in protecting the ball, averaging 2.3 turnovers per game after averaging 3.4 or more in each of the previous three seasons.

For the second year in a row, LaVine leads the Bulls in assists, and while 4.9 per game does not sound all that special, it is the way that the team have been distributing the ball that has been encouraging.

With Ball averaging 4.4 assists, Vucevic averaging 4.3 assists and DeRozan at 4.0 per game, the Bulls and the Indiana Pacers are the only two teams to have at least four players averaging at least 4.0 assists.

The Bulls' biggest acquisitions of this calendar year – DeRozan, Ball and Vucevic – are extremely versatile, with each averaging better than 12.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists. They are the only team to have three players each reaching those numbers this season, and the Bulls have not had a trio of players with those stats since 1994-95, when Hall of Famers Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Toni Kukoc did it.

While Ball and Vucevic are finding roles in a balanced offense, the two of them along with another offseason acquisition have helped shore up a defense that was not all that formidable a year.

Hours after the signing of Ball, the Bulls also added free agent Alex Caruso. While the Caruso signing did not grab as many headlines as the additions of Ball and DeRozan, the former champion with the Los Angeles Lakers is also making an immediate impact.

Caruso's 18 steals lead all bench players this season, and his average of 4.52 steals per 48 minutes is the second-highest rate in the league behind only Paul George at 4.66 among the 142 players with at least 175 minutes.

While Caruso is hounding opposing ball-handers, Ball is frustrating opposing shooters, averaging 1.14 blocks – the second-best by a point guard behind the Sacramento Kings' Tyrese Haliburton at 1.29 per game.

Led by the offseason additions, Chicago's revamped disruptive defense is averaging 8.86 steals per game (up from 6.69 per game a year ago, when they were third-worst) and ranks fourth in blocks at 6.29 per game (an improvement from 4.22 per game in 2020-21, when they ranked 27th). It is also second in points per game off turnovers at 21.6 after ranking 26th last season with 14.5 per game.

Over the weekend, the Bulls put the rest of the league on notice that their defense should be taken seriously as they stymied the Jazz, holding them to season lows of 38.0 per cent shooting and 99 points – nearly 13 points fewer than their season average. That was one of three times already Chicago have limited their opponents to 40 per cent shooting or less after having four such games in a 72-game schedule last season.

It is obviously early, and the Bulls have a brutal schedule over the next two and a half weeks (their opponents' winning percentage of .609 through November 21 is the highest in the league), but Chicago have proven they have the makeup both offensively and defensively to compete with anyone.

While the narrative a few weeks ago for the Bulls was whether the team could make the playoffs, the franchise is now targeting much loftier goals.

DeMar DeRozan insisted the Chicago Bulls "want to win now" after opening the season 4-0 for the first time since 1996-97.

The red-hot Bulls preserved their perfect record with a 111-108 victory against the Toronto Raptors in the NBA on Monday.

Chicago – the last remaining unbeaten team in the Eastern Conference – were busy in the offseason, having recruited four-time All-Star DeRozan, former second pick Lonzo Ball and 2020 NBA champion Alex Caruso.

It came after the Bulls traded for two-time All-Star Nikola Vucevic last season.

The last time the Bulls opened with a 4-0 record, Hall of Famer and six-time champion Michael Jordan was on the team in Chicago.

"Part of the reason why I even chose to come to Chicago was everyone was eager to be successful, to want to win," DeRozan said after scoring 26 points against his former team.

"Everybody had that chip on their shoulder, from the city to the organisation to the players that I spoke to.

"That was everybody's mindset, it's all about winning now. We're not in a development stage, we want to win now."

DeRozan added: "We've got a long way to go. We've got a lot more to clean up, to learn. It's a long season, man. [The 4-0 start] is great, but we've got a lot more basketball to go.

"We can't carry this record like it's some kind of badge of honour; we've got to understand that the next game is going to be even harder."

The previous two times the Bulls started 4-0 (1995-96 and 1996-97), they went on to win the NBA championship.

"I think we have a lot of high-character guys, we all want to win and we want to win together," Ball added. "I think when you have a bunch of guys on the same team with the same common goal and the same mindset it makes it easier for the chemistry to click. That's what's going on."

The Phoenix Suns soared to a 115-105 victory as LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers were condemned to back-to-back defeats to start the 2021-22 NBA season.

Chris Paul fuelled the Suns with 23 points and 14 rebounds in Los Angeles, where the Lakers were no match for last season's NBA Finals participants and fell to 0-2.

Paul became the first player in NBA history with 20,000 points and 10,000 assists.

Devin Booker (22 points) and Mikal Bridges (21 points) also impressed for the Suns, while double-doubles from Anthony Davis (22 points and 14 rebounds) and Russell Westbrook (15 points and 11 rebounds) were not enough for the Lakers.

James finished with 25 points in front of the likes of Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Justin Bieber at Staples Center.

The Lakers' woes were compounded by a row between team-mates Davis and Dwight Howard on the bench during the second quarter as the pair had to be separated.

 

 

Durant's Nets spoil 76ers' opener

The Philadelphia 76ers looked in control and on track for victory but they were upstaged 114-109 by Eastern Conference rivals the Brooklyn Nets. Kevin Durant posted a triple-double of 29 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists as the Nets used a 16-1 run to stun the 76ers in their first home game of the season in Philadelphia. James Harden had 20 points, while LaMarcus Aldridge added 23 points off the bench on 10-of-12 shooting. Seth Curry made all four of this three-pointers to finish with 23 points, the same amount as 76ers team-mate Tobias Harris.

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic showed why he was crowned the league's best player last season, scoring 32 points, collecting 16 rebounds and supplying seven assists in a 102-96 win against the San Antonio Spurs. It was his eighth 30/15/5 game, doubling the rest of the Nuggets franchise history combined.

The Chicago Bulls' new-look team improved to 2-0 thanks to a 128-112 triumph over the New Orleans Pelicans. Lonzo Ball inspired the win behind his triple-double (17 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds), while Zach LaVine (32 points) and DeMar DeRozan (26 points) also came up big.

The Utah Jazz stayed unbeaten courtesy of dominant displays from All-Star duo Donovan Mitchell (27 points) and Rudy Gobert (17 points and 20 assists) in the 110-101 road win at the Sacramento Kings.

Myles turner joined James, Harden, Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady as the only players in NBA history to score 40 points, 10 rebounds, five three-pointers and three blocks in a game. The Indiana Pacers still lost 135-134 to the Washington Wizards in overtime.

 

Celtics lose again

The Boston Celtics were booed off the court at half-time and throughout the second half in their 115-83 defeat against the Toronto Raptors. Jaylen Brown was three-for-13 shooting for nine points and five turnovers, while Marcus Smart ended the game scoreless on 0-for-six shooting in 29 minutes as the Celtics fell to 0-2.

Stephen Curry is used to shooting the lights out, but the NBA superstar was left in the dark as to why the Golden State Warriors suffered defeat to the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday.

Curry made history as he reached 300 successful three-point attempts for the season in his just 58th game, a new record.

The seven-time NBA All-Star had previously achieved the feat twice in 59 outings, while he also joined Ray Allen as the only players to make 2,800 career threes during the clash with the Pelicans.

However, New Orleans finally found a way to slow down Curry's scoring in the third quarter as a lighting failure hit the Smoothie King Center.

The Warriors had a 77-71 lead at the time but the delay, albeit brief as power was quickly restored, led a reversal in the teams' fortunes, New Orleans rallying to record a 108-103 victory.

"I hadn't seen that one before. They tried to get me, saying I shot the ball before the lights went out," Curry, who had 35 points at the time of the delay but managed just two more in the remainder of the contest, told the media.

"It was a weird situation. We were flowing a little bit and I guess after that it was a rough offensive situation, but tough game all the way round."

The Pelicans scored 33 points in the final quarter to overhaul their opponents and claim a pivotal win in their push to make the play-offs.

Golden State head coach Steve Kerr felt tiredness was a factor in his team fading down the stretch, having played – and beaten – the same opponents the previous day.

"I thought we were tired," Kerr said. "I thought both teams were tired on a back-to-back, obviously. 

"I'm really proud of the guys. They battled the entire way. Clearly we were tired in the fourth. Give New Orleans credit - they made plays that they had to."

Lonzo Ball had 33 points for the Pelicans a night after missing 15 of his 18 attempts in a heavy defeat to the Warriors.

"For me, to have the type of performance I had, it's unacceptable, especially at this time of the year. And I wanted to fix it," he said.

Stephen Curry has been lighting it up in the NBA of late.

The two-time NBA MVP is seemingly trying to make up for lost time after injury wiped out the vast majority of his 2019-20 season. 

However, Curry is not the only player in prime form. As the regular season hurtles towards a conclusion, Stats Perform data highlights who is on fire and who needs to find a spark around the league.

Time to dip into the numbers with the latest edition of Heat Check...

RUNNING HOT...

Stephen Curry

To say Curry is on a hot streak is an understatement. In four games between April 12-17, the guard scored 175 points for the Golden State Warriors. That astonishing scoring run saw him hit 10 or more three-point attempts in three of those outings; no other player in NBA history has had three or more such games in an entire season, let alone a week.

Luguentz Dort

Dort was averaging 12.62 points heading into the week. The second-year guard then upped that number with 42 against the Utah Jazz and while he sat out a game against the Warriors, he followed up with a combined tally of 55 when facing the Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors. Despite his scoring heroics, the Oklahoma City Thunder lost all three.

Landry Shamet

The Brooklyn Nets have been hampered by injuries this season, with James Harden sidelined in recent times. However, Shamet has stepped up to help fill the void, managing a career-high 30 points on Sunday against the Miami Heat, including tying a franchise record with seven successful three-point attempts having come off the bench. 

GOING COLD...

Lonzo Ball

Ball's decreased production should come as no surprise, considering he is easing his way back into action following a hip injury. He played just under 20 minutes against the Washington Wizards and while his involvement was greater against the New York Knicks, 2017's second overall pick managed nine points from 19 shot attempts across both games.

Tyler Herro

A low-key week for Herro, who failed to reach double digits for points in outings against the Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves and Nets. The shooting guard - such a key figure in the Heat's run to the NBA Finals in the 2019-20 season - landed two of his 11 attempts from beyond the arc in those games. Surprisingly for someone based in Miami, Herro has gone cold.

Chris Paul

The veteran point guard has been outstanding for the Phoenix Suns, who remain in the running to finish the regular season as the top seeds in the West. However, the bigger picture means minutes must be managed, with Paul seeing a drop in his workload. While buckets have been in short supply - he averaged 8.25 points per game across last week - there were still 26 assists.

Lonzo Ball felt blocking out trade talk had proven key as he responded to recent speculation in style against the Milwaukee Bucks.

The New Orleans Pelicans earned an impressive 131-126 win against the Bucks on Friday.

Ball came to the fore with a season-high 27 points which included seven three-pointers – tied for his career high – and eight assists.

Eric Bledsoe (25 points) also scored seven three-pointers while center Steven Adams had 20 rebounds.

Per Stats Perform data, the Pelicans became the first NBA team ever to have two players with at least seven three-pointers and another with 20 or more rebounds.

New Orleans matched a franchise record with 21 threes in the game, with Ball the leading light as the Pelicans followed up their win over the Washington Wizards with another fine outing.

Ball, who has had a tough start to the 2020-21 season and was regularly a subject of trade talk when with the Los Angeles Lakers, insisted he had blocked out distractions.

Asked if he had any extra motivation amid the speculation, he replied: "I just stay the course.

"I've been playing basketball for a long time. I put a lot of work in and just try to play my game. That's how I play.

"I just try to stay away from all the noise and just go out there and try to help my team win games."

Zion Williamson, who just missed out on a triple-double with 21 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, was impressed by Ball as the Pelicans moved to 7-10 ahead of Saturday's game with the Houston Rockets.

"We love to see it," said former number one overall pick Williamson.

"When he shoots the ball like that with confidence, even if he misses it, just him shooting it with the confidence it's going in, that's what we want Zo to do. He hit seven and they were all big for us."

The Bucks were beaten despite 38 points from two-time league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and 22 from Jrue Holiday against his former team.

They still sit third in the Eastern Conference but are 4-5 on the road.

LaMelo Ball revelled in a "great feeling" after facing his brother, Lonzo, as the Charlotte Hornets overcame the New Orleans Pelicans.

LaMelo had 12 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in the Hornets' 118-110 victory in the NBA on Friday.

His brother, Lonzo, had less of an impact, finishing with five points, three assists and two rebounds for the Pelicans.

LaMelo, who had the first double-double of his NBA career, enjoyed facing his older brother.

"It was a great feeling for sure," he told Fox Sports.

"Onto the next one, we don't really live in the past, we've got a game tomorrow."

Gordon Hayward lifted the Hornets with 26 points, while Zion Williamson had 26 for the Pelicans.

LaMelo praised his team for working together as they improved to 4-5.

"I've played a lot of basketball and I know basketball don't change," he said.

"At the end of the day I'm smooth but all of our team-mates together we all help each other and push each other."

Lonzo Ball is looking forward to taking on his brother LaMelo Ball when the Pelicans face the Charlotte Hornets on Friday - but getting New Orleans back on track is his primary concern. 

The Pelicans are 4-4 after suffering back-to-back narrow defeats against the Indiana Pacers and the Oklahoma City Thunder, while the Hornets ended a three-game losing skid by beating the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday, improving to 3-5. 

LaMelo was the third overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft and the rookie is already pushing for a spot in Charlotte's starting lineup, averaging 12.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists through his first eight games in the league. 

In his fourth appearance, LaMelo had 22 points, eight rebounds and five assists in a 118-99 victory over the Dallas Mavericks. He became first rookie to post such a stat line (at least 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists) within their first four games in the league since Lonzo in 2017, and only the fifth since 1985-86 - Kevin Durant, Grant Hill and Lloyd Daniels the others to achieve the feat. 

Eight games into his NBA career, Lonzo was averaging 9.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 6.6 assists from eight starts for the Los Angeles Lakers – the last of which saw him fail to score a single point in a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. 

The game between the Pelicans and Hornets will be broadcast nationally in the United States but Lonzo does not intend to let a family reunion detract from greater objectives. 

"I think it's gonna be a lot of fun. It's our first time matching up in a real game, but I think it's gonna be an opportunity to just get back on track. We've lost the last two so we want to turn it around starting tomorrow," said Lonzo. 

"It's just about getting the win. It'll be cool seeing him out there and everything but he's gonna do what he can for his team and I'm gonna do what I can for my team and go from there." 

Asked if he was planning to treat LaMelo to some trash talk, he added: "No, I'll just play my game. Wherever coach puts me I'll do the best I can to get stops for my team and push the break the other way."

Despite spending their formative years together, Lonzo may be in for a surprise when he finally faces up to LaMelo having played minimal one-on-one during their youth.

"Not really too much one-on-one; a lot of two-on-twos, three-on-threes, though, pretty much our whole life," he said.

"One-on-one I was just always a little too big for him. As far as playing in the back yard, we played three-on-three pretty much every day. We always went at it and I think you see that in his game. He's not afraid of anybody. He's always played up and it's always been that way for him."

Lonzo and LaMelo enjoyed a single season as team-mates alongside their other brother LiAngelo – who has reportedly signed a contract to play in the upcoming G League season – during high school at Chino Hills in 2015-16, going 35-0 and winning a state championship.

"It was a lot of fun. We went undefeated that year. It was the only time we all got to play together in high school and we made the most of it," said Lonzo.

"It was just a fun time all around, being with them before I took off on my journey and they went their ways as well."

While Lonzo spent a year at UCLA before being drafted second overall by the Lakers in 2017, LaMelo opted against playing in college.

He turned professional and played in Lithuania and Australia either side of participating in the Junior Basketball Association - a league that was set up by his father LaVar Ball to offer an alternative to college.

"Everybody has to find their own way. Obviously, I went the more traditional route, he didn't, but at the end of the day we both ended up where we wanted to be," said Lonzo.

"Hard work definitely pays off. No matter who you are, you put your mind to something and you can do it. I really believe that. It worked for me, it worked for him, so that's what I'd tell kids growing up today as well."

Now the pair are on the same stage, Lonzo declared: "It just shows all the hard work paid off ... and we both ended up where we wanted to go."

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