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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Green guides Warriors, Lowry shines

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

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

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

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

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

 

Rockets crash to another loss

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

 

Brilliant Butler

Butler was in incredible form to get Miami past Utah.

Friday's results

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

 

Mavericks at Nets

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

Indiana Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis has replaced the injured Kevin Durant in the 2021 NBA All-Star Game.

Brooklyn Nets star Durant was ruled out as he deals with a hamstring strain.

Sabonis was called up in his place for the game, which will be played in Atlanta on March 7.

He is averaging 21.5 points, 11.7 rebounds and 5.7 assists for the Pacers this season, earning his second straight All-Star selection.

While Sabonis will be selected with the reserves, Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum was added to the starter pool.

Kevin Durant will be out through the All-Star break, the Brooklyn Nets have revealed following recent scans on his injured left hamstring.

Durant has missed the Nets' last six games because of the issue, though his absence has not stopped Brooklyn from stretching their winning streak to eight games.

And the Nets revealed on Friday that he will not return until after the All-Star game, which will be held on March 8.

"After a routine follow-up MRI on his left hamstring, it was determined that Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant will require an additional recovery period that will result in him remaining out through the NBA All-Star break," a Nets statement read. 

"The latest images provided a clearer picture of the hamstring and while we are confident that Durant will return at full strength, this extra recovery time will allow him to perform at the level at which he has been playing this season once he returns.

"Durant will continue to undergo rehabilitation and will be re-assessed following the break."

In the 19 games in which he has featured this season, Durant is averaging 29 points per game, his highest tally since his MVP season with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2013-14.

Durant is shooting 52.4 per cent from the field and 43.4 per cent from three-point range.

He will miss games with the Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets. Brooklyn's first game back from the All-Star break is against the Boston Celtics on March 11.

Named an All-Star for the 11th time in his decorated career, Indiana Pacers star Domantas Sabonis is expected to replace him in the game.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is prepared for "bumps in the road" as the Milwaukee Bucks build foundations they hope will help them succeed when it really matters.

Antetokounmpo scored 38 points - becoming the first Milwaukee player to have 35 or more in three straight games since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1973 - as the Bucks prevailed in a close encounter with the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday.

The victory makes it four in a row for Milwaukee, who had lost five on the spin prior to the start of their current winning run.

For the two-time MVP, however, the focus in the regular season is working out methods that will serve them well when it comes to the playoffs.

"We won in the two previous seasons, we know how to," Antetokounmpo told the media, with the Bucks now owning a 20-13 record after the 129-125 result against New Orleans.

"It's obviously a new group and we have to figure out how to win with this group, but we know how to win, know what it takes and how hard you have to go out there to win.

"There will be bumps in the road, for sure. This season is different. Being able to go on a five-game losing streak and then come out with a four-game winning streak - I don't remember the last time that happened.

"It's good, it's good that we learn how to play when we're down, when we're not feeling good about ourselves, when we think things are not working.

"This is when we get better. This is what is going to help us."

The Bucks have finished top in the East for the previous two years, winning a combined total of 116 games. However, they failed to get out of their Conference in the postseason on both occasions.

Antetokounmpo highlighted how, considering those issues in previous campaigns, there was a need to become more versatile.

"We are trying new things that we haven't done in the past," he said. "We are a team that can adjust, and it's good to have that habit that when things don't go the way you want them to, adjust and find a different way.

"I feel in previous seasons we had our own way - and it worked. Then, at the end, when it didn't work, we didn't have plan B, plan C.

"It's good that we are trying things out. Obviously, it's not going to always look great, at times it's going to be ugly. But we are learning. We are going to create good habits and, hopefully, when it matters, we are good to go."

Once again without guard Jrue Holiday, who missed out on going up against his former team due to health and safety protocols, Milwaukee saw Donte DiVincenzo have a career-high 24 points.

"He was really good tonight, he was calm and collected," Antetokounmpo said of DiVincenzo. "He was getting to his spots and making his right plays. He was aggressive, going downhill, finding guys. He was unbelievable.

"He's a big part of who we are. We need him every single night and he had an unbelievable game."

There is an age-old argument about which footballer is the greatest of all time: Pele or Diego Maradona, Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, or the alternative option named by Zlatan Ibrahimovic?

Although some may expect the charismatic Swedish star to bestow such an honour upon himself, the 39-year-old believes the all-time best is prolific Brazilian forward Ronaldo.

Ronaldo starred for PSV, Barcelona, Inter and Real Madrid during a distinguished 14-year European club career, claiming the Ballon d'Or in 1997 and 2002, and earning countless other prizes and awards.

'Il Fenomeno' helped his nation lift the World Cup twice, in 1994 and 2002, and was once a runner-up in 1998, while scoring 62 goals in 98 international caps for the Selecao.

"I always tell everyone who plays with me: Ronaldo is football. That Ronaldo is football," said Ibrahimovic.

"The way he moved, the way he did those stepovers, those mazy runs. In my view, he is the best player in history, no doubt about it."

While the Milan striker was in his homeland speaking to UEFA and Discovery+ about his career, he also voiced strong opinions about NBA superstar LeBron James.

While Ibrahimovic recognises the 17-time All-Star's talent, he does not agree that athletes should use their platform for political reasons, like campaigning for justice and social change.

"What he does is phenomenal, but I don't like it when people with a certain status talk about politics," he said.

"Do what you are good at. I play football because I am the best at it. If I was a politician, I’d have gone into politics.

"This is the first mistake that famous people make when they feel like they've arrived.

"I think it's better to steer clear of these issues and do what you're good at."

Kyrie Irving and James Harden combined for 47 points as the Brooklyn Nets proved irresistible in their 129-92 triumph against the Orlando Magic.

Irving led the way with 27 points and nine assists, shooting 11 of 18 from the field and Harden dropped five threes from his 10 attempts from downtown to power Brooklyn to an eighth straight win.

The All-Star duo were supported by Joe Harris, who sank four of six threes for 14 points, while Landry Shamet came off the bench to score 19 points, tying Harden with five from distance. 

After the Magic opened up a 10-point lead during the first quarter, the Nets went 41-19 in the second quarter and never looked back, with Nikola Vucevic finishing with 28 points for Orlando.

Still waiting on Kevin Durant to return from a hamstring injury, the 22-12 Nets are second only to the Philadelphia 76ers (22-11) in the Eastern Conference.

Close on their tails are the third-placed Milwaukee Bucks, who beat the New Orleans Pelicans 129-125 to go 20-13, with Giannis Antetokounmpo (38 points) outshining Zion Williamson (34).

 

Beal and Westbrook chemistry continues for Wizards

The Washington Wizards made it a 3-1 road trip, following up on wins against the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers with a 112-110 victory against the Denver Nuggets.

The NBA's leading scorer Bradley Beal buried 33 points while Russell Westbrook made it three triple-doubles in five games with his 16 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

George comes up short for Clippers

Tyus Jones was the game's top scorer in the Memphis Grizzlies' 122-94 win against the Los Angeles Clippers despite only spending 15 minutes on court.

Jones was the only player in the game to make 20 points, as Clippers guard Paul George only dropped three of his 12 field-goal attempts for his 13 points.

 

Zion producing coast-to-coast

Williamson may have come out on the losing side but the 20-year-old not only matched Antetokounmpo almost blow-for-blow, but he also showcased some razor-sharp defensive skills. 

Thursday's results

Philadelphia 76ers 111-97 Dallas Mavericks
New York Knicks 140-121 Sacramento Kings
Brooklyn Nets 129-92 Orlando Magic
Memphis Grizzlies 122-94 Los Angeles Clippers
Washington Wizards 112-110 Denver Nuggets
Milwaukee Bucks 129-125 New Orleans Pelicans

 

Jazz at Heat

The NBA-leading Utah Jazz looked untouchable during a blowout win over the Los Angeles Lakers. The Miami Heat have also recently knocked off the defending champions and are on a four-win stretch.

Steve Nash believes the Brooklyn Nets' improvement has come thanks to their growing connection and better defense.

The Nets extended their winning streak to eight games with a 129-92 thrashing of the Orlando Magic in the NBA on Thursday.

Nash said the Nets' growth was down to their improved defense and connectivity.

"A big part of it is our group's bonding, they're growing together, they're starting to feel success and roles are shoring up and you can sense it out there," the Nets head coach told a news conference.

"They're having more fun, they're connected offensively and defensively, they have a lot more poise together, that collective experience while we're still a new group is starting to come through.

"That as much as the improvement defensively, understanding defensively and the fact that we realise defense is a weak spot for us, they're locked in, they're focused and for the most part they're working at their defense, so those two things for me are the most important."

Kyrie Irving top-scored for the Nets against Orlando with 27 points, while James Harden (20), Landry Shamet (19), Joe Harris (14), Bruce Brown Jr. (14) and Nicolas Claxton (10) also had double-digit points.

The Nets got past the Magic despite a slow start, recovering after being 27-17 behind in the first quarter.

"We just tightened up, we relaxed a little, started to find ourselves and most importantly we picked up our defense," Nash said.

"It was one of those nights where they couldn't make a shot after the first segment of the game, but at the same time I thought we handled business, increased our intensity and our decision making on defense improved and we were pretty solid."

Of all the hotly debated topics of the sports world, perhaps none is harder to reach a conclusion on than what exactly constitutes an MVP.

Whether discussing NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB, there has never been a definitive answer on what someone needs to do to win a sport's most coveted individual award.  

Clearly, putting up impressive numbers is a must, that much is obvious. But can a player truly be an MVP for example if his team doesn't reach the playoffs? Or what if that player, regardless of statistics, is surrounded by all kinds of talent, should his chances then be diminished? And where does leadership come in? Shouldn't a candidate judged to be the best in the league be not only a scoring or offensive leader, but also a motivational force for his teammates to follow?  

This NBA season is bringing that debate back around, as several players have legitimate cases to take home the award.   

LeBron James, Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Luka Doncic and Stephen Curry are all worthy of being named MVP, but another player is doing even more with less and is truly defining what it means to be most valuable: Damian Lillard.  

Lillard is a seven-time All-Star and has been voted first or second All-NBA four times but has never finished higher than fourth in MVP voting. Lillard is having the best of his nine NBA seasons while almost single-handedly pushing the Trail Blazers to the upper reaches of the Western Conference.  

It's far from just scoring a bunch of points, though the Blazers star is doing plenty of that. He ranks fourth in the NBA with 29.6 points per game and is eighth with 8.0 assists. His 124 three-pointers trail only Curry, and he is fourth in free throws made (211). Lillard is tied with Bradley Beal (18) for the most 30-point games this season and is tied for the league lead (Curry) with 14 games of 30 points and five three-pointers. 

Where Lillard really separates himself from the pack is his continued performances in late and close situations (defined as the last two minutes of games separated by four points or fewer).   

Lillard has always been electric in high-stakes spots but he has taken it to a new level this season. He leads the NBA in points (52), is tied for the lead in field goals made (15) and hasn't missed a free throw (17 for 17) in late and close situations. He's also 15 for 20 (62.5 percent) from the field and five for eight from three-point range.   

The only other players in double figures in field goals made in late and close situations are James and Zach LaVine. James, however, is 14 for 31 (45.2 percent) from the floor and LaVine is 15 for 35 (42.9). 

To further illustrate Lillard’s clutch play, he's made nine of 13 shots (69.2 percent) in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime and the score within four points. LaVine is the only other player with as many as nine field goals in that situation but he's nine for 23 (39.1 percent).  

During Portland's 6-1 surge from February 9-20, Lillard was sensational. He averaged 32.7 points and 9.6 assists while shooting 38.8 percent (33 for 85) from three-point range.  

He tallied at least 30 points and 10 assists in four consecutive games during that stretch, the second straight season he's done that. The only other players to accomplish that since 1985-86 are Michael Jordan, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Doncic.  

In a 126-124 win at New Orleans on February 17, Lillard became just the third player since at least 1985-86 to record 43 points and 16 assists in a game, joining Harden (twice) and Trae Young. Lillard had 11 fourth-quarter points in that win, including a go-ahead three-point play with 16.5 seconds remaining.  

Three nights earlier in a 121-118 win at Dallas, Lillard drilled a tie-breaking 3-pointer with 32 seconds remaining for the last of his 34 points.  

It should be mentioned that the other starters in those games for Portland were Robert Covington (waived, traded three times), Derrick Jones Jr (undrafted, waived), Enes Kanter (waived, traded three times) and Gary Trent Jr. (second-round draft pick).   

Sure, the Blazers also had the promising Anfernee Simons in that game, and 54-year-old Carmelo Anthony (not his real age but he's been around a while).  

Lillard is without question doing remarkable things with a very pedestrian supporting cast. And Portland (18-13) is doing far more than just getting by, winning eight of 12 to move up to second in the Northwest Division and fifth in the super competitive Western Conference.  

One big reason for Portland's success is its record in close games and Lillard has everything to do with that. After going 18-21 last season in games decided by nine points or fewer, the Blazers are 11-5 (.688) this season. Only Philadelphia (.765) has a better winning percentage. 

Portland's rise is remarkably coming without starting guard CJ McCollum, who has been out since January 16 with a broken foot, and starting center Jusuf Nurkic, who suffered a broken wrist two days earlier.  

Since January 18, when the Blazers began playing without McCollum and Nurkic, Lillard ranks third in the NBA in points per game (31.2) and fifth in assists (9.0). He's also third in 3-pointers made (196) and sixth in free throws made (119).  

With McCollum and his 26.7 points per game on the sidelines, Lillard has needed to carry perhaps the greatest offensive load of any player, and that can be a challenging proposition for any point guard.   

Curry, for example, while also a point guard, has Draymond Green to facilitate the offense, leaving him free to look for ways to score. James for all his incredible exploits isn't solely responsible for making sure Anthony Davis (when healthy) gets his touches and Embiid has Ben Simmons to distribute and score. Even the mega-talented Doncic has 7-foot-3 Kristaps Porzingis to attract attention from opposing defenses.  

No team playing Portland this season has been too concerned with anyone on the floor other than Lillard, particularly now with McCollum out. Covington, Jones and Kanter are solid players but no team has ever installed a game plan designed to keep the ball out of their hands.  

Portland are 12.3 points per 100 possessions better when Lillard is on the floor. By comparison, the Lakers are 8.3 points better with James on the court and the Warriors score 9.9 more when Curry is in the game. 

While there clearly are other factors at play in these numbers, it's not difficult to make a case that no other player in the league is more valuable to their team than Lillard to the Blazers right now.  

Luguentz Dort finds himself in illustrious company after his game-winning shot lifted the Oklahoma City Thunder to victory over the San Antonio Spurs. 

With the game tied at 99-99, Dort received the ball in the corner and successfully drained a three-pointer, sealing the win in dramatic fashion before falling to the court as he was mobbed by team-mates. 

The 21-year-old is just the third player in franchise history to hit a game-winning attempt from beyond the arc as time expired. The others? Kevin Durant (twice) and Russell Westbrook (three times).

"It felt good when it left my hand," said Dort. "I was just staring at the ball and when it dropped in, I dropped too."

Having gone undrafted in 2019, Dort joined the Thunder initially on a two-way contract. He featured in 36 games last season, averaging 6.8 points per game while shooting 29.7 per cent from deep, building a reputation for his defensive abilities. 

However, he has had a larger role on offense in his second campaign in the NBA, nearly doubling his output in terms of points per game (12.5) while improving to 31.8 per cent from three-point range. 

"Lu's changed it around, obviously, changed the narrative," Thunder team-mate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said after the Spurs game.  

"It's just him working hard, not getting down on himself, being confident. When you work hard, confidence comes with it because you believe in yourself." 

Gilgeous-Alexander also excelled against San Antonio, setting a new career high for points as he contributed 42 to Oklahoma City's cause. 

"I just wanted to be aggressive, try to put the defense on their heels, and from there, make the right play," said Gilgeous-Alexander, who scored 21 points alone in the third period.

Dort's clinching shot lifted him to 16 points, while Al Horford also managed the same.

Dejounte Murray had 27 in a losing cause for the Spurs, who were beaten for just the fourth time in 13 games on the road this season. 

LeBron James called on the depleted Los Angeles Lakers to remain confident despite suffering a fourth straight loss, this time against an in-form Utah Jazz team who set an NBA record. 

The Jazz hit 22 three-pointers as they shot 46 per cent from deep in a resounding 114-89 triumph on Wednesday, in the process improving to 26-5 for the season.

While Utah lead the way in the Western Conference, the Lakers are suffering a dip that has coincided with the absences of key duo Anthony Davis and Dennis Schroder through injury.

James acknowledged it is a "tough stretch" for the reigning champions, though even with the poor recent run they still boast a 22-11 record.

"It's challenging for all of us, especially some of our young guys and some of our guys who haven't been in the position before where they need to do a little bit more than what they are asked to in a normal situation," James said. 

"Everyone is speaking about AD [Davis], and that's obviously a big hit, but we also haven't had Dennis down this stretch too. He's a big piece of our puzzle as well.  

"But it's always about staying confident, continuing to give my team-mates the courage and confidence out there on the floor, and make plays. 

"It's a tough stretch for us, but this won't define who we will be for the rest of the season."

As for the Jazz, they are the first team in NBA history to make 50 threes over a two-game span, having finished with a franchise-record 28 in a blowout triumph over the Charlotte Hornets.

They have now won 14 straight home games by double digits, the second-longest streak posted in the NBA, behind only the Phoenix Suns (15) in the 1989-90 season.

"They came back with the same roster, but what I noticed, more than anything, is that those guys are fully healthy," James told the media.

"Mike Conley is back to himself; you can see that with the way he's moving on the floor and it's trickled down to everyone else. They are playing some really good ball and are a really good team."

Rudy Gobert did not attempt a three but still contributed 18 points, as well as nine rebounds. Conley, meanwhile, landed four of his six attempts from beyond the arc, as well as eight rebounds and eight assists.

"It's all about getting better," Gobert said. "We did a great job sharing the ball offensively. When we defend and we share the ball, it's hard to beat us."

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gallinari writes Hawks and NBA history

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

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

Siakam ineffective for Raps

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

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

 

Dort beats the clock and comes up clutch 

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

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

Wednesday's results

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

 

Pelicans at Bucks

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

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker will step in to replace injured Los Angeles Laker, Anthony Davis, in the 2021 NBA All-Star Game.

Davis is suffering from Achilles tendinosis and a strained right calf, leading to commissioner Adam Silver to choose Booker as an alternate, one day after he was overlooked by league head coaches.

Booker joins Suns team-mate Chris Paul as a 2021 All-Star, earning his second selection after making his debut last season.

The duo have led Phoenix to the fourth-best record in the competition, 20-10, setting their team's best record through 30 games in the past 13 years.

The All-Star captains, Lakers superstar LeBron James and Brooklyn Nets ace Kevin Durant, will draft their rosters on March 4 for the game at State Farm Arena, Atlanta, on March 7.

Seventeen-time All-Star James had tweeted: "Devin Booker is the most disrespected player in our league!!! Simple as that," after Booker was snubbed from the All-Star reserves list.

Booker is averaging 24.7 points, 4.3 assists and 3.8 rebounds during the 2020-21 season and has dropped a career-high 50.1 per cent of his field-goal attempts.

Robert Lewandowski heads a stellar list of nominees for the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award after a golden 12 months for Bayern Munich.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James, Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton and tennis great Rafael Nadal are also in contention. Joshua Cheptegei and Armand Duplantis complete the male nominees.

Poland striker Lewandowski enjoyed a memorable 2020 for the German giants, with his impeccable performances helping Bayern to a Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League treble. 

Across the top-five European leagues, no player could match Lewandowski's 45 goals scored in all competitions from January 1 to December 31 with Cristiano Ronaldo his nearest rival on 41.

In that 12-month period, only Barcelona great Lionel Messi (115) and Juventus superstar Ronaldo (85) registered more shots on target than Lewandowski's 83, while a shot-conversion rate of 34.09 was the fifth highest among players to score at least 20.

Reflecting his all-round contribution, Lewandowski recorded 12 assists in the calendar year, with team-mate Thomas Muller leading the way on an impressive 21. 

Unsurprisingly, Lewandowski won a fifth Torjagerkanone (awarded to the Bundesliga's top scorer) overall and a third in a row thanks to 34 Bundesliga goals in 2019-20, higher than an expected goals rate of 26.9. His 15 goals in the Champions League were also a competition high.

 

In a stacked deck, James is included after a year that saw him win a fourth career NBA title and first with the Lakers, while he also claimed a fourth Finals MVP award.

Across six games in the Lakers' 4-2 triumph over the Miami Heat, James averaged 29.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 8.5 assists, while he shot 59.1 per cent from the field and drained 41.7 per cent of three-point attempts.

Mercedes driver Hamilton won a seventh F1 drivers' title in 2020 to match the overall record of the legendary Michael Schumacher.

During another sensational season, the Briton reached 95 career race wins, which surpasses the previous benchmark of 91 set by Schumacher.

In a calendar year disrupted heavily by the coronavirus pandemic, Nadal still had personal reason to celebrate after winning a record-extending 13th French Open title.

His triumph at Roland Garros means he now stands alongside Roger Federer on 20 grand slams – the most achieved in the men's game.

Uganda's Cheptegei broke both 5,000 and 10,000 metres world records in 2020, while Duplantis of Sweden broke the indoor and outdoor pole vault record.

Tennis' global superstar Naomi Osaka is nominated for the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award.

The Japanese was champion at the US Open in 2020, which took her career slam tally to three. She recently made that four by winning the first major of 2021 at the Australian Open.

Lyon captain Wendie Renard is in contention after helping her team to a fifth straight Women's Champions League title, while WNBA Finals MVP award winner Breanna Stewart is included after guiding the Seattle Storm to championship glory.

Cyclist Anna van der Breggen – who won both the road race and time trial at the World Championships – is up for the prize, as is skier Federica Brignone, the first Italian woman to win the overall World Cup.

Kenya's Brigid Kosgei completes the women's nominees after winning the rescheduled London Marathon by more than three minutes.

Bayern, the Lakers and Mercedes are all up for the World Team of the Year Award, as are Liverpool, who won a first English top-flight title in 30 years.

The Kansas City Chiefs make the list after winning a first Super Bowl since 1970, while Argentina's men's rugby team are nominated after earning a first ever win over three-time world champions New Zealand.

Patrick Mahomes' role in the Chiefs Super Bowl win earned him a nomination for the World Breakthrough of the Year Award, with Iga Swiatek up for the prize after winning the women's singles at the French Open aged 19, the youngest slam winner since 1990.

MotoGP world champion Joan Mir, Tour de France victor Tadej Pogacar, US Open male champion Dominic Thiem and prodigious Barcelona talent Ansu Fati complete that category.

Paul George admits he is not a fan of the NBA All-Star Game going ahead this year, despite being selected to represent the Western Conference. 

George is averaging 24.6 points and shooting an impressive 48.6 per cent from three-point range this season for the Los Angeles Clippers, a team that boasts a 23-10 record after Tuesday's win over the Washington Wizards.

His efforts have been rewarded with a place among the list of reserves for the West for the game in Atlanta on March 7. 

It will be a seventh All-Star appearance for George, yet he feels that – amid the coronavirus pandemic – the league should have considered skipping the contest in 2021, insisting: "It's not something that needs to be had". 

"I'm not a fan of it, and that's just for personal reasons," George said. 

"I'm just not a fan of it with everything going on, I think it's just smart [not to happen]. I get that we have an amazing league, I'm not discrediting that. But I think, in the middle of a pandemic, it's not something that needs to be had. 

"I got fined for spending time with a team-mate, for having a team-mate over, then we're having this All-Star Game.  

"I've got personal reasons why I disagree with the game, but I've been selected, and I'll be there to play for the fans."

George missed out on selection for last year's All-Star lineups, while his first season with the Clippers finished in disappointing fashion, the team letting slip a 3-1 series lead to lose to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semi-finals. 

For the 30-year-old, however, such setbacks just fuel his desire to become even better.  

"It's just more so, me just staying grounded, me staying committed just to the process. With all the noise, everything going on, you find motivation through it," he said, referencing the reaction to the Clippers' postseason collapse in the Orlando bubble. 

"You dig deep and you would be amazed on what comes out of it. It was honestly just using everything as motivation and fuel and all of that towards this year.

"It's a good milestone to start how my season is going, but definitely not where I want it to end. Got a lot more work to do."

Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle praised Luka Doncic for having "laser-like focus" after his game-winning shot sunk the Boston Celtics on Tuesday. 

Doncic hit a three-point attempt with just 0.1 seconds remaining to seal a 110-107 triumph for the Mavericks in front of a small crowd, his second successful effort from deep during a dramatic finish to proceedings.

The Celtics had tied the scores at 107-107 when Jaylen Brown made a driving layup, but there was still enough time left for the Mavs to nick it. 

For Carlisle, it was just further proof that certain players are wired differently to deal with such moments, putting Doncic in the same bracket as legendary names such as Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. 

"He's just a very unique player, a very unique person," Carlisle said.

"The wiring of people like Luka Doncic, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Larry Bird, Kobe Bryant, guys that have this laser-like focus in these situations.  

"It's difficult to explain how their minds and their brains work." 

Doncic – who will be one of the starters for the Western Conference in the All-Star Game next month – finished with 31 points, aided by making six of his eight attempts from deep.  

He had missed a late three that would have tied the game in the defeat to the Portland Trail Blazers last time out, but this time came up with the clutch shot under pressure, something he has become accustomed to taking – and making – despite not turning 22 until Sunday.

"It felt good out of my hands, I was kind of tired just running around the whole possession. But it got in, and that's all that matters," Doncic said. 

"It's something I've been doing. Sometimes two people go to me and I have to pass it. 

"Sometimes you're going to miss it, sometimes you're going to make it."

Brown led the way for the Celtics with 29 points, while Jayson Tatum contributed 28. Both players were named to the Eastern Conference All-Star reserves list prior to the game. 

"I don't feel very much like an All-Star because we're below .500," Brown said as Boston fell to a 15-16 record for the season.  

"I think this is the most I've lost since I've been here. I'm hopeful that we'll string some games together and make a run. It's very much in our grasp to do so." 

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