NBA

Young outshines Simmons, Clippers honour Lakers legend Bryant

By Sports Desk January 31, 2020

Trae Young almost single-handedly stunned the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA on Thursday, while the Los Angeles Clippers paid tribute to Kobe Bryant.

Named an All-Star starter ahead of Ben Simmons, 21-year-old guard Young outshone his fellow Eastern Conference star as the Atlanta Hawks topped the 76ers 127-117.

Young had a double-double before the first quarter ended and finished with 39 points and a career-high 18 assists in the upset, while Simmons went 10-of-15 from the field for a team-high 31 points.

The Clippers set rivalries aside before their clash with the Sacramento Kings to honour Los Angeles Lakers legend Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and the other seven people killed in Sunday's helicopter crash.

Paul George narrated a moving video that was broadcast before 24 seconds of silence while Bryant's old Lakers jerseys, normally covered during Clippers games at Staples Center, were left visible.

Sacramento went on to win 124-103 as Kawhi Leonard, who was involved in the warm-up, failed to play a minute due to lower back tightness.

 

Tatum makes successful Celtics comeback

Jayson Tatum returned after three games out with a groin injury and celebrated his first All-Star nod in fitting fashion, contributing 20 points, six rebounds and two assists as the Boston Celtics topped the Golden State Warriors 119-104.

Nikola Jokic delivered 28 points and 10 assists to drag the injury hit Denver Nuggets to a 106-100 victory against the fast-finishing Utah Jazz, who were led by Jordan Clarkson's 37 points.

Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal proved a point to those who overlooked him for a place in the All-Star Game in Chicago, posting 34 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in a 121-107 win over the Charlotte Hornets.

 

Clippers cold after losing Kawhi

The Clippers did not officially rule two-time NBA champion Leonard out of their game against the Kings until midway through the contest.

His absence seemed to unnerve the rest of the team, who combined to shoot just 35-of-92 from the field.

 

Sweet slam a consolation for Cavs

The Cleveland Cavaliers were at least able to enjoy a monster Larry Nance Jr. dunk as they suffered a 115-109 loss to the Toronto Raptors.

 

Thursday's results

Toronto Raptors 115-109 Cleveland Cavaliers
Washington Wizards 121-107 Charlotte Hornets
Atlanta Hawks 127-117 Philadelphia 76ers
Boston Celtics 119-104 Golden State Warriors
Sacramento Kings 124-103 Los Angeles Clippers
Denver Nuggets 106-100 Utah Jazz

 

Trail Blazers at Lakers

Staples Center will be the scene for another emotional outpouring on Friday as the Lakers (36-10) hit the floor for the first time since Bryant's death. The Western Conference leaders take on Carmelo Anthony and the Portland Trail Blazers (21-27).

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    Leonard's arrival for the resumption of the 2019-20 season was delayed after being excused due to a family matter, with the Clippers flying to Orlando last week.

    The two-time NBA champion and Finals MVP trained with his team-mates on Monday – his first practice session since the league was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic in March – as the Clippers prepare for the season to restart on July 30.

    The Clippers and Western Conference leaders the Los Angeles Lakers will headline the NBA's comeback on July 30 at the Disney World complex, and Leonard is ready.

    "Has it been four months?" Leonard said when asked about his health following a four-month break.

    "I mean, I feel good. You know, was able to work out, get strong and prepare for this moment now that we're in. It's about to be the first practice today, so I'm excited."

    In his first season with the Clippers after guiding the Toronto Raptors to their first championship, Leonard has been averaging 26.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game.

    The Clippers, however, have managed a knee issue in 2019-20, with Leonard not playing in the second of back-to-back games this season.

    Asked about the Clippers (44-20) and their plans for Leonard leading into the postseason, Rivers – whose team are second in the west – said: "I don't know that yet. But no limits. Kawhi is healthy for the most part.

    "That still doesn't mean that we don't want to maintain him and get him through the first eight games and get ready for the playoffs. We want to be smart about this."

  • 76ers coach Brown excited to see Simmons at power forward ahead of NBA restart 76ers coach Brown excited to see Simmons at power forward ahead of NBA restart

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    The 2019-20 NBA campaign is set to restart via a 22-team format at the Disney World complex in Orlando, Florida on July 30 after the season was postponed due to COVID-19 in March.

    Philadelphia will return to action against Eastern Conference rivals the Indiana Pacers on August 1, boosted by the comeback of All-Star Simmons.

    Simmons – averaging 16.7 points, 8.2 assists and 7.8 rebounds per game this season – is back to full fitness after a back injury sidelined him in February, showcasing his ability at power forward, having played as a point guard.

    "He's so dynamic," Philadelphia's Brown said on a conference call with reporters on Monday. "Let's just talk about running. There's nobody faster in the NBA. So to always have the ball and dribble it up against five guys ... to do that dilutes some of his potent weapons.

    "So, watching him fly up the floor, watching him and Joel [Embiid] play off each other, has been a really good look. I think they've been fantastic together."

    Brown, whose 76ers (39-26) are sixth in the Eastern Conference, added: "You take somebody and say, 'Here's the ball.' It's not like Ben came in and we had Chris Paul on the team or Damian Lillard on the team. We were young, and really not that good, so it was my decision, 'You take the ball. We're going to make you the point guard.' It's not like there was an established point guard that he had to bump out.

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    "He's been amazing," All-Star Joel Embiid said of Milton. "He's been the starting point guard, and I think he has a huge opportunity to help us accomplish what we believe we can.

    "He's been doing an amazing job and he's running the team and we're going to need him to knock down shots, which he did, before the league got shut down. He was on a roll so we're going to need him to keep it going. But it's great."

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    The five-year veteran is averaging a career-best 12.8 points and team-high 8.3 rebounds for a Sacramento team that currently has the 11th-best record in the Western Conference. 

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