Ben Simmons led the way with his 29th career triple-double as the Philadelphia 76ers claimed top spot in the NBA Eastern Conference with a 127-122 win over the Charlotte Hornets.

Simmons dropped 15 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists as Philly opened up a 15-point first quarter lead and never looked back to go 5-1.

Joel Embiid contributed with a double-double of 19 points and 14 rebounds, while Tobias Harris top scored with 24 points as the 76ers claimed a third straight victory.

Ben Simmons (15 PTS, 12 REB, 11 AST) puts up a triple-double as the @sixers move to 5-1!

Tobias Harris: 24 PTS, 9 REB, 6 AST, 4 STL, 3 BLK
Seth Curry: 21 PTS (8-11 FGM), 6 AST
Joel Embiid: 19 PTS, 14 REB
Terry Rozier: 35 PTS, 7 3PM pic.twitter.com/ZgvqSUC9kp

— NBA (@NBA) January 3, 2021

The Atlanta Hawks (4-2) fell off the pace in the East following a 96-91 loss against the Cleveland Cavaliers as Colin Sexton scored 13 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter to snatch the win. 

John Wall led the scoring with 28 points as the Houston Rockets made it back-to-back triumphs against the Sacramento Kings, 102-98, in Texas.

Christian Wood posted a double-double with 15 rebounds and 20 points as the Rockets improved from 0-2 to 2-2 since Wall’s arrival, while James Harden was sidelined with an ankle injury.

Big scorers come up short for Magic, Pacers

Nikola Vucevic dazzled, putting up 30 points and 13 rebounds, but it was not enough to prevent the Orlando Magic slipping to 4-2 after a 108-99 loss against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Six OKC players hit double-figures in an all-round team effort as Darius Bazley top scored with 19 points and 12 rebounds.

Patrick Williams took pride in guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo, even though the rookie could not stop the NBA's reigning MVP from delivering a stellar performance against the Chicago Bulls.

Antetokounmpo recorded 29 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists as he helped the Milwaukee Bucks to a 126-96 victory on Friday.

Milwaukee had seven players in double digits, and they hit 22 three-pointers. No team has hit more treble scores through the first six games of a season than the Bucks' tally of 108.

Despite the heavy defeat, Bulls head coach Billy Donovan was happy with the performance of Williams, who on his sixth appearance was tasked with the unenviable challenge of shadowing Antetokounmpo.

"I'm sure internally inside of himself he's probably saying, like, 'Wow, last year I was playing in college, the year before that I was in high school'," Donovan told reporters.

"It's a lot for a young player to handle. But he's got to kind of get thrown to it, and he's gotta learn it and experience it. But his attitude and his disposition, whatever you put in front of him is always the same."

Reflecting on his game, 19-year-old Williams said: "My chest is on fire right now just from the shoulders that [Antetokounmpo] gave me.

"I was just blessed to be in this opportunity for sure. Of course, we wanted to win the game, but now that we didn't win, we can learn from it.

"He doesn't really compare to any other guy that I've had to guard yet this season. But the next time we play them, I hope to guard him again and do better.

"Being able to guard somebody like that in my sixth game of the season, it means a lot. It means a lot that coach trusted me to guard him pretty much the entire game when I was out there. It shows the trust that he has in me and the trust that I have to have in myself. It means a lot for sure.

"I want to guard the best player every night. It's just the person that I am. I want to be the guy that always guards the best person. So, if I want to be that guy, I've got to learn from it. It's just a blessing."

Last month, Antetokounmpo signed an extension reportedly worth $228.2million (£170.1m) – the largest deal in NBA history.

Averaging 23.5 points per game, he has helped the Bucks – who have a home series against the Detroit Pistons up next – to three wins this season.

"I'd say the growth in my game comes from being less stubborn," Antetokounmpo told a postgame media conference.

"Keep your team-mates involved, got to look at the bigger picture. Being less stubborn, sacrificing for my team-mates."

LeBron James wants to see the Los Angeles Lakers get Marc Gasol more involved going forward.

James (26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists) and Anthony Davis (34 points and 11 rebounds) guided the Lakers past the San Antonio Spurs 109-103 in the NBA on Friday.

Gasol attempted just one field goal in his 20 minutes, while finishing with eight rebounds and three assists.

James hopes the Lakers can use the 35-year-old more often as the season progresses.

"I just think playing through him a lot more. When we do that, we're very good because his ability to see the floor, pass the ball, he does some special things out on the floor," he told a news conference.

"When he's on the floor, we have to do a better job of not playing much pick and roll with him setting the picks but more just letting him kind of play that point four or that point centre position at the top of the key, letting offense flow through him because he makes just great decisions.

"We're going to get him more involved because he's going to be a big part of what we do, we know that, he showed that already this year against Minnesota.

"We want to continue to just get him and Dennis [Schroder] and Trez [Montrezl Harrell] and Wes [Matthews] acclimated to what we want to do and go from there."

The Lakers (4-2) face the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday.

The Los Angeles Lakers made it back-to-back wins in the NBA, while the Milwaukee Bucks thrashed the Chicago Bulls on Friday.

LeBron James posted a triple-double of 26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists as the Lakers beat the San Antonio Spurs 109-103.

Anthony Davis had a game-high 34 points, to go with 11 rebounds, as the Lakers enjoyed a second win in three days over San Antonio.

Keldon Johnson (26) and DeMar DeRozan (23) combined for 49 points for Spurs.

Giannis Antetokounmpo (29 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists) helped the Bucks crush the Bulls 126-96.

Milwaukee had seven players in double-digits and the Bucks hit 22 three-pointers.

No team has hit more threes through the first six games of a season than the Bucks' 108 to begin 2020-21.

 

Doncic lifts Mavericks, Leonard's Clippers lose

Luka Doncic finished with 27 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists in the Dallas Mavericks' 93-83 win over the Miami Heat.

Kawhi Leonard fell just short of a triple-double as he posted 20 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists, but the Los Angeles Clippers went down to the Utah Jazz 106-100.

The Portland Trail Blazers eased past the Golden State Warriors 123-98 thanks largely to 34 points from Damian Lillard. Lillard joined Clyde Drexler as the only players to score 15,000 points with the Trail Blazers.

Deandre Ayton's double-double of 22 points and 11 rebounds helped the Phoenix Suns improve to 5-1 with a 106-103 victory against the Denver Nuggets.

 

Nets slip to 3-3

Kyrie Irving struggled from the field, shooting six-of-21 for 18 points, as the Brooklyn Nets were beaten by the Atlanta Hawks 114-96. Kevin Durant finished with 28 points.

 

Grant delivers huge dunk

Jerami Grant produced a huge dunk as part of his 24 points in the Detroit Pistons' first win of the season – a 96-93 victory over the Boston Celtics.

Friday's results

Memphis Grizzlies 108-93 Charlotte Hornets
Detroit Pistons 96-93 Boston Celtics
Dallas Mavericks 93-83 Miami Heat
Atlanta Hawks 114-96 Brooklyn Nets
Milwaukee Bucks 126-96 Chicago Bulls
Washington Wizards 130-109 Minnesota Timberwolves
Los Angeles Lakers 109-103 San Antonio Spurs
Phoenix Suns 106-103 Denver Nuggets
Utah Jazz 106-100 Los Angeles Clippers
Portland Trail Blazers 123-98 Golden State Warriors

 

Kings at Rockets

The Sacramento Kings (3-2) take on James Harden and the Houston Rockets (1-2) on Saturday.

John Wall enjoyed his Houston Rockets debut, saying his job was to make James Harden's life a little easier.

In his first regular-season appearance since December 2018, Wall helped the Rockets past the Sacramento Kings 122-119 on Thursday.

Wall finished with 22 points, nine assists and six rebounds, while Harden had 33 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

After his debut for the Rockets, Wall said he enjoyed his connection with Harden.

"I think it was cool. I missed some easy shots, trying to get some rust off, no matter how much I practice and play in preseason it's a bit different when you get in real games," the guard told a news conference.

Wall added: "My job here is to help James as much as possible, make it a little easier for him.

"You know when we need a bucket and get to crunch-time situation, you know what he's capable of."

Harden scored 16 fourth-quarter points for the Rockets, who claimed their first win of the season.

The eight-time All-Star was pleased with the win, while praising Wall's performance.

"He was extremely aggressive, making plays, defensively getting after it, he looked really, really good, especially not playing in almost two years," Harden said.

"Once we get a rhythm and guys get into their roles and find their best fit for the team, we'll be even better.

"But I'm happy in the last six minutes when it was time to get stops we did and offensively we executed."

John Wall impressed on his Houston Rockets debut, while the Philadelphia 76ers' fine start to the NBA season continued.

In his first regular-season appearance since December 2018, Wall helped the Rockets to their first win of the season with a 122-119 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Thursday.

Wall posted 22 points, nine assists and six rebounds on his Rockets debut after being traded from the Washington Wizards at the start of December.

James Harden again starred, finishing with 33 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

The 76ers improved to 4-1 and handed Orlando their first loss of the season, beating the Magic 116-92.

Joel Embiid was seven-of-11 from the field for 21 points, while he also pulled down nine rebounds.

 

Westbrook's Wizards fall again as Booker shines

Russell Westbrook posted another triple-double with 22 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, but the Washington Wizards dropped to 0-5 after a 133-130 loss to the Chicago Bulls. Westbrook joined Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history to open a season with four triple-doubles in their first four games.

Thomas Bryant had 28 points for the Wizards after going 10-of-11 from the field.

Devin Booker's game-high 25 points helped the Phoenix Suns past the Utah Jazz 106-95. The Suns are 4-1.

Domantas Sabonis had a double-double of 25 points and 11 rebounds in the Indiana Pacers' 119-99 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Sabonis has posted at least a double-double in all five of his games this season.

 

Terrible Thunder

The Oklahoma City Thunder shot at just 37.5 per cent from the field in a 113-80 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.

 

Harden, Wall power Rockets

Harden and Wall finished with 55 points and 17 assists between them against the Kings.

Thursday's results

Indiana Pacers 119-99 Cleveland Cavaliers
Chicago Bulls 133-130 Washington Wizards
Philadelphia 76ers 116-92 Orlando Magic
Houston Rockets 122-119 Sacramento Kings
Toronto Raptors 100-83 New York Knicks
New Orleans Pelicans 113-80 Oklahoma City Thunder
Phoenix Suns 106-95 Utah Jazz

 

Lakers at Spurs

The Los Angeles Lakers (3-2) and San Antonio Spurs (2-2) will meet again on Friday. LeBron James powered the Lakers to a win over San Antonio on Wednesday.

Russell Westbrook made some history with another triple-double, but the Washington Wizards fell to another loss.

Westbrook, traded by the Houston Rockets to the Wizards in December, posted 22 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds in Thursday's 133-130 loss to the Chicago Bulls.

He joined Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history to open a season with four triple-doubles in their first four games.

Despite Westbrook's performances, the Wizards fell to 0-5 to begin the campaign.

The nine-time All-Star is averaging 19.8 points, 12.8 rebounds and 12.3 assists this season.

The NBA season is only a week old but it is not too soon to look at how some of the biggest moves of the abbreviated offseason are faring on their new teams.

No offseason trade made bigger headlines than the blockbuster that sent nine-time All-Star Russell Westbrook from the Houston Rockets to the Washington Wizards for John Wall in a swap of high-scoring point guards.

Playing for his third team in three years has not done anything to slow Westbrook's production, as he has averaged 19 points, 13.7 rebounds and 12.7 assists with three triple-doubles in as many games for the Wizards. He is the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1961 to record triple-doubles in the first three games of the season.

While Westbrook's accomplishment is undeniably remarkable, the Wizards are one of four winless teams left in the league and the 0-4 start is the franchise's worst since it began 2012-13 with 12 consecutive losses.

Many of the same issues that have plagued Westbrook throughout his career have followed him to the nation's capital, with shot selection the most glaring weakness.

 

 

 

The early returns on the trade aren't very good from Washington's perspective but at least Westbrook has been on the court. Wall has yet to play a game for Houston after he and several team-mates had to quarantine following COVID-19 issues on the Rockets.

The most surprising free-agent acquisition of the offseason was Gordon Hayward leaving the contending Boston Celtics to sign a four-year, $120million deal with the Charlotte Hornets, a team that have not won a playoff round since 2001-02.

Hayward will not post the eye-popping numbers of some players, but he consistently makes smart choices and elevates the players around him. Hayward has averaged 19.8 points and six assists through his first four games with Charlotte.

A move that would've been impossible to predict a couple years ago was the Rockets giving a three-year, $41million contract to Christian Wood, a player that went undrafted and has been waived four times since entering the league in 2015.

A versatile big man, Wood had a breakout season with the Detroit Pistons in 2019-20 and played at an All-Star level after moving into the starting line-up in early February. He averaged 21.9 points on 56.0 per cent shooting with 9.4 rebounds in 12 games.

In his first two games with Houston, Wood has totalled 54 points on 23-of-42 (54.8 per cent) shooting and 16 rebounds while starting at center. With the James Harden saga hanging over the team, Wood has given Rockets fans a young player to be excited about.

 

Veteran point guard Chris Paul has been on the move quite a lot lately, with the Phoenix Suns his fourth team in five years following his November trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder. Paul should be the perfect floor leader and mentor for a young Phoenix team that was the story of the bubble last season with an 8-0 record in the seeding games before falling short of a postseason appearance.

Paul has only scored in double figures once in his first four games but he is among the league leaders in assists (9.5) and has helped the Suns to a 3-1 record, their best four-game mark since 2014-15.

Kevin Durant was technically a member of the Nets last season though an Achilles injury kept him sidelined all year. The four-time scoring champion has not shown any rust upon his return this season, averaging 28.3 points on 52.2 per cent from the field while helping Brooklyn to a 3-1 record in the games he has played.

Brooklyn is reportedly Harden's preferred destination and acquiring him seemed to make sense for the Nets, since collecting superstars on one team is all the rage in today's NBA. But with Durant seemingly back to his All-Star form and Kyrie Irving also playing extremely well, perhaps Harden's scoring and demand for the ball is not needed in Brooklyn.

The Durant-Irving combination and a strong supporting staff of players could be enough to get the Nets to a place the franchise has not been since the days of Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin and Richard Jefferson.

 

Durant, Irving and the rest of the league are chasing defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers, who on paper appear to be even better than last season. The addition of point guard Dennis Schroder in a trade with Oklahoma City is already proving to be a very valuable addition.

Schroder is a prolific scorer that can ease the burden on LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and he can take over some of the ball-handling duties in place of the departed Rajon Rondo.

Schroder is one of just 15 players this season (minimum of three games) averaging at least 17 points, five rebounds and five assists. Some of the others on that list are James, Westbrook, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic and Nikola Jokic.

Kawhi Leonard has been nicknamed 'Leatherface' due to the mask he must wear after an injury inflicted by Los Angeles Clippers team-mate Serge Ibaka, who he joked is now on the trading block.

A collision with Ibaka during the fourth quarter against the Denver Nuggets last week resulted in Leonard requiring eight stitches for a mouth laceration.

The four-time All-Star sat out two games, including the Clippers' heaviest defeat in their history when they went down by 51 points to the Dallas Mavericks, before returning in Wednesday's 128-105 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.

Wearing an unusual face mask did not seem to hamper Leonard too much as he had a game-high 28 points with seven assists, three steals and one block at Staples Center.

The protective gear has resulted in his team-mates referring to him by the name of the villain from 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' film series, but Leonard – a self-proclaimed "fun guy" known for his reserved personality – warned Ibaka not to take part in the teasing too much after injuring the franchise star.

"They started calling me Leatherface and stuff," said Leonard, continuing with a deadpan delivery.

"But Serge can't talk too much, we've got him on the trading block right now. So whoever wants him, let us know. We're trying to trade Serge."

Leonard said it was difficult to breathe in the mask and explained that the location of his injury was the reason for the odd aesthetics of the mask.

"Just where the injury is, it's a little difficult. Some guys have cheek fractures or they break their nose, and mine is really like trying to protect the stitches from getting hit and ripped, so it's a different scenario. You're trying to protect the lips and my jaw and my cheek," said Leonard.

"It's hard to do and that's what I'm saying it's kind of hard to breathe, because you can't really expose my mouth so much, you have to bring it [the mask] out and put a hole in.

"But there's a whole process to it. We're still trying to work on something better but it worked out pretty well tonight. I might have to get a mouthpiece or something."

Six of Leonard's seven assists came through the first two periods, tying his career high for assists in either half of a game.

The Clippers had 30 assists in total against the Trail Blazers, making it the first time since December 2014 that they have hit that mark in back-to-back games.

LeBron James marked his 36th birthday by ticking off another staggering NBA achievement - just as Becky Hammon made it a landmark night for women in US sports.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar James became the first player in the league's history to rack up 1,000 consecutive double-digit scoring games, helping his team to a 121-107 win over the San Antonio Spurs.

It came as Hammon became the first woman to act as head coach in the NBA, taking over after Spurs boss Gregg Popovich was ejected in the second quarter.

James said he would enjoy a socially distanced night of birthday celebration, with "some good wine, maybe some tequila", and spoke of his astonishment at being able to enjoy such a career.

"I would be lying if I could sit here and tell you I could wrap my head around it," he said, speaking in a video news conference.

"It doesn't make sense but I took advantage of every opportunity I've been given."

He spoke of feeling like "one of the chosen ones" who could make a difference on and off court, 

"Nobody is perfect but you can try to be as great as you can every single day," he added. "I've been doing this half my life in this league. I'm 36 today and I got in at 18."

Hammon had a long playing career in the WNBA with the New York Liberty and San Antonio Silver Stars, before moving into coaching in the NBA in 2014 when a Spurs opportunity materialised.

James is respectful of the effort that Hammon, now 43, has put in to come so far in her career.

"She's been putting in the work, and any time you put in the work then you get rewarded with opportunities," he said.

"She's been paying her dues over the last few years and Coach Pop has given her an opportunity to first of all be the coach of the Summer League team and now be a head coach if anything ever happened to Pop.

"Tonight was a case where she got to step in and show her work, show her talents and show her love for the game. What she did as a player, first of all, we all know that. So in her mind she was able to transfer to our league, and she's been great ever since she got in.

"It's a beautiful thing just to hear her barking out calls, barking out sets, and she's very passionate about the game, so congrats to her and congrats to our league."

Becky Hammon tried to freeze out the "huge picture" and focus on the court in front of her as she became the first woman in NBA regular-season history to act as head coach.

Former WNBA star Hammon filled in after San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was ejected in the opening half of the clash with the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Lakers came through as 121-107 winners, with Hammon keeping all her energy on the task in hand rather than the history-making aspect of the evening.

She said afterwards: "In the moment I was just trying to win the game.

"I try not to think about the huge picture and the huge aspect of it because it can get overwhelming. It's my job to go in there and be focused for those guys and make sure I'm helping them do the things that will help us win.

"I really have not had time to reflect. I haven't looked at my phone."

Spurs guard Dejounte Murray saluted the impact 43-year-old Hammon has had on the team, and backed her to take the next step forward by ultimately becoming a full-time head coach.

She joined the Spurs coaching staff in 2014, and Murray said: "You've got to tilt your head off to her.

"She's been here since I got here [in 2016]. I remember watching her talk to every single player, whether a veteran dude or a young dude, just using her voice and her knowledge of the game.

"I love Becky to death. She texts me on holiday, asks about my daughter, I ask about her kids. I appreciate her. The future's bright for her."

Murray would love to see Hammon lead an NBA team on a full-time basis and considers it a realistic target.

"I hope she sticks to it and doesn't give up," he said. "One day it might happen, it may not happen, who knows? But she's definitely on the right road and I think everyone here appreciates her.

"She's setting an example for every woman out there.

"It's really up to her. I think she has the knowledge. I think she knows the game really well.

"If she wants it, I believe she could do it. She's passionate about the game and passionate about winning. She knows everything about it.

"If she does or if she doesn't, I'm going to love her the same and appreciate her the same."

LeBron James made history in the Los Angeles Lakers' win over the San Antonio Spurs, while Jaylen Brown fuelled the Boston Celtics with a mammoth performance in the NBA.

Lakers superstar James became the first ever NBA player with 1,000 consecutive double-digit scoring games as the defending champions topped the Spurs 121-107 on Wednesday.

Celebrating his 36th birthday midweek, James posted 26 points, eight assists and five rebounds to help the Lakers improve to 3-2.

James – who surpassed Michael Jordan's mark, which only accounts for regular-season games, of 866 in March 2018 – last failed to score at least 10 points in a game on January 5, 2007.

Four-time NBA champion and MVP James has just eight single-digit scoring games in his illustrious career – six of them coming during his rookie season in 2003-04.

In the same game on Wednesday, Spurs assistant Becky Hammon became the first woman in NBA regular-season history to act as head coach.

Hammon – the first full-time, salaried female coach in NBA history – filled in after Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was ejected in the opening half.

 

Brown in 34-year first

Brown became the first Celtics player to score 40-plus points while playing less than 30 minutes in a game since Boston great Larry Bird did it in 1986, per Stats Perform. The 24-year-old Brown finished with 42 points in 29 minutes as the Celtics beat the Memphis Grizzlies 126-107.

The Miami Heat bounced back from their humbling at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks with a 119-108 victory 24 hours later. According to Stats Perform, Miami are the first team in NBA history to lose by 45-plus points and then come back to beat the same team the very next day.

Tyler Herro (21 points and 15 rebounds) and Bam Adebayo (22 points and 10 assists) led the Heat, while a triple-double from two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (26 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists) was not enough for the Bucks.

After a two-game absence due to a mouth laceration, Kawhi Leonard returned with 28 points to guide the Los Angeles Clippers past the Portland Trail Blazers 128-105. All-Star team-mate Paul George put up 23 points and 10 rebounds.

The Brooklyn Nets won a thrilling shoot-out with the Atlanta Hawks 145-141. Led by Kevin Durant (33 points and 11 rebounds) and Kyrie Irving (25 points), the Nets handed the Hawks their first loss of the season. Trae Young (30 points and 11 assists) and John Collins (30 points and 10 rebounds) each had double-doubles for the Hawks.

Rookie LaMelo Ball was seven-of-10 from the field, while making four of his five three-pointers for a game-high 22 points off the bench in the Charlotte Hornets' 118-99 success away to the Dallas Mavericks.

 

Doncic struggles

It was a forgettable game for the Mavericks, who dropped to 1-3. Star guard Luka Doncic was just four-of-10 from the field in a 12-point display. He also missed all five of his attempts from beyond the arc. Dallas team-mate Josh Richardson made just one of 10 shots from the field, while going 0-of-four from three-point range for four points.

Damian Lillard had 20 points, but the Trail Blazers star was far from efficient. While he was 14-of-15 from the free-throw line, Lillard made just three of 14 from the field and missed all eight of his threes.

 

LeBron with the slam

There was plenty to celebrate for James midweek – his birthday, another milestone and a Lakers victory. He capped the triumphant outing with a signature slam against the Spurs in San Antonio.

 

Wednesday's results

Boston Celtics 126-107 Memphis Grizzlies
Brooklyn Nets 145-141 Atlanta Hawks
Miami Heat 119-108 Milwaukee Bucks
Charlotte Hornets 118-99 Dallas Mavericks
Los Angeles Lakers 121-107 San Antonio Spurs
Los Angeles Clippers 128-105 Portland Trail Blazers

 

76ers at Magic

The Philadelphia 76ers (3-1) will visit the Orlando Magic (4-0) – the only undefeated team remaining in the NBA – on Thursday.

San Antonio Spurs assistant Becky Hammon became the first woman in NBA regular-season history to act as head coach.

Hammon made history after Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was ejected in the first half of San Antonio's 121-107 loss to defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.

Popovich received a technical foul and was tossed out of the game with just under four minutes remaining in the second quarter as Hammon filled in midweek in a significant moment.

Hammon – the first full-time, salaried female coach in NBA history – was promoted to the front of the bench on Popovich's coaching staff in 2018.

The 43-year-old has been with the Spurs as an assistant since 2014. She was head coach of San Antonio's Las Vegas Summer League teams in 2015 and 2016, leading the 2015 squad to the championship.

"Obviously it's a big deal, a substantial moment," Hammon said post-game. "I've been a part of this organisation.

"I got traded here in 2007, so I've been in San Antonio and part of the Spurs and sports organisation with the Stars and everything for 13 years.

"So I have a lot of time invested, and they have a lot of time invested in me in building me and getting me better."

Popovich was asked about Hammon pre-game after the six-time WNBA All-Star was nominated for the 2021 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

"Obviously, I think very much of her abilities having hired her. That all began when I saw her play," Popovich said. "She was a leader, everybody on the team reacted to her, she was very confident, very competitive and she led the whole show.

"And when I got to know her and she was in our coaches meetings before she was hired, while she was hurt after the season, we found out about her knack for the game, her innate understanding of what wins, what loses, what has to be there to make a program. So she's got all of the tools necessary to be a heck of a coach in our league."

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James became the first ever NBA player with 1,000 consecutive double-digit scoring games on Wednesday.

James celebrated his 36th birthday by extending his record streak in the NBA as defending champions the Lakers clashed with the San Antonio Spurs midweek.

The four-time champion, NBA Finals MVP and league MVP reached the milestone thanks to a hook shot with just over six minutes remaining in the second quarter.

James surpassed Michael Jordan's mark – which only accounts for regular-season games – of 866 in March 2018.

The last time James failed to score at least 10 points in a game was on January 5, 2007 after posting eight points, nine assists and five rebounds in the Cleveland Cavaliers' win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

James has just eight single-digit scoring games in his illustrious career – six of them coming during his rookie season in 2003-04.

 

Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard has been cleared to make his return following a two-game absence.

Leonard sat out against the Minnesota Timberwolves and Dallas Mavericks after suffering a mouth laceration on Christmas Day in the NBA.

The two-time NBA champion was involved in an accidental collision with Serge Ibaka when his team-mate went for a defensive rebound and caught Leonard with his elbow in the win over the Denver Nuggets on Friday.

But Leonard will start against the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, the Clippers announced pre-game.

Leonard – a four-time All-Star – is averaging 23.5 points, 5.0 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game for the Clippers (3-1) this season.

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