Doc Rivers felt the Los Angeles Clippers had given Giannis Antetokounmpo "a birthday gift" with their dreadful performance as the Milwaukee Bucks cruised to a 14th consecutive NBA victory.

On his 25th birthday, reigning league MVP Antetokounmpo had 27 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in only 26 minutes as the Bucks cruised to a 119-91 home win.

An emphatic victory in a game between two teams expected to compete for a place in the NBA Finals saw the Bucks move to 20-3 while the Clippers fell to 16-7.

Rivers' team have gone 3-6 on the road and star duo Kawhi Leonard (17) and Paul George (13) were restricted to 30 points between them before being pulled early in the fourth quarter.

"It was Giannis' birthday, and we searched all over the city to find a gift, couldn't find one, so we gave him this one," coach Rivers said, per ESPN, after Friday's loss.

"That's all I can come up with because we were awful. They were so much more physical than us. It was not even close.

"We have not maximised them [Leonard and George] offensively yet.

"We keep looking at our offensive numbers, and I've been saying it: It's fool's gold. We're not ready offensively yet. Our numbers say different but this is where analytically, I'm right. I can see it."

Leonard and George also had five turnovers each in the Clippers' worst loss of the season.

"We just have to get comfortable with the plays," Leonard said of playing with George. "Just going out there and being able to run it without thinking, getting into our spots early. The flow will come.

"We're just a work in progress. This team has been put together this year. 

"We've got to figure it out. Some of us don't know the plays coming down, and it's hard to get in our sets. We've just got to keep striving."

The Bucks' 14 consecutive wins is their best streak since 1973, with Antetokounmpo their driving force.

"The fans were unbelievable," the Greek said. "They made me feel special. They made this day feel special. 

"Usually a lot of people, their birthday, they celebrate, they go out, they do all that. But that's not me. That's not what I do. But the fans made it really special for me."

LeBron James joked he is considering sneezing on Anthony Davis after his Los Angeles Lakers team-mate produced another outstanding performance in their win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday.

Davis, who joined the Lakers from the New Orleans Pelicans in a blockbuster trade in June, followed up 25 and 26-point performances in road wins against the Denver Nuggets and the Utah Jazz with a 39-point showing as Los Angeles claimed a 136-113 victory in Portland.

The 2012 first overall pick's displays have been made all the more impressive by the fact he has produced such incredible form while battling an illness.

Speaking after their win at the Moda Center, James said of Davis: "You see what he did on this road trip being sick? And he is starting to feel a lot better and I don't quite like it. I might sneeze on him a couple of times."

The Lakers are in command at the top of the Western Conference having lost just three of their 23 games this season.

"We have our mind set on something special. In order to reach that goal we have to stay in the moment and go game by game," Davis added.

"We take every game personal. We want to go out there and be the best team."

For the 9-14 Blazers, the game was marred by an injury to Rodney Hood, who suffered a torn Achilles in the first quarter.

"You hate to see one of your team-mates go down to an injury like that, especially a starter, and somebody who is really a good person and having a great season, fitting in really well with our team, and a big part of what we do," Blazers star Damian Lillard said. 

"You just feel for him personally more than anything."

 

The Milwaukee Bucks extended their winning streak to 14 games as birthday boy Giannis Antetokounmpo inspired a 119-91 rout of the Los Angeles Clippers.

Friday's NBA showdown was one-sided in Milwaukee, where the Bucks (20-3) led by as many as 41 points thanks to Antetokounmpo's 21st double-double of the season.

Reigning MVP Antetokounmpo – celebrating his 25th birthday – scored 27 points and 11 rebounds in under 30 minutes to down Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers on home court.

Leonard had 17 points for the Clippers (16-7), while star team-mate Paul George added 13.

Elsewhere, LeBron James and Anthony Davis guided the Los Angeles Lakers to a 136-113 victory against the Portland Trail Blazers.

James put up 31 points and Davis contributed a team-high 39 points as the Lakers (20-3) claimed their 11th successive road win.

 

Butler's triple-double ignites Heat

Jimmy Butler posted 28 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds – his second triple-double of the week – as the Miami Heat downed the Washington Wizards 112-103. The Heat are 9-0 at home for the first time in franchise history.

The Detroit Pistons edged the Indiana Pacers 108-101 thanks to 25 points and 22 rebounds from Andre Drummond. Blake Griffin added 25 points.

Nikola Jokic recorded a double-double with 30 points and 10 rebounds but the Denver Nuggets still lost 108-95 to the Boston Celtics.

 

Nance struggles

Larry Nance Jr. played a game-high 41 minutes in the Cleveland Cavaliers' 93-87 defeat against the Orlando Magic. While he collected 11 rebounds, Nance managed just four points on two-of-10 shooting from the floor. The 26-year-old also missed all three of his three-point attempts.

 

LeBron the magician

Somehow, James – surrounded by three Blazers players – made this shot in Portland.

 

Friday's results

Orlando Magic 93-87 Cleveland Cavaliers
Detroit Pistons 108-101 Indiana Pacers
Brooklyn Nets 111-104 Charlotte Hornets
Miami Heat 112-103 Washington Wizards
Golden State Warriors 100-98 Chicago Bulls
Oklahoma City Thunder 139-127 Minnesota Timberwolves (OT)
Boston Celtics 108-95 Denver Nuggets
Milwaukee Bucks 119-91 Los Angeles Clippers
San Antonio Spurs 105-104 Sacramento Kings (OT)
Los Angeles Lakers 136-113 Portland Trail Blazers

 

Cavaliers at 76ers

The Philadelphia 76ers (15-7) are 10-0 on home court and they will be looking to preserve that perfect record when the Cleveland Cavaliers roll into town on Saturday. After a shock loss to the Wizards in the American capital, the 76ers are seeking a response against the 5-16 Cavs.

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich criticised the New York Knicks' decision to sack David Fizdale.

The struggling Knicks parted with coach Fizdale on Friday following a run of eight consecutive defeats and a conference-worst 4-18 record in the NBA this season.

Fizdale – replaced by assistant Mike Miller on an interim basis – was appointed in 2018 and oversaw 21 wins and 83 losses during his tenure in New York.

Responding to Fizdale's departure, five-time champion Popovich slammed the Knicks.

"I don't know where the decision was made to fire coach Fizdale, but if it came from the top, it's a case of mistaken identity," Popovich said via NBA.com.

"He's a fine, talented young coach with a great pedigree, and it's ridiculous to think you're gonna bring a young guy in and after being there a minute and a half, you expect him to fix everything that's been wrong there for a long time.

"That's pretty unfair. So, it's the old analogy: he got thrown under the bus. He'll come out of it because he's a great coach."

Steve Kerr said he is happy he chose the Golden State Warriors over the New York Knicks following David Fizdale's firing.

The struggling Knicks sacked head coach Fizdale on Friday amid a conference-worst 4-18 record following eight consecutive NBA losses.

Kerr was wanted by the Knicks in 2014, but the former Chicago Bulls guard opted for the Warriors.

Three championships later and Warriors coach Kerr is pleased with the decision he made five years ago.

"If I had gone to New York, that would've been me like three years ago. I'm well aware of that," Kerr told reporters as he reacted to Fizdale's departure.

"It's just the way it goes. I think I made the right choice."

Kerr, whose Warriors (4-19) are struggling in the absence of injured stars Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson following Kevin Durant's switch to the Brooklyn Nets, added: "As we know in this business it's extremely fragile.

"Your job is dependent on a lot of things when you're a coach in this league. Number one probably is the talent that you're able to coach, but just as important is the strength of the organisation and the group around you.

"And it takes a really strong organisation to help coaches and help players get through difficult times."

 

The New York Knicks have sacked head coach David Fizdale, the struggling NBA franchise announced.

New York dismissed Fizdale on Friday, with the Knicks a conference-worst 4-18 for the season amid an eight-game losing streak.

Assistant coach Mike Miller will take over on an interim basis as the Knicks prepare to face the Indiana Pacers on Saturday.

"Today, head coach David Fizdale and assistant coach Keith Smart were relieved of their coaching duties," a statement read.

"Assistant coach Mike Miller has been named interim head coach."

The Knicks hired former Memphis Grizzlies coach Fizdale in 2018 but the 45-year-old was 21-83 in less than two seasons at the helm.

New York – who missed out on a big free-agent signing having been linked to Kevin Durant – have not made the playoffs since 2012-13.

Zion Williamson is unlikely to play on back-to-back nights when he returns from injury and finally makes his NBA regular-season debut, New Orleans Pelicans general manager David Griffin has said.

The much-hyped number one overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft is yet to take to the court in the regular season, having undergone surgery on his knee the day before the Pelicans' campaign started.

Williamson, who averaged over 23 points in preseason, was expected to be back within six to eight weeks, so his return is imminent.

However, the struggling 6-16 Pelicans will refrain from using Williamson on back-to-back nights initially.

"He very likely will not be asked to take the pounding of back-to-backs initially," Griffin told Fox Sports.

"There will be a sort of ramp-up for him to getting back to where you would call him full strength, but he's certainly going to be playing, and we're trying to win basketball games, and quite frankly, we've done a horrible job of that."

The six-week point of Williamson's surgery passed earlier this week and Griffin insists he is still on course to be back within the initial timeframe laid out.

"He continues to progress," Griffin added.

"He's progressing very well. He feels very good about his process. And eight weeks is several days from now, and if we get outside of that, it will be because he hasn't met the metrics for return-to-play that are laid out for him and every player on our team.

"He will not be treated any differently in terms of the return-to-play metrics.

"Nothing's changed, the timeline has not changed.

"If he hits those metrics in seven weeks fine; if he hits them in 10 weeks, fine. We don't care when that is, but he's not getting on the court until he proves to us he's healthy, no matter what he wants to do."

The Houston Rockets were too good for the Toronto Raptors in the NBA on Thursday, while the Philadelphia 76ers' streak came to an end.

The Rockets went 22-of-55 from three-point range in a 119-109 victory over the Raptors at Scotiabank Arena.

Ben McLemore (eight-of-17) and P.J. Tucker (five-of-10) did most of the damage for Houston from beyond the arc.

McLemore finished with 28 points, while Tucker had a double-double of 18 points and 11 rebounds as James Harden (23 points) and Russell Westbrook (19 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists) got plenty of support.

Pascal Siakam had 24 points for defending champions the Raptors.

Joel Embiid's double-double of 26 points and 21 rebounds was not enough for the 76ers, who went down to the Washington Wizards 119-113.

The result saw Philadelphia's four-game winning streak come to an end, while they are now 5-7 on the road this season.

 

Brilliant Booker, all-round Nuggets

Devin Booker had 44 points on 13-of-24 shooting in the Phoenix Suns' 139-132 overtime win against the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Denver Nuggets had eight players score in double-figures in a 129-92 thrashing of the New York Knicks.

 

Knicks' struggles continue

The Knicks (4-18) have the longest losing streak in the NBA after it was stretched to eight games.

 

Hayes hammer

Jaxson Hayes, the eighth pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, produced a monster dunk in the Pelicans' loss to the Suns.

Thursday's results

Washington Wizards 119-113 Philadelphia 76ers
Denver Nuggets 129-92 New York Knicks
Houston Rockets 119-109 Toronto Raptors
Phoenix Suns 139-132 New Orleans Pelicans

 

Clippers at Bucks

Milwaukee's 13-game winning streak will be put to the test as the Bucks (19-3) host the Los Angeles Clippers (16-6) on Friday in a clash between two of this season's contenders.

Eden Hazard is the Michael Jordan of football as Belgium boss Roberto Martinez tipped the Real Madrid star to win the Ballon d'Or.

Hazard – regarded as one of the best players in the world – swapped Premier League outfit Chelsea for LaLiga powerhouse Madrid in a blockbuster transfer prior to the start of the season.

The Belgium international has showed flashes of his brilliance, earning praise for his performances prior to suffering a small ankle fracture.

Asked about Hazard, Martinez likened the Red Devils captain to Chicago Bulls great and NBA Hall of Famer Jordan.

"I see Hazard winning the Ballon d'Or," Martinez told Cadena Ser program El Larguero. "He has the role of being a Ballon d'Or winner.

"What he has done is the level of the Ballon d'Or and he is always eligible for the prize.

"He has done it at Chelsea, in France. It is difficult for a foreigner to be at the reference of a project that works to win the league.

"He is a last-pass player, a Michael Jordan. Hazard is the Michael Jordan of football."

Hazard – who has scored once this season – will miss El Clasico against Barcelona on December 18 due to a small fracture in his ankle.

The Madrid forward was forced off in the 2-2 Champions League draw with Paris Saint-Germain last month.

"It's more the process of the injury," Martinez said on Thursday. "In the game against PSG, he had a setback and now we've discovered that he will spend a bit more time out than expected.

"There's nothing to worry about. You want a player like Eden to be 100 per cent, and now he'd established himself in the team and he was playing well.

"He's in very good physical condition and he'll be back very soon. You don't want to lose players of his level, but a team always has to deal with injuries, suspensions... Real Madrid are well prepared for this."

Giannis Antetokounmpo was ready to "fight" Blake Griffin during the Milwaukee Bucks' fiery 127-103 victory over the Detroit Pistons.

Antetokounmpo scored 35 points as the Bucks extended their hot streak to 13 consecutive wins – their best run since 16 victories in succession spanning the 1972-73 and 1973-74 seasons.

Milwaukee also boast a dominant recent record against Detroit, having won all eight encounters across the regular season and playoffs last term before prevailing in the initial 2019-20 matchup.

Tempers threatened to boil over during win number 10 against embattled opponents, with Antetokounmpo and Griffin's initial altercation coming after a second-quarter collision.

In the third, Milwaukee's Khris Middleton confronted Griffin after the Pistons star stepped over a prone Antetokounmpo, who was on the floor after being fouled.

"There's going to be a lot of teams that are going to come out and try to be physical with me -- try to hit me, knock me down to the floor," Antetokounmpo told reporters. "I just got to keep my composure.

"At first, I was trying to ... talk back, let them know that this is more than basketball. We can stop playing basketball and we can fight.

"At the end of the day, my team-mates want me in the game, my teammates want me to keep my head in the game and I was like, 'whatever'. At this point, 'whatever'."

Antetokounmpo was grateful for the intervention from Middleton, who scored 17 points.

"I was on the floor, I didn't see exactly what happened, but I saw Khris going out defending me. That's my big brother," he added.

"It means a lot. I always had his back, but now I have it even more."

Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer felt his team channelled any frustration with Detroit's roughhousing effectively.

"I liked our fire in the second quarter. I liked our fire in general," he told reporters.

"I think the guys, they're in a good place. They're playing good basketball. So we'll keep it going."

Milwaukee with look to extend their purple patch when they host the LA Clippers on Friday, when the Pistons welcome the Indiana Pacers.

LeBron James sheepishly labelled his uncalled travel during the Los Angeles Lakers' 121-96 win over the Utah Jazz "one of the worst things I've ever done in my career".

James impressed with 20 points and 12 assists to hand the Jazz a third consecutive loss, although his one turnover should in fact have been two.

When he was bringing the ball past half court during the first quarter, James took three-and-a-half steps before bouncing it again.

However, the officials failed to make a travel call and they had the sympathy of the 15-time NBA All-Star.

"It was the worst thing, probably one of the worst things I've ever done in my career," James told reporters after the Lakers improved to 19 wins from 22 outings this season.

"I didn't realise I did it until halftime. One of my coaches showed me.

"I feel bad for the refs on that one because they'll probably get a write-up on that or something. That was pretty bad."

James blamed his unusually absent-minded contribution on being distracted by a collision between Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Donovan Mitchell.

"I think at the same time, I was watching the underneath play, and KCP and Donovan got into it. KCP started to run, and Donovan bumped into him, he fell on the ground," he added.

"I think I was ready to pass the ball and my brain just kind of just... I had a malfunction. I really had a malfunction."

It was the LeBron James and Anthony Davis show again as the Los Angeles Lakers outclassed the Utah Jazz 121-96 in the NBA.

James recorded a double-double of 20 points and 12 assists to power the Lakers past the slumping Jazz in Utah on Wednesday.

Davis top-scored with 26 points and six rebounds as the Lakers improved to 19-3 for the season.

Donovan Mitchell's 29 points and Bojan Bogdanovic's 23 were not enough for the Jazz (12-10), who crashed to a third consecutive loss.

The Milwaukee Bucks won their 13th straight game after seeing off the Detroit Pistons 127-103.

Reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 35 points for the Bucks, who are on their best winning streak since they won 16 in a row across 1972-73 and 1973-74.

 

Graham sizzles from distance

Devonte' Graham made 10 three-pointers and posted 33 points as the Charlotte Hornets beat the Golden State Warriors 106-91.

Jimmy Butler had a season-high 37 points, six rebounds and four assists in the Miami Heat's 112-93 loss to the Boston Celtics, who were led by Jaylen Brown's 31 points.

A season-high 32 points from Aaron Gordon guided the Orlando Magic to a 128-114 win over the Phoenix Suns.

 

Paul struggles in Thunder defeat

While Chris Paul dished out 10 assists, the nine-time All-Star scored just four points on two-of-nine shooting in 33 minutes of action. He also missed both of his three-point attempts.

It was a tough night for Pistons guard Bruce Brown, who finished the game scoreless after 21 minutes. The 23-year-old was 0-of-six from the floor and 0-of-two from beyond the arc.

 

Davis with the dunk!

After arriving from the New Orleans Pelicans in a blockbuster trade, Davis is lighting up Los Angeles and the rest of the country.

Wednesday's results

Charlotte Hornets 106-91 Golden State Warriors
Milwaukee Bucks 127-103 Detroit Pistons
Orlando Magic 128-114 Phoenix Suns
Boston Celtics 112-93 Miami Heat
Brooklyn Nets 130-118 Atlanta Hawks
Indiana Pacers 107-100 Oklahoma City Thunder
Chicago Bulls 106-99 Memphis Grizzlies
Dallas Mavericks 121-114 Minnesota Timberwolves
Los Angeles Lakers 121-96 Utah Jazz
Portland Trail Blazers 127-116 Sacramento Kings

 

Rockets at Raptors

Defending champions the Toronto Raptors welcome the Houston Rockets to Canada on Thursday. Toronto's perfect home record was snapped by the Heat on Tuesday, so the Raptors will be looking to bounce back against the Rockets, who succumbed to the San Antonio Spurs in double overtime last time out.

LeBron James hailed a "monster game" from Anthony Davis, who battled through illness to help the Los Angeles Lakers return to winning ways at the Denver Nuggets.

Davis required intravenous fluids at half-time of Tuesday's 105-96 road victory after being one of several Lakers players to suffer from flu-like symptoms.

The 26-year-old put on a fine all-round display, though, contributing 25 points and 10 rebounds as the Lakers recovered from their loss to the Dallas Mavericks last time out.

James said Davis' contribution was just par for the course since he joined the Lakers in the offseason.

"He's been doing it all year," said James, who himself contributed 25 points, six rebounds and nine assists. "Playing through injuries, playing through illness like he did tonight. 

"[He's the] Defensive Player of the Year, and he showed tonight once again playing one-on-one versus 'Joker' [Nikola Jokic] in the post. 

"When there were switches, going on with Jamal Murray. He got stop after stop after stop. It was just a monster game for him."

For his part, Davis insists his illness had no bearing on the way he tried to play.

"I just tried to fight and do whatever I can to help the team win. I felt like I could give it a go, and I was able to contribute as much as I can and get the win," Davis said.

"[The sickness] didn't factor in. I was trying just to make the right play. Not trying to force anything. I think the shots that I had were good shots. But I was kind of overthinking it a little bit. 

"Not because of illness, but the way they were playing me. And then just trying to be aggressive in the second through fourth quarters. Just trying to get my team going, get them some looks and get myself some looks. 

"So, the illness didn't really play a big part that I thought it would, especially playing in Denver in the altitude."

Lakers coach Frank Vogel described Davis' performance as "something special".

"He just felt lousy the last two days. He comes in and has a Defensive Player of the Year type of performance," he said.

"He's guarding their two best players, Jokic, single coverage, everybody's staying home and Jamal Murray taking him to the basket and he's making defensive play after defensive play.

"And he was outstanding. For him to play through illness and have that kind of performance was something special."

NBA officials admitted they were wrong not to award a James Harden dunk in the Houston Rockets' contentious 135-133 double-overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs.

The Rockets were coasting at 102-89 with seven minutes and 50 seconds remaining when Harden dunked the ball with such ferocity it went through the net and back onto the rim.

Officials mistakenly judged the dunk had not passed fully through the hoop and the decision ultimately proved costly as the Rockets blew their comfortable lead in a match in which Harden scored 50 points at the AT&T Center.

Crew chief James Capers later conceded the field goal should have counted but said the Rockets missed their window of opportunity to call for a review on the play.

"When the play happened, Harden goes in for a dunk, and then the ball appears to us to pop back through the net," Capers told reporters. 

"When that happens, that is basket interference. To have a successful field goal, it must clear the net. 

"We have since come in here and looked at the play. He dunked it so hard that the net carried it back over the rim a second time, so in fact it did clear the net and should have been a successful field goal.

"The play could have been reviewed, it is a reviewable matter, but you have a window of 30 seconds to challenge the play during that timeout that he had and while they were protesting the call, trying to get clarification of it, that window passed. 

"So therefore, it elapsed and they were not able to do it."

Speaking prior to Capers' comments, Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni offered a different version of events.

"I have no idea [why it didn't count]," he said. "I heard that they said the ball hit James and went back through, so it was a goaltend on James. 

"I challenged that, and I didn't get a response. Then another guy said it wasn't a goaltend; it went out of bounds on us. 

"And I said, 'Well, I challenge that.' Can't do that. I don't know, [how] to answer your question. I've got nothing. I can't tell you."

Asked about the incident, Harden merely replied postgame "it went in" while team-mate Russell Westbrook offered a succinct summation.

"S*** happens. Plain and simple," he said.

ESPN reports suggest the Rockets are hopeful of either being awarded the win or having the final minutes replayed at a later date.

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