Zion Williamson dunked so hard during the NBA Rising Stars Challenge that he broke the backboard but jokingly suggested it may not have been his fault.

The rim was left askew after the New Orleans Pelicans rookie threw down a pass from Trae Young late in the second quarter of Team USA's 151-127 defeat of Team World at the United Center on Friday.

Arena staff at the venue for this year's All-Star festivities had to re-align everything during half-time, when Williamson discovered what had happened from team-mates.

Asked if he realised what he had done, Williamson said: "Not at all. I went into half-time and my team-mates started telling me about it.

"I don't know which dunk it was on, but I don't think it was me!"

The first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and Ja Morant, who played together for AAU team the South Carolina Hornets in 2014, caught the eye with some sensational plays.

Morant produced a through-the-legs alley-oop pass for a Williamson slam, but it was a different sequence that caused the Pelicans star to reflect on how far he and his former team-mate have come.

Asked for his favourite moment from the game, Williamson responded: "When Ja threw me the lob from half court. Reminisced on that, back to ninth grade.

"It was crazy honestly because after I caught it and we got a timeout or subbed out, I was thinking about our Hornets days and never in a million years would I have thought would we have been in this game or be in the situations we're in, so it would've been that moment."

Prior to taking to the floor, Williamson met Barack Obama at an NBA Cares event in Chicago and explained why he developed a newfound appreciation for the former United States president.

"First off he's a cool dude man, it's Obama, c'mon," said Williamson. "I gained so much more respect for him just by him saying that [he kept up with my games].

"I was like you probably have one of the most busy schedules and you're able to keep up with a rookie, superstars, college people, even high school people, and tell them their stats, what they've been doing good, what they can work on.

"When he told me that I just gained so much more respect for him."

Williamson was not born until after Michael Jordan had led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships, but he still has a great respect for the 14-time All-Star's exploits.

"It was my mom that led me to watching Michael Jordan and the Bulls. I asked her when I first started playing who should I go watch and she told me Jordan, [Larry] Bird and Magic [Johnson]," he said.

"I think I started with Magic, I was like man he can pass the ball. Bird, he can shoot and is an all-around player but when I got to Jordan she told me to watch full games, not highlights.

"I watched full games and as a kid the stuff he was doing was incredible to watch. Getting a steal, saving it and then doing a backwards layup or floating through the lane through three people, dunking it.

"So as a kid that really caught my attention and from then I just watched every full game Michael Jordan clip I could find."

Luka Doncic has described Zion Williamson as "a different beast", the like of which the NBA has never seen before.

Williamson, the first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, had back-to-back 30-point games for the New Orleans Pelicans prior to the All-Star Game in Chicago this weekend.

The teenager has scored at least 20 points in eight of his first 10 NBA appearances - with five-time MVP Michael Jordan the last rookie to achieve such a feat - and is averaging 22.1 points after returning from a knee injury that delayed the start of his much-anticipated debut season.

Doncic will face Williamson in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday when Team World face Team USA and the Slovenian has been highly impressed by the Pels forward's adaptation to the NBA.

"You can see he's a beast," Doncic told reporters.

"What's he played - 10 games? He's averaging like 25 [points].

"He's a different beast. I don't think we've seen a player like him. He's going to be an amazing player."

Should Williamson continue to put up huge numbers, he could succeed Doncic in winning the Rookie of the Year award.

The Dallas Mavericks star has enjoyed a fine sophomore season too, averaging 28.9 points, 9.5 rebounds and 8.7 assists.

Along with reigning MVP and Greece international Giannis Antetokounmpo and Serbian center Nikola Jokic, Doncic is one of several international players currently starring in the NBA.

"There's a lot of international players that are really good," Doncic added.

"That's what it shows in this All-Star [Weekend] - there's a lot of international players.

"The world can see that we can play basketball too."

Zion Williamson has expressed an interest in representing the United States at an Olympics, having been left off the country's preliminary roster for the Tokyo Games.

The USA, who have won gold at the last three Olympics, announced their 44-man list for the 2020 Games earlier this week, with LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kawhi Leonard among the star names included.

However, there is no place for 19-year-old rookie sensation Williamson, while other impressive youngsters like Trae Young and Ja Morant have also been overlooked.

New Orleans Pelicans forward Williamson has poured in at least 20 points in eight of his first 10 NBA games - a feat last achieved by the great Michael Jordan when he was a rookie - and the teenager revealed he is keen to play for USA down the line.

"That is something I would definitely want to do in the future," he told reporters.

"I think there's nothing better than representing your country."

Williamson was speaking ahead of the NBA's All-Star weekend, when he will represent Team USA in the Rising Stars Challenge.

Memphis Grizzlies point guard Morant, the current Rookie of the Year forerunner, and the Atlanta Hawks' sophomore Young are also on a team that will face a world side that has Luka Doncic and RJ Barrett on its roster.

"It's an honour to be here in my first year, despite being 10 games in," added Williamson, who missed the first three months of the season due to a knee injury.

The first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft was also asked which of the game's greats he tries to emulate when he was on the court.

"I don't try to emulate any of them. I just try to bring my own style to the game," he replied.

"I watched a lot of [Michael] Jordan, [Larry] Bird and Magic [Johnson] clips."

The Boston Celtics prevailed 141-133 against the Los Angeles Clippers after double overtime prior to the NBA All-Star break, while the Oklahoma City Thunder also won.

In the final two games before the All-Star Weekend in Chicago, the Celtics and Thunder both celebrated victories on Thursday.

Jayson Tatum, who will play for Team Giannis in Sunday's All-Star Game, led the Celtics with a game-high 39 points and nine rebounds against the Clippers in Boston.

Trailing the Celtics 114-111, Clippers recruit Marcus Morris Sr. made a three-pointer with 46.8 seconds remaining in regulation to send the game to overtime.

Clippers guard Landry Shamet then nailed a shot from beyond the arc to level proceedings at 127-apiece as double OT beckoned at TD Garden.

But led by Tatum, Gordon Hayward (21 points, 13 rebounds), Marcus Smart (31 points) and Kemba Walker (19 points), the Celtics finished strong to outscore the Clippers 14-6.

Lou Williams had 35 points for the Clippers, while Kawhi Leonard finished with 28 points and 11 rebounds on the road.

It was a tough night for the Clippers, who lost star Paul George to a strained left hamstring in the first half – the same injury that forced him to miss 10 games in January.

Meanwhile, the Thunder overcame Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans 123-118.

Williamson posted 32 points, but the Thunder still won courtesy of Danilo Gallinari's 29 points and Chris Paul's double-double of 14 points and 12 assists.

 

Zion Williamson conceded he had surprised himself with a magnificent 31-point performance in the New Orleans Pelicans' win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Pelicans made it three straight wins as they claimed a 138-117 victory that saw the rookie sensation add nine rebounds and five assists in just 28 minutes on the court.

Williamson missed Saturday's win over the Indiana Pacers with a sprained ankle but marked his return in style on Tuesday.

In only his ninth career game, having missed more than 13 weeks after meniscus surgery earlier in the season, the 19-year-old went over 30 points for the first time.

He has now scored 20 or more points seven times, with Grant Hill and Shaquille O'Neal the only NBA players to have achieved that inside their first 10 games.

After his impressive outing, Williamson expressed surprise over his rapid progress.

"I expect to make an impact but I don't expect to do nothing like this," a thrilled Williamson said, per ESPN.

"I just kind of look to come in, just kind of fit in, just not try to mess up, but my team-mates and coaches are always pushing me.

"I do hold myself to high expectations, but I think it's just finding the line between reality and dreams. If my team-mates find me, they find me. If not, just got to make another play, get the rebound and just play defense."

Asked about the process of finding the right spots on the court and improving his decision making, Williamson added: "I think it is kind of happening.

"People are trying to find their own way. I feel like my game is so unique I'll be able to adjust to it on the fly. 

"At the end of the day, I'm 19. I have a lot of room for growing. I will mess up. I'm not perfect – I'm just going to learn from them."

Team-mate Lonzo Ball believes there is still so much more to come from Williamson.

"I mean, he's only going to get better," said the former Los Angeles Lakers point guard.

"He's 19 and came in midseason. I feel like he's still not in the shape he can be in. It's kind of scary thinking about what he can do in the future, but we'll take 31 points every night."

New Orleans improved to 23-31 and sit 11th in the Western Conference.

Much of the focus at the All-Star Game will be on the headline event and the Slam Dunk Contest, but the Rising Stars Challenge also offers great intrigue.

Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, Luka Doncic and Trae Young will all be involved as Team USA take on Team World.

With the early success that quartet have enjoyed in their fledgling careers, the Rising Stars Challenge should serve as further compelling evidence the future of the NBA is in good hands.

Here we guide you through what to watch for when the league's brightest talents do battle.

 

ZION & JA TEAM UP

Williamson and Morant appear poised to contest a fascinating rivalry over the course of their careers, but on Friday they will be on the same side.

Number one overall pick Williamson, sidelined for much of the year with a knee injury, and Rookie of the Year favourite Morant went head-to-head two weeks ago and offered a glimpse into the future as Zion's New Orleans Pelicans beat the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Rising Stars Challenge will provide a window into how the pair's talents complement each other, which could potentially be crucial for future USA Olympic coaches.

With Morant set for a prestigious honour and Williamson having recorded two double-doubles in eight games, Team World will have a hard time slowing them down.

 

DONCIC DOUBLES UP

Likely to finish high in the MVP voting, Doncic will - along with Young - double up at All-Star weekend.

The Dallas Mavericks guard will contest the All-Star Game as well as the Rising Stars Challenge, having been picked as a starter for Team LeBron.

With the odds in favour of Team USA winning the Rising Stars Challenge, Doncic's best chance of success in Chicago should be in the headline event.


UNDER-THE-RADAR STARS

While Williamson, Morant and Doncic will claim most of the attention among the rising stars, there are several less heralded players with the chance to snatch some of the limelight.

Jaren Jackson Jr. and Canadian Brandon Clarke will face off having played an instrumental role in the Grizzlies' rise to playoff contention.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander should be crucial to Team World's hopes, his development unhindered by a trade from the Los Angeles Clippers to the upstart Oklahoma City Thunder.

Eric Paschall's opportunities to shine on a national stage have been limited thanks to the demise of the Golden State Warriors this season, but the forward will have the chance to prove he is the Dubs' latest second-round gem.

 

YOUNG TRIBUTE TO KOBE

Proceedings at the United Center are set to be dominated by tributes to Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, who were killed in a helicopter crash last month.

In the wake of their tragic passing, an emotional Young - having been mentored by Bryant - scored 45 points in the Atlanta Hawks' win over the Washington Wizards.

With two games on his agenda, Young will have ample opportunity to honour his idol by delivering on the court in his first appearance at the weekend as an All-Star.

A Ben Simmons triple-double inspired the Philadelphia 76ers to a 110-103 victory at home to Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers in the NBA.

Simmons posted his second successive triple-double, finishing with 26 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for the 76ers in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

It was his sixth triple-double of the season and 30th of his career as the 76ers – who already boast the NBA's best home record at 25-2 – won their third straight to improve to 34-21 for the campaign.

Josh Richardson scored 17 of his 21 points in the final quarter, while Joel Embiid contributed 26 points at Wells Fargo Center.

Clippers superstar Leonard had 30 points for the visitors, who fell to 37-17 in the Western Conference.

Meanwhile, the Houston Rockets snapped the Boston Celtics' seven-game winning streak.

James Harden registered 42 points and Russell Westbrook had 36 points to go with 10 rebounds as the Rockets trumped the Celtics 116-105 in Houston.

Gordon Hayward top scored with 20 points for the Celtics against the Rockets, who ended a run of back-to-back losses.

 

Zion stars as Pelicans soar

Zion Williamson produced another dominant performance. The star rookie had a season-high 31 points and nine rebounds in just 28 minutes as the New Orleans Pelicans topped the Portland Trail Blazers 138-117.

Zach LaVine put up 41 points but the Chicago Bulls still lost 126-114 at the Washington Wizards, who were led by Bradley Beal's 30.

The San Antonio Spurs snapped a five-game skid by beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 114-106 thanks to LaMarcus Aldridge's 25 points and 14 rebounds.

 

George struggles in Philadelphia

Paul George never got going against the 76ers. The Clippers star was just three of 15 from the field and one of four from three-point range for 11 points in 35 minutes. He did have 12 rebounds for a double-double, but it was far from George's usual best.

After back-to-back games of 30 or more points off the bench, Furkan Korkmaz was drafted into Philadelphia's starting five at the expense of Al Horford. However, Korkmaz had a game to forget. In 23 minutes, he was scoreless – 0 of five from the field, while he missed all four of his attempts from beyond the arc.

 

Simmons… somehow

The Australian All-Star put on a show in Philadelphia. This incredible piece of improvisation sent the 76ers on their way.

 

Tuesday's results

Philadelphia 76ers 110-103 Los Angeles Clippers
Washington Wizards 126-114 Chicago Bulls
New Orleans Pelicans 138-117 Portland Trail Blazers
San Antonio Spurs 114-106 Oklahoma City Thunder
Houston Rockets 116-105 Boston Celtics

 

Raptors at Nets

Riding a franchise-record winning streak, NBA champions the Toronto Raptors (40-14) will look to make it 16 straight victories when they visit the Brooklyn Nets (24-28) on Wednesday. The NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers are also in action.

Zion Williamson says he is following advice from the New Orleans Pelicans and focusing on his "longevity" as injuries continue to impact his rookie season in the NBA.

The number one overall pick was missing when the Pelicans triumphed over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday after spraining his left ankle in the team's previous road win against the Chicago Bulls.

Williamson missed over 13 weeks earlier in the season after meniscus surgery, but is impressing when he is on the court, with averages of 19.8 points and 7.5 rebounds.

"They just told me longevity, the bigger picture, more long term," the 19-year-old said, per ESPN, of the late decision for him to miss the Pacers game, which was made after the shootaround.

"They've been doing this for a long time and I'm just learning. I'm just following their guidance."

Williamson has scored 20 or more points in four straight games, the only rookie to achieve that in the 2019-20 campaign.

After practising on Monday, he has declared himself "ready to go" for the Pelicans' Tuesday home game against the Portland Trail Blazers.

All-Star Brandon Ingram also sat out against the Pacers and is questionable to play the Blazers, but Williamson is impressed with the Pelicans' roster depth.

He added: "We're a great team even without me or Brandon.

"Did y'all see that shot Jrue Holiday hit [against the Pacers]? That step-back. Man, I know he was texting his brothers in the group messages after that one. 

"But we played great. They were real disciplined that game. They executed when we needed and hit big shots to give us the win."

The Los Angeles Clippers were crushed by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA, while the Lakers claimed a win on Saturday.

The Timberwolves ended a 13-game losing streak with a 142-115 victory over the Clippers.

Jordan McLaughlin (24 points), Malik Beasley (23) and Karl-Anthony Towns (22) led Minnesota to their win.

Beasley went seven-of-13 from three-point range in what was the Timberwolves' 16th win of the season.

Clippers stars Kawhi Leonard (29 points) and Paul George (21) combined for 50 points.

The Lakers held off the Golden State Warriors in a 125-120 win.

Anthony Davis (27 points and 10 rebounds) and LeBron James (22 points and 11 assists) both had double-doubles.

 

Raptors roll on, Giannis leads Bucks

The Toronto Raptors posted their 14th straight win by edging the Brooklyn Nets 119-118.

Fred VanVleet (29 points), Pascal Siakam (20) and Terence Davis (20) led the way for the Raptors.

Giannis Antetokounmpo contributed 19 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists in the Milwaukee Bucks' 111-95 win over the Orlando Magic.

Deandre Ayton had 28 points and 19 rebounds, but the Phoenix Suns fell to the Denver Nuggets 117-108.

 

Magic pair battle

Aaron Gordon (seven points) and Wes Iwundu (two) went a combined three-of-18 from the field in Orlando's loss.

 

Monk magic

Malik Monk produced a huge dunk in the Charlotte Hornets' loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

Saturday's results

Milwaukee Bucks 111-95 Orlando Magic
Dallas Mavericks 116-100 Charlotte Hornets
New York Knicks 95-92 Detroit Pistons
New Orleans Pelicans 124-117 Indiana Pacers
Toronto Raptors 119-118 Brooklyn Nets
Minnesota Timberwolves 142-115 Los Angeles Clippers
Los Angeles Lakers 125-120 Golden State Warriors
Denver Nuggets 117-108 Phoenix Suns
Sacramento Kings 122-102 San Antonio Spurs

 

Jazz at Rockets

The Utah Jazz (33-18) visit the Houston Rockets (33-19) on Sunday in a clash between teams sitting fourth and fifth respectively in the Western Conference.

Russell Westbrook scored 41 points as the new-look Houston Rockets upstaged the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Lakers 121-111 in NBA action.

While Rockets team-mate James Harden struggled, Westbrook was red hot in a stunning performance to take down rivals the Lakers at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Thursday.

Robert Covington made his debut for the Rockets, who traded away center Clint Capela prior to the deadline in a bid to become smaller and faster on the court, and he impressed with 14 points – including four three-pointers.

Double-doubles from LeBron James (18 points, 15 assists) and Anthony Davis (32 points, 13 rebounds) were not enough for the Lakers.

The NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks defeated the struggling Philadelphia 76ers 112-101 earlier on Thursday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo produced another dominant performance with 36 points and 20 rebounds as the Bucks improved to 44-7 for the season.

Antetokounmpo had 30-plus points and 15 or more rebounds for the fifth consecutive game and the 14th time this season. Antetokounmpo also became just the fifth player in Bucks history to record a 30-20 game and the first since 1996.

 

Zion flexes muscles… again

Zion Williamson continues to star. The 2019 number one pick posted his fourth consecutive 20-point game – the longest streak among rookies this season. Williamson finished with 21 as the New Orleans Pelicans topped the Chicago Bulls 125-110.

Damian Lillard put up 26 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Portland Trail Blazers past the San Antonio Spurs 125-117.

 

More woes for 76ers & Embiid

Much had been made about Philadelphia's form on the road and their chemistry, or lack thereof. And the 76ers crashed to their fourth straight loss – dropping to 9-19 away from home. Joel Embiid put up 19 points and 11 rebounds but it was a rough night for the All-Star. Cutting a dejected figure, Embiid was just six of 26 from the floor and three of 10 from three-point range. The 76ers struggled with 37.4 per cent shooting, hitting just 37 of 99 shots.

Harden was far from his best in Los Angeles. Harden was three of 10 from the floor and one of six from beyond the arc for 14 points in 35 minutes.

 

LeBron with the reverse jam!

James turned back the clock with a monster dunk against the Rockets.

 

Thursday's results

New York Knicks 105-103 Orlando Magic
New Orleans Pelicans 125-119 Chicago Bulls
Milwaukee Bucks 112-101 Philadelphia 76ers
Portland Trail Blazers 125-117 San Antonio Spurs
Houston Rockets 121-111 Los Angeles Lakers

 

Raptors at Pacers

Can the red-hot Toronto Raptors (37-14) extend their winning streak to 13 games? The defending champions are on the road against Eastern Conference rivals the Indiana Pacers (31-20) on Friday.

It was Giannis Antetokounmpo who stole the show in New Orleans as he got the better of his much-hyped duel with Zion Williamson.

Antetokounmpo finished with 34 points, 17 rebounds and six assists in a dominant display to guide the Milwaukee Bucks to a 120-108 road win over the Pelicans.

Williamson had his moments - an aggressive grab to take a rebound away from Antetokounmpo in the fourth quarter arguably the highlight - but was very much second best to the Bucks superstar.

The 19-year-old, who managed 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists, said: "I mean, he's a former MVP.

"It's like going up against any great player. Do as much as you can to slow him down.

"He's his own player; he brings his own style to the game. That's why he's Giannis."

Statistically, it was the worst night of Williamson's fledgling NBA career - he shot just 5-of-19 from the floor - with Antetokounmpo admitting the Bucks' defense had paid him special attention.

He said: "I think we put a lot of guys, a lot of different looks to him.

"I was guarding him, Brook [Lopez] was guarding him, Robin [Lopez] was guarding him, Pat [Connaughton] was guarding him. Just tried to make him guess, just tried to make it as tough as possible.

"You know he's gonna try to go left, try to overpower whoever's guarding him, try to go and finish strong. And the guys behind gotta be active, gotta make it as tough as possible."

Despite his struggles, however, Antetokounmpo also saw enough to suggest Williamson was a star in the making, adding: "He'll be a really good player for a lot of years to come.

"He's out there helping the team; he's competing as hard as possible. He's just gotta stay healthy, and he's gonna have a bright future."

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks past Zion Williamson's New Orleans Pelicans 120-108, while LeBron James inspired the Los Angeles Lakers.

Reigning MVP Antetokounmpo put up 34 points and 17 rebounds as the Bucks improved to 43-7 for the season and 20-4 away from home.

The Bucks led by 19 points in the third quarter before withstanding a Pelicans rally in New Orleans on Tuesday.

Pelicans sensation and rookie Williamson scored 20 points – Brandon Ingram topscoring for New Orleans with 32 of his own.

James posted 19 of his 36 points in the final quarter as the Lakers topped the San Antonio Spurs 129-102 in Los Angeles.

Lakers superstar James hit a stunning five three-pointers in three fourth-quarter minutes to propel the hosts at Staples Center, where he added nine assists and seven rebounds.

DeMar DeRozan led the Spurs with 28 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

 

Harden stars as Rockets soar

James Harden had 40 points and 11 assists to guide the Houston Rockets to a 125-110 win over the Charlotte Hornets. The Rockets were without Russell Westbrook and Clint Capela – reportedly set to join the Atlanta Hawks – but they still extended their winning streak to three games.

Nikola Jokic's 29 points and 13 rebounds set the tone for the Denver Nuggets, who downed the Portland Trail Blazers 127-99.

 

Anthony struggles

Carmelo Anthony has been a fine addition for the Trail Blazers, however, the veteran endured a tough night in Denver. Anthony was 0 of five from the field and missed all three of his attempts from beyond the arc for two points in 26 minutes.

Spurs star LaMarcus Aldridge also struggled. He finished with just seven points on three of 10 shooting in 30 minutes.

 

LeBron lights up LA

Sit back and enjoy this three-point burst by James.

 

Tuesday's results

Milwaukee Bucks 120-108 New Orleans Pelicans
Houston Rockets 125-110 Charlotte Hornets
Denver Nuggets 127-99 Portland Trail Blazers
Los Angeles Lakers 129-102 San Antonio Spurs

 

Heat at Clippers

After thrashing Eastern Conference rivals the Philadelphia 76ers, the Miami Heat travel to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday. The Jimmy Butler-led Heat (34-15) have won back-to-back games to be fourth in the east, while the Clippers (35-15) are second in the Western Conference.

Zion Williamson must not go prolonged stretches in the fourth quarter without touching the ball, fumed New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry after their 117-109 loss to the Houston Rockets.

The Rockets triumphed at Toyota Center on Sunday, with James Harden pouring in 40 points as Houston came from behind in a fourth quarter that saw the Pelicans score just 16.

Williamson, the first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, was making his sixth appearance in the league, having undergone right knee surgery in October.

The 19-year-old forward has quickly proven himself to be a force to be reckoned with, though, and logged 21 points and 10 rebounds against Houston.

However, Gentry was irate his team failed to find Williamson more regularly as they fell away in the final period and blamed himself.

"We didn't execute and we didn't do what we were supposed to do. That being said, Zion can't go four minutes without touching the basketball and that's on me," said Gentry.

"That's something that I've got to make sure that will never happen again. So I take responsibility for that. And if we're not gonna get it to him and not gonna execute, then we've got to have different people in the game. That's on me also."

Gentry denied the suggestion it was down to a lack of chemistry with Williamson still in the early stages of his rookie season, while also criticising the "absurd" and "ridiculous" total of 21 turnovers from his team.

"You've got to throw [Zion] the damn basketball, it has nothing to do with playing together or figuring it out," said Gentry.

"He has advantage and we've got to find a way to get him the basketball better, so I'm not buying the playing together or figuring out or anything like that. We have to have him have touches in the fourth quarter, if not there's no reason for us to have him in the game. And that's not going to happen either.

"I like our chances when he's got it down there because I think he's going to make the right play, and we didn't do that. You can't have 30 points off your turnovers and think you're going to beat a good basketball team.

"You can get away with it every now and then, but we're shooting 64 per cent for most of the first half and we're trailing in the game and so that just tells me that what we were doing as far as execution and turning the ball over is absurd, it is just ridiculous. It really was. It's as disappointed as I've been this year from the standpoint of doing what we're supposed to."

Harden was impressed by Williamson after his first game against the Duke product. Asked for his assessment of the Pelicans star, Harden told ESPN: "Beast.

"He's gonna be really good. This is only like his 10th game playing, he has a feel for the game, obviously he's strong, so he's gonna be great.

"He's really good. Very, very explosive. Athletic, as we all know. He has a good feel for the game."

James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo starred in respective wins for the Houston Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA on Sunday.

Harden guided the Rockets past the New Orleans Pelicans 117-109 with 40 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.

The star guard went 12-of-24 from the field, while Russell Westbrook (22 points) and Ben McLemore (22) were also strong contributors.

Zion Williamson continued the fine start to his NBA career, finishing with 21 points and 10 rebounds in his sixth game for the Pelicans.

The Bucks bounced back from their loss to the Denver Nuggets on Friday by cruising to a 129-108 victory over the Phoenix Suns.

Like Harden, Antetokounmpo fell just short of a triple-double, finishing with 30 points, 19 rebounds and nine assists.

Khris Middleton, meanwhile, went nine-of-15 from the field for his 25 points.

 

Jokic, Drummond shine

Nikola Jokic had 39 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, but the Denver Nuggets fell to the Detroit Pistons 128-123 after overtime.

Andre Drummond led the way for Detroit – who lost Derrick Rose to groin soreness – with 21 points and 17 rebounds.

Terence Davis poured in a career-high 31 points, going 12-of-15 from the field, in the Toronto Raptors' 129-102 win over the Chicago Bulls. Defending champions Toronto tied a team record with their 11th straight win.

 

Bulls duo struggle

Tomas Satoransky and Luke Kornet both went three-of-11 from the field in the Bulls' loss to Toronto.

 

Zion, Lonzo combine

Lonzo Ball tossed an alley-oop to Williamson during the Pelicans' defeat.

Sunday's results

Detroit Pistons 128-123 Denver Nuggets
Houston Rockets 117-109 New Orleans Pelicans
Milwaukee Bucks 129-108 Phoenix Suns
Toronto Raptors 129-102 Chicago Bulls

 

Spurs at Clippers

The Los Angeles Clippers (34-15) will try to close the gap to the Lakers (37-11) atop the Western Conference when they host the San Antonio Spurs (22-26) on Monday.

LeBron James shed tears, Usher sang 'Amazing Grace' and Staples Center fell silent in reverence to Kobe Bryant as the Los Angeles Lakers returned to the floor on Friday.

Fans crowded outside the venue and those inside, including the players, donned replica Bryant jerseys amid heartfelt tributes to a franchise legend and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.

An emotional video played on the big screen and a 24.2 second moment of silence was taken to honour all seven victims of Sunday's helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.

James read their names and gave a speech asking for the event to be a "celebration" of Bryant before the on-court action against the visiting Portland Trail Blazers began.

After a subdued start, Damian Lillard lifted the energy in the third quarter, hitting 23 points en route to a game-high 48 to issue the Lakers a 127-119 loss.

Lillard became the first NBA player to make 40 three-point shots in a five-game span and the first to record at least 35 points, five rebounds, five assists and five three-pointers in five straight games.

Irving inspires Nets, Nuggets upset Bucks

On the other side of the country, an inspired Kyrie Irving paid a personal tribute to his old mentor in fitting fashion.

The Brooklyn Nets guard, who earlier in the week vowed to "carry the torch", shot 19-of-23 from the floor and hit seven three-pointers as he tallied 54 points, five rebounds and five assists in a 133-118 win over the Chicago Bulls.

James Harden (35 points, 16 rebounds) and Russell Westbrook (32 points, nine assists) did likewise, the pair leading the Houston Rockets to a 128-121 victory against the Dallas Mavericks, who were without the injured Luka Doncic.

Giannis Antetokounmpo played his part, putting up 31 points in a double-double at Fiserv Forum, but the Milwaukee Bucks failed to prolong their nine-game winning run, losing to the Denver Nuggets 127-115.

The Toronto Raptors had more success preserving a streak, recording a 10th successive victory thanks to Pascal Siakam's 30 points in a 105-92 road win over the Detroit Pistons.

Zion Williamson posted a career-high 24 points in 29 minutes to outscore draft rival Ja Morant at Smoothie King Center, the New Orleans Pelicans topping the Memphis Grizzlies 139-111.

 

Rubio struggles in Suns loss

The Phoenix Suns might have avoided a late 111-107 home loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder had Ricky Rubio made more of his shooting opportunities, the Spaniard going two-of-eight from the floor for eight points in 30 minutes.

 

Lillard too hot for Lakers

The Lakers simply could not stop Lillard, the All-Star reserve delivering a clinic in long-range shooting.

 

Friday's results

Toronto Raptors 105-92 Detroit Pistons
Houston Rockets 128-121 Dallas Mavericks
Brooklyn Nets 133-118 Chicago Bulls
New Orleans Pelicans 139-111 Memphis Grizzlies
Oklahoma City Thunder 111-107 Phoenix Suns
Denver Nuggets 127-115 Milwaukee Bucks
Portland Trail Blazers 127-119 Los Angeles Lakers

 

76ers at Celtics

Due to knee soreness, the Boston Celtics (32-15) could be without Kemba Walker for Saturday's game against the Philadelphia 76ers (31-18).

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