James Harden felt it would have been easy for the depleted Houston Rockets to "chalk it up" against the Minnesota Timberwolves and hailed the collective effort in their comprehensive 125-105 win.

The Rockets were without the quality of Russell Westbrook, Clint Capela, Danuel House Jr and Eric Gordon but a Harden-inspired Houston chalked up a seventh straight victory.

Harden posted 49 points from 41 shots – the most he has attempted in his NBA career – as the Rockets outclassed the Timberwolves.

But the seven-time All-Star was keen to hail the collective effort in Minnesota.

"We just know how much depth we have," said Harden. "Guys like Chris [Clemons] and Isaiah [Hartenstein], Tyson [Chandler], who started the last two games, Thabo [Sefolosha], just everybody – it was a collective effort.

"We've got six, seven guys out. So, it could have been an easy game, where we just chalked it up and got ready for next game. We wanted to come here and win this game and we showed it.

"We can't take any game for granted. We showed that. I think the first half we gave up too many points. Second half we locked back in. 

"They barely got over 100 points. That's pretty much the goal every single game. Guys didn't look around. We manned up and got a win."

Los Angeles Clippers star Paul George savoured his memorable home debut after inspiring a humiliating win over the Atlanta Hawks.

George posted 37 points in just 20 minutes as the Clippers humbled the Hawks 150-101 at Staples Center in NBA action on Saturday.

After scoring 33 points in Thursday's first Clippers appearance, which had been postponed due to a pair of offseason shoulder operations, George was at it again against the Hawks.

George led the way in the absence of team-mate Kawhi Leonard and the six-time All-Star revelled in the experience as the Clippers scored the second most points in franchise history.

"It means everything. I couldn't wait to get in front of this crowd. I couldn't wait to be home," George told Fox Sports. "I could get used to it."

George labelled his Clippers bow against the New Orleans Pelicans as "terrible" following a 132-127 defeat during the week.

Asked about Saturday's performance, George replied: "I thought I was better. I had a better flow. My body felt better, my legs felt better. I was actually able to just move. The first game was just so fast-paced. Whereas this game I felt conditioned, I felt ready. My guys helped me along the way.

"Long process. I've been rehabbing since the middle of May. It's been long and hard but I had a great team around me."

The star-studded Clippers improved to 8-5 for the season, despite playing without Leonard, Patrick Beverley (calf) and Landry Shamet (ankle).

Prized recruits George and Leonard are yet to play together after the latter sat out back-to-back games due to a left knee contusion.

"Really dangerous," George said when asked how dangerous the Clippers can be this season. "We have three guys in our starting group who are out right now. This is a team who are looking to play deep into the season. It's about taking care of our bodies."

Gregg Popovich said he is "not here to make history" after confirming Tim Duncan and not Becky Hammon led the San Antonio Spurs following his ejection.

Popovich was ejected early in the third quarter of Saturday's 121-116 NBA loss at home to the Portland Trail Blazers – San Antonio's fifth consecutive defeat.

The exit of head coach Popovich led to the belief that assistant Hammon made history by becoming the first woman to serve as head coach of a men's professional sports team in the United States.

However, Popovich explained the coaching dynamic post-game, confirming Duncan took charge of the Spurs (5-8) after his ejection.

Asked if he considered allowing Hammon to make history, Popovich replied: "I'm not here to make history."

Hammon was promoted to the front of the bench on Popovich's coaching staff in 2018.

The 42-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.

Hammon is the first full-time, salaried female coach in NBA history.

Manchester United star Paul Pogba watched Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat in NBA action.

Pogba is nearing a United comeback, having been sidelined with an ankle problem since late September.

The Red Devils midfielder – who had an ankle cast removed earlier this month – made the most of the international break, travelling to the United States.

France international Pogba was in attendance as the Heat beat the New Orleans Pelicans 109-94 in Miami.

A friend of Heat star Butler, Pogba was gifted a Heat jersey during the clash at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Pogba – who continues to be linked with an Old Trafford exit amid interest from Real Madrid and former club Juventus – has made just five Premier League appearances this season.

Golden State Warriors guard D'Angelo Russell will be sidelined for at least two weeks with a sprained right thumb.

The Warriors confirmed the thumb sprain on Saturday following an MRI, with Russell to be re-evaluated in a fortnight.

Russell hurt his thumb in the third quarter of Friday's 105-100 NBA loss to the in-form Boston Celtics.

It is another blow for the Warriors, who have been ravaged by injuries during their woeful 2-11 start to the season.

Stephen Curry broke his hand in October, while fellow All-Star Klay Thompson is recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament sustained during last season's NBA Finals.

The Warriors acquired Russell from the Brooklyn Nets in a sign-and-trade after Kevin Durant's departure in free agency.

LeBron James insists he has no plans to call time on his NBA career, comparing himself to New England Patriots great Tom Brady.

James was the star of the show for the Los Angeles Lakers against the Sacramento Kings on Friday, scoring 29 points and providing 11 assists in a 99-97 victory.

Prior to the encounter at the Staples Center, the 34-year-old - a 15-time All Star and a three-time NBA champion - was asked if retirement had crossed his mind.

However, James dismissed the suggestion, likening himself to NFL star Brady, who is still going strong at the age of 42 and holds the record for the most number of Super Bowl wins with six.

"I'm not at the conclusion of my story," James explained to reporters.

"So no, not the way I feel right now. Me and Tom Brady are one in the same. We're going to play until we can't walk no more."

Following James' comments, Brady responded on his official Twitter account, tagging the Lakers star.

"I'm playing until I can't dunk anymore!" The quarterback tweeted.

James responded in kind: "Well I'm playing until I can't throw TD [touchdown] passes anymore!"

Kemba Walker has claimed his will to win is the reason for his streak of tallying up crucial points in fourth quarters this season.

Walker came back on from the bench to score a sublime three-pointer as the Boston Celtics made it 10 successive wins in NBA with a 105-100 win over the Golden State Warriors.

The three-time All Star netted 20 points in total on Friday, with five rebounds and five assists, while he has a 49.1 per cent shot accuracy in fourth quarters and 53.6 per cent of his three-pointers have come in the final stage of games.

"I just want to win so bad, I just will those shots in a lot of the time," Walker told reporters when asked about his fourth-quarter form.

"I just want to win and when it's winning time, my competitive nature just increases in those kinds of situations.

"I make 500 [three-pointers] the night before the game. I trust in my work. That's it. And the reason I do that is because if I am having an off night, I know it's an off night, I know it's not because I'm not working.

"My first halves haven't really been too great. I just try my best to just stay positive, and just continue to shoot.

"Fourth quarter, it's just winning time."

The Celtics lead the way in the Eastern Conference with a 10-1 record this season.

LeBron James said former head coach Luke Walton did great under the circumstances at the Los Angeles Lakers prior to his exit following the 2018-19 season.

The Lakers and Walton agreed to mutually part ways in April after a tumultuous season, which saw Los Angeles miss the playoffs for the sixth consecutive campaign.

An injury to James on Christmas Day derailed Walton and the Lakers, while persistent trade rumours had a negative impact on some of the young players as Los Angeles eyed a trade for Anthony Davis.

Prior to Walton's return to Los Angeles for the first time since leaving the Lakers as Kings coach, James told reporters on Friday: "I mean, throughout everything that was going on, we were two of the guys that just tried to remain positive and patient, even with the circumstances that we had.

"I mean, we were right where we wanted to be on December 25th, went up into Golden State and played against a very good team and had a very good game. And then the injury happened and I'm out six-and-a-half weeks.

"I don't think anyone could have predicted that, including myself and including Luke. And we were just behind the eight ball. But throughout it all we just tried to remain positive, even throughout with the young guys, with the older guys and whatever the case may be. So, I think he did as great of a job as you could do under the circumstances."

Asked about James' comments, Walton said: "Um, I agree with LeBron. [There's] a longer answer and I've spent time reflecting on last season but for now, couple of hours before a game, it is more focused on tonight's task and our game planning and rotations and things like that."

After a forgettable debut season with the Lakers following his arrival from the Cleveland Cavaliers – injury restricting James to just 55 games last term – the 34-year-old is flourishing alongside Davis in 2019-20.

Entering Friday's clash with the Kings, Lakers superstar James had been averaging 23.9 points, 11.1 assists and 8.0 rebounds.

"LeBron, he's one of the greatest players of all time if not the greatest," Walton added. "So I'm sure last year getting hurt, not making the playoffs, I mean, he's going right now. And this team kind of follows that lead. They're playing incredibly well, their defence and offence starts with him. He looks really good."

Anthony Davis is not willing to follow in the footsteps of Los Angeles Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard and sit out games as the Los Angeles Lakers big man prepares for his return.

Davis sat out Wednesday's win over the lowly Golden State Warriors due to shoulder and rib soreness, but the Lakers star is set to face the Sacramento Kings on Friday.

Much has been made about load management this season, with Leonard missing three games already in 2019-20 following his absence from the Clippers' loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday.

While the Lakers improved to 9-2 without Davis midweek, the star recruit has no plans for more rest.

"What, like, load management? No," Davis said on Friday. "Obviously, it's great [to win].

"If something comes up where somebody has to sit out, then fine, but I don't think anyone on this team is probably going to sit out."

He added: "Went through shootaround today. Felt good."

Davis had strapping on his right shoulder prior to the start of Tuesday's 123-115 victory over the Phoenix Suns and had tape on his ribs by the end of the match at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

The six-time NBA All-Star played on after a blow to the ribs in the first quarter, before heading to the locker room to get taped up ahead of the final period.

X-rays taken after the game came back negative and Davis was re-evaluated again prior to being ruled out of the Warriors showdown.

"Not really much you can do but just let it heal," Davis told reporters. "I want to play. But obviously saying that, the training staff will probably be more reluctant to [let me play].

"If it's still bothering me a little bit, [they'll] have me sit out. Or if it's feeling good, I'm going to play ... Just to know that the way the team played when I sat out, I don't have to be in a rush to get back."

Davis has hit the ground running since arriving from the Pelicans in a blockbuster trade, averaging 26.3 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists with the Lakers this season.

"It's super tough," Davis said. "It's a long season. It's early in the season. You don't want to continue to play through something and then it gets worse. So it's always sitting in the back of your head. But at the same time, you want to play.

"So you've got to listen to your body, be honest with the training staff and try to do what you can. Kind of do what's best for the betterment of the team."

Kristaps Porzingis had little issue with the treatment he received from New York Knicks fans as the Dallas Mavericks star was given a frosty reception on his return to Madison Square Garden.

Porzingis, a first-round pick of New York in 2015, was traded to the Mavericks in January after a meeting reportedly led Knicks officials to believe he wished to be dealt elsewhere.

Thursday's game marked Porzingis' first back at the Garden and a warm welcome was not forthcoming from the home crowd, who loudly booed him as the teams were introduced ahead of a contest the Knicks won 106-103.

"That was pretty loud, their fans are really passionate of course, it was no different tonight," Porzingis told reporters.

Asked if it was fair for him to be jeered given he left in a trade, Porzingis replied: "I don't know if it was fair or not, it's what they know, it's what they've heard, the fans.

"I'm not gonna try to win them over now. It is what it is. I understand where they’re coming from."

Porzingis shook off the taunts to score 20 points and tally 11 rebounds, though Knicks forward Marcus Morris thought the crowd affected the former fourth overall pick.

"It looked like he was a little rattled too," Morris said. "It kinda helped us."

Paul George described his Los Angeles Clippers debut as "terrible" despite earning a rave review from Doc Rivers for his 33-point effort.

George played for the first time as a Clipper on Thursday following his July trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder, having undergone offseason shoulder surgeries. 

The six-time All-Star went 10 for 17 from the field and three for five from three-point range to lead all scorers for the Clippers but could not prevent them falling to a 132-127 defeat at the Smoothie King Center.

Clippers coach Rivers described George's display as "sensational". However, the former Indiana Pacers star was less impressed with his own showing, particularly on the defensive end.

"I thought I was terrible, I've got a lot to get back to, just from my performance, my defense, just for the flow of the game," George told reporters. 

"I haven't had a lot of time just getting a feel for this speed. It's good to get this one under my belt, this was essentially like my first preseason game.

"It's the best my shoulder's felt in a really long time, I knew coming into tonight shooting wouldn't be a problem.

"A lot of the [defensive] breakdowns happened just because of my lack of being out there with those guys, communication, a lot of those breakdowns were basically on me, I look forward to watching the film and learning from that.

"We'll move forward, we'll learn and we'll start to get our chemistry down."

Kawhi Leonard did not feature against New Orleans as part of his well-documented load management, while Patrick Beverley was also missing because of a calf issue.

George will team up with Leonard when the Clippers face the Atlanta Hawks at the Staples Center on Saturday.

"I'm excited for this whole team together, play with Pat [Beverley], with Kawhi," George added. "I'm looking forward to this team being at full strength."

Paul George made his long-awaited debut but the Los Angeles Clippers were upstaged 132-127 by the New Orleans Pelicans in NBA action on Thursday.

George played his first game for the Clippers since arriving from the Oklahoma City Thunder to team up with Kawhi Leonard in Los Angeles – a pair of shoulder operations delaying the six-time All-Star's bow.

The Clippers recruit scored 33 points in 24 minutes, however, he had the ball stolen away by Jrue Holiday three times in the final minutes as the Pelicans spoiled his debut.

George's haul in New Orleans marked the third highest total for a Clippers debut in franchise history.

The Clippers (7-5) – who were without Leonard for the third time this season due to load management – crashed to back-to-back defeats.

Holiday led the Pelicans (3-8) with 36 points, while team-mate Derrick Favors had 20 points and a career-best 20 rebounds.

 

Giannis stars in Milwaukee

Another game, another big performance from reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Milwaukee Bucks star put up 38 points and 16 rebounds to see his team past the Chicago Bulls 124-115. Eric Bledsoe chipped in with a season-high 31 points.

Bulls rookie Coby White became the youngest player in NBA history to hit five three-pointers in consecutive games. The 19-year-old finished with a team-high 26 points.

Kristaps Porzingis scored 20 points and 11 rebounds in his first game back in New York since leaving the Knicks. However, the Knicks prevailed 106-103 at Madison Square Garden. Mavs star Luka Doncic registered his fifth triple-double of the season – 33 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.

 

Curry quiet in Mavs loss

Seth Curry was one of five from the field and did not make any of his four three-point attempts as the Mavs guard finished with just two points in 23 minutes.

 

Young through the legs

Trae Young left his opponent red-faced as finished with a floater. However, the Atlanta Hawks lost 128-112 to the Phoenix Suns.

Thursday's results

Miami Heat 108-97 Cleveland Cavaliers
New Orleans Pelicans 132-127 Los Angeles Clippers
Milwaukee Bucks 124-115 Chicago Bulls
New York Knicks 106-103 Dallas Mavericks
Phoenix Suns 128-112 Atlanta Hawks
Denver Nuggets 101-93 Brooklyn Nets

 

Kings at Lakers

Anthony Davis is expected to return from shoulder and rib soreness for the Los Angeles Lakers' visit of the Sacramento Kings on Friday. The Lakers are looking to improve to 10-2, while the Kings (4-6) are eyeing a third consecutive win.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James is "probably the best athlete to ever walk this planet" according to Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr.

Kerr watched James lead the Lakers past the struggling Warriors 120-94 on Wednesday after the four-time NBA MVP posted 23 points and 12 assists.

A three-time NBA champion and Finals MVP, James has enjoyed a stunning start to the season with the Lakers, having struggled in his maiden Los Angeles campaign.

Kerr – who won three titles playing alongside Michael Jordan at the Chicago Bulls – paid James the ultimate compliment after the 15-time All-Star took down the Warriors in LA midweek.

"I think I've said it before I mean, probably the best athlete to ever walk this planet when you think about his strength, power, speed, durability," Kerr said on Thursday.

"I've never seen anybody in my lifetime in any sport who I would consider a better athlete."

James endured a forgettable debut campaign in Los Angeles, where a groin injury restricted the former Cleveland Cavaliers star to 55 games in 2018-19 as the Lakers missed the playoffs for a sixth successive season.

However, the fit-again 34-year-old is a man on a mission this season, with James averaging 23.9 points, 11.1 assists and 8.0 rebounds through 11 games.

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