Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving have proved any doubters wrong after leading the Dallas Mavericks to a seventh straight win.

That is the opinion of coach Jason Kidd, whose Dallas team overcame the Phoenix Suns 123-113 on Thursday.

Doncic had 41 points, nine rebounds and 11 assists, while Irving finished with 29 points.

Dallas have been without at least one of Doncic or Irving in 27 games this season due to injuries, but the duo have now started in the last seven games.

"I think it answers the questions that those two co-exist quite well," Kidd said.

"I think it just shows again, our health, our energy, everything's positive right now. I think the guys are having fun. You can see that energy on the floor.

"They want to win, and you can see that energy on the floor. Those guys are cheering for one another.

"There's going to be mistakes, there's going to be missed shots, but it's on to the next play.

"You can see that. We were on a roll and then we go on [the All-Star] break. Sometimes you can come out flat, but I thought the guys did a great job tonight."

Devin Booker led the Suns with 35 points, though Phoenix were unable to keep Doncic or Irving down.

"You just have to know that, especially after he makes one, that the next one is coming up," Booker said of Irving.

"He's a great player and hard to guard. We definitely could have limited some of those transition looks."

The Suns have lost two of their last four games, and are now one place below the Mavericks in the Western Conference.

"We didn't start the third quarter with enough attentiveness," Suns coach Frank Vogel said.

"We did get a little too stagnant offensively. We had some breakdowns with what we were supposed to do. That led to some tough possessions."

Nikola Jokic registered his 16th triple-double of the season and was 10-for-10 from the floor in the Denver Nuggets’ 130-110 win over the reeling Washington Wizards on Thursday.

Jokic had 21 points, 19 rebounds and 15 assists to become the third player in NBA history to record at least one triple-double against every opponent in the league. He had 10 points, 14 boards and nine assists in the first half alone.

LeBron James and Russell Westbrook are the only other players with a triple-double against every opponent.

Michael Porter had 22 points and 11 rebounds and Jamal Murray added 18 points and eight assists as the Nuggets returned from the All-Star break and snapped a season high-tying three-game skid.

Kyle Kuzma tallied 31 points and 13 rebounds, but Washington dropped its ninth straight to match a season high.

The Wizards shot 38.8 percent from the field and fell to 1-34 against opponents with winning records.

 

Doncic powers streaking Mavericks

Luka Dončić scored 41 points and fell a rebound shy of a triple-double as the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Phoenix Suns, 123-133, for their seventh straight win.

Doncic handed out 11 assists and grabbed nine boards while shooting 14 of 27 from the field and 6 of 11 from long range. He just missed his 11th triple-double of the season.

Kyrie Irving scored 13 of his 29 points in the first quarter and restored a double-digit lead for Dallas early in the fourth with a nifty behind-the-back dribble and spin move for a layup.

Devin Booker scored 35 points and Kevin Durant had 23 but was 9 of 22 from the floor and 2 of 8 on 3-pointers. Phoenix lost for the second time in seven games.

 

Celtics extend winning streak to seven

Derrick White scored 28 points and Jayson Tatum added 25 to lead the Boston Celtics to their season-high seventh consecutive win, 129-112 over the Chicago Bulls.

Jaylen Brown had 21 points and White and Tatum each made five of Boston’s 23 3-pointers as the Celtics padded their lead atop the NBA’s overall standings.

Nikola Vucevic had 22 points and 14 rebounds for the Bulls, who have lost all three meetings against the Celtics this season.

LeBron James has been ruled out of the Los Angeles Lakers' road game against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday as he continues to nurse an ankle problem.

James has been suffering from peroneal tendinopathy in his left ankle, and the issue caused him to miss the Lakers' 138-122 road win over the Utah Jazz before the All-Star break.

The NBA's all-time leading scorer did feature in Sunday's All-Star Game, but he was limited to just 14 minutes on the court as the Western Conference All-Stars lost 211-186 to their Eastern Conference counterparts.

James said before Sunday's game that he would use the break to undergo treatment on his ankle, also suggesting his status for Thursday's trip to Chase Center was uncertain.

On Wednesday, the Lakers announced he had officially been downgraded to out, causing him to miss his eighth game of the season.

James had 36 points, 20 rebounds and 12 assists as the Lakers beat the Warriors in a double overtime classic last month, and the 39-year-old is averaging 24.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game this season.

Prior to the trade deadline earlier this month, the Warriors reportedly enquired about James' availability, only to be knocked back by Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka.

James said last week that he wishes to finish his glittering career in Los Angeles, though he is yet to decide whether to take up his $51.4million player option for 2024-25.

Thursday's matchup could prove crucial to the playoff hopes of both teams, with the Lakers emerging from the mid-season hiatus at 30-26 and the Warriors having a 27-26 record. 

Sean Marks says the Brooklyn Nets must improve their "level of compete" after head coach Jacque Vaughn was fired.

Vaughn was dismissed on Monday after the Nets lost 136-86 to the Boston Celtics last week, leaving Brooklyn at 21-33 and 11th in the Eastern Conference heading into the All-Star break.

The Nets had made the postseason in the last five seasons, but a 6-18 run has left the team with it all to do if they are to keep their playoff streak going.

Nets general manager Sean Marks pointed to a perceived lack of effort as one area that must be fixed by the new head coach.

"It's about the level of compete," Marks told reporters. "We're not going to be the most talented team in the league. I'm not an idiot. I totally understand that.

"But at the same time, this is a talented group of young men out there. And my expectations, and I think their expectations, should be to hold each other accountable to do the little things. The effort plays, the loose balls, the contested shots and so forth, diving on the floor.

"These are things that should be expected when you're in a place that we're at right now, where we're clawing and grappling for every single thing we can. That's what I would hope to see over these next 28 games, and that's probably, to be quite frank, some things I haven't seen. The level of effort and the level of compete has not always been there."

Many pointed to the Nets' 144-122 defeat against the Milwaukee Bucks as the reason for Vaughn's firing. The Nets were fined $100,000 for violating the NBA's player participation policy after choosing to both rest and sit a number of key players.

However, Marks said the Bucks drubbing was not the reason for Vaughn's exit, commenting: "I don't think we lost the team that day.

"I appreciate the fact that players want to play. They want to play night in and night out.

"Again, I don't think there was one decision that ultimately affected the record or [making] this decision this day. I think a lot of things went into that."

The Minnesota Timberwolves are top of the Western Conference but know they will have to "maintain that edge" as they return to action following the NBA All-Star break.

Minnesota have not been beyond the first round of the playoffs in 20 years, yet they are in position to earn the number one seed through 55 games, boasting a 39-16 record and a 1.5-game lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The All-Star break has been a busy one for the T-Wolves, with Chris Finch coaching the West outfit, which included Anthony Edwards and team-mate Karl Anthony Towns, who scored 50 points.

The team have also agreed a two-year contract extension with guard Mike Conley Jr., according to reports. He had been set for free agency at the end of the season.

Finch is now hoping he will find a focused team in Minnesota as they seek to build on a superb start to the year.

"We've just got to try to pick up where we left off," he said. "We know the intensity in these games are going to ramp up more and more.

"We've got to make sure that we maintain that edge. We've done a good job of developing a good offensive rhythm in the past few weeks, so we've got to maintain that.

"Hold serve at home; we've got a lot of home games coming up here out of the break. There's lots of things we can do to keep furthering ourselves."

There was an unfamiliar feeling for Finch in the All-Star Game, seeing his team handily beaten by the East in an encounter that drew criticism for its lack of competitive play.

The format may no longer be widely popular, but Finch certainly enjoyed the rare opportunity to coach players like LeBron James and Stephen Curry.

"Looking around the locker room, there's probably 12 first-ballot Hall of Famers in there," he said. "It's something I'll remember forever."

The Timberwolves return against the Milwaukee Bucks at Target Center on Friday.

The Brooklyn Nets fired head coach Jacque Vaugn on Monday, five days after the team suffered a 50-point loss to the Boston Celtics in its final game before the All-Star break.

Brooklyn is 21-33 and in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, but the club is only 2.5 games behind the Atlanta Hawks for a spot in the Play-In Tournament.

The Nets said “an interim head coach will be named in the near future.”

“This was an incredibly difficult decision, but one we feel is in the best interest of the team going forward,” Nets general manager Sean Marks said in a statement.

Vaughn was promoted to head coach early last season following the dismissal of Steve Nash after Brooklyn opened with five losses in seven games.

The Nets immediately started playing better, which led to a contract extension for Vaughn last February.

The Nets posted a 43-32 record under Vaughn last season as they claimed the No. 6 seed in the East before getting swept by the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the playoffs.

Brooklyn got off to a 13-10 start this season but went on to drop 23 of 31 games heading into break, punctuated by the second-worst loss in franchise history on Wednesday.

Vaughn owns a 129-226 coaching record with the Orlando Magic and Brooklyn.

Damian Lillard was honoured to achieve a feat only previously accomplished by Michael Jordan on the NBA's All-Star weekend. 

Lillard saw off competition from the Minnesota Timberwolves' Karl-Anthony Towns and the Atlanta Hawks' Trae Young to win the 3-point contest on Saturday, then he dazzled again one day later.

The Milwaukee Bucks guard was named All-Star Game MVP after putting up 39 points as the Eastern Conference All-Stars recorded a 211-186 win over their Western Conference counterparts. 

Chicago Bulls legend Jordan is the only previous player to complete such a double, having taken the 1988 dunk contest before winning the first of his three All-Star MVP trophies.

For Lillard, who was appearing in his eighth All-Star Game but his first as a starter, following in Jordan's footsteps made it all the more memorable. 

"Anytime you're mentioned in the same category as Mike, it's an honour, it's a major accomplishment, even if it's All-Star weekend," Lillard said during his post-game news conference. 

"Because if it was that simple, more people would have done it. I'm a vet in the game at this point. Why not go and try to get an MVP? I've been here enough."

However, a perceived lack of competitiveness in Sunday's All-Star Game – the highest-scoring in history – led to criticism from some quarters. 

The league's all-time leading scorer LeBron James said the All-Star Game "is something we need to figure out", with players unwilling to risk injury in the mid-season exhibition. 

Asked for his views on that debate, Lillard said: "I think it could be more competitive, 200 is a lot to be scored. It shows we didn't go out there and compete like I guess you would want us to. 

"But I think that's just what it is. Guys are talented, they make a lot of shots. We hit a lot of 3s, and that was it."

Lillard joined the Bucks in a blockbuster trader from the Portland Trail Blazers ahead of the season, but his first campaign in Milwaukee has been a turbulent one. 

The Bucks fired coach Adrian Griffin last month, bringing in Doc Rivers after a short interim stint for Joe Prunty. They sit third in the Eastern Conference with a 35-21 record, but have lost five of their last seven games.

"It's been a tough year with the transition to a new team, we've had three coaches since I've been there," Lillard said.

"Anytime you have these types of experiences where you have adversity, that's the time you've got to show who you really are. 

"Keep doing what you do, keep believing, and when you do that, usually it comes back to you. You just can't fold."

LeBron James has outlined his desire to finish his storied career with the Los Angeles Lakers, despite recent reports linking him with a trade.

While James' average of 24.8 points per game this season is down on last term's 28.9, the NBA's all-time leading scorer has continued to impress while playing through a niggling ankle injury in his 21st season in the league.

He has only missed seven of Los Angeles' 56 games thus far in 2023-24, helping the team win the inaugural NBA in-season tournament in December. 

James has a $51.4million player option for 2024-25 with the Lakers, but he recently said he was undecided on whether to take up that option.

That led to speculation that he could be available, with his current team fielding calls from the Golden State Warriors and the Philadelphia 76ers ahead of the trade deadline earlier this month.

However, the 39-year-old stayed put, and speaking before his record-extending 20th appearance in the NBA's All-Star Game on Sunday, he gave his clearest indication yet that he sees his future in Los Angeles. 

"I am a Laker and I'm happy. I have been very happy being a Laker for the last six years and hopefully it stays that way," James said. 

"I don't have the answer to how long it is or which uniform I'll be in, but hopefully it is with the Lakers. It's a great organisation with so many greats, but we'll see."

Warriors forward Draymond Green reportedly lobbied team owner Joe Lacob to enquire about a blockbuster trade for James, but he says he played no part in any talks with Golden State.

"I actually heard about it when everybody else heard about it," James told TNT Sports of their interest. 

"Sometimes there's conversations that happen behind closed doors that you don't even know about, I guess until it's real or not, then they'll bring it to you. It never even got to me."

Looking further ahead, James knows the curtain will soon come down on his glittering career, but he is yet to make any decisions regarding the nature of his NBA farewell.

Asked whether he would announce his retirement in advance in order to receive a proper send-off, as opposed to quitting in the offseason, James said: "I'm 50-50, to be honest.

"I was asked this question a couple of days ago; 'Will you take the farewell tour, or will you just Tim Duncan it?'

"There's times when I feel like I owe it to my fans that have been on this journey with me for two decades, to be able to give them that moment where it's every city and they give you flowers or whatever the case may be. That seems cool.

"But on the other side, I've never been that great with accepting praise. It's a weird feeling for me. I don't know how it's going to end, but it's coming. It's coming, for sure." 

LeBron James said the All-Star game is "something we need to figure out" as NBA commissioner Adam Silver hit out at the players.

Silver had promised a competitive All-Star game after a damp squib last year.

And although Sunday's game proved to be the highest-scoring All-Star encounter in NBA history, with the East beating the West 211-186, Silver was unimpressed with the level of competitiveness on show.

Rather flatly, Silver said: "To the Eastern Conference All-Stars, you scored the most points. Well ... congratulations."

James only played in the first half of his record 20th All-Star appearance, as he manages an ankle issue.

And while seeing Silver's side of the argument, James said it is a "deeper conversation".

"I think it's something we need to figure out," said James, who scored eight points for the West.

"Obviously from a player's perspective, it's fun to get up and down. But at the end of the day, our competitive nature don't like to have free-flowing scoring like that.

"But I think the good thing that came out of tonight was none of the players were injured, and everybody came out unscathed or how they were before the game started. So it's a deeper conversation."

James' Los Angeles Lakers teammate Anthony Davis said: "Obviously the fans and the league and everybody wants to be competitive, but then you also as players think about trying not to get hurt. Obviously injuries are a part of the game, and no one wants to get hurt in the All-Star Game.

"All these guys here are very valuable to their teams. So it's some mixed emotions about it.

"You try to go out there and compete a little bit and not just be a highlight show. But at the same time, do you guys really want to see somebody going down for a dunk and somebody going to contest it and, God forbid, something happens in the All-Star Game when it could have been avoided?"

However, Anthony Edwards, of the Minnesota Timberwolves, suggested he has no interest in playing too fiercely in an exhibition match.

"For me, it's an All-Star Game, so I will never look at it as being super competitive," he said.

"It's always fun. I don't know what they can do to make it more competitive. I don't know. I think everyone looks at it [like] it's a break, so I don't think everyone wants to come here and compete."

Damian Lillard scored 39 points to earn game MVP honours as the Eastern Conference won the highest-scoring All-Star Game in NBA history with a resounding 211-186 victory over the Western Conference in Indianapolis on Sunday.

The East became the first team to surpass the 200-point mark in a defence-deficient event that also shattered the previous All-Star Game high of 374 combined points, set by the West in their 192-182 win over the East in New Orleans in 2017. The West also held the previous team high for points when they recorded 196 in the 2016 edition held in Toronto.

One night after successfully defending his title in the 3-point contest during Saturday's skills competition, Lillard teamed with Indiana Pacers home-town hero Tyrese Haliburton for a prolific display from beyond the arc. The duo combined for 21 of the East's 42 3-pointers, also an All-Star Game record for one team.

Lillard, a seven-time All-Star with the Portland Trail Blazers who was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks during the offseason, finished 11 of 23 from 3-point range and Halliburton went 10 for 14.

Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics chipped in 36 points and eight rebounds to help the East overcome a dominant performance from the West's Karl-Anthony Towns. The Minnesota Timberwolves forward amassed 50 points to become the fourth player to reach that mark in an All-Star Game, joining Boston's Jayson Tatum (55 in 2023), then-New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (52 in 2017) and Golden State Warriors icon Stephen Curry (50 in 2022).

LeBron James, participating in his record 20th All-Star Game, played just 14 minutes while scoring eight points.

The East never trailed after Lillard knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers in the first quarter that gave his team a 35-29 advantage, while Haliburton hit five triples in the opening period to help the East take a 53-47 lead into the second quarter.

Lillard scored 13 more points in the second quarter as the East extended the margin to 104-89 at half-time, with the 193 combined first-half points also the most in a single All-Star Game.

Towns had just 19 points through three quarters before putting up an incredible 31 while playing the entire fourth, though the game was out of hand by that point as the East took a commanding 160-136 lead into the final period.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was the West's lone other player with more than 18 points, as the Oklahoma City Thunder guard finished with 31 on 12-of-16 shooting.

 

Adam Silver will not "anoint" any player to be the next LeBron James when he eventually retires.

Four-time MVP James is set to play in his 20th All-Star game on Sunday at the age of 39, averaging 24.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 7.8 assists so far this season for the 30-26 Los Angeles Lakers.

Though James is still performing well, he is in the latter stages of his career and the talk over who could potentially fill his place as the league's most recognisable player has been growing.

NBA commissioner Silver, though, compared James' potential retirement to that of Michael Jordan, saying players must earn the mantle of James' replacement.

"I would never anoint another player to be the next LeBron James just in the same way when Michael [Jordan] retired," Silver told reporters.

"I remember at the time David Stern [former NBA commissioner] was saying whoever demonstrates on the court that they should be.

"These new players aren't anointed. They demonstrate to the world, they demonstrate to the league that they deserve to be viewed in that same rare position as players like Michael and Kobe [Bryant] and LeBron and others."

Silver pointed to the rise of international talent in the NBA as potentially being able to somewhat fill the boots of James, stating the league is in "fantastic hands".

"Just look at the All-Stars that we're going to be seeing competing [Sunday] night," Silver added.

"Look at the magnitude of the pool of international players coming into this league. Look at the amount of basketball that's being played on a global basis."

Bam Adebayo will start in Sunday's All-Star game for the first time having replaced the injured Joel Embiid.

Reigning MVP Embiid was originally slated to start at center for the Eastern Conference All-Star team, but the Philadelphia 76ers man will miss the game because of a knee injury.

Adebayo initially made the reserve team having averaged 20.2 points and 10.6 rebounds per game for the Miami Heat so far this season, but has now been chosen as Embiid's deputee by Eastern Conference coach Doc Rivers.

Adebayo was also selected as a reserve team member in 2020, winning the skills competition that year, but this will be the first time he has made the starting line-up.

The former Kentucky Wildcat will become the seventh Heat player to be an All-Star starter and the first since Dwyane Wade eight years ago.

Adebayo's Heat currently sit at 30-25, in the play-in spots at seventh in the East having reached the NBA finals from the play-in positions last season.

Bahamian NBA star Chavano Rainer "Buddy" Hield was appointed the new Ambassador at Large in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bahamas.

Hield, the Philadelphia 76ers shooting guard, officially received his credentials from Prime Minister Philip Edward Davis during a ceremony at the Office of the Prime Minister on Friday.

The 31-year-old, Hield, was drafted to the NBA in 2016, and since entering the league, has conducted a number of basketball camps in The Bahamas, particularly on Grand Bahama.

He joins NBA players Rick Fox and Olympian Chris Brown as the third Bahamian athlete to be appointed as an Ambassador at Large.

"I do swear by Almighty God that I will lead with true faith and allegiance to the Commonwealth of Bahamas. I will faithfully discharge the duties of my office which I am about to enter. I sincerely swear that I will be bound by the office secret act of the Bahamas and agree to apply it not only during the period of my appointment, but also after my appointment has seized.

"As an officer of the Foreign Affairs, I will support and defend the constitution of the Bahamas and uphold the rule of law to both protect and defend the interest of the Commonwealth of Bahamas whether domestically or internationally," Hield said during the ceremony.

The NBA has fined Los Angeles Clippers coach Tyronn Lue $35,000 following his comments over the officials in Wednesday's win over the Golden State Warriors.

Lue was shown on video claiming the officials were "cheating" in a game the Clippers won 130-125.

The Clippers coach was ejected during the fourth quarter, though LA still came back to win.

Lue was then videoed shouting to his players and staff: "Where the refs at now? Cheating. That's all they be doing."

On Friday, the NBA fined Lue for "public criticism of the officiating and for questioning the integrity of game officials."

 

Indiana Pacers guard Bennedict Mathurin set his sights high after he led Team Jalen to glory in the Rising Stars Game.

Mathurin was named the night's MVP on Friday, after scoring 22 points across two games, first in the semifinal against Team Tamika, and then in the final against Team Detlef.

The Rising Stars format saw rookies – including number one draft pick Victor Wembanyama – sophomores and some G League players split into four teams.

Mathurin, playing on home turf at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, was also serenaded with "MVP" chants from the crowd. 

And for the 21-year-old, it is hopefully a taste of what is to come in his career.

"It was fun. It was fun to see, to receive those chants," said Mathurin, who has averaged 14.1 points per game across 52 appearances for the Pacers this season.

"The Rising Stars Game, I feel like I haven't really gotten that feeling in the NBA. One day I want to be MVP, so it was great to have that feeling pretty early in my career.

"I saw a couple of shots going in and I was like, it's a wrap. If I'm being totally honest, it's also my city. I had to make sure I brought it home. So that was the main thing for me.

“To see my family and friends travelling all this way just to see me have a good time, I felt I needed to play well."

There was no such look for Wembanyama, who exited in the first round as part of Team Pau on his first Rising Stars appearance, albeit the 20-year-old San Antonio Spurs star has a busy weekend to come, with the skills challenge next up for him.

"I want to win and I hate losing," he said. "But at the same time, I have so much going on.

"I'm happy that I just knocked one thing off the list this weekend. So it's mixed feelings."

Pacers stars Tyrese Haliburton, Myles Turner, Isaiah Jackson and Obi Toppin were all in the crowd to support Mathurin, meanwhile, who was delighted to have the backing of his teammates.

"I was pretty pumped, just to see them," he added. "Seeing how much they support me and love me."

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