Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 33 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as the Milwaukee Bucks held off the West-leading Minnesota Timberwolves 112-107 on Friday in a matchup of NBA heavyweights.

Damian Lillard had 21 points, 10 assists and a season-high nine rebounds and Malik Beasley scored all 14 of his points in the third quarter as the Bucks improved to 4-10 under new coach Doc Rivers.

Anthony Edwards scored 28 points and hit three 3-pointers in the final two minutes to draw the Wolves within 110-107 with 31 seconds left, but Lillard’s long jumper 22 seconds later sealed the win.

Karl-Anthony Towns had 22 points with 14 rebounds and Rudy Gobert added 12 points and 19 boards for Minnesota, which had a four-game winning streak snapped.

Butler among 4 ejected in Heat’s win

Jimmy Butler was one of four players ejected after a fourth-quarter scuffle and the Miami Heat held off the New Orleans Pelicans, 106-95.

Butler had 23 points and nine rebounds and Bam Adebayo added 24 points for Miami, which snapped New Orleans’ four-game winning streak and made it seven consecutive wins over the Pelicans.

Also ejected for the melee were Heat reserve Thomas Bryant and Jose Alvarado and Naji Marshall of the Pelicans.

Herb Jones scored 19 points and Jonas Valanciunas had 12 with 10 rebounds for New Orleans, which couldn’t overcome 37.5 percent shooting, including 7 of 32 from 3-point range.

Maxey leads 76ers over Cavaliers

Tyrese Maxey scored 24 points and Cam Payne added 16 off the bench to propel the Philadelphia 76ers to a 104-97 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Maxey came alive in the fourth quarter, scoring 15 of the Sixers’ final 20 points and assisted on a 3-pointer by Buddy Hield that put Philadelphia up by eight in the final minute.

Maxey was the only Sixer to make more than one basket in the fourth quarter and also added four rebounds and two assists.

Jarrett Allen had 24 points and Darius Garland added 20 and nine assists, but Cleveland had a six-game road winning streak stopped while losing for the third time in four games overall.

Nikola Jokic scored 31 points as part of his league-leading 13th triple-double of the season and Jamal Murray also had 31 points to lead the Denver Nuggets to a 114-109 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday.

Jokic sealed Denver’s third straight win with a 3-pointer with 4.7 seconds remaining. He leads all active players with 118 triple-doubles.

Myles Turner had 22 points and Pascal Siakam added 16 with 10 rebounds in his first home game since the Pacers acquired him from Toronto last week.

Indiana lost its third in a row overall and eighth straight against Denver.

The Nuggets took a 93-81 lead into the fourth quarter, but the Pacers took the lead 103-102 on Ben Sheppard’s 3-pointer with 3:42 left.

Jokic’s layup with 1:38 to play gave Denver the lead for good and Murray’s running finger roll 22 seconds later made it 111-107.

McCollum sinks 9 3-pointers as Pelicans erupt

CJ McCollum matched his season high with 33 points and went 9 for 13 from 3-point range as the New Orleans Pelicans set a franchise scoring record in a 153-124 win over the Utah Jazz.

Zion Williamson added 17 points and a career-high 11 assists and Herb Jones scored 22 points for the Pelicans, who surpassed their previous franchise record of 149 points in a win over Sacramento in October 2018.

McCollum shot 11 of 17 from the field and New Orleans connected on half its attempts from long range (23 of 46) as part of a 57.7 percent overall shooting effort.

Brunson, Randle team up to keep Knicks hot

Jalen Brunson had 30 points and Julius Randle flirted with a second straight triple-double as the New York Knicks rallied for a 108-103 win over the Brooklyn Nets.

Donte DiVincenzo scored 11 points and OG Anunoby added 10 for the Knicks, who have won four straight and improved to 10-2 since acquiring Anunoby from Toronto.

Randle finished with 30 points, nine rebounds and seven assists after he had 18 points, 16 boards and 10 assists in Saturday’s win over the Raptors.

Mikal Bridges scored 36 points with a career-high seven 3-pointers for the Nets, who entered the fourth quarter with a nine-point lead, just two nights after squandering an 18-point advantage in a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.

 

The Memphis Grizzlies got career-best scoring performances from Vince Williams Jr. and GG Jackson to overcome a slew of injured players and spoil Draymond Green's return to the Golden State Warriors' lineup in Monday's 116-107 win.

Williams amassed 24 points and seven rebounds and Jackson contributed 23 points off the bench on a night Memphis was without three of its top four scorers for the season in Ja Morant, Desmond Bane and Marcus Smart.

Both players recorded eight fourth-quarter points as the Grizzlies pulled away late to halt a two-game losing streak and hand the reeling Warriors an eighth loss in 11 games.

Green had seven points and seven rebounds in 24 minutes in his first appearance in just over a month. The former NBA Defensive Player of the Year had just completed serving an indefinite NBA suspension for striking Phoenix Suns centre Jusuf Nurkic in the face on Dec. 12.

The Warriors owned a 91-90 lead following Stephen Curry's go-ahead 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter, but Memphis responded with a 16-5 run to break the game open. 

Jackson, who finished 5 of 8 from 3-point range, had two triples during the surge, which Luke Kennard capped with a 3-pointer to give the Grizzlies a 106-96 advantage with 7:20 left.

Golden State never got closer than seven points behind the rest of the way.

Curry led the Warriors with 26 points and Jonathan Kuminga delivered 20 points and 11 rebounds off the bench.

Mavericks down rival Pelicans behind big games from Irving, Hardaway

Kyrie Irving and Tim Hardaway Jr. each eclipsed the 40-point mark while rallying the Dallas Mavericks to a 125-120 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans, a win that created a two-way tie atop the Southwest Division between the teams.

The Mavericks overcame a 10-point deficit late in the third quarter and another absence from superstar Luka Dončić to avenge Saturday’s 118-110 home loss to the Pelicans.

Irving and Hardaway more than made up for Doncic missing a third straight game with a sprained ankle. Irving scored 24 of his 42 points in the second half, while Hardaway had 11 of his season-high 41 points during a fourth quarter in which Dallas outscored New Orleans by a 33-21 margin.

The Pelicans held a 111-104 lead with seven minutes left before Dallas took control with a 17-4 run. Hardaway hit back-to-back 3-pointers during the pivotal spurt, the second of which gave the Mavericks a 112-111 edge with 4:16 remaining.

Jalen Green’s 3-pointer with 1:27 left to play extended Dallas’ advantage to 121-115, though New Orleans answered with five straight points to cut its deficit to one with 17.7 seconds remaining.

Irving then hit two free throws on the ensuing possession, and after the Pelicans’ Brandon Ingram missed a potential game-tying 3-point attempt, Maxi Kleber made two foul shots to seal the win and pull Dallas even with New Orleans in the standings.

Zion Williamson led the Pelicans with 30 points and CJ McCollum had 23 in the loss, though Ingram went just 3 of 14 from the field while finishing with 12 points.

Jazz extend winning streak with rout of Pacers

Lauri Markkanen put up 32 points and 10 rebounds as the resurgent Utah Jazz continued their recent winning ways with a 132-105 rout of the short-handed Indiana Pacers.

The Jazz cruised to their sixth consecutive victory behind the hot shooting of Markkanen and Collin Sexton, who went 11 of 17 from the field while scoring a season-high 30 points to go along with five assists. Markkanen made 10 of 15 field goal attempts and was a perfect 10 for 10 from the foul line.

After getting off to a 7-16 start, Utah has won 15 of its last 19 games to move up to ninth place in the Western Conference.

The Pacers lost their second in a row while playing a fourth straight game without star point guard Tyrese Haliburton, out with a hamstring injury. Indiana was also without two other key contributors in guard Bruce Brown and 3-point specialist Aaron Nesmith due to injuries.

Indiana's depleted lineup proved to be no match, as the Jazz took a 33-26 lead after one quarter and increased it to 64-50 at half-time behind 17 points from Sexton and 15 from Markkanen.

Utah maintained a double-digit advantage the rest of the way, with its lead swelling to 29 points in the final stages.

Buddy Hield and Andrew Nembhard each had 14 points to lead Indiana.

 

Michael Malone revelled in another brilliant display from Nikola Jokic after the Denver Nuggets talisman starred against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Jokic finished with 27 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds to record his 10th career triple-double against the Pelicans in a 125-113 home victory for Denver on Friday.

The highlight of the two-time MVP's performance was a blind, behind-the-back, over-the-head pass towards the end of the first half, which Aaron Gordon latched onto at the rim.

And coach Malone saw echoes of NBA great Magic Johnson in Jokic's moment of brilliance.

He said: "I didn't imagine the behind-the-back, over-the-head pass.

"When you’re a young kid watching NBA basketball, that's Magic Johnson, that's 'Pistol' Pete Maravich, the guys that just had this pizazz to their game.

"Nikola can beat you a lot of ways and that was definitely one of the best passes I've seen him make."

Jokic explained: "I just saw him for a blink of an eye, and I just wanted to pass to him as soon as I can.

"Because he's open in that moment, not a moment after that. So, that was the quickest way to pass him the ball."

Reflecting on the Nuggets' performance as they bounced back from a defeat to the Utah Jazz, Jokic, who has now had 12 triple-doubles this season and is shooting 79.3 percent over his last eight games, added: "We played a little bit faster, I think.

"We were the ones who were aggressive. We pushed the pace. I think that was the difference."

Zion Williamson scored 30 points for the Pelicans, but New Orleans was left to lament a poor start in which the Nuggets scored 37 points.

Pelicans coach Willie Green said: "They got off to an early start in this building.

"They had a 37-point first quarter to 25, now it's an uphill battle the rest of the game. That's something they do well.

"They get off to early starts and then they played with a lead. We've got to be better starting a game."

The Nuggets (27-13) are third in the Western Conference, four spots ahead of the Pelicans (23-16). Denver has a 16-4 record at home going into their next game against the Indiana Pacers on Sunday.

Stephen Curry acknowledged something needs to change for the Golden State Warriors after they suffered their second blowout loss in the space of three days, saying: "It all sucks."

The Warriors were booed off at Chase Center following Sunday's 133-118 defeat to the Toronto Raptors, and a similar reception awaited them on Wednesday as the New Orleans Pelicans ran out 141-105 victors. 

Steve Kerr's team did not lead at any point in those back-to-back defeats and are now 17-20 for the season, having gone 2-5 throughout a vital seven-game home stretch since Christmas.

Curry was limited to 15 points by the Pelicans after only managing a paltry nine against Toronto, both well below his season average of 26.7.

The two-time NBA MVP was at a loss to explain the Warriors' struggles after their latest home defeat, saying: "It's pretty evident that if things stay the same, that's the definition of insanity, right? Keep doing the same thing but expecting different results.

"You get to a point where you're trying to explain it, trying to figure out what can change specifically that can help us.

"Those conversations are happening between games, in film sessions, in the locker room. But it's headed in the opposite direction. 

"I don't know what to say about it. We're not used to this vibe around our team. It all sucks."

While the Warriors have suffered several gut-wrenching reverses this season, blowing big leads to lose to the Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets, head coach Kerr says their back-to-back blowout defeats exposed a lack of belief.

"We are lacking confidence," Kerr said. "You get to a stage where you lose your belief.

"One of the coaches said we are the quietest team ever. We need guys who can rally the troops right. 

"When you're going through it like this, there is only one way out. That's to fight together, to compete together."

Jayson Tatum scored 26 of his season high-tying 45 points in the fourth quarter and overtime and the Boston Celtics remained unbeaten at home with a 127-120 victory Wednesday over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Jaylen Brown added 35 points and 11 rebounds to help the Celtics improve to 18-0 at home for the first time in franchise history. They have won 25 consecutive regular-season home games, dating back to last March.

Anthony Edwards scored 29 points and Karl-Anthony Towns had 25 with 13 rebounds for the Western Conference-leading Timberwolves, who trail only Boston overall.

Tatum scored the game’s final nine points after Nickeil Alexander-Walker’s 3-pointer with 2:44 left in overtime gave Minnesota a 120-118 lead.

Tatum made a pair of free throws, a driving layup and sank a 3-pointer to make it 125-120 with 51 seconds to play. His two free throws with 13 seconds remaining capped the scoring.

Wembanyama has triple-double in Spurs’ win

Victor Wembanyama notched his first NBA triple-double with 16 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists to lead the San Antonio Spurs to a 130-108 win over the Detroit Pistons in a matchup of two of the league’s worst teams.

Wembanyama achieved the milestone in just 21 minutes, going 6 of 16 from the field while missing all four of his 3-point attempts.

In NBA history, only Russell Westbrook had a triple-double in fewer minutes (20) for Oklahoma City in 2014.

San Antonio had eight players score in double figures, including Keldon Johnson (17) and Devin Vassell (16), to snap a five-game slide.

Jalen Duren had 21 points and 12 rebounds for the Pistons, who dropped their sixth in a row since breaking their NBA record-tying 28-game losing streak.

Pelicans start fast in win over Warriors

Jonas Valanciunas had 21 points and nine rebounds and Zion Williamson added 19 points, seven assists and five rebounds to lead the New Orleans Pelicans to a 141-105 win over the Golden State Warriors.

The Pelicans had eight players score in double digits in their sixth win in seven games. They scored 46 points in the first quarter and led by 25 midway through the second.

Moses Moody scored 21 points off the bench for the Warriors, who have lost six of eight.

Golden State's 36-point loss was its largest at home since a 37-point defeat to San Antonio on March 26, 2007. 

LeBron James said it had been a "rough" New Year's weekend after playing through illness as the Los Angeles Lakers suffered their second defeat in as many days on Sunday.

James played through flu-like symptoms as the Lakers suffered a contentious 108-106 defeat to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday, being denied a potential game-tying three-pointer with 3.3 seconds remaining.

On New Year's Eve, the New Orleans Pelicans dropped Los Angeles to 17-17 with a comprehensive 129-109 success at Smoothie King Center, Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram posting 26 points apiece.

James scored a game-high 34 and former Pelican Anthony Davis had 20 points and 10 rebounds as the Lakers suffered a seventh loss in nine games, leaving the league's all-time leading scorer to reflect on a difficult few days.

"We have to figure it out and get better, for sure," James said. "We're not a team that likes to play from behind. We've been in that position a lot this year.

"The flight last night did not help, obviously. We didn't get to the hotel last night until 3:45 a.m., so, it was a rough day trying to recalibrate and get ready for the game. 

"But I'm happy I was able to go out and just try to make some plays happen for my team."

A raucous New Orleans crowd was on its feet when Jose Alvarado made steals from both James and Davis during the second quarter, with his team up by 19 points at that stage.

The 25-year-old was delighted to give himself a highlight-reel moment against one of the all-time greats, saying: "LeBron, he's one of the greatest players to ever play this game and for me to be on the court, for me to get steals, for me to do anything… that's pretty amazing.

"When I get back to watch videos when I grow old, and they say that he is the best player to play this game, at least I got a video of him, with me getting a steal."

Ja Morant says the Memphis Grizzlies are well aware of their own potential after claiming a fourth straight win.

The Grizzlies beat the New Orleans Pelicans 116-115 in overtime on Tuesday, and they are now 4-0 since Morant returned from his suspension.

Morant finished with 31 points, while Desmond Bane scored 27 as Memphis fought back from a double-digit deficit.

For Morant, it was merely more evidence that the Grizzlies know how good they can be.

"We know what we're capable of," Morant said.

"We told ourselves, we've been here before. We were very confident.

"Being able to come back and win four games now and continue to take this momentum to the next game, and the next day, is big time for us."

Morant had been named the Western Conference's Player of the Week prior to tip-off against the Pelicans, having averaged 28.8 points since his return to action.

"A lot of credit to my teammates," Morant added.

"Obviously, without them on the floor, I won't have the gaps I have, the lanes I have and them always telling me to be aggressive allows me to go out and deliver for us."

It was another damaging defeat for the Pelicans, who have lost three of their last four games after going on a four-game winning run.

"For three-and-a-half quarters, our game-plan discipline was at a high level," said Pelicans coach Willie Green.

"As the game started to get a little close, we get tired, and we started to turn the ball over, not execute as well and we let them right back into the game.

"This crap hurts, losing games like this. But it's a part of it and we have to learn from these moments."

The Detroit Pistons etched their name into the history books Tuesday, setting the NBA single-season record with their 27th straight loss, 118-112 to the Brooklyn Nets.

Cam Johnson scored 24 points and Mikal Bridges added 21 for the Nets, who handed the Pistons their 26th consecutive loss on Saturday.

Cade Cunningham poured in 37 of his 41 points in the second half and shot 15 of 21, but Detroit broke a tie with the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers and 2013-14 Philadelphia 76ers. The 76ers hold the overall mark at 28 straight losses, a skid that started in 2014-15 and carried over into 2015-16.

The Pistons’ next chance to end the streak is Thursday at league-leading Boston.

Cunnigham made a pair of layups to draw the Pistons within 112-110 with less than a minute remaining, but Dorian Finney-Smith sank a baseline 3-point to put the Nets up 115-110 with 38 seconds left.

Alec Burks then missed a 3-pointer and Bridges hit two free throws for a 117-110 advantage.

Grizzlies win in OT, improve to 4-0 since Morant’s return

Ja Morant scored 31 points and the Memphis Grizzlies rallied for a 116-115 win in overtime against the New Orleans Pelicans to improve to 4-0 since he made his season debut a week earlier.

Desmond Bane scored 27 points, including a key 3-pointer in the final minute of regulation and the clinching free throw with 4 seconds left in overtime.

Jaren Jackson Jr. added 19 points, redeeming his missed free throw at the end of regulation with a pair of baskets late in OT that gave Memphis the lead for good.

Morant has averaged 28.8 points in four games since he returned from his 25-game NBA suspension after the Grizzlies were 6-19 in his absence.

Zion Williamson had 23 points and 11 rebounds for the Pelicans, who also lost a double-digit, second-half lead to Memphis in the previous meeting.

Kings’ Fox scores 43 in loss to Trail Blazers

De’Aaron Fox had 43 points but it wasn’t enough as Anfernee Simons scored 29 to lift the Portland Trail Blazers to a 130-113 win over the Sacramento Kings.  

Duop Reath added a career-high 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds off the bench for the Blazers, who got 19 points from Malcolm Brogdon and 17 and 11 assists from rookie Scoot Henderson.

Fox was 16 of 26 from the field and 7 of 15 from long range while adding eight rebounds and four assists. Domantas Sabonis scored 34 points, but no other Sacramento player was in double figures.

Ja Morant is simply excited to be back on the court after he starred for the Memphis Grizzlies following the end of his eight-month absence from basketball.

Morant received a 25-game suspension from the NBA for conduct detrimental to the league back in June.

The two-time All-Star was banned for showing a firearm on social media, just three months after a similar offence.

However, Morant returned in style on Tuesday, finishing with 34 points, six rebounds and eight assists as the Grizzlies beat the New Orleans Pelicans 115-113.

"I've been putting work in, man. I ain't played a game in eight months," said Morant, whose buzzer-beater won the game.

"I had a lot of time to learn myself. A lot of hard days where I went through it. But you know, basketball is my life, what I love, [it's] therapeutic for me. I'm just excited to be back.

"I've been working hard, but there's nothing like NBA basketball. I just had to lock in and push through; pretty much my life, you know, just continuing to push, no matter what."

Reflecting on his time away from the game, Morant added: "[My support system] showed me a lot of support. 

"They got on my a** a little bit, too. I felt like it was needed, not only during this process for me, but them as well to obviously learn from me.

"A lot of us make mistakes. I can see how [the situation] changed them as well. I don't wish it happened, but it definitely took me, my family, my team to the next level."

Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins simply wanted Morant to enjoy the moment.

"My one expectation was for him to have fun," he said.

"That's how you want Ja to play, is play fast and free with the dynamic abilities."

The Grizzlies, who went 6-19 in the 25 games without Morant, snapped a five-game losing streak. They host the Indiana Pacers on Thursday.

Ja Morant scored 34 points in his season debut, including a spinning dribble in the lane to set up a game-winning floater as time expired, to lift the Memphis Grizzlies to a 115-113 victory Tuesday over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Morant didn’t look rusty in his return, shooting 12 of 24 from the field with eight assists and six rebounds to help Memphis snap a five-game losing streak.

His point total was the most in NBA history by a player coming back from an absence of at least 25 games.

The Grizzlies went 6-19 during Morant’s suspension for his social media antics with guns.

Jaren Jackson Jr. had 24 points and Desmond Bane added 21 for Memphis.

Brandon Ingram poured in 34 points and Jonas Valanciunas had 22 and 4 rebounds for the Pelicans, who had a four-game winning streak stopped.

Zion Williamson was limited by foul trouble and was limited to 13 points.

Lillard has 40 to power Bucks past Spurs

Damian Lillard scored a season-high 40 points to reach 20,000 and Giannis Antetokounmpo had a triple-double to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to their fifth straight win, 132-119 over the San Antonio Spurs.

Lillard increased his career point total to 20,034 to become the 51st player in NBA history – and eighth active player – to accumulate 20,000 points. He is the 17th-fastest player to reach that milestone.

Antetokounmpo had a career-high 16 assists, 14 rebounds and a season-low 11 points for his second triple-double this season and 37th of his career.

Milwaukee is 5-0 on its season-long, six-game homestand that concludes Thursday against Orlando. The Bucks have won 14 straight games at Fiserv Forum for their longest home winning streak since a 20-game run from April 19, 1990-Jan. 8, 1991.

The Spurs played without rookie Victor Wembanyama (sore right ankle) and lost for the 20th time in 21 games.

Warriors outlast Celtics in overtime

Stephen Curry scored 33 points, including seven straight in overtime, and the Golden State Warriors defeated the Celtics, 132-126 to end Boston’s five-game winning streak.

Klay Thompson had 24 points, Jonathan Kuminga added 17 and Trayce Jackson-Davis contributed 10 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists as the Warriors won their third in a row.

Derrick White scored 30 points and Jaylen Brown had 26 points, eight boards and six assists for Boston, which dropped its third straight road game.

Al Horford’s 3-pointer with 36 seconds left in overtime drew the Celtics within 127-126, but Curry drilled a 3 with the shot clock winding down with 12 seconds to play and added a pair of free throws in the closing seconds.

Zion Williamson delivered a season-high 36 points as the New Orleans Pelicans cooled off the NBA-leading Minnesota Timberwolves with a 121-107 victory on Monday.

CJ McCollum scored nine of his 23 points in the fourth quarter to help the Pelicans pull away and bounce back from Thursday's 44-point blowout loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA In-Season Tournament semifinals.

Minnesota entered the matchup with a league-best 17-4 record and had won six consecutive games but played without leading scorer Anthony Edwards due to a hip pointer.

Karl-Anthony Towns, Mike Conley and Naz Reid all had 17 points for the Timberwolves, with Towns adding 12 rebounds. 

Minnesota never led in the second half, however, as the Pelicans ended the second quarter on a 12-3 run to take a 59-52 half-time lead.

New Orleans held a 90-86 advantage after three quarters, then opened the fourth on a 9-0 spurt capped by a McCollum 3-pointer to gain further separation.

The Pelicans also received 20 points from Brandon Ingram and 14 points and 13 rebounds from Jonas Valanciunas.

Bucks bounce back with overtime win over Bulls

Giannis Antetokounmpo compiled 32 points, 12 rebounds and six assists and the Milwaukee Bucks dominated the early stages of overtime to come through with a 133-129 win over the Chicago Bulls.

After Chicago rallied from a 14-point first-half deficit to force overtime on DeMar DeRozan's jumper with 3.7 seconds left in regulation, the Bucks opened the extra session with an 8-1 run to build a 126-119 lead and never trailed thereafter.

Brook Lopez and Malik Beasley each had 19 points to help Milwaukee rebound from Thursday's loss to the Indiana Pacers in the NBA In-Season Tournament semfinals.

The Bulls had a four-game winning streak halted despite a monster performance from DeRozan, who put up 41 points and 11 assists. Coby White finished with a season-high 33 points in the loss.

Nuggets hold off Hawks to end three-game skid

Jamal Murray scored 29 points on 12-of-15 shooting and added nine rebounds to help the Denver Nuggets get back on track with a 129-122 win over the Atlanta Hawks.

The reigning NBA champions withstood a career-high 40 points from Atlanta's Bogdan Bogdanović and a fourth-quarter comeback attempt by the Hawks to stop a three-game losing streak. Nikola Jokić contributed 25 points and nine assists for Denver, while rookie Julian Strawther hit six 3-pointers while producing a career-high 22 points off the bench.

Bogdanovic had 13 of his points in the fourth quarter with Atlanta's leading scorer, Trae Young, out of the game after being ejected when arguing a no-foul call late in the third.

The Hawks trailed 100-86 at the time of Young's departure and were down by 20 points with under 10 minutes left before rallying late, as Bogdanovic led a 16-5 run that cut the Nuggets' lead to 126-122 with 30.5 seconds left.

Jokic hit two free throws on the ensuing possession, however, and Bogdanovic missed a pair of 3-point tries in the final seconds as the Hawks' bid came up short.

Young had 19 points and nine assists before exiting.

 

LeBron James quipped he was not too old to put his body on the line for the $500,000 per player cash prize that goes to the NBA's in-season tournament winners.

James' comment came after he played a starring role in the Los Angeles Lakers' 133-89 demolition of the New Orleans Pelicans in Thursday's semi-final.

Just over three weeks away from his 39th birthday, James finished with 30 points, eight assists and five rebounds at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

He also got in the way of a Zion Williamson charge in the first quarter. Asked if he was too old to be risking a serious injury, James smiled: "Listen man, not for that 500, I ain't."

Each player on the winning side of the inaugural final, in which the Lakers will take on the Indiana Pacers, will receive a $500,000 bonus.

James was weighing up retirement after last season, but is thrilled to still be on the court.

"If you decide to retire, or whatever the case may be, you're not a part of it anymore, so it wouldn't be me leaving it on the table because I would have never had the table set," James told ESPN.

"But I'm happy that I'm here; this is a pretty cool moment, and let's see if we can capitalise on it. It's been good. It's been dope.

"We've got to finish our breakfast on Saturday. That's the most important thing."

Lakers coach Darvin Ham, meanwhile, believes the NBA's in-season tournament has injected fresh life into the early stages of the season.

"This time of the year you tend to, you don't want to admit it, but teams tend to sleepwalk through some of these games," Ham said.

"So for the league to infuse this tournament at this point and time of the year, I thought it was brilliant.

"Now being here in Vegas, it's definitely a really thick electricity that's happening that's reverberating all the way through the arena, through the teams. Everybody is excited to try to give it their best shot.

"We are just trying to build a rhythm and be the best team we can be and put our best foot forward on a daily basis. The tournament just happens to align with what we got going on in general."

It was another tough game for Pelicans talisman Williamson, who finished with only 13 points.

"I got to be better," Williamson said. "I got to be more aggressive in finding my shot. I got to do more things to get my team going. I think I was too laid back tonight."

LeBron James needed less than three quarters to score 30 points and the Los Angeles Lakers booked a spot in Saturday’s Inaugural In-Season Tournament final with a 133-89 rout of the New Orleans Pelicans in Las Vegas.

Austin Reaves had 17 points and Anthony Davis added 16 with 15 rebounds for the Lakers, who will face the surprising Indiana Pacers for the NBA Cup.

Trey Murphy led New Orleans with 14 points and Zion Williamson had 13 with just two rebounds.

The Pelicans led 30-29 after the first quarter, but James opened the second by scoring the Lakers’ first 11 points, including three 3-pointers in a row.

James had 21 points on 7-of-9 shooting by halftime with Los Angeles up 67-54. He went to the bench midway through the third quarter and should be plenty rested for the final.

The Lakers have won three straight games and 11 of their past 15.

Haliburton leads Pacers over Bucks in In-Season Tournament semifinals

Tyrese Haliburton had 27 points and 15 assists, Myles Turner added 26 and the Indiana Pacers beat the Milwaukee Bucks 128-119 to advance to Saturday’s inaugural In-Season Tournament final.

Haliburton hit a dagger 3-pointer with 50 seconds remaining to put the Pacers up 122-114 and celebrated by mimicking Damian Lillard’s “Dame time” celebration.

The Pacers, who entered the game third in the NBA in 3-point shooting, shot just 7 of 33 from deep (21.2%) but scored 72 points in the paint.

Turner scored 10 of his 26 points in the first quarter, including a monstrous dunk over Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Isaiah Jackson, Andrew Nembhard and T.J. McConnell combined to shoot 13 of 19 from the field while Indiana’s bench outscored Milwaukee’s 43-13.

Antetokounmpo had 37 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Bucks, while Lillard scored 24 and Khris Middleton added 20.

 

Zion Williamson believes there is great potential in the ranks of the New Orleans Pelicans after they bounced back to defeat the Sacramento Kings in the NBA's in-season tournament.

The Pelicans teed up a semi-final tie with either the Los Angeles Lakers or the Phoenix Suns in Las Vegas, after rallying from a 15-point first-quarter deficit to win 127-117 on Tuesday.

Brandon Ingram finished with 30 points, eight rebounds and six assists in the comeback victory, while Herb Jones added 23 points for the Pelicans, who trailed by a 32-17 score less than eight minutes in before embarking on a 22-4 run to take a three-point lead early in the second quarter.

New Orleans extended the margin to 69-61 at halftime and never trailed in the final two quarters while building a lead as big as 15 points in the third. Ingram had 17 of his points in the second half, while Jonas Valanciunas posted 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting along with 11 rebounds for the Pelicans.

"This team can be so great," Williamson said. "We have a lot of potential, but we have a lot of growth to do.

"But overall, we can do something really special if everybody stays locked in. We can do something really special."

Williamson only had 10 points, but he believes it is crucial that others step up to the plate when he is not at his best.

"With the shooters we've added, it definitely does take pressure off of me," Williamson said.

"I didn't play too well, but we were still up 13, 18, late in the game. This just shows how locked in everybody is. Coach always talks about staying ready. Our guys stayed ready."

For coach Willie Green, the level of trust shown by his players was the most pleasing aspect of the win.

"The biggest thing I saw in that game was trust," Green said.

"Our guys just stuck together. They stuck together in the huddle, and they continued to make the right play over and over and over again.

When you see a team that has 29 assists and only 14 turnovers, that's a team that's continuing to trust. We want to continue to build on that."

The Pelicans' win was marred, however, by news of a fan dying after a medical emergency at Golden 1 Center.

"During the first quarter of the Kings vs. Pelicans game, a guest had a medical emergency," a Kings statement read.

"EMS immediately responded and administered CPR. Tragically, these efforts were unsuccessful and the guest passed away. The organization offers its deepest condolences to the guest's family and loved ones."

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