Malone rips Nuggets as 'soft' after blowout loss

3:00 AM ET

LOS ANGELES — After suffering their worst loss of the season Friday, a brutal 132-103 beatdown by the LA Clippers at Staples Center, the Denver Nuggets were left reeling.

Nuggets coach Mike Malone called the team “soft.” And Nuggets guard Monte Morris said that if the team wanted to take the next step toward being a title contender, “we can throw it out the window if we ain’t going to show up in [these] games.”

While the game marked one of the Clippers’ most impressive performances of the season, it was also an eyebrow-raising defeat for the Nuggets, who entered as the No. 2 team in the Western Conference standings — one spot ahead of the Clippers.

“We were soft tonight from beginning to end,” Malone said. “They didn’t feel us on either end. They got whatever they wanted. We couldn’t run offense because they took

Zion ecstatic to share rookie scoring feat with MJ

1:17 AM ET

Andrew LopezESPN

NEW ORLEANS — As he sat at his locker Friday night at the Smoothie King Center following a 116-104 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson heard a stat from teammate Jahlil Okafor that he couldn’t believe.

Okafor told him how, after their game against the Golden State Warriors on Sunday, Williamson became the first player since Michael Jordan to have four consecutive games of at least 25 points while shooting at least 57% from the field as a rookie.

“Mike?!” an incredulous Williamson said.

When a reporter later mentioned the stat to him at the postgame news conference, Williamson turned to Pelicans security officer Chico Robinson for confirmation.

“Chico, my name’s next to Michael Jordan?” Williamson, a Jordan Brand athlete, asked with a big smile.

After the stat was explained, Williamson said, “Wow, Jahlil was for real.”

Even

Giannis on Harden dig: My game 'not just power'

12:53 AM ET

Eric WoodyardESPN

MILWAUKEE — On the heels of James Harden‘s interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols — in which the Houston Rockets star appeared to take aim at Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s skill set — the reigning league MVP responded with a statement performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night.

The Milwaukee Bucks‘ 47-point win was their largest of the season, 133-86, with Antetokounmpo going off for 32 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists in just over 27 minutes.

He pushed his season total to nine games of posting 30 or more points in under 30 minutes, the most for a single season in the shot clock era since 1954-55.

“My game is not just power for sure,” Antetokounmpo said following the victory. “I came in when I was 18, I was 180 pounds, so to power through big guys was kind of tough.

Bucks keep making history, but do skeptics still have a case?

12:25 AM ET

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks staged another in a series of artful basketball exhibitions on Friday night at Fiserv Forum. Giannis Antetokounmpo padded his MVP résumé with skillful efficiency and gaudy athleticism (32 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists in 27 minutes, before taking yet another fourth quarter off in a blowout). Of those 32 points, 28 came in the half court, and his plus-44 was the best mark of his career. Nobody makes the game look more effortless right now.

The Bucks whipped the ball around the floor with precision — gorgeous interior passes in the half-court, pinpoint pass-aheads on the break, weak-side reversals to open shooters. They rebounded a mystifying 91.2 percent of rebounding opportunities on the defensive glass while also draining a season-high 21 3-pointers.

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This is not far off the norm for Milwaukee in recent months. The

Rockets sign Jeff Green for rest of season

6:31 PM ET

The Houston Rockets signed power forward Jeff Green for the remainder of the season, the team announced Friday.

Green joined the Rockets earlier this month on a 10-day contract and has played in four games for Houston, averaging 9.8 points and 3.5 rebounds in 19.3 minutes off the bench.

He became a free agent in late December when the Utah Jazz waived him from his one-year deal signed in July.

Green has career averages of 13.0 points and 4.4 rebounds per game while playing for nine franchises, including seven over the past five seasons.

Report: L.A. deputies shared Bryant crash photos

1:22 PM ET

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Authorities are investigating whether deputies shared graphic photos of the helicopter crash scene where Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and seven other people were killed, according to a newspaper report.

The Los Angeles Times reported that a public safety source with knowledge of the events had seen one of the photos on the phone of another official in a setting that was not related to the investigation of the crash. He said the photos showed the scene and victims’ remains.

The source spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the allegations. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Maria Lucero told The Associated Press on Friday that “the matter is being looked into.”

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The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs — the union that represents rank-and-file deputies — did not immediately

Lowe’s 10 NBA things: Tatum’s star leap, LaVine’s playmaking and the Luka-Kristaps show

9:05 AM ET

Let’s move into the weekend with 10 NBA things:

1. Jayson Tatum is here

When was the last time this happened — a player in the middle of the season making The Leap, everyone digesting the revelation together and knowing it is real and lasting? Perhaps Kawhi Leonard toward the start of 2016-17?

Tatum always had the pieces. Those pieces rarely coalesced on the same nights — until the past five-plus weeks, starting almost to the day Tatum made the All-Star team. My pet theory is that Tatum was pressing about All-Star, and making it helped him settle into a groove.

The level of craft in his game has exploded. The individual moves were there; this nasty, left-handed, in-and-out dribble is from the first week of the season:

He has learned to string those moves together in ways that get him into the paint with more

Inside the evolution of rising Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

9:00 AM ET

OKLAHOMA CITY — A couple days into training camp, Chris Paul needed to set the record straight.

Again.

He had already cleared things up on Twitter, but as he stood in the corner of the Oklahoma City Thunder practice facility and peered across the floor with an eye toward Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Paul was eager to reiterate something.

A day before, Gilgeous-Alexander made the bold claim he was winning every shooting competition between the second-year guard and the 15-year veteran. Paul disagreed.

“I beat him bad today, too,” Paul said. “We’re gonna get the crew to film us one day in our shooting games.”

The NBA is live! Tune in here.

Friday
Thunder at Bucks, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
Nuggets at Clippers, 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

Saturday
Rockets at Celtics, 8:30 p.m. ET on ABC

Sunday
76ers at Clippers, 3:30

Don't let LeBron James overshadow what Zion Williamson did on Tuesday night

LeBron James is a believer in Zion Williamson.

How do we know?

James scored 40 on him.

LeBron James paid this 19-year-old kid the ultimate compliment last night because he came out and said: “I am coming in all-out playoff game attack mode.” More @Undisputed, now on FS1 https://t.co/roNEUAlyox

— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) February 26, 2020

Well, it wasn’t all on him. But you get the gist.

James set out to make a statement. He made it and it meant something.

“Every now and then LeBron wants to show the world: I’m still the best player in world right now. Last night was one of those cases where he showed that.” — @WalkerAntoine8 pic.twitter.com/lkkm1iKC80

— First Things First (@FTFonFS1) February 26, 2020

What it meant was Zion is coming. And he’s coming fast.

Zion Williamson, last 6 games:

29p | 6r | 44 fg%
28p | 7r | 65 fg%
25p |

It's time for our (first) annual NBA Trade Deadline Check-In!

The NBA trade deadline annually represents the time when teams try to bolster their rosters heading into the home stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs, and this year was no different.

Now that the trade deadline is two weeks old, it’s time to check in with the biggest movers and shakers.

Houston Rockets

When the Rockets executed a three-team trade and parted ways with their starting center Clint Capela in exchange for Robert Covington, it caused a lot of the NBA to scratch their heads.

But the results speak for themselves and once again.

The 6’7″ or Less Rockets are 8-2 this season.

They have beaten the Lakers, Celtics, Jazz (2x) and Mavs.

The two losses were to the Jazz on a buzzer beater and Suns with no Westbrook. pic.twitter.com/CsnLvA42M5

— StatMuse (@statmuse) February 23, 2020

Actually, make that 9-2 after Monday night’s win over the New York