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

Sacramento faces Detroit, seeks 5th straight home win

Detroit Pistons (20-41, 12th in the Eastern Conference) vs. Sacramento Kings (25-34, 11th in the Western Conference)

Sacramento; Sunday, 6 p.m. EST

BOTTOM LINE: Sacramento hosts Detroit aiming to extend its four-game home winning streak.

The Kings are 12-15 on their home court. Sacramento is 6-16 in games when losing the turnover battle and averages 14.4 turnovers.

The Pistons are 9-21 on the road. Detroit is 7-23 when opponents win the rebound battle and averages 42.1 rebounds per game.

The teams meet for the second time this season. The Pistons won 127-106 in the last matchup on Jan. 22. Christian Wood led Detroit with 23 points, and De’Aaron Fox led Sacramento with 22 points.

TOP PERFORMERS: Buddy Hield leads the Kings averaging 3.8 made 3-pointers and scoring 19.9 points per game while shooting 38.8 percent from beyond the arc. Harry Giles III is shooting 62.0 percent and averaging 10.8 points

Valanciunas leads Memphis against Los Angeles following 25-rebound game

Los Angeles Lakers (45-12, first in the Western Conference) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (28-31, eighth in the Western Conference)

Memphis; Saturday, 8 p.m. EST

BOTTOM LINE: Jonas Valanciunas leads Memphis into a matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers after a 25-rebound game in the Grizzlies’ 104-101 loss to the Kings.

The Grizzlies are 18-21 in conference matchups. Memphis leads the Western Conference with 57 points in the paint led by Ja Morant averaging 10.8.

The Lakers are 31-6 against Western Conference opponents. Los Angeles is 23-6 in games decided by at least 10 points.

The teams meet for the fourth time this season. The Lakers won 117-105 in the last matchup on Feb. 21. LeBron James led Los Angeles with 32 points, and Josh Jackson led Memphis with 20 points.

TOP PERFORMERS: Dillon Brooks is second on the Grizzlies with 2.0 made 3-pointers and averages 15.6 points while shooting 37.5 percent

Portland faces Atlanta on 5-game road skid

Portland Trail Blazers (26-34, 10th in the Western Conference) vs. Atlanta Hawks (18-43, 13th in the Eastern Conference)

Atlanta; Saturday, 7 p.m. EST

BOTTOM LINE: Portland visits Atlanta looking to stop its five-game road losing streak.

The Hawks are 12-18 in home games. Atlanta averages 16.2 turnovers per game and is 5-16 when it has fewer turnovers than its opponents.

The Trail Blazers have gone 10-21 away from home. Portland is 6-3 in one-possession games.

The Trail Blazers won the last matchup between these two teams 124-113 on Nov. 10. Damian Lillard scored 30 points to help lead Portland to the win.

TOP PERFORMERS: Trae Young leads the Hawks with 9.3 assists and scores 29.9 points per game. John Collins is shooting 63.5 percent and averaging 26.1 points over the last 10 games for Atlanta.

CJ McCollum ranks second on the Trail Blazers averaging 22 points and grabbing 4.0 rebounds.

Brooklyn faces Miami, looks to end 3-game skid

Brooklyn Nets (26-32, eighth in the Eastern Conference) vs. Miami Heat (37-22, fourth in the Eastern Conference)

Miami; Saturday, 7 p.m. EST

LINE: Heat -7; over/under is 223.5

BOTTOM LINE: Brooklyn is looking to stop its three-game skid with a win over Miami.

The Heat have gone 24-9 against Eastern Conference teams. Miami has a 36-16 record when scoring at least 100 points.

The Nets are 18-20 against Eastern Conference opponents. Brooklyn is second in the Eastern Conference with 37.6 defensive rebounds per game led by DeAndre Jordan averaging 7.4.

The teams meet for the third time this season. The Nets won 117-113 in the last matchup on Jan. 10. Spencer Dinwiddie led Brooklyn with 26 points, and Jimmy Butler led Miami with 33 points.

TOP PERFORMERS: Butler has averaged 20.6 points and 6.8 rebounds for the Heat. Bam Adebayo has averaged 10.8 rebounds and added 18.4 points per game

Philadelphia visits Los Angeles, looks to break road skid

Philadelphia 76ers (37-23, fifth in the Eastern Conference) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (40-19, third in the Western Conference)

Los Angeles; Sunday, 3 p.m. EST

BOTTOM LINE: Philadelphia will aim to end its seven-game road losing streak when the 76ers face Los Angeles.

The Clippers are 24-6 in home games. Los Angeles is 19-4 when it wins the turnover battle and averages 15 turnovers per game.

The 76ers are 9-21 on the road. Philadelphia is 20-8 when it has fewer turnovers than its opponents and averages 14.3 turnovers per game.

The teams meet for the second time this season. The 76ers won 110-103 in the last matchup on Feb. 11. Joel Embiid led Philadelphia with 26 points, and Kawhi Leonard led Los Angeles with 30 points.

TOP PERFORMERS: Leonard leads the Clippers scoring 27 points per game and averaging 7.5 rebounds and 5.2 assists. Montrezl Harrell is shooting 65.8 percent and

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

2020 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Relief pitcher strategies, complete with sleepers and ADP review

Feb 28, 2020 at 8:15 pm ET• 8 min read Get the latest insights @FantasyBaseballToday

Do I really have to break down this position like all the others? Well, if you say so …

Relief pitcher isn’t even so much a position in Fantasy Baseball as it is a vehicle for saves. Oh, but what about in Head-to-Head points leagues? There, it’s an opportunity to game the system with relief pitcher-eligible starting pitchers. So honorable, I know.

Other formats have tried to broaden the impact of relief pitchers with the introduction of holds, possibly even combining them with saves for one supersized category, but what good is that? The one thing that keeps the relief pitcher position interesting is the scarcity of players who can make a