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Jrue Holiday explodes in 2nd half of Pelicans' OT win over Bucks

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Jrue Holiday explodes in 2nd half of Pelicans' OT win over Bucks

MILWAUKEE — Jrue Holiday scored 28 of his season-high 36 points after halftime to lead the New Orleans Pelicans to a 123-121 overtime victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday.

Holiday added nine rebounds and six assists for New Orleans, which held on for its season-high fifth win in a row when Jason Terry's 3-pointer was ruled after the buzzer.

Anthony Davis, who entered the game as the league's third-leading scorer (27.7 ppg), added 27 points and 13 rebounds.

The Pelicans trailed by 18 early in the second half but outscored Milwaukee 38-19 in the third quarter.

Khris Middleton scored 25 points for the Bucks. Giannis Antetokounmpo, the No. 2 scorer in the NBA (27.8) and Eric Bledsoe each added 20, but the Bucks lost for only the fourth time in the last 14 games and fell to 9-26 all-time against New Orleans.

Rajon Rondo came up with the play of the game by draining a 3-pointer from the right wing as the 24-second clock was about to expire to give the Pelicans a 123-119 lead with 1:25 remaining in overtime (see full recap).

Harden scores 41 in Rockets' 12th straight victory
DENVER — James Harden had 41 points and eight rebounds, Chris Paul scored 23 points and the Houston Rockets beat the Denver Nuggets 119-114 on Sunday night for their 12th straight victory.

Harden had 27 in the first half and seven in the fourth quarter, when the Rockets held off a late Denver rally. Harden has scored 40 or more points nine times this season. He finished with seven assists.

Nikola Jokic had 21 points and 14 rebounds for Denver, which had its four-game winning streak snapped. Will Barton added 25 points.

The Rockets are 21-4 since Dec. 29 and own the best record (46-13) in the NBA. They are outscoring teams by an average of 12.5 points during the 12-game winning streak. The five-point win Sunday was their closest game during the streak.

Harden scored 14 points in the last 2:47 of the first quarter and assisted on Houston's other two baskets to end the period when the Rockets extended the lead from five to 13 (see full recap.) 

Spurs top Cavs to end losing streak
CLEVELAND — LaMarcus Aldridge scored 27 points, Danny Green added 22 and the San Antonio Spurs ended their annual "rodeo" road trip by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 110-94 on Sunday to snap a four-game losing streak.

Green, who missed Friday's loss at Denver with food poisoning, came off the bench for the first time in 49 games this season. He made five 3-pointers to provide a perfect outside complement to Aldridge's dynamic inside game. Dejounte Murray added 13 points and nine rebounds for San Antonio, a team not accustomed to any turmoil.

But the Spurs have not been themselves lately while playing without star Kawhi Leonard. They had dropped six of seven and four in a row on a trip (their arena hosts a rodeo every year) that coach Gregg Popovich's squad typically uses as a spring board into the playoffs.

LeBron James had 33 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists for the Cavs, who fell to 3-2 since overhauling their roster with three trades (see full recap).

Howard leads Hornets over Pistons 
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Something has changed for the Hornets' bench in the last three game. Cody Zeller calls it "rhythm." Frank Kaminsky calls it "flow."

No matter what name this newfound chemistry goes by, it has added up to the best play of the season from Charlotte reserves. And Sunday, it meant the difference as the Hornets beat the Detroit Pistons 114-98 for a season-best fourth straight win.

Dwight Howard led the Hornets with 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Kemba Walker also recorded 17 points for Charlotte. But it was the Hornets' bench outscoring Detroit's reserves 51-28 that gave Charlotte the biggest edge.

"This is maybe the best 3-4 games we've played all season just because we're starting to put it together, especially on the defensive end," Zeller said. "Everyone is tied together."

The Hornets improved to 27-33 while making a push toward the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference for the playoffs. The Pistons have 28 wins, and there are eight teams in the conference with at least 31 victories (see full recap).

Ben Simmons scores 28 points as Team World loses Rising Stars Challenge to Team USA

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USA Today Images

Ben Simmons scores 28 points as Team World loses Rising Stars Challenge to Team USA

CHARLOTTE, N.C. —  When the likes of the Los Angeles Lakers' Kyle Kuzma, Philadelphia's Ben Simmons and Boston's Jayson Tatum get to the NBA All-Star Game and partake in what's become the preferred run-and-fun style where defense is discouraged at virtually all costs, this much is clear.

They'll be ready.

Dunks, layups, 3-pointers and little else. That was the playsheet for the Rising Stars game Friday night, one where Kuzma led all scorers with 35 points on the way to MVP honors and the U.S. team defeated the World squad 161-144 on the floor that the All-Stars will be using on Sunday night.

Tatum added 30 points for the U.S. The teams combined for 37 3-pointers, 55 dunks and shot a combined 12 free throws.

"Last year, the World team kicked our butts," Kuzma said. "They came in here and beat us by 30. A lot of us kind of remembered that."

It was 31, actually — 155-124, not that it matters.

Tatum added 30 points in the game for first- and second-year players that was known for years as the Rookie Game. Atlanta's Trae Young finished with 25 points and 10 assists, Sacramento's De'Aaron Fox had 15 assists and Utah's Donovan Mitchell added 20 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.

Everyone looked happy afterward.

The U.S. squad had a bit more reason to look that way.

"There's a $25,000 bonus for winning the game," Kuzma said. "So that's good."

Philadelphia's Ben Simmons led the World team with 28 points on 14 for 17 shooting. Chicago's Lauri Markkanen had 21 points for the World squad, and Dallas' Luka Doncic had 13 points and nine assists.

Both teams shot 55 percent. The difference was on 3s — the U.S. was 21 for 51, while the World was 16 for 52.

The mood from the outset was predictably light, even including the pregame speeches from U.S. coach Kyrie Irving of the Boston Celtics and World coach Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks.

"I want us to share the ball and not one guy dribble it 20 times and hoist something up — like Luka does with the Mavs," Nowitzki said, laughing a bit at his own joke.

Irving's message was succinct.

"Just have some fun," Irving said. "It's OK to compete."

Doncic talked Phoenix's DeAndre Ayton out of taking the opening tap for the World team, with the young Mavs star jumping against Fox instead of having either center handle the honors. Young was throwing an alley-oop lob to Atlanta teammate John Collins for a 360-degree dunk in one possession, then crossing over Josh Okogie in almost comical fashion on the next.

"We gotta play some defense," Mitchell implored teammates at one point.

It was unclear if anyone ever actually listened to his plea.

There was one foul called in the entire first half, Markkanen getting whistled for it with 4:13 remaining until halftime. The first half saw 25 dunks and 20 3-pointers in 20 minutes — the sides played 10-minute quarters. Late in the half, Collins flashed a crossover dribble, then underhand-tossed a pass off the backboard to himself for a dunk that had players on both sides reacting in mock disbelief.

Format 
This was the fifth year of the U.S. vs. World format; the World now leads the all-time series, 3-2.

All 10 players on the World team hailed from a different nation, and four different continents were represented. And eight of the players in this year's game were also in last year's event — Mitchell, Collins, Tatum, Kuzma and Fox for the U.S.; Markkanen, Simmons and 2018 game MVP Bogdan Bogdanovic were repeaters for the World side.

NBA feel
Nowitzki and the World coaching staff from the Denver Nuggets largely stayed seated the whole game, while Irving worked the sideline like an actual NBA coach would — even running time-outs, working alongside the Milwaukee Bucks' staff. Brooklyn's D'Angelo Russell, Phoenix's Devin Booker and San Antonio's Danny Green were at the game, and Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns was courtside in a World jersey to represent for his Okogie, his Timberwolves teammate.

Somber moment 
A pregame moment of silence was held immediately before the Canadian and U.S. national anthems in honor of the victims of the shooting in the Chicago suburb of Aurora, Illinois, earlier Friday.

NBA Eastern Conference power rankings: How much does Sixers' loss to Celtics hurt?

NBA Eastern Conference power rankings: How much does Sixers' loss to Celtics hurt?

We’re at the All-Star break and we have some fresh Eastern Conference power rankings. Let’s get right into it: 

1. Bucks (43-14) Last week: 1 
Their blowout loss to the Magic without Giannis Antetokounmpo probably enhanced the Greek Freak’s MVP case. They’re still waiting for newcomer Nikola Mirotic to make his debut while he nurses a strained calf. This is the best team in the East and Mirotic only makes them better.

2. Raptors (43-16) Last week: 3 
While Kawhi Leonard sat against the Wizards, Pascal Siakam did his best impression by putting up a career-high 44 points. Siakam, a late first-round pick in 2016, is a quintessential example of Toronto’s depth. While the trade for Leonard was bold and exciting, finding a player like Siakam is an even more impressive front office feat.

3. Celtics (37-21) Last week: 4 
Boston’s win in Philadelphia without All-Star Kyrie Irving was an impressive one. That was coming off back-to-back losses to both L.A. teams. They’re a confounding team that happens to match up very well against the Sixers. 

4. Sixers (37-21) Last week: 2
The Sixers have won exactly one game against the teams above and that win was over a Kawhi-less Toronto team. That makes it difficult to put them ahead of any of them. With that said, the East is wide open. Any of these top four teams is capable of winning the conference. The Sixers are in a great position with their starting five, especially when rotations are shortened come crunch time. The talent is there, they just need to continue to build on their chemistry.

5. Pacers (38-20) Last week: 6
Indiana ripped off six straight before losing to the Bucks. You have to be impressed with the way the Pacers have rallied since Victor Oladipo’s devastating injury. While defense and the overall team play has been a big part of their success, veteran Bojan Bogdanovic and youngster Myles Turner have been huge in Oladipo’s absence.

6. Nets (30-29) Last week: 5
Brooklyn has gone 4-6 since Spencer Dinwiddie went down with a thumb injury that required surgery. They did get Caris LeVert back, but it’s clear he’s still shaking off the cobwebs after coming back from what looked like a devastating injury. Once the Nets are healthy, they won’t be a fun team to play against.

7. Hornets (27-30) Last week: 7
Poor Kemba Walker. It’s unfathomable that Charlotte did nothing to help him out at the deadline. There were rumors that a deal for Marc Gasol was close, but the veteran big ultimately wound up in Toronto. It’s a shame because Gasol would’ve been a much bigger upgrade for the Hornets.

8. Heat (26-30) Last week: 8 
Like the Sixers, Miami just completed a brutal, but not quite as long, stretch of games against the Thunder, Pacers, Blazers, Kings, Warriors and Nuggets. Unlike the Sixers, the Heat didn’t fare well, losing five of the six. They’ll need Dwyane Wade to keep drinking from the fountain of youth to hold onto the eighth seed.

9. Pistons (26-30) Last week: 10
It was a weird deadline for Detroit, who sold away Reggie Bullock and then signed Wayne Ellington after his buyout from the Suns. They’re going to go as far as Blake Griffin can lead them, but he needs more help.

10. Magic (27-32) Last week: 11 
Orlando is still fighting for that eight seed as they held onto Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross through the deadline. The only intrigue is to see when Markelle Fultz makes his debut. 

11. Wizards (24-34) Last week: 9
Jabari Parker put up a goose egg on the score sheet sandwiched by two 20-point performances. While the trade of Otto Porter Jr. will help some of their cap issues, Bradley Beal will still bear a heavy burden without John Wall for the foreseeable future.

12. Hawks (19-39) Last week: 12 
Atlanta helped the Knicks snap their 18-game losing streak in a game that set basketball back 10 years. The Hawks have put themselves in a tough spot where they’re not nearly good enough to compete for a playoff spot but are falling down the lottery.

13. Bulls (14-44) Last week: 13 
You know, a starting five of Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Porter Jr., Zach LaVine and maybe Ja Morant — if they can land the No. 2 pick — isn’t terrible to build around. Porter Jr. put up a career-high 37 points against Memphis and has looked really good in his four games with Chicago.

14. Cavs (12-46) Last week: 14
How is Channing Frye still in Cleveland? I know he re-signed there, but you’d think there would be a contender that he could help.

15. Knicks (11-47) Last week: 15 
They messed up by beating the Hawks, but their road to Zion Williamson is paved in gold.

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