Joel Embiid had 42 points as he inspired the Philadelphia 76ers to a 123-120 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.

With James Harden having arrived to bolster the 76ers' championship bid, but still missing due to a hamstring injury, Embiid served up a reminder of just how crucial he is with another supreme display on Thursday.

This time, it was reigning NBA champions the Bucks who were on the receiving end of a masterful showing from the 27-year-old, who also tallied up 14 rebounds and five assists.

The Bucks came close, though, and had their own MVP to thank for that – Giannis Antetokounmpo helping himself to a double-double of 32 points and 11 rebounds, while also contributing nine assists.

Embiid, fittingly, put Philadelphia ahead for good with a 10-foot shot in the final quarter. 

It marked a valuable return to form for the 76ers, who can enter the All-Star break on a high despite Tuesday's dismal 135-87 defeat to the Boston Celtics. They are third in the Eastern Conference with a 35-23 record, while the Bucks sit fifth (36-24).

Doncic downs Pelicans

Anything Embiid or Antetokounmpo can do, Luka Doncic is out to do it better.

The Dallas Mavericks star had 49 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists in a 125-118 defeat of the New Orleans Pelicans.

Doncic has now had 45 points or more in three of his last four games for Dallas, who enter the break in fifth place in the West.

Nets back to losing ways

After snapping an 11-game losing streak with victories over the Sacramento Kings and New York Knicks, the Brooklyn Nets fell to a 117-103 reverse in Washington.

Rui Hachimura led the way for the Wizards with 20 points, as they moved to 2-2 for their series against the Nets this season.

The Los Angeles Clippers beat the Houston Rockets to win for a third time in their last four games, while the Miami Heat were overtime winners over the Charlotte Hornets.

The Los Angeles Lakers are awaiting news on the injury sustained by Anthony Davis in Wednesday's 106-101 victory over the Utah Jazz.

Davis had 17 points on 7-for-9 shooting when being forced to exit the game after turning his ankle and clutching his right leg in pain.

The 28-year-old was helped to the locker room by his team-mates and initial X-rays revealed no fracture, but he will be re-evaluated after the All-Star break.

In the absence of Davis, who had only recently returned after missing 17 games with a sprained knee, the Lakers stepped up to snap a three-game losing run.

Frank Vogel's side trailed the Jazz by 12 points midway through the fourth quarter, but they went on a 19-4 run – LeBron James scoring the last 10 of those points – to hit back.

James finished with a team-high 33 points, 15 of those coming in the final quarter, meaning he has now scored 25 points or more in a career-best 23 straight games.

The Lakers are now 27-31 for the season but are still down in ninth in the Western Conference, while the 36-22 Jazz are in fourth after suffering a first loss in seven outings.

 


Knicks blow 28-point lead against Nets

Rookie Cam Thomas impressed in the absence of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to help the Brooklyn Nets match their biggest comeback in franchise history.

The Nets trailed the New York Knicks by 28 points before going on to win 111-106, with 16 of Thomas' 21 points arriving in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer to clinch the win with 7.7 seconds to go.

Julius Randle had seemingly put the Knicks in control with 31 points and 10 rebounds, but they were unable to hold on and suffered a third successive loss to stumble to 25-34 for the season.


DeRozan eclipses Chamberlain's streak

DeMar DeRozan scored 38 points in the Chicago Bulls' 125-118 victory over the Sacramento Kings to create some NBA history.

The five-time NBA All-Star became the first player to score 35 or more points and shoot 50 per cent or better in seven straight games, usurping Wilt Chamberlain's previous record of six.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, the Golden State Warriors lost 117-116 to the Denver Nuggets through Monte Morris' 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded.

Nikola Jokic had 35 points and 17 rebounds for the Nuggets, who have now won three in a row and five of their last six.

The NBA-leading Phoenix Suns beat the Houston Rockets 124-121 for a seventh successive win thanks to 24 points for Devin Booker and 23 for Deandre Ayton.

James Harden is confident it "made sense" for him to leave the Brooklyn Nets for the Philadelphia 76ers in his pursuit of a first NBA championship.

Harden headed to Philly ahead of last week's trade deadline in a move that saw wantaway 76ers outcast Ben Simmons head in the opposite direction.

Ten-time All-Star Harden had been expected to contend for titles in Brooklyn, having formed a 'Big Three' with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving when he arrived from the Houston Rockets last year.

But injuries and coronavirus controversy – Irving remains unvaccinated – meant the trio played just 365 minutes together across 16 games in the regular season and playoffs.

Now, Harden is instead targeting glory alongside Joel Embiid, the MVP frontrunner who endured a frosty relationship with Simmons on the 76ers.

Embiid has scored 25 or more points in 23 consecutive games – a sequence only three players have topped this century – including a 40-point triple-double last time out.

Harden is excited by the prospect of teaming up with the center, as he said: "For me, [the trade] made sense, man.

"It's a time where I needed to be around guys that I know want to win, and know that they are willing to do whatever it takes to win, and the structure here is unbelievable.

"[Winning is] the goal, man. That's the goal. Like Daryl [Morey, president of basketball operations] said: the opportunity to win is now. Joel is playing the best he's ever played.

"So, my job is to come out there and help him and help the entire team win a championship this year and in years going forward."

Harden left the Rockets for the Nets with the same idea but is now focused on a positive future.

"I mean, it wasn't planned like this – 14 months ago, I didn't see myself with three different teams," he said. "But we are here today and I'm happy.

"The last year has been a lot of ups and downs, a lot of stress, but whatever. That's in the past. I'm excited, I'm healthy and it's the opportunity of a lifetime."

The former MVP added his injured hamstring, which will keep him out until after the All-Star break, "feels really good".

Harden was speaking alongside Morey – formerly his general manager in Houston – who expressed his delight the 76ers had managed to land their man without dealing promising point guard Tyrese Maxey.

"Tyrese absolutely has the chance to be an All-Star in this league," said Morey, adding "the sky's the limit" for both Maxey and Matisse Thybulle. "And that's a big reason why we made sure that they weren't in this trade."

Ben Simmons revealed he had been dealing with "dark times" due to his mental health as he was presented as a Brooklyn Net on Tuesday, although he added his issues while with the Philadelphia 76ers were "a personal thing".

Following a long-running trade saga, Simmons joined the Nets ahead of last week's deadline, with James Harden heading in the opposite direction.

Simmons had been mooted as a piece in a potential Harden trade as long ago as January 2021 – with Harden then forcing his way out of the Houston Rockets – and his future became more uncertain still following the 76ers' playoff defeat to the Atlanta Hawks last season.

The former number one overall pick averaged 6.3 points from 4.7 field goal attempts across the final three games of a seven-game series.

He was the subject of intense criticism after appearing to pass up shooting opportunities, with team-mates and coaches among those to question his performance level.

With Simmons subsequently keen to leave the 76ers, he has not played at all this season.

But the Australian explained as he met the media that the fallout from the Hawks series had not been a prominent factor in a difficult year to date.

"For me, it was just making sure mentally I was right to get out there and play again," Simmons said. "So that's something I've been dealing with.

"And it wasn't about the fans or coaches, or comments made by anybody. It was just a personal thing for me. That was earlier than that series or even that season that I was dealing with, and [the 76ers] knew that.

"So, it is something that I continue to deal with and I'm getting there and getting to the right place to get back on the floor."

He added his mental health issues had "nothing to do with the trade" but rather "a bunch of things that I was dealing with as a person, in my personal life, that I don't really want to go into depth with".

However, getting out of Philly was important for Simmons as he aims to recover.

"A bunch of things that had been going on over the years to where I knew I wasn't myself," he said, explaining his pursuit of a trade. "And I needed to get back to being myself and being happy as a person and taking care of my well-being.

"That was the major thing for me. It wasn't about the basketball, it wasn't about the money, anything like that. I want to be who I am and get back to playing basketball and that level and being myself."

Of his critics, Simmons said: "They should be happy I'm smiling, honestly. I've had some dark times over these last six months and I'm just happy to be in this situation with this team and organisation."

The move also gives Simmons the opportunity to team up with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, with the Nets maintaining title hopes despite their slump to eighth in the East.

"I think it's going to be scary," the new signing said. "Having those guys running alongside me, multiple different weapons on the floor, and I think at the pace we want to play at, it's going to be unreal."

Simmons does not yet know when he will be available for the Nets, but he hopes to play against the 76ers on March 10.

Seth Curry's 23-point arrival helped the Brooklyn Nets snap their 11-game skid in a 109-85 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Monday.

Curry landed four three-pointers with seven rebounds and five assists while fellow debutant Andre Drummond added 11 points, with Ben Simmons still out despite being present for the pre-game shootaround.

The Nets led from start to finish but were propelled by a 54-37 second half with LaMarcus Aldridge scoring 19 points with eight rebounds off the bench.

Bruce Brown had season-high returns with 19 points, six assists and five steals for the new-look Nets who improved to 30-27.

De'Andre Fox had a game-high 26 points for the Kings who were limited to 34.4 per cent shooting (31-of-90) overall.

 

Steph stars but Warriors lose

Stephen Curry made eight three-pointers in a 33-point haul but it was not enough to get the Golden State Warriors past the Los Angeles Clippers who won 119-104. Terance Mann scored 25 points with seven rebounds and six assists for the triumphant Clippers.

Julius Randle had a triple-double with 30 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists but he was overshadowed by Rookie of the Year contender Josh Giddey as the Oklahoma City Thunder won 127-123 in overtime. Giddey also had a triple-double with 28 points including three triples along with 11 rebounds and 12 assists.

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic starred with 26 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists as the Denver Nuggets brushed aside the Orlando Magic 121-111, while Donovan Mitchell had 30 points with six rebounds and seven assists in the Utah Jazz's 135-101 victory over the Houston Rockets.

 

Middleton loses radar as Bucks go down

Khris Middleton almost had a triple-double but shot poorly, going three-of-15 from the field and one-of-eight from beyond the arc as the Milwaukee Bucks went down 122-107 to the Portland Trail Blazers. Anfernee Simons scored 31 points for the Blazers, while Middleton had 16 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists as the Bucks lost in Giannis Antetokounmpo's absence due to a sore ankle.

Seth Curry is excited about the weapons at the disposal of the Brooklyn Nets when they get their stars back on court after helping snap their 11-game skid in 109-85 win over the Sacramento Kings on Monday.

Curry top scored for the new-look Nets with 23 points including three three-pointers, while fellow new addition Andre Drummond added 11 points.

Brooklyn were without Kevin Durant (MCL sprain), Kyrie Irving (unable to play in New York due to vaccine mandate) and new acquisition Ben Simmons (conditioning).

"I didn't have to see what we did tonight to know the kind of style we'll play," Curry told reporters after the game.

"We'll have so many weapons out there - offensively and defensively. It's going to be a lot of fun to play.

"It's been a while since I got up and down the floor like that and played with that kind of pace, even in the halfcourt."

The win ends Brooklyn's slump that saw them go from a record of 29-16 to 30-27, but there is renewed hope with a fresh line-up after last week's trade moves that saw Curry, Drummond and Simmons join from the Philadelphia 76ers.

Drummond added: "We have a great group of guys. Guys that are missing right now, we got to wait for them to get healthy, but once everybody gets back I think we'll be very, very good and make a very good push in the playoffs."

Nets head coach Steve Nash had said pre-game that there was no official timeline on Simmons' return to play as he builds reconditioning having not played all season.

“I think he’s in a pretty good state mentally,” Nash said. “If we work with him in conjunction to his physical ramp-up to make sure he’s comfortable on and off the floor, I think he’ll be ready to play mentally when he’s physically ready.”

Reigning NBA Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and new Brooklyn Nets acquisition Ben Simmons will both not play on Monday.

Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer confirmed that Antetokounmpo will miss Monday's game against the Portland Trail Blazers with a sore ankle.

The Greek forward had been listed as probable before being downgraded to doubtful, ahead of back-to-back games with a Tuesday date with the Indiana Pacers too.

"He's not ready to go tonight," Budenholzer told reporters pre-game. "It's not anything more than that. We'll see how he feels tomorrow. I think it's very short term."

Simmons, who joined the Nets from the Philadelphia 76ers in a blockbuster trade late last week, attended shootaround prior to their game with the Sacramento Kings.

However, the three-time All-Star was ruled out as he "returns to competition reconditioning".

Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant was relieved to come through the "noise" surrounding James Harden after his blockbuster trade to the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Sixers signed up Harden and Paul Millsap this week from the Nets, sending Seth Curry, reserve center Andre Drummond, Ben Simmons and two first-round picks the other way.

Harden had last January forced his way out of the Houston Rockets to move to Brooklyn and team up with Durant and Kyrie Irving, but the Nets' 'Big Three' played just 365 minutes together across 16 games in the regular season and playoffs.

Although the Nets went 13-3 in that time, Harden and Irving were each absent for three games of the seven-game series against eventual champions the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2020-21 postseason.

Injury problems have persisted this season, while Irving has missed 10 games due to not having had the COVID-19 vaccination, and the Nets were on a 10-game skid when the Harden trade went through.

Durant insists Harden does not owe an explanation after growing "unhappy" in Brooklyn.

 

"James doesn't have to explain anything to anybody," he said before Saturday's 115-111 loss to the Miami Heat. "He's his own man. He makes his decisions on his career by himself. He doesn't owe anybody an explanation, and I wasn't looking for one.

"I'm just glad that we got this thing done and now we're able to move forward and get some of this noise away, and I'm sure he would feel the same way. But from around our team and around our group, there's noise about what may happen. So I'm glad we can push through that.

"I think once a person gets to that decision of 'I'm unhappy,' I think he's gone through a lot of steps to get there. So, no matter what I say or try to convince someone - I'm not saying I did this, but this is just my theory on this - no matter what I say or do to try to convince someone to change their mood from being unhappy to happy, I think that's when I'm pretty late to the party.

"He's made his decision. I'm sure people make their decision before they get to that mode of being unhappy. I didn't have any conversations with James up until then. I thought everything was solid. I don't do any convincing. I'm sure you make those choices and decisions on your own as an individual. Me as a friend, I just have to accept it."

Harden saw his new team move to 34-22 with an impressive 103-93 defeat of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Joel Embiid continued his MVP form with a triple-double, making a minimum of 25 points for the 31st game in a row, and he believes Harden's arrival will only help him perform better.

"He's going to make the game easy for all of us, especially me," said Embiid. "I don't get a lot of easy shots. I have to work for most of them. I hope he's going to make my game easier."

Kyrie Irving is holding out hope that New York City's vaccination mandate will eventually get overturned enabling him to play home games for the struggling Brooklyn Nets.

Irving scored 29 points, including 20 in the final quarter, as the Nets suffered their 11th straight defeat on Saturday, going down 115-111 to the Miami Heat.

The point guard will be unavailable for the Nets' next three games, as they are all at home at the Barclays Center where he cannot play due to his vaccination status.

"I still wish I could be out there at home," Irving told reporters after the game.

"Some people say it's as simple as, 'hey, go get this, go get the shot.' No, it's not as simple as that for me in my life, but ultimately still praying for a better outcome."

The defeat means the Nets slip perilously close to going below .500 with a 29-27 record.

Brooklyn also traded out James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers this week, while star forward Kevin Durant is still out injured. The Harden trade did mean the Nets landed Ben Simmons, Seth Curry and Andre Drummond.

Irving said he felt no guilt for being unable to play home games as the Nets continued to slide.

"There's no guilt that I feel," Irving said. "I'm the only player that has to deal with this in New York City because I play there.

"If I was anywhere else in another city then it probably wouldn't be the same circumstances. But because I'm there, we have [mayor] Eric Adams, we have the New York mandate, we have things going on that are real-life circumstances that are not just affecting me. So you ask me these questions, I don't feel guilt.

"I'm just living my life as best I can just like everybody else that missed these last two years. I didn't have a plan in place while all this was going on, didn't know.

"The NBA and the NBPA made it very clear that there would be things that I would be able to do to work around this. And that's off the table. So you tell me if I'm just alone out here or do I have support from everybody else that's dealing with the same thing?"

The Philadelphia 76ers made a statement as Joel Embiid piled on a 40-point triple-double as they won 103-93 over the Cleveland Cavaliers without new acquisition James Harden on Saturday.

Embiid scored 40 points with 14 rebounds and 10 assists for the Sixers, who improve to 34-22. It was only Embiid's fourth career triple-double.

The Cameroonian center's points haul included a highlight-reel dunk, a one-handed throw-down over Jarrett Allen late in the first half.

Embiid also made four of five three-pointers, going at 50 per cent from the field, while he added three steals in an outstanding game as they wait on Harden to be cleared medically to debut.

 

Klay hits season-high

Klay Thompson scored a season-high 33 points, marking a major milestone in his recovery from long-term injury, as the Golden State Warriors won 117-115 over the Los Angeles Lakers. Thompson shot five-of-nine from beyond the arc, with Stephen Curry (24 points, five rebounds, eight assists) taking a backseat. LeBron James had 26 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists for the Lakers.

The Chicago Bulls, sitting second in the Eastern Conference, overcame a sluggish start as DeMar DeRozan scored 38 points with six rebounds and five assists, while Nikola Vucevic added 31 points and 15 rebounds in a 106-101 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Luka Doncic scored 45 points with 15 rebounds and eight rebounds in a losing cause as the Dallas Mavericks went down 99-97 to the Los Angeles Clippers, while the table-topping Phoenix Suns won their fourth straight with a 132-105 win over the Orlando Magic led by Devin Booker's 26 points and Chris Paul's 15 assists.

 

Nets slump to 11th straight loss

Kyrie Irving led a late Brooklyn Nets charge that fell short as they went down 115-111 to the Miami Heat. Irving scored 29 points, including 20 in the final quarter, with five rebounds and five assists as the Nets slumped to their 11th straight defeat. Bam Adebayo had 19 points and 14 rebounds for the Heat who have won five in a row.

Kevin Durant has returned to on-court practice but the Brooklyn Nets are still not offering any timeframes on his return to play.

Durant has been sidelined since January 16 with an MCL strain in his left knee, with reports he will not return until after the All-Star Game on February 20.

The Nets have lost 10 in a row in the absence of Durant, who is averaging 29.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game this season.

Durant joined the Nets for their current road trip, marking the first time since sustaining the injury and noted he is edging closer to a return.

"I'm getting better every day," Durant told reporters prior to Saturday's game against the Miami Heat.

"It's obviously a process to get back on the court and I'm going through that every day. I'm feeling much better as each week passes. It's slow but you know I'm looking forward to ramping things up."

He added: "I feel that the next couple weeks that I'll start to do more. That's probably as much as I can give you and I don't know for sure.

"I'm just listening to the training staff, just doing my job and coming in and following the game plan every day. Whatever they give me.

"But from the last few weeks I feel like they'll be able to give me more and more each day goes on so I'll ramp up here soon and we'll see what happens.

"I want to be back as fast as possible but I also know that I don't want to go out there and be 80 percent. I want to be 100 so I can be the best that I can be."

Nets head coach Steve Nash also declined to offer any timelines on 12-time All-Star's likely return.

"He's on the court shooting, working through things, looking really good," Nash said on Saturday. "There's still a period of time he's got to go through to get over the line, but really positive."

The Nets also confirmed new trade acquisitions Ben Simmons, Seth Curry and Andre Drummond would not yet debut against the Heat on Saturday.

MVP contender Joel Embiid is glad to put the Ben Simmons trade saga behind him and the Philadelphia 76ers admitting the situation was "pretty annoying".

Simmons landed a blockbuster NBA deadline trade to the Brooklyn Nets, with 2018 MVP James Harden heading in the opposite direction, with Paul Millsap, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and a pair of first-round picks also swapping hands.

Three-time All Star Simmons had not played all season after an off-season fallout with the 76ers following a disastrous playoffs campaign, before seeking a trade away which took months to reach a resolution, with Embiid regularly pressed on the situation.

"Yeah, I'm happy that I'm not going to be answering any more questions about that subject," Embiid told reporters.

"It's good that, not just for me, but my teammates, the whole organization. The whole year, it was pretty annoying with the whole situation, but I'm glad that everybody has moved on.

"I wish everybody the best in whatever they want to accomplish, but I'm focused on winning games here and trying to win a championship."

Embiid and Simmons' partnership at the 76ers had been seen as the foundation for an NBA title push but the duo never took the side to the NBA Finals, despite being Eastern Conference top seeds last season (49-23 record).

"It's unfortunate how everything happened, because you look at the history and we didn't get it done as far as winning in the playoffs, but you look at the history being on the court, what we did in the regular season, we were dominant," Embiid said.

"So it's unfortunate that winning was not the biggest factor. It's unfortunate that for him, having his own team and being the star was more of his priorities.

"But I always thought that everything was great, the fit was great. But unfortunately Ben thought that it wasn't. But we all move on."

The Brooklyn Nets went "all in" on James Harden, general manager Sean Marks says, making the decision to trade the former MVP "not easy".

After 80 games in just shy of 13 months, Harden has left the Nets for the Philadelphia 76ers in a blockbuster trade involving Ben Simmons.

The 76ers had been looking for a superstar in exchange for Simmons and were able to put together a package to tempt the Nets when it became clear Harden was open to moving on.

Harden had last January forced his way out of the Houston Rockets to move to Brooklyn and team up with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

But the Nets' 'Big Three' played just 365 minutes together across 16 games in the regular season and playoffs.

Although the Nets went 13-3 in those games, Harden and Irving were each absent for three games of the seven-game series against eventual champions the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2020-21 postseason.

The injury issues that dogged the trio last year have continued this season, while Irving has played just 13 games due to a refusal to be vaccinated.

The Nets, on a 10-game losing streak, are now moving in a new direction, but Marks insists their commitment to Harden up until Thursday's trade could not be questioned.

"Make no bones about it: we went all in on getting James Harden and inviting him to the group," Marks said on Friday.

"And these decisions to move on from a player like that, of that calibre, are never easy ones. I just want to be clear that this is not something that you think, 'great, let's just make a split decision and move on from that'.

"I give James a lot of credit for having open dialogue, open discussions with me and with the group, [Nets coach Steve Nash] and [owner] Joe Tsai and everybody over the last 24, 48 hours.

"Again, I said they're not easy, but I think that's something we pride ourselves on is being open and honest. James was honest with us and we were honest with him.

"I think it's a move that enables him to have a fresh start, enables this team to have a fresh start, without trying to push things to make things work.

"If we realise this is not going to work, short term or long term, then it's time to say for, both parties involved, this is better off."

Harden, whose 76ers debut is likely to be next week, will be warmly received in Philly.

Second-year point guard Tyrese Maxey welcomed the 10-time All-Star, who is set to shine alongside MVP candidate Joel Embiid.

"It's going to be great. It's two MVP-calibre players on top of what we have here already," Maxey said, adding: "It's going to be great, and I just can't wait."

Steve Nash could not help but contemplate the "what ifs" after James Harden's brief tenure with the Brooklyn Nets was ended in a big trade-deadline deal with the Philadelphia 76ers.

One of the most prolific shooters in NBA history, Harden was drafted to the Nets in January 2021 to form a tantalising big three alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

However, a combination of factors limited the amount of game time the trio enjoyed on court together, with Durant contending with injuries and Irving unable to play home fixtures this season as he is unvaccinated against COVID-19. Health protocols in New York mean players have to be jabbed to play in the city

Harden averaged just 22.5 points per game this season, his lowest average since the 2011-12 season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, as well as 8.0 rebounds and 10.2 assists.

Despite head coach Nash consistently saying Harden would not be moved on, he was sent to Philly in exchange for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry and Andre Drummond.

The deal reportedly also includes the Sixers sending the Nets an unprotected 2022 first-round pick as well as a protected 2027 first-round pick. The Nets also included Paul Millsap in the deal.

Speaking after the Nets were defeated 113-112 by the Washington Wizards – their 10th loss in a row – Nash could not help but wonder how things could have played out differently in last season's playoffs when they lost out in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals to the Milwaukee Bucks.

"You're up 2-0 against the NBA champs, and then to not have James in the first games and then Kyrie in the last games, James being on one leg, Jeff Green being out of the lineup, all sorts of things that hampered our opportunity to win," Nash said. 

"To take them to overtime in Game 7, you definitely think there are some what-ifs, but that's life. You can't look back. You've got to look forward."

Nash, who said it was a "pleasure" to coach a "historic" player, added on the trade: "I think in the last hours, as the hours ticked by today, it seemed more apparent. 

"But you're never surprised. When I was asked those questions [about whether he would be traded], there was no conversation between the two teams."

The Nets have slid down the Eastern Conference standings and sit eighth as a result of their barren run.

But with the new additions, and Durant (sprained MCL), LaMarcus Aldridge (sprained ankle), Joe Harris (ankle surgery) and Nic Claxton (left hamstring tightness) all to come back, Nash remains hopeful the Nets can get back on track. 

"Yeah, I think we always set our sights at that," Nash said. "We're excited by the pieces that are coming in. 

"Obviously, we're on a time crunch a little bit and getting everyone healthy, gaining some cohesion and building a team that can flow and play at both ends of the floor, but we're not taking our foot off the gas. 

"We want to try to build and reach for the stars and try to have a sense of urgency with this new addition."

Irving said he made no attempt to try and convince Harden to stay but added he wished his now former teammate well in his future endeavours.

"That's not really my place, in terms of trying to convince somebody of something that he probably can't see right now," Irving said. 

"James probably couldn't see what we were getting into. Obviously with my status being in and out, I saw a few things maybe that could have impacted things.

"But who knows, we got to wait for him - I can't really speak for James.

"I think we're also forgetting, too, where I've asked for a trade, and I understand it, so I'm not here to judge him. I'm not here to talk bad on James. 

"He has a great family, he's a great person. And I don't want to separate that fact from anything. I just really want him to be happy. I want everybody in this league to be happy."

The Phoenix Suns outclassed defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday to win 131-107 and stretch their NBA-best record to 45-10.

In a rematch of last season's Finals, won by the Bucks, Phoenix pulled clear in the second half after a competitive opening two quarters in Arizona.

Deandre Ayton top-scored for the Suns with 27 points, finishing on 12-of-14 shooting from the field, while Chris Paul enjoyed a special game: his 17 points and 19 assists brought about his 500th career double-double, a tally only previously reached by three guards in the league's history.

"I'm grateful that I still get a chance to play," he said. "Not just play, but I feel like I play at a high level every night. It's cool."

It was a 15th win from 16 games for the Suns and reinforced their championship credentials against the team who came from 2-0 down to win last year's Finals series 4-2.

"They're the defending champs. We still hurt," said coach Monty Williams. "But from a confidence standpoint, for sure, it was a big game for us. I can admit it now."

The Golden State Warriors, second to the Suns in the West, fell to a second straight defeat for only the third time this season despite a double-double from Stephen Curry.

Julius Randle's 28 points and 16 rebounds, the latter an equal-high for the season, saw the New York Knicks win for the first time in four games in their West Coast trip, Klay Thompson's missed buzzer-beater meaning it finished 116-114.

The Miami Heat remain top of the Eastern Conference, their dominant second-half display seeing them to a 112-97 defeat of the New Orleans Pelicans. Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo each scored 29 points for Miami, while Kyle Lowry got his first triple-double of the season.

Doncic hits 50 for first time

The latest star turn in the incredible early career of Luka Doncic helped the Dallas Mavericks beat the Los Angeles Clippers 112-105 in Texas.

The 22-year-old scored a career-best 51 points, 28 of which came in an astonishing first quarter in which he hit seven of his attempted nine three-pointers.

Marcus Morris Sr. top-scored for the Clippers with 21, while Reggie Jackson posted 18, but there was simply no way back from the damage dealt by Doncic.

"Tonight was just Luka," said Clippers coach Tyronn Lue. "That little step-back three, I'll live with that. That's his shot, but if he misses a couple or few of those, then the game is different. But he made them, and that's why he's a great player."

Kuzma triple-double settles clash of busy traders

In a battle of teams at the heart of the trade deadline drama, the Washington Wizards beat the Brooklyn Nets 113-112.

A first career triple-double of 15 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists for Kyle Kuzma proved pivotal for the Wizards, who added Kristaps Porzingis on a busy Thursday in the week they lost Bradley Beal for the rest of the season to a wrist injury.

The Nets, who sent James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers in a blockbuster trade involving Ben Simmons, Seth Curry and Andre Drummond, slipped to a 10th loss on the spin despite Kyrie Irving's 31 points.

Elsewhere, Kevin Porter Jr. put up 30 points as the Toronto Raptors beat the Houston Rockets 139-120, while the Memphis Grizzlies took their winning streak to four, Ja Morant scoring 23 points in a 132-107 rout of the struggling Detroit Pistons.

 

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