On paper, a contest between the Phoenix Suns and the Brooklyn Nets is a mouthwatering prospect.

However, the Nets are still missing star player Kevin Durant and while their form is on the floor as a result of that and other recent injury issues, the Suns are on fire, pardon the pun, and the assumption heading into Tuesday's clash is that Monty Williams' team should ease to yet another win.

Phoenix beat the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday to record their 10th win in a row. They have only been beaten once in 14 games in 2022, and sit on a record of 40-9 to comfortably lead the Western Conference.

The Nets, meanwhile, are down in sixth place in the Eastern Conference on 29-20 having lost four in a row following their 110-106 defeat to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday.

Durant remains out with a knee injury, while James Harden has also missed recent games as a result of a hamstring problem and a hand strain, though he could be back for this encounter.

LaMarcus Aldridge will also be absent after leaving the arena on crutches after Saturday's game with an apparent ankle sprain.

Kyrie Irving will be able to play with the game being on the road, and looks to be rediscovering some form after missing so much basketball in the first few months of the season, hitting 32 points against the Warriors, with seven rebounds and seven assists.

For the Suns, Jae Crowder could be in line for a return after a wrist injury that has kept him out of their last four games, while Deandre Ayton, who has missed seven games, will likely be a late call following an ankle issue.

With stronger form and a deeper roster heading into Tuesday's game, Phoenix will certainly be the favourites at Footprint Center, but the visitors will be determined to arrest their recent slide.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Phoenix Suns - Devin Booker

The Suns main point-getter, Booker is the only man to have broken 1,000 points for Phoenix this season (1,056) at an average of 25.1 points per game, the 13th best record in the league.

Booker enjoyed himself when the Suns beat the Nets in November, hitting 30 points and making four out of six three-point attempts.

Brooklyn Nets - Patty Mills

While a lot of the attention will undoubtedly be on Irving, Mills must continue to step up in the absence of Durant and with Harden struggling to find form and fitness.

Steve Nash's Mr. Consistent has played the most games of anyone for Brooklyn this season (48) and is the only Net to have hit three figures for three-pointers made (158). His 24 points against the Warriors on Saturday was his highest score since he managed 34 on Christmas Day against the Los Angeles Lakers, so it appears he could be returning to form. 

KEY BATTLE - Can Brooklyn keep pace?

This encounter sees two of the top five teams for average points per game go head-to-head, so in theory, it should be an exciting high-scoring affair.

You might assume that the Nets' average of 111.9 points per game - the fifth-best in the league - is heavily influenced by the absent Durant, but they have actually bettered that average in four of the last six games he has missed.

Phoenix will be confident of living up to their third-best average in the league of 112.9 having also been outperforming that average in recent games, having scored 113 or more in six of their last eight outings.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Overall, the record between the Suns and the Nets could barely be closer, with the Suns edging their 93 regular-season meetings 47-46. However, the Nets have enjoyed more success in recent years, prevailing in 10 of the last 13 meetings, although Phoenix did win 113-107 in Brooklyn earlier this season.

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr is not worried about Stephen Curry's recent shooting slump after another "tough night" in Saturday's 110-106 win over the Brooklyn Nets.

Curry made 14 of his 19 points in the final quarter, shooting five-of-18 for the game including three-of-10 from beyond the arc, as the Warriors edged past the Nets minus James Harden (hand) and Kevin Durant (knee).

The two-time MVP's struggles continued a below-par recent run, shooting at 35 percent from the field and 29 percent from beyond the arc in his past five games. Curry has shot at 42 percent from the field and 38 percent from three-point range across this season.

"It's a question I'll keep getting if he's not shooting the ball well, but I'm not worried about him," Kerr said at the post-game news conference.

"I'm not. He's Steph Curry, one of the great players of all time. He's had a tough night tonight but he helps us win routinely and does so much beyond just making shots. It'll come round for him."

Curry has previously been impacted by a hand injury and appeared to favour that at times on Saturday but Kerr insisted it was not currently an issue or reason for his slump.

"He's told me he feels great physically," Kerr said. "We've talked a lot about the schedule and the minutes.

"I'm really aware of what needs to happen in terms of monitoring his minute and when we can push him harder and when we can't. I think he's in a good place physically. He's going to be fine."

Curry became the Warriors' all-time career leader in games after surpassing Chris Mullin's mark of 808 appearances on Saturday.

The 33-year-old point guard broke the NBA's all-time record for most three-pointers made earlier this season while he also holds several single-season team milestones too, but Kerr praised Curry's loyalty, having been with the Warriors since being pick seven in the 2009 NBA Draft.

“I love that particular record just because it signifies his loyalty to the franchise and vice-versa,” Kerr said pre-game.

“The love affair that exists between Steph and The Bay is pretty unique.”

First-time All-Star Andrew Wiggins kept the Warriors going in the first half with 17 points, finishing with a team-high 24 points along with eight rebounds, three steals and two blocks.

"Andrew was phenomenal tonight. [Two] blocks and three steals," Kerr said. "[He was] All over the place defensively and on offense he was our most consistent player.

"He carried us in the first half. He’s playing with a lot of confidence and showing why he's an All-Star."

Meanwhile, Nets head coach Steve Nash offered an update on Harden who missed the game with a hand strain.

"We'll have to see how it settles but we're hopeful [for next game]," Nash said.

Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson came to life in the final quarter as the Golden State Warriors edged the short-handed Brooklyn Nets 110-106 on Saturday.

Curry struggled with his shooting throughout, going five-of-18 from the field, but found his range late, scoring 14 of his 19 points in the final quarter to lead Golden State to victory despite Kyrie Irving's game-high 32 points for the Nets, who were without James Harden with a hand strain.

Thompson also had his issues shooting five-of-14 for the game, but scored nine fourth-quarter points including a clutch three-pointer to make it 107-103 with 12.1 seconds left.

Five-time All Star Thompson finished with 16 points, while Curry had 19 points, with seven rebounds and eight assists. First-time All-Star Andrew Wiggins led the Warriors' scoring with 24 points, including 17 in the first half.

Irving had seven rebounds and seven assists to go with his 32 points which included three triples, while Patty Mills hit six three-pointers in his 24 points.

The Warriors, who are 24-4 at home this season, improve to 37-13, while the Nets move to 29-20.

 

Embiid and Morant continue hot streaks

Joel Embiid led the Philadelphia 76ers' rally from a 17-point deficit as they won 103-101 over the Sacramento Kings. Embiid scored 25 or more points for the 17th consecutive game, finishing with 33 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, while Tyrese Haliburton had 38 points for the Kings.

First-time All-Star Ja Morant scored 34 points including four three-pointers as the Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Washington Wizards 115-95, while Jayson Tatum starred with 38 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in the Boston Celtics' 107-97 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Jimmy Butler had a triple-double with 37 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists but the Miami Heat went down in triple overtime 124-120 to the Toronto Raptors. Gary Trent Jr had 33 points for Toronto who had blown a 10-point three-quarter time lead.

Pacers battle as Doncic stars for Mavs

The Indiana Pacers' road struggles continued with their 20th loss in 26 games away from home, with Luka Doncic dominant as the Dallas Mavericks blew them out 132-105 with 30 points, six rebounds and 12 assists. 

James Harden was absent from the Brooklyn Nets starting line-up on Saturday for the second straight game but this time it was due to a separate issue.

Harden missed Saturday's game against the Golden State Warriors with a right hand issue which required an MRI that showed a strain.

The 2018 MVP had missed Wednesday's 124-118 loss to the Denver Nuggets with left hamstring tightness.

"James' hand has been bothering him for a few days," Nets head coach Steve Nash told reporters before the Warriors game.

"He thought it was nothing and then it really flared up this morning when he woke up. Obviously he irritated what he was feeling [Friday] and then this morning he woke up with some irritation so we had a scan.

"I think what we're calling it is a hand strain from the doctor. Just unfortunate."

Harden had got through Friday practice with the Nets, already without Kevin Durant due to a left knee sprain, who had expected him to play on Saturday.

Nash did not provide a timeline on 32-year-old Harden's return to play but indicated it was minor.

"Clean of the bad stuff, but a strain for sure," Nash said of the MRI. "There's stuff on the MRI, so he's feeling something, feeling the strain.

"It's been bothering him, but he was like, 'Yeah, it's nothing'. Now it's a little more than nothing. He woke up with a marked difference in the hand."

The NBA's Western Conference has dominated the East in recent memory, possessing most of the league's superstars for over two decades.

West teams have had a winning record head-to-head against East teams in each of the previous 12 full seasons, and the East has only had a winning record against the West once in the last 22 full seasons (2008-09).

Since 1999-00, the NBA champion has come from the Western Conference in 14 of 22 seasons.

The imbalance of power had grown significant enough by the 2013-14 season, when the West sported a .631 head-to-head win percentage, that some pundits called for a restructuring of the playoff system to stop giving postseason opportunities to below .500 East teams.

But the league appears to be finding its equilibrium again.

East teams have a .491 record in interconference games this season, the highest since 2008-09, and the playoff race at the top of the conference is as competitive as it has been in recent memory. Six teams sit within two games of the East’s top record, laying the groundwork for a captivating battle for postseason positioning in the second half of the season.

1. Miami Heat (32-17)

The 2020 Eastern Conference champions appear to have recaptured the form of a contender after a middling 2020-21 campaign that ended in a first-round sweep.

Battling through lengthy absences from both Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, the Heat have climbed their way to the top of the Eastern Conference standings, thanks largely to the growth of Tyler Herro.

Herro was a promising rookie two years ago when Miami made their run to the NBA Finals but has carried the Heat offensively at times this season. He is scoring 20.4 points per game this season, up from 15.1 last season, without a drop in efficiency. The result is an 11-2 record when Herro scores 25 or more points in a game.

Defensive issues, however, have led coach Erik Spoelstra to mostly leave Herro out of the starting lineup and use him to torch opposing benches. Miami ranks third in the NBA in bench scoring at 39.1 points per game while ranking tied for 19th in bench minutes per game.

Miami's starting units aren't nearly as imposing on the offensive end but are suffocating opponents on defense. With Butler, Adebayo and Kyle Lowry all on the court together, the Heat are allowing just 98.0 points per 100 possessions, and opponents are shooting 32.4 percent from three-point range.

Spoelstra may face challenges in the postseason in trying to decide between offense or defense-first lineups, but few coaches in the NBA are as qualified to find the correct balance.

As long as Butler is healthy and fresh, no team wants to face this rugged and experienced group in a playoff series, and a deep run is certainly possible.

2. Chicago Bulls (30-18), 1.5 games back

Chicago’s hot start was one of the league’s signature stories early in the season, but a recent swoon has some pundits wondering if a few of the roster’s flaws can be exploited.

From December 19 to January 7, the Bulls went on a season-high nine-game winning streak. They scored 120.2 points per game over that stretch and climbed to 16 games over .500.

The Bulls have gone just 4-8 since and have failed to reach 100 points in four of those 12 games.

Chicago went 1-5 during this lull playing without Zach LaVine, including a January 14 loss to the Golden State Warriors in which he played fewer than four minutes before leaving with a left knee injury.

The Bulls have won both their games since LaVine returned, soothing any burning concerns, but that stretch revealed Chicago's roster is too thin to absorb any major injuries.

Perhaps even more concerning is the Bulls' record against top teams, going just 3-7 so far this season against the other teams in the East's top six.

Billy Donovan will rightfully get plenty of buzz to win Coach of the Year, but the Bulls ultimately look like an excellent regular-season team that may not be properly equipped for playoff battles.

Power forward Patrick Williams played just five games before he underwent surgery on his left wrist, and he was initially considered lost for the season. While there has been some recent momentum towards him returning for a playoff run, the 20-year-old may still be too green to push the Bulls over the top.

Williams could fetch another playoff-ready piece if the Bulls decided to place all their bets on the current core of LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic – all in the prime of their careers between the ages of 26 and 32 – but such a move could jeopardise the team's future.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers (30-19), 2 games back

Just a year after going 22-50, the Cavaliers have far surpassed last season's win total before the All-Star break, and the success has gone on too long to be considered a fluke.

Even after losing veteran point guard Ricky Rubio to a torn left anterior cruciate ligament, the young Cavaliers have continued to be one of the East's top teams, thanks largely to a stifling defense.

Cleveland is 6-7 this season in games when scoring less than 100 points, the best record in the league. The other top teams in the East are a combined 7-44 when held under the century mark.

The Cavaliers are allowing 105.8 points per 100 possessions, best in the Eastern Conference, and that number drops to 102.2 when rookie big man Evan Mobley is on the court.

Mobley is third among rookies in scoring at 15.0 points per game, but it is his ability to play next to center Jarrett Allen that has made Cleveland's defense so imposing.

A seven-footer, Mobley could be slated as a center for almost any team in the league, but his quickness and ability to guard multiple positions allows him to be on the floor at the same time as Allen.

Mobley, Allen, Darius Garland and Isaac Okoro are all 23 years old or younger, so a deep playoff run seems unlikely, especially with high-scoring guard Collin Sexton out for the year.

But Cleveland has the fourth-easiest remaining schedule in the NBA, with a combined opponents’ winning percentage of .463.

4. Milwaukee Bucks (31-20), 2.0 games back

The reigning NBA champions have yet to live up to the sterling regular seasons of their recent past but remain in position for a run.

The Bucks are 6-7 over their last 12 games, including a 115-99 loss to the Cavaliers on Wednesday.

Milwaukee’s fortunes will be determined by its three biggest stars: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday. With all three on the court together, the Bucks are outscoring their opponents by 10 points per 100 possessions. All configurations that have two or fewer stars on the court have a net rating of +2.6.

This heavy reliance on the Bucks' top trio is evident in Milwaukee’s 29th-ranked bench, which is scoring just 27 points per game.

This accomplished core will be competitive in any series they play, especially now that it has championship experience, but the road through the Eastern Conference playoffs could be a very challenging one.

5. Brooklyn Nets (29-19), 2.5 games back

With so many unknowns and moving pieces, the Nets are probably the most difficult team in the league to analyse. The trio of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving makes them an automatic title contender, but the availability of Brooklyn's stars will ultimately decide their fate.

Irving is infamously banned from playing home games but can play in most road games, essentially giving Steve Nash two separate teams to coach. Any day, either Irving could change his mind and get a COVID-19 vaccine, or New York could change its rules about workers being vaccinated, but the possibility looms of the Nets entering a playoff series with a part-time player.

Durant remains a marvel, averaging 29.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists in his second season back from a ruptured Achilles tendon. He suffered a sprained knee on January 15, however, and could be out until the end of February.

The Nets are just 5-7 this season without Durant, and his extended absence could cause them to lose ground in the race for a top seed in the East. Then again, Brooklyn might not care about playing extra postseason road games, allowing Irving to join in the fun and saving Durant for when the games count most.

The Athletic's Shams Charania surprised many fans this week by reporting that Harden's name remains involved in trade talks. While these rumors would likely be more relevant to a deal in the coming offseason, the reports added another layer of uncertainty to a bumpy season.

6. Philadelphia 76ers (29-19), 2.5 games back

The Sixers have the NBA's second-best record since Christmas Day at 13-3, and Joel Embiid has built a strong case as an MVP candidate.

The overpowering center has scored at least 25 points in 16 straight games, a run that includes single-game scoring performances of 50, 42 and 40 points.

Perhaps almost as significant as his gaudy production is the fact that Embiid has played in 20 consecutive games for Philadelphia, the second-longest run of his career after a 26-game stretch during the 2018-19 season.

Embiid has always been a monster when he's on the court, and if his current run of health continues, the 76ers will be a difficult playoff matchup for anyone.

Hanging over the whole season, of course, is the standoff with Ben Simmons, who has yet to report this season and is losing game paychecks every time his team-mates take the court. Simmons' camp maintains the position that he wants to be traded after being publicly blamed for last season's playoff failures, but the Philly front office insists on getting a star in return.

A possible Simmons trade might be the most pivotal move out there for any possible championship contender, but the deal has been difficult to find for a unique 25-year-old guard who refuses to shoot and has yet to play this season.

With the conference loaded six-deep with imposing teams, only the top two seeds will be heavy favourites in the first round. Gone, it appears, are the days when one or two teams could cruise to a conference championship in the East without sweating.

LeBron James and Kevin Durant will be the captains in this year's All-Star Game while Ja Morant and Andrew Wiggins got their first selections as the starters were confirmed on Thursday.

The NBA announced the starters for the annual midseason exhibition to be held on February 20 in Cleveland.

In the west, James was named for his 18th straight All-Star appearance in his 19th season alongside reigning MVP Nikola Jokic (fourth All-Star selection) and MVP contender Stephen Curry (eighth All-Star selection).

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant and Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins were the two first-time All-Star starters, with the latter coming as the major surprise.

Four-time MVP James has made 18 All-Star teams, equaling Kobe Bryant for second place all-time behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (19).

Durant, who is under an injury cloud for the game, will lead the east side after finishing with more fan votes than anyone else in the conference.

The Nets superstar will be joined by Chicago Bulls guard DeMar DeRozan and Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young in the backcourt, with Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid and Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The All-Star reserves will be selected by the coaches in both conferences and confirmed on Thursday.

The Phoenix Suns recorded their eighth consecutive victory as they defeated the Utah Jazz 105-97 with Devin Booker producing another 40-point game on Wednesday.

Booker had 43 points, 12 rebounds and four assists after a first-quarter scoring blitz as the Suns opened up an early 39-18 lead.

Chris Paul (21 points) added some key points down the stretch as the Jazz rallied in the last quarter.

The 25-year-old shooting guard recorded his 16th career 40-point game, moving past Amar'e Stoudemire for most in Suns franchise history, sitting ahead of Tom Chambers and Walter Davis too.

The victory means the table-topping Suns improve to 38-9 overall and 8-0 on the road this calendar year.

 

Hornets break records in Pacers rout

The Charlotte Hornets set a franchise record for single game scoring and produced the highest points total this season as they downed the Indiana Pacers 158-126. The Hornets hit 24 three-pointers, with LaMelo Ball (29 points, 10 rebounds, 13 assists) and Kelly Oubre Jr (39 points) starring.

The Cleveland Cavaliers underlined their credentials as contenders with a 115-99 win over the champions Milwaukee Bucks. The Cavs moved above the Bucks with their eighth win in their past nine games, with Kevin Love scoring 25 points. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 26 points and nine rebounds for the Bucks.

Ja Morant was exceptional with 41 points, five rebounds and eight assists as the Memphis Grizzlies won 118-110 over the San Antonio Spurs, while Nikola Jokic (26 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists) led the Denver Nuggets past the depleted Brooklyn Nets 124-118. James Harden was out with hamstring tightness.

 

Bulls wayward but winners

The Chicago Bulls only managed seven three-pointers, shooting at 26.9 percent from beyond the arc yet they won 111-105 over the Toronto Raptors. The Bulls had lost six of seven but have steadied to win their past two, with DeMar DeRozan having 29 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash has provided injury updates on James Harden and Kevin Durant after reports that the latter would be out until after the All-Star Game.

Harden missed Wednesday's 124-118 loss to the Denver Nuggets with "hamstring tightness" while Durant has not played since spraining his MCL on January 15.

The Nets did not provide a timeframe on Durant's return although ESPN claimed it would be between four and six weeks.

ESPN also reporting this week that Durant would miss the All-Star Game scheduled for February 20 although Nash did not confirm that.

"We'll re-evaluate in the next week or so," Nash said at the post-game news conference. "We’ll see how his rehab goes and what the re-evaluations tell us."

Durant is currently averaging 29.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists through 36 games this season.

Harden has averaged 23.0 points, 8.1 rebounds and 10.1 assists this season, but is also averaging 37 minutes per game with the absences of Durant and Kyrie Irving impacting his on-court time.

"I think we're all hopeful he'll play next game," Nash said about Harden with the Nets to play the Golden State Warriors on Saturday.

"It's day to day, so we'll see. It's likely, probable and we're all very hopeful that he'll be ready to go."

Cameron Thomas top scored with 25 points against the Nuggets, while Patty Mills impressed with 21 points, three rebounds and six assists.

The defeat leaves the Nets with a 29-19 record having lost three in a row, slipping to fourth in the east.

"Details. We're proud of the guys' effort, but details, we talked about them last night," Nash said.

"Part of that, is we had some guys play together who've not played many minutes together over the last few years so there's some cohesion that is lacking and some understanding and familiarity lacking.

"That's where we have to improve especially with guys out of the lineup."

Anthony Davis joked he was more concerned about LeBron James than his own recovering knee following a celebration during the Los Angeles Lakers' 106-96 triumph over the Brooklyn Nets.

Superstar James put up 33 points as the Lakers moved to 24-24 in an inconsistent season, but it was the return of Davis after a 17-game absence with a sprained knee that will have been a particularly pleasing sight.

Davis contributed eight points to go with two assists and two rebounds from 25 minutes on court and the Lakers will hope his return can help spark a strong run in the latter half of the season.

There was one moment of concern for Davis, though, who knocked James off balance after his illustrious team-mate managed a couple of steals and dunks in quick succession during the fourth quarter.

"Can't think about it. When I’m on the floor I try not to think about it," Davis said about his knee and the celebrations. 

"I was what, a month, five weeks, doing a lot of weightlifting. So, I hit him, he kind of like fell over. I was more worried for him than my knee!"

Davis took little time getting back up to speed and blocked three shots in a first quarter that saw the Lakers leading 33-25.

James was delighted to have his team-mate back on court.

"Obviously right away you see what he's capable of," James said. 

"We draw a play right to start the game, I was able to turn the corner and threw a late lob that he was still able to throw home. So very exciting to have him back."

The Nets were still without Kevin Durant (knee), while Kyrie Irving was again unavailable. Irving is unvaccinated against COVID-19 and therefore is not eligible to play in matches in New York under the city's health protocols.

James Harden had 33 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists but was later asked about reports he is frustrated at the Nets.

"Listen, I don't know about any reports," Harden said. "Of course I'm frustrated because we're not healthy, there's a lot of inconsistency for whatever reason. 

"Injuries, COVID, whatever you want to call it, so yeah, it is frustrating. I think everyone in this organisation is frustrated because we are better than our record is and we should be on the way up. So that's all it is."

The reports suggested Harden is frustrated by Irving's mixed availability and the rotations of head coach Steve Nash, who said he cannot imagine his player making such comments.

"So I'm not sure what to believe," Nash said. 

"James and I speak all the time and I think we have a great relationship, so I'm not sure the validity of these comments to be honest with you."

LeBron James starred and Anthony Davis made a successful return to action as the Los Angeles Lakers earned a convincing 106-96 win at the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday.

Superstar James clocked up 33 points to go alongside seven rebounds and six assists as the Lakers moved to 24-24 in an uneven season.

James Harden had 33 points, 11 assists and 12 rebounds for a Nets side still without the injured Kevin Durant (knee), while Kyrie Irving – who is unvaccinated against COVID-19 – is again absent with the Nets back on home court as he does not meet the required protocols to play games in New York.

Malik Monk (22 points) and Carmelo Anthony (13 points) made valuable contributions off the bench for the Lakers but it was the return of Davis, who missed 17 games with a sprained left knee that was the most welcome sight of the night.

Davis managed 25 minutes, scoring eight points and providing two assists and two rebounds. He showed he is feeling healthy again by jumping into, and knocking back, James when he made two steals and dunks in quick succession during the fourth quarter.


History for the rallying Clippers

Trailing 66-31 during the second quarter of their contest with the Washington Wizards, no one could have predicted the Los Angeles Clippers running out 116-115 victors.

Still behind 66-36 at half-time, the Clippers became the first team in NBA history to score under 40 points in the first half of a game and follow up by posting 40 or more points in both the third and fourth quarters.

The visitors had closed to 93-76 adrift by the end of the third quarter, before bossing the fourth 40-22 against flagging opposition.

Amir Coffey finished with 29 points and Luke Kennard contributing 26 points, eight rebounds and six assists against a Wizards team who had seven players in double figures.


Curry and Co. down Doncic and the Mavs

The Golden States Warriors had an inconsistent 3-6 stretch over nine games but have now chalked up three straight wins as Stephen Curry led the way in a balanced attack as the Dallas Mavericks were routed 130-92.

Curry had 18 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, while Jonathan Kuminga (22 points, five rebounds), Klay Thompson (15 points, six assists, two rebounds), and Jordan Poole (17 points, three assists and two rebounds) all contributed heavily.

The Warriors managed just 82 points in a losing effort the last time these teams met on January 5, but it was a different story here as the Mavericks were soundly beaten despite Luka Doncic's best efforts.

Doncic put up 25 points, eight rebounds and three assists for a Mavs side who are fifth in the West (27-21), three places and eight games back of the second-place Warriors (35-13).

The Los Angeles Lakers are set to welcome Anthony Davis back from injury against the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday.

Davis has been upgraded to probable for the game at Barclays Center, having been out for almost six weeks with an MCL sprain.

The return of the eight-time NBA All-Star boosts a Lakers team toiling at 23-24 in eighth place in the West.

Davis has played just 27 games this season and only 15 alongside LeBron James.

Despite LA's poor stretch, which began with Davis in the team, going 13-14 with him in the lineup, James has excelled.

In 20 games without Davis this year, James has averaged 32.7 points, taking on added responsibility with third man Russell Westbrook struggling.

The Lakers will hope both Davis and the rest of the team can now rediscover their best form to recover a title push this season.

James Harden hit out at what he perceives to be a lack of consistency from the officials following the Brooklyn Nets' 136-125 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The nine-time NBA All-Star endured a frustrating time at Target Center as he got to the line only four times and scored 13 points.

Only once this season, against the Phoenix Suns in November (12), has Harden – who shot four-of-13 – ended a game with fewer points.

But Harden feels as though he has been on the end of some tough treatment from referees.

"I don't know. I don't even want to talk about it," he told reporters. "But it's definitely – when I get to the basket, it's the same calls the guys are getting. 

"Obviously, you can't call all of them. But there's ones where there's clearly stiff-arms and trips and things like that. On the other end, there's no consistency. So it's frustrating."

Asked what explanation he has had regarding certain calls going against him, Harden said: "Nothing. Honestly, nothing. 

"Like [officials say], 'I didn't see it,' or 'I didn't think it was a foul.' But it's clear. It's extremely clear. I don't want to talk about it. I just got to keep going. It's not going to stop me. 

"I'll keep on going to the basket, keep being aggressive and keep making plays for my team."

The Timberwolves were awarded 31 free throw attempts compared to 15 for the Nets, who had 29 personal fouls called against them compared to 17 for their opponents.

Nets Head coach Steve Nash echoed Harden's complaints as he also took aim at the officials.

"I think there's nights where it's fair, and even including the points of emphasis this year," Nash said. "Then there's other nights where it feels like he gets targeted a little bit. 

"It just automatically gets lumped into that point of emphasis where he is creating the foul, which is not always the case at all."

NBA officials have clamped down on offensive players who attempt to create contact and draw fouls from opponents, which Nash claims Harden has become the biggest victim of.

"I think it's been well-documented that he's a poster child," Nash said. "I think the start of the year was rough – they were really trying to correct the point of emphasis. 

"I think they overcorrected. Now we [have] come back to the middle, but tonight was one of those nights where I felt like some of the calls that should go his way didn't."

The Nets allowed 30 points in every quarter for the second time in 10 days, when losing 130-109 to Oklahoma City, as they fell behind the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference.

Harden's treatment was the big talking point from the Timberwolves loss, but Kyrie Irving backed his team-mate to adapt.

"I think teams have made adjustments, the referees have made adjustments, and now we have to make adjustments," said Irving, who led the Nets with 30 points.

"He goes to the paint aggressively and we want him to continue doing that. He's going to be James. We know who James is – we know he's going to be himself.

"But the whistle can go either way night to night. And depending on the [officiating] crew we have, I think that also has an effect on it.

"We just want to start off the game with a consistent whistle. And when he's going in there and he's creating some contact, we feel like he deserves that respect."

LeBron James had a double-double but it was not enough for the fast-finishing Los Angeles Lakers to overcome his former side the Miami Heat who won 113-107 on Sunday.

The Heat led by 23 points but the Lakers charged home with 37-24 points down the stretch.

James finished with 33 points, 11 rebounds and four assists for the Lakers, while Russell Westbrook had 24 points and nine rebounds.

Jimmy Butler starred for the Heat, breaking James' franchise record for triple-doubles with his 22 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists.

The Heat are top of the Eastern Conference with a 30-17 record, while the Lakers drop below .500 with a 23-24 record.

 

Embiid continues scoring streak

Joel Embiid continued his hot streak with a double-double as the Philadelphia 76ers beat the San Antonio Spurs 115-109. Embiid had 38 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, extending his 14-game run of 25 points or more.

Luka Doncic had a double-double with 37 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists as the Dallas Mavericks won 104-91 over the Memphis Grizzlies, for whom Ja Morant had 35 points and 13 rebounds, while the Golden State Warriors won 94-92 over the Utah Jazz, despite only 11 fourth-quarter points.

Jayson Tatum scored 51 points, including 48 in the first three quarters, as the Boston Celtics won 116- 87 over the Washington Wizards, while DeMar DeRozan had 41 points as the short-handed Chicago Bulls' slide continued with a 114-95 loss to the lowly Orlando Magic.

 

Harden subdued as Nets cut down

James Harden shot four-of-13 for the game as the Brooklyn Nets were downed 136-125 by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Harden only managed 13 points, while Kyrie Irving had 30 points with six rebounds and five assists.

Kyrie Irving revealed how some stern words from Brooklyn Nets team-mate James Harden provided the catalyst for his fourth-quarter blitz against the San Antonio Spurs.

The Nets moved into top spot in the Eastern Conference with a hard-fought 117-102 win over the Spurs on Friday.

While Harden put up 37 points with 10 rebounds and 11 assists, Irving had only nine points heading into the final quarter and was scoreless in the third.

He put that right with a 15-point showing down the stretch and then offered an insight into what had inspired his late flurry.

"James kind of yelled at me," Irving said. "It's not a negative yell, but he yelled at me, 'Kai, get the f*****g ball!' in the third quarter after he scored [12 points] in the quarter.

"I kind of took that personal. I just wanted to come out in the fourth quarter in an aggressive mindset and just play within the flow of the offense."

It was a reaction that saw the shackles thrown off for the Nets, who are now 29-16, and Harden never doubted Irving's ability to turn it on.

"For sure, it was a breakthrough," said Harden. "He's capable of doing that at any moment and any point in the game.

"That's one of the reasons why we need him every single game, because he's able to do that, especially with everything that's going on with our team.

"But he's able and more than capable of doing things like that whenever he wants. I think he just tries to get us involved a little bit more, but he's a special talent.

"We have a decent rhythm between one another of just getting out of each other's way but also demanding each other to play at that level.

"When it's us going together and us doing it as a tandem or a duo, it opens up the space for everyone. When we're playing with the unbelievable pace like we were in the fourth quarter, I don't see too many teams that can keep up with that."

James Harden and Dejounte Murray both had triple-doubles as the Brooklyn Nets got past the San Antonio Spurs 117-102 on Friday.

Harden scored 37 points with 10 rebounds and 11 assists with Kevin Durant out with a sprained left MCL as the Nets rallied from a 51-50 half-time deficit to improve to 29-16.

Kyrie Irving contributed 24 points with three rebounds and four assists for the Nets, who are top of the Eastern Conference.

Harden's triple-double was the 66th of his career, moving him to eighth on the all-time list, while Murray – who had 25 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists – recorded his ninth triple-double of the season and 13th of his career.

 

LeBron leads Lakers past Magic

LeBron James led the Los Angeles Lakers' second-half response as they fought back from an eight-point half-time deficit to win 116-105 over the Orlando Magic. James finished with 29 points, seven rebounds and five assists, playing the second half at center, while Russell Westbrook contributed 18 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.

The Milwaukee Bucks edged the Chicago Bulls 94-90 in an important game in the Eastern Conference standings. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 30 points with 12 rebounds and three assists as the Bucks overcame Grayson Allen's ejection.

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic recorded another triple-double with 26 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists but Ja Morant overshadowed him with 38 points as the Memphis Grizzlies won 122-118 over the Denver Nuggets, while Stephen Curry had 22 points including a game-winning buzzer beater in the Golden State Warriors' 105-103 win over the Houston Rockets.

 

Sixers fluff 24-point lead

The Philadelphia 76ers blew a 24-point lead to lose 102-101 to the Los Angeles Clippers despite Joel Embiid scoring 40 points with 13 rebounds. Reggie Jackson finishing with 19 points and nine assists for the Clippers.

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