Joel Embiid accomplished a 30-year first for the Philadelphia 76ers, who made light work of Eastern Conference rivals the Boston Celtics 106-96.

Embiid – in his second game back after sitting out 10 matchups due to bone bruising to his knee – posted 35 points as the 76ers eased past the Celtics in Boston on Tuesday.

76ers All-Star and NBA MVP hopeful Embiid became the first Philadelphia player with at least three games of 35-plus points against the Celtics in a season since Hall of Famer Charles Barkley in 1990-91.

Embiid had his team-leading 16th 30-point game this season, tied with Nikola Jokic for the seventh-most 30-point games in the league.

Danny Green was six-of-seven from the field – making five of his six three-pointers – for 17 points as the 76ers returned to the top of the Eastern Conference alongside the Brooklyn Nets.

The 76ers, meanwhile, swept a season series from the Celtics (3-0) for the first time since 2000-01.

In San Francisco, the Golden State Warriors edged the Giannis Antetokounmpo-less Milwaukee Bucks 122-121 thanks to Stephen Curry.

Curry had a game-high 41 points, six rebounds and four assists to fuel the Warriors on home court in the absence of two-time reigning MVP Antetokounmpo, who was sidelined due to knee soreness.

Warriors star Curry had his fourth 40-point game of the season (42nd of his career), while the former MVP hit his 200th three-pointer of the campaign – giving him an NBA-record eighth season with at least 200 threes.

 

Zion matches Shaq as Hawks set NBA record

Zion Williamson's 25 consecutive games with 20-plus points on 50 per cent shooting or better equalled Shaquille O'Neal for the longest streak in the shot-clock era (since 1954-55). The former number one pick posted a game-high 34 points on 12-of-18 shooting in the New Orleans Pelicans' 123-107 defeat the Atlanta Hawks.

The Hawks set an NBA record for three made in a quarter without a miss, going 11 for 11 in the third period. Atlanta finished 20-of-31 from beyond the arc against the Pelicans, boasting a 64.5 percentage. Trae Young (30 points and 12 assists) made six of seven three-point attempts, while Bojan Bogdanovic (21 points) was five-of-eight from three-point range.

Paul George (season-high 36 points) and Kawhi Leonard (29 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists) combined as the Los Angeles Clippers routed the Portland Trail Blazers 133-116.

Chicago Bulls recruit and All-Star Nikola Vucevic had 32 points and 17 rebounds in the team's 113-97 victory at the Indiana Pacers.

Jonas Valanciunas posted 20 points and 10 rebounds to tie Zach Randolph's franchise record with his 18th consecutive double-double as the Memphis Grizzlies topped the Miami Heat 124-112. 

The Denver Nuggets saw off the Detroit Pistons 134-119 behind Jokic's 27 points and 11 assists in 27 minutes. It was his 83rd career double-double, two more than Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain. Denver won their sixth straight game.

 

Bucks pair struggle

Donte DiVincenzo was just two-for-eight shooting, making two of his six three-point attempts for six points in 30 minutes. Fellow Bucks starter Brook Lopez (nine points) was only three of nine from the field, missing all four shots from beyond the arc.

Injury-hit defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers trumped the Toronto Raptors 110-101, but it was a forgettable outing for Kyle Kuzma (eight points). In 35 minutes, Kuzma finished three-of-13 shooting from the field, making two of 11 three-point attempts.

 

The Jokic-Gordon combo

Denver left Detroit in a spin as Jokic and new team-mate Aaron Gordon combined for a dizzying bucket.

 

Tuesday's results

Los Angeles Clippers 133-116 Portland Trail Blazers
Chicago Bulls 113-97 Indiana Pacers
Atlanta Hawks 123-107 New Orleans Pelicans
Philadelphia 76ers 106-96 Boston Celtics
Los Angeles Lakers 110-101 Toronto Raptors
Memphis Grizzlies 124-112 Miami Heat
Golden State Warriors 122-121 Milwaukee Bucks

 

Pelicans at Nets

The high-flying Nets (35-16) are set to welcome back former MVP Kevin Durant for Wednesday's clash with the Pelicans (22-28). Durant has been sidelined since February 13.

The Los Angeles Clippers made light work of their short-handed neighbours, crushing defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers 104-86.

Kawhi Leonard (19 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists) fell just short of a triple-double as the Clippers snapped a two-game skid in the NBA on Sunday.

Marcus Morris posted 22 points and Paul George added 16 for the Clippers, who claimed bragging rights in Los Angeles, where superstar Lakers duo LeBron James and Anthony Davis remain sidelined.

Former Clippers star Montrezl Harrell led the Lakers with 19 points – Frank Vogel's team have dropped six of nine games.

 

Vucevic and LaVine sink Nets, Valanciunas' Grizzlies roar against 76ers

The Chicago Bulls ended a six-game losing streak after upstaging the Brooklyn Nets 115-107. Recruit Nikola Vucevic (22 points and 13 rebounds) and Zach LaVine (25 points) fuelled the Bulls, while Tomas Satoransky registered a season-high 19 points and 11 assists. The Nets – playing without James Harden and Kevin Durant – were led by Kyrie Irving's double-double of 24 points and 15 assists.

Jonas Valanciunas guided the Memphis Grizzlies to a surprise 116-100 win at the Philadelphia 76ers. Valanciunas had 16 points and 12 rebounds in a career-high tying 10th consecutive double-double – his longest streak ever within a single season. Memphis' 45 points in the third quarter marked the most in a single period in a road game in franchise history. Tobias Harris put up 21 points in the absence of star 76ers team-mate Joel Embiid, who was rested after returning from a 10-game injury lay-off on Saturday.

It was a milestone result for Atlanta Hawks head coach Nate McMillan, who moved up to 20th on the all-time coaching wins (673) list after his team topped the Golden State Warriors 117-111. Double-doubles from Clint Capela (24 points and 18 rebounds) and Danilo Gallinari (25 points and 10 rebounds) inspired the Hawks. The Warriors lost despite Stephen Curry's game-high 37 points, and double-doubles from Kelly Oubre Jr. (20 points and 11 rebounds) and Draymond Green (11 points and 11 assists).

 

Simmons and Curry headline Philly woes

It was a frustrating game for the 76ers, who were 41.6 per cent from the field and 23.5 from three-point territory. Ben Simmons endured a forgettable outing, the All-Star finishing two-of-six shooting for seven points in 26 minutes. Seth Curry was one-of-six shooting, while he made just one of five attempts from three-point range for three points. Fellow starters Danny Green (six points on two-of-seven shooting) and Mike Scott (nine points on three-of-10 shooting) all struggled.

P.J. Washington made one of six shots from the field – nailing just one of his three efforts from beyond the arc – as he finished with three points in the Charlotte Hornets' 116-86 defeat away to the Boston Celtics.

The Houston Rockets went down 122-115 to the New Orleans Pelicans, with Avery Bradley ending the game two-for-nine shooting and five points in 26 minutes.

A championship winner with the Lakers, Rajon Rondo made his Clippers debut. But the veteran did not have the greatest game. Rondo made one of three field goals and committed four turnovers in 13 minutes.

 

The Joker does it all

Nikola Jokic showcased his MVP credentials and playmaking abilities with another impressive performance. He recorded 17 points and 16 assists to lead the Denver Nuggets to a 119-109 win over the lowly Orlando Magic.

 

Sunday's results

Chicago Bulls 115-107 Brooklyn Nets
Los Angeles Clippers 104-86 Los Angeles Lakers
Boston Celtics 116-86 Charlotte Hornets
Memphis Grizzlies 116-100 Philadelphia 76ers
Atlanta Hawks 117-111 Golden State Warriors
New Orleans Pelicans 122-115 Houston Rockets
Denver Nuggets 119-109 Orlando Magic

 

Knicks at Nets

It will be another rivalry clash on Monday with bragging rights on the line between the New York Knicks (25-25) and the Nets (34-16). The Nets could welcome back both Kevin Durant and James Harden.

The Brooklyn Nets have made it 20 wins from their past 23 matches with a 111-89 victory over the Charlotte Hornets without injured star pair Kevin Durant and James Harden on Thursday.

LaMarcus Aldridge impressed in his Nets debut, as Brooklyn blew away the Hornets, who were without the injured LaMelo Ball, in the first quarter with a 32-11 start.

Kyrie Irving had 15 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists but it was Jeff Green who top scored with 21 points including five three-pointers.

The Nets may have been missing James Harden due to hamstring tightness but improved to a 34-15 record to sit top of the Eastern Conference.

The Philadephia 76ers are still right behind them, having overcome the Cleveland Cavaliers 114-94 on Thursday.

The 76ers were also without their star man Joel Embiid, who has now missed 10 games, but they shot 40 per cent from three-point range.

Shake Mitton was the leading exponent with five threes in his match-high 27 points as the 76ers tied with the Nets for most road wins in the East with 14.

 

Curry on fire, another Westbrook triple-double

Stephen Curry scored 36 points and had 11 rebounds in his second game back but it was not enough as the Golden State Warriors lost 116-109 to the Miami Heat.

The Heat, who had Victor Oladipo debut with six points and five assists, end their four-game home losing streak.

The Los Angeles Clippers suffered their second straight defeat, going down to the Denver Nuggets 101-94 with guard Jamal Murray impressing again with 23 points and eight rebounds.

Center Nikola Jokic scored 14 points along with seven rebounds and seven assists for Denver as the Clippers were always playing catch-up after a 20-31 opening quarter.

Kawhi Leonard was a lone hand with 24 points, 12 rebounds and four assists as the Clippers slipped to a 32-18.

The Orlando Magic got past the New Orleans Pelicans 115-110 in over-time, along with the Atlanta Hawks 134-129 against the San Antonio Spurs in OT.

Russell Westbrook got another triple-double as the Washington Wizards lost 120-91 to the Detroit Pistons.

 

Wayward Clippers

It was not a good night for the Clippers, losing back-to-back games and shooting less than 30 per cent from three-point range, including two-from-seven from guard Paul George, while Reggie Jackson went at 20 per cent from beyond the arc.

 

Aldridge's delightful debut

After missing the last two games with a sore foot since his recruitment from the San Antonio Spurs, veteran LaMarcus Aldridge did a bit of everything on his Brooklyn debut with 11 points, nine rebounds, two steals and six assists.

 

Thursday's results:

Philadelphia 76ers 114-94 Cleveland Cavaliers
Detroit Pistons 120-91 Washington Wizards
Brooklyn Nets 111-89 Charlotte Hornets
Orlando Magic 115-110 New Orleans Pelicans
Miami Heat 116-109 Golden State Warriors
Atlanta Hawks 134-129 San Antonio Spurs
Denver Nuggets 101-94 Los Angeles Clippers

 

Bucks in Portland

Damian Lillard's Portland Trail Blazers (29-18) play host to the Giannis Antetokounmpo's Milwaukee Bucks (30-17) in the highlight Friday fixture.

The team from the Mile High City is rising again.

The Denver Nuggets are starting to resemble the team that put forth a thrilling and historic run to last season's Western Conference finals, the first in NBA history to win two series in a postseason when faced with a 3-1 deficit. They are 12-3 since February 27, tied with the Phoenix Suns for the league's best record over that period, and are the only team with three players (Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr.) averaging better than 20 points per game during that time frame.

So, what has changed? How have the Nuggets elevated themselves back to a legitimate contender after spending the season's first two months mostly languishing in mediocrity?

It is no secret that offense is Denver's calling card, consistently ranking among the league's most efficient teams on that end even when hovering around .500 for nearly all of January and February. Defense is the true key to the Nuggets' success, however, and will ultimately be the determining factor to whether Mike Malone's crew wind up as serious title contenders or early playoff flameouts. 

Simply put, the Nuggets are awfully hard to stop when they are able to stop opponents at a passable level. Denver is 24-1 this season when holding foes to a field goal percentage of 47.5 per cent or below, with only the NBA-leading Jazz (32-1) owning a superior winning percentage when keeping teams under that number. The Nuggets are 19-1 when limiting opponents to 106 points or fewer, just slightly behind Utah's 20-1 mark for the best in the league when doing so. 

HIGHEST WIN PERCENTAGE WHEN OPPONENT FG PCT. UNDER .475:

Jazz 32-1 .970  
Nuggets 24-1 .960 
Bucks 25-4 .862 
76ers 26-7 .788
Nets 22-6 .786
Suns 22-6 .786 

The Nuggets were able to squeak by the Clippers in large part due to Jerami Grant's incessant hounding of Kawhi Leonard, who shot a combined 37 per cent in LA's four losses and finished with a 6-for-22 dud in the deciding Game 7. But Grant's free-agent departure to Detroit and the since-traded Gary Harris' inability to stay healthy has frequently left Denver without its top two defenders from last season, and a void Malone has often had difficulty trying to fill.

Need more proof? Well, just harken back to last year's playoff bubble. The Nuggets put on a defensive clinic at times in their conference semi-final series with the Clippers, holding them to 42 per cent shooting or below in all four victories. The Jazz shot a combined 51.6 per cent from the field while taking a 3-1 lead on Denver in that opening-round classic. In the final three games, they shot 44.4 per cent as the Nuggets stormed back to take the series.

Denver had no answer for the Lakers' interior game and abundance of size in the West finals, in which the eventual champions shot nearly 59 per cent from inside the 3-point line to win in five games. 

Until now. 

Aaron Gordon was not the biggest name to change uniforms at the trade deadline, but the former Orlando Magic forward could very well wind up being the most impactful of all the moves. What the Nuggets needed most of all was another Grant, someone with the size and athleticism to capably guard multiple positions, effectively get to the rim and offer at least a mild threat of perimeter scoring.

Gordon is not as good from the outside as Grant, but he is shooting a career-best 37.1 per cent from 3-point range and at just 25, there is still room to expand his game further. He is a superior rebounder and finisher, however, having shot a strong 65.1 percent at the rim for his career. And now playing alongside the premier passing big man of this generation in Jokic, there's reason to suggest that number can go up as well.

The Nuggets did not acquire Gordon for his offense, however. The Magic allowed 2.3 fewer points per 100 possessions this season with him on the court as opposed to him off it, and with a first-round matchup with either the Lakers or Clippers a real possibility, it was crucial that Denver added a player with the requisite size and skill to go head-to-head with Leonard or LeBron James.

It is an incredibly small sample size, but the returns have so far been smashingly successful. The Nuggets have opened the Gordon era with blowout wins over the Hawks and the admittedly depleted 76ers, and they are a plus-36 with their new acquisition on the floor over those two games.

With the defense seemingly upgraded and Porter's emergence as a legitimate third scoring option alongside the incomparable Jokic and the dynamic Murray, the Nuggets appear better equipped for an NBA Finals run after coming three wins short of getting there last season. 

Now, Gordon isn't the solution for all of Denver's issues. For all the great things Jokic does, rim protection will never be one of them. The Nuggets have allowed opponents to shoot 62.6 per cent at the rim, with only New Orleans having yielded a higher rate, and they were routinely manhandled inside by the Lakers' big lineups in the West finals. 

That looms as a potential problem again down the road, assuming the Lakers will have a healthy Anthony Davis for the playoffs, but one the Nuggets may have alleviated somewhat with the possibly under-the-radar deadline pickup of JaVale McGee. The veteran center provides the size and presence as an interior deterrent that Denver sorely lacked, though that benefit could come with a cost if it leads to Jokic playing less, or if he's alternatively moved to power forward, where his defensive limitations could be further exploited.

There are certainly worse problems to have, however, and there is little question the Nuggets got better at the deadline while many of their other chief competitors largely stood pat.

Buckle up, folks. The West's road to the NBA Finals just got a little more rocky.  

Russell Westbrook produced his third consecutive triple-double but it was not enough to inspire the Washington Wizards to victory as they went down 114-104 to the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday.

Westbrook, who made NBA history with 35 points, 14 rebounds and 21 assists on Monday, was outstanding again with Bradley Beal out for the Wizards with 22 points, 15 rebounds and 14 assists.

However, despite LaMelo Ball's absence, the Hornets got the edge after a strong first half which left the Wizards playing catch-up.

Gordon Hayward stepped up for Charlotte with 15 first-quarter points, to finish with 26 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, while Terry Rozier (27 points) was clutch at the business end.

76ers and Clippers downed

Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia 76ers lost their second straight game as they were humbled 104-95 by the Denver Nuggets.

The 76ers are starting to feel the effects of missing Joel Embiid with a knee injury, as MVP candidate Nikola Jokic scored 21 points and had 10 rebounds for Denver.

Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr had 27 points, 12 rebounds and four assists while Jamal Murray scored 30 points.

The Phoenix Suns moved into second in the Western Conference with a 32-14 record after a 117-110 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.

Dario Saric scored 20 points off the bench for the Suns, while Deandre Ayton had 14 rebounds along with his 13 points.

The Los Angeles Clippers let slip a three-quarter-time lead to lose 103-96 to the lowly Orlando Magic.

Clippers collapse

The Clippers actually led 51-37 at half-time and by as many as 16 points against the Magic before an awful second-half showing as they were outscored 66-45.

 

Air Russ

There is lots of love for Westbrook right now and he produced a nice play, driving past two into the key and slamming over Hornets center Bismack Biyombo.

 

 

 

New signing Aaron Gordon says "there's no stopping" the Denver Nuggets as "we have all the pieces that we need" following his arrival.

Gordon, linked with a host of rival teams, was signed a via a trade with the Orlando Magic ahead of the deadline on Thursday.

The forward headed to Denver with Gary Clark in exchange for Gary Harris, R.J. Hampton and the Nuggets' protected 2025 first-round pick.

Gordon went straight into the starting five on Sunday, forming an exciting lineup alongside Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr. and Will Barton in a dominant 126-102 win over the Atlanta Hawks.

Gordon scored 13 points, making six of nine field goal attempts, and had a positive plus/minus of 17 in an effective debut.

Victory moved Denver to 28-18 in fifth in the West, still 6.5 games back but, according to Gordon, seeing "no limits".

"I see no limits for this team," he said. "It looks like we have all the pieces that we need.

"We have the depth. It's like we are covered in a lot of different spots offensively, defensively.

"As long as we are all working together, there's no stopping us."

MVP candidate Jokic, who had 16 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, was impressed with the way Gordon adapted to his new team on both sides ends of the floor.

The 25-year-old's usage rate with Orlando this season had been 23.6 per cent but dipped to 18.9, while he showed his versatility as he switched on defense.

"The main thing and the best thing that he did is that he accepted the role," Jokic said.

"He knows why he came here, he knows what he can do and he knows how he can help and he is doing that. Defense or offense, it doesn't matter, he accepts it and is embracing it.

"I think he kind of saw how we played, and he didn't try to do too much. He saw that if he's open, the ball is going to find him. Really good debut for him."

Devin Booker led the way as the high-flying Phoenix Suns took down the Charlotte Hornets 101-97 in overtime.

Booker posted 35 points to fuel the Suns, who outlasted the Hornets in Charlotte in Sunday's NBA action.

Chris Paul scored 16 points for the Suns and team-mate DeAndre Ayton added 14 points and 14 rebounds.

The Suns, who have won three of their last four games, are second in the Western Conference.

Charlotte had their three-game winning streak snapped, despite big performances from Devonte' Graham (30 points), Terry Rozier (22 points and 10 rebounds) and Miles Bridges (18 points and 12 rebounds).

 

Lakers build momentum

On the day the Lakers acquired Andre Drummond after he cleared waivers, the NBA champions topped the struggling Orlando Magic 96-93 in the absence of injured superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The Lakers have now won back-to-back games, having dropped four straight. Dennis Schroder put up 24 points, while Kyle Kuzma contributed 21 points and 11 rebounds. There were also double-doubles for Montrezl Harrell (18 points and 11 rebounds) and Markieff Morris (12 points and 11 rebounds).

 

Trent struggles in Raptors debut

After being traded by the Portland Trail Blazers to the Toronto Raptors on Thursday's deadline, Gary Trent Jr. made his debut against his former team. Trent, however, was just two-of-10 from the field and one-of-five from three-point range for six points in Toronto's 122-117 loss to Portland.

P.J. Washington endured a rough night for the Hornets. While he collected 12 rebounds in 44 minutes, the power forward was scoreless. Washington finished 0-of-seven from the field, while he missed all four of his efforts from beyond the arc.

 

Gordon slam!

Acquired from the Magic prior to the deadline, Aaron Gordon connected with Nikola Jokic for his first dunk for the Denver Nuggets in the opening quarter. Denver beat the Atlanta Hawks 126-102.

 

Sunday's results

Los Angeles Lakers 96-93 Orlando Magic
Phoenix Suns 101-97 Charlotte Hornets (OT)
Denver Nuggets 126-102 Atlanta Hawks
Portland Trail Blazers 122-117 Toronto Raptors

 

Bucks at Clippers

The slumping Milwaukee Bucks (29-16) will visit the in-form Los Angeles Clippers (31-16) on Monday. Milwaukee have dropped back-to-back games, while the Clippers have won five in a row.

James Harden returned from neck soreness with a 44-point haul to lead the Brooklyn Nets to a 113-111 win over the Detroit Pistons in the NBA on Friday.

As well as his personal Nets high 44 points, which included four three-pointers, Harden had 14 rebounds and eight assists.

Harden set up Blake Griffin for an alley-oop as the new recruit contributed 17 points against his former side.

Detroit had an 11-0 final-quarter stretch, led by back-to-back three-pointers from Frank Jackson, to ensure a tense finale.

But Cory Joseph missed a point-blank look to send the game to overtime on the buzzer, enabling Brooklyn to improve to 31-15.

The Los Angeles Lakers snapped their losing run without LeBron James, with a 100-86 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Montrezl Harrell starred off the bench with a double-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds as they steadied to 29-17 record.

Zion puts up career-best haul in defeat

Former number one draft pick Zion Williamson put in a huge display with a career-high 39 points, going 16-of-19 from the field, 10 rebounds and five assists, but it was not enough as the New Orleans Pelicans lost to the Denver Nuggets 113-108.

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic underlined his MVP credentials with 37 points, six rebounds and nine assists. He scored 22 of his 37 in the second half.

The Milwaukee Bucks were toppled by the Boston Celtics 122-114, with forward Jayson Tatum scoring 34 points and guard Marcus Smart adding 23. Tatum had an injury scare but played on.

Reigning two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo was quiet by his standards with only 16 points, while he had eight rebounds and five assists. The Celtics stay in the playoffs hunt with a 22-23 record, while the Bucks slip to 29-15 in third in the East.

Donovan Mitchell had 35 points along with five rebounds and six assists as the top-of-the-table Utah Jazz defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 117-114 to secure their fourth straight win.

The Portland Trail Blazers edged the Orlando Magic 112-105 without Damian Lillard, with CJ McCollum starring with 22 points, five rebounds and seven assists.

Chris Paul got the edge over Kyle Lowry as the Phoenix Suns won 104-100 at the Toronto Raptors. Paul had 19 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

Heat slide to sixth straight loss

The Miami Heat may have got busy on NBA trade deadline with the addition of Victor Oladipo but he did not play as they lost their sixth straight, going down 110-105 to the Charlotte Hornets.

 

Timberwolves' 22-0 hot streak

The Minnesota Timberwolves' 22-0 run to secure their 107-101 win over the struggling Houston Rockets was the first 22-0 (or better) game-ending run since the Los Angeles Clippers in the 1998-99 season.

 

Friday's results

Brooklyn Nets 113-111 Detroit Pistons
Boston Celtics 122-114 Milwaukee Bucks
Phoenix Suns 104-100 Toronto Raptors
Denver Nuggets 113-108 New Orleans Pelicans
Minnesota Timberwolves 107-101 Houston Rockets
Portland Trail Blazers 112-105 Orlando Magic
Charlotte Hornets 110-105 Miami Heat
Indiana Pacers 109-94 Dallas Mavericks
Utah Jazz 117-114 Memphis Grizzlies
Atlanta Hawks 124-108 Golden State Warriors
Los Angeles Lakers 100-86 Cleveland Cavaliers

 

76ers at Clippers

Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia 76ers (32-13) visit the Los Angeles Clippers (30-16), who are third in the West, on Saturday.

Perhaps the biggest development at the NBA's trade deadline on Thursday saw a big player staying put as Kyle Lowry remained with the Toronto Raptors.

Veteran point guard Lowry, on an expiring contract, was seen as a potentially key pick-up for either the Philadelphia 76ers, the Los Angeles Lakers or the Miami Heat as they chase the title.

But the Raptors did not get a deal that appealed to them and will allow their greatest ever player to reach free agency.

There were significant moves elsewhere, though, as teams seized the last opportunity to agree trades.
 

ONE OUT IN TORONTO

Toronto, playing the season in Tampa, may have held on to Lowry, but they do not appear in contention this year at 18-26 and did deal Norman Powell.

The Portland Trail Blazers brought in the wing, one of the league's best three-point shooters in 2020-21, as Gary Trent Jr and Rodney Hood moved in the opposite direction.

Rather than one of the Raptors' shooters, the Heat will rely on Victor Oladipo, recruited from the Houston Rockets, over the coming months.

Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk and a draft swap was enough to do a deal with the Rockets.

Nemanja Bjelica also went to Miami from the Sacramento Kings for Maurice Harkless and Chris Silva.

And the Heat are said to be favourites for LaMarcus Aldridge after he was bought out by the San Antonio Spurs. Andre Drummond, another potential buyout, was not traded by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

THREE GO IN ORLANDO

As Toronto resisted the urge to take whatever they could get, the Orlando Magic did the opposite and cashed in.

All-Star Nikola Vucevic was a surprising early exit on Thursday as he went to the Chicago Bulls, along with Al-Farouq Aminu, in return for Otto Porter Jr, Wendell Carter Jr and two first-round picks.

Chicago added Daniel Theis from the Boston Celtics, but Lonzo Ball stayed put at the New Orleans Pelicans, while it was far from Orlando's only outgoing.

Evan Fournier headed to the Celtics, and the Denver Nuggets won the race for Aaron Gordon. His signing, along with Gary Clark, cost the Nuggets a first-round pick as well as Gary Harris and RJ Hampton.

Denver also added JaVale McGee in a deal with the Cavs.

RONDO RETURNS TO LA

Rajon Rondo, a team-mate of McGee's on the title-winning Lakers last season, has moved back to LA to join the Los Angeles Clippers.

Rondo played a big role in the playoffs for the Lakers and his signing cost the Clippers three-time Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams, sent to the Atlanta Hawks.

Western Conference rivals the Dallas Mavericks got two shooters from the Pelicans in the form of JJ Redick and Nicolo Melli, parting with James Johnson, Wes Iwundu and a second-round pick.

The Sixers landed George Hill in a three-team trade involving the Oklahoma City Thunder and the New York Knicks, while the Charlotte Hornets brought in Brad Wanamaker.

Kyle Lowry admitted it was "weird" to walk off the court for potentially the last time as a Toronto Raptor as the point guard waits to see if he will be on the move before the trade deadline.

Lowry scored only eight points but had nine assists and five rebounds in his 33 minutes on court, helping Toronto snap a nine-game losing streak by beating the Denver Nuggets 135-111 in Tampa.

Viewed by many as the greatest player in the Canadian franchise's history, the six-time All-Star is on an expiring contract, making him a leading candidate to be on the move on Thursday - which just so happens to be his 35th birthday.

Toronto has an 18-26 record in a season that has seen them forced to relocate away from their home due to travel restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In a post-game media conference that was briefly interrupted by a call from rapper Drake, a global ambassador for the team who offered his services to work as a translator, Lowry admitted there was a different feeling at the end of the game, potentially knowing it was his last for the Raptors.

"It was kind of weird tonight, not knowing what the next step will be, understanding that there are things that could be possibly be done, with me and other guys on the team," he said prior to Drake's cameo appearance.

"It was great to get a win, it felt good to be out there. It would have been crazier if it was in Toronto, I think, but it was different tonight, for sure.

"Who knows what's going to happen? No one knows, but it was definitely different." 

Lowry arrived at Toronto in July 2012 and is the franchise leader for assists, three-pointers made and steals. He also sits second on the list for games played and was a key part of the roster that won the NBA title in 2019.

"Whenever the time comes, I'll think about that stuff," Lowry replied when asked about his legacy with the team. "The story is not complete, put it that way. My career isn't complete and my time in Toronto isn't essentially over.

"No decisions have been made, nothing has been done. With that being said, I don't know. I've given a lot and I'll continue to give it all, no matter what."

Raptors coach Nick Nurse was full of praise for Lowry, who helped build a 24-point half-time lead as they emphatically put an end to the Nuggets' six-game winning run on the road.

"He plays harder than anybody I've ever seen, and I can't give him a higher compliment than that," Nurse said. 

"He'll go down as maybe the greatest Raptor ever to date."

Norman Powell – another member of Toronto's team who could be on the move before the 15:00 ET (19:00 GMT) deadline – had 22 points.

Donovan Mitchell led the way with 27 points, six rebounds and seven assists as the Utah Jazz brushed aside the undermanned Brooklyn Nets 118-88 on Wednesday.

The Nets went into the match without star James Harden due to neck soreness, along with Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and new recruit Blake Griffin among others, and their absence told.

The Jazz led by 25 points at half-time in a fizzer of a contest, as the Nets suffered their biggest defeat of the season, while Utah recorded their 17th straight home win.

Utah improved to a 32-11 record while the Nets slipped to 30-15, with the Milwaukee Bucks moving ahead of them in the Eastern Conference after a thrilling win over the Boston Celtics.

Celtics center Daniel Theis could have snatched victory when he had a wide open look for a three-pointer on the buzzer but his shot missed as Milwaukee won 121-119.

Giannis Antetokounmpo's output was below his normal standards with only 13 points, although he had seven assists and eight rebounds.

Khris Middleton starred for the Bucks with 27 points, 13 rebounds and four assists, while Bobby Portis came off the bench to add 21 points for the Bucks.

The Sacramento Kings also edged a last-shot thriller over the in-form Atlanta Hawks, winning 110-108.

Danilo Gallinari could have sent the match to overtime but his effort rimmed out, handing the Kings victory aided by De'Aaron Fox's 37 points, including 24 in the first half.

Kawhi torments former franchise in Texas

Two-time NBA champion Kawhi Leonard returned to his former home as the Los Angeles Clippers easily accounted for the San Antonio Spurs 134-101.

Leonard has an imposing record against his former franchise and added to that with 25 points, seven rebounds and three assists.

Lou Williams (16 points) reached a career milestone of 15,000 NBA points, including 12,813 off the bench, making him arguably the best sixth man in competition history.

Amid reports of a trade before the NBA deadline, Kyle Lowry may have played his final game for the Toronto Raptors in a 135-111 win over the Denver Nuggets.

Lowry had eight points and nine assists, while Pascal Siakam top scored with 27 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

The Phoenix Suns, second in the West, went down 112-111 to the Orlando Magic as Devin Booker missed a late shot to win the match.

 

Blockbuster-turn-fizzer

Billed as a blockbuster between two of the title favourites, the Jazz-Nets clash ended up as a fizzer given Brooklyn's absentees, particularly after the pre-match withdrawal of Harden due to neck soreness. Seeing him watch from the sidelines was a low.

Clutch three from the logo

Trae Young kept the Hawks in the game late against the Kings, including a spectacular three-pointer from the logo to tie scores at 108-108. He finished with 29 points and nine assists.

 

Wednesday's results

Indiana Pacers 116-111 Detroit Pistons
Milwaukee Bucks 121-119 Boston Celtics
Toronto Raptors 135-111 Denver Nuggets
Orlando Magic 112-111 Phoenix Suns 
Cleveland Cavaliers 103-94 Chicago Bulls
Memphis Grizzlies 116-107 Oklahoma City Thunder
Dallas Mavericks 128-108 Minnesota Timberwolves
Charlotte Hornets 122-97 Houston Rockets
Los Angeles Clippers 134-101 San Antonio Spurs
Sacramento Kings 110-108 Atlanta Hawks
Utah Jazz 118-88 Brooklyn Nets

 

76ers at Lakers

The reigning champions Los Angeles Lakers (28-16), without LeBron James, take on the Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia 76ers (31-13).

The Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers continue to go toe-to-toe in the Eastern Conference after both championship hopefuls won in the NBA on Tuesday.

James Harden led the way with a double-double as the star-studded Nets topped the Portland Trail Blazers 116-112.

In the absence of fellow superstars Kyrie Irving (personal matter) and Kevin Durant (hamstring), Harden posted 25 points and a career high-tying 17 assists to fuel the short-handed Nets in Portland.

Jeff Green finished with 20 points – 15 in the first half – Nicolas Claxton put up 16 of his own, while Blake Griffin had eight points, five rebounds and two steals in his second Nets appearance.

Enes Kanter scored 19 points and collected 19 rebounds for the Trail Blazers, who also had 22 points from All-Star Damian Lillard.

The Nets (30-14) remain within a game of the Eastern Conference-leading 76ers (31-13) after they held on to beat the Golden State Warriors 108-98.

Behind Tobias Harris' 25 points and 13 rebounds and Ben Simmons' 22 points, the 76ers earned their fifth consecutive road victory – the team's longest winning streak away from home since winning seven straight in 2018.

The Warriors – without star Stephen Curry (back) – threatened to complete a stunning comeback, having been outscored 35-17 at the end of the opening quarter, while they trailed by more than 20 points before half-time.

 

Zion makes history

Zion Williamson helped the New Orleans Pelicans top the slumping Los Angeles Lakers 128-111. The 20-year-old's 27 points and nine rebounds saw him become the first NBA player younger than 21 to score at least 20 points in 21 consecutive games. Pelicans team-mate Brandon Ingram posted a season-high 36 points.

MVP candidate Nikola Jokic had his 12th triple-double of the season as the Denver Nuggets beat the Orlando Magic 110-99. Jokic posted 28 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists for a franchise-best 53rd career triple-double. Only Washington's Russell Westbrook (14) has more triple-doubles this season.

It is almost impossible to replace Joel Embiid, but Tony Bradley stepped up in a big way for the 76ers. The 23-year-old was flawless against the Warriors, going eight-of-eight for 18 points and 11 rebounds. Bradley became the first 76ers player not to miss a shot in a game on a minimum eight attempts since Dikembe Mutombo in 2002.

All-Star Julius Randle finished with 37 points to lead the New York Knicks past the lowly Washington Wizards 131-113.

 

Lakers feeling absence of star duo

The Lakers – who came out of the All-Star break on a 4-0 run – are now 0-3 since LeBron James suffered an ankle injury, with fellow star Anthony Davis (calf) also sidelined.

Tyler Herro headlined the Miami Heat's woes after last season's NBA Finals participants lost 110-100 at home to the Phoenix Suns. Herro was three-of-11 from the field, while he was just one-of-six from three-point range for seven points in 26 minutes.

 

Robinson throws it down!

New York's Mitchell Robinson got up high for a powerful dunk in the second quarter against the Wizards.

 

Tuesday's results

Denver Nuggets 110-99 Orlando Magic
New York Knicks 131-113 Washington Wizards
New Orleans Pelicans 128-111 Los Angeles Lakers
Phoenix Suns 110-100 Miami Heat
Brooklyn Nets 116-112 Portland Trail Blazers
Philadelphia 76ers 108-98 Golden State Warriors

 

Nets at Jazz

It is back-to-back outings for the high-flying Nets (30-14), who travel to the NBA-leading Utah Jazz (31-11) on Wednesday.

James Harden and Kyrie Irving combined to lead the star-studded Brooklyn Nets to a 113-106 victory over the Washington Wizards as Blake Griffin made his bow.

Harden posted 26 points and eight assists, while Irving had 28 points and seven rebounds to fuel the Nets in the NBA on Sunday.

The Wizards, who trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half and 12 in the second, closed to 103-102 three minutes from the end in Brooklyn, where former All-Star Griffin debuted after his arrival from the Detroit Pistons earlier this month.

But Nicolas Claxton (16 points) stepped up with two dunks and some big plays down the stretch to lift the Nets past the Wizards.

Russell Westbrook finished with 29 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists but the Wizards still lost on the road, where team-mate Rui Hachimura added 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Elsewhere, Zion Williamson joined Shaquille O'Neal (2000-01) as the only players in the shot-clock era to score 20-plus points on 50 per cent shooting or better in 20 consecutive games in a single season.

Williamson posted 30 points on nine-of-13 shooting from the field as the New Orleans Pelicans upstaged the Denver Nuggets 113-108.

Brandon Ingram also had 30 points for the Pelicans, while MVP candidate and Nuggets star Nikola Jokic (29 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists) registered his 52nd career triple-double and 11th of the season.

 

Paul reaches milestone

Chris Paul became the sixth player in NBA history to reach 10,000 career assists, joining John Stockton, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Mark Jackson and Magic Johnson. Paul finished with 11 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds in the Phoenix Suns' 111-94 victory against the Los Angeles Lakers, who were without injured stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Montrezl Harrell had 23 points and 10 rebounds for defending champions the Lakers.

The Dallas Mavericks routed the Portland Trail Blazers 132-92 behind Luka Doncic's 37 points. His 117 points across a three-game span are the second most in franchise history, only behind his 118 in a three-game period last month.

Collin Sexton scored 23 of his 36 points in the second half and Jarrett Allen (17 points and 15 rebounds) contributed a double-double as the Cleveland Cavaliers topped the slumping Toronto Raptors 116-105, condemning their opponents to an eighth consecutive loss.

The Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers earned their 15th straight win over the New York Knicks – a narrow 101-100 overtime success, dating back to December 2017. It is the longest active winning streak in the NBA by one team over another and the fourth longest run over a single opponent in franchise history.

 

Rockets can't stop the rot

The Houston Rockets suffered a franchise-record 20th consecutive defeat after going down 114-112 at home to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Rockets' skid is tied for the ninth-worst in NBA history and the worst since the 76ers and their record-setting 28-game losing streak across the 2014-15 and 2015-16 campaigns.

The Pistons and Miami Heat both struggled from three-point range. Detroit were just 16 per cent (four of 25) in their 100-86 loss to the Chicago Bulls, while Miami were 24.3 per cent (nine of 37) in a 109-106 overtime defeat against the Indiana Pacers.

It was a forgettable night for Damian Lillard and the Blazers. All-Star Lillard (19 points) was just seven of 16 from the field, while he missed all seven of his three-point attempts. Portland team-mate C.J. McCollum (13 points) was not much better after going six-of-15 shooting and 0-of-five from beyond the arc in 24 minutes.

 

Griffin can still dunk

Much has been made about Griffin and his lack of dunks. Not since December 2019 had Griffin dunked in the NBA amid question marks over his troublesome knee and fitness. But that changed in his debut on Sunday. Griffin, who finished with two points in 15 minutes, dunked in the final quarter.

 

Sunday's results

Indiana Pacers 109-106 Miami Heat (OT)
Oklahoma City Thunder 114-112 Houston Rockets
New Orleans Pelicans 113-108 Denver Nuggets
Boston Celtics 112-96 Orlando Magic
Brooklyn Nets 113-106 Washington Wizards
Cleveland Cavaliers 116-105 Toronto Raptors
Chicago Bulls 100-86 Detroit Pistons
Philadelphia 76ers 101-1000 New York Knicks (OT)
Phoenix Suns 111-94 Los Angeles Lakers
Dallas Mavericks 132-92 Portland Trail Blazers

 

Pacers at Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo's Milwaukee Bucks (27-14) will look to extend their winning streak to seven games when they host the Pacers (19-22) on Monday. Indiana have won back-to-back games.

Joel Embiid's injury last week appeared to clear a path for LeBron James to collect his fifth NBA MVP award.

Philadelphia 76ers big man Embiid - averaging 29.9 points and 11.5 rebounds, as well as 1.4 blocks and 1.2 steals - had already missed seven games this season before he went down with a knee injury against the Washington Wizards.

But Los Angeles Lakers superstar James did not see his clear run at the league's top individual honour last long.

James, who has 25.9 points, 7.9 assists and 7.9 rebounds per game, has carried the Lakers in Anthony Davis' absence but faces his own spell on the sidelines after an ankle sprain on Saturday.

That setback, in a defeat to the Atlanta Hawks, means this year's two leading MVP contenders face an uphill task to remain in contention as they sit out a key stretch of the regular season.

Nikola Jokic, the Denver Nuggets center, appears the man most likely to profit and has quickly been installed as the bookmakers' favourite.

But with several twists already in the race to succeed back-to-back winner Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jokic's standing is not yet safe.

With the help of Stats Perform data, we run through four potential winners ahead of Sunday's action - including Denver's 'Joker'.
 

NIKOLA JOKIC

The case against Jokic earlier in the season was his displays had not been able to lift the Nuggets into serious contention in the West. With 13 wins in their past 18 games to improve to 25-16, that is no longer the case.

While team-mate Jamal Murray has not been able to consistently perform at the standard he set in the 2019-20 playoffs - averaging 26.5 points in the 'bubble' but 21.1 this season - Jokic has taken his game to another level.

The Serbian's stat line for the year - 27.0 points, 8.6 assists, 11.2 rebounds and 1.6 steals - has never previously been achieved in league history, nor has any player in the past attempted at least 30 field goals across a season while shooting 56.6 per cent from the field, 41.6 per cent from three and 86.6 per cent of free throws.

This is an unprecedented campaign.

DAMIAN LILLARD

Tied with Denver at 25-16 in the West are the Portland Trail Blazers. Considering CJ McCollum has only played 16 games and Jusuf Nurkic 12, that is a quite remarkable achievement, led, of course, by Lillard.

Understandably, Lillard's usage rate is at a career-high 33 per cent, but he is making the most of those extra touches. Only Bradley Beal (32.5) has outperformed his 30.6 points per game - another career benchmark - and the Blazers star leads the league with 1,225 total points. Of those, 136 have come in 'clutch' situations, again putting Lillard at the top of the standings.

Taking a break from Portland's playoff push, Lillard even preserved enough energy to score 32 points in the All-Star Game, just ahead of Team LeBron team-mate and rival Stephen Curry (28). An MVP triumph would certainly see Portland's finest emerge from the shadow of the Golden State Warriors great.

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO

Antetokounmpo beat James Harden to this award in 2018-19 and then LA's James last season, so a case of voter fatigue was always set to make him an unlikely winner for a third straight year, regardless of performances.

But with Embiid and James both hit by injuries, the 'Greek Freak' surely has to come into consideration. Once again, his numbers are seriously impressive.

The only man to outscore Lillard at the All-Star Game, putting up 35, Antetokounmpo is slightly down on last year's points (29.0 versus 29.5) and rebounds per game (11.7 versus 13.6) but has improved in all of the other key metrics with 6.4 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.3 blocks.

The Milwaukee Bucks forward should be in the picture to retain both his MVP and Defensive Player of the Year titles.

JAMES HARDEN

Surely voters will not reward Harden in the year he forced his way out of the Houston Rockets? On performances alone, though, he deserves to be in the conversation.

The 2017-18 winner is not contributing the same number of points for the Brooklyn Nets as he was in Houston, but then his usage is down to 28.7 per cent for the year (28.1 in Brooklyn), by far the lowest it has been since the statistic was first tracked in 2014-15.

And Harden, still scoring an impressive 25.4 points since joining the Nets, is more than making up for this slight decline elsewhere.

So far the most prominent member of the team's 'big three', with Kevin Durant too often injured and Kyrie Irving absent for a spell, Harden leads the league in 2020-21 for assists (11.2) and is second for triple-doubles (11), making him an unpopular but worthy candidate.

The Brooklyn Nets' six-game winning streak came to a grinding halt with a 121-113 loss to the lowly Orlando Magic, despite the return of Kyrie Irving after groin soreness.

The Magic were coming into the match on a nine-game losing streak, but jumped out of the blocks with Aaron Gordon scoring 21 points in the first half.

Orlando led by as many as 12 points in the second quarter before the Nets closed to trail by only two at the main break, led by Irving, who finished with a game-high 43 points, six rebounds and four assists.

James Harden's output was slightly down, finishing with 19 points, four rebounds and nine assists as Orlando raced away again in the third.

Gordon finished with a season-high 38 points, Evan Fournier scored 31, while center Nikola Vucevic had 22 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists as the Magic pulled off an upset.

The Utah Jazz returned to the winners' list with a thrilling 115-112 triumph over the Toronto Raptors, who have now lost seven in a row.

The Jazz had lost four of six coming into the match, but found some form, led by Donovan Mitchell with 31 points and five rebounds, the star pinching the lead late after the Raptors were up by five with 90 seconds to go.

Pascal Siakam put up a three-point attempt on the buzzer which cruelly rimmed out.

Blazers do it again, Wiggins' season high

CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard produced another special performance as the Portland Trail Blazers came from behind again to win their third straight game, 125-119 over the Dallas Mavericks.

McCollum finished with 32 points, including seven three-pointers, while Lillard had 31 points along with six assists as Portland scored 32 points to 21 in the last to win. The victory was also Portland's Terry Stotts' 500th as head coach.

Andrew Wiggins produced a season-high 40 points, including six three-pointers, eight rebounds and four steals as the Golden State Warriors beat the Memphis Grizzlies 116-103.

Nikola Jokic sparkled with 34 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists as the Denver Nuggets edged the Chicago Bulls in overtime 131-127. Jamal Murray also scored 34 for Denver.

Guard Malcolm Brogdon scored 27 points as the Indiana Pacers piled on the points in a 137-110 win over the Miami Heat.

Mason Plumlee had 16 rebounds while Frank Jackson scored 23 points as the struggling Detroit Pistons won back-to-back games, 113-100 over the Houston Rockets, who have lost 19 in a row.

 

Melo makes history

Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony, 36, scored 18 points in Portland's win but he also brought up the milestone of 27,000 NBA points, becoming only the 11th player to reach the figure.

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