Battling both Father Time and his opponent, LeBron James remains a nearly unstoppable force in his 18th season. 

Averaging 25.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and 7.9 assists, James is once again posting impressive numbers for the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers while playing every game so far this season.

With Los Angeles off to a 22-7 start, James appears to be the early favourite for MVP, which would put James in rarified air with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell and Michael Jordan as the only players to win the award at least five times. 

James, who won his first MVP award after the 2008-09 season, would also secure the record for the most time between MVP honours if he were to win again – a fitting tribute for a player who has broken the rules of basketball longevity.

As good as James has been this season, his lead in the race is narrow, and perhaps his three most deserving rivals come from the center position, despite the league's embrace of "small ball". 

Whether it be the "seven seconds or less" Phoenix Suns teams of the mid-2000s, the perimeter-fueled Golden State Warriors teams that won three titles or the Houston Rockets' dramatic downsizing last season that left 6ft 5in P.J. Tucker defending 7-footers, the NBA has been trending small for the better part of the last two decades.  

Shaquille O'Neal is the last true center to win MVP in 1999-00, although Tim Duncan played plenty of center during his 2001-02 and 2003-03 MVP campaigns. Some pundits have even forecasted the extinction of the true center as the league leans toward perimeter play and positional versatility.  

Yet three centers – Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets, Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers and Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz – are assembling compelling cases to be voted this season's MVP.  

Jokic is the focal point of the Nuggets' offense, on pace to dish out the most assists ever by a player 7 feet or taller at 8.6 per game. He is also averaging a team-high 27.4 points, 11.1 rebounds and 1.57 steals.  

With Jokic on the court, the Nuggets score 117.2 points per 100 possessions – better than any team's full-season numbers – while shooting 49.9 percent from the field. When Jokic sits, Denver's offense operates with the efficiency of league-worst Cleveland, shoots just 42.5 percent, makes fewer 3-pointers and commits more turnovers.  

The Serbia native has helped the Nuggets navigate several absences due to COVID-19 protocols, but with a 15-13 start – eighth in the West – MVP voters are typically hesitant to vote for a team outside the top four in its conference. And while Jokic has improved on defense over the last few seasons, his weaknesses on that side of the floor are a fair argument against him being named more valuable than any other player.  

Embiid, on the other hand, is a two-time All-Defensive Team selection who is also turning in his best offensive season by a wide margin. His 29.7 points per game are on pace to be the most by a 7-footer since 1999-00 (Shaquille O'Neal, 29.7), while shooting career bests of 54 percent from the field and 39.7 percent from 3-point range.  

Embiid is also a tremendous free throw shooter, regardless of position, making 85.1 percent this season. He is even better in high-stakes situations, making 88.5 percent of his free throws in the fourth quarter and overtime, including a 19-for-20 mark in the last three minutes of a game.  

With Embiid on the court, the Sixers have a net rating of +11.2 points per 100 possessions but are -5.7 per 100 possessions when he is off the court. Embiid is vital to his team, with the 76ers going 18-5 when he plays and 1-5 when he rests.  

While Embiid's time off the court shows just how valuable he is when he plays, it also may keep him from winning MVP this season. At his current workload, he is on pace to miss 15 of the Sixers' 72 games, more than 20 per cent. Embiid has played just under 748 minutes this season, while James and Jokic have played over 1,000 each.  

Gobert has played nearly 878 minutes for the Jazz, appearing in every game and leading Utah to a league-leading 24-5 record.

While his 14.2 points per game fail to measure up to his competitors' numbers, Gobert slots perfectly into the "best player on the best team" role that Giannis Antetokounmpo has occupied over the last two seasons and has added 13.4 rebounds and a career-high 2.69 blocks per game.  

Gobert is second in the league in plus-minus per 48 minutes at +15.3 (min. 500 minutes played), trailing only teammate Mike Conley at +18.9. 

The Jazz have surrounded Gobert with a roster mostly consisting of average or worse defensive players yet still rank third in the NBA, allowing 106 points per game.  

When Gobert is on the floor, Utah holds opponents to 101.6 points per 100 possession, fewer than any team's full-season numbers this year. And while Gobert ranks second in the NBA in blocked shots, his defensive impact extends beyond traditional numbers.  

Utah's opponents have attempted just 18.8 free throws per game – second fewest in the NBA – and Gobert's intimidating presence in the middle appears to be why. With Gobert on the court, Utah's opponents are attempting just 15.2 free throws per 100 possessions. When Gobert sits, that number balloons to 24.2.  

Ultimately, though, Gobert's limited offensive role makes him an outside candidate for MVP unless the Jazz finish the season on a historically great run.  

Gobert's skew toward defense, Jokic's skew toward offense and Embiid's limited availability could all open the door for LeBron – a worthy candidate in his own right – to take home his fifth MVP after this season.   

This trio of centers, however, has proven that there is still room for the big man to dominate in the modern NBA.  

Joel Embiid's return fuelled the Philadelphia 76ers' to a drought-ending 118-113 win over the Houston Rockets in the NBA on Wednesday.

Embiid had scored 35 points in back-to-back games before back tightness caused him to miss Monday's defeat to the high-flying Utah Jazz – a third straight loss – but the three-time All Star came back in style.

The star center claimed a 31-point, 11-rebound double-double, adding nine assists, as the 76ers dug deep against the Rockets to condemn Houston to a seventh defeat in a row midweek.

Philadelphia's win improved the 76ers to 19-10 atop of the Eastern Conference, while Western Conference leaders the Jazz extended their winning run to nine games with a 114-96 triumph against the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Jazz have won 20 of their past 21 games to set the pace in the NBA this season.

Elsewhere, the Portland Trail Blazers made it a 3-0 road trip with a 126-124 win against the New Orleans Pelicans as Damian Lillard scorched to 43 points and 16 assists after dropping the winning three-pointer in the final seconds.

Pelicans star Zion Williamson hit back with a career-high 36 points for the hosts, but Portland snatched a sixth consecutive win.

LeBron James' double-double fired the Los Angeles Lakers back to winning ways, while James Harden stepped up to rally the Kyrie Irving-less Brooklyn Nets past the high-flying Phoenix Suns.

James put up 30 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists as the reigning NBA champions leaned on their defense in the 112-104 victory over the last-placed Minnesota Timberwolves.

Without the injured Anthony Davis, Dennis Schroder played the supporting role for James, posting 24 points, while the Lakers battled to claim eight steals and seven blocks in a closely fought contest.

After taking a two-point lead into the fourth quarter at Target Center, the road side pulled away in the closing stages to improve to 22-7 in second place in the Western Conference.

Harden pulled out the stops with a double-double to lead the Nets to a sensational 128-124 comeback win against the Suns, despite playing without Irving after the star guard felt tightness in his lower back.

Nets coach Steve Nash revealed Irving received treatment at half-time of Brooklyn's win against the Sacramento Kings on Monday but expects the six-time All-Star to only be sidelined in the short term.

The Nets surged, scoring 40 fourth-quarter points to turn around a 24-point deficit, with Harden (38 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds) backed up by Joe Harris (22 points) as they halted the Suns' six-game winning streak.

Jokic burns Celtics but Nuggets fall short, Zion on target for Pelicans

Nikola Jokic lit up the Boston Celtics, scoring 43 points, but the Denver Nuggets could still not make triple-digits as their three-game winning stretch was ended in a 112-99 loss.

Zion Williamson shot an efficient 31 points, sinking 13 of his 16 field-goal efforts and going four-of-four from the free-throw line, as the New Orleans Pelicans snapped a three-match losing run with a 144-113 win over the Memphis Grizzlies.

Meanwhile, Damian Lillard’s 31-point, 10-assist double-double led the Portland Trail Blazers past the Oklahoma City Thunder in a 115-104 win, while centre Enes Kanter pulled down 21 rebounds.

 

Bazley struggles to take his chances

The Thunder never recovered against the Blazers after falling 34-21 behind in the first quarter and forward Darius Bazley was one player that could not find his range.

Bazley shot four from 16 from the field for 14 points during his 36 minutes on court, only dropping one his seven efforts from three-point range.

 

Giannis powers up but the Raps edge the Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo proved unplayable at times, scoring 34 points in the Milwaukee Bucks' 124-113 loss against the Toronto Raptors, as he ghosted past three defenders for one of his buckets.

Tuesday's results

Boston Celtics 112-99 Denver Nuggets
Portland Trail Blazers 115-104 Oklahoma City Thunder 
Los Angeles Lakers 112-104 Minnesota Timberwolves
New Orleans Pelicans 144-113 Memphis Grizzlies 
Toronto Raptors 124-113 Milwaukee Bucks 
Brooklyn Nets 128-124 Phoenix Suns

 

Jazz at Clippers

There has been no stopping the Utah Jazz, who have won eight straight and 19 of their past 20 games to establish a lead in the Western Conference, but a tough challenge awaits when they go on the road to face the third-placed Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.

Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis said he felt "completely fine" before aggravating an Achilles injury in the NBA champions' defeat to the Denver Nuggets as he awaits the results of an MRI scan.

Davis, who posted 15 points in 14 minutes, suffered an Achilles strain in the Lakers' 122-105 loss to the Nuggets on Sunday.

The seven-time All-Star was held out of the second half as the Lakers saw their seven-game winning streak snapped.

Davis, who returned from a two-game absence caused by Achilles tendonitis on Friday, will undergo a scan on Monday.

"Just driving, I think that last step kind of re-aggravated the injury I already had," he said. "Now, it feels like an Achilles sprain. 

"Got an MRI tomorrow and try to figure out the next steps to get on the floor."

Davis – who insisted he and the Lakers followed all the right steps for his initial return – added: "Today was the first day that it felt completely fine. I didn't feel it at all this morning, afternoon, pre-game. I felt like I was heading in the right direction. 

"The treatment and rehab side. Another setback but it's part of the game. More so frustrated that I couldn't go out there and play, but you don't want to mess around with this type of injury. Trying to figure out the best steps.

"I felt great coming back the first time against Memphis [Grizzlies]. I'll do the same thing, the same steps to get it back right. Be smarter with it, I was smart the first time, but even smarter this time. Up the treatment more to get it back where it used to be to help the team."

Superstar Lakers team-mate LeBron James, who led the Lakers with 22 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, added: "Just want him to be healthy and get back to full strength. All I care is about his health.

"It's definitely deflating anytime you lose a big player – a big guy on your team.

"We have a lot of things that's built in around AD and a lot of other players. When he goes down, you have to switch up. That hurt us."

The Denver Nuggets ended the Los Angeles Lakers' winning streak in the NBA, while the Milwaukee Bucks slipped to another loss.

Inspired by a Nikola Jokic triple-double of 23 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists, the Nuggets snapped the Lakers' seven-game winning streak with a 122-105 victory on Sunday.

Jamal Murray had a game-high 25 points for the Nuggets (15-11).

LeBron James managed 22 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists for the Lakers, who saw Anthony Davis (15 points in 14 minutes) suffer an Achilles strain.

The Bucks' losing run continued with a 114-109 defeat to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with a triple-double of 24 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists, but the Bucks were beaten.

Antetokounmpo has 100 points, 43 rebounds and 21 assists over the past three games, yet Milwaukee have lost all three.

He joined Russell Westbrook (November 2016) as the only players in the past 30 years to have 100-40-20 over a three-game span but lose all three.

 

Lillard lifts Trail Blazers, Towns shines

Damian Lillard scored 34 points and had 11 assists to see the Portland Trail Blazers end the Dallas Mavericks' four-game winning streak with a 121-118 success.

Luka Doncic led the Mavs with 44 points and nine assists, but he missed a jump shot that would have brough Dallas level with five seconds remaining.

Karl-Anthony Towns' double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds helped the Minnesota Timberwolves overcome the Toronto Raptors 116-112.

The Washington Wizards upset the Boston Celtics 104-91 on the back of 35 points from Bradley Beal.

Lou Williams posted 30 points and 10 assists in the Los Angeles Clippers' 128-111 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

 

Celtics' slump continues

The loss marked Boston's 10th in their past 15 games. Star Jayson Tatum in particular struggled, going three-of-14 from the field for six points in 23 minutes.

 

Dynamic Doncic

Doncic hit an incredible three-pointer in the Mavericks' loss. He was five-of-eight from three-point range.

Sunday's results

Washington Wizards 104-91 Boston Celtics
Detroit Pistons 123-112 New Orleans Pelicans
Minnesota Timberwolves 116-112 Toronto Raptors
San Antonio Spurs 122-110 Charlotte Hornets
Portland Trail Blazers 121-118 Dallas Mavericks
Oklahoma City Thunder 114-109 Milwaukee Bucks
Phoenix Suns 109-90 Orlando Magic
Memphis Grizzlies 124-110 Sacramento Kings
Los Angeles Clippers 128-111 Cleveland Cavaliers
Denver Nuggets 122-105 Los Angeles Lakers

 

76ers at Jazz

The teams leading their respective conferences meet on Monday. The Utah Jazz (22-5) are on a seven-game winning streak ahead of hosting the Philadelphia 76ers (18-9).

The Utah Jazz continued their impressive NBA run with a win over the Milwaukee Bucks, while the Los Angeles Lakers extended their own streak.

The Western Conference-leading Jazz improved to 21-5 courtesy of a 129-115 victory over the Bucks on Friday.

Rudy Gobert (27 points), Joe Ingles (27), Donovan Mitchell (26) and Jordan Clarkson (25) all had 25-plus points for Utah, who have won six straight games.

Gobert also pulled down 12 rebounds in his double-double, while Ingles went seven-of-nine from three-point range, with the Jazz's 21-5 start their best 26-game record in franchise history.

Giannis Antetokounmpo starred for the Bucks with 29 points and 15 rebounds, but Milwaukee (16-10) slipped to back-to-back defeats.

The Lakers extended their winning streak to seven with a 115-105 win over the Memphis Grizzlies.

Anthony Davis (35 points and nine rebounds) and LeBron James (28 points, nine rebounds and eight assists) again led the way for the Lakers (21-6).

 

Mavs win fourth straight as Rozier shines for Hornets

The Dallas Mavericks won a fourth straight game with a 143-130 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans. Luka Doncic had a double-double of 46 points and 12 assists, while Kristaps Porzingis poured in 36 points. It marked the first time in NBA history a pair of foreign-born team-mates each had 35-plus points in a game, as per Stats Perform. Zion Williamson had 36 points for the Pelicans.

Terry Rozier's 41 points lifted the Charlotte Hornets past the Minnesota Timberwolves 120-114.

Kawhi Leonard posted 33 points as the Los Angeles Clippers improved to 19-8 with a 125-106 success over the Chicago Bulls.

Saddiq Bey had a double-double of 30 points and 12 rebounds in the Detroit Pistons' surprise 108-102 win against the Boston Celtics. He was the first Pistons rookie with 30-plus points and 10-plus rebounds since Grant Hill in 1995.

 

Misery for Wizards

The Washington Wizards dropped a second straight game, beaten by the New York Knicks 109-91. The Wizards shot at just 38.2 per cent from the field.

 

Porzingis in form

Porzingis went eight-of-13 from three-point range in the Mavericks' win, including hitting one from the logo.

Friday's results

Charlotte Hornets 120-114 Minnesota Timberwolves
New York Knicks 109-91 Washington Wizards
San Antonio Spurs 125-114 Atlanta Hawks
Dallas Mavericks 143-130 New Orleans Pelicans
Los Angeles Clippers 125-106 Chicago Bulls
Detroit Pistons 108-102 Boston Celtics
Denver Nuggets 97-95 Oklahoma City Thunder
Utah Jazz 129-115 Milwaukee Bucks
Los Angeles Lakers 115-105 Memphis Grizzlies
Portland Trail Blazers 129-110 Cleveland Cavaliers
Orlando Magic 123-112 Sacramento Kings

 

76ers at Suns

The Philadelphia 76ers (18-8) take on a Phoenix Suns (15-9) team riding a four-game winning streak on Saturday.

Zach LaVine and Coby White proved unstoppable from downtown as the Chicago Bulls delivered a record-breaking display, while Luka Doncic's superb triple-double powered the Dallas Mavericks.

The Bulls exploded to post an all-time franchise best total of 25 three-pointers as Chicago halted the New Orleans Pelicans' four-match winning streak, 129-116, at the United Center.

LaVine delivered 20 points in the first quarter before going on to drop 46 in total, draining nine of his 14 three-point shots, while White added 30 points including eight of 17 buckets from distance.

The duo became the first team-mates in NBA history to each hit eight three-pointers in the same game as the Bulls came back from eight points down at the half to blow away the Pelicans.

The scorching-hot LaVine also became the first Chicago player to post 120 points in a three-game stretch since Michael Jordan in 1997 as the Bulls improved to 10-14.

Doncic posted his 32nd career triple-double as the Mavericks edged a nail-biting 118-117 triumph over the Atlanta Hawks to extend their winning streak to three.

The Slovenian star dropped 28 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists as Dallas trailed by nine at the start of the fourth quarter but finished strongly to close out the win and take their record to 12-14.

Atlanta's John Collins was the game's top scorer with 33 points, while Trae Young notched 25 points and 15 assists, but the Hawks could not find the decisive play in a wild final 90 seconds.


Giannis produces fireworks but Suns claim comeback win

The Phoenix Suns kept their momentum rolling, claiming a fourth straight win by edging Milwaukee 125-124 after coming back from 16 points down, but Giannis Antetokounmpo exploded for the Bucks.

The two-time NBA MVP carried his team on his shoulders, scoring a season-high 47 points and claiming 11 rebounds and five assists. Antetokounmpo almost snatched a remarkable victory but his buzzer-beater bounced back off the rim.

Indiana off the pace against Brooklyn

Malcolm Brogdon had a day to forget as the Indiana Pacers were held under 100 points, falling to their fourth straight defeat, in a 104-94 reverse against the Brooklyn Nets.

The Indiana guard had a 29.4 per cent field-goal success rate, scoring five of his 17 attempts, as the 12-13 Pacers could not match Kyrie Irving and James Harden's high-power offense.

LeBron sets up Matthews for key bucket 

With less than a minute remaining in overtime and the Los Angeles Lakers level against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Wesley Matthews came up clutch.

LeBron James drove towards the paint in heavy traffic, before flipping the ball out right for Matthews to sink the key three-pointer.

The Lakers clinched a 114-113 overtime victory to improve to 20-6.

Wednesday's results

Toronto Raptors 137-115 Washington Wizards
Dallas Mavericks 118-117 Atlanta Hawks
Los Angeles Clippers 119-112 Minnesota Timberwolves
Memphis Grizzlies 130-114 Charlotte Hornets
Brooklyn Nets 104-94 Indiana Pacers
Chicago Bulls 129-116 New Orleans Pelicans
Denver Nuggets 133-95 Cleveland Cavaliers
Los Angeles Lakers 114-113 Oklahoma City Thunder 
Phoenix Suns 125-124 Milwaukee Bucks

 

76ers at Trail Blazers

Led by the in-form Joel Embiid, the 18-7 Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers go on the road to face another team with a winning record, the 13-10 Portland Trail Blazers, on Thursday.

LeBron James was the star of the show again as NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers outlasted the Oklahoma City Thunder 119-112 in overtime.

James posted a triple-double after just three quarters, eventually leading the streaking Lakers past the visiting Thunder in Los Angeles on Monday.

The Lakers superstar finished with 28 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists in the absence of team-mate Anthony Davis (Achilles).

Montrezl Harrell contributed 21 points off the bench as the Lakers won their fifth game in a row.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander forced overtime with free throws, but his double-double of 29 points and 10 assists was not enough for the Thunder – who were outscored 9-2 in OT.

Thunder team-mate Hamidou Diallo also recorded a double-double (20 points and 11 rebounds).

 

LaMelo dazzles

LaMelo Ball posted a game-high 24 points, 10 assists and a career-high seven three-pointers as the Charlotte Hornets topped the Houston Rockets 119-94. He joined Stephen Curry (2010) and Jason Kidd (1995) as the only rookies with seven-plus threes and 10-plus assists in a game.

Draymond Green put on a show for the Golden State Warriors, who lost 105-100 to the San Antonio Spurs. He became the sixth player in franchise history to reach 3,000 career assists. Green also had his third double-double of the season (10 rebounds and 10 assists). Curry scored 32 points for the beaten Warriors.

The Milwaukee Bucks extended their winning streak to five games thanks to two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. Antetokounmpo put up 30 points, nine rebounds and three blocks, while Middleton dropped 29 points, a career-high 12 assists and eight rebounds. The Bucks were 125-112 winners over the Denver Nuggets, who were led by Nikola Jokic's 35 points and 12 rebounds.

Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam each scored 32 points as the Toronto Raptors rallied past the Memphis Grizzlies 128-113. Norman Powell contributed 29 points for the Raptors, while Jonas Valanciunas' double-double of 27 points and a season-high 20 rebounds were not enough for the Grizzlies.

A season-high 36 points from Devin Booker fuelled the Phoenix Suns' 119-113 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, while the NBA's leading scorer Bradley Beal finished with 35 points to lead the Washington Wizards to a 105-101 win against the Chicago Bulls.

 

Murray struggles in Denver

While Jokic starred, Nuggets team-mate Jamal Murray was inefficient in a loss to the Bucks. In 37 minutes, he was just four-of-17 shooting from the field, while he only made one of seven three-pointers for 11 points.

P.J. Tucker was scoreless for the Rockets after going 0-of-three from the field in 23 minutes.

 

Harrell says no!

With the Lakers looking to close out another win, Harrell produced an emphatic block to deny the Thunder late in OT.

Monday's results

Charlotte Hornets 119-94 Houston Rockets
Washington Wizards 105-101 Chicago Bulls
Toronto Raptors 128-113 Memphis Grizzlies
Dallas Mavericks 127-122 Minnesota Timberwolves
San Antonio Spurs 105-100 Golden State Warriors
Phoenix Suns 119-113 Cleveland Cavaliers
Milwaukee Bucks 125-112 Denver Nuggets
Los Angeles Lakers 119-112 Oklahoma City Thunder (OT)

 

76ers at Kings

The Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers (17-7) travel to the Sacramento Kings (12-11) on Tuesday. The Kings have won four straight games.

Stephen Curry joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only Golden State Warriors players to post multiple 55-point games in a season, but his team lost to Luka Doncic's Dallas Mavericks 134-32 in the NBA.

Curry nailed a season-high 11 three-pointers en route to 57 points in a thrilling duel with Mavericks star Doncic on Saturday.  

Former MVP Curry put up his eighth 50-plus point game in his career, however, it was not enough.

Doncic tied his career high with 42 points in Dallas, where he also had 11 assists to snap the Mavericks' six-game home losing streak.

Meanwhile, Nikola Jokic joined Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson as the only Denver Nuggets players with 50-plus point games in the past 20 seasons.

Jokic finished with a career-high 50 points – including 23 points in the final quarter – but the Nuggets still went down 119-114 to the Sacramento Kings.

The MVP candidate also had 12 assists and eight rebounds as the Nuggets dropped their third straight game.

 

Embiid leads 76ers

Joel Embiid became the first Philadelphia 76ers player with eight consecutive 25-plus point games since Iverson in 2006. The three-time All-Star registered 33 points in a 124-108 win over the Brooklyn Nets, who were without Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. James Harden led the Nets with 26 points and 10 assists.

Two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo had 24 points and 11 rebounds for the Milwaukee Bucks, who eased past the Cleveland Cavaliers 124-99.

The Oklahoma City Thunder scored a team-record 83 points in the first half as they edged the Minnesota Timberwolves 120-118. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander posted 31 points to the Thunder.

The Chicago Bulls defeated the Orlando Magic 118-92 behind Zach LaVine's 39 points on the road.

LeBron James had 33 points and 11 assists and Anthony Davis added 30 points as NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers prevailed 135-129 against the Detroit Pistons in double overtime.

 

Oladipo struggles

Victor Oladipo ended the Houston Rockets' 111-106 loss to the San Antonio Spurs with nine points on four-of-14 shooting from the field. He also missed all three of his attempts from beyond the arc.

In 34 minutes of action, Rodney Hood was three-of-10 from the field and made just one of six three-point shots for seven points as the Portland Trail Blazers were beaten 110-99 by the New York Knicks.

 

Zion with the slam!

Zion Williamson had the final say against the Memphis Grizzlies. His game-sealing dunk saw the New Orleans Pelicans to a 118-109 win. Williamson had 29 points, while team-mate Brandon Ingram scored 27 points, collected 12 rebounds and tallied a career-high four blocks.

 

Saturday's results

New York Knicks 110-99 Portland Trail Blazers
Sacramento Kings 119-114 Denver Nuggets
Chicago Bulls 118-92 Orlando Magic
Philadelphia 76ers 124-108 Brooklyn Nets
Atlanta Hawks 132-121 Toronto Raptors
Milwaukee Bucks 124-99 Cleveland Cavaliers
San Antonio Spurs 111-106 Houston Rockets
Oklahoma City Thunder 120-118 Minnesota Timberwolves
Dallas Mavericks 134-132 Golden State Warriors
New Orleans Pelicans 118-109 Memphis Grizzlies
Los Angeles Lakers 135-129 Detroit Pistons (double OT)

 

Kings at Clippers

Before Super Bowl LV gets underway, the Los Angeles Clippers (17-7)-Kings (11-11) matchup headlines a slate of five early NBA games on Sunday.

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James branded the decision to hold an NBA All-Star game this season as "pretty much a slap in the face".

The league and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) have agreed to stage the event in Atlanta on March 7, according to The Athletic.

The traditional February exhibition, initially set to be held in Indianapolis, was cancelled before the season started due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

James had expected the game not to go ahead and was anticipating a much-needed break after the Lakers go to the Sacramento Kings on March 4.

Speaking after leading the Lakers to a 114-93 win over the Denver Nuggets on Thursday, James proclaimed he has "Zero energy and zero excitement about an All-Star game this year", adding: "I don't even know why we're having an All-Star game."

He said: "A short offseason for myself and my team-mates, and coming into the season, we were told we wouldn't have an All-Star game so we get a nice little break, five days from the fifth to the 10th, an opportunity for me to kind of recalibrate for the second half of the season.

"Then they throw an All-Star game on us like this. It's pretty much a slap in the face. We're still dealing with a pandemic, with everything that's been going on, and we're going to bring the whole league into one city that's open.

"You guys can see I'm not very happy about it but it's out of my hands. I'll be there physically [if I'm selected], but not mentally."

James was speaking after posting a second triple-double of the season  – 27 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists – against the Nuggets as the Lakers moved to 17-6.

The 36-year-old is enjoying a 23-game streak of recording at least 15 points, five rebounds and five assists to start the season. It is the longest such run in NBA history, surpassing his own record of 22 set back in 2011-12.

James scored the 12,682nd field goal of his storied career, overtaking the great Wilt Chamberlain for the third-most in NBA history, with only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (15,837) and Karl Malone (13,528) now above him.

"The association with a legend like Wilt Chamberlain, that does something for me," James said. "I'm someone who grew up reading about the game, studying the game. Wilt obviously was a big staple of that. It's very humbling."

LeBron James inspired reigning NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers to a 114-93 win over the Denver Nuggets on Thursday.

James posted his second triple-double of the season – 27 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists – to guide the Lakers past the visiting Nuggets in Los Angeles.

With the 12,682nd bucket of his illustrious career, Lakers superstar James surpassed Wilt Chamberlain for the third-most field goals made in NBA history.

James' 23-game streak of recording 15-plus points, five-plus rebounds and five-plus assists to start the season is the longest run in NBA history, surpassing his own record of 22 in a row in 2011-12.

The Lakers recorded their third consecutive win after overturning a 12-point deficit against Western Conference rivals the Nuggets.

According to Stats Perform, it is the largest margin of victory in franchise history after trailing by double digits at half-time. The previous high was a 20-point win at the Phoenix Suns on Christmas Day in 1968.

 

Night to remember for Oubre

Kelly Oubre Jr. scored a career-high 40 points as the Golden State Warriors overpowered the Dallas Mavericks 147-116. Stephen Curry had 28 points for the Warriors in Dallas.

Joel Embiid hurt his knee but had a game-high 37 points in the Philadelphia 76ers' shock 121-105 loss at home to the Portland Trail Blazers, who were without stars Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

 

Scoreless Rondo

Rajon Rondo did not score a point in the Atlanta Hawks' 112-91 defeat to the Utah Jazz. Rondo was 0 of seven from the field, while he missed all three of his attempts from beyond the arc in 28 minutes.

Embiid did not have much support in Philadelphia as the 76ers struggled without Ben Simmons. Tobias Harris finished with 12 points on just five-of-14 shooting from the field. The All-Star hopeful missed both of his three-point efforts.

The Houston Rockets beat the Memphis Grizzlies 115-103, however P.J. Tucker was one-of-eight from the field, and one-of-seven from three-point range for three points in 34 minutes.

 

The LeBron show

James was at his brilliant best against the Nuggets, showcasing his elite shooting and passing skills.

 

Thursday's results

Utah Jazz 112-91 Atlanta Hawks
Golden State Warriors 147-116 Dallas Mavericks
Portland Trail Blazers 121-105 Philadelphia 76ers
Houston Rockets 115-103 Memphis Grizzlies
Los Angeles Lakers 114-93 Denver Nuggets

 

Raptors at Nets

The star-studded Brooklyn Nets (14-9) will host the Toronto Raptors (9-12) on Friday. The Los Angeles Clippers (17-6) and Milwaukee Bucks (13-8) will also be in action.

The Los Angeles Lakers and the Denver Nuggets meet for the first time since last season's Western Conference Finals on Thursday.

A 4-1 series win for the Lakers paved the way for the franchise to win their first NBA championship since 2010 and they are the favourites to repeat the feat this season.

After a gruelling two-week road trip in which they went 5-2, they will be back in the familiar surroundings of Staples Center to start a five-game home stand.

The Lakers are 4-4 on their home court this season and the Nuggets have only dropped three of their 10 road games, while LeBron James and Nikola Jokic have started the campaign in form befitting MVP candidates.

The stage is set for an intriguing battle between two of the West's heavyweights.

 

TOP PERFORMERS

LeBron James – Los Angeles Lakers

An average of 25 points per game may not be on a par with previous prolific seasons, but James is enjoying a career year from beyond the arc.

He is shooting at 40.9 per cent from three-point range and is averaging over twice as many attempts per game (6.8 compared to 3.3) as when he set his previous high of 40.6 per cent in the 2012-13 season.

He has improved from downtown year on year with the Lakers but operates at 27.1 per cent from three against the Nuggets since his arrival in Los Angeles in 2018. He only made more than one three-pointer in one of their Western Conference Finals meetings last season.

Nikola Jokic – Denver Nuggets

Denver's Serbian center has made an incredible start to the 2020-21 season.

While tying his career high of 47 points and ending the Utah Jazz's 11-game winning streak, he registered his 20th straight double-double to start the season – Bill Walton is the only other player to have achieved that feat, though he went on to record 34 straight in the 1976-77 season.

The last team to deny him a double-double? That's right, it was the Lakers. Jokic only had one double-double in the Nuggets' 4-1 series loss to the Lakers in the bubble.

KEY BATTLE: CONTROL OF THE PAINT

Only Zion Williamson (173), Giannis Antetokounmpo (165) and Domantas Sabonis (157) have made more field goals in the paint than Jokic this season, with the centre averaging 14.8 points per game in the key.

However, for the Lakers, Anthony Davis and LeBron have each made 111 field goals in the paint, while Montrezl Harrell also places inside the top 20 with 107.

Through Davis and James alone the Lakers average 21.8 points per game in the paint and the former shoots at 69.8 per cent in that area – better than Jokic's 65.2 success rate and the fifth best in the NBA among players to have attempted at least 100 such shots.

HEAD TO HEAD

The Nuggets have only won four of their 12 meetings with the Lakers in the regular season and playoffs since LeBron arrived at Staples Center.

Davis has particularly enjoyed playing against Denver since becoming a Laker too, averaging 30.3 points and 7.6 assists across nine meetings with the Nuggets. The only side he has averaged more points against in the same time frame – with a minimum of two games played – is his former team the New Orleans Pelicans (31.3).

Denver will therefore likely need Jamal Murray to shine alongside Jokic. However, he had one of his worst games over the past two seasons against the Lakers December 2019, when he had just six points on 3-of-17 shooting. Only once has he scored fewer in at least 24 minutes on the floor – he had four points against the Brooklyn Nets a month prior.

NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Atlanta Hawks 107-99 behind a dominant final quarter from LeBron James.

James posted 21 points, nine assists and seven rebounds against the Hawks on the road, having only managed nine points through the first three quarters on Monday.

Lakers team-mate Anthony Davis scored 25 points of his own in Atlanta, where a small crowd were granted access to attend.

James was involved in a brief verbal confrontation with a female fan during the fourth quarter.

Trae Young (25 points and 16 assists) and Clint Capela (16 points and 13 rebounds) both had double-doubles for the beaten Hawks.

Meanwhile, the Houston Rockets tied an NBA record after defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder 136-106.

The Rockets knocked down 11 three-pointers in a 48-point opening quarter to match a league record away to the Thunder.

Eric Gordon (25 points) and DeMarcus Cousins (17 points) each finished with five three-pointers, John Wall (18 points) and Danuel House Jr. (13 points) nailed four from beyond the arc, while Victor Oladipo (15 points) made three of his own.

 

Monk cools Heat

Malik Monk starred off the bench, posting a career-high 36 points as the Charlotte Hornets outlasted the Miami Heat 129-121 in overtime.

De'Aaron Fox had 38 points, including 17 straight Sacramento points during the final seven minutes, to lead the Kings past the New Orleans Pelicans 118-109. It capped a night which saw seven Kentucky players score 20-plus points in the NBA – Fox, Monk, Davis, Keldon Johnson (25), Devin Booker (24), Bam Adebayo (23) and Julius Randle (23). According to Stats Perform, it is the most 20-point games by players from any single college on any single day in NBA history.

Nassir Little put up 30 points, however, the Portland Trail Blazers still suffered a 134-106 defeat at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks.

A double-double of 23 points and 18 rebounds from Jarrett Allen inspired the Cleveland Cavaliers' 100-98 success against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

 

Trent struggles in Milwaukee

Gary Trent Jr. had a tough night for the Trail Blazers. In 29 minutes, he was three of 13 from the field and made just two of eight three-point attempts for eight points.

Danilo Gallinari did not fare much better for the Hawks. Gallinari finished two-of-10 from the field, while draining only two of his five shots from beyond the arc for six points.

 

Booker calls game

The Phoenix Suns trailed by two points at the death, but Booker nailed a clutch three-pointer with 1.5 seconds remaining to stun the Dallas Mavericks 109-108. It was Booker's fifth career game-winning shot in the final three seconds of a contest.

 

Monday's results

Los Angeles Lakers 107-99 Atlanta Hawks
Charlotte Hornets 129-121 Miami Heat (OT)
Cleveland Cavaliers 100-98 Minnesota Timberwolves
Chicago Bulls 110-102 New York Knicks
Milwaukee Bucks 134-106 Portland Trail Blazers
Sacramento Kings 118-109 New Orleans Pelicans
Houston Rockets 136-106 Oklahoma City Thunder
Phoenix Suns 109-108 Dallas Mavericks
Memphis Grizzlies 133-102 San Antonio Spurs
Denver Nuggets-Detroit Pistons (postponed)

 

Clippers at Nets

In-form Western Conference leaders the Los Angeles Clippers (16-5) will put their three-game winning streak on the line against the star-studded Brooklyn Nets (13-9) on Tuesday.

Nikola Jokic helped the Denver Nuggets end the Utah Jazz's 11-game winning streak in the NBA with 47 points in a 128-117 victory.

The Jazz had been the league's in-form team, but Jokic's dominant double-double display snapped their streak on Sunday.

Jokic matched a career high after going 17 for 26 from the field while making all four of his three-point attempts, having scored 33 points in the opening quarter.

The MVP candidate also collected 12 rebounds as Bojan Bogdanovic led the visiting Jazz with 29 points in Denver.

Meanwhile, the lowly Washington Wizards completed an unlikely comeback against the Brooklyn Nets, who were stunned 149-146 in an insane finish.

The Wizards trailed by five points with just 10 seconds remaining but produced an incredible rally to upstage the James Harden-less Nets.

Bradley Beal nailed a deep shot from beyond the arc after Brooklyn's Kyrie Irving made a pair of free throws, before the Wizards stole the ball as the Nets tried to inbound – Russell Westbrook nailing a three-pointer to put Washington ahead.

Beal then sank two free throws to give the Wizards – who went on an 8-0 run in the final 8.1 seconds – their first win since January 11, snapping a four-game losing streak.

Twice in the past two days has a team won in regulation after trailing by five-plus points inside the final 10 seconds – the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday. It only happened twice in the previous 2,871 days – the Chicago Bulls in 2019 and Boston Celtics in 2016, per Stats Perform.

Westbrook finished with 41 points and 10 rebounds, while Wizards team-mate Beal put up 37 points at home to the Nets.

The Nets, without former MVP Harden due to a thigh contusion, were led by Kevin Durant (37 points), Joe Harris (30 points) and Irving (26 points) as they had their four-game winning run snapped.

 

Raptors roar thanks to Siakam

Pascal Siakam's 30 points and 10 rebounds led the Toronto Raptors past the Orlando Magic 115-102, ending a three-game losing streak. Kyle Lowry (12 points and 14 assists) also posted a double-double.

No Joel Embiid, no worries for the Philadelphia 76ers, who rallied to top the Indiana Pacers 119-110. Embiid sat out due to back tightness but Tobias Harris (27 points) and Ben Simmons (21 points) stepped up after the 76ers used a 37-15 final quarter to beat the Pacers. Simmons was nine-of-12 from the field in 35 minutes.

Andre Drummond joined LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Tyson Chandler and LaMarcus Aldridge as the only active players with 9,000 career points and 8,000 career rebounds. He finished with 25 points and 22 rebounds in the Cleveland Cavaliers' 109-104 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

 

Mitchell struggles on return

Jazz star Donovan Mitchell missed two games while in concussion protocol. Back in the line-up against the Nuggets, he had 13 points in 31 minutes. Mitchell was just three-of-12 from the field, while he nailed only three of his eight three-point attempts.

It was a tough outing for Orlando's Evan Fournier, who was two for 12 from the field and just one-of-six from beyond the arc in an 11-point display.

 

Durant with authority!

The Nets lost but former MVP Durant still provided plenty of highlights, including a monstrous dunk against the Wizards.

 

Sunday's results

Philadelphia 76ers 119-110 Indiana Pacers
Toronto Raptors 115-102 Orlando Magic
Washington Wizards 149-146 Brooklyn Nets
Minnesota Timberwolves 109-104 Cleveland Cavaliers
Los Angeles Clippers 129-115 New York Knicks
Denver Nuggets 128-117 Utah Jazz

 

Lakers at Hawks

Defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers (15-6) are on the road against the Atlanta Hawks (10-9) on Monday.

The Brooklyn Nets shared the load in a high-scoring 147-125 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA.

Playing without star Kevin Durant (Achilles), the Nets extended their winning streak to four games on Friday after nine players had double-digit points.

According to Stats Perform, it was just the second time in team history the Nets had nine such players (against the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1984) as James Harden led the way with a triple-double of 25 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.

Harden became the second Net in the last 25 years with three triple-doubles in a season, while Irving put up 25 points, seven assists and five rebounds on the road.

It was also the second time this season the Nets have scored 145-plus points in a non-overtime game. No other NBA team have achieved it even once this season, and Brooklyn had just one such game in team history entering this season – 147 in 1982.

Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles surpassed John Stockton for the most three-pointers made (846) in franchise history in a 120-101 win over the Dallas Mavericks.

Ingles was two-of-four from three-point range for 10 points as the Jazz made it 11 consecutive victories to own the NBA's best record at 15-4.

Utah have made 319 three-pointers through 19 games this season – the most ever by any team after 19 fixtures.

Bojan Bogdanovic led the Jazz with a game-high 22 points, while Rudy Gobert added 17 points and 12 rebounds.

 

Young puts on a show as Embiid stars

Trae Young dazzled with 41 points as the Atlanta Hawks took down the struggling Washington Wizards 116-100.

The Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers accounted for the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves 118-94 behind Joel Embiid's 37 points and 11 rebounds from just 27 minutes of action.

Two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 38 points and 11 rebounds but the Milwaukee Bucks were beaten 131-126 by the New Orleans Pelicans. Lonzo Ball recorded a season-high 27 points.

Nikola Jokic has registered 19 consecutive double-doubles to start the season. Since 1976, Jokic and Antetokounmpo (19 in a row in 2019-20) are tied with the second-most double-doubles to open a campaign, trailing only Bill Walton (34 straight). Jokic had 35 points and 10 rebounds in the Denver Nuggets' 119-109 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.

Kawhi Leonard (24) and Paul George (26) combined for 50 points in their return for the Los Angeles Clippers, who defeated the Orlando Magic 116-90.

 

Nance struggles as Cavs crumble

It was not a good day for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were swept aside 102-81 by the New York Knicks. Larry Nance Jr. finished with just two points in 29 minutes after going one-of-nine from the field, while missing all five of his three-point attempts. Taurean Prince – part of the deal that helped the Nets acquire former MVP Harden from the Houston Rockets – was one-of-seven from the field for three points.

 

DeRozan with the Euro step

DeMar DeRozan posted 30 points and 10 assists on 11-of-14 shooting from the field. The Spurs star also Euro-stepped to the rim for a fine basket against the Nuggets.

 

Friday's results

Charlotte Hornets 108-105 Indiana Pacers
Atlanta Hawks 116-100 Washington Wizards
New York Knicks 102-81 Cleveland Cavaliers
Sacramento Kings 126-124 Toronto Raptors
New Orleans Pelicans 131-126 Milwaukee Bucks
Los Angeles Clippers 116-90 Orlando Magic
Philadelphia 76ers 118-94 Minnesota Timberwolves
Brooklyn Nets 147-125 Oklahoma City Thunder
San Antonio Spurs 119-109 Denver Nuggets
Utah Jazz 120-101 Dallas Mavericks

 

Lakers at Celtics

Following back-to-back defeats on the road, defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers (14-6) will look to return to winning ways when they visit the Boston Celtics (10-7) on Saturday.

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