Stephen Curry and his Golden State Warriors team-mates have been playing with extra spice over the past week.

Questionable puns aside, the sight of a fit and firing Curry is certainly no laughing matter for defences across the NBA.

A golden era for the Warriors saw Steve Kerr's team reach the NBA Finals in five seasons running from 2015 to 2019, with Curry and the rest of a star-studded roster winning the title three times.

But a 2019-2020 season disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic was one of injury woe and transition for a Warriors side that finished bottom of the Western Conference (15-50), while they were a world away from playing in the NBA bubble in Orlando where the end of the regular season and the entire postseason was played.

The departures of Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala hit the Warriors after Klay Thompson had sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament, and Curry managed just five games in an injury-hit campaign.

However, after losing their opening two games this season, the Warriors have won four of the past five and welcome the Los Angeles Clippers to Chase Center on Wednesday with a 4-3 record – with Curry starring in wins against the Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings.

Five of the Warriors' next seven games come against teams with a .500 record or better, including a double-header versus the Clippers, and there is much intrigue as to whether Kerr's men can be a sustained threat this season.

TOP PERFORMERS

Golden State Warriors - Stephen Curry

Curry and the Warriors were certainly not firing on all cylinders in defeats to the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks to start the season – although his 20 and 19 points respectively were a team high.

Only one defeat has followed since then, though, and 32-year-old Curry has provided a timely reminder of his enduring quality including a barnstorming showing in defeating the Portland Trail Blazers 137-122 on Monday.

Curry sank a career-high 62 points in that game, as well as offering five rebounds and four assists, before following up with 30 against the Kings (nine rebounds, eight assists).

Consequently, the outlook for the Warriors and Curry himself looks a lot healthier. In the early throes of this season, he has averaged 32.0 points - second-most in the league - while his player efficiency rating (PER) ranks third.

His 32.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game for 2020-21 are outperforming his career averages for the regular season (23.6 and 4.5), while his 6.4 for assists is only slightly lower (6.6).

A 36.9 per cent success rate from three-point range is way down on the 43.4 overall in his career, yet he was at 50.0 and 41.7 per cent in this metric over the Warriors' past two wins.

Golden State may need to find more assistance for Curry, though. The return to action of Draymond Green has allowed his superstar team-mate more space on the floor, but Andrew Wiggins (17.6) and rookie James Wiseman (11.4) are the side's next-highest average scorers. Without Thompson, the Warriors need a little more from their supporting cast.

TOP PERFORMERS

Los Angeles Clippers - Kawhi Leonard

Much was expected of a Clippers side that combined star-studded duo Kawhi Leonard and Paul George for the 2019-20 season.

But the Clippers surrendered a 3-1 lead to lose their Western Conference semifinal series to the Denver Nuggets last season and it has been a mixed bag thus far.

Defeat to the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday left the Clippers at 5-3, and the Warriors might have to beware the wounded animal if they are to make a statement of their intent.

George missed that game due to ankle soreness, with Leonard putting up 30 points and 10 assists in the losing effort.

George leads the way for average points (25.1) for the Clippers this season, but Leonard (23.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists) is typically impressing across the board.

The efforts of Leonard are going to be particularly crucial if George, whose injury status is day-to-day, fails to make it against the Warriors.

KEY BATTLE: CAN BEVERLEY CONTAIN CURRY?

The best offensive point guard in Curry comes up against one of the league's best defensive point guards in Patrick Beverley. 

Beverley was on it against Spurs, contributing 20 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, along with two blocks, and it will be his job to be a nuisance against Curry.

If Beverley, a man with a penchant for trash talking, can keep Curry quiet then it is hard to imagine the Warriors will have the scoring power to take down the Clippers.

That being said, if Curry gains the upper hand in this battle of the guards then the Warriors can make a huge statement about their credentials this season.

HEAD TO HEAD

It was a clean sweep for the Clippers in the three games they played against the Warriors in 2019-20.

The most recent of those matchups was way back on March 10, though – a game in which Leonard put up 23 points in a 131-107 rout of the Warriors.

History is with the Warriors overall, with Golden State triumphing in 131 games to the Clippers' 90 from the 221 occasions on which the teams have faced off in the NBA's regular season.

Stephen Curry has no doubt the Golden State Warriors continue to get the absolute best from their opponents each time the team take to the court and he would have it no other way.

The superstar shooter followed up a career-high return of 62 points in the beating of the Portland Trail Blazers with another 30 in the Warriors' 137-106 triumph over the Sacramento Kings on Monday.

Curry also finished with nine rebounds and eight assists, while the 32-year-old had chalked up 23 points by half-time on the back of seven-for-11 shooting, including four-for-seven on three-pointers.

The Warriors are now 4-3 for the season and are showing positive signs despite losing Klay Thompson for the season, while the transition to life without the likes of Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala continues.

It remains to be seen if the Warriors can produce the kind of form that led them to five straight NBA Finals between 2015 and 2019 but Curry feels their opponents still treat them as a huge threat each night.

"100 percent [we get the best]," Curry said following the victory over the Kings. 

"And that's how it's supposed to be. There are teams that were in the bubble, in the playoffs last year in both conferences that we're going to be doing that to them. 

"So, it's always the game within the game and that competition's exciting knowing that there's a little bit more meaning based on what we did the last five years and other teams' experience playing against us. That's part of the journey. We love it."

After a tough opening week, Curry is back into a groove helped in part by the return of team-mate Draymond Green, who was absent for pre-season and the opening four games of the campaign due to a mix of a foot problem and adhering to COVID-19 protocols.

The Warriors finished with an NBA season-high of 41 assists against the Kings and Curry acknowledged the return of Green has been vital.

"Draymond obviously has helped a lot in terms of getting us organized," he added. 

"And especially when I get off the ball and starting again. And so [Sunday], started seeing pictures of it a little bit clearer and understand spacing and, obviously, guys have got to make shots, and everybody pitched in. 

"It was a really good effort across the board, guys staying ready off the bench, and defensively, we gave ourselves energy and life from the beginning. On a back-to-back, you need that presence to get everything flowing, and then it translated to good offense."

Seven players hit double figures as the Philadelphia 76ers surged to 6-1 while Malcolm Brogdon landed an overtime winner as the Indiana Pacers take up chase in the East.

Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia remain ahead of the pack after a second-quarter flurry helped to sink the Charlotte Hornets, 118-101, with Tobias Harris leading the scoring on 22 points.

Joel Embiid (14 points and 11 rebounds) and Ben Simmons (12 points and 10 rebounds) played key supporting roles with double-doubles as the 76ers continue to fly high.

Indiana improved to 5-2 in a 118-116 thriller against the New Orleans Pelicans after Brogdon capped his double-double with the clutch OT winner, while Victor Oladipo top scored for the Pacers with 25 points.

In-form Pelicans duo Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson combined for 55 points in the loss, as Ingram scored 31 and Williamson recorded a double-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds.

Orlando also stayed in the hunt for top spot as Aaron Gordon (24 points, 11 rebounds) and Nikola Vucevic (23 points) inspired the Magic to move to 5-3 with a 103-83 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Malcolm Brogdon hits the game-winning floater in OT as the @Pacers pick up their 5th W of the season!

Brogdon: 21 PTS, 7 REB, 11 AST
Victor Oladipo: 25 PTS, 6 AST
Brandon Ingram: 31 PTS, 8 AST
Zion Williamson: 24 PTS, 10 REB pic.twitter.com/XfWbcMXemJ

— NBA (@NBA) January 5, 2021


Doncic, Giannis go off as Mavs and Bucks win

Luka Doncic dominated with 33 points and a triple-double as the Dallas Mavericks ended the Houston Rockets’ winning streak with a 113-100 win.

Doncic added 16 rebounds and 11 assists, while Tim Hardaway Jr shot for 30 points to boost the Mavs. Houston's Christian Wood, Eric Gordon and a returning James Harden all put up more than 20 points.

The NBA is back! A shortened schedule, a new play-in tournament and increased roster sizes have created plenty of interest in a new season.

A December start seems to have caught a few of the potential title hopefuls a little cold, though it is still early days. The key is not about starting fast, but finishing strong.

Still, some have hit the ground running. Each week, Stats Perform will take a look at the players who are impressing, as well as those seemingly stuck in a bit of a slump.

For this opening edition, however, all statistical comparisons are made to performances on average across the entire 2019-20 season.
 

RUNNING HOT... 

Stephen Curry (32.3ppg versus 20.8ppg) 

Scoring 62 points in a game sure helps to boost the average. Curry actually started out a little slowly – hardly a surprise considering injury meant he played just five games in the previous campaign – as he made only 13 of his combined 48 field goal attempts in defeats to the Nets and Bucks. However, Curry was certainly cooking against the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday, hitting eight three-pointers as he posted a new career-high points total. So far in this season, he is making 4.3 three-pointers per outing. 

Christian Wood (23.8ppg versus 13.1ppg) 

These are uncertain times in Houston, where James Harden seemingly no longer wants to be. While his future remains the headline story for the franchise, Christian Wood has quickly shown why he was such an astute signing. Having gone undrafted out of college, the 25-year-old flashed potential with the Detroit Pistons in 2019-20, tempting the Rockets to sign him to a three-year, $41million deal. Their reward? Wood has averaged 23.8 points while playing 36.5 minutes for a team that boasts a 2-2 record through four games. 

Kyle Anderson (16.7ppg versus 5.8ppg) 

Opportunity knocks for Anderson in Memphis due to the absence of Jaren Jackson Jr with a knee issue. The forward's minutes on court have risen as a result – and so, too, has his production. Having never averaged in double digits for points for his previous six seasons in the NBA, Anderson is now up at 16.7 per game for the Grizzlies. Ja Morant was, less surprisingly, on the rise in terms of his scoring output as well, up at 26.3 points per game before suffering an ankle injury. 

Luguentz Dort (14.6ppg versus 6.8ppg) 

Someone has to score points for Oklahoma, right? GM Sam Presti is clearly in it for the long haul in terms of a rebuild, considering the number of moves made in the offseason and draft picks now owned by the team. Still, Dort remains on the roster and has stepped up to accept greater responsibility. The Canadian has raised his successful three-point attempts from an average of 0.8 to 2.4 a game, shooting an impressive 44.4 per cent from deep. Team-mate Isaiah Roby is another to catch the eye for the Thunder, averaging 13 points and 6.5 total rebounds.


GOING COLD...

Devonte' Graham (9.0ppg versus 18.2ppg)

The moment Charlotte selected fellow point guard LaMelo Ball with the third pick in the draft, Graham was under pressure. He retained his starting job in the Hornets' backcourt but the pressure is mounting now, considering the form of both players. While Ball seems to be a quick learner after some preseason concerns, his teammate has struggled. Graham is at just nine points per game - half his average from the previous season. His three-point shooting has dipped to 2.0 made per outing from 3.5. He forced himself off the bench and into the rotation for the Hornets last year, yet could soon find himself moving in the opposite direction.

Jimmy Butler (8.3ppg versus 19.9ppg)

There are reasons behind the five-time NBA All-Star's sluggish start. Butler has featured in just three games so far - and one of those he only played in the first half, with an ankle issue keeping him off the court for the remainder of the clash with the Pelicans. He averaged 19.9 per game for a Heat team that made it all the way to the Finals last term. The early going has seen an 11.6-point decrease in his scoring output, though expect that to rise as the weeks progress.

Kelly Oubre Jr. (9.7ppg versus 18.7ppg)

Oubre was on the merry-go-round headlined by Chris Paul going from Oklahoma to Phoenix. His form last season with the Suns was not enough for the Thunder to keep him around, though, as they dealt him to Golden State. It has not been plain sailing with the Warriors; while not required to contribute quite so much on offense for his new team, the concern is his three-point shooting. Having made 1.9 on average per game last season, Oubre's been successful with two of his 30 attempts so far. The early report card for him reads as such: Must do better.

Stephen Curry called on a Michael Jordan meme to explain his attitude towards the criticism he received prior to scoring a career-high 62 points as the Golden State Warriors beat the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday.

Two-time NBA MVP Curry averaged 26.4 points and 6.6 assists through the first five games of the season, but with the Warriors 2-3 and his shooting percentages down, his ability to lead the team back to the playoffs without a supporting cast of fellow superstars was brought into question.

Of the Golden State team that reached the 2019 NBA Finals, Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins have left, Klay Thompson is expected to miss the entire season with a knee injury and Draymond Green only made his first appearances of 2020-21 in the double-header against the Trail Blazers.

Curry issued an emphatic response, scoring 62 points on 18-of-31 shooting (58.1 per cent) in a 137-122 victory for Golden State, making eight three-pointers in a single game for the 49th time in his career.

The 31-year-old posted career-highs in free throws made (18) and attempted (19) as he became the first Warrior since Thompson in 2016 to drop at least 60 points in a single game.

Speaking after the game, he referenced the mindset Jordan described possessing during the 1997-98 season with the Chicago Bulls on 'The Last Dance'.  

Curry said: "Cue the Jordan meme, right? 'I take all that personally.' I sensed the opportunity to kind of assert my will on the game early and try to create some energy and get off on the right foot.

"As crazy as it sounds after the game, all we really wanted to do was win the first quarter and take it from there. Obviously, that's what we did, and we continued the momentum.

"We have a winning spirit, we've just got to figure out how to do it consistently, and against the good teams in the league, it's gonna test us."

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was surprised to hear that Curry had been coming under fire early in the season, claiming it is tougher for him to dominate games than the likes of LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis.

"I'm honestly not playing dumb. Does he really take criticism? I hope they're saying something good about him tonight," said Kerr.

"If you think about most of the guys who are considered the best in the league, they're physical freaks of nature: LeBron, Giannis, Anthony Davis. Steph is 6-3, 180 pounds, so he has to carry a game with skill, he can't carry a game with physicality and athleticism.

"That would be the only thing I could think of that would make people criticise him. It's much harder to carry a team single-handedly by making 35-footers all day – the same thing with Damian [Lillard] and CJ [McCollum], those guys are incredible shot-makers.

"But if you're not 6-8 and 250, you can't really dominate a game in other ways. That's probably my best guess as to the criticism."

Green added: "I think that was right up there with the best of them, just because of all the talk that's been going around.

"Steph has the tendency at times to f*** around with the basketball. There was no f****** around. He came out and everything was a shot or attack."

Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry just wanted to "stay in the moment" as he approached his career-high of 62 points against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Curry exploded for 62 points to lead the Warriors past the Trail Blazers 137-122 in the NBA on Sunday.

The two-time NBA MVP was 18-of-31 from the field and eight-of-16 from three-point range to set a personal best.

"You try to just continue to stay humble and stay in the moment. That's the best way to approach it," Curry told NBC Sports after the game.

"It doesn't help when your team-mates are yelling at you every dead ball how many points you've got, but other than that it's just don't do anything differently, just keep being aggressive, being decisive and good things happen."

Curry was also 18-of-19 from the free-throw line as he became the first Warriors player to score 62-plus points since Rick Barry in March 1974.

Damian Lillard (32) and CJ McCollum (28) combined for 60 points for the Trail Blazers.

Curry said he enjoyed coming up against the likes of Lillard, who is a five-time NBA All-Star.

"It's always the best guys in the league, especially the point guard position, bring the best out of you," he said.

"If you're around this league long enough you kind of get to see every kind of scenario and situation and we have a lot to fight for and a huge challenge in front of us.

"They're the established team now so for a guy like him, it always brings the best out of you and I love the competition and that's kind of what it is."

The Warriors are 3-3 to begin the NBA season and Golden State face the Sacramento Kings on Monday.

Stephen Curry exploded to lift the Golden State Warriors to victory in the NBA on Sunday, while the Los Angeles Lakers won again.

Curry produced a career-high 62 points as the Warriors beat the Portland Trail Blazers 137-122.

The two-time NBA MVP was in spectacular form, shooting 18-of-31 from the field and eight-of-16 from three-point range.

Damian Lillard (32) and CJ McCollum (28) combined for 60 points for the Trail Blazers.

The Lakers made it three straight wins by beating the Memphis Grizzlies 108-94.

LeBron James' 22 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists led the Lakers, who had six players in double-digits for points.

 

Durant dominance not enough for Nets, George shines

Kevin Durant had 28 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, but the Brooklyn Nets fell to the Washington Wizards 123-122.

Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 27 points and 10 rebounds.

Paul George posted 39 points to guide the Los Angeles Clippers past the Phoenix Suns 112-107.

Jayson Tatum's double-double of 24 points and 12 assists helped the Boston Celtics edge the Detroit Pistons 122-120.

Bad Brooks

Dillon Brooks had a difficult outing for the Grizzlies. The guard went three-of-15 from the field for just nine points in 29 minutes.

 

Amazing Curry

Curry hit a brilliant eighth three-pointer to reach 62 points in the Warriors' win.

Sunday's results

Boston Celtics 122-120 Detroit Pistons
Los Angeles Lakers 108-94 Memphis Grizzlies
Washington Wizards 123-122 Brooklyn Nets
Denver Nuggets 124-109 Minnesota Timberwolves
Utah Jazz 130-109 San Antonio Spurs
Chicago Bulls 118-108 Dallas Mavericks
Los Angeles Clippers 112-107 Phoenix Suns
Golden State Warriors 137-122 Portland Trail Blazers

 

Pistons at Bucks

The Milwaukee Bucks (3-3) take on the Detroit Pistons (1-5) on Monday. Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging 23.5 points, 11.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game this season.

The Los Angeles Lakers made it back-to-back wins in the NBA, while the Milwaukee Bucks thrashed the Chicago Bulls on Friday.

LeBron James posted a triple-double of 26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists as the Lakers beat the San Antonio Spurs 109-103.

Anthony Davis had a game-high 34 points, to go with 11 rebounds, as the Lakers enjoyed a second win in three days over San Antonio.

Keldon Johnson (26) and DeMar DeRozan (23) combined for 49 points for Spurs.

Giannis Antetokounmpo (29 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists) helped the Bucks crush the Bulls 126-96.

Milwaukee had seven players in double-digits and the Bucks hit 22 three-pointers.

No team has hit more threes through the first six games of a season than the Bucks' 108 to begin 2020-21.

 

Doncic lifts Mavericks, Leonard's Clippers lose

Luka Doncic finished with 27 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists in the Dallas Mavericks' 93-83 win over the Miami Heat.

Kawhi Leonard fell just short of a triple-double as he posted 20 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists, but the Los Angeles Clippers went down to the Utah Jazz 106-100.

The Portland Trail Blazers eased past the Golden State Warriors 123-98 thanks largely to 34 points from Damian Lillard. Lillard joined Clyde Drexler as the only players to score 15,000 points with the Trail Blazers.

Deandre Ayton's double-double of 22 points and 11 rebounds helped the Phoenix Suns improve to 5-1 with a 106-103 victory against the Denver Nuggets.

 

Nets slip to 3-3

Kyrie Irving struggled from the field, shooting six-of-21 for 18 points, as the Brooklyn Nets were beaten by the Atlanta Hawks 114-96. Kevin Durant finished with 28 points.

 

Grant delivers huge dunk

Jerami Grant produced a huge dunk as part of his 24 points in the Detroit Pistons' first win of the season – a 96-93 victory over the Boston Celtics.

Friday's results

Memphis Grizzlies 108-93 Charlotte Hornets
Detroit Pistons 96-93 Boston Celtics
Dallas Mavericks 93-83 Miami Heat
Atlanta Hawks 114-96 Brooklyn Nets
Milwaukee Bucks 126-96 Chicago Bulls
Washington Wizards 130-109 Minnesota Timberwolves
Los Angeles Lakers 109-103 San Antonio Spurs
Phoenix Suns 106-103 Denver Nuggets
Utah Jazz 106-100 Los Angeles Clippers
Portland Trail Blazers 123-98 Golden State Warriors

 

Kings at Rockets

The Sacramento Kings (3-2) take on James Harden and the Houston Rockets (1-2) on Saturday.

The Milwaukee Bucks produced a record-breaking performance to gain some revenge against the Miami Heat, humbling last season's NBA Finals runners-up 144-97.

Milwaukee set the NBA record for three-pointers made in a game with 29 as they crushed the Jimmy Butler-less Heat in Miami on Tuesday.

The Bucks and Miami met for the first time since last season's playoffs, which saw the Heat surprisingly eliminate Milwaukee in five games in the Eastern Conference semi-finals at Walt Disney World Resort.

But the Heat were no match for the Bucks, who were 29 of 51 from beyond the arc to surpass the record set by the Houston Rockets (27) in 2019.

Khris Middleton posted 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting from the field, while he was four of five from three-point range in Milwaukee's largest road win in franchise history.

Bucks star and two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo had a quiet outing, finishing with nine points, six rebounds and six assists away to the Heat.

Milwaukee tied the record for the second-largest road win (47) in league history against a team that made the NBA Finals the previous season, behind the 1986 Seattle SuperSonics (56), per Stats Perform

According to Stats Perform, the Bucks (2-2) also became the first team in NBA history to have two 35-plus point victories from their first four games of a season, having previously crushed the Golden State Warriors 138-99.

Meanwhile, the Orlando Magic also made history after improving to 4-0 with a 118-107 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Orlando – two-time NBA Finals participants – reached 4-0 to start a season for the first time in their history thanks to some help from Nikola Vucevic, who had a game-high 28 points and 10 rebounds.

 

Embiid matches Barkley

Joel Embiid was the hero again for the Philadelphia 76ers in their hard-fought 100-93 win against the Toronto Raptors.

Embiid became the first 76ers player to score at least 25 points and 10 rebounds in each of his first three games in a season since Charles Barkley in 1986-87.

Returning from a stiff back that ruled him out of the loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Embiid had 29 points and 16 rebounds. Tobias Harris contributed 26 points and 11 rebounds.

Stephen Curry put up 31 points and Andrew Wiggins posted 27 of his own to fuel the Golden State Warriors' 116-106 triumph at the winless Detroit Pistons.

The Boston Celtics topped the Indiana Pacers 116-111 courtesy of a Jayson Tatum double-double of 27 points and 11 rebounds on the road.

Julius Randle's 28-points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists guided the New York Knicks past the previously undefeated Cavaliers 95-86.

Russell Westbrook (21 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists) posted a triple-double but the winless Washington Wizards still crashed to a fourth straight defeat, beaten 115-107 by the Chicago Bulls.

Nikola Jokic (26 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds) had a triple-double and Michael Porter Jr. (30 points and 10 rebounds) recorded a double-double but the Denver Nuggets went down 125-115 on the road to the Sacramento Kings.

 

Forget the threes

While the Bucks were red-hot against the Heat, the same could not be said about the New Orleans Pelicans – who were three-of-24 from beyond the arc in a 111-86 defeat against the Phoenix Suns.

Mason Plumlee missed all five of his attempts from the field, while he was unsuccessful with his only shot from three-point range for two points as Detroit fell to 0-4.

 

Wiseman with the Euro step

James Wiseman is already making a name for himself in the NBA. The second pick in this year's draft, the Warriors rookie went coast-to-coast before finishing with the Euro step and dunk after making a block.

 

Tuesday's results

New York Knicks 95-86 Cleveland Cavaliers
Philadelphia 76ers 100-93 Toronto Raptors
Golden State Warriors 116-106 Detroit Pistons
Boston Celtics 116-111 Indiana Pacers
Milwaukee Bucks 144-97 Miami Heat
Chicago Bulls 115-107 Washington Wizards
Orlando Magic 118-107 Oklahoma City Thunder
Phoenix Suns 111-86 New Orleans Pelicans
Sacramento Kings 125-115 Denver Nuggets
Los Angeles Clippers 124-101 Minnesota Timberwolves

 

Lakers at Spurs

LeBron James and defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers (2-2) will look to bounce back against the San Antonio Spurs (2-1) on Wednesday.

Reigning champions the Los Angeles Lakers made light work of the Minnesota Timberwolves on an eventful day in the NBA.

The Lakers – without Anthony Davis due to a calf contusion – eased past the Karl-Anthony Towns-less Timberwolves 127-91 on Sunday.

Timberwolves star Towns sat out with a dislocated left wrist and the Lakers took full advantage at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Kyle Kuzma posted a game-high 20 points, James had 18 points, nine rebounds and five assists, while Marc Gasol (12), Montrezl Harrell (12), Talen Horton-Tucker (12) and Dennis Schroder (11) also had double-digit points.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks were sensationally routed 130-110 by the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

Julius Randle inspired the Knicks with 29 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists as Elfrid Payton added 27 points to give head coach Tom Thibodeau his first victory.

Two-time reigning MVP Antetokounmpo had 27 points and 13 rebounds for the Bucks, who fell to 1-2 this season.

 

Mavs make history

The Mavericks showed no mercy in their record-breaking 124-73 humbling of the Kawhi Leonard-less Los Angeles Clippers. Dallas earned a 77-27 half-time lead – the Mavericks' 50-point advantage the largest through two quarters since the shot-clock era began in 1954-55. It is the first time in NBA regular-season history that a team won a road game by 50-plus points against a franchise that had a .650 or better winning percentage the season before, per Stats Perform.

The Mavericks beat the Clippers by 51 points and the Lakers topped the Timberwolves by 36. According to Stats Perform, it is the first time in NBA history there were two games decided by 35-plus points in the same arena on the same day.

Gordon Hayward scored 28 points to help the Charlotte Hornets upstage the Brooklyn Nets 106-104. Kevin Durant had 29 points for the visiting Nets, who lost for the first time, while team-mate Kyrie Irving finished with 25.

The New Orleans Pelicans trumped the San Antonio Spurs 98-95 thanks to double-doubles from Brandon Ingram (28 points and 11 rebounds) and Zion Williamson (18 points and 11 rebounds).

Stephen Curry put up 36 points as the Golden State Warriors claimed their first win of the season thanks to a nail-biting 129-128 success against the Chicago Bulls. Zach Lavine's 33 points were not enough for the Bulls. Curry also became only the third player in NBA history to reach 2,500 career made three-pointers.

 

Bucks struggle from beyond the arc

On a miserable day for the Bucks, the Eastern Conference contenders were just 18.4 per cent from three-point range. Star recruit Jrue Holiday was only four-of-10 from the field, while he missed all four of his three-point attempts in an eight-point performance.

The Philadelphia 76ers were back to their old ways, committing 21 turnovers in a 118-94 blowout against the Cleveland Cavaliers – the team's first loss of the season.

 

Lee calls game!

Damion Lee was the hero for the Warriors after nailing a game-winning three with 1.7 seconds remaining.

 

Sunday's results

Dallas Mavericks 124-73 Los Angeles Clippers
Cleveland Cavaliers 118-94 Philadelphia 76ers
Los Angeles Lakers 127-91 Minnesota Timberwolves
New York Knicks 130-110 Milwaukee Bucks
Indiana Pacers 108-107 Boston Celtics
Golden State Warriors 129-128 Chicago Bulls
Phoenix Suns 116-100 Sacramento Kings
Charlotte Hornets 106-104 Brooklyn Nets
Orlando Magic 120-113 Washington Wizards
New Orleans Pelicans 98-95 San Antonio Spurs

 

Rockets at Nuggets

James Harden and the Houston Rockets (0-1) will look to bounce back from their overtime loss to the Portland Trail Blazers when they visit the winless Denver Nuggets (0-2) on Monday.

Stephen Curry became only the third player in NBA history to reach 2,500 career made three-pointers.

Curry joined Ray Allen and Reggie Miller in the exclusive club during the Golden State Warriors' clash with the Chicago Bulls on Sunday.

Warriors star and two-time MVP Curry needed just 702 games to reach the milestone, faster than Allen (1,021) and Miller (1,288).

Allen tops the all-time list with 2,973 threes, ahead of Miller (2,560) and the 32-year-old Curry.

Giannis Antetokounmpo believes the Milwaukee Bucks will be one of the NBA's most exciting teams to watch after they crushed the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day.

Milwaukee triumphed 138-99, with the 39-point margin of victory being the second largest ever at Christmas, where the league traditionally schedules a host of marquee games.

The emphatic win came despite Antetokounmpo scoring only four field goals in a 15-point display.

Khris Middleton scored a game-high 31 points including six three-pointers, but beyond the big two it is a different Bucks roster this season with Jrue Holiday, D.J. Augustin and Bobby Portis among the new arrivals.

Antetokounmpo believes the Bucks, who fell to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals last season, are primed to produce some must-see games.

"The Milwaukee Bucks this year, we are good – we are better," Antetokounmpo said.

"We have some great guys that we added to the team.

"They are playing the right way, and once everything fits in together. We are going to be good and it is going to be fun to watch."

Antetokounmpo signed a five-year, $228million contract extension, the largest in league history, with the Bucks this month.

The power forward has been named NBA MVP for each of the past two seasons and is looking to become the first player to win three in a row since Boston Celtics great Larry Bird in 1986.

While he was quieter offensively against the Warriors, Antetokounmpo did have 35 points in the opener at the Boston Celtics, recording 13 rebounds in both encounters.

Antetokounmpo averaged 29.5 points and 13.6 rebounds in 63 games last season, helping his team to the best regular season record of 56-17.

The Bucks (1-1) return to action at the New York Knicks on Sunday.

The Golden State Warriors need to win "immediately" after dropping their first two games of the NBA season, says Stephen Curry.

Following the exit of Kevin Durant and long-term injuries for Klay Thompson and Curry, the Warriors limped to a league-worst 15-50 record in 2019-20.

Thompson will miss a second straight season due to an Achilles tear while Draymond Green is yet to play this term because of a foot problem.

The Warriors followed up their opening-day defeat to Durant's Brooklyn Nets with a heavy 138-99 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Christmas Day.

Curry, who said he "always" feels pressure to make the playoffs, warned that Golden State cannot afford to let the season slip away from them.

"We need to win, immediately," said Curry, who had 19 points and six assists for the Warriors.

"We don't really have a good flow on offense. We're making things a little too easy on the [opposition] defense in terms of sustained execution – we're getting some pretty good looks, myself included, but we need to make more.

"Over the course of 48 [minutes] you have to bank on execution to win on the highest level, especially against two teams like that.

"Defensively, we've got to guard the three-point line a little bit better and stop fouling and giving teams easy peasy points at the free throw line.

"If we can get stops and turn it into a transition offense that might help us simplify the game a little bit, but there's a long way to go. [We are] staying positive and trying to figure out how to get moving in the right direction."

Curry urged the team's young players to play without the burden of expectation despite being at a franchise that before last season had made the NBA Finals for five straight years and won three championships during that run.

Asked for his message to the less experienced players, he replied: "This year is different and to not feel any pressure from Warriors teams of the past. We obviously have that championship DNA and those expectations around our organisation and that's what we want, but this year's different.

"It's a new group of guys. We'd have loved to have played better these last two games but that's not going to define our season at all. We can go win these next two and your 2-2 on a road trip, so that's what you've got to focus on.

"Hold yourself accountable to mistakes we are making as a group and just keep trying to get better. We just have to make sure our effort and competitiveness is there, and that'll help us get through these growing pains."

Curry anticipates Green's return from injury will have a significant impact but does not expect it to fix all of Golden State's problems.

"That will obviously help. We played two really good teams who have championship aspirations and that's the level we need to get to. We're just not anywhere close to that," said Curry.

"Hopefully, he'll give us a boost. It's not going to be a cure all… but I expect there to be good energy when he comes back."

LeBron James helped the Los Angeles Lakers past the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA, while the Brooklyn Nets dominated the Boston Celtics.

James moved into second for most points on Christmas Day in NBA history, posting 22 to go with 10 assists and seven rebounds in the Lakers' 138-115 victory.

Only Kobe Bryant (395) has scored more points on the day than James, who surpassed Oscar Robertson (377) and moved onto 383.

Anthony Davis also starred with 28 points, eight rebounds and five assists as the Lakers claimed their first win of the season.

Mavericks star Luka Doncic finished with 27 points.

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving combined to lead the Nets past the Celtics 123-95.

Durant (29 points) and Irving (37 points, eight assists and six rebounds) dominated in the Nets' victory. The latter equalled the record for three-pointers (seven) made in a game on Christmas Day.

 

Middleton, Robinson in form

Khris Middleton led the Milwaukee Bucks to a 138-99 thrashing of the Golden State Warriors, finishing with 31 points, five assists and four rebounds.

Stephen Curry (19 points) moved into second on the Warriors' all-time scoring list. Curry (16,458) surpassed Rick Barry (16,447), with only Wilt Chamberlain (17,783) having scored more for the team.

Duncan Robinson and Erik Spoelstra made history during the Miami Heat's 111-98 win over the New Orleans Pelicans. Robinson (23 points) equalled the Christmas Day record with seven three-pointers. Spoelstra, meanwhile, improved to 8-0 on the day, setting the record for most wins on Christmas Day without a loss. Jimmy Butler, meanwhile, suffered an ankle injury for Miami.

Paul George (23 points) and Kawhi Leonard (21) guided the Los Angeles Clippers past the Denver Nuggets 121-108. Leonard was left bloodied late in the game after a collision.

 

Bad Boston

The Celtics went 37-of-98 from the field against the Nets, with Marcus Smart (four-of-12) in particular struggling.

 

Dynamic duo

Durant and Irving are already showing what they are capable of together at the Nets, combining for 66 points against the Celtics.

Friday's results

Miami Heat 111-98 New Orleans Pelicans
Milwaukee Bucks 138-99 Golden State Warriors
Brooklyn Nets 123-95 Boston Celtics
Los Angeles Lakers 138-115 Dallas Mavericks
Los Angeles Clippers 121-108 Denver Nuggets

 

76ers at Knicks

The Philadelphia 76ers (1-0) will look for back-to-back wins to begin the season when they face the New York Knicks (0-1) on Saturday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo hopes Khris Middleton can maintain his form for the Milwaukee Bucks all season.

Middleton scored a game-high 31 points as the Bucks crushed the Golden State Warriors 138-99 in the NBA on Christmas Day.

An All-Star in each of the previous two seasons, Middleton is averaging 29 points, nine rebounds and 6.5 assists through the opening two games.

Antetokounmpo, who had 15 points and 13 rebounds against the Warriors, is hoping to see Middleton continue starring.

"He's playing well, making shots, playing with high confidence, creating plays for others. It's good," he told a news conference.

"We need this from him. We need him to do this all year long. He's feeling good and you know when Khris feels good you've got to pass him the ball. He's playing to get his own shot but he's playing through everybody else, he's run to the corner, he's getting easy ones, easy looks.

"He's playing with high confidence right now and this team really needs that."

The win over the Warriors was the Bucks' first of the season after they lost their opener to the Boston Celtics.

Antetokounmpo believes Milwaukee will be better than the team eliminated in the Eastern Conference semi-finals last season after finishing with a 56-17 record.

"We're good. We're better. We have some great guys that we added to the team, they’re playing our way and once everything fits in together we're going to be good," he said.

"It's going to be fun to watch."

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