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.

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.

LeBron James made history in the Los Angeles Lakers' win over the San Antonio Spurs, while Jaylen Brown fuelled the Boston Celtics with a mammoth performance in the NBA.

Lakers superstar James became the first ever NBA player with 1,000 consecutive double-digit scoring games as the defending champions topped the Spurs 121-107 on Wednesday.

Celebrating his 36th birthday midweek, James posted 26 points, eight assists and five rebounds to help the Lakers improve to 3-2.

James – who surpassed Michael Jordan's mark, which only accounts for regular-season games, of 866 in March 2018 – last failed to score at least 10 points in a game on January 5, 2007.

Four-time NBA champion and MVP James has just eight single-digit scoring games in his illustrious career – six of them coming during his rookie season in 2003-04.

In the same game on Wednesday, Spurs assistant Becky Hammon became the first woman in NBA regular-season history to act as head coach.

Hammon – the first full-time, salaried female coach in NBA history – filled in after Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was ejected in the opening half.

 

Brown in 34-year first

Brown became the first Celtics player to score 40-plus points while playing less than 30 minutes in a game since Boston great Larry Bird did it in 1986, per Stats Perform. The 24-year-old Brown finished with 42 points in 29 minutes as the Celtics beat the Memphis Grizzlies 126-107.

The Miami Heat bounced back from their humbling at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks with a 119-108 victory 24 hours later. According to Stats Perform, Miami are the first team in NBA history to lose by 45-plus points and then come back to beat the same team the very next day.

Tyler Herro (21 points and 15 rebounds) and Bam Adebayo (22 points and 10 assists) led the Heat, while a triple-double from two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (26 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists) was not enough for the Bucks.

After a two-game absence due to a mouth laceration, Kawhi Leonard returned with 28 points to guide the Los Angeles Clippers past the Portland Trail Blazers 128-105. All-Star team-mate Paul George put up 23 points and 10 rebounds.

The Brooklyn Nets won a thrilling shoot-out with the Atlanta Hawks 145-141. Led by Kevin Durant (33 points and 11 rebounds) and Kyrie Irving (25 points), the Nets handed the Hawks their first loss of the season. Trae Young (30 points and 11 assists) and John Collins (30 points and 10 rebounds) each had double-doubles for the Hawks.

Rookie LaMelo Ball was seven-of-10 from the field, while making four of his five three-pointers for a game-high 22 points off the bench in the Charlotte Hornets' 118-99 success away to the Dallas Mavericks.

 

Doncic struggles

It was a forgettable game for the Mavericks, who dropped to 1-3. Star guard Luka Doncic was just four-of-10 from the field in a 12-point display. He also missed all five of his attempts from beyond the arc. Dallas team-mate Josh Richardson made just one of 10 shots from the field, while going 0-of-four from three-point range for four points.

Damian Lillard had 20 points, but the Trail Blazers star was far from efficient. While he was 14-of-15 from the free-throw line, Lillard made just three of 14 from the field and missed all eight of his threes.

 

LeBron with the slam

There was plenty to celebrate for James midweek – his birthday, another milestone and a Lakers victory. He capped the triumphant outing with a signature slam against the Spurs in San Antonio.

 

Wednesday's results

Boston Celtics 126-107 Memphis Grizzlies
Brooklyn Nets 145-141 Atlanta Hawks
Miami Heat 119-108 Milwaukee Bucks
Charlotte Hornets 118-99 Dallas Mavericks
Los Angeles Lakers 121-107 San Antonio Spurs
Los Angeles Clippers 128-105 Portland Trail Blazers

 

76ers at Magic

The Philadelphia 76ers (3-1) will visit the Orlando Magic (4-0) – the only undefeated team remaining in the NBA – on Thursday.

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.

"Some nights, the basketball gods are with you a little bit." That is how Mike Budenholzer described the Milwaukee Bucks' record-breaking 144-97 victory over the Miami Heat.

The Bucks set the NBA record for three-pointers made in a game with 29 as they gained some revenge against the Heat in Miami on Tuesday.

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

But the Heat – without injured star Jimmy Butler – 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.

Bucks head coach Budenholzer, whose team are eyeing their first championship since 1971, told reporters: "Some nights the basketball gods are with you a little bit, and it's probably one of those nights for us."

While it was a quiet outing for two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (nine points, six rebounds and six assists), his Bucks team-mates led the way.

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.

Jrue Holiday added 24 points, including six of 10 threes, Donte DiVincenzo (17 points) was five-of-six shooting from beyond the arc and Brook Lopez (14 points) contributed three of his own three-pointers.

"I knew we were shooting well," said Bucks center Lopez. "I didn't know we were anything close to that."

The Bucks were coming off a shock 130-110 rout at the hands of the New York Knicks.

But 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.

"Honestly, [we] just played hard," Holiday said. "We know the Heat way and how they're going to come out and play no matter who's playing.

"So we just wanted to take that approach."

The Milwaukee Bucks face an old foe in their first double-header of the NBA season as they visit the Miami Heat this week.

The Bucks were the top seed in the East in 2019-20 but crashed out of the playoffs to the Heat, who went on to lose to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.

After a difficult start to the new campaign, falling to 1-2 with a shock defeat at the New York Knicks, Milwaukee face a tricky road trip.

The Bucks are in Miami to play the Heat on both Tuesday and Wednesday to close out 2020, with the initial game their first meeting since last season's one-sided playoff series.

Jimmy Butler was key to that success but is now being assessed day-to-day as he manages an ankle injury.

"I don’t have an update today," coach Erik Spoelstra said on Sunday. "We'll just continue to get him treatment and then we'll put together a plan."

Milwaukee must have a plan, too, as they aim to recover from their Knicks humbling and gain revenge for last year.
 

TOP PERFORMERS

Miami Heat - Bam Adebayo

If Butler does miss out, that would deal a big blow to the Heat's hopes of again getting the better of the Bucks.

The influential small forward, who averaged 23.4 points per game in their playoff series, taunted Defensive Player of the Year Giannis Antetokounmpo as he claimed: "He can't guard me!"

Veteran Andre Iguodala may come in for Butler, but Adebayo would become Miami's main man in his absence.

Adebayo signed a record-breaking five-year contract extension in November off the back of his performances last season as he made the All-Defensive Second Team and then averaged 17.8 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.0 steals in the postseason.

The 23-year-old shows no signs of slowing and in the Heat's season opener against the Orlando Magic had 25 points for just the fifth time in his regular season career, all of which have occurred since December 2019.

Milwaukee Bucks - Giannis Antetokounmpo

The Bucks' past two outstanding regular seasons have been built on back-to-back MVP campaigns from main man Antetokounmpo, but he has not yet delivered in the postseason.

 Antetokounmpo will not lack motivation this week as he takes on the team that dealt him such a testing playoff experience in the bubble.

Having averaged 30.6 points against Orlando in the first round - a 4-1 series win - Antetokounmpo's season steadily turned sour over the course of a back-and-forth with Miami.

His foul on Butler gave the Heat talisman game-winning walk-off free throws in Game 2, securing a 2-0 Miami lead, and Antetokounmpo then twisted his ankle in Game 3.

He was subsequently limited in Game 4 and missed Game 5 altogether as the Heat clinched their own 4-1 series triumph.

Beset by these injury problems, the league's dominant regular season player saw his average drop to 21.8 points per game in an Eastern Conference Semifinals exit.
 

KEY BATTLE: CAN BUCKS GET GIANNIS FREE?

For Antetokounmpo to be Milwaukee's top performer, they must provide a platform for him to succeed. It was at Miami last season that the issue with relying so heavily on Antetokounmpo was laid bare.

Even before a painful postseason series, the Bucks had twice been beaten by the Heat, suffering their second-largest defeat by point differential of the 2019-20 campaign in their 105-89 road reverse in March.

That game saw Milwaukee's worst offensive output of the season, too, as Miami effectively stifled the 'Greek Freak'.

Antetokounmpo had just 13 points, only scoring fewer when he played a mere 10 minutes against the Washington Wizards, as he shot 6-18 from the floor and 0-4 from three.

The Heat shared their defensive duties around, as Adebayo, Derrick Jones Jr, Butler and Goran Dragic all faced Antetokounmpo, but it was the former who had most joy.

Adebayo, who finished with three blocks and a steal, defended  Antetokounmpo on 10 of his field goal attempts, of which he made just two.

This was still a team effort, though, with the home side able to create a wall between Antetokounmpo and the paint, forcing him to rely on a flimsy mid-range shot.

With Jrue Holiday signed and Khris Middleton again impressing - averaging a career-high 26.7 points over three games - the Bucks will hope they have enough options to keep Miami occupied and give  Antetokounmpo some space this time around.

HEAD TO HEAD

The Bucks did earn a pair of victories against the Heat last season but went down 2-1 over their regular season series and 4-1 in the playoffs.

Miami's dominance in this game is nothing new, though.

The three-time NBA champions boast a 70-45 lead over Milwaukee all-time in the regular season, while their postseason advantage stands at 8-1, having swept the Bucks en route to the 2013 title.

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.

Christmas is a time for giving, and the NBA is no exception as fans feast on presents, turkeys and live basketball.

This year marks the 73rd edition of the NBA on Christmas Day, having started playing games in 1947 – the league's second season.

LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers will be on show – the defending champions the headline act against Luka Doncic's Dallas Mavericks.

The Brooklyn Nets will be spearheaded by Christmas Day specialist Kevin Durant when they lock horns with the Boston Celtics, while Erik Spoelstra and the Miami Heat will be hoping for another Merry Christmas as they go head-to-head against Zion Williamson's New Orleans Pelicans.

Giannis Antetokounmpo – fresh off signing a mammoth supermax contract – will lead the Milwaukee Bucks against Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors, and Kawhi Leonard's Los Angeles Clippers will seek to avenge their stunning capitulation against the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semi-finals.

We look at the best stats and facts on Christmas Day in the NBA using Stats Perform data.

 

361 – James has the most career points on Christmas Day among active players, ahead of Durant (270), Russell Westbrook (241), James Harden (208) and Carmelo Anthony (186). All-time, James ranks third and he needs 17 points to surpass Oscar Robertson (377) for second place and 35 to leapfrog Kobe Bryant (395) for first place. The four-time NBA champion and MVP, who helped the Lakers snap their 10-year title drought in 2019-20, is also second for most career rebounds among active players on Christmas, behind former team-mate Dwight Howard (114) with 108.

97 – Lakers superstar James tops another category… assists. The 35-year-old is clear of Westbrook (82), Harden (58), ex-team-mate Rajon Rondo (55) and Curry (48) among active players. James is set to make his 14th appearance on Christmas Day. He has a 9-4 win-loss record while averaging 25.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game. James is one win behind Dwyane Wade's record.

20 – Durant has scored at least 20 points in nine consecutive Christmas Day games, the second-longest streak in NBA history behind Robertson. The latter had 20-plus points in 10 straight games from 1960 to 1969. Durant has averaged 30.0 points in nine games on Christmas – an average only bettered by Anthony (31.0) among active players.

7-0 – Heat head coach Spoelstra is yet to lose in his seven Christmas Day contests. If last season's NBA Finals runners-up Miami win, Spoelstra will tie Phil Jackson for the longest Christmas Day streak by a head coach to start his career. The Heat have an NBA-best 10-2 record in games played on Christmas Day, while they have won seven successive games.

22 – The Lakers are playing on Christmas for the 22nd successive season, the second-longest streak in league history. The New York Knicks top the list following 38 straight appearances. The Lakers have the most all-time wins on Christmas Day with 23.

6 – Six players have recorded a triple-double in a Christmas Day game – Draymond Green (2017), Westbrook (2013), James (2010), Billy Cunningham (1970), John Havlicek (1967) and Robertson (1960, 1961, 1963 and 1967).

60 – Bernard King holds the record for most points scored on Christmas Day. King registered a 60-point haul for the New York Knicks against the New Jersey Jets in 1984.

23 – The Pelicans' JJ Redick shares the record for most three-pointers on Christmas Day, alongside Houston Rockets star Harden. James and Durant have both made 22 shots from beyond the arc.

7 – Nets guard Kyrie Irving holds the record for most steals in a Christmas Day game following his performance for the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Warriors in 2016.

1-5 – Of the current NBA franchises, the Nuggets have the second-worst record on Christmas Day, just ahead of the Toronto Raptors (0-2). Since 2010, the Nuggets are 0-3 – the worst run.

The Boston Celtics edged the Milwaukee Bucks in an NBA thriller, while Joel Embiid starred for the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday.

Jayson Tatum (30 points) hit a three-pointer with 1.5 seconds remaining as the Celtics overcame the Bucks 122-121.

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, who scored a game-high 35 points, missed the second of two free-throws with 0.4 seconds remaining.

Embiid led the 76ers to a 113-107 victory over Russell Westbrook's Washington Wizards.

The center posted a double-double of 29 points and 14 rebounds for the 76ers, while Ben Simmons had 16 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

Westbrook, traded to Washington by the Houston Rockets earlier this month, saw his debut spoiled despite a triple-double of 21 points, 15 assists and 11 rebounds.

 

Brown brilliant, Jokic dominates in defeat

Jaylen Brown was the star of the show for the Celtics, scoring 33 points on 13-of-24 shooting.

Nikola Jokic dominated for the Denver Nuggets. He became the first player since Larry Bird in 1987 to reach 29 points, 15 rebounds, 14 assists and three blocks in a single game, as per Stats Perform. Denver lost to the Sacramento Kings 124-122.

Ja Morant had 44 points for the Memphis Grizzlies, who fell to the San Antonio Spurs 131-119.

Meanwhile, Terry Rozier posted 42 points but his Charlotte Hornets also lost, going down to the Cleveland Cavaliers 121-114.

It was the first time in NBA history that two different players scored 40-plus points in a season opener but lost the game in the same year, according to Stats Perform.

Wayward VanVleet

Fred VanVleet made a slow start to the season, going three-of-12 from the field in the Toronto Raptors' 113-99 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.

 

Hield heroics

Buddy Hield (22 points) tipped in the game-winner in overtime for the Kings against the Nuggets.

Wednesday's results

Philadelphia 76ers 113-107 Washington Wizards
Orlando Magic 113-107 Miami Heat
Cleveland Cavaliers 121-114 Charlotte Hornets
Indiana Pacers 121-107 New York Knicks
Boston Celtics 122-121 Milwaukee Bucks
New Orleans Pelicans 113-99 Toronto Raptors
San Antonio Spurs 131-119 Memphis Grizzlies
Atlanta Hawks 124-104 Chicago Bulls
Minnesota Timberwolves 111-101 Detroit Pistons
Sacramento Kings 124-122 Denver Nuggets
Utah Jazz 120-100 Portland Trail Blazers
Phoenix Suns 106-102 Dallas Mavericks

 

Mavericks at Lakers

Christmas Day will see five blockbusters, headlined by the Los Angeles Lakers (0-1) taking on the Mavericks (0-1) at the Staples Center.

LeBron James and defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers will face city rivals the Los Angeles Clippers on the opening night of the 2020-21 NBA season.

The NBA announced its national TV schedule for the first three days of the season, with the Lakers-Clippers showdown part of a December 22 doubleheader.

The Lakers ended their 10-year wait for a title after topping the Miami Heat at Walt Disney World Resort amid the coronavirus pandemic, though this season is set to be played in a non-bubble environment.

James – who has agreed a two-year, $85million contract extension with the Lakers – became the first player in NBA, MLB, NFL and NHL history to win the Finals MVP award for three different teams, having also been crowned Most Valuable Player with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Heat, as he celebrated a fourth championship.

Kevin Durant is set to make his long-awaited debut for the Brooklyn Nets in a mouth-watering opening-night reunion with the Golden State Warriors, where he won two championships and as many Finals MVP awards.

Durant left the Warriors via free agency ahead of the 2019-20 season but he missed last term as he recovered from an Achilles injury, while Steph Curry and Golden State will be without Klay Thompson due to a ruptured Achilles, having suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the 2019 Finals.

December 23 will see reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and his Milwaukee Bucks face the Boston Celtics, while the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns go head-to-head.

Christmas Day will feature five games as NBA Finals participants the Miami Heat play the New Orleans Pelicans, the Lakers meet Luka Doncic's Mavericks, the Bucks do battle with the Warriors, first-year head coach Steve Nash and the Nets go up against the Celtics, while the Clippers will seek some sort of revenge against the Denver Nuggets.

The Clippers squandered a commanding lead in the Western Conference semi-finals as the Nuggets became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series twice in the same postseason.

But a lot has changed for the Clippers, who parted ways with Doc Rivers and turned to championship-winning coach Tyronn Lue to deliver a maiden title to the franchise.

Bam Adebayo has agreed a five-year maximum contract extension following the Miami Heat's memorable run to the NBA Finals.

Adebayo's new deal could rise to $195million after his agent Alex Saratsis confirmed the contract to ESPN on Tuesday.

Heat star Adebayo enjoyed the best season of his career following All-Star selection for the first time, helping fifth seeds Miami to the Finals at Walt Disney World Resort.

Adebayo, though, was hampered by injury in the showpiece against the Los Angeles Lakers, who claimed their first championship since 2010 in October.

The 23-year-old big man averaged career highs in points (15.9), rebounds (10.2) and assists (5.1) per game last regular season.

In the playoffs, Adebayo averaged 17.8 points, 10.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists for the Heat, who became the fourth team in history seeded fifth or worse to reach the NBA Finals, following the Houston Rockets (sixth seeds in 1995 and 1981) and New York Knicks (eighth seeds in 1999).

Since entering the league as the 14th pick in 2017, Adebayo has a career average of 10.5 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.

Heat team-mates Goran Dragic and Meyers Leonard already committed to Miami earlier in free agency, while Avery Bradley and Maurice Harkless have joined the franchise via the Lakers and Knicks respectively.

Goran Dragic has decided to stay with NBA Finals runners-up the Miami Heat in free agency, the star guard announced.

A free agent following Miami's memorable run to the Finals at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Dragic opted to re-commit to the Heat on Friday.

Dragic's deal is reportedly for two years, with a team option in the second year.

In a Twitter post, Dragic wrote: "I'm glad that I can announce that I'm staying with my #HeatNationFamily.

"Let's finish the job we started!!! #LetsGoHeatnation #HeatNation #HeatFamily."

Dragic has called Miami home since being acquired from the Phoenix Suns in 2015.

The 34-year-old Slovenian – pick 45 in the 2008 NBA Draft – averaged 16.2 points, 5.1 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game last season as the fifth-seeded Heat eventually fell to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals.

Heat team-mate Meyers Leonard also reportedly decided to return to the Eastern Conference champions.

Leonard – who joined from the Portland Trail Blazers in 2019 – averaged 6.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game last season.

The first round of the NBA Draft saw Anthony Edwards headline the league's newest recruits.

Georgia guard Edwards, not LaMelo Ball, was drafted first by the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday.

Ball – the younger brother of 2017 second round pick and New Orleans Pelicans star Lonzo – was the third draftee to the Charlotte Hornets, behind Golden State Warriors-bound center James Wiseman.

Here are the first 30 picks from the 2020 Draft.

 

2020 NBA Draft:
1. Anthony Edwards (Minnesota Timberwolves)
2. James Wiseman (Golden State Warriors)
3. LaMelo Ball (Charlotte Hornets)
4. Patrick Williams (Chicago Bulls)
5. Isaac Okoro (Cleveland Cavaliers)
6. Onyeka Okongwu (Atlanta Hawks)
7. Killian Hayes (Detroit Pistons)
8. Obi Toppin (New York Knicks)
9. Deni Avdija (Washington Wizards)
10. Jalen Smith (Phoenix Suns)
11. Devin Vassell (San Antonio Spurs)
12. Tyrese Haliburton (Sacramento Kings)
13. Kira Lewis (New Orleans Pelicans)
14. Aaron Nesmith (Boston Celtics)
15. Cole Anthony (Orlando Magic)
16. Isaiah Stewart (Portland Trail Blazers)
17. Aleksej Pokusevski (Minnesota Timberwolves)
18. Josh Green (Dallas Mavericks)
19. Saddiq Bey (Brooklyn Nets)
20. Precious Achiuwa (Miami Heat)
21. Tyrese Maxey (Philadelphia 76ers)
22. Zeke Nnaji (Denver Nuggets)
23. Leandro Bolmaro (New York Knicks)
24. R.J. Hampton (Milwaukee Bucks)
25. Immanuel Quickley (Oklahoma City Thunder)
26. Payton Pritchard (Boston Celtics)
27. Udoka Azubuike (Utah Jazz)
28. Jaden McDaniels (Los Angeles Lakers)
29. Malachi Flynn (Toronto Raptors)
30. Desmond Bane (Boston Celtics)

Not many expected the Miami Heat to make a run to the NBA Finals in 2019-20 but that is exactly what they did.

The Heat missed the playoffs in two of the three previous seasons heading into the campaign, while their last Finals appearance was in 2014.

But the arrival of Jimmy Butler and Miami's unity ignited the Heat before and after the coronavirus-enforced break.

The Heat were locked-in at Walt Disney World Resort, where Erik Spoelstra's side made it all the way to the showpiece.

While the Heat fell short 4-2 against the Los Angeles Lakers in the best-of-seven series, there was plenty of upside in Miami.

As the Heat look to build on a stellar season, we review the team's 2019-20 campaign using Stats Perform data.

 

Heat defy odds

Miami had their work cut out in a stacked Eastern Conference, headlined by Giannis Antetokounmpo and the high-flying Milwaukee Bucks, defending champions the Toronto Raptors, the Boston Celtics and the championship-chasing Philadelphia 76ers.

The hard-playing Heat ended the regular season with a 44-29 record – ahead of the 76ers and good enough for the fifth seed.

Miami became the fourth team in history seeded fifth or worse to reach the NBA Finals, following the Houston Rockets (sixth seeds in 1995 and 1981) and New York Knicks (eighth seeds in 1999).

Before going into the Orlando bubble, the Heat were a far better team at home than on the road.

The Heat boasted a 27-5 home record, compared to 14-19 away from Miami (42.0 per cent differential) – only the 76ers (29-2 at home and 10-24 on the road) had a greater differential of 64.1 per cent.

 

Butler silences critics

The maligned five-time All-Star landed in Miami after brief stints in Philadelphia and Minnesota.

After falling out in Minnesota, Butler departed the Timberwolves for the 76ers in 2018. He almost led Philadelphia to the NBA Finals, but Kawhi Leonard's buzzer-beating shot in Game 7 lifted the Raptors to a stunning win in the second round.

Plagued by question marks over his attitude, Butler opted to leave the 76ers for the Heat in a sign and trade, and the 31-year-old finally looks at home in Miami.

Featuring in his first NBA Finals, Butler led the Heat in scoring (26.2 points per game), rebounding (8.3 rebounds per game) and assists (9.8 assists per game). That included a 40-point, 11-rebound, 13-assist effort in Miami's Game 3 win, just the third 40-point triple-double in Finals history (and the only one in a win).

Butler almost singlehandedly carried the injury-hit Heat – who were without stars Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic for large parts of the series – past the Lakers, playing 258 minutes in six games, more than LeBron James, Anthony Davis and any other player.

 

Rookies fire Heat

The Heat received big contributions from first-year players Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro, who averaged 15.3 and 13.5 points per game respectively.

They were the first NBA team to have multiple rookies average at least 13.0 ppg since the 2001-02 Memphis Grizzlies (Pau Gasol and Shane Battier; minimum 40 games played). The only other such Heat rookie duo was Sherman Douglas (14.3 ppg) and Glen Rice (13.6 ppg) in 1989-90.

Nunn's 15.3 points per game were the most by an undrafted rookie in 70 years – Frankie Brian averaged 17.8 per game with the 1949-50 Anderson Packers.

As for Duncan Robinson, he took a huge step forward in 2019-20, after struggling for game time as a rookie in 2018-19.

Robinson went from averaging 3.3 points per game to 13.5ppg this term (plus-10.2) – only Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young (+10.5) and the Charlotte Hornets' Devonte' Graham (+13.5) enjoyed larger improvements.

Conquering the NBA with three different teams proves LeBron James has a winning formula and highlights his greatness, according to former team-mate Joel Anthony.

James and the Los Angeles Lakers crushed the Miami Heat 106-93 in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Sunday to claim their first championship in 10 years.

The four-time NBA MVP was in typically fine form, breaking the record for most playoff appearances with 260 as he posted an 11th Finals triple-double of 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists.

The win sealed a fourth ring for 16-time All-Star James, who made history by becoming the first player to be named Finals MVP with three different franchises.

Having previously won the championship with the Heat (2012 and 2013) and the Cleveland Cavaliers (2016), helping the Lakers back to the top of the pile was his ultimate goal upon joining in 2018.

Anthony, who was part of James' Heat team that lifted the Larry O'Brien Trophy in successive years, believes the 35-year-old's greatness is summed up by succeeding with three different sides.

"To me, he's always been a winner," Anthony told Stats Perform News. "He's always played on really good teams, for the most part, except for early on in his career where he was still trying to figure things out.

"He's always been able to win but once he took that next step and he was winning championships, I feel he's definitely figured out the type of formula and gets it. He gets it.

"He knows truly what it takes to be able to win at the highest level. It shows, the fact that clearly the man's been able to do it with three different teams. That in itself explains how much he understands and knows what it takes.

"I would say one of the biggest things about him is his mind. Physically, obviously very impressive, and even more so impressive because he's been able to do it for so long.

"He's averaged close to 30, 10 and eight in the finals. Mentally, where he is, to be able to keep his mind sharp and to be able to also lead and inspire those guys, that's the biggest thing to me.

"Even if he was able to play at a certain level, to be able to bring his team along that journey and to be able to lead them, I feel, is what's really impressive because that is an extremely difficult thing to do."

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