The Milwaukee Bucks have been the regular season pacesetters in the NBA's Eastern Conference in recent seasons, but they sit third heading into the closing stages of the 2020-21 campaign.

It is the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets who instead lead the way, tied with 39-20 records - 2.5 games clear of Milwaukee.

Yet the Sixers had first place outright prior to Thursday's game against the Bucks in which they failed to recover from a tough first quarter.

Philly do not have to wait long for revenge, though, with the two teams meeting once more at Fiserv Forum on Saturday.

MVP challenges are on the line as well as seedings in the East as two potential title contenders get prepared to go again.

TOP PERFORMERS

Joel Embiid - Philadelphia 76ers

Embiid was the MVP favourite until a knee injury at the start of March that forced him to miss almost a month of action.

He was averaging 29.9 points and 11.5 rebounds per game and the 76ers had a 24-7 record with him on the floor. They were 2-5 in the seven games Embiid missed prior to his extended lay-off.

The center returned earlier this month, seemingly with enough time to wrestle the top individual award back from Nikola Jokic, and he has since averaged 30.1 points, missing only a single game.

But the Sixers have now lost three in a row and Embiid's hopes appear to be fading after he was outshone by the reigning MVP.

Giannis Antetokounmpo - Milwaukee Bucks

It does not appear there will be a third MVP win in a row for Antetokounmpo after his momentum was checked by sitting six straight games.

But the 'Greek Freak' was back to his best against the 76ers, scoring a game-high 27 points, and can focus instead on a first title triumph in the postseason.

And Antetokounmpo feels playing a fellow challenger again on Saturday "prepares you for the playoffs".

"Playing teams back to back is awesome," he said.

"On Saturday, they're going to come out and they're going to play harder, they're going to try to execute. We've got to do the same. We've got to do exactly the same."

KEY BATTLE - SLOW START CAN SINK SIXERS

For the 76ers, "playing harder" will have to start from the tip-off. Their 14-point first-quarter deficit proved too significant against such a talented team.

As the Sixers missed one of the best defensive players in the league in Ben Simmons due to illness, Milwaukee firmly had the upper hand early on.

Philadelphia had no answer as they allowed 40 points, their second-worst mark in a first quarter this year. This came as the Bucks shot at 73.7 per cent from the field through 12 minutes, the best rate among the Sixers' 2020-21 opponents.

Jrue Holiday, a star on both ends, had seven of his 12 points in the first three minutes alone.

"That first quarter, they get every shot they wanted," Doc Rivers said. "We didn't offer any resistance."

HEAD TO HEAD

Thursday's game was the teams' second this season and the second Milwaukee victory after they won in overtime in March, again led by Antetokounmpo (32 points, 15 rebounds).

Antetokounmpo has averaged 20.8 points for his career but 22.6 against the 76ers, against whom he boasts a 19-5 record and posted a career-high 52 in 2019.

The Bucks have a 113-102 lead over Philadelphia all-time in the regular season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo felt the Milwaukee Bucks were "locked in" from the start after recording a fourth successive win over the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Bucks scored 77 points in the first half before holding off a 76ers fightback to triumph 124-117 in a battle between two of the leading contenders in the Eastern Conference.

Antetokounmpo led the way with 27 points, though the two-time NBA MVP had plenty of help from his colleagues. Khris Middleton had 24 points while Bobby Portis contributed 23 off the bench.

Milwaukee landed 20 of their 40 three-point attempts as a team, though Antetokounmpo was just as impressed with their efforts when not in possession of the ball.

"Guys were finding open guys, getting downhill, knocking down shots. Everybody set the tone from the start," Antetokounmpo told the media.

"From the start, you could see that everyone was locked in. Defensively also, we really seemed locked in.

"Offensively, we found one another and knocked down shots."

Joel Embiid had 24 points for the 76ers, though he landed just nine of his 21 shot attempts - including going 0-for-4 from three-point range.

Antetokounmpo praised the work done by Milwaukee center Brook Lopez when going up against Embiid, with the Bucks happy to let the MVP candidate take jump shots rather than work closer to the basket.

"Embiid is a great player, he's been playing well all season long," Antetokounmpo said.

"You've got to live with that jump shot. You don't want to send him to the free-throw line and you don't want him to get downhill, with his right hook, and get an easy lay-up.

"The gameplan was good - he was going to shoot his jump shot all night. If he makes it all night? Great. But if you don't make it, it's good for us.

"Brook did a great job on him, but he [Embiid] is a great player too."

Philadelphia head coach Doc Rivers felt his team - still without Ben Simmons due to an unspecified illness - paid the price for a slow start, insisting his team were "soft" defensively to allow Milwaukee to open up a commanding lead.

The 76ers hit back as they held their opponents to just 16 points in the fourth quarter, though in the end the gap proved just too big.

"Everybody seemed fatigued, not just Joel, I would love to say Joel played better than most of our guys tonight," Rivers said.

"I just felt like we were late on everything. We were soft tonight defensively. That first quarter, they get every shot they wanted. We didn't offer any resistance."

Los Angeles Lakers superstar Anthony Davis made his long-awaited return but the reigning NBA champions lost 115-110 to the Dallas Mavericks.

Davis had been sidelined since February 14 due to tendinosis and a calf strain in his right leg – the eight-time All-Star missed 30 games, the longest injury absence of his nine-year career.

But Davis stepped back onto the court on Thursday, finishing with four points on just two-for-10 shooting, four rebounds, one assist, one block and one steal in 17 minutes.

The Lakers – still without superstar LeBron James (ankle) – were led by Dennis Schroder (25 points and 13 assists), Andre Drummond (14 points and 19 rebounds) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (29 points) but fell short in Dallas.

Luka Doncic fuelled the Mavericks with 30 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.

 

Giannis tops Embiid and 76ers

Two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo put up 27 points on eight-for-15 shooting, 16 rebounds and six assists as the Milwaukee Bucks took down the slumping Philadelphia 76ers 124-117. It was his 41st 25/15/5 game, the most by a Bucks player since the three-point era (1980). No other Buck has more than four in that span. Milwaukee used a 40-26 opening quarter to hand the Eastern Conference-leading 76ers a third consecutive defeat. Joel Embiid had 24 points for the visiting 76ers.

The Boston Celtics upstaged the high-flying Phoenix Suns 99-86. Kemba Walker was inspirational, shooting 11-for-17 from the field for a game-high 32 points. Boston have won seven of their last eight games, beating Phoenix, the Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers, New York Knicks and Lakers.

Zion Williamson showcased his efficiency in the New Orleans Pelicans' 135-100 victory against the lowly Orlando Magic. The former number one pick had 23 points in 23 minutes on nine-for-12 shooting, while he made all five of his free-throw attempts.

 

Oh no, Okeke

It was a forgettable outing for Chuma Okeke and the Magic, who dropped their fourth straight game as they lost for the 23rd time in 28 appearances. In 29 minutes, Okeke made just one of his 12 field-goal attempts. He was 0-for-four from three-point range in a four-point performance.

Jalen McDaniels was just as bad for the Charlotte Hornets, tallying a mere three points on one-for-eight shooting as his team suffered a 106-91 defeat to the Chicago Bulls.

 

Satoransky slam!

There was no stopping Chicago's Tomas Satoransky as he powered his way to the rim emphatically in the fourth quarter.

 

Thursday's results:

Boston Celtics 99-86 Phoenix Suns
New Orleans Pelicans 135-110 Orlando Magic
Milwaukee Bucks 124-117 Philadelphia 76ers
San Antonio Spurs 106-91 Detroit Pistons
Chicago Bulls 106-91 Charlotte Hornets
Dallas Mavericks 115-110 Los Angeles Lakers

 

Celtics at Nets

The Celtics (32-27) will make the trip to face the Brooklyn Nets (39-20) on Friday. Brooklyn have the chance to reclaim the top seed in the Eastern Conference after Philadelphia's loss.

Stephen Curry lit up the Philadelphia 76ers with 49 points as the Golden State Warriors upstaged the Eastern Conference leaders 107-96.

Curry maintained his red-hot form in a red-breaking display in Philadelphia, where the two-time NBA MVP nailed 10 three-pointers to sink the 76ers on Monday.

The Warriors superstar became the first player to make 70-plus threes in a 10-game span on a memorable outing on the road.

Curry has more games with 40-plus points and 10-plus threes over the last eight days (four) than any other NBA player has had over their entire career, per Stats Perform.

Curry became the first player in NBA history aged 33 or older with 11 consecutive 30-plus point games, surpassing Kobe Bryant (10 straight in 2012).

After scoring 47 and 49 points, Curry is also the first player aged 33 or older with back-to-back 45-plus games since Hall of Famer Michael Jordan (51 and 45 in 2001).

Joel Embiid put up 28 points and 13 rebounds in the absence of fellow All-Star Ben Simmons, but the 76ers still had their four-game winning streak snapped.

 

Nuggets prevail in double OT thanks to Jokic

MVP favourite Nikola Jokic put on a show. He had 47 points – including the go-ahead three-pointer late in the second period of overtime – 15 rebounds and eight assists as the Denver Nuggets survived to beat the Memphis Grizzlies 139-137 after double OT.

Two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 33 points but the Milwaukee Bucks suffered an agonising 128-127 overtime loss to the in-form Phoenix Suns. Suns starters Devin Booker (24 points), Deandre Ayton (20 points and 13 rebounds) and Mikal Bridges (21 points) all impressed.

The NBA-leading Utah Jazz defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 111-97 behind Joe Ingles' 21 points on eight-of-11 shooting, while All-Star duo Mike Conley (14 points and 10 assists) and Rudy Gobert (14 points and 10 rebounds) contributed double-doubles.

Russell Westbrook had his 26th triple-double of the season – 13 points, 17 assists and 11 rebounds – as the Washington Wizards celebrated their fifth consecutive victory by downing the Oklahoma City Thunder 119-107.

A season-high 30 points from Kendrick Nunn fuelled the Miami Heat's 113-91 win over the Houston Rockets.

 

Bradley struggles

Avery Bradley has found it tough since arriving in Houston as part of the deal that sent Victor Oladipo to the Heat. He missed all three of his field-goal attempts – including two from beyond the arc – as he finished scoreless after 22 minutes.

George Hill made his debut for the 76ers. Acquired in a trade last month, Hill was one-for-five shooting for two points in 18 minutes. Philadelphia team-mate Shake Milton, usually a reliable scorer, finished with just five points on one-for-seven shooting off the bench.

The Thunder extended their season-worst losing streak to 11 games after going down to the Wizards in Washington.

 

CP3 – the playmaker!

Chris Paul was at his brilliant best again as the high-flying Suns edged the Bucks. Paul posted 22 points and 13 assists as the Suns star passed Magic Johnson for fifth on the all-time assists list.

 

Monday's results

Utah Jazz 111-97 Los Angeles Lakers
Detroit Pistons 109-105 Cleveland Cavaliers
Chicago Bulls 102-96 Boston Celtics
Golden State Warriors 107-96 Philadelphia 76ers
San Antonio Spurs 109-94 Indiana Pacers
Miami Heat 113-91 Houston Rockets
Washington Wizards 119-107 Oklahoma City Thunder
Phoenix Suns 129-127 Milwaukee Bucks (OT)
Denver Nuggets 139-137 Memphis Grizzlies (Double OT)

 

Nets at Pelicans

The Brooklyn Nets (38-19) will be without superstar pair Kevin Durant (thigh) and James Harden (hamstring) for Tuesday's trip to the New Orleans Pelicans (25-32).

The NBA ladder leading-Utah Jazz felt the absence of Donovan Mitchell as they lost 127-115 in over-time to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.

Mitchell hurt his ankle during the week and was unavailable for the clash against the Lakers who were missing injured pair LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Lakers center Andre Drummond dominated with 27 points, eight rebounds and three assists, while Dennis Schroder had 25 points, six rebounds and eight assists too.

The Jazz could have won the match in normal time when Jordan Clarkson's buzzer beater missed with scores locked at 110-110.

The Lakers ran away with it in over-time, but had a late injury scare with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who also had 25 points, clutching his right ankle.

The result improves the Lakers to 35-22, while the Jazz remain top of the West with a 42-15 record.

Giannis Antetokounmpo's Milwaukee Bucks stumbled to a 128-115 home loss to the surging Memphis Grizzlies.

The Grizzlies kept the Bucks at arm's length the whole match led by Grayson Allen who shot 26 points including seven-from-10 beyond the arc.

A fired-up Dillon Brooks had 21 points, six rebounds and four assists for Memphis, while Giannis had 28 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in a losing side.

 

Celtics edge shootout with Curry

Jayson Tatum won an All-Star shootout against Stephen Curry as the Boston Celtics edged the in-form Golden State Warriors 119-114.

Boston forward Tatum had 44 points and 10 rebounds, while Curry played a leading role for GSW with 47 points, including 11 three-pointers as well as seven rebounds and three assists.

Tatum had outstanding assistance from Kemba Walker, particularly in a tight final quarter, with 26 points and eight rebounds as the Celtics won their sixth straight.

Russell Westbrook had another triple-double with 15 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists while Bradley Beal made 37 points in the Washington Wizards' 121-100 win over the Detroit Pistons.

The Phoenix Suns were well beaten by the San Antonio Spurs 111-85, while Nikola Vucevic had 25 points in the Chicago Bulls' 106-96 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

 

Scary sideline spell

There was a scary incident late in the Warriors' loss to Boston when youngster Juan Toscano-Anderson threw himself at a loose ball, with his momentum seeing him bundling over the scorers' fence across tables and monitors. He lay injured for several minutes before eventually walking to the locker room aided, with a towel on his head.

 

Russell makes triple-double history

In-form Wizards guard Westbrook's triple-double made history as he became the first player in NBA history to have 15 in a 20-game span. 

 

Saturday's results

Los Angeles Lakers 127-115 Utah Jazz
Washington Wizards 121-100 Detroit Pistons
Chicago Bulls 106-96 Cleveland Cavaliers
Boston Celtics 119-114 Golden State Warriors
Memphis Grizzlies 128-115 Milwaukee Bucks
San Antonio Spurs 111-85 Phoenix Suns 

 

Nets in Miami

With Kevin Durant back, the Brooklyn Nets (38-18) make the trip to face the Miami Heat (28-28), although they will likely still be without the injured James Harden.

Stephen Curry posted more than 30 points for a career-best ninth consecutive game as the Golden State Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 119-101.

Curry starred for the Warriors on Thursday, scoring 33 points to lead the visitors past the Cavaliers in Cleveland and to their fourth successive win.

The two-time MVP – who is averaging 38.2 points amid his streak – became the first Warriors player to have at least 30 points in nine straight games since Rick Barry in 1966-67.

Andrew Wiggins added 23 points for the Warriors, while Juan Toscano-Anderson had his first career 20-point game with 20 points, seven rebounds and three assists.

The Cavaliers were led by Collin Sexton's 30 points and Jarrett Allen's double-double of 17 points and 14 rebounds.

 

Brown goes off against Lakers

The Boston Celtics took down injury-hit defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers 121-113 at Staples Center. Without LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers were punished by Jaylen Brown, who fuelled the Celtics with 40 points on 17-for-20 shooting, making three of his five three-point attempts to go with nine rebounds and three assists. He became the first player in franchise history to score 40-plus points with a field-goal percentage of 85 per cent or better.

Deandre Ayton (26 points and 11 rebounds), Devin Booker (23 points) and Chris Paul (13 points and 11 assists) combined as the red-hot Phoenix Suns topped the Sacramento Kings 122-114. Phoenix won their 10th consecutive home game as they reached 40 victories for the first time since 2014.

Brook Lopez was efficient with 19 points and 12 rebounds on seven-for-10 shooting, while he was three-of-six from three-point range as two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo returned from a six-game injury lay-off in the Milwaukee Bucks' 120-109 success against the Atlanta Hawks.

 

Matthews and Caldwell-Pope struggle

It was not a memorable outing for Lakers pair Wesley Matthews (three points) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (two points), who were both one-for-seven shooting in 23 minutes as starters. Matthews made one of his six attempts from beyond the arc, while Caldwell-Pope missed all three of his efforts.

Kevin Love – an NBA champion with the Cavaliers – finished two-for-10 shooting against the Warriors. The veteran (five points) only nailed one of his seven three-point attempts on a rough day.

 

Tricky Tatum

Jayson Tatum had five assists against the Lakers, including a behind-the-back dime to tee up Celtics team-mate Tristan Thompson.

 

Thursday's results

Milwaukee Bucks 120-109 Atlanta Hawks
Golden State Warriors 119-101 Cleveland Cavaliers
Phoenix Suns 122-114 Sacramento Kings
Boston Celtics 121-113 Los Angeles Lakers

 

Clippers at 76ers

A blockbuster clash will see the in-form Los Angeles Clippers (39-18) visit the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers (38-17) on Friday. The Clippers have won seven straight, while the 76ers are in the midst of a three-game winning run.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was listed as available for the Milwaukee Bucks' matchup with the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday after missing the previous six games.

The two-time NBA MVP has not played since matching his season high with 47 points against the Portland Trail Blazers on April 2.

Antetokounmpo's absence due to knee soreness appears to have ended his hopes of claiming the MVP award for a third straight year, with Nikola Jokic meanwhile continuing to impress and Joel Embiid returning from injury.

But the Bucks will be delighted to have their talisman back out on the floor when they face the in-form Hawks.

The 'Greek Freak', who had never previously missed more than two consecutive games in his NBA career, leads Milwaukee with 28.8 points, 11.4 rebounds and 6.2 assists this season.

While Antetokounmpo was out, the Bucks went 3-3, although they remain third in the Eastern Conference with a 34-20 record.

Thursday's opponents Atlanta are now fourth after a run of seven wins in eight games.

The Philadelphia 76ers held off a late charge from the short-handed Brooklyn Nets 123-117 to take over top spot in the Eastern Conference on Wednesday. 

Joel Embiid had 39 points and 13 rebounds to lead the 76ers (38-17) past the visiting Nets, while Tobias Harris added 26 points and Ben Simmons 17 on home court midweek.

In the second game of a back-to-back, Brooklyn (37-18) played without Kevin Durant, James Harden, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge, though Kyrie Irving returned and scored 37 points after missing Tuesday's game for personal reasons. 

Irving (23) and Embiid (21) both cleared 20 points in the first half, with the latter achieving the feat for the NBA-best 14th time this season.

Philadelphia led by 22 points in the fourth quarter before the Brooklyn reserves rallied to cut the deficit to three, but the 76ers held on to win after putting All-Star pair Embiid and Simmons back in the game. 

In Memphis, Luka Doncic helped the Dallas Mavericks expand their seeding advantage against the Grizzlies by hitting a buzzer-beating three-pointer for a dramatic 114-113 victory. 

Doncic posted 29 points and Kristaps Porzingis added 21 of his own for the Mavericks (30-24), who are seventh in the Western Conference with the Grizzlies (27-26) just behind. 

Grayson Allen scored 23 points for Memphis but missed two free throws with 2.2 seconds remaining to open the door for Doncic to win it. 

 

Curry maintains hot shooting hand

Stephen Curry scored 42 points, highlighted by a 25-point third quarter in which he did not miss a shot from the field, as the Golden State Warriors routed the Oklahoma City Thunder 147-109. Coming off a 53-point game on Monday, Curry made all eight of his shots from the floor, six of them three-pointers, as the Warriors blew open the game with a 50-point third quarter. In all, he made 11 three-pointers, the second time in his career with successive games of at least 10 three-pointers. The two-time MVP has hit 10-plus threes in back-to-back games for the second time in his career – he is the only player to do so multiple times.

MVP candidate Nikola Jokic's 15th triple-double of the season – 17 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds – guided the Denver Nuggets past the Miami Heat 123-106.

Despite the absence of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Serge Ibaka and Patrick Beverley, the Los Angeles Clippers recorded their seventh consecutive victory by topping the Detroit Pistons 100-98.

 

Jackson makes it hurt for Pistons

The Pistons fell to 16-39, the worst record in the Eastern Conference, when their former star Reggie Jackson hit a game-winning jumper with 2.3 seconds remaining. Detroit had led by five points inside the final minute before collapsing in the closing seconds. 

 

Westbrook does it all once again

Russell Westbrook continues to do it all for the Washington Wizards, posting his sixth triple double in succession with 25 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists in a 123-111 victory over the Sacramento Kings. It is the fourth six-game streak of his career. The rest of NBA history has three combined.

 

Wednesday's results

Brooklyn Nets 123-117 Philadelphia 76ers
Milwaukee Bucks 130-105 Minnesota Timberwolves
Cleveland Cavaliers 103-90 Charlotte Hornets
Toronto Raptors 117-112 San Antonio Spurs
Los Angeles Clippers 100-98 Detroit Pistons
Orlando Magic 115-106 Chicago Bulls
New York Knicks 116-106 New Orleans Pelicans
Indiana Pacers 132-124 Houston Rockets
Golden State Warriors 147-109 Oklahoma City Thunder
Dallas Mavericks 114-113 Memphis Grizzlies
Denver Nuggets 123-106 Miami Heat
Washington Wizards 123-111 Sacramento Kings

 

Celtics at Lakers

A classic NBA rivalry is renewed as the Boston Celtics (29-26) visit defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers (34-21) on Thursday. Jayson Tatum will be looking to lead the Celtics to a fifth successive win.

Paul George and Marcus Morris Sr. combined to lead the Los Angeles Clippers past the Detroit Pistons 131-124 in NBA action on Sunday.

Clippers star George posted 32 points – his third consecutive game of 30-plus points – as the Los Angeles franchise rallied for their fifth successive victory.

Morris put up a season-high 33 points for the Clippers, who capped a nine-game homestand against the lowly Pistons.

Veteran Morris nailed six three-pointers and surpassed 1,000 for his career as star Kawhi Leonard was rested.

Meanwhile, the Denver Nuggets had their eight-game winning streak snapped by the Boston Celtics in a 105-87 defeat.

The Celtics used a remarkable 31-3 run to take down the Nuggets on the road in Denver, where Jayson Tatum (illness) and Jaylen Brown (knee) battled to inspire Boston.

Denver led 79-65 late in the third quarter before capitulating, outscored 31-8 in the final period.

Nikola Jokic's triple-double of 17 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds were not enough for the Nuggets.

 

Zion flexes muscles

Zion Williamson had 38 points as the New Orleans Pelicans rallied past the Cleveland Cavaliers 116-109. Williamson, who scored 25 points in the first half and fell one shy of his career best, made 16 of 22 shots, while collecting nine rebounds and tallying four assists.

Portland Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard (1,983) passed Dirk Nowitzki (1,982) for 11th on the NBA's all-time list for threes. The Trail Blazers lost 107-98 at home to the Miami Heat.

Jonas Valanciunas produced a big performance, but the Memphis Grizzlies went down 132-125 to the Indiana Pacers. He recorded a career-high tying 34 points and 22 rebounds. Valanciunas posted his second career game with 30-plus points and 20-plus rebounds and is the second player in Grizzlies history with multiple 30-20 regular-season games after Zach Randolph (three).

Bogdan Bogdanovic finished with 32 points on a career-high eight three-pointers as the high-flying Atlanta Hawks defeated the Charlotte Hornets 105-101. Clint Capela added 20 points and 15 rebounds for the Hawks, who are fourth in the Eastern Conference.

DeMar DeRozan registered 33 points, including the tie-breaking jump shot with 0.5 seconds remaining, to lift the San Antonio Spurs to a 119-117 win against the Dallas Mavericks.

 

Game to forget for Magic

The Orlando Magic have not had much to celebrate this season and they had a tough time against the Milwaukee Bucks, who won 124-87. All five of Orlando's starters did not reach double-digit points. James Innis III was two-for-seven shooting, while missing all three attempts from beyond the arc for six points in 25 minutes. In total, the Magic were just 22.2 per cent from three-point range.

 

Space Jam?

In a scene reminiscent of iconic 1990s movie Space Jam, Hornets star Miles Bridges channelled his inner Michael Jordan with a thunderous slam against the Hawks.

 

Sunday's results

Atlanta Hawks 105-101 Charlotte Hornets
Boston Celtics 105-87 Denver Nuggets
New Orleans Pelicans 116-109 Cleveland Cavaliers
Milwaukee Bucks 124-87 Orlando Magic
New York Knicks 102-96 Toronto Raptors
San Antonio Spurs 119-117 Dallas Mavericks
Indiana Pacers 132-125 Memphis Grizzlies
Minnesota Timberwolves 121-117 Chicago Bulls
Los Angeles Clippers 131-124 Detroit Pistons
Miami Heat 107-98 Portland Trail Blazers

 

76ers at Mavericks

The Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers (36-17) will be eyeing back-to-back wins when they face Luka Doncic's Mavericks (29-23) on Monday.

Zion Williamson underlined his status as the emerging star of the NBA with a dominant display in the New Orleans Pelicans' 101-94 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday.

The 2019 number one draft pick had a career-best 15 rebounds along with 37 points and eight assists as the Pels turned to him in Lonzo Ball's absence.

Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said: "We decided we'd play him at the point all night. He had the ball in his hands all the time and the ability to make plays.

"Had we shot decently he would have finished with double figure assists too. He played the game the way you're supposed to play the game. He was incredible tonight."

Joel Embiid was kept quiet by Steven Adams, managing only 14 points and nine rebounds for the 76ers who are behind the Brooklyn Nets in the East with a 35-17 record.

The Los Angeles Clippers blew the Houston Rockets away with a 41-10 second quarter in a 126-109 victory with Kawhi Leonard top scoring with 31 points, along with five rebounds and eight assists.

The win improves the in-form Clippers' record to 36-18 having now won four in a row and 10 of their past 12.

The Milwaukee Bucks lost again without Giannis Antetokounmpo on Thursday, but coach Mike Budenholzer believes the two-time MVP's absence can benefit his team.

The Bucks completed a six-game road trip against the Dallas Mavericks, going down 116-101 at American Airlines Center.

Antetokounmpo featured in the first three of those games, yet he missed the next three after scoring a season-high 47 points against the Portland Trail Blazers.

The 'Greek Freak' leads Milwaukee in points (28.8), assists (6.2) and rebounds (11.4) per game, while also contributing 1.3 blocks and 1.1 steals.

Knee soreness is impacting Antetokounmpo's bid for a third straight MVP triumph, but it is also hindering the Bucks. The team are 29-16 when their superstar plays but just 3-3 without him.

Milwaukee were not helped against the Mavs by poor shooting displays from Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, their second and third men.

Middleton was an alarming 6-for-27 from the field for 14 points – 22.2 per cent, his second-worst outing of the year – as Holiday, who signed a lucrative contract extension last week, was 6-for-16 for 13 points.

Budenholzer acknowledged both players must perform better as he suggested the Bucks needed to adapt to playing when Antetokounmpo is not on the floor.

The 26-year-old forward played just 30.4 minutes per game last season when Milwaukee led the East, but he has been relied on for 34.0 minutes in 2020-21.

"The guys are getting more opportunities," Budenholzer said. "There's a little bit more of a load on both Jrue and Khris. I think they're learning to take that.

"We didn't make enough shots tonight; Khris, Jrue didn't make enough shots. We're getting better. We'll learn from these things.

"Playing without Giannis, he can't play 48 minutes, so I think there's going to be good stretches for us when Giannis doesn't play and we'll grow from these experiences playing without him."

While the Bucks struggled without their big name, Dallas got 27 points, nine assists and nine rebounds from Luka Doncic.

But the Slovenian also earned his 12th technical foul of the season. That tally has steadily increased over his NBA career – five in his rookie year, nine last year – and he is now just four shy of a one-game suspension.

"He's aware," coach Rick Carlisle said. "My level of concern is there. But look, he's an emotional competitor. It all comes from the right place.

"He's smart, he knows where the count is. If he's going to get his 16th, he'll get it in a situation where it's time for a day of rest anyway. I'm not really that worried about it."

It was a big win for the Mavs, who returned to winning ways after a shock defeat to the Houston Rockets on Wednesday ended a run of five successive victories since Doncic returned from a short lay-off due to illness.

"This was a playoff-type game [against the Bucks], playoff-calibre in terms of intensity and competitiveness and the talent on the floor," Carlisle said. "We did a much, much better job, top to bottom, than we did last night."

Dallas also got 26 points, 17 rebounds and two blocks out of Kristaps Porzingis. Eleven of his points came in the fourth quarter on 4-for-4 shooting after failing to attempt a single field goal in the final 12 minutes against the Rockets.

Porzingis said of his relationship with Doncic: "We're trying to play together and help each other. We want to win – at the end, we all want to win here.

"We have to keep playing, keep playing together, playing well and helping each other."

The Milwaukee Bucks dropped their second game without Giannis Antetokounmpo going down 116-101 to the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA on Thursday night.

Mavs center Kristaps Porzingis dominated with 26 points including four three-pointers, along with 17 rebounds, with Slovenian guard Luka Doncic top scoring with 27 points.

The Bucks were without two-time MVP Giannis due to knee soreness, missing his third straight game as Milwaukee slipped to 32-19.

Milwaukee produced a 14-0 run in the third with Donte DiVincenzo scoring 22 points and Bobby Portis pulling down 14 rebounds but Dallas dominated the last quarter to take out the win.

The Los Angeles Lakers dropped another game without LeBron James and Anthony Davis as Jimmy Butler dazzled for the Miami Heat in a 110-104 victory.

Butler scored 28 points, with seven rebounds and five assists for Miami who trailed at the main break.

The Lakers have lost six of their past 10 matches with a 32-20 record and are fifth in the West.

 

Clippers blanket Suns, Jazz blow away Blazers

In a crucial clash in the West, the Los Angeles Clippers finished strong to edge the in-form Phoenix Suns 113-103 led by Paul George and Kawhi Leonard.

George had 33 points including seven three-pointers, seven rebounds and three assists, while Leonard scored 27 points, with five rebounds and five assists.

New Clippers recruit Rajon Rondo added 15 points and nine assists off the bench too, as they improved to 35-18, with the Suns 36-15 after their eight-game winning run ended.

Donovan Mitchell scored 37 points as the ladder leading Utah Jazz blew away the Portland Trail Blazers with a 40-19 third quarter to win 122-103.

Jazz center Rudy Gobert had 20 rebounds along with his 18 points while Damian Lillard scored 23 points and had five rebounds and six assists for the Blazers.

The Chicago Bulls were too good for the undermanned Toronto Raptors 122-113 with Deadline Day additions Nikola Vucevic and Daniel Theis starring.

 

New Heat recruit hurt

Heat guard Victor Oladipo played 25 minutes and scored 18 points in their win over the Lakers but he went off late with an apparent left knee injury which will have Miami sweating on their new recruit.

 

 

Kawhi dunks on Suns

The commentators were left staggered when Leonard drove into the key and produced a massive right-hand dunk in the third of the Clippers win over the Suns.

 

Thursday's results

Chicago Bulls 122-113 Toronto Raptors
Miami Heat 110-104 Los Angeles Lakers
Cleveland Cavaliers 129-102 Oklahoma City Thunder
Dallas Mavericks 116-101 Milwaukee Bucks
Los Angeles Clippers 113-103 Phoenix Suns
Detroit Pistons 113-101 Sacramento Kings
Utah Jazz 122-103 Portland Trail Blazers

 

76ers in The Big Easy

Joel Embiid's Philadelphia 76ers (35-16) go to Zion Williamson's New Orleans Pelicans (22-29) looking to re-claim top spot in the East.

Giannis Antetokounmpo will miss another match for the Milwaukee Bucks after being ruled out of Thursday's game against the Dallas Mavericks with knee soreness.

The 26-year-old two-time NBA MVP has missed Milwaukee's past two games since scoring 47 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in Friday's win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

In Antetokounmpo's absence, the Bucks suffered a surprise loss to the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday and beat the Sacramento Kings by one point on Saturday.

The Bucks confirmed his absence for Thursday's game an hour ahead of tip-off as they look to improve from 32-18.

Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said on Tuesday: "He was warming up tonight and just felt it a little bit. Just made the decision that tonight was not a good night, it was a night he should be out."

Antetokounmpo has had an outstanding NBA season for the Bucks, averaging 28.8 points per game with a field goal percentage of 56.5.

He also has 6.2 assists per game and 11.4 rebounds per game this season.

Stephen Curry produced a "phenomenal" performance to help the Golden State Warriors topple the Milwaukee Bucks for a much-needed win, according to Steve Kerr.

Point guard Curry has been bothered by a tailbone injury in recent weeks, meaning he had only played in two of his team's previous eight games heading into the clash with the Bucks.

However, the 33-year-old barely looked like he had barely missed a minute on Tuesday, contributing 41 points as the Warriors prevailed 122-121 against Milwaukee, who were without Giannis Antetokounmpo.

"I thought he was just phenomenal," Kerr said of Curry, per quotes on ESPN.

"I mean, Jrue Holiday's one of the best defensive guards in the league, and I thought Jrue did a great job on Steph all night just pressing him, using his strength and physicality. And Steph still goes out there and gets 41.

"Pretty impressive game. Amazing."

Curry went 14-for-21 from the floor and hit five three-pointers, including one with just over a minute to play during a dramatic conclusion to the see-saw contest.

Kelly Oubre Jr. converted a pair of free throws with 7.7 seconds remaining to put Golden State ahead, with a strong defensive stand on the final play securing a first win in four games.

Curry was playing on a minutes restriction but revealed how a conversation with Kerr led to him staying in the game for a little longer than planned in the fourth quarter.

"I was feeling good, in terms of the injury and all that. With two days off after tonight, I think we took all that into account," Curry said over his playing time.

"I feel good pretty much every game and want to play more, but obviously - considering where we are right now and the way the game was shaping out – it was winning time. Thankfully, it worked out."

There was concern when Curry – who is closing in on the all-time franchise points record, currently held by Wilt Chamberlain (17,783) – fell to the court following contact on a drive to the basket.

"It only hurts if I fall on it now. I'm kind of turning the corner where for the majority of the game, I didn't pay attention to it at all – until I landed on it," he told the media after the game.

"If I can stay off it, I'm in good shape to not have it in the back of my mind."

Oubre finished with 19 points for Golden State, while Kent Bazemore contributed 18 from the bench.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Zion matches Shaq as Hawks set NBA record

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Bucks pair struggle

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

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

 

The Jokic-Gordon combo

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

 

Tuesday's results

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

 

Pelicans at Nets

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

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