The races for the top seeds in each conference in the NBA are getting more interesting.

It was a fascinating seven days of action in the NBA, which saw the Brooklyn Nets surge even with Kevin Durant on the sidelines.

They are on a six-game win streak and trail the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers by only half a game.

However, the Sixers can be encouraged by the form of their top two stars, who each enjoyed extremely productive weeks.

The Los Angeles Lakers are on a two-game losing streak and are two and a half games back of the Utah Jazz in the race for the top seed in the Western Conference.

They will be out to get back to their best this week, and an improvement in three-point shooting from the MVP frontrunner would be beneficial to them doing that.

Here we take a look at some of the best and worst performers across the past week, aided by Stats Perform data.

RUNNING HOT...

Ben Simmons

Simmons missed two games last week due to stomach flu but he was excellent in the pair of games in which he did feature for the Sixers.

He dropped 42 points in the loss to the Utah Jazz and, after a brief spell on the sidelines, was back with 28 in the defeat to the Toronto Raptors.

His points per game average for the week ballooned to 35, Simmons having entered the week putting up 14.13. Philadelphia will need more of the same the rest of the way if the Sixers are to clinch top spot in the East.

Jamal Murray

The Nuggets are in the thick of a crowded playoff race in the Western Conference, and their hopes of reaching the postseason will be boosted if Murray can maintain his form of the past week.

Having come into the week scoring 18.54 points per game, he averaged 35 last week, with that number inflated by a stunning 50-point game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, which saw him shoot 84 per cent from the field and go eight of 10 from three-point range.

He went from putting up just over two triples per game to averaging five and, with a game against a Portland Trail Blazers team two and a half games ahead of them in the standings next up, Murray's success from deep will be pivotal.

Joel Embiid

Arguably the closest challenger to LeBron James for the league MVP award this season, Embiid was a monster on the boards for the Sixers this week.

His 50-point game in the win over the Chicago Bulls on Friday was also the first of two successive outings with 17 rebounds. 

Embiid's rebounds per game average jumped from 10.77 entering the week to 15 over the past seven days.

He will need to continue making that kind of all-round impact in scoring and rebounding if Embiid is to have any hope of denying LeBron the MVP.

GOING COLD...

Derrick Rose

Rose's second week as a New York Knick did not go to plan.

The 2011 MVP had come into the week registering 14.28 points per game, but that dropped to just 5.33 over the course of the last three games.

He endured a dismal week from the field, hitting just five of his 27 shots. Having gotten him out of a bad situation in Detroit, the Knicks will want a lot more from Rose in the coming weeks as they look to cement their grasp on a playoff spot.

Nikola Jokic

While Murray has been outstanding for the Nuggets, their MVP candidate had a down week in one key area of his game.

Denver lost three of their four games last week, and the Nuggets will look for improved play on the boards from Jokic as they target a reversal in fortunes. 

Jokic had been recording 11.5 rebounds per game but that dipped to 8.75 over his past four outings, failing to put up double-digit rebounds in back-to-back games against the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards.

He was back in double figures in each of Denver's last two games, and Jokic will aim to carry that momentum into this week and a key matchup with Portland.

LeBron James

This season has seen LeBron hit threes at his highest rate since joining the Los Angeles Lakers.

He has converted on 36.2 per cent of his attempts from beyond the arc but he suffered a decline from deep last week.

Having entered the week hitting 2.57 threes a game, he averaged just one over the course of the Lakers' last three matchups.

James has not made more than one three in a game since the second meeting in a back-to-back with the Oklahoma City Thunder on February 10.

With LeBron, though, drop-offs are only ever temporary. The MVP frontrunner should resume normal service from three-point range sooner rather than later.

The high-flying Brooklyn Nets made it six straight wins in the NBA with a 112-108 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Brooklyn were missing star Kevin Durant (hamstring) once again, but James Harden (37 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists) and Kyrie Irving (28 points and eight assists) stepped up in his absence.

The Nets held a 10-point lead at the final break but roared on by billionaire owner Steve Ballmer in the front row, the Clippers pushed hard in the last.

With the Nets leading 110-108 with 10 seconds to play, Clippers star Kawhi Leonard (29 points and 13 rebounds) was called for a tough offensive foul on former MVP Harden, spurning their final chance at victory.

The Nets have beaten all five Pacific Division teams on the road over their last 5 games. According to Stats Perform, Brooklyn are the first NBA team to beat an entire division on the road in consecutive games since the Milwaukee Bucks did so against the Pacific Division over their last five games of the 1972-73 season.

Brooklyn wrapped up a 5-0 road trip – their longest undefeated single trip in franchise history.

The Nets improved to 20-12 in the Eastern Conference – a half-game adrift of leaders the Philadelphia 76ers, while the Clippers slipped to 22-10.

The Los Angeles Clippers ended the Utah Jazz's winning run in the NBA on Friday, while Joel Embiid and Jamal Murray posted 50-point games.

The Clippers snapped the Jazz's nine-game winning streak with a 116-112 victory in a clash between two NBA championship contenders.

Kawhi Leonard led the way for the Clippers with 29 points as they improved to 22-9.

Donovan Mitchell had a game-high 35 points, but the Jazz's winning run came to an end, with the Western Conference leaders now 24-6 this season.

Embiid's career-high 50 points, 17 rebounds and five assists helped the Philadelphia 76ers past the Chicago Bulls 112-105.

He is the first 76ers player to score 50-plus points since Allen Iverson in 2005.

Murray, meanwhile, was spectacular in the Denver Nuggets' 120-103 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The guard was an incredible 21-of-25 from the field, and eight-of-10 from three-point range, for his 50-point haul.

Murray and Embiid were the first NBA pair with 50-plus points on 65 per cent-plus shooting on the same day since Tom Chambers and Patrick Ewing on March 24, 1990, as per Stats Perform.

Nikola Jokic had a triple-double of 16 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in the Nuggets' win.

 

Giannis leads Bucks, Curry's Warriors fall short

Giannis Antetokounmpo's double-double of 29 points and 19 rebounds saw the Milwaukee Bucks past the Oklahoma City Thunder 98-85.

Stephen Curry had 29 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds, but the Golden State Warriors were beaten by the Orlando Magic 124-120.

Magic star Nikola Vucevic finished with a triple-double of 30 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists.

Despite a double-double from Trae Young (31 points and 11 assists), the Atlanta Hawks went down to the Boston Celtics 121-109.

 

Wayward VanVleet

Fred VanVleet went four-of-20 from the field for just 12 points in 37 minutes, but the Toronto Raptors still got past the Minnesota Timberwolves 86-81.

 

Edwards' incredible dunk

Anthony Edwards was three-of-14 from the field for just seven points in 34 minutes in the Timberwolves' loss, yet the 2020 top draft pick produced a monstrous dunk.

Friday's results

Orlando Magic 124-120 Golden State Warriors
Denver Nuggets 120-103 Cleveland Cavaliers
Boston Celtics 121-109 Atlanta Hawks
Philadelphia 76ers 112-105 Chicago Bulls
Phoenix Suns 132-114 New Orleans Pelicans
Memphis Grizzlies 109-95 Detroit Pistons
Milwaukee Bucks 98-85 Oklahoma City Thunder
Toronto Raptors 86-81 Minnesota Timberwolves
Los Angeles Clippers 116-112 Utah Jazz

 

Heat at Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers (22-8) look to bounce back from their loss to the Brooklyn Nets when they host the Miami Heat (12-17) on Saturday in what is a rematch of last year's NBA Finals.

Joel Embiid credited his team-mates after his incredible performance in the Philadelphia 76ers' win over the Chicago Bulls.

Embiid posted a career-high 50 points, to go with 17 rebounds and five assists, in the 76ers' 112-105 victory in the NBA on Friday.

But the All-Star paid tribute to his team-mates after the 76ers improved to 20-10.

"We did it as a team. It wasn't a one-man effort, we all worked together," Embiid told ESPN.

"My team-mates found me, I found them, we shared the ball, we moved the ball and we actually played better defense than we've been playing the past couple of games which makes me happy. It starts on defense and I'm pretty happy about what we did on that end."

Embiid added: "That's my job, that's why they pay me, defensively just being the best defensive player of the year because you know my aspirations are to win that defensive player of the year.

"Offensively doing whatever I'm needed to, if I need to get them open that's what I'm going to do, if I need to score that's what I'm going to do, if I need to set screens that's what's I'm going to do, so we did it as a team."

After back-to-back wins, the 76ers are top of the Eastern Conference.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joel Embiid led the Philadelphia 76ers to victory over the Houston Rockets despite a back issue but is not alarmed by the ongoing injury.

All-Star center Embiid has been dealing with back tightness since a fall in the win against the Los Angeles Lakers in January, though he has only missed two games.

With Ben Simmons sitting out against the Rockets due to illness, Embiid was keen to take part against the Rockets on Wednesday and he put up 31 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.

It was the 26-year-old's 12th straight game with at least 25 points, joining Allen Iverson and Wilt Chamberlain as the only 76ers players to achieve that feat.

Philadelphia led by 26 points at halftime but Houston cut the deficit to four during the final quarter, meaning Embiid was on the floor a lot longer than he had initially planned.

"It was pretty tight, but I just wanted to make sure we got the win and that's all that matters," said Embiid.

"I wanted to give it a shot for five more minutes [in the second half], obviously things changed and I had to adjust to it but the whole game it was pretty tight. But I'll be fine.

"It's not alarming. As NBA players we're playing every single night and the body is sore, you've just got to take care of yourself. It's normal.

"It's tightness. Some days its tighter than usual, some days it's not. After the [Phoenix] Suns game it got tighter than usual and today when we started it was tighter than usual, so it's just some days and I've just got to go home and continue to do what I've been doing and I'll be fine."

The 76ers had 13 turnovers in the second half and Embiid accounted for five of those. It took the team's total for the game to 20.

"They started making some shots, we had a couple turnovers – especially me," Embiid said when asked to explain the Rockets' resurgence.

"We had a stretch where at least six possessions in a row we had nothing going on and they just came back down the other end and just started making shots.

"We've just got to learn how to close games when needed. There's a lot to learn but we got the win."

Head coach Doc Rivers added: "It just got sloppy. It happens. We had a big lead, probably didn't have a lot left in the tank.

"We really had some unforced turnovers, which you don't like. Teams like Houston are going to keep throwing the ball at the rim and if you turn the ball over you're going to allow them back in the game.

"I don't think it was the pressure it was more us and we had a lot of self-inflicted wounds."

Embiid also praised Matisse Thybulle, who thrived in the zone defense despite the absence of Simmons and had a game-high four steals.

"When you've got Matisse in the game, I feel like that's our best defense. He gets his hands on everything," said Embiid.

"I think he has the potential to be the best defender in the league, just the way he moves, the way he wins on defense. He's got great hands, so that's one of the reasons why we do it.

"We did it in Indiana in that fourth quarter and he completely changed the game and tonight we basically did it the whole game, he was all over the place.

"I think he has a chance, especially when it comes to All-NBA Defensive Teams."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ben Simmons believes his potential is "scary" after scoring a career-high 42 points against the Utah Jazz.

Playing at center in the absence of Joel Embiid for the Philadelphia 76ers, Simmons converted 15 of his 26 field goals, adding 12 assists and nine rebounds in a fantastic performance.

Utah still won the game 134-123 to make it 19 wins from 20.

Despite playing in a third straight loss, Simmons believes the record night shows he has made huge strides over recent weeks.

"I feel like I'm figuring it out," Simmons said after the game.

"Obviously, my scoring has been a lot higher the past five, six games.

"As long as I can keep doing that and stay locked in and keep working on my mental [game], I think it's scary.

"You have got to keep your foot down. Keep pushing forward offensively with me. Stay dominant - I know what I'm capable of.

"It felt good that I was able to dominate offensively. Defensively I did okay, not great. Offensively, I definitely had to pick up the slack especially if Joel is out. So yes [it was probably my most aggressive game].

"I loved when I saw Rudy [Gobert] was guarding me. I love being able to go at somebody like that. I felt like it was a little bit disrespectful to put him on me, but it is what it is.

"Honestly, I've just been working on my mentality and mental [game] a lot these past few weeks.

"It's not easy to do that. Your mindset will change the way you play or certain things in the game that come natural for certain people. It is all mental.

"People don't realise your mentality is a huge part of the game. For me I continue to work on that. I'm just trying to get better and progress my game and get to that next level.

"But we wanted to get this win bad. We didn't get it, so we've got to move on."

Getting Simmons matched up with Gobert was exactly what coach Doc Rivers had in mind, while he also praised Tobias Harris for a 36-point display.

Rivers said: "I didn't know we were going to get the 42 points out of him! But he did everything - he guarded, did a good job. Played with pace.

"We anticipated once Joel scratched that the lineup that we put on the floor, we were trying to create a lineup where Gobert would guard Ben and that happened.

"The key for us was getting stops and getting it to Ben and getting up the floor. We just felt like there was no way anybody was going to stay with Ben, especially a center.

"Tobias [Harris] was phenomenal as well. Look at those two guys, man!

"Harris has to be straight line, aggressive and powerful. When he plays like that, he's hard to deal with. He played a very decisive game and had very few indecisive plays.

"He is really keeping the game simple, playing with great force, scoring from the three[-point line], off the dribble and the post. He's doing exactly what we believe he can do.

"[Embiid] was just a late scratch. They came to me and told me his back is still stiff. So I don't think this is a long term issue or anything like that. It's just a game missed."

The Sixers are still top of the Eastern Conference at 18-10 and host the Houston Rockets next on Wednesday.

Jordan Clarkson scored 40 points off the bench for the impressive Jazz, who lead the Western Conference with an NBA-best record of 23-5.

Jordan Clarkson and Ben Simmons were drawn into a high-scoring shoot-out as the NBA-leading Utah Jazz powered past the Philadelphia 76ers 134-123 in a mouth-watering showdown.

In a battle pitting the Western Conference-leading Jazz against Eastern Conference pacesetters, the Jazz came out on top thanks to Clarkson's 40 points.

Utah's Clarkson nailed a stunning eight three-pointers as he became first player to come off the bench and score 40 points in less than 30 minutes since 1991.

In response, 76ers All-Star Simmons fired up for a career-high 42 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds, and Tobias Harris put up a 36-point, 10-rebound double-double, but the 76ers could not keep up with the Jazz.

Simmons opened with a career-best quarter of 19 points to give the 76ers a seven-point lead at the first buzzer before Utah took over and claimed an eighth straight win, and a 19th win in 20 games.

Missing Joel Embiid to a back injury, the 76ers' third straight loss opened the door for the Brooklyn Nets to close the gap in the east and they obliged, posting a franchise-record 25 three-pointers in a 132-121 win over the Sacramento Kings.

Kyrie Irving put up 40 points and former MVP James Harden added a triple-double (29 points, 14 assists and 13 rebounds) to lead the Nets to a third consecutive victory as the struggling Kings fell to a fourth straight defeat.

The NBA-leading Utah Jazz flexed their muscles with a 112-94 win over the Miami Heat on Saturday.

Utah (22-5) extended their winning streak to seven games after Donovan Mitchell fuelled the Jazz at home to last season's NBA Finals participants the Heat.

Jazz star Mitchell posted 26 points and Rudy Gobert added 16 points and 12 rebounds for Utah, who have won 18 of their last 19 games.

Kendrick Nunn had a team-high 23 points as the Heat had their four-game winning streak snapped.

Meanwhile, Kevin Durant returned from coronavirus protocol to lead the way for the Brooklyn Nets in his reunion with the Golden State Warriors.

Durant, who won two championships over three years with the Warriors before joining the Nets in 2019, scored 20 points in Brooklyn's 134-117 victory.

"My time here at Golden State was so much fun," Durant, who watched a tribute video during the opening quarter, said after his return to Bay Area for the first time since leaving.

"It was such a big learning experience, especially learning the game of basketball, a different philosophy. I'm going to take that with me for the rest of my life."

Kyrie Irving posted 23 points and fellow Nets star James Harden finished with 19 points and 16 assists.

Stephen Curry had a game-high 27 points for the Warriors.

 

Booker stars as Suns sizzle

Devin Booker put up 36 points to inspire the Phoenix Suns to a 120-111 win over Eastern Conference leaders the Philadelphia 76ers. Joel Embiid's 35 points were not enough for the 76ers in Phoenix.

 

Tucker scoreless again

It was another scoreless display from P.J. Tucker in the Houston Rockets' 121-99 rout at the hands of the New York Knicks. In 31 minutes, Tucker missed all four of his field goals, going 0-of-four from three-point range.

 

Jazz dazzle

There is just no stopping the Jazz at the moment. Playing with confidence, Utah put on a show as they highlighted their elite ball movement against the helpless Heat.

 

Saturday's results

Phoenix Suns 120-111 Philadelphia 76ers
New York Knicks 121-99 Houston Rockets
Brooklyn Nets 134-117 Golden State Warriors
Utah Jazz 112-94 Miami Heat
Indiana Pacers 125-113 Atlanta Hawks

 

Lakers at Nuggets

The in-form Los Angeles Lakers (21-6) travel to the Denver Nuggets (14-11) on Sunday. Defending champions the Lakers are riding a seven-game winning streak, while the Nuggets have won back-to-back games.

Stephen Curry delivered another dazzling display of three-point shooting as the Golden State Warriors overpowered the Orlando Magic 111-105 in the NBA.

Curry went into the contest on a career-best streak of 12 consecutive games scoring at least four three-pointers, and the two-time MVP wasted no time extending that run to 13 inside the first quarter at Chase Center on Thursday.

James Harden is the only other player in NBA history to nail four threes in 13 straight games, after putting up 40 points, draining 10 of 19 from beyond the arc.

Curry has posted at least 25 points while shooting at least 50.0 per cent from the field in each of his last eight games. According to Stats Perform, it is the longest streak by any guard since Michael Jordan did so in 11 successive games in 1995-96.

Warriors team-mate Andrew Wiggins scored 21 points in support, while Magic star Nikola Vucevic hit a 25-point, 13-rebound double-double in reply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Embiid leads 76ers

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

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

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

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

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

 

Oladipo struggles

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

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

 

Zion with the slam!

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

 

Saturday's results

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

 

Kings at Clippers

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

Kevin Durant will miss the Brooklyn Nets' clash with Eastern Conference leaders the Philadelphia 76ers due to the NBA's health and safety protocols.

Durant was in doubt for Saturday's showdown in Philadelphia following an unusual series of events on Friday.

The Nets star was named in the starting line-up to face the Toronto Raptors before being removed because of the league's health and safety protocols.

Durant was allowed to enter the game in the opening quarter, only to then exit in the third period – again due to coronavirus protocols – as the Nets lost 123-117.

Former MVP Durant finished with eight points, six rebounds and five assists in 19 minutes against the Raptors.

Prior to Saturday's matchup against the 76ers (16-7), Nets head coach Steve Nash said Durant is eligible to re-join the team on Friday.

Durant has been averaging 29.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game for the Nets (14-10) this season.

 

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