Reigning back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic became just the third player in NBA history with 40 points, 25 rebounds and 10 assists in a game in the Denver Nuggets' 119-115 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday.

Jokic finished with 40 points, 27 rebounds and 10 assists for his 81st career triple-double, joining Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor as the only players to achieve the aforementioned stat line.

The Serbian is the first player to reach that mark since Chamberlain in 1968. Chamberlain managed that milestone four times in his decorated career.

The Nuggets center pulled down 20 rebounds before half-time in a dominant display in the paint, leading Denver to an 18-11 overall record. Jokic's 27 rebounds were a career-high, and it was his fifth triple-double of the season.

Jokic received strong support from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with 20 points, four rebounds and five assists while Jamal Murray dished off 11 assists. Aaron Gordon chipped in with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

The Hornets fall to a 7-23 record, with LaMelo Ball scoring 31 points including four triples on 100 per cent three-point shooting in his third game back from injury.

Banchero stars as Magic topple Celtics

This season's top overall NBA Draft pick Paolo Banchero scored 31 points as the Orlando Magic claimed their sixth straight win and toppled the Boston Celtics 95-92.

Banchero produced his third 30-point game, shooting six-of-seven from beyond the arc, while Admiral Schofield contributed 11 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter.

The win means the Magic completed a sweep of consecutive games in Bolton and extended their win streak to their longest since March 2019.

KD leads Nets rally for sixth straight win

Kevin Durant scored 26 of his 43 points in the third quarter to carry a 17-point comeback for the Brooklyn Nets in a 124-121 victory over the Detroit Pistons. Kyrie Irving added 38 points as the Nets secured their sixth straight win.

The Minnesota Timberwolves broke their franchise single-game scoring record in a 150-126 rout over the Chicago Bulls led by Anthony Edwards' season-high 37 points and 11 assists.

The Golden State Warriors won for the first time this season without the injured Stephen Curry (shoulder), with Jordan Poole scoring a career-high 43 points in a 126-110 victory over the Toronto Raptors.

A career night for Minnesota Timberwolves reserve Jaden McDaniels was not enough to stop the Memphis Grizzlies from winning Game 6 114-106 on the road, clinching the series 4-2 in the process.

It was another tough game scoring the ball for Grizzlies star Ja Morant, who shot four-of-14 from the field and zero-for-five from long range for his 15 points, bringing his series averages to 21 points per game at 39 per cent shooting.

But yet again, he found other ways to impact the game and help his side win, with 11 assists and eight rebounds, right in line with his average production in the series as he assumed a facilitating role.

Desmond Bane led Memphis in scoring (both in the game and the series) with 23 points from nine-of-15 shooting, Jaren Jackson Jr finally stayed out of foul trouble and delivered 18 points and 14 rebounds in 35 minutes, and Brandon Clarke was the difference-maker off the bench with 17 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and three blocks.

For the Timberwolves, Anthony Edwards scored a game-high 30 points on 10-of-24 shooting and added five assists, two blocks and two steals, while Karl-Anthony Towns was solid, but disappointing for an All-Star with 18 points (six-of-19 shooting) and 10 rebounds.

Jaden McDaniels almost proved to be the most important player in the game after coming off the Timberwolves bench, hitting eight of his nine shots, including five out of six three-point attempts to score a career-high 24 points in 33 minutes.

McDaniels' clutch three-pointer late in the fourth quarter cut the margin back to 103-102, but the Grizzlies were just too strong down the stretch, winning the last frame 40-22 for their second straight victory after trailing by double figures at three-quarter time.

With the win, the Grizzlies will meet the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference semi-finals.

Anthony Edwards ensured the Minnesota Timberwolves did not pay the price for Karl-Anthony Towns' night to forget against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Three-time All-Star Towns fouled out of the seven-eight play-in game in the West on Tuesday.

Having made just three field goals and given up four turnovers along with his six fouls, Towns had a miserable plus/minus of -14 as he exited the fourth quarter.

But the seven-point lead the Clippers held at that point was subsequently overturned – in no small part due to the performance of former first overall pick Edwards.

The second-year wing finished with 30 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, in a 109-104 T-Wolves win.

Edwards faced the media alongside Patrick Beverley afterwards, and his team-mate interrupted when the 20-year-old was asked about his work on offense.

"No one can guard him. I've been telling him that all year," Beverley said. "I don't care who plays him. I've seen the best defensive guys. I'm one of the best defensive guys on Earth.

"No one can guard him, and I just keep preaching that, preaching that to him, and he's been doing it all season, so credit to him, credit to his hard work, credit to his patience.

"Obviously we have Karl-Anthony Towns, who we feature a lot, so credit to his patience at a young age, understanding the game, being patient, understanding when to attack.

"KAT fouled out, him and D'Lo [D'Angelo Russell] took over the game. Our young core, man, those three guys, man, we're going to be here for a while.

"So, I'm very excited. I didn't mean to interrupt his questions, but I see the boy, he puts in a lot of work, fellas... ladies, too. He puts in a lot of work.

"One of the first guys in the beginning of the year in the gym. It's time to go home, he's the last one in, he comes at night. He brings his dog in there, he's in there.

"So, you've got to give a lot of credit. This is our star and this is his moment. He deserves all of it. This is his moment. My bad."

Beverley could be forgiven for being a little excited, having beaten his former team. He spent four years on the Clippers before joining the T-Wolves this season.

"I wanted this so bad," he said. "I wanted this one so bad."

His message to the Clippers now? "Take their a** home. Long flight to LA, take y'all a** home.

"It's deeper than that for me. I gave my blood and sweat and tears to that organisation. You guys know the story. Blood, sweat and tears, to just be written off like that, 'oh, he's injury prone, he's old', this, this, that, that.

"To be able to come here, play them in a play-in, beat their a**, there's no other feeling, man, no other feeling."

Despite Beverley's apparent ill feeling towards the Clippers, former team-mate Paul George said he "loves" and "misses" his "contagious" antics.

"You need energy guys like that," George said, although Clippers coach Ty Lue was disappointed with the way Beverley was able to get under his team's skin.

"He did a good job, especially in that second half, of just defending, getting into guys, irritating guys like he always does," Lue said.

"He's a big reason why this team is successful this year. I just think the mentality he brought over here has changed the team.

"[You've] just got to be able to keep composure, you can't let it get to you. I thought at times he did. That's what he does.

"He's been with us here forever. We knew that coming into the game. We didn't handle it well, but whatever."

The Minnesota Timberwolves have been on the floor of the NBA for what feels like forever.

It has been 17 seasons since the Wolves last won a playoff series, tied with the Charlotte Hornets/Bobcats and Sacramento Kings for the longest active streaks in the league.

Since the 2005-06 season, Minnesota have had just one winning season, tied with the Kings for the fewest in the NBA over that span. All of this losing comes despite having talented players and valuable assets on the roster over the past 15 seasons, chiefly Kevin Garnett, Kevin Love, Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Al Jefferson.

Time and again, Minnesota have underperformed their talent and remained irrelevant, even by small-market standards.

Yet this season has provided a glimmer of hope for the future – and perhaps the present – if the Timberwolves' front office can choose the correct path.

Minnesota turned the calendar from November to December with an 11-10 record after last year's team needed 45 games to get their 11th win of the season.

This month, however, the Wolves have lost four straight, and other than an 8-3 stretch from November 12 to November 30, the team are just 3-11, leaving many to question whether Minnesota are genuinely improved or simply had a nice three-week stretch.

The performance on the defensive end of the floor has much better than last season's by almost any measure. Opponents are scoring an average of 8.9 points per game fewer against the Wolves this season compared to last season's Western Conference-worst mark of 117.7.

 

Even adjusting for pace, the numbers seem to show improvement defensively. Minnesota are allowing 105.6 points per 100 possessions, far better than last season's mark of 112.1.

The Timberwolves' improvements in opponents' shooting have been nearly as pronounced, allowing 44.5 per cent conversion from the floor and 33.3 per cent from three-point range, both representing the largest improvements in the West.

Additionally, Minnesota are forcing a league-leading 17.3 turnovers per game, although that aggression has led to a league-high 22.7 personal fouls per game and NBA-most 24.3 opponents' free throw attempts per game.

The T-Wolves have converted defense into offense, boasting a top-10 transition offense and playing at the third-fastest pace in the NBA, getting up an average of 92.4 shot attempts per game. The halfcourt efficiency, however, has been middling at best.

Despite improved numbers from Towns and second-year sensation Anthony Edwards, Minnesota have seen their shooting drop both overall and from three-point range.

Launching 42.3 three-point attempts per game – second only to the Utah Jazz (42.7) in the league this season – the Wolves rank just 23rd in three-point percentage at 33.6, making them extremely volatile on offense.

The saving grace on offense has been offensive rebounding, with the T-Wolves grabbing a league-leading 13.4 offensive boards per game and converting those into 16.8 second-chance points per game, trailing only the Memphis Grizzlies' 16.9.

Ultimately, the limiting factor to Minnesota's playoff hopes may be a lack of depth in offensive talent. Towns, Edwards and point guard D'Angelo Russell are the highest-scoring trio in the West at 65.0 points per game, but the team as a whole have the 24th-most efficient offense in the league, scoring 104.2 points per 100 possessions.

These polarising results leave the Timberwolves' front office in a bind as it prepares for the future and as the league's trade deadline comes into view.

The team are currently on pace to qualify for the West's play-in tournament while Towns is still just 26 and Edwards is a green 20 years old. It would be perfectly reasonable to play this season out, acquire more young talent in the draft and build towards the future.

But disgruntled Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons has been linked to Minnesota in trade talks by a variety of media outlets, indicating that the Wolves' front office could have designs on evading the play-in tournament entirely and making a run at a top-six seed.

The Sixers have remained adamant that they will accept nothing less than a king's ransom for the 25-year-old point guard, but analysts have drawn up plenty of potential three- and four-team deals that would land Simmons in Minneapolis as a bet on top-flight prospect talent.

Many teams would avoid such a risk, especially after Simmons' turbulent offseason and oft-criticised postseason performances, but Minnesota – with their small market and cold climate – have a famously difficult time improving their roster through free agency. Towns, Anthony and Simmons were each the top overall draft pick in their respective classes and uniting them would be an aggressive bet on talent and potential.

Simmons, an infamously non-willing shooter from anywhere outside the paint, would likely represent a double-down approach on the Wolves' unconventional style of play, banking on more defense, turnovers and offensive rebounds while ignoring the need for an elite shot-creator.

The current core of the Timberwolves, however, has provided some reason for optimism, and the opportunity for a rare playoff run may be too much to resist for Minnesota's front office, long deprived of postseason revenue.

The Wolves' schedule is brutal over the next 12 games – seven of which are on the road against West opponents – and their performance over that stretch could determine the path of the team going forward.

Perhaps leaders in Minneapolis will see an 8-3 run in November as a promising blip on the radar for a rebuilding squad, but a win-starved franchise in a small market could be compelled to invest heavily in the present, banking on three number one picks.

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