The NBA season is heating up nicely.

The Phoenix Suns are on fire, the Golden State Warriors are hanging on their coattails, while defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks are fighting back after a slow start to their season.

Meanwhile, the Detroit Pistons and Oklahoma City Thunder cannot buy a win.

Those are the teams, but which players have been impressing, and which are struggling to make an impact? Stats Perform delves into the numbers with the latest edition of NBA Heat Check.

RUNNING HOT...

Luguentz Dort

It is a team game, which Luguentz Dort knows only too well as his increasingly impressive individual numbers are doing little to turn around the fortunes of the Thunder.

The shooting guard failed to score more than 17 points in any of October's games, but came back from missing the defeat to the LA Clippers on the first day of November determined to do something about his team's form.

Dort set about trying to help the Thunder recover from a slow start and managed seven games of over 20 points, including 34 in the win against the Houston Rockets. Unfortunately for him and his teammates, there have been no wins in seven since then, despite the Canadian's best efforts.

His increased total points per game of 11.7 in October to 19.2 in November is the most in the league, while he was fourth for increase in three-pointers made per game (1.2 to 2.8).

Without that leap in form from the 22-year-old, you wonder how much worse Oklahoma City's record would be right now.

Jarrett Allen

The Cleveland Cavaliers have been a streaky team so far this season, but in Allen they have someone who is showing himself to be a real difference maker.

Allen's numbers have increased almost identically to Dort's, with an average of points scored per game going up from 11.7 to 19.0 from October to November.

The 23-year-old also tops the charts for largest increase in total rebounds per game, going from 9.0 in October to 12.8 in November.

The Cavs won six of their first seven games in November, only to then lose their next five, the first three of which against the Celtics, the Nets and the Warriors they were without Allen through illness.

His return has eventually seen form turn back around, with wins against the Magic and the Mavericks followed up by another at the Heat to kick off December.

Jordan Poole

Three-pointers are an increasingly important part of the modern game, and there is little more satisfying than seeing the ball sunk all the way from downtown.

Golden State Warriors fans may be the only ones getting a little bored of them given how many they see these days, with Steph Curry still the king of three-points, but Poole has been more than holding his own with his 51 total this season seeing him only behind Curry (77), Buddy Hield (61) and Lonzo Ball (52) in the standings.

It is Poole's improvement that gets him onto this list, though, having averaged just 1.5 successful three-point attempts per game in October, he upped that to 3.4 in November, the joint-highest league increase with Luka Doncic.

He was also fifth most improved for points scored, going from 14.0 per game in October to 20.3 in November.

This has helped the Warriors to a strong 18-3 record so far, but he even managed to stand out in the recent defeat to the Phoenix Suns, sinking six three-point attempts in a total contribution of 28 points on the night.

GOING COLD...

Kemba Walker

It was all set up to be a feel-good story before the season began as Walker, born in the Bronx, returned to New York to play for the Knicks after years of success with the Charlotte Hornets and Boston Celtics.

The four-time All-Star got off to a promising start, with eight defensive rebounds against his former Celtics in a debut win, and scoring double figures in all six of his October games.

However, November was not so kind to the 31-year-old, with his average of 3.7 three-pointers per game going down to just 1.3, the largest decrease in the league, and only managing double figures in four of his 12 outings.

Walker has never averaged less than his current 11.7 points per game across a season, with a career average of 19.7.

Such has been the drop in form for Walker, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau took the difficult decision to remove him from rotation ahead of the game at the Nets at the end of the month. 

Spencer Dinwiddie

The Washington Wizards point guard started the season with some impressive outings after his arrival from the Brooklyn Nets, including contributing 34 points in his second game against the Indiana Pacers, and scoring 20 or more in three of his five games in October. 

During November, Dinwiddie managed to score 20 or more just twice in 13 games, including failing to add anything to the scoreboard in defeat at the Charlotte Hornets.

His has been the largest decrease in points scored per game across the two months, going from an average of 19.8 in October to 12.8 in November.

The Wizards have not been too inconvenienced by this downturn in form from Dinwiddie, sitting second in the Eastern Conference on 14-8, but coach Wes Unseld Jr would surely love to see the 28-year-old return to his early season showings before too long.

Bam Adebayo

The Miami Heat center is averaging a career-best 18.7 points, along with 10.2 rebounds per game.

However, that number of rebounds has decreased from an average of 14.0 per game in October to 8.7 in November. Still respectable but the second-highest decrease of the month in the league behind only Gorgui Dieng (7.2 to 1.8). 

After registering double figures for rebounds in four of his five October performances, Adebayo only managed to do so in five of his 13 games in November, and unfortunately for him is set to miss the entirety of December after picking up a thumb injury.

The Heat won six of their first seven games, and Adebayo's electric form was a large part of that strong start, but having taken just two victories from their last six outings, will be hoping that when the Olympic gold medallist returns in the New Year, he can rediscover those elite levels.

The Philadelphia 76ers suffered a third consecutive defeat in the NBA, this time upstaged 115-109 by the visiting Toronto Raptors.

While 2020-21 MVP runner-up Joel Embiid and Matisse Thybulle remain sidelined due to the league's health and safety protocol, last season's Eastern Conference top seeds the 76ers welcomed back star Tobias Harris and Seth Curry.

Tyrese Maxey also scored 33 points in back-to-back 30-point games, but it was not enough for the 76ers (8-5) at home to the Raptors in Philadelphia on Thursday.

Maxey became the first 76er in either his first or second season with consecutive 30-plus point games since Embiid in 2017.

 

But Eastern Conference rivals the Raptors (7-6) silenced Wells Fargo Center thanks to Fred VanVleet (32 points), Gary Trent Jr. (20 points) and Og Anunoby (20 points).

VanVleet and Trent hit back-to-back three-pointers over the final 1:10 to lift the Raptors, who had lost three games in a row.

 

Streaking Clippers cool Heat

The Los Angeles Clippers (7-4) posted their sixth successive victory after outlasting the Miami Heat 112-109. Paul George scored 27 points and Reggie Jackson registered all his 22 points in the second half as the Clippers overturned a 17-point deficit. Bam Adebayo's season-high 30 points and 11 rebounds were not enough for the Heat (7-5), who dropped their third straight game and fourth of five.

 

Jazz beaten at home

For the first time this season, the Utah Jazz (8-4) lost at home following a surprise 111-100 defeat against the Indiana Pacers. All-Star pair Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell were ejected in the fourth quarter, along with team-mate Joe Ingles and Indiana's Myles Turner. The Pacers (5-8) were led by Malcolm Brogdon's season-high 30 points.

Miami Heat stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo have been ruled out of Tuesday's scheduled showdown with the Philadelphia 76ers due to the NBA's health and safety protocols amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Butler and Adebayo were added to Miami's COVID-19 protocol list on Monday, joining team-mates Goran Dragic, Kendrick Nunn, Maurice Harkless, Udonis Haslem and KZ Okpala.

Heat guard Avery Bradley had been placed on the health and safety protocols list before Sunday's matchup against the Boston Celtics was postponed.

The coronavirus situation also saw the postponement of Monday's game between the New Orleans Pelicans and Dallas Mavericks, as well as the Celtics-Chicago Bulls encounter on Tuesday.

Miami are ninth in the Eastern Conference with a 4-4 record after reaching last season's NBA Finals, eventually beaten by the Los Angeles Lakers.

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