Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo thinks the Cleveland Cavaliers deserve more respect after their impressive defeat of the reigning champions.

The Cavs moved to 30-19 for the season, with eight wins from their past nine games, thanks to a dominant 115-99 home victory over the Bucks.

Cleveland have already comfortably surpassed their win total from last season, when they claimed just 22 victories and were in the draft lottery for the third year running, and only one side in the Eastern Conference has won more than their 30 games in 2021-22.

After falling behind in the first quarter, they dominated the middle phase of Thursday's game, beginning the second half with a three-pointer triple in 48 seconds before marching into a 93-72 lead.

Giannis tallied 26 points, nine rebounds and three assists on his return from a knee problem but his efforts were not enough.

Last year's Finals MVP said there is little doubt the Cavs are now contenders not just for the playoffs, but for the title.

"This is not the Cleveland we knew over the past few years," said Giannis, who brought chicken wings to his post-game media conference.

"They have a good team, and we have to respect them more. They're a playoff team and are fighting for the title themselves."

Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff said of arguably their best win of the season: "It's who we are. We take on all challenges.

"We don't run from anybody. We don't back down. We give everybody our best shot."

Counterpart Mike Budenholzer had few complaints about the result, adding of the Cavs: "They played lights out tonight.

"I don't know what the right analogy is, but they played really well. They beat us pretty good.

"Live ball turnovers is when transition defense is the toughest, and we made a lot of them."

The Phoenix Suns recorded their eighth consecutive victory as they defeated the Utah Jazz 105-97 with Devin Booker producing another 40-point game on Wednesday.

Booker had 43 points, 12 rebounds and four assists after a first-quarter scoring blitz as the Suns opened up an early 39-18 lead.

Chris Paul (21 points) added some key points down the stretch as the Jazz rallied in the last quarter.

The 25-year-old shooting guard recorded his 16th career 40-point game, moving past Amar'e Stoudemire for most in Suns franchise history, sitting ahead of Tom Chambers and Walter Davis too.

The victory means the table-topping Suns improve to 38-9 overall and 8-0 on the road this calendar year.

 

Hornets break records in Pacers rout

The Charlotte Hornets set a franchise record for single game scoring and produced the highest points total this season as they downed the Indiana Pacers 158-126. The Hornets hit 24 three-pointers, with LaMelo Ball (29 points, 10 rebounds, 13 assists) and Kelly Oubre Jr (39 points) starring.

The Cleveland Cavaliers underlined their credentials as contenders with a 115-99 win over the champions Milwaukee Bucks. The Cavs moved above the Bucks with their eighth win in their past nine games, with Kevin Love scoring 25 points. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 26 points and nine rebounds for the Bucks.

Ja Morant was exceptional with 41 points, five rebounds and eight assists as the Memphis Grizzlies won 118-110 over the San Antonio Spurs, while Nikola Jokic (26 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists) led the Denver Nuggets past the depleted Brooklyn Nets 124-118. James Harden was out with hamstring tightness.

 

Bulls wayward but winners

The Chicago Bulls only managed seven three-pointers, shooting at 26.9 percent from beyond the arc yet they won 111-105 over the Toronto Raptors. The Bulls had lost six of seven but have steadied to win their past two, with DeMar DeRozan having 29 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash has provided injury updates on James Harden and Kevin Durant after reports that the latter would be out until after the All-Star Game.

Harden missed Wednesday's 124-118 loss to the Denver Nuggets with "hamstring tightness" while Durant has not played since spraining his MCL on January 15.

The Nets did not provide a timeframe on Durant's return although ESPN claimed it would be between four and six weeks.

ESPN also reporting this week that Durant would miss the All-Star Game scheduled for February 20 although Nash did not confirm that.

"We'll re-evaluate in the next week or so," Nash said at the post-game news conference. "We’ll see how his rehab goes and what the re-evaluations tell us."

Durant is currently averaging 29.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists through 36 games this season.

Harden has averaged 23.0 points, 8.1 rebounds and 10.1 assists this season, but is also averaging 37 minutes per game with the absences of Durant and Kyrie Irving impacting his on-court time.

"I think we're all hopeful he'll play next game," Nash said about Harden with the Nets to play the Golden State Warriors on Saturday.

"It's day to day, so we'll see. It's likely, probable and we're all very hopeful that he'll be ready to go."

Cameron Thomas top scored with 25 points against the Nuggets, while Patty Mills impressed with 21 points, three rebounds and six assists.

The defeat leaves the Nets with a 29-19 record having lost three in a row, slipping to fourth in the east.

"Details. We're proud of the guys' effort, but details, we talked about them last night," Nash said.

"Part of that, is we had some guys play together who've not played many minutes together over the last few years so there's some cohesion that is lacking and some understanding and familiarity lacking.

"That's where we have to improve especially with guys out of the lineup."

Joel Embiid has no plans to let up after putting on another dominating performance as the Philadelphia 76ers defeated a depleted New Orleans Pelicans side on Tuesday.

Embiid had 42 points alongside 14 rebounds and four assists for the 76ers, who ran out 117-107 victors at the Wells Fargo Center.

Having been criticised in the past for missing games, Embiid recently revealed he has altered his diet in order to compete more regularly.

It certainly seems to have done the trick. Tuesday's game was his 19th in a row, helping Philly to a 13-6 run in that time, during which he is averaging 33.3 points to enhance his MVP credentials having finished runner-up last season.

"That was one of my goals, just to be available. I don't plan on stopping," said Embiid, whose 76ers side are now 28-19 and sixth in the East.

The Pelicans actually led 58-50 at the break despite missing starters Devonte Graham, Josh Hart, and Brandon Ingram with ankle injuries, while Jonas Valanciunas was rested. Zion Williamson is also still out with the foot injury that has kept him out all season.

Asked what the thought process was for the second half, Embiid said: "Just win.

"Just being aggressive because in the first half everything was easy for them."

Embiid was not the only player to go off on Tuesday, with Nikola Jokic leading the Denver Nuggets in their 110-105 defeat of the Detroit Pistons, which leaves them sixth in the West with a 25-21 record.

Jokic had 28 points, 21 rebounds and nine assists but was uninterested in re-watching the film to try and find an extra assist that would have given him a triple-double.

"I'm not worried about that," he said. 

"It was a good game for me and a huge win for our team. I knew I was having a big night, but I wasn't thinking about the stats."

During the game, Jokic chalked up a 3,000th career NBA assist. He is now the only Denver player to record 3,000 assists and 5,000 rebounds in the NBA.

"It's hard to keep track of all the milestones he's passing," head coach Michael Malone said. 

"He just won Western Conference Player of the Week, and then he has 28, 21 and nine tonight."

Team-mate Jeff Green, who had 20 points himself, added of Jokic: "It's incredible to play with Jokic – he's one of the best players I've ever been on the floor with. 

"When you are out there with him, you know that if you do your job, you're going to get open shots. The defense has to focus on him."

Klay Thompson said "it felt good to be myself again" after playing a season-high 25 minutes in the Golden State Warriors' 130-92 rout of the Dallas Mavericks.

Thompson is still getting up to speed having missed two and a half years, first with a serious knee injury then with a torn Achilles.

He sat out the Warriors previous two matches to rest his surgically repaired left knee but was part of a well-rounded offense that downed Luka Doncic and the Mavericks to help Golden State clock up a third straight win.

Thompson had 15 points alongside six assists, while Stephen Curry had 18 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Jonathan Kuminga added 22 points, while Jordan Poole had 17 off the bench for the title contenders.

"I really pride myself on my efficiency, so it felt good to be myself again," Thompson said of his performance.

"My mindset is just to play with energy, great focus and joy."

Head coach Steve Kerr believes it was Thompson's best performance since his comeback.

"I think this was Klay's best game in terms of his patience and allowing things to happen, he wasn't forcing it at all," Kerr said.

Doncic scored 25 points on an otherwise forgettable night for the Mavericks, whose misery was compounded by Tm Hardaway Jr going off court with a broken fifth metatarsal in his left foot with seven minutes and 16 seconds remaining in the second quarter.

"I just want to say how sorry we are to hear that. You hate to see anybody get injured," Kerr said. 

"I just want to send him our regards from the organisation and hopefully he’s back sometime soon. I don’t know what the prognosis is. We feel terrible for him."

Doncic added of his team-mate: "That's just bad luck. I talked to him. He's disappointed. Every time you get injured you are sad, so we tried to cheer him up."

Los Angeles Clippers coach Ty Lue branded his side's stunning comeback win over the Washington Wizards as "crazy".

The Clippers roared back from 66-31 down in the second quarter to claim a thrilling 116-115 triumph at Capital One Arena.

In doing so, they became the first team in NBA history to score under 40 points in the first half of a game and follow up by posting 40 or more points in both the third and fourth quarters.

And Lue, who was without injured leading duo Kawhi Leonard (ACL) and Paul George (elbow), was delighted by the Clippers' astonishing feat.

"It's crazy," he said. "Because when I looked at the score in the first half, I thought we were down 19. And I looked again, I said, 'We're down 29!' I said, 'Oh s***!' It happened so quick.

"We kept chipping away. I know when it was like 17 going into the fourth, and I think when we got to 10, I was like, okay, we got a real shot."

Luke Kennard landed a three-point pullup jump shot with 1.9 seconds remaining, tying the game.

He was fouled in the process, earning a free throw, and made no mistake from that opportunity as he landed the game-winning point.

Amir Coffey was one of the players who came in for the second half to help instigate the fightback, adding 29 points, and he echoed his coach's sentiments regarding the mad nature of the contest.

"Probably the craziest game I've ever been a part of," he said. "January's been wild.

"You never know when the game is over. Play through the buzzer.

"Like tonight, anything can happen."

On the losing side, the Wizards' Bradley Beal was left humiliated.

"I have no words, besides 'embarrassing'," he said, having put up 23 points. 

"I was frustrated when I had to go back in. This should have been a game where the starters get their rest. Plain and simple."

Anthony Davis joked he was more concerned about LeBron James than his own recovering knee following a celebration during the Los Angeles Lakers' 106-96 triumph over the Brooklyn Nets.

Superstar James put up 33 points as the Lakers moved to 24-24 in an inconsistent season, but it was the return of Davis after a 17-game absence with a sprained knee that will have been a particularly pleasing sight.

Davis contributed eight points to go with two assists and two rebounds from 25 minutes on court and the Lakers will hope his return can help spark a strong run in the latter half of the season.

There was one moment of concern for Davis, though, who knocked James off balance after his illustrious team-mate managed a couple of steals and dunks in quick succession during the fourth quarter.

"Can't think about it. When I’m on the floor I try not to think about it," Davis said about his knee and the celebrations. 

"I was what, a month, five weeks, doing a lot of weightlifting. So, I hit him, he kind of like fell over. I was more worried for him than my knee!"

Davis took little time getting back up to speed and blocked three shots in a first quarter that saw the Lakers leading 33-25.

James was delighted to have his team-mate back on court.

"Obviously right away you see what he's capable of," James said. 

"We draw a play right to start the game, I was able to turn the corner and threw a late lob that he was still able to throw home. So very exciting to have him back."

The Nets were still without Kevin Durant (knee), while Kyrie Irving was again unavailable. Irving is unvaccinated against COVID-19 and therefore is not eligible to play in matches in New York under the city's health protocols.

James Harden had 33 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists but was later asked about reports he is frustrated at the Nets.

"Listen, I don't know about any reports," Harden said. "Of course I'm frustrated because we're not healthy, there's a lot of inconsistency for whatever reason. 

"Injuries, COVID, whatever you want to call it, so yeah, it is frustrating. I think everyone in this organisation is frustrated because we are better than our record is and we should be on the way up. So that's all it is."

The reports suggested Harden is frustrated by Irving's mixed availability and the rotations of head coach Steve Nash, who said he cannot imagine his player making such comments.

"So I'm not sure what to believe," Nash said. 

"James and I speak all the time and I think we have a great relationship, so I'm not sure the validity of these comments to be honest with you."

LeBron James starred and Anthony Davis made a successful return to action as the Los Angeles Lakers earned a convincing 106-96 win at the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday.

Superstar James clocked up 33 points to go alongside seven rebounds and six assists as the Lakers moved to 24-24 in an uneven season.

James Harden had 33 points, 11 assists and 12 rebounds for a Nets side still without the injured Kevin Durant (knee), while Kyrie Irving – who is unvaccinated against COVID-19 – is again absent with the Nets back on home court as he does not meet the required protocols to play games in New York.

Malik Monk (22 points) and Carmelo Anthony (13 points) made valuable contributions off the bench for the Lakers but it was the return of Davis, who missed 17 games with a sprained left knee that was the most welcome sight of the night.

Davis managed 25 minutes, scoring eight points and providing two assists and two rebounds. He showed he is feeling healthy again by jumping into, and knocking back, James when he made two steals and dunks in quick succession during the fourth quarter.


History for the rallying Clippers

Trailing 66-31 during the second quarter of their contest with the Washington Wizards, no one could have predicted the Los Angeles Clippers running out 116-115 victors.

Still behind 66-36 at half-time, the Clippers became the first team in NBA history to score under 40 points in the first half of a game and follow up by posting 40 or more points in both the third and fourth quarters.

The visitors had closed to 93-76 adrift by the end of the third quarter, before bossing the fourth 40-22 against flagging opposition.

Amir Coffey finished with 29 points and Luke Kennard contributing 26 points, eight rebounds and six assists against a Wizards team who had seven players in double figures.


Curry and Co. down Doncic and the Mavs

The Golden States Warriors had an inconsistent 3-6 stretch over nine games but have now chalked up three straight wins as Stephen Curry led the way in a balanced attack as the Dallas Mavericks were routed 130-92.

Curry had 18 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, while Jonathan Kuminga (22 points, five rebounds), Klay Thompson (15 points, six assists, two rebounds), and Jordan Poole (17 points, three assists and two rebounds) all contributed heavily.

The Warriors managed just 82 points in a losing effort the last time these teams met on January 5, but it was a different story here as the Mavericks were soundly beaten despite Luka Doncic's best efforts.

Doncic put up 25 points, eight rebounds and three assists for a Mavs side who are fifth in the West (27-21), three places and eight games back of the second-place Warriors (35-13).

The Los Angeles Clippers pulled off a comeback for the ages as they rallied from 66-31 behind during the second quarter to beat the Washington Wizards 116-115.

At Capital One Arena, the first half was almost all one-way traffic as the Clippers started shockingly slowly.

Yet they turned the game around from a half-time deficit of 66-36, with Amir Coffey finishing with 29 points and Luke Kennard contributing 26 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

Washington, who had seven players in double figures, were left stunned when Kennard landed a three-point pullup jump shot with 1.9 seconds remaining, tying the game.

He was fouled in the process, earning a free throw, and made no mistake from that opportunity as he landed the game-winning point.

The visitors had closed to 93-76 adrift by the end of the third quarter, before bossing the fourth 40-22 against flagging opposition, with Kennard's late heroics stunning the home crowd.

It made the Clippers the first team in NBA history to score under 40 points in the first half of a game and follow up by posting 40 or more points in both the third and fourth quarters.

Kennard posted on Twitter: "What just happened… crazy fight in this group! What a win!"

Billy Donovan praised his short-handed Chicago Bulls side for coping with the "defensive pressure" applied by the Oklahoma City Thunder in Monday's narrow 111-110 triumph.

The high-flying Bulls have been faltering in recent matches and had lost six of seven heading into the contest but managed to see it out against the Thunder to improve to 29-17 for the season.

DeMar DeRozan was rested, while Lonzo Ball (bruised knee) and Alex Caruso (fractured wrist) were absent in a match where the Bulls had to withstand heavy fourth-quarter pressure.

"Two of our primary ballhandlers in Lonzo and Alex are not here," said head coach Donovan, a former Thunder coach who had a 243-157 record with Oklahoma.

"And when you get into these situations in the fourth quarter where teams turn up the defensive pressure and pick up full court, you've got to be able to handle it."

Nicola Vucevic had 26 points and 15 rebounds for the Bulls, while rookie Ayo Dosunmu put 24 for a season high and Zach LaVine contributed 23.

LaVine had not played since January 14 due to a bruised left knee and was happy to be back out on court for a Bulls side that lost by 19 points to the league-worst Orlando Magic last time out.

"It felt good," LaVine said. "I got tired of just sitting at home watching. I'm about as healthy as I can get, but it just sucks sitting at home and not being able to help."

Chris Paul inspired the Phoenix Suns to a 115-109 victory over the Utah Jazz as the NBA leaders matched their best start to a season in franchise history.

Devin Booker top-scored for the Suns with 33 points, but it was Paul's season-high 27 that got his side out of a hole against a shorthanded Jazz.

The visitors led 87-85 at the end of the first quarter at Footprint Center and moved to 95-91 early in the second quarter as they went in search of just a third win in 10 games.

But point guard Paul stepped up for the Suns by making his first five shots in the fourth quarter, including a couple of 3-pointers, as the hosts responded with 14-2 to take the win.

Monty Williams' side are now 37-9 for the season, equalling their franchise record from 2006-07, ahead of facing the same opponents again on Wednesday.

 


Cavs hold off Knicks thanks to Garland

Darius Garland tied LeBron James' streak of 10-or-more assists in five straight games for a Cleveland Cavaliers player over the past decade in a tense 95-93 win over the New York Knicks.

The 21-year-old point guard recorded 12 assists in total and added a critical late 3-pointer as the Cavs held off a late charge from the Knicks, who trailed 86-71 with 9:41 left in Ohio.

Kevin Love led the scoring with 20 points, nine of those coming in just over a minute in the third quarter, as the Cavs went 10 games over .500 for the first time since the days of James in 2018.


Pelicans power past Pacers

Elsewhere in Monday's action, the New Orleans Pelicans trailed for a large portion of the game but had enough in the tank to beat the Indiana Pacers 117-113.

Josh Hart played through the pain barrier to inspire the Pelicans with 22 points and 10 rebounds, adding to Devonte' Graham's 22 points.

The Chicago Bulls put a poor run of six defeats from seven games behind them by beating Oklahoma City Thunder 111-110 in a tense encounter.

Nikola Vucevic's 26 points and 15 rebounds were nearly not enough as the Thunder, who trailed by 28 points, missed a 3-pointer through Shai Gilgeous-Alexander late on to level the contest.

The Los Angeles Lakers are set to welcome Anthony Davis back from injury against the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday.

Davis has been upgraded to probable for the game at Barclays Center, having been out for almost six weeks with an MCL sprain.

The return of the eight-time NBA All-Star boosts a Lakers team toiling at 23-24 in eighth place in the West.

Davis has played just 27 games this season and only 15 alongside LeBron James.

Despite LA's poor stretch, which began with Davis in the team, going 13-14 with him in the lineup, James has excelled.

In 20 games without Davis this year, James has averaged 32.7 points, taking on added responsibility with third man Russell Westbrook struggling.

The Lakers will hope both Davis and the rest of the team can now rediscover their best form to recover a title push this season.

Tobias Harris is in awe of team-mate Joel Embiid, who continues to scale new heights for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Embiid, a four-time NBA All-Star, is having an MVP-worthy season and finished with a double-double of 38 points and 12 rebounds in the 76ers' 115-109 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday.

The 27-year-old has now surpassed 1,000 points for the season, becoming the 10th player to do so in the NBA this campaign.

Only LeBron James (29.0) and Kevin Durant (29.3) are averaging more points per game than Embiid (28.7) across the league.

After his efforts on Sunday, when he shot 16 for 32 from the field in 32 minutes, Embiid has now scored 25 points or more in 14 successive games, earning the high praise of Harris.

"What he's doing is special," Harris told reporters.

"We rely on him night in and night out. He's the anchor for our team. The anchor for our offensive flow out there.

"I thought tonight he just did a great job of picking the game apart. Really getting everyone involved out there in their spots and still being able to get the shots that he wanted."

Harris also contributed 18 points as the 76ers claimed a seventh straight win over the Spurs.

Jakob Poeltl was San Antonio's standout performer with 25 points and 10 rebounds, and Harris acknowledged the 76ers still gave up too many opportunities defensively.

"We still had too many defensive mistakes in the fourth quarter," Harris added.

"We've got to clean that up. We've got to be able to really make a stand and hold our ground there."

LeBron James does not plan on halting his scoring run after he finished with 25 points or more for a 17th straight game.

James had a double-double but it was not enough for the fast-finishing Los Angeles Lakers to overcome his former side the Miami Heat on Sunday.

Miami turned up the heat on Lakers coach Frank Vogel, with Los Angeles having now lost five of their last seven games after the 113-107 reverse.

There was at least one bright note for the Lakers, who charged home with 37-24 points down the stretch to reduce the deficit.

James finished with 33 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. The veteran is averaging 29.0 points per game this season for the Lakers, who sit eighth in the Western Conference with a 23-24 record. That ranks him second in the NBA, behind Kevin Durant (29.3).

A knee injury for Anthony Davis earlier in the season meant James has had to deliver, and he has certainly held up his end of the bargain. Indeed, across the last 17 games, only Joel Embiid (33.9) has averaged more than the 37-year-old's 32.5 points.

"I don't need to score 30 a night, but I'm in one of the best zones offensively I've been in, in my career," James told reporters. 

"And I don't plan on stopping. That's just how I feel. I feel fantastic. Shooting the ball extremely well. I didn't shoot the three-ball well tonight, but all eight of them felt great.

"I'm shooting efficiently from the free-throw line, shooting efficiently from the field. I was very efficient at the rim. So I don't go into the game saying you got to score 30 or you guys don't have a chance to win the game. I just play the game. The scoring has been happening organically."

Russell Westbrook provided able support on Sunday with 24 points and nine rebounds, but Vogel is looking forward to welcoming Davis back from injury, having said before the game that it will help share the workload.

For his part, however, James has his eye on another milestone. The big one, in fact – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's all-time points record of 38,387.

"As I've continued to climb the ranks, it's natural, human to look at it and see where you are and see if it's even possible. See if you're capable," added James, who is 2,006 points behind the record.

"Obviously health plays the most important part and then just continuing to give your everything to the game. I've never cheated the game. I've never wanted to feel like I was content.

"I wanted to continue to get better and like you said, I will be within 2,000 points, when did you say? Soon? Well, listen, we'll see what happens. I've never chased a record in my life."

James Harden hit out at what he perceives to be a lack of consistency from the officials following the Brooklyn Nets' 136-125 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The nine-time NBA All-Star endured a frustrating time at Target Center as he got to the line only four times and scored 13 points.

Only once this season, against the Phoenix Suns in November (12), has Harden – who shot four-of-13 – ended a game with fewer points.

But Harden feels as though he has been on the end of some tough treatment from referees.

"I don't know. I don't even want to talk about it," he told reporters. "But it's definitely – when I get to the basket, it's the same calls the guys are getting. 

"Obviously, you can't call all of them. But there's ones where there's clearly stiff-arms and trips and things like that. On the other end, there's no consistency. So it's frustrating."

Asked what explanation he has had regarding certain calls going against him, Harden said: "Nothing. Honestly, nothing. 

"Like [officials say], 'I didn't see it,' or 'I didn't think it was a foul.' But it's clear. It's extremely clear. I don't want to talk about it. I just got to keep going. It's not going to stop me. 

"I'll keep on going to the basket, keep being aggressive and keep making plays for my team."

The Timberwolves were awarded 31 free throw attempts compared to 15 for the Nets, who had 29 personal fouls called against them compared to 17 for their opponents.

Nets Head coach Steve Nash echoed Harden's complaints as he also took aim at the officials.

"I think there's nights where it's fair, and even including the points of emphasis this year," Nash said. "Then there's other nights where it feels like he gets targeted a little bit. 

"It just automatically gets lumped into that point of emphasis where he is creating the foul, which is not always the case at all."

NBA officials have clamped down on offensive players who attempt to create contact and draw fouls from opponents, which Nash claims Harden has become the biggest victim of.

"I think it's been well-documented that he's a poster child," Nash said. "I think the start of the year was rough – they were really trying to correct the point of emphasis. 

"I think they overcorrected. Now we [have] come back to the middle, but tonight was one of those nights where I felt like some of the calls that should go his way didn't."

The Nets allowed 30 points in every quarter for the second time in 10 days, when losing 130-109 to Oklahoma City, as they fell behind the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference.

Harden's treatment was the big talking point from the Timberwolves loss, but Kyrie Irving backed his team-mate to adapt.

"I think teams have made adjustments, the referees have made adjustments, and now we have to make adjustments," said Irving, who led the Nets with 30 points.

"He goes to the paint aggressively and we want him to continue doing that. He's going to be James. We know who James is – we know he's going to be himself.

"But the whistle can go either way night to night. And depending on the [officiating] crew we have, I think that also has an effect on it.

"We just want to start off the game with a consistent whistle. And when he's going in there and he's creating some contact, we feel like he deserves that respect."

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