Bones Hyland spoke of building "championship habits" and hailed the latest Nikola Jokic masterclass after the Denver Nuggets savaged the Phoenix Suns at Ball Arena.

A 12th straight home victory for Denver, and a fourth successive win overall, kept the team top of the Western Conference, with the 126-97 margin reflecting a strong night's work.

Jokic fell just short of a 12th triple-double of the season, finishing with 21 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists.

Jamal Murray added 16 points, with Hyland contributing 21 for the Nuggets.

Hyland said of Jokic, who is making a strong case for a third MVP in a row: "Everybody in the world knows when he gets the ball and you go for a rebound, he's the greatest passer in the world, so when he gets the ball we just run.

"Ninety per cent of the time he's gonna make the right pass so when he's got it we run."

Hyland added after Wednesday's rout, according to the Denver Post: "I was really just feeling it. The basket felt like it was really wide. It was like shooting a rock into the ocean."

Speaking to Altitude TV in an on-court interview, Hyland said: "It's a night when we're playing our game.

"We've got a lot of dynamic players on our team, a lot of good shooters, so it's proving it in the season. We've got to focus on what we've got to focus on, build championship habits and just come out here and get a win."

Guard Murray suffered a left ankle problem late in the game, but coach Michael Malone does not expect him to miss any games.

Malone was impressed with the team's efforts and called for them to sustain a high level.

"Your home court has to have an advantage," Malone said. "Our fans have been terrific, and I just love how we’re playing. Once again, a good defensive performance that leads to our offense.

"We had 24 fast break points tonight to their six, we had 30 assists to only 11 turnovers. But the beginning of that is when we defend, and everything just flows from there.

"So hopefully we can continue to protect this home court at a high level through the regular season and into the playoffs."

The Miami Heat suspended Dewayne Dedmon for one game without pay after the outburst where he swatted a massage gun on to the court in Tuesday's 112-111 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Dedmon reacted angrily after being subbed out of the game, exchanging words with coaches, before storming off and flinging a massage gun back on to the court during play. The reserve center was ejected by officials for that act.

The Heat announced on Wednesday that in consultation with the NBA they had decided Dedmon would be banned for one game for "conduct detrimental to the team".

Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra had labelled the outburst as "unacceptable" after Tuesday's game.

"It's the Miami Heat. We're all a bunch of gnarly personalities," Spoelstra said.

"That part was unfortunate. Everything before that, that's the Miami Heat. That part was unacceptable."

Jaylen Brown scored a season-high 41 points and Jayson Tatum added 31 as the Boston Celtics claimed their fourth successive win with a 125-114 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday.

Brown recorded his first double-double in a half in his career with 18 points and 10 rebounds, while he added another 18 points in the third quarter.

The Celtics guard shot 15-of-21 from the field with three-of-six from three-point range along with 12 rebounds for the game.

Tatum went 10-of-22 from the field with 10 rebounds and four assists, with Malcolm Brogdon adding 20 points off the bench.

The game marked the seventh time this season that Brown and Tatum have scored at least 30 points each, which is joint for the most before February by two players from the same team in the last 40 seasons.

The other duos to have managed that are Golden State's Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant in 2018-19 and Denver's Alex English and Kiki Vandeweghe in 1983-84.

The result improves the Celtics to 30-12 overall and 17-5 at the TD Garden, while the Pelicans lose ground on the top two in the west, falling to 25-17.

C.J. McCollum scored 38 points for the Pels, marking the first time in his career he had 20-plus points in a first half in consecutive games.

Jokic falls short of triple-double as Nuggets triumph

Nikola Jokic fell one assist short of a 12th triple-double of the season as the Western Conference-leading Denver Nuggets claimed their fourth straight win, 126-97 over the Phoenix Suns.

The reigning back-to-back NBA MVP Jokic finished with 21 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists, including a brilliant first-quarter look-away fling to Aaron Gordon.

Jamal Murray added 16 points, although he picked up an ankle complaint, while Bones Hyland contributed 21 for the Nuggets, who have claimed 11 wins in a row at home, along with winning 14 of their past 17.

Grizzlies secure eighth straight win

Ja Morant led the way as the Memphis Grizzlies secured an eighth consecutive victory to keep pressure on the Nuggets at the top of the west with a 135-129 win over the San Antonio Spurs.

Morant scored 21 points in the first half, finishing the game with 38 along with five rebounds and four assists.

The Grizzlies guard also produced a big dunk over Jakob Poeltl in the third quarter, while his put-back with 24.1 seconds left in the fourth sealed the victory.

Kevin Durant's absence cannot be used as an excuse by the Brooklyn Nets, insists head coach Jacque Vaughn.

Durant sprained the medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his right knee in the third quarter of the Nets' 102-101 win over the Miami Heat on Sunday, with reports suggesting he could be sidelined for around a month.

Brooklyn confirmed the result of scans a day later, saying the 12-time NBA All-Star would be "reevaluated in two weeks."

Durant is averaging 29.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists this season.

Vaughn does not want his players to dwell on being without their star player, though, as they look to build on a fine record of 27-13, including a run of 18 wins from their last 20 games that sees them sit second in the Eastern Conference.

"That's the biggest thing. I'm not giving this group a chance to make excuses," he said on Wednesday.

"Here to play. Here to win. Here to compete. It doesn't change. Love them."

Brooklyn host the only team in the league with a better record than them, the Boston Celtics, on Thursday.

Klay Thompson suggested the Golden State Warriors paid the price for thinking "we'd just get the dub" as Stephen Curry returned from injury against the Phoenix Suns.

Curry missed 11 games with a shoulder injury but was back in the lineup on Tuesday alongside Andrew Wiggins, who had returned in the Warriors' previous outing after 15 games on the sideline.

However, the Suns defeated the NBA champions 125-113 after building a big halftime lead.

Complacency was an issue, according to Thompson, whose 29 points led Golden State.

"I think with Steph and [Wiggins] back, we probably relaxed a bit more than we should have," he said.

"We thought with them showing up, we'd just get the dub."

The loss was the Warriors' third in a row after a run of five straight wins appeared to have got their season back on track.

At the halfway mark in the campaign, Golden State are eighth in the West with a losing 20-21 record.

"We've been talking about it for a long time," said Curry. "Eventually, you have to do it or else time runs out.

"We have 41 games to figure it out – or else we won't."

There was at least cause for optimism in the fourth quarter, in which Curry, playing with a shooting sleeve on his left arm, scored 16 of his 24 points.

"It's hit or miss with how much rust you will have and how close you can get to the speed of the game," Curry explained. "The first quarter, it felt good just to be out there, running with our guys.

"I felt like I got stronger as the game went on. In the fourth, the intensity of the game picked up. We were playing very desperately trying to come back and make some plays. I felt like myself again."

Coach Steve Kerr added: "I'm hoping that fourth quarter was the team that I have come to know and love and recognise.

"But we have to show in the first quarter, not in the fourth quarter."

Jimmy Butler had "no idea" the Miami Heat had broken the NBA record for the most free throws in a game without a miss.

The Heat edged out the Oklahoma City Thunder 112-111 on Tuesday, with Butler scoring a game-leading 35 points and going 23-of-23 from the free-throw line.

That means Butler was just one short of James Harden's league record of 24-of-24 free throws, set in December 2019, for the most in one game without a miss.

Butler was not the only Heat player on top form from the line, with the rest of the team shooting 17-of-17, breaking the team record of 39-for-39 made by the Utah Jazz against the Portland Trail Blazers in 1982.

Yet Butler had no clue the Heat were setting a record, with his sole focus on Miami's fightback - they trailed 111-106 heading into the final minute but came out on top in the closing seconds.

"I had no idea," Butler told reporters about the 40 free-throw feat. "I'm more excited that we won this game by one point."

"We won. A complete team effort. I'm proud of my guys. We always talk about finding a way to win. This is a good start to that. Whatever it takes to win."

It was a similar story for Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, who said: "We've been a very good free-throw shooting team all year, but that's crazy.

"I didn't realise we hadn't missed a free throw.

"It's just a normal Tuesday night for the Miami Heat. I think this is when we feel most alive, when everything just happens and when all of our competitive juices get out there.

"That's the team we all can relate to. That's the team I like."

Miami are now 22-20 for the season and sit eighth in the Eastern Conference.

Donovan Mitchell was thankful for the "phenomenal" reception he received on his return to the Utah Jazz, though was left to rue Jordan Clarkson's form in a tight defeat.

Mitchell spent five seasons with the Jazz before he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers last year.

Lauri Markkanen was part of that trade and had a double-double of 25 points and 16 rebounds against his former team as he became the second-fastest player in franchise history to reach 1,000 points. Likewise, Mitchell showed just why the Cavs signed him with a game-leading 46-point haul.

Mitchell has broken the 40-point mark in a career-high five games this season, but it was not enough to down his old employers, who triumphed 116-114 after Clarkson came to the fore, netting nine of his 32 points in the final quarter.

The Jazz paid tribute to three-time All-Star Mitchell before Tuesday's game by showing a highlights reel of his time in Utah, while the home crowd gave him an ovation.

"I was really comfortable," Mitchell told the media.

"It wasn't weird. It was just like playing as I have here for the last five years. The reception was phenomenal, and I'm appreciative of it."

Mitchell was handed a rest in the third quarter, though that was when Clarkson began to swing the momentum Utah's way.

"He had that look in his eye, and I was just like, damn, it's going to be one of those back-and-forth nights," Mitchell said.

Clarkson explained: "I was just being aggressive in those moments. Throughout the game, I saw what they were doing defensively and just started being aggressive in the fourth."

Walker Kessler was tasked with marking Mitchell and had nothing but praise for his former team-mate.

"He's an unbelievable guy, man," said 21-year-old Kessler, who joined the Jazz three months before Mitchell left.

"I mean, obviously, I haven't known him too long, but even [when we played] at Cleveland, he came up to me and was super, super encouraging.

"It was really cool to see the Utah fan base get so excited for him. Great player, great guy."

The Cavs have lost two of their last three games but are still well placed in the Eastern Conference with a 26-15 record, while the Jazz are just above the play-in line in the West.

The Miami Heat broke the NBA record for most free throws in a game without a miss as they defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 112-111 at home on Tuesday.

With starters Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro and Kyle Lowry all out due to various injuries, Jimmy Butler was tasked with leading the offense, and he was aggressive from the jump.

He scored only six of his 17 field goal attempts, but finished with a game-high 35 points after going a perfect 23-of-23 from the free throw line. In doing so, he finished one free throw behind James Harden (24-of-24 in December 2019) for the most in one game without a miss.

Butler was not alone in his marksmanship from the line, with his team-mates also combining to shoot 17-of-17, setting the new team record for 40 free throws without a miss.

The Heat star also added seven rebounds, four assists, four steals and three blocks in a spectacular two-way performance, while Victor Oladipo chipped in 19 points (seven-of-16 shooting) with four rebounds, four assists and two steals off the bench.

For the Thunder, Josh Giddey collected his second triple-double of the season with 18 points (eight-of-18), 15 rebounds and 10 assists.

Miami are now 22-20, and sit eighth in the Eastern Conference.

Embiid and Harden dominate the Pistons

The stars of the Philadelphia 76ers made light work of the visiting Detroit Pistons, with Joel Embiid and James Harden both enjoying big nights in a 147-116 victory.

Embiid had 36 points (12-of-20 shooting), 11 rebounds and two blocks in just 24 minutes, while Harden posted a strong triple-double with 16 points (six-of-seven shooting), 15 assists and 12 rebounds.

The 76ers have won five of their past six outings to improve their record to 25-15, placing them fifth in the East, 3.5 games behind the league-leading Boston Celtics (29-12).

Mitchell heroics not enough for the Cavaliers

Donovan Mitchell was a man on a mission in his first road game against the Utah Jazz since being traded in the offseason, but the Cleveland Cavaliers ultimately went down 116-114.

Mitchell scored a game-high 46 points on 14-of-27 shooting with six assists, five rebounds and three steals, but his team could not stop the duo of Jordan Clarkson and Lauri Markkanen.

Clarkson top-scored for Utah with 32 points on 11-of-19 shooting, while Markkanen continued to build a case for Most Improved Player as he put up 25 points (six-of-18) and 16 rebounds.

Former top-10 draft pick Jonathan Isaac is nearing his return for the Orlando Magic after two-and-a-half years on the sidelines.

Isaac, 25, last played a competitive game in August 2020, when he tore his ACL in the NBA 'bubble' and was ruled out for the remainder of the 2019-20 season.

He went on to miss all of the 2020-21 campaign, and after complications with his recovery, he also missed the entirety of the 2021-22 season and now half of the current season.

The 6ft 10in defensive ace appeared on track for multiple NBA All-Defensive First Team honours, averaging 2.3 blocks and 1.4 steals per game in his most recent campaign. The only player this season averaging at least two blocks and one steal is Memphis Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr.

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Isaac will play for the Lakeland Magic – Orlando's G League affiliate – on Wednesday, as the first of two planned games before assessing his readiness to return to the NBA.

He is in the second year of a four-year, $70million contract, and will rejoin a Magic team in the tail-end of what looks to be a successful rebuild, with franchise building blocks Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner in place following two terrific drafts from the Orlando front office.

The Elite 1 Caribbean Basketball Winter League tipped-off last Saturday at the National Arena in front of a fair sized crowd with defending champions Horizon soundly defeating the Storm 114 to 62.  The quarter scores were 26/11, 27/14, 32/19 and 29/18. 

All twelve members of team Horizon contributed to the win with the USA-based Trevor Thompson top scoring with 19 points.  The other players to get into double figures were Bobby Gray (USA) 17, Asaad Woods (USA) 16, while three Jamaicans Nicholai Brown, Antjuan McFarlane and Anthony White all scored 11 points each. 

The top scorers for the Storm were the USA-based Jaryn Johnson 11 and Trayvon Jefferson-Bey also 11 while Daniel Martiller of Jamaica scored 10 points.  It took more than five minutes for the Storm to get on the score sheet as they trailed 2/15 behind the Horizon at that point.

Cleon Morgan, coach of Horizon was pleased with the team's performance in the their first match.  "I am pleased with the performance from the team tonight.  It could have been a bit better in other areas but its the first game so I am sure that they are getting the butterflies out." 

The other match, which was the first match to start this year's Winter League saw the Rivers getting the better of the Waves 110 to 94.  The Rivers started strong and lead 29/19 for the first quarter and 53/46 at half time but the Waves posted a strong 33/20 to take the lead at the end of the third quarter at 79/73.  Both team scored 21 each in a very competitive last quarter.  The top scorers on the night were Anthony Ottley of Canada who posted 39 for the Rivers and Cameron Burhannon of the USA with 36 points for the Waves. 

The Waves' coach Rohan Robinson was happy to get the win in the first match.  "It feels good.  Last year I was in the same position as the other team so it just feels good for me now that I can match up with the teams and get the best out of the players." 

The four team competition roster boasts overseas based pros from the USA, Canada and Barbados and fifty percent Jamaican amateurs.  According to the league president Wayne Dawkins, it was specifically designed give the Jamaicans the opportunity to play with the pros and to give them the type of exposure to professional basketball that will help them to become better players as well as prepare them to take up opportunities abroad.

The league will feature double-header matches on Saturdays and Wednesday until the final week when matches are scheduled for Friday January 27and Sunday January 29 with the top two teams competing for the title. 

The next set of matches on the four-team schedule will see the two day-one winners - Horizon and Waves - battling each other on Wednesday at the National Arena.  The two losing teams - Rivers and Storm - will try to record their first win in the league.  The first match will start at 6:00 pm while the second match will start at 8:00 pm.

The Jamaica Basketball Association (JaBA) will sign an agreement with Stella Azzurra Basketball Academy to develop and strengthen all aspects of youth basketball in Jamaica.

They made the announcement in a press release on Friday, January 6.

This agreement will facilitate exchange programmes and activities for youth players, sports support personnel and administrators.

Subsequent to the break in COVID 19 restrictions, JaBA and their development partner, P.H.A.S.E 1 academy have strategically placed emphasis on youth development, targeting teaching of fundamentals and making an effort to broaden the pool of youth basketball participants.

The recently certified FIBA level 1 coaches are tasked with the duty of developing 30 clusters of players from primary schools across the island.

These players and current early teens will transition into mini academies coordinated by PHASE 1 at specific regional locations. The synergies with Stella Azzurra will enhance the programmes and increase training and development activities in areas such as camps, clinics and competitions, exchange programmes for teams and officials, infrastructure development, training and exchanges in areas of Technology, Sports information and doping control and equipment support

“JABA is appreciative for the support of our current partners including MCGES, SDF, JOA, KFC and PHASE 1 academy as we strive to expand opportunities for youth basketball development,” the release concluded.

Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone described the qualities that make reigning back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic so unique after his selfless performance on Monday.

The 27-year-old Serbian dished 16 assists while only attempting five field goals – hitting all five – for his 14 points and 11 rebounds as his Nuggets beat the LeBron James-less Los Angeles Lakers 122-109.

It improves his career-high assist average to 9.7 per game, which places him third in the league behind only Indiana Pacers point guard Tyrese Haliburton (10.3) and Atlanta Hawks All-Star Trae Young (9.8).

His field goal attempts are the lowest they have been since the 2019-20 season at 15.2 per game – leaving him outside of the top-50 – while being efficient enough to score 25.0 points per game, the 20th-best average.

Speaking to reporters after the win, Malone said it is rare to find a star player so unfazed by their shot attempts.

"I tell you man, we always talk about it, I've been around the league a long time," he said. "I know a lot of players that, if they took five shots in 35 minutes, would be p***** off right now, I'm being serious.

"Nikola doesn't care – whether he takes five [shots] or 25. There's not many guys like him that I've ever been around, and I've been around the game a long time myself, and with my father when he was an assistant coach and a head coach in the NBA.

"It just speaks to – another triple-double – but, a truly selfless superstar. Five shots, no complaints, no pouting, no bad body-language. Let's just play the game the right way, that's all he cares about."

When asked a question about Jokic's ability to throw pinpoint bullet passes, Malone expanded on the craft of the near seven-footer.

"He will throw a bullet if a bullet is needed to be thrown, he will also throw a lob pass when it needs to be thrown, or he will just feather a bounce-pass through traffic if it needs to be thrown," he said.

"That's the beautiful thing about it, he can read the situation, and make the appropriate pass at the right time."

Lakers head coach Darvin Ham echoed those sentiments, sharing admiration for his opponent.

"Man, his ability to play-make, bringing the ball up, out of the post, the mid-post, the nail," he said. "His touch on his passes, his touch on his shots. He's one of those once-in-a-generation type bigs who just does it all.

"So his impact is not based on – he can put up big numbers – but it's not solely based on his scoring output. The way he puts his fingerprints all over the game – that's a rarity.

"Especially at his size, it's only a few of those guys in the league that are able to do that."

With the win, the Nuggets are tied for the best record in the Western Conference at 27-13.

The return of Los Angeles Lakers center Anthony Davis remains weeks away, but he will reportedly take the next step in his rehabilitation process in the coming days.

Davis has missed the past 13 games due to an injured right foot, dealing with a bone spur fracturing off his navicular bone as well as a stress reaction.

Before he hopped off the floor during the Lakers' December 16 win against the Denver Nuggets, Davis was having his best season in a Los Angeles jersey.

He is averaging 27.4 points and a career-high 12.1 rebounds, while shooting a career-best 59.4 per cent from the field and being one of four players averaging at least two blocks per game (2.1).

A report on Monday from ESPN's Dave McMenamin states Davis "plans to begin the ramp-up process to return to play when the team returns to Los Angeles this week".

The ramp-up process will involve aquatic pool workouts and running on an altered-gravity treadmill to keep most of the weight off the big-man's foot as it continues to heal.

It is believed the ramp-up process will take at least a couple of weeks before the Lakers begin to pinpoint a return date.

Los Angeles lost four of their first five games with Davis sidelined, but an incredible stretch of play from LeBron James ignited a run of six wins from seven prior to Monday's loss against the Nuggets, where James was sitting out for rest reasons.

They began the season 2-10, but have recovered to 19-22 and now sit only 1.5 games behind local rivals the Los Angeles Clippers (21-21), who occupy the sixth seed in the Western Conference.

The Golden State Warriors will receive some handy reinforcements on Tuesday as future Hall-of-Famer Stephen Curry prepares to return from an 11-game absence.

Curry has not played since suffering a left shoulder subluxation against the Indiana Pacers on December 14, and after dropping three of the first four games without their two-time MVP, they steadied the ship and went 6-5.

The reigning NBA Finals MVP is averaging 30.0 points, 6.8 assists and a career-high 6.6 rebounds per game while shooting a blistering 43.4 per cent on a gaudy 11.6 three-point attempts per contest.

After starting the season 3-7, the Warriors have recovered to 20-20, and should be at close to full strength when they take on the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday following the return of starting wing Andrew Wiggins on Saturday.

The Warriors currently occupy the seventh seed in the congested Western Conference, only one game behind the fifth-seeded Sacramento Kings (20-18), but also only a half-game ahead of the 10th-seeded Portland Trail Blazers (19-20).

The Boston Celtics rode another impressive performance from MVP candidate Jayson Tatum to a 107-99 home win against the Chicago Bulls on Monday, improving their league-best record to 29-12.

Boston also boast a 16-5 home record, and while they have been the NBA's best offense for most of this season, it was their defense getting the job done against the Bulls.

After holding their opponent to under 100 points only four times from their first 37 games this season, the Celtics have now accomplished the feat in two of their past three outings.

While part of the Bulls' offensive issues boiled down to DeMar DeRozan leaving with a quadriceps strain, the Celtics were also able to hold the red-hot Zach Lavine to 40 per cent shooting (10-of-24), despite his otherwise impressive figures of 27 points, seven rebounds and six assists.

Jayson Tatum was clearly the Celtics' best player, scoring a game-high 32 points on 10-of-21 shooting with eight rebounds and seven assists, while Grant Williams chipped in 20 points (eight-of-15 shooting) and eight rebounds off the bench.

Tatum's 30.8 points per game has him sitting fifth in the league, while his field goal percentage of 47.2 is the highest since his rookie year (47.5 per cent).

The loss for the Bulls snaps a three-game winning streak, and leaves them 10th in the Eastern Conference at 19-22.

Nuggets remain top of the West

The Denver Nuggets had no issue dealing with the visiting and LeBron James-less Los Angeles Lakers, defending home court with a 122-109 triumph.

It was another playmaking masterclass from reigning back-to-back MVP and arguably the greatest playmaking center in the history of the sport, with Nikola Jokic dishing a game-high 16 assists, grabbing 11 rebounds and finishing a perfect five-of-five from the field for his 14 points. 

He handed lead-scoring duties to Jamal Murray for the night, and he delivered with a season-high 34 points on 13-of-29 shooting, leaving the Nuggets tied with the Memphis Grizzlies for the top seed in the West at 27-13.

Russell Westbrook continues to build his case for Sixth Man of the Year, contributing 25 points (10-of-21 shooting), seven rebounds and seven assists off the Lakers' bench.

Brunson heroics not enough for the Knicks

New York Knicks point guard Jalen Brunson scored a career-high 44 points as his side went down 111-107 against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Brunson shot 15-of-30 from the field, hitting all 10 of his free throws, but a 38-point final quarter from the Bucks saw them claw back from a deficit that reached 17 points in the third period.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was solid by his standards with 22 points (six-of-15 shooting), 10 rebounds, five assists and two blocks, while offseason signing Joe Ingles impressed off the bench with 17 points (six-of-14 shooting) and five assists.

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