Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets have each been fined $35,000 for violating league rules governing media interview access.

The NBA announced the sanction on Wednesday following Irving's repeated refusal to participate in post-game media availability.

It is not the first time Nets star and 2016 NBA champion Irving has been fined this season.

Irving and the Nets were fined $25,000 each by the NBA in December for violating the league's media access rules.

Brooklyn's Irving paid a high price for attending what reportedly was a family birthday in January.

The NBA imposed a $50,000 fine on Irving, who according to TMZ and widespread reports attended a large family birthday celebration while not wearing a mask – in contravention of the league's coronavirus protocols.

Irving was also forced to sacrifice his salary for the games he missed while quarantining, which reportedly amounted to $816,898.

In 2020-21, Irving has averaged 27.0 points, 6.3 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game, boasting a career-best field-goal percentage of 50.0.

The Nets (43-23) are second in the Eastern Conference, one-and-a-half games behind the Philadelphia 76ers (44-21).

Stephen Curry is used to shooting the lights out, but the NBA superstar was left in the dark as to why the Golden State Warriors suffered defeat to the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday.

Curry made history as he reached 300 successful three-point attempts for the season in his just 58th game, a new record.

The seven-time NBA All-Star had previously achieved the feat twice in 59 outings, while he also joined Ray Allen as the only players to make 2,800 career threes during the clash with the Pelicans.

However, New Orleans finally found a way to slow down Curry's scoring in the third quarter as a lighting failure hit the Smoothie King Center.

The Warriors had a 77-71 lead at the time but the delay, albeit brief as power was quickly restored, led a reversal in the teams' fortunes, New Orleans rallying to record a 108-103 victory.

"I hadn't seen that one before. They tried to get me, saying I shot the ball before the lights went out," Curry, who had 35 points at the time of the delay but managed just two more in the remainder of the contest, told the media.

"It was a weird situation. We were flowing a little bit and I guess after that it was a rough offensive situation, but tough game all the way round."

The Pelicans scored 33 points in the final quarter to overhaul their opponents and claim a pivotal win in their push to make the play-offs.

Golden State head coach Steve Kerr felt tiredness was a factor in his team fading down the stretch, having played – and beaten – the same opponents the previous day.

"I thought we were tired," Kerr said. "I thought both teams were tired on a back-to-back, obviously. 

"I'm really proud of the guys. They battled the entire way. Clearly we were tired in the fourth. Give New Orleans credit - they made plays that they had to."

Lonzo Ball had 33 points for the Pelicans a night after missing 15 of his 18 attempts in a heavy defeat to the Warriors.

"For me, to have the type of performance I had, it's unacceptable, especially at this time of the year. And I wanted to fix it," he said.

Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer praised his star trio Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday after their 124-118 win over the star-studded Brooklyn Nets.

Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Holiday all made key contributions in Milwaukee's second victory against Brooklyn in three days – a result which clinched an NBA playoff spot and kept the Bucks in the hunt for a position among the Eastern Conference's top two.

Two-time reigning MVP and Bucks superstar Antetokounmpo led the way with 36 points and 12 rebounds but Middleton and Holiday played important roles in the 32-24 final quarter as Milwaukee rallied from six points down to prevail.

Middleton starred in the fourth quarter both offensively, to finish with 23 points and seven rebounds for the game, and defensively to limit Kevin Durant's impact.

Holiday, who joined the Bucks from the New Orleans Pelicans in November, had 23 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists, along with a key stop at the end.

"We're still trying to catch the right rhythm and find where all three of those guys are playing," Budenholzer said post-game.

"Maybe it's a stretch of one of them. The familiarity and comfort with each other is growing. It's a good thing for us."

Budenholzer was happy to have an NBA playoff spot secured, but more delighted that his side are playing well down the stretch, having now claimed back-to-back wins over a Nets team widely regarded as title favourites.

He also had special praise for Middleton's job on Durant, who still finished with 32 points.

"I thought he was good," Budenholzer said as the Bucks eye their first championship since 1971. "You've got to just keep coming.

"Great, great scorer, so you've got to make everything hard for him. we threw a lot of bodies at Durant tonight.

"Khris being able to finish a lot of those minutes in the fourth quarter was great work by him.

"What you need in the fourth quarter, is great defense and he stepped up down the other end too.

"But the team around him, it always takes the whole group."

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 36 points with 12 rebounds to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to a 124-118 win over the Brooklyn Nets and secure their NBA playoff spot on Tuesday.

Milwaukee's victory moved the Bucks to 41-24, narrowing in on the Nets (43-23), who are second behind the Philadelphia 76ers (44-21) in the Eastern Conference, with the postseason fast approaching.

The triumph was also a tie-breaker win for the Bucks, who also beat the star-studded Nets 117-114 on Sunday too, in a boost in the race for seedings.

Two-time reigning MVP Antetokounmpo was crucial but Khris Middleton came up big in the final quarter, finishing with 23 points and Jrue Holiday (23 points and 10 assists) made a key stop late in the contest.

Nets star Kyrie Irving had a game-high 38 points, while Kevin Durant added 32 along with nine rebounds and six assists.

 

Clippers finish fast, Suns rise in overtime

The Los Angeles Clippers stormed home after a sluggish start to secure a 105-100 overtime win against the Toronto Raptors. Paul George finished with 22 points, nine rebounds and four assists.

The high-flying Phoenix Suns produced a 20-4 overtime run to outlast the Cleveland Cavaliers 134-118, helping them return to the top spot in the Western Conference. Devin Booker (31 points), Chris Paul (23 points and 16 assists) and Mikal Bridges (22 points) led the Suns in Cleveland.

Lonzo Ball equalled his career high with 33 points, including a crucial late jumper to keep the New Orleans Pelicans and their postseason hopes alive via a 108-103 win over the Golden State Warriors.

Hamidou Diallo had 35 points but the Detroit Pistons still lost 102-99 to the Charlotte Hornets, who were led by rookie LaMelo Ball and his 23 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals.

Stephen Curry scored 37 points, including eight from beyond the arc to create history, joining Ray Allen as the only players in NBA history to make 2,800 career three-pointers. The two-time MVP also became the fastest player to reach 300 three-pointers in one season, needing only 58 games.

 

Landry's radar off

Nets shooting guard Landry Shamet normally makes an impact off the bench with his three-point shooting but he struggled against the Bucks. Shamet made one-of-six beyond the arc and one-of-eight overall in his 23 minutes on court, finishing with only three points.

 

Hardaway finds his range

Tim Hardaway Jr. was feeling it in the Dallas Mavericks' 127-113 win over the Chicago Bulls, shooting down an incredible 10 three-pointers in his 36-point display. Luka Doncic contributed 23 points and 12 rebounds in a double-double performance to help the Mavs move back above defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers into fifth in the west.

 

Tuesday's results

Charlotte Hornets 102-99 Detroit Pistons
Phoenix Suns 134-118 Cleveland Cavaliers (OT)
Milwaukee Bucks 124-118 Brooklyn Nets 
New Orleans Pelicans 108-103 Golden State Warriors
Dallas Mavericks 127-113 Miami Heat 
Sacramento Kings 103-99 Oklahoma City Thunder
Los Angeles Clippers 105-100 Toronto Raptors

 

Knicks at Nuggets

The in-form New York Knicks (37-28) make the trip to face Nikola Jokic's Denver Nuggets (43-22) with both sides jostling for playoffs seedings.

Kevin Durant acknowledged a lack of continuity within the Brooklyn Nets after they suffered consecutive defeats to Giannis Antetokounmpo's Milwaukee Bucks.

The Nets lost to the Bucks for the second time in three days after tasting a 124-118 defeat in Milwaukee on Tuesday.

Two-time reigning NBA MVP Antetokounmpo fuelled the win with 36 points as the Bucks clinched a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.

Durant put up 32 points, nine rebounds and six assists for the slumping Nets.

Despite boasting three superstars in Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden, the Nets were once again without the latter due to a hamstring injury. Brooklyn's trio have only played seven games together since Harden's blockbuster trade from the Houston Rockets in January.

"That is a huge factor. Continuity is a big thing in this league," former MVP Durant said post-game when asked about Brooklyn not having the Bucks' history together and continuity.

"We got veterans on this team that played in different situations that know pretty much every terminology that goes on in this league and every kind of set that we run on both sides.

"That's in our advantage as well, having that veteran leadership but we still are a connected group. I feel like we've been together for years, too, so we gotta continue to keep building on that."

The Nets have lost three straight games to slip one-and-a-half games behind Eastern Conference leaders the Philadelphia 76ers ahead of the postseason.

Brooklyn – eyeing their maiden championship – have not progressed beyond the Conference semi-finals since reaching the 2003 NBA Finals, though they have suffered back-to-back first-round exits in 2019 and 2020.

The Bucks, meanwhile, made it through to the 2018-19 Conference Finals before falling to eventual champions the Toronto Raptors, while they went down to the Miami Heat in last season's Conference semi-finals.

"I think it's a great experience for us to recognise where we are. We've got a gap to make up here," Nets head coach Steve Nash said about the two games against the Bucks.

"We understand that's a team that's been running the same offense, been playing together, same schemes on defense for years now.

"Gone deep into the playoffs, and that's something that we don't have, so how can we make up that gap. That's kind of our life in a nutshell heading home here. We're trying to get everyone back to full health and we're gonna try to overcome a lack of common experiences.

"That is our challenge as much as anything. While we do that, can we be more physical, can we be more connected, can we handle and control some of the controllables that can help us hang in some of these games and win some of these games while we’re trying to put the pieces together."

Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry joined Ray Allen as the only players in NBA history to make 2,800 career three-pointers.

Curry – an elite three-point shooter and widely considered the best of all-time – followed in the footsteps of two-time NBA champion Allen (2,973) during Tuesday's clash against the New Orleans Pelicans.

A three-time champion and two-time league MVP, Curry also broke a record by reaching 300 threes in 58 games this season.

Curry became the fastest player to hit 300 three-pointers in an NBA season.

Entering the Pelicans showdown, the 33-year-old had been shooting 42.7 per cent from beyond the arc.

He has been leading the league for three-pointers made per game (5.2) and three-pointers attempted per game (12.3), while no player has made more three-pointers than Curry this season.

Prior to the Pelicans meeting, Curry has also been averaging a career-high 31.4 points, career-best 5.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game for the Warriors.

Washington Wizards coach Scott Brooks says Russell Westbrook must go down as one of the game's greats after another incredible triple-double in their 154-141 win over the Indiana Pacers on Monday.

Westbrook had 24 assists along with 21 rebounds and 14 points for the Wizards, meaning he will have a triple-double average for the fourth season in his career.

The point guard's 24 assists was an equal career-high, while the Wizards' 50 for the game was a franchise record and the best in NBA history since 1990.

It was also Westbrook's 32nd triple-double of the season, taking him to 178 for his career, only three short of Oscar Robertson's all-time record.

"I've been fortunate to see him for eight years," said Brooks, who coached Westbrook at the Oklahoma City Thunder. "He does a lot of things that are pretty much superhuman at times.

"Point guards don’t do what he does. They're not built that way.

"I used to always say, he's going to go down as the third best point guard ever. I think he's passed one, he's going to go down as the second best. One is obviously Magic [Johnson].

"He's doing MVP-type things every game. He's as high a level as a player this league has ever seen."

Westbrook is averaging 21.8 points per game, 11.3 rebounds per game and 11.2 assists per game this season.

"Personally I feel like I'm the best playmaker in this league because I'm able to do things that nobody else can do," Westbrook said.

"I take pride in playmaking and passing it and making my teammates better. I'm grateful to have a bunch of teammates that make my job so much easier."

Anthony Davis said the Los Angeles Lakers have been "in a funk" after losing six out of seven games prior to Monday's 93-89 win over the Denver Nuggets.

Davis played a key role with 25 points for the Lakers, who were without LeBron James and Dennis Schroder against the fellow Western Conference contenders.

The win snapped the Lakers' three-game losing streak and moved them back up to fifth in the West.

"It was a big-time win for us," Davis told ESPN Sports Center post-game.

"We've been struggling. We've been in a funk. We've stayed together. We've stayed the course.

"We're missing two key guys, DS and Bron. The next man up mentality. We got this win against a team playing red hot."

LA improves to 37-28, boosting their playoffs seeding, as they moved above the Dallas Mavericks and the Portland Trail Blazers for the time being.

The Los Angeles Lakers ended their three-game losing run despite being without LeBron James as they defeated the Denver Nuggets 93-89 in the NBA on Monday.

Anthony Davis scored 25 points for the Lakers with seven rebounds and a crucial last-gasp block on Nuggets guard Facundo Campazzo's three-point attempt.

The Lakers, who had lost six of their past seven coming in, were undermanned with James sitting out with a sore right ankle, while Dennis Schroder was absent too.

The win improves the Lakers to 37-28 and moves them back into fifth in the Western Conference.

The Philadelphia 76ers were also winners on Monday, knocking off the Chicago Bulls 106-94 to improve their record to 44-21, holding top spot in the East.

Forward Tobias Harris top scored with 21 points, while Joel Embiid had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

 

Westbrook goes wild again

Russell Westbrook went next level with his latest triple-double with 14 points, 21 rebounds and 24 assists in the Washington Wizards' 154-141 win over the Indiana Pacers.

In a high-scoring game, Westbrook's 24 assists was a career-high. It was also an NBA record five triple-doubles with 20-plus assists, going past Magic Johnson and Rajon Rondo with four.

The Wizards finished with 50 assists against the Pacers, which was the most by a team since 1990.

Danilo Gallinari scored 28 points off the bench as the Atlanta Hawks got past the Portland Trail Blazers 123-114 in a crucial game for playoffs spots.

Rudy Gobert scored 24 points and had 15 rebounds as the Utah Jazz returned to first place in the West with a 110-99 victory over the San Antonio Spurs.

Stephen Curry scored 41 points while Draymond Green had a triple-double as the Golden State Warriors won 123-108 over the New Orleans Pelicans, boosting their play-in hopes.

The Warriors moved past the Memphis Grizzlies into eighth after they went down to the in-form New York Knicks 118-104.

 

Bogdan Bog-down-ovic

There was an amusing moment in the Hawks' win over the Trail Blazers, when Bogdan Bogdanovic stumbled on a fast break upon a pass from Trae Young which clonked him in the head.

 

Melo moves into all-time top 10

Carmelo Anthony's 14 points for the Trail Blazers saw him move into the top 10 all-time scorers in NBA history.

 

Monday's results

Orlando Magic 119-112 Detroit Pistons 
Washington Wizards 154-141 Indiana Pacers 
Golden State Warriors 123-108 New Orleans Pelicans
Atlanta Hawks 123-114 Portland Trail Blazers
New York Knicks 118-104 Memphis Grizzlies 
Philadelphia 76ers 106-94 Chicago Bulls
Utah Jazz 110-99 San Antonio Spurs
Los Angeles Lakers 93-89 Denver Nuggets

 

Nets at Bucks

The Milwaukee Bucks (40-24) and the Brooklyn Nets (43-22) meet for the second time in three days as seedings spots in the East get determined.

LeBron James will sit out the Los Angeles Lakers' match against the Denver Nuggets on Monday after re-aggravating his right ankle injury.

James was benched late in the Lakers' 121-114 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Sunday with right ankle soreness.

The four-time MVP had missed 20 matches due to a right ankle injury until recently returning and the Lakers will not risk his health as they battle for playoffs seedings.

The Lakers have dropped three consecutive games coming into Monday's meeting with the Nuggets, as well as losing six of their past seven.

James said on Sunday that he would prioritise getting fully fit over returning too soon in a bid to improve the Lakers' seeding.

LA's recent poor form has seen them slip down to seventh spot in the Western Conference with a 36-28 record.

The Lakers are already without guard Dennis Schroder because of an exposure to a postive COVID-19 test.

After going toe to toe just over 48 hours earlier, two Eastern Conference heavyweights prepare to face each other again when the Milwaukee Bucks host the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday.

The brilliance of Giannis Antetokounmpo helped the Bucks prevail in the first of two back-to-back meetings between teams with serious title aspirations.

Aided by landing four of his attempts from beyond the arc, the two-time NBA MVP scored 49 points to see Milwaukee come out on top.

The result moved them closer to the second-placed Nets in the standings, though both trail the Philadelphia 76ers. The trio know that finishing as top seed will leave the other two rivals to potentially fight it out on the path to the Conference Finals.

With the playoffs looming, there is a balance to be struck over clocking up more minutes in the regular season and saving energy for what is to come down the line.

Still, while there are no concerns over suffering a knockout this time around, both the Bucks and Nets will want to land a telling blow on their opponents before a potential postseason reunion.

 

TOP PERFORMERS

Giannis Antetokounmpo

A third MVP award appears unlikely, yet the Greek is averaging 28.4 points per game (he finished at 27.7 in 2018-19, but rose to 29.5 last season), as well as 11.1 rebounds and 5.9 assists.

His performance against the Nets, which included scoring his team's first 16 points in the third quarter, was even more impressive considering he had missed the previous game due to a sprained right ankle.

Kevin Durant

Like Antetokounmpo, Durant returned from a layoff to shine on Sunday. He finished the game with a team-high 42 points, boosting his average for the season to 28.1ppg.

Hamstring tightness was behind the decision to sit him against the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday, having previously scored 42 in a win over the Indiana Pacers. Injuries have hampered his availability during the campaign, but Durant has excelled when on the court for Brooklyn.

KEY BATTLE

Antetokounmpo and Durant will be preparing for round two as the headline acts for their respective franchises, though both can lean on help from stellar supporting casts.

However, missed shots – and what happens in the aftermath – could be crucial to deciding the outcome. The Bucks lead the East in terms of defensive rebounds, while the Nets sit second on the list. Milwaukee, though, is superior on the boards on offense when compared to their opponents, potentially offering key second-chance opportunities.

HEAD TO HEAD

The Bucks may have come out on top at the weekend but the Nets triumphed earlier in the year when the teams met in Brooklyn, James Harden - who remains sidelined - leading the way with 34 points in a 125-123 triumph for the home team.

Durant also played in that game – contributing 30 points, including landing eight of his nine free-throw attempts – but Kyrie Irving was absent.

There are just two weeks of the NBA regular season remaining and the race for the playoffs is really hotting up.

The top teams in the East are jostling for the first seed, while the Washington Wizards' form has taken them into a play-in place.

The West is even more open, with the top seven in flux and defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers falling into the play-in game as things stand.

Lakers superstar LeBron James even suggested the individual responsible for this format "needs to be fired".

There is still time for James and Co, but players with momentum – identified by our NBA Heat Check, powered by Stats Perform data – will be key.
 

RUNNING HOT...

Jayson Tatum

The Boston Celtics are down in seventh in the East, meaning they are set to go through the play-in, but their 1.0-game deficit to the teams above them would undoubtedly be greater if not for Tatum.

Although the team went 2-2 last week, one of their wins – against the San Antonio Spurs – was particularly memorable.

Tatum put up 60 points in the overtime win, where the Celtics trailed by 32 at one stage. That performance matched Larry Bird's single-game Boston scoring record and ensured he averaged 42.7 over the three games he featured in, up from his prior seasonal mark of 25.7 for the biggest increase of the week.

Aaron Nesmith

Tatum also had some help from the bench as rookie Nesmith found his feet at this level. Last year's first-round pick averaged 3.4 points per game through April 25 and continued this unimpressive form with two points as Tatum sat out against the Orlando Magic. Then he hit form.

Displays of 15, 16 and 16 points meant an average of 8.9 for the week, including 85.7 per cent shooting against the Portland Trail Blazers, making all four attempts from beyond the arc.

It was a timely improvement as fellow wing Evan Fournier, dealing with long-term COVID-19 effects, scored just 10.5 points per game, down from 17.5 for the league's eighth-largest decline last week.

Michael Porter Jr

Nikola Jokic will win the NBA MVP award, but injuries to Jamal Murray and Will Barton appeared to have hit his hopes of team success with the Denver Nuggets until they won four straight last week.

Porter is the Nuggets' third-best scorer but looked better than that as he led the team in points in two of those victories.

Enjoying his first year as a regular starter, Porter had boosted his average to 18.2 points per game with a career-high 39 in the final game of the previous week yet raised those standards even further with 26.8 over four outings.
 

GOING COLD...

Joel Embiid

Jokic's impending individual recognition is in part due to the failure of his MVP rivals to stay fit. Joel Embiid was the frontrunner until he missed 10 games in a row.

The Philadelphia 76ers center might still have returned in time to wrestle back the top honour, but limited minutes last week – even in four Sixers wins – look to have put paid to those hopes.

Only appearing for more than 25 minutes when he contributed 34 points against the Spurs, Embiid averaged 22.5ppg, a significant decrease on his prior 30.0 for 2020-21.

James in LA, another early contender, certainly will not trouble Jokic after he returned for two games, scored 35 points in total and then went down again.

Malcolm Brogdon

The 76ers can afford to give Embiid a light schedule as they focus on an NBA title, but the Indiana Pacers would be happy simply making the playoffs from ninth in the East.

Their hopes were hit by a tough week for Brogdon, who played only 12 minutes in their second game against the Brooklyn Nets before succumbing to a hamstring issue that kept him out of a trip to Oklahoma City.

Brogdon, previously scoring 21.6 points for the year, could only partially be excused by injury, though, having shot five-of-14 against Portland then none-of-five in a brief Brooklyn outing.

Rudy Gobert

The Utah Jazz are wobbling at the top of the West, where they have been joined on 46-18 by the Phoenix Suns following a 2-2 week that included a defeat to their rivals for the first seed.

Phoenix and Deandre Ayton continue to prove tricky opponents for presumed Defensive Player of the Year Gobert, who could not carry the load in Donovan Mitchell's absence.

With 10 rebounds against the Suns – relatively poor by his dominant standards – Gobert averaged 10.3 for the week, down from 13.6, and Utah have now lost four straight against their co-leaders. That is a worry heading into the postseason.

The Portland Trail Blazers made NBA history as they overcame the Boston Celtics on Sunday to post a fourth successive win on the road.

CJ McCollum scored 33 points and Damian Lillard contributed 26 – as well as 13 assists – as Portland prevailed 129-119 in Boston, meaning they have a 20-12 away record in the regular season.

However, Terry Stotts' team have had less success at home – they are surprisingly 16-16 at the Moda Center – but became the first NBA team to follow up four straight losses on their own court with a four-run win on their travels, per Stats Perform.

The impressive streak has seen them rise up to sixth in the Western Conference, putting them on course to qualify for the postseason without needing to go through the play-in tournament.

"When we were losing games, we were losing close games. It's a make-or-miss league," McCollum told the media after starring against the Celtics.

"We understand how many games are left, what needs to be accomplished and how we can accomplish it. It starts on both ends.

"There's a better sense of urgency, I think. We know what needs to be done and have got a lot of guys who have played in big games, have played in the playoffs.

"You want to be playing your best basketball heading there – and be as healthy as possible. Both of those things are ringing true for us."

McCollum made four of his eight attempts from deep, while the Trail Blazers shot 50 per cent as a team from three-point range in Boston.

Jayson Tatum had 33 points in a losing cause for the Celtics, who pulled within two points at one stage late in the fourth quarter.

Portland are back in action on Monday, this time in Atlanta as they take on the Hawks in what will be the penultimate outing in a six-game road trip.

LeBron James' status for the Los Angeles Lakers is unclear ahead of their meeting with the Denver Nuggets after he reinjured his right ankle in Sunday's loss to the Toronto Raptors.

Superstar James was playing for just the second time since missing 20 straight games due to a right ankle sprain, the longest injury absence during his career.

He put up 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists but exited with six minutes and 42 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and did not return to the contest.

James said he has no particular worries over the ankle, but that it is imperative for the team that he is fit and firing ahead of the postseason.

"First half it feels really good, obviously warming up for the game everything is going well," he said.

"The last two games at half-time, at the break, it's gotten a little sore on me, got a little tight, obviously coach decided not to put me back in because of that, that's it.

"I really don't have too much level of concern, but I need to be healthy and make sure my ankle is where it was before my injury.

"I need to be smart with it, talk to my trainer Mike and go over with the coaching staff and some of the players as well, most important thing to me is to be healthy and be at full strength when it really matters.

"It matters now to me because I hate sitting out games and not being out on the floor, but I'm also not helping myself or helping my team when I'm not out there at full strength."

Asked whether it is a case of wait and see for the Denver game, James replied: "That's the plan, the plan is to see how I feel, go from there.

"I definitely want to get healthy, not just for myself but for our team, it's definitely challenging right now, but I'll be fine."

The defending champions are in a lull right now, with the Raptors loss representing a sixth defeat over their previous seven games.

It leaves the Lakers seventh in the Western Conference, a finish that would require them to feature in the play-in tournament to make the playoffs – a concept James clearly has little time for.

"It doesn't matter at the end of the day if I'm not 100 per cent, close to 100 per cent it don't matter where we land," he said.

"That's my mindset, if it happens we end up as sixth, or fifth whatever the case may be, you know the playoff whatever that thing is, whoever came up with that s*** need to be fired, but whatever."

The Lakers have been blighted by injury concerns this season and had starting point guard Dennis Schroder unavailable versus Toronto due to health and safety protocols.

James believes the key to getting the Lakers firing again is having a fully fit roster available.

"Our team is predicated on health, we're a team that we need to be healthy and need to be full, if it's not one thing it's the other," he said.

"Today our starting point guard is not in the line-up, that's the biggest thing down the stretch more than the games we're playing is how healthy we're going to be going into the stretch run."

The Los Angeles Lakers slumped to their sixth loss in seven games with LeBron James finishing their 121-114 defeat to the Toronto Raptors injured in the locker room on Sunday.

James left the court in the fourth quarter due to a sore right ankle, the same ankle which sidelined the Lakers superstar for 20 games until his return against the Sacramento Kings on Friday.

The four-time MVP played 28 minutes, scoring 19 points with seven rebounds and six assists but he could not inspire reigning NBA champions the Lakers to reverse their worrying form ahead of the playoffs.

Toronto forward Pascal Siakam was exceptional with a season-high 39 points, 13 rebounds and four assists, while veteran guard Kyle Lowry also had a double-double with 37 points, including three three-pointers, and 11 assists.

The result means the Lakers slip to 36-28 and sixth spot in the Western Conference, while the Raptors are 27-38.

 

Giannis comes out on top against KD

Giannis Antetokounmpo posted 49 points as the Milwaukee Bucks overcame the star-studded Brooklyn Nets 117-114 in their heavyweight Eastern Conference meeting. Making his return after a minor ankle issue, two-time reigning MVP Antetokounmpo also had eight rebounds and four assists, while Khris Middleton contributed 26 points and 11 rebounds in a key supporting role. Durant did his best to lift the Nets with 42 points and 10 rebounds.

Joel Embiid had his 14th game with 30 or more points and 10 rebounds, with only Antetokounmpo having more this season, as the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers won 113-111 in overtime against the San Antonio Spurs. MVP hopeful Embiid finished with 34 points and 12 rebounds after OT, with Seth Curry adding 22 points.

Devin Booker had 32 points to lead the high-flying Phoenix Suns to a 123-120 victory over the lowly Oklahoma City Thunder.

The New York Knicks kept up their hot run with 122-97 win against the Houston Rockets, fuelled by All-Star Julius Randle's 31 points in three quarters.

C.J. McCollum (33 points), Damian Lillard (26 points and 13 assists) and Jusuf Nurkic (14 points and 11 rebounds) combined to lead the Portland Trail Blazers past the Boston Celtics 129-119. Jayson Tatum's 33 points were not enough for the Celtics. Per Stats Perform, the Trail Blazers are the first team in NBA history to have four consecutive home losses immediately followed by four straight road victories.

 

From hero to zero

Dorian Finney-Smith nailed the game-winner for the Dallas Mavericks against the Washington Wizards on Saturday. But he was struggled in the 111-99 loss to the Sacramento Kings. Finney-Smith was one-for-seven shooting in 35 minutes, missing all five of his three-point attempts for just three points.

 

Timely tip from Simmons

Ben Simmons tipped home in the nick of time after Embiid's attempted buzzer-beating shot missed in the 76ers' win over the Spurs.

 

Sunday's results

Milwaukee Bucks 117-114 Brooklyn Nets
Portland Trail Blazers 129-119 Boston Celtics
New York Knicks 122-97 Houston Rockets
Philadelphia 76ers 113-111 San Antonio Spurs (OT)
Phoenix Suns 123-120 Oklahoma City Thunder
Sacramento Kings 111-99 Dallas Mavericks
Miami Heat 121-111 Charlotte Hornets
Toronto Raptors 121-114 Los Angeles Lakers

 

Nuggets at Lakers

The Lakers (36-28) have a big test to get back on track in the Western Conference against Nikola Jokic's Denver Nuggets (43-21) with playoffs seedings up for grabs.

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