The first fan returns of the NBA’s All-Star voting for 2021 were revealed on Thursday, and the Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant and the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James lead their respective conferences. 

Durant leads all vote getters with 2,302,705 votes, while James has garnered 2,288,676. 

Among guards, the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry leads the Western Conference with 2,113,178 votes, while 1,273,817 fans have selected the Washington Wizards’ Bradley Beal in the East. 

The Nets’ Kyrie Irving is second among East guards in voting, while the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid are second and third among East frontcourt players. 

In the West, the Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard are second and third in voting behind James among frontcourt players, while the Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic is second among guards. 

The starting five for the All-Star teams will be made up of two guards and three frontcourt players. 

Fan voting makes up 50 per cent of the formula that determines the All-Star starters, with 25 per cent coming from a media panel and 25 per cent based on votes from players. 

In addition to the starting five, the All-Star team reserves will consist of a pair of backcourt players, three frontcourt players plus two additional wild cards. 

Voting runs through February 16, and the starters will be announced two days later. The reserves, who are selected by the league’s head coaches, are revealed on February 23. 

It’s still uncertain at this point if there will be an All-Star Game or if the voting is merely a way to recognise those individuals playing at an All-Star level.

It wasn't the most celebrated or impactful trade of the Summer of 2019 – the newest gold banner that is waiting to be unveiled at the Staples Center answers that question.

Still, when browsing the current state of affairs in the Western Conference, it's hard to deny the significance of another deal that went down shortly after the franchise-defining blockbuster that landed Anthony Davis alongside LeBron James in Los Angeles and shifted the balance of power within the NBA.

With the aftershock of the Davis deal still reverberating, the Memphis Grizzlies were making a more under-the-radar move to set their own new course. Just days after the gigantic trade, Memphis sent the franchise's all-time leading scorer and arguably most popular player, Mike Conley, to the Utah Jazz, formally closing the door on the moderately successful 'Grit and Grind' era of the previous decade.

It's fair to say the trade is working out quite well for both teams, though. The Jazz presently sport the NBA's best record at 16-5 with Conley superbly manning the point following a somewhat trying first season in Salt Lake City. The Grizzlies currently stand as the surprise leader of a suspect Southwest Division and are seemingly well ahead of schedule on a rebuilding plan young general manager Zach Kleiman has so far orchestrated with a master stroke.

Memphis' swift rise to respectability was hard to see coming, and neither was the considerable effect so far generated by a trade centered around a player who has never made an All-Star team in 13 NBA seasons. That may change in Conley's 14th, however. The 33-year-old has been a major force on both ends of the court in what has been a terrific bounce-back campaign to date, as his 124.2 offensive rating is the highest of his career and his 2.35 steals per 48 minutes is his best mark since making the NBA All-Defensive Team in 2012-13. 

Perhaps most importantly, however, is how the Jazz have performed with Conley on the court as opposed to him off it. The veteran point guard's plus-minus rating of 11.0 per game trails only Clippers star Kawhi Leonard for the best in the league among players averaging at least 15 minutes per outing and who have appeared in at least half of their team's games, and the following chart illustrates how much better Utah has been when Conley is on the floor: 

JAZZ, WITH/WITHOUT MIKE CONLEY ON COURT, 2020-21 

With/Without stats (/100 = per 100 possessions) 

Points/100: 116.5/108.8 
Opp Points/100: 99.9/113.8 
Point Diff/100: +16.6/-5.0
FG Pct: .470/.444 
Opp FG Pct: .427/.475 
Turnovers/100: 13.4/16.6 

Conley's presence also allows Donovan Mitchell, Utah's leading scorer and their highest usage player, to play more off the ball where he is most effective, as the numbers demonstrate: 

DONOVAN MITCHELL, WITH/WITHOUT MIKE CONLEY ON COURT, 2020-21 

With/Without stats (/100 = per 100 possessions) 

Points/100: 35.0/32.9 
Rebounds/100: 6.8/5.5 
Assists/100: 5.4/8.1 
Turnovers/100: 3.5/5.7 
FG Pct: .451/.409 
3-Pt Pct: .446/.343 

With Conley playing at an elite level and a pair of All-Stars in Mitchell and two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, the question can now be raised: Have the Jazz finally achieved the status of a legitimate challenger to the West's upper crust after four years of consistently winning in the regular season but never seriously threatening in the playoffs? 

Quite possibly. 

The Jazz are the only team that currently ranks in the NBA's top five in both offensive and defensive rating. They have never finished a season higher than ninth in the former category under coach Quin Snyder, but there is reason to believe this team differs from its predecessors. It has been hitting 3-pointers at a historic rate (16.9 per game) with both impressive efficiency (39.8 percent) and variety. Six of the Jazz's top seven scorers are shooting better than 38 percent from beyond the arc while taking at least four attempts per game, the most in the league. 

Only one team in NBA history has shot 40 percent or better from 3-point range while making 12 or more 3s per game, and that is the 2015-16 Warriors that set an NBA record with 73 regular-season wins. Granted, there are three other teams that currently fall under that category this season, and they are all pretty good as well: The Clippers, Bucks and Nets. 

So, we have discussed how the Conley trade has benefited the Jazz. How about the Grizzlies, who received Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver, Grayson Allen, a 2019 first-round pick and a future first-rounder in the deal? 

Korver was immediately traded to Phoenix in a swap that brought back De'Anthony Melton, Memphis' best wing defender, and a 2020 second-round pick that turned into center Xavier Tillman, who has quickly emerged as a solid rotational piece as a rookie.

Crowder was later shipped to Miami, with capable veteran Gorgui Dieng and the still-injured Justise Winslow the return.

Last year's first-rounder was ultimately used on Brandon Clarke, one of only five players from the 2019 class to average 12 points and 5.5 rebounds per game through his first season-plus.

All told, that is five viable contributors (Clarke, Allen, Dieng, Melton, Tillman) and a possible sixth if Winslow can ever get healthy. And Melton may have a chance to be something more than that if he continues to make strides with his still-developing shot.

And we have yet to mention the primary motive for moving Conley, which was to clear a path at the point guard spot for the electric Ja Morant. Though Memphis was able to go 4-4 in the eight games the 2019-20 NBA Rookie of the Year missed with a sprained ankle earlier this season thanks to the enviable depth Kleiman has assembled, there is no question the Grizzlies are a more dangerous team with the 2019 No. 2 overall pick in the lineup.

Here are the numbers to back it up: The Grizzlies average 117.4 points with him, compared to 103.1 in his absence. Their field goal percentage (.479 compared to .451) and 3-point percentage (.381 compared to .331) are also unsurprisingly better, while the turnovers drop by just over one per game (13.5 with him, 14.9 without).

If the Grizzlies could maintain that points-per-game average throughout the season, they would rank third in the league behind only the power-laden Nets and Bucks. Combine it with their other strengths, an opportunistic defense that leads the NBA in steals per game and a rotation that boasts a league-high 11 players averaging 8.0 points or more (min. 50 percent of team’s games played), and it is no stretch to proclaim they will be a formidable playoff foe for any team should they get in – especially if budding star Jaren Jackson Jr. makes it back from the knee injury that has sidelined him all season thus far. 

Memphis are still not ready to realistically threaten the league's championship contenders, but there is a lot to like about this team going forward. The Grizzlies have one bona fide star in Morant, a potential second in Jackson and a young and promising supporting cast – most of whom are under contract for at least two more years. They are also set up to be flush in cap space and a potential dark horse player in free agency come the 2021 offseason.

The Grizzlies have the NBA's third-youngest roster, its youngest GM in Kleiman and third-youngest head coach in 36-year-old Taylor Jenkins. It looks like their rebuild is maturing beyond its years , too.

The Los Angeles Lakers and the Denver Nuggets meet for the first time since last season's Western Conference Finals on Thursday.

A 4-1 series win for the Lakers paved the way for the franchise to win their first NBA championship since 2010 and they are the favourites to repeat the feat this season.

After a gruelling two-week road trip in which they went 5-2, they will be back in the familiar surroundings of Staples Center to start a five-game home stand.

The Lakers are 4-4 on their home court this season and the Nuggets have only dropped three of their 10 road games, while LeBron James and Nikola Jokic have started the campaign in form befitting MVP candidates.

The stage is set for an intriguing battle between two of the West's heavyweights.

 

TOP PERFORMERS

LeBron James – Los Angeles Lakers

An average of 25 points per game may not be on a par with previous prolific seasons, but James is enjoying a career year from beyond the arc.

He is shooting at 40.9 per cent from three-point range and is averaging over twice as many attempts per game (6.8 compared to 3.3) as when he set his previous high of 40.6 per cent in the 2012-13 season.

He has improved from downtown year on year with the Lakers but operates at 27.1 per cent from three against the Nuggets since his arrival in Los Angeles in 2018. He only made more than one three-pointer in one of their Western Conference Finals meetings last season.

Nikola Jokic – Denver Nuggets

Denver's Serbian center has made an incredible start to the 2020-21 season.

While tying his career high of 47 points and ending the Utah Jazz's 11-game winning streak, he registered his 20th straight double-double to start the season – Bill Walton is the only other player to have achieved that feat, though he went on to record 34 straight in the 1976-77 season.

The last team to deny him a double-double? That's right, it was the Lakers. Jokic only had one double-double in the Nuggets' 4-1 series loss to the Lakers in the bubble.

KEY BATTLE: CONTROL OF THE PAINT

Only Zion Williamson (173), Giannis Antetokounmpo (165) and Domantas Sabonis (157) have made more field goals in the paint than Jokic this season, with the centre averaging 14.8 points per game in the key.

However, for the Lakers, Anthony Davis and LeBron have each made 111 field goals in the paint, while Montrezl Harrell also places inside the top 20 with 107.

Through Davis and James alone the Lakers average 21.8 points per game in the paint and the former shoots at 69.8 per cent in that area – better than Jokic's 65.2 success rate and the fifth best in the NBA among players to have attempted at least 100 such shots.

HEAD TO HEAD

The Nuggets have only won four of their 12 meetings with the Lakers in the regular season and playoffs since LeBron arrived at Staples Center.

Davis has particularly enjoyed playing against Denver since becoming a Laker too, averaging 30.3 points and 7.6 assists across nine meetings with the Nuggets. The only side he has averaged more points against in the same time frame – with a minimum of two games played – is his former team the New Orleans Pelicans (31.3).

Denver will therefore likely need Jamal Murray to shine alongside Jokic. However, he had one of his worst games over the past two seasons against the Lakers December 2019, when he had just six points on 3-of-17 shooting. Only once has he scored fewer in at least 24 minutes on the floor – he had four points against the Brooklyn Nets a month prior.

Giannis Antetokounmpo thinks increased maturity is enabling him to enjoy more of a playmaking role for the Milwaukee Bucks this season.

Reigning NBA MVP Antetokounmpo displayed a fine array of passing as he racked up 10 assists alongside 21 points and 14 rebounds through three quarters in a 130-110 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday.

He moved past Quinn Buckner for fourth on the Bucks' all-time assist list when he reached 2,392 by finding Brook Lopez out of a double-team in the low post.

It was Antetokounmpo's third triple-double of the season and he used his spare time in the fourth quarter to take some courtside photographs of his brother Thanasis.

Antetokounmpo had not felt the need to shoulder the burden for scoring on his own as the Bucks made 21 three-pointers. It was the fifth time this season they have made at least 20 shots from beyond the arc – they only had four such games in franchise history prior to 2020-21.

"It's a new thing. Probably last year and the year before and the year before that, I'll go into a game and I'm just too stubborn to not be at my best every single night and I try to go through guys," said Antetokounmpo.

"Three guys are guarding me and I still try to get in the paint. I think that this is just a step forward to this leadership.

"Last year, I felt like, and the previous year, that in order for us to win, I have to be at my best. I have to get 30, 35 ... 25, 20 and 10 or whatever the case might be. Be everywhere, do everything.

"But now, I think our team is a great team; and this year, if my team needs me to pass the ball, I've got to pass the ball."

He added: "Next year might be different. The team might need me to go crazy every single night, but I think that's being mature. Obviously, I'm still young. I'm 26, but 26 is older than 25 and 24, and I kind of like it. I kind of like being this way.

"I kind of like being in a good place, making the right play and just seeing my team-mates having fun. But at the end of the day, always, we've got to win the game. I'm here to win games; I'm not just here to mess around and all that."

Coach Mike Budenholzer lauded the development in Antetokounmpo's ability to read the game and provide exactly what is needed at the right moment.

"I just think he's playing really, really unselfishly," said Budenholzer.

"He's seeing things and making the right read, the right passes, and I just think he's in a great place, mindset-wise. He's aggressive and attacking when it's needed, and he's finding his team-mates and finding opportunities for everybody else when it's needed. He's playing really at a high level."

Eclipsing one of Michael Jordan's records on Wednesday was "a remarkable achievement" for Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal.

Beal scored over 25 points for the 17th straight game to start the season, beating Jordan's mark of 16 from the 1988-89 campaign as the longest such streak since the NBA-ABA merger.

In his latest prolific performance he poured in 32 points as the Wizards overcame the Miami Heat 103-100, despite Russell Westbrook being rested on the second half of a back-to-back.

"It's pretty cool. It's a remarkable achievement," said Beal after Washington improved to 5-13 on the season.

"It's not something you always shoot for but it's amazing just to hear all the stats that we come up with in our game.

"To pass him is always a great feeling, it's something you always put in your accolades, but at the same time it felt even better getting it in a win.

"It was a milestone in a lot of fashions tonight and so I was happy we got the dub overall but to pass Michael means a lot."

The all-time record is held by Wilt Chamberlain, who scored at least 25 points in all 80 games of the 1961-62 regular season.

Asked if he felt emulating that was achievable, Beal responded: "Well if one man did it it's definitely possible. I'm not worried about it."

While Wizards coach Scott Brooks has been amazed by Beal's high-scoring start to the campaign, he was keen to emphasise the other areas of the guard's game that he admires.

"When I think of Brad two things come to mind: winner and toughness. A lot of times just because a guy has a high scoring average they don't want to say that he's an all-round player, that he's tough, but he's a winning basketball player and we're not winning enough right now," said Brooks.

"He's tough. He was fighting for every minute to night. They key to the game was the start of that fourth quarter, we took Brad out, it was a tough decision. We gave him a chance to get his legs and get some rest."

He added: "What he's doing offensively, you don't see it often. James Harden had it in the last few years, but what Brad's doing he's doing it without the ball in his hands throughout the game.

"He scores in so many different ways. The thing he doesn't do is he doesn't post up, but I think he's gonna be eventually able to post up. He does have a good post-up game that we can maybe get going, that's why it's hard to guard him."

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Milwaukee Bucks to a convincing win in the NBA on Wednesday, while the Dallas Mavericks snapped their losing streak.

Antetokounmpo posted a triple-double of 21 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists as the Bucks cruised past the Indiana Pacers 130-110.

Milwaukee had seven players in double-figures for points, with Bryn Forbes chipping in with 20 off the bench.

The Bucks improved to 13-8 despite another good performance by Pacers star Domantas Sabonis (33 points and 12 rebounds).

The Mavericks ended a run of six straight losses by overcoming the Atlanta Hawks 122-116.

Luka Doncic led Dallas with a double-double of 27 points and 14 assists as they improved to 9-13.

Embiid, George star

Joel Embiid starred with 34 points and 11 rebounds as the Philadelphia 76ers claimed a fourth straight win by beating the Charlotte Hornets 118-111.

Paul George posted 36 points for the Los Angeles Clippers, who eased past the Cleveland Cavaliers 121-99.

Bradley Beal had 32 points as the Washington Wizards edged the Miami Heat 103-100. Beal has had 25-plus points in 17 straight games to start the season, which is the most since 1976-77.

Zion Williamson's 28 points, seven rebounds and six assists saw the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Phoenix Suns 123-101.

 

Oladipo can't lift Rockets

Victor Oladipo went eight-of-24 from the field, and one-of-eight from three-point range, as the Houston Rockets were well beaten by the Oklahoma City Thunder 104-87.

 

Special Zion

Williamson got on the end of an Eric Bledsoe pass for a monstrous alley-oop slam.

Wednesday's results

Milwaukee Bucks 130-110 Indiana Pacers
Philadelphia 76ers 118-111 Charlotte Hornets
Dallas Mavericks 122-116 Atlanta Hawks
Los Angeles Clippers 121-99 Cleveland Cavaliers
Washington Wizards 103-100 Miami Heat
New York Knicks 107-103 Chicago Bulls
Oklahoma City Thunder 104-87 Houston Rockets
San Antonio Spurs 111-108 Minnesota Timberwolves
New Orleans Pelicans 123-101 Phoenix Suns
Sacramento Kings 116-111 Boston Celtics

 

Nuggets at Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers (16-6) return to action with a clash at home to the Denver Nuggets (12-8) on Thursday.

Kyrie Irving used a lacklustre defensive display against the Washington Wizards as motivation to lead the Brooklyn Nets to success against the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday.

The Nets fell to a 149-146 defeat to the Wizards on Sunday, with Irving claiming he "couldn't guard a stick" after Russell Westbrook poured in a game-high 41 points.

The former Boston Celtics point guard responded with a strong display on both ends of the floor against the Clippers, scoring 39 points in a 124-120 success at Barclays Center.

"We just needed to respond, every single night is going to be different. I'm just trying to give what is needed on both ends of the floor," said Irving, who had two blocks and one steal.

"Like I said the other night, I took that personally, just not being able to guard anyone. Tonight I gave up a few drives but I feel like defensively as a team, including with my effort, we just matched it.

"We knew they were gonna bring it, so it was just an exciting game. Great competition for some of the top players in the world to go against each other on TV, so grateful to give the fans what they want."

Irving led a 13-0 run that included buckets from Kevin Durant and James Harden – who became the eighth player in NBA history to reach 50 career triple-doubles – as the Nets established a 10-point lead with four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

The Clippers managed to bring the difference back to one but were unable to stop Brooklyn improving to 14-9 on the season.

"Late in games any coach in America wants the ball in their best players' hands," said Durant, who reached 500 points for the Nets in just his 17th game – a franchise record and the second-best mark all-time for a player on a new NBA team, after Wilt Chamberlain for the Warriors in 1959-60 (14 games).

"We've got three guys who are unselfish and know how to play, and I think we made the right plays down the stretch, especially Kyrie and James, controlling the ball.

"I felt like when those guys [have] got it on top, they've got the defense at their mercy so we've got to continue to be on the same page late in games."

On the Nets' late-game defense, he added: "You're down 10, you're shooting the ball with no conscience, they went in. Sometimes we got hands up on stuff, we gave up an and-one, but it wasn't anything easy I'll tell you that.

"I think they earned every point late in the game and that's what we want at the end of the day."

Head coach Steven Nash was proud of Brooklyn's defensive improvement against the team that entered the game with the best record in the league.

"We have the luxury of offensive talent, but we also have to defend. That is a difficult team to defend and we did a great job," said Nash.

"You know it is kind of tricky when the teams are constantly taking way more shots than you are.

"We'll keep cleaning up and we'll keep getting better. When they put up the effort that they did tonight, we'll be tough to beat."

Paul George felt it was "disrespectful" of the referees to only give him one free throw attempt during the Los Angeles Clippers defeat to the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday.

Six-time All-Star George was sent to the line for the first and only time when he got an and-one play on Landry Shamet midway through the fourth quarter.

The Nets' superstar trio of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden combined to go 16-of-16 from the stripe, while Kawhi Leonard was 8-of-9.

"I mean, I think it was disrespectful that I had one free throw attempt today. I am going to leave it at that," said George, who finished the game with 26 points.

The last time George scored as many points with one or zero free throw attempts was in January 2018 against the Denver Nuggets, when he had 43 without a single foul shout.

He continued: "The amount of plays I initiated or created contact, and to get sent to the line one time. Definitely plays I'm gonna have sent in."

Brooklyn responded to George's made free throw with a 13-0 run. A Durant jumper was followed by a three-pointer from Irving, who hit another after adding two points in between.

A step back three from Harden put the Nets in a comfortable position with four minutes and 10 seconds remaining, and although the Clippers got back within one they were unable to avoid a 124-120 defeat at Barclays Center.

Irving scored a game-high 39 points, Harden had a triple-double of 23 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists, and Durant poured in 28 points to make franchise history.

Durant reached 500 points for the Nets in just his 17th game, making him the second-quickest to hit that mark with a new team in the NBA. Only Wilt Chamberlain managed it in less time with the Warriors in 1959-60 (14 games).

"I mean as good a defense we played all night, the fact of the matter is they have some of the best iso players in the world: Kyrie, James and KD," said George.

"I thought there was a stretch where we played great defense, were in their face, and it was almost like each one of them took turns in making a shot.

"They're just tough to guard, they're super confident in their shotmaking ability, [and] defense I thought couldn't be any better on some of those possessions."

Head coach Tyronn Lue felt George let not getting calls from the officials have too much of an impact on his production during the early stages.

Asked if he felt that affected George's rhythm, Lue responded: "Yeah, but it shouldn't. We talked about playing through the officiating, no excuses.

"Some calls should have gone his way but they didn't, and so we've just got to keep playing. I thought he got his composure back in the second half and he played through it, so it's a learning lesson for us."

The Brooklyn Nets' stars delivered in a win over the Los Angeles Clippers, while Fred VanVleet made history for the Toronto Raptors.

The Nets' 'Big Three' – Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving – led Brooklyn past the Clippers 124-120 in the NBA on Tuesday.

Harden posted a triple-double of 23 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds, while Irving had a game-high 39 points and Durant finished with 28.

With his 50th career triple-double, Harden became the eighth player in NBA history to achieve that mark, joining Oscar Robertson (181), Russell Westbrook (151), Magic Johnson (138), Jason Kidd (107), LeBron James (95), Wilt Chamberlain (78) and Larry Bird (59).

The Nets improved to 14-9 with victory over a Clippers (16-6) side also expected to contend come season's end.

Clippers star Kawhi Leonard had 33 points and Paul George chipped in with 26.

VanVleet dominated with a record-breaking 54 points in the Raptors' 123-108 win over the Orlando Magic.

The guard broke DeMar DeRozan's franchise record of 52 points in a game.

VanVleet was 17-of-23 from the field and 11-of-14 from three-point range, while adding three rebounds, three steals and three blocks.

He became the first player in NBA history to have 50-plus points, 10-plus three-pointers made, three-plus blocks and three-plus steals in a game, as per Stats Perform. He was also the first guard with 50-plus points, three-plus blocks and three-plus steals in a game since Michael Jordan in April 1987.

Curry magic not enough, Sabonis stars

Stephen Curry made seven three-pointers and had 38 points and 11 rebounds, but the Golden State Warriors went down to the Boston Celtics 111-107.

Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 27 points and nine rebounds.

Domantas Sabonis' double-double of 32 points and 13 rebounds saw the Indiana Pacers past the Memphis Grizzlies 134-116.

Damian Lillard finished with 32 points as the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Washington Wizards 132-121. Bradley Beal had 37 points for the Wizards.

 

Griffin below his best

Blake Griffin struggled from the field, shooting four-of-13 for 11 points in 29 minutes in the Detroit Pistons' 117-105 loss to the Utah Jazz.

 

Melo moves

Carmelo Anthony posted 21 points off the bench in the Trail Blazers' win. He moved up to 13th on the all-time scoring list.

Tuesday's results

Toronto Raptors 123-108 Orlando Magic
Brooklyn Nets 124-120 Los Angeles Clippers
Indiana Pacers 134-116 Memphis Grizzlies
Portland Trail Blazers 132-121 Washington Wizards
Boston Celtics 111-107 Golden State Warriors
Utah Jazz 117-105 Detroit Pistons

 

Pacers at Bucks

The Pacers (12-9) will aim for a second straight win when they take on Giannis Antetokounmpo (averaging 27.3 points, 11 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game this season) and the Milwaukee Bucks (12-8) on Wednesday.

Fred VanVleet said it was "only a matter of time" before he broke the Toronto Raptors' record for most points in a game as he made history on Tuesday.

VanVleet went 17-of-23 from the field and 11-of-14 from three-point range to post 54 points in the Raptors' 123-108 victory over the Orlando Magic.

The guard's performance broke the Raptors record previous held by DeMar DeRozan (52).

"It was only a matter of time," a smiling VanVleet told Sportsnet after his performance.

"Every time I get a 30 or a 34 I usually get a text from DeMar telling me that I'm weak for not passing his record so I definitely had him in mind as I got close down the stretch."

VanVleet became the first player in NBA history to have 50-plus points, 10-plus three-pointers made, three-plus blocks and three-plus steals in a game, as per Stats Perform.

He is also the first guard to have 50-plus points, three-plus blocks and three-plus steals in a game since Michael Jordan in April 1987.

"It's just time. It was time. I've been missing a lot of open ones this season, more than I usually do," VanVleet said.

"But it was time and sometimes you hit that groove and you just find that zone and tonight I was able to do that.

"My team-mates did an unbelievable job of finding me and screening for me and getting me the ball in my spots. A lot of them were just catch and shoots."

The Raptors improved to 9-12 with their win.

LeBron James is delighted to see fans back in the building despite getting into an altercation with spectators sitting courtside during the Los Angeles Lakers' road win at the Atlanta Hawks.

ESPN reported four people were ejected by the Hawks following the incident late in the fourth quarter of the Lakers' 107-99 victory at State Farm Arena.

A woman later posted on social media claiming she got involved after her husband and James exchanged words. Cameras showed a woman involved in the argument with her mask pulled below her chin, something not allowed with rules in place amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Referees halted the game and security personnel were called over, but James looked to cool the incident when talking after the contest, which was attended by 1,341 fans.

"At the end of the day, I'm happy fans are back in the building," said James.

"I miss that interaction. I need that interaction, we as players need that interaction. I don't feel like it was warranted to be kicked out."

James, who had 21 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, suggested alcohol may have been an influence in the incident.

He added: "They might have had a couple drinks, maybe and they could have probably kept it going during the game, and the game wouldn't have been about the game no more, so I think the referees did what they had to do.

"I love our fans. Laker Nation and everybody else that's against Laker Nation. It just feels better.

"Fans in the stands is just, it's just better. It's better for everybody. Especially on the last game of a 14-day road trip."

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel suggested the incident perhaps exposed a problem with having fans in attendance, especially when the woman lowered her mask.

"It certainly exposed something with regard to having fans in the pandemic," Vogel said.

"You obviously can't have fans taking their masks down and shouting at our players with the virus out there during these times."

Anthony Davis concurred but like James is happy to see fans back.

"With COVID going on, we obviously can't have that [masks being pulled down]. We want to make sure we all can be safe," Davis said.

"We love having fans at the game. Whether we're home or away, it just brings back the game that we love, that joy from the fans and the support.

"Whether it's 500 people or 1,000, 1,500, whatever it is, it's always enjoyable to play in front of a crowd."

NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Atlanta Hawks 107-99 behind a dominant final quarter from LeBron James.

James posted 21 points, nine assists and seven rebounds against the Hawks on the road, having only managed nine points through the first three quarters on Monday.

Lakers team-mate Anthony Davis scored 25 points of his own in Atlanta, where a small crowd were granted access to attend.

James was involved in a brief verbal confrontation with a female fan during the fourth quarter.

Trae Young (25 points and 16 assists) and Clint Capela (16 points and 13 rebounds) both had double-doubles for the beaten Hawks.

Meanwhile, the Houston Rockets tied an NBA record after defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder 136-106.

The Rockets knocked down 11 three-pointers in a 48-point opening quarter to match a league record away to the Thunder.

Eric Gordon (25 points) and DeMarcus Cousins (17 points) each finished with five three-pointers, John Wall (18 points) and Danuel House Jr. (13 points) nailed four from beyond the arc, while Victor Oladipo (15 points) made three of his own.

 

Monk cools Heat

Malik Monk starred off the bench, posting a career-high 36 points as the Charlotte Hornets outlasted the Miami Heat 129-121 in overtime.

De'Aaron Fox had 38 points, including 17 straight Sacramento points during the final seven minutes, to lead the Kings past the New Orleans Pelicans 118-109. It capped a night which saw seven Kentucky players score 20-plus points in the NBA – Fox, Monk, Davis, Keldon Johnson (25), Devin Booker (24), Bam Adebayo (23) and Julius Randle (23). According to Stats Perform, it is the most 20-point games by players from any single college on any single day in NBA history.

Nassir Little put up 30 points, however, the Portland Trail Blazers still suffered a 134-106 defeat at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks.

A double-double of 23 points and 18 rebounds from Jarrett Allen inspired the Cleveland Cavaliers' 100-98 success against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

 

Trent struggles in Milwaukee

Gary Trent Jr. had a tough night for the Trail Blazers. In 29 minutes, he was three of 13 from the field and made just two of eight three-point attempts for eight points.

Danilo Gallinari did not fare much better for the Hawks. Gallinari finished two-of-10 from the field, while draining only two of his five shots from beyond the arc for six points.

 

Booker calls game

The Phoenix Suns trailed by two points at the death, but Booker nailed a clutch three-pointer with 1.5 seconds remaining to stun the Dallas Mavericks 109-108. It was Booker's fifth career game-winning shot in the final three seconds of a contest.

 

Monday's results

Los Angeles Lakers 107-99 Atlanta Hawks
Charlotte Hornets 129-121 Miami Heat (OT)
Cleveland Cavaliers 100-98 Minnesota Timberwolves
Chicago Bulls 110-102 New York Knicks
Milwaukee Bucks 134-106 Portland Trail Blazers
Sacramento Kings 118-109 New Orleans Pelicans
Houston Rockets 136-106 Oklahoma City Thunder
Phoenix Suns 109-108 Dallas Mavericks
Memphis Grizzlies 133-102 San Antonio Spurs
Denver Nuggets-Detroit Pistons (postponed)

 

Clippers at Nets

In-form Western Conference leaders the Los Angeles Clippers (16-5) will put their three-game winning streak on the line against the star-studded Brooklyn Nets (13-9) on Tuesday.

Scott Brooks declared "the basketball gods gave us a break" after his Washington Wizards side produced a stunning comeback to beat the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday

The Wizards, bottom of the Eastern Conference, went on an astonishing 8-0 in the final 8.1 seconds at the Capital One Arena to snatch a dramatic 149-146 victory.

Second-placed Brooklyn (13-9) led by five points with only 10 seconds to play, but suffered a staggering collapse.

Bradley Beal landed a deep shot from beyond the arc after Nets star Kyrie Irving made a pair of free throws, before the Wizards stole the ball as the Nets tried to inbound – Russell Westbrook nailing a three-pointer to put Washington ahead.

Beal then sank two free throws to give the Wizards (4-12) their first win since January 11, bringing a four-game losing streak to a halt.

Wizards coach Brooks said: "It was the first game all year I had a White Claw. I wanted to enjoy it. This is a good feeling.

"I wanted our players to enjoy it. We fought. We fought hard.

"We've done it all year, and the basketball gods gave us a break tonight."

Westbrook (41) and Beal (37) became the first pair of Wizards team-mates to score 37-plus points in a single game since the team moved to Washington in 1974.

Twice in the past two days has a team won in regulation after trailing by five-plus points inside the final 10 seconds – the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday. It only happened twice in the previous 2,871 days – the Chicago Bulls in 2019 and Boston Celtics in 2016.

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash urged his team to play with more pride after their stunning capitulation at the hands of the lowly Washington Wizards.

The Nets somehow lost 149-146 to the Wizards, who went on a remarkable 8-0 run in the final 8.1 seconds on Sunday.

Washington trailed by five points with just 10 seconds remaining but produced an incredible rally to upstage the James Harden-less Nets.

Bradley Beal nailed a deep shot from beyond the arc after Brooklyn's Kyrie Irving made a pair of free throws, before the Wizards stole the ball as the Nets tried to inbound – Russell Westbrook nailing a three-pointer to put Washington ahead.

Beal then sank two free throws to give the Wizards their first win since January 11, snapping a four-game losing streak.

Westbrook (41) and Beal (37) became the first pair of Wizards team-mates to score 37-plus points in a single game since the team moved to Washington in 1974.

"The most important thing is individual pride, making every possession count and mean something," first-year coach Nash said afterwards.

"I think too many possessions didn't mean enough for us tonight. We've got to sit down in a stance and guard and make it difficult, and if we can cut out three or four of those paint attempts or baskets, we win the game.

"But you hope you can clean up a heck of a lot of them and I think more than anything it's just a little bit of pride and a little bit of desperation to guard the ball and keep them out of the paint."

Twice in the past two days has a team won in regulation after trailing by five-plus points inside the final 10 seconds – the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday. It only happened twice in the previous 2,871 days – the Chicago Bulls in 2019 and Boston Celtics in 2016, per Stats Perform.

The star-studded Nets, without former MVP Harden due to a thigh contusion, were led by Kevin Durant (37 points), Joe Harris (30 points) and Irving (26 points) as they had their four-game winning run snapped.

Durant added: "They shot 20 more shots than us. They had 25 points off our turnovers, and they made timely shots. Got to give them credit. They played extremely desperate all night, physical, trying to get in the passing lanes, just trying to muck the game up.

"They needed a win. They hadn't won in a while, so you've got to give them credit. Tough loss for us."

On the final offensive possession, Durant said: "Russ [Westbrook] was sitting on top-side and Kyrie lobbed that up, then Bradley Beal was just sitting there waiting on it, then they had another guy sitting in the paint. We got a wide-open layup to lead the game because everybody was so focused on me right there.

"Coach drew up a good play and he was able to get somebody creeping for a layup, we just didn't finish it. But yeah, the ball was supposed to come to me for sure, but you see how they reacted, and we was able to get something good, we just didn't finish."

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