The races for the top seeds in each conference in the NBA are getting more interesting.

It was a fascinating seven days of action in the NBA, which saw the Brooklyn Nets surge even with Kevin Durant on the sidelines.

They are on a six-game win streak and trail the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers by only half a game.

However, the Sixers can be encouraged by the form of their top two stars, who each enjoyed extremely productive weeks.

The Los Angeles Lakers are on a two-game losing streak and are two and a half games back of the Utah Jazz in the race for the top seed in the Western Conference.

They will be out to get back to their best this week, and an improvement in three-point shooting from the MVP frontrunner would be beneficial to them doing that.

Here we take a look at some of the best and worst performers across the past week, aided by Stats Perform data.

RUNNING HOT...

Ben Simmons

Simmons missed two games last week due to stomach flu but he was excellent in the pair of games in which he did feature for the Sixers.

He dropped 42 points in the loss to the Utah Jazz and, after a brief spell on the sidelines, was back with 28 in the defeat to the Toronto Raptors.

His points per game average for the week ballooned to 35, Simmons having entered the week putting up 14.13. Philadelphia will need more of the same the rest of the way if the Sixers are to clinch top spot in the East.

Jamal Murray

The Nuggets are in the thick of a crowded playoff race in the Western Conference, and their hopes of reaching the postseason will be boosted if Murray can maintain his form of the past week.

Having come into the week scoring 18.54 points per game, he averaged 35 last week, with that number inflated by a stunning 50-point game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, which saw him shoot 84 per cent from the field and go eight of 10 from three-point range.

He went from putting up just over two triples per game to averaging five and, with a game against a Portland Trail Blazers team two and a half games ahead of them in the standings next up, Murray's success from deep will be pivotal.

Joel Embiid

Arguably the closest challenger to LeBron James for the league MVP award this season, Embiid was a monster on the boards for the Sixers this week.

His 50-point game in the win over the Chicago Bulls on Friday was also the first of two successive outings with 17 rebounds. 

Embiid's rebounds per game average jumped from 10.77 entering the week to 15 over the past seven days.

He will need to continue making that kind of all-round impact in scoring and rebounding if Embiid is to have any hope of denying LeBron the MVP.

GOING COLD...

Derrick Rose

Rose's second week as a New York Knick did not go to plan.

The 2011 MVP had come into the week registering 14.28 points per game, but that dropped to just 5.33 over the course of the last three games.

He endured a dismal week from the field, hitting just five of his 27 shots. Having gotten him out of a bad situation in Detroit, the Knicks will want a lot more from Rose in the coming weeks as they look to cement their grasp on a playoff spot.

Nikola Jokic

While Murray has been outstanding for the Nuggets, their MVP candidate had a down week in one key area of his game.

Denver lost three of their four games last week, and the Nuggets will look for improved play on the boards from Jokic as they target a reversal in fortunes. 

Jokic had been recording 11.5 rebounds per game but that dipped to 8.75 over his past four outings, failing to put up double-digit rebounds in back-to-back games against the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards.

He was back in double figures in each of Denver's last two games, and Jokic will aim to carry that momentum into this week and a key matchup with Portland.

LeBron James

This season has seen LeBron hit threes at his highest rate since joining the Los Angeles Lakers.

He has converted on 36.2 per cent of his attempts from beyond the arc but he suffered a decline from deep last week.

Having entered the week hitting 2.57 threes a game, he averaged just one over the course of the Lakers' last three matchups.

James has not made more than one three in a game since the second meeting in a back-to-back with the Oklahoma City Thunder on February 10.

With LeBron, though, drop-offs are only ever temporary. The MVP frontrunner should resume normal service from three-point range sooner rather than later.

Giannis Antetokounmpo celebrated his impressive combination with Khris Middleton after the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Sacramento Kings on Sunday.

The Bucks improved to 18-13 for the season with a 128-115 victory in front of a limited crowd at Fiserv Forum.

Antetokounmpo and Middleton combined for 70 points, 26 rebounds, 10 assists and 22 free throws made. It was the first time a pair of team-mates posted such collective numbers in a single game since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen for the Chicago Bulls on March 28, 1990.

"It felt good. We were making the right play, we were being aggressive, finding team-mates," said Antetokounmpo.

"We've done this for eight years. We can't do it every night, but there's always going to be some glimpses, there's always going to be some nights where we're both going to feel good, both going to make the right plays, and this night was one of those nights.

"It was good to go out there and lead our team to victory.

"He was being aggressive, getting to his spots, making the right play. We need that from Kris. You could tell from the beginning of the game that he felt good.

"I know when he's feeling good, and that's the time to get the hell out of the way. It's good to play with somebody you've played with for a long time. We've done this since day one. Hopefully we can win more games and keep this going."

Antetokounmpo led the scoring with 38 points, finding the target with 19 of 24 attempts from the free-throw line – an impressive run he does not now want to jinx.

"I don't want to talk about; I don't want to jinx it! I'll just keep working hard, keep trusting my technique. I got all the calls I deserved to get, so that's why I shot 24," he said.

"I feel good right now, I keep trusting my work and hopefully, next game, I can make some more."

The back-to-back MVP was also thrilled to perform in front of fans once again, adding: "It feels amazing. I don't know how many people were out there today, but it feels amazing.

"You could feel the crowd from beginning to end. When we feel the fans out there, I promise you, we're a different team. Hopefully, game by game, more fans can get out there to support us."

The high-flying Brooklyn Nets made it six straight wins in the NBA with a 112-108 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Brooklyn were missing star Kevin Durant (hamstring) once again, but James Harden (37 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists) and Kyrie Irving (28 points and eight assists) stepped up in his absence.

The Nets held a 10-point lead at the final break but roared on by billionaire owner Steve Ballmer in the front row, the Clippers pushed hard in the last.

With the Nets leading 110-108 with 10 seconds to play, Clippers star Kawhi Leonard (29 points and 13 rebounds) was called for a tough offensive foul on former MVP Harden, spurning their final chance at victory.

The Nets have beaten all five Pacific Division teams on the road over their last 5 games. According to Stats Perform, Brooklyn are the first NBA team to beat an entire division on the road in consecutive games since the Milwaukee Bucks did so against the Pacific Division over their last five games of the 1972-73 season.

Brooklyn wrapped up a 5-0 road trip – their longest undefeated single trip in franchise history.

The Nets improved to 20-12 in the Eastern Conference – a half-game adrift of leaders the Philadelphia 76ers, while the Clippers slipped to 22-10.

James Harden warned the Brooklyn Nets are still growing after taking down Kawhi Leonard's Los Angeles Clippers as they extended their winning streak to six games in the NBA.

The star-studded Nets wrapped up a 5-0 road trip – their longest undefeated single trip in franchise history – with a 112-108 victory against the Clippers on Sunday.

Former MVP Harden (37 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists) and star team-mate Kyrie Irving (28 points) combined to inspire the Nets in the absence of Kevin Durant (hamstring).

The Nets have beaten all five Pacific Division teams on the road over their last 5 games. According to Stats Perform, Brooklyn are the first NBA team to beat an entire division on the road in consecutive games since the Milwaukee Bucks did so against the Pacific Division over their last five games of the 1972-73 season.

"The most I'm proud of is our mindset every game, every possession," said Harden, who joined the Nets from the Houston Rockets in a blockbuster trade in January.

"We don't take our opponent lightly at all, no matter who we're playing it's the same goal. It's the same mindset and that is to go out there and help each other defensively. Offensively, take your shots when you're open and when you're not, be unselfish. And it's contagious on both ends of the floor as you can see.

"So, we're still growing, but this is a really good road trip for us and now we get the opportunity to go back home and keep playing that same brand of basketball."

The in-form Nets (20-12) are now within half a game of Eastern Conference leaders the Philadelphia 76ers (20-11).

"I think just staying resilient with everything that's going on, not just within our league but in the world," Irving said about the Nets' winning run. "Obviously, we know how much of a privilege and blessing it is to be able to play this game every day so we just want to wish all the families at home well during these times.

"We get two hours, two and a half hours, three hours of basketball just entertaining people, so we don't take that for granted. Besides the winning streak, that's great, I just feel like it's a bigger purpose out here, so we're just having fun and we get to compete against the best. So that's why I think our resilience is probably what I'm most grateful for."

"We're all individuals, but we can hold each other to a standard where we all meet," continued Irving. "I think we've been able to communicate that in a very unique way. Steve [Nash] holds us accountable because we need to be coached. I don't know everything, everyone else on the team [doesn't], so it takes a full collective effort for us to go against these great teams.

"That's what I feel. I think he's right. I agree with him on that sentiment, but like I said, it's just a standard we can hold each other to. We want to be coached hard."

Nets head coach Steve Nash added: "A non-negotiable step in any team's aspirations is to have that resolve and toughness and connectivity. I've been saying that since day one and we're starting to see more consistent efforts. I just get a sense that our guys are coming together a little more off the floor as well.

"They're finding a bit of a bond and a joy playing together and fighting for one another and that is, other than the toughness and application I talked about, the fact that those guys have come together a little bit more, look like they like each other and want to play for each other has been the most positive part of the last six games."

The Minnesota Timberwolves fired head coach Ryan Saunders, the struggling NBA franchise announced.

Minnesota dismissed Saunders following Sunday's 103-99 loss to the New York Knicks, which left the Timberwolves with a league-worst 7-24 record this season.

The Timberwolves are reportedly finalising a multi-year deal to hire Toronto Raptors assistant Chris Finch.

Minnesota hired former assistant Saunders in 2019, but the 34-year-old oversaw a 43-95 record as coach.

"We would like to thank Ryan for his time and commitment to the Timberwolves organisation and wish him the best in the future," said president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas.

"These are difficult decisions to make, however this change is in the best interest of the organisation's short and long-term goals."

The Timberwolves have failed to reach the playoffs in the past two seasons, while Minnesota have only featured in the postseason once – a first-round defeat in 2017-18 – since Kevin Durant led the franchise to the Western Conference Finals in 2003-04.

 

 

Zion Williamson revelled in the New Orleans Pelicans' rallying win over the Boston Celtics after the team completed their largest comeback in franchise history.

The Pelicans looked down and out against the Celtics but overturned a 24-point deficit to stun the visitors 120-115 in overtime in the NBA on Sunday.

Boston led 79-55 in the middle of the third quarter before Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart (17 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks and a steal) got to work in New Orleans.

Ingram – who posted 33 points – nailed the go-ahead three-pointer with 33.3 seconds remaining in OT, while former number one draft pick Williamson scored 24 of his 28 points following half-time.

"I think it was about the will to want to win," said Williamson, who also recorded 10 rebounds, four assists and a block for the Pelicans.

"We just wanted to win. We didn't want to get blown out in our gym. We fought. We played hard. It didn't look smooth at first, but we figured it out and came up with a W."

"It was a big win for us because we stayed true to who we were," Williamson continued. "We rallied back. Everybody – coaches, players, ballboys – everybody was just engaged and we needed all that energy, and we pulled through."

Ingram added: "I think we can take away that we're really, really good when we stay together."

The Pelicans (13-17) narrowly avoided losing for the sixth time in seven games, and head coach Stan Van Gundy praised his team.

"I think the real lesson of this game for us is we beat a really good team," Van Gundy said. "We were far from perfect.

"There were a lot of things we didn't do well. But we kept fighting. Nobody dropped their heads. We were resilient. We came away with a win."

LeBron James believes he needs to adjust in the absence of Anthony Davis because his Los Angeles Lakers team-mates are already doing "their part and more".

The Lakers have gone 2-1 since Davis sustained a calf injury in the defeat to the Denver Nuggets last weekend, going down 96-94 to the Miami Heat on Saturday after a loss to the Brooklyn Nets.

The reigning NBA champions sit third in the Western Conference but will be without Davis for the next four weeks.

James had 19 points, nine rebounds and nine assists against the Heat, while a steal on an inbounds pass for Jimmy Butler gave Alex Caruso a chance to tie the game at the buzzer but the Lakers guard missed.

By scoring at least 15 points with a minimum of five rebounds and five assists for a 31st straight game, James broke the previous NBA record of 30 in succession that he set in 2018.

However, he insisted it is on him to adapt and help get the Lakers back on track ahead of a tough stretch without Davis, who leads the Lakers in rebounds, steals and blocks.

"I think that's what it all boils down to and right now is another challenge for me, to be able to adjust," James said.

"Not having AD for a long period of time is something that we haven't had over the last year and a half, and now it's time for me to adjust again and see ways I can be even more effective to help this team win ballgames, because that is the sport that we're in.

"We're in the winning business and I've always been a winner. So, it's time to click into that."

On his team-mates, he added: "They are doing their part. They're doing their part and more. Every time we're on the floor we're trying to protect each other and bring each other up on the floor every single night.

"It doesn't matter if you're making shots or not, we're gonna hold each other accountable. Everybody's picking up in AD's absence and obviously it hasn't been in wins the last two games but we're gonna continue working our habits and continue to be great for one another."

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope contributed 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc and called on his fellow role players at the Lakers to provide James with greater support.

"I feel like the last couple games that's been happening, putting a lot on Bron. We already know what we're going to get out of him. So, all the rest of us, we've got to continue to just play hard and just play basketball and not worry about anything else," said Caldwell-Pope.

"We try to help him out as much as possible and we want to do it as perfect as possible, as we can.

"We try to help him out, we try not to make too much mistakes when we're on the floor with him or even running a play with him, just to give him some help. We do ask Bron for a lot, he gives us a lot each and every game.

"It's up to us as far as like role players and 'next man up' mentality, we've got to be ready and locked in."

The Miami Heat edged NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers 96-94 on Saturday.

In a rematch of last season's NBA Finals, which LeBron James and the Lakers won, the Heat came out on top in Los Angeles.

The Heat led by as many as 10 points in the fourth quarter before the Lakers rallied, but Miami held on at Staples Center.

Kendrick Nunn (27 points) and Jimmy Butler (24 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals) fuelled the Heat on the road.

James led the slumping Lakers – who have lost back-to-back games – with a team-high 23 points.

 

CP3 surpasses Robertson as Suns set franchise record

It was a memorable day for Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns, who routed the Memphis Grizzlies 128-97. Paul passed Oscar Robertson for sixth place on the all-time assists list. Robertson had 9,887 assists. The Suns, meanwhile, nailed a franchise-record 24 three-pointers.

Zach LaVine's 38 points inspired the Chicago Bulls to a 122-114 victory over the Sacramento Kings. LaVine made 15 of 20 shots in his fourth consecutive game with 30 or more points.

Russell Westbrook (27 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds) and Bradley Beal (37 points) teamed up to guide the Washington Wizards to an 118-111 victory at the Portland Trail Blazers, who had their six-game winning streak snapped. Damian Lillard's 35 points and 12 rebounds were not enough for the Blazers.

 

Caruso scoreless

Alex Caruso dished off four assists, but it was a tough night for the Lakers shooting guard in a scoreless outing. He was 0-of-three from the field, missing both of his three-point attempts.

The less said about the Grizzlies' performance from beyond the arc, the better. Memphis were just five-of-33 from three-point range – shooting at 15.2 per cent in a crushing defeat at home to the Suns.

 

Rozier calls game!

Terry Rozier nailed a jumper as time expired to lift the Charlotte Hornets past the Golden State Warriors 102-100. Rozier finished with 36 points. Golden State lost Stephen Curry (illness) moments before tip-off.

 

Saturday's results

Charlotte Hornets 102-100 Golden State Warriors
Miami Heat 96-94 Los Angeles Lakers
Chicago Bulls 122-114 Sacramento Kings
Phoenix Suns 128-97 Memphis Grizzlies
Washington Wizards 118-111 Portland Trail Blazers
San Antonio Spurs-New York Knicks (postponed)
Houston Rockets-Indiana Pacers (postponed)

 

Nets at Clippers

It will be a blockbuster battle on Sunday when the Brooklyn Nets (19-12) visit the Los Angeles Clippers (22-9). The Nets will be without Kevin Durant (hamstring) for a fourth consecutive game. Both teams are second in their respective conferences.

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said star Stephen Curry "did not feel well" prior to the team's buzzer-beating loss to the Charlotte Hornets.

Curry was ruled out just moments before tip-off as the Warriors suffered a last-gasp 102-100 defeat against the Hornets on Saturday.

Two-time MVP Curry took part in the warm-up before he was replaced by Mychal Mulder in the starting five.

"Going through his usual warm-up routine, he just did not feel well at all," Kerr said post-game, discussing Curry's absence.

"And so he came back in, saw the Charlotte team doctor, went out tried to warm up and just wasn't feeling good.

"So we made the decision, the training staff and Steph and I, we all made the decision to not play him.

"We'll see how he's doing [Sunday] ... There were no [COVID-19] protocols in place. Just him feeling sick."

Curry is averaging 29.9 points, 6.2 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game for the Warriors (16-15) this season.

It remains to be seen whether Curry will feature against the New York Knicks on Tuesday, with Kerr adding: "Hopefully. We'll see how he's feeling the next couple of days."

"Our offense is based on Steph," Kerr said. "Obviously our pace, everything else. So it took us some time to get our feet on the ground but once we did I thought we really competed well and did everything necessary to win the game. We fought, we competed together."

Kevin Durant will sit out his fourth consecutive NBA game when the Brooklyn Nets face the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.

Nets star Durant has sat out games against the Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings due to a left hamstring strain.

The former NBA MVP also missed three games due to the league's health and safety protocols before returning for his reunion with the Golden State Warriors last week.

Speaking on Saturday, Nets head coach Steve Nash told reporters: "I don't have a timeline, but he's out for tomorrow. So still just trying to regain that strength and his rehabilitation.

"Like I keep saying, I don't think this is a long-term thing. But there are elements of maybe it being, taking a few more days than we thought or just being cautious.

"I think right now both are necessary. I don't think he's ready, I think he needs more time, but we're also definitely going to be cautious."

Durant is averaging 29.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game for the star-studded Nets this season.

The Nets (19-12) have won all three games in Durant's latest absence to be second in the Eastern Conference, behind the Philadelphia 76ers (21-10).

Tyronn Lue relished seeing Kawhi Leonard and Paul George return from injury as the Los Angeles Clippers impressively beat the Utah Jazz.

The Jazz had won nine straight games and 20 of their last 21 NBA contests coming into Friday's game.

However, their streak came to an end as the Clippers emerged triumphant 116-112 in a battle between two championship contenders.

Leonard led the way for the home Clippers with 29 points as they improved to 22-9.

Donovan Mitchell had a game-high 35 points, but the Western Conference leading Jazz fell to 24-6.

Leonard had missed the previous three games with a lower leg contusion, while George was back after seven games out with a swollen toe.

The win came two days after the Clippers had lost by 18 to the Jazz playing without Leonard, George and Nicolas Batum.

"They are the best team in the NBA right now, record-wise, we knew that they won 20 of 21 coming into it – we understood that," Lue said after the win. 

"We got our guys back and we wanted to win this game and the guys went out and did a hell of a job.

"Our defense was pretty good until the heroics of Donovan Mitchell down the stretch.

"Pat Beverley and PG, we did a decent job on that first half and second half, he [Mitchell] got going, that's what great players do. 

"Overall, defensively, I thought we were pretty good like I said until the last 40 seconds or whatever it was of the game."

George had 15 points, six rebounds and five assists in 27 minutes.

"I wasn't ready to play 30-plus," he said. "Got to get back to that basketball conditioning.

"I probably would have hurt the team if I'd been on the floor past the minutes I was."

The Jazz were outrebounded 45-38, leaving Mitchell and Rudy Gobert clear where the game was lost.

"We lost the game on the boards," said Mitchell. "It was second-chance points that really hurt us. 

"If you look at the overall game, we played solid defense throughout, but they just came out there and got the extra boards and rebounds and we just got to do a better job of that.

"This is a bump in the road and a good one."

Gobert feels the loss will ultimately benefit the Jazz.

He said: "If we get those rebounds, we win this game. [The Clippers are] a very good team.

"They came out rested, they came out ready and it felt like a playoff game – the intensity, the tough shots that they were making all night. 

"It was a good opportunity for us to just keep getting better."

Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone described the efficiency of Jamal Murray's 50-point haul as "remarkable".

Murray went 21-of-25 from the field and eight-of-10 from three-point range to post 50 points in the Nuggets' 120-103 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday.

Malone lauded the guard's performance after the Nuggets improved their record to 16-13.

"I've been around a lot of great players, I've been in the league for a long time, I've seen many 50-point games," he said.

"To do it as efficiently as he did is really remarkable."

Nikola Jokic finished with a triple-double of 16 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for the Nuggets.

Murray said the Nuggets' numerous threats made his life easier against the Cavaliers.

"I can shoot a little bit. Once I see a few go down, I just took off from there and kind of mixed it up," he told Altitude TV.

"I was able to get to the rim on them when they tried to change the coverage and we've got a lot of weapons. You can't just flat-out double me when I'm hot, you've got a 'Joker' [Jokic], who's MVP of the season, he'll pick you apart if you're playing four on three especially.

"I feel like it was just a tough task to be able to deal with both of us and the rest of the team as well."

The Los Angeles Clippers ended the Utah Jazz's winning run in the NBA on Friday, while Joel Embiid and Jamal Murray posted 50-point games.

The Clippers snapped the Jazz's nine-game winning streak with a 116-112 victory in a clash between two NBA championship contenders.

Kawhi Leonard led the way for the Clippers with 29 points as they improved to 22-9.

Donovan Mitchell had a game-high 35 points, but the Jazz's winning run came to an end, with the Western Conference leaders now 24-6 this season.

Embiid's career-high 50 points, 17 rebounds and five assists helped the Philadelphia 76ers past the Chicago Bulls 112-105.

He is the first 76ers player to score 50-plus points since Allen Iverson in 2005.

Murray, meanwhile, was spectacular in the Denver Nuggets' 120-103 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The guard was an incredible 21-of-25 from the field, and eight-of-10 from three-point range, for his 50-point haul.

Murray and Embiid were the first NBA pair with 50-plus points on 65 per cent-plus shooting on the same day since Tom Chambers and Patrick Ewing on March 24, 1990, as per Stats Perform.

Nikola Jokic had a triple-double of 16 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in the Nuggets' win.

 

Giannis leads Bucks, Curry's Warriors fall short

Giannis Antetokounmpo's double-double of 29 points and 19 rebounds saw the Milwaukee Bucks past the Oklahoma City Thunder 98-85.

Stephen Curry had 29 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds, but the Golden State Warriors were beaten by the Orlando Magic 124-120.

Magic star Nikola Vucevic finished with a triple-double of 30 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists.

Despite a double-double from Trae Young (31 points and 11 assists), the Atlanta Hawks went down to the Boston Celtics 121-109.

 

Wayward VanVleet

Fred VanVleet went four-of-20 from the field for just 12 points in 37 minutes, but the Toronto Raptors still got past the Minnesota Timberwolves 86-81.

 

Edwards' incredible dunk

Anthony Edwards was three-of-14 from the field for just seven points in 34 minutes in the Timberwolves' loss, yet the 2020 top draft pick produced a monstrous dunk.

Friday's results

Orlando Magic 124-120 Golden State Warriors
Denver Nuggets 120-103 Cleveland Cavaliers
Boston Celtics 121-109 Atlanta Hawks
Philadelphia 76ers 112-105 Chicago Bulls
Phoenix Suns 132-114 New Orleans Pelicans
Memphis Grizzlies 109-95 Detroit Pistons
Milwaukee Bucks 98-85 Oklahoma City Thunder
Toronto Raptors 86-81 Minnesota Timberwolves
Los Angeles Clippers 116-112 Utah Jazz

 

Heat at Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers (22-8) look to bounce back from their loss to the Brooklyn Nets when they host the Miami Heat (12-17) on Saturday in what is a rematch of last year's NBA Finals.

Joel Embiid credited his team-mates after his incredible performance in the Philadelphia 76ers' win over the Chicago Bulls.

Embiid posted a career-high 50 points, to go with 17 rebounds and five assists, in the 76ers' 112-105 victory in the NBA on Friday.

But the All-Star paid tribute to his team-mates after the 76ers improved to 20-10.

"We did it as a team. It wasn't a one-man effort, we all worked together," Embiid told ESPN.

"My team-mates found me, I found them, we shared the ball, we moved the ball and we actually played better defense than we've been playing the past couple of games which makes me happy. It starts on defense and I'm pretty happy about what we did on that end."

Embiid added: "That's my job, that's why they pay me, defensively just being the best defensive player of the year because you know my aspirations are to win that defensive player of the year.

"Offensively doing whatever I'm needed to, if I need to get them open that's what I'm going to do, if I need to score that's what I'm going to do, if I need to set screens that's what's I'm going to do, so we did it as a team."

After back-to-back wins, the 76ers are top of the Eastern Conference.

LeBron James was 'honoured' to share the esteemed company of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone after becoming the third player in NBA history to clock up 35,000 points.

The Los Angeles Lakers star achieved the feat in a 109-98 loss against the in-form Brooklyn Nets at Staples Center, matching Hall of Fame duo Abdul-Jabbar and Malone.

Hours before tip off, the 36-year-old was named a team captain in the 2021 All-Star game, becoming the first player to be selected 17 straight times, and he went on to put up 32 points on Thursday to reach a notable milestone.

"First of all I'm very humbled and very grateful to be part of a great league," said James after his latest landmark. 

"It's a privilege to do what I love to do, which is to play the game of basketball and inspire the youth.

"For me to be linked with some of the greatest who ever played this game is always an honour.

"I've always just wanted to go out there and play the game the right way, inspire my team-mates, inspire the people that watch me and just try to be as good as I can be every single night.

"I don't put a ceiling on my ability or what I can do as far as this game and I've had some pretty good moments."

James' exploits came in a losing effort as the NBA's number two defense fell to its leading offense.

James Harden powered up the Nets with his 19th double-double (23 points, 11 assists) of the season, while Joe Harris showed his three-point prowess, dropping six of seven attempts to clock up 21 total points.

Brooklyn rallied midway through the first half, opening up an 11-point lead. It was one they never relinquished to move to 19-12, while the Lakers fell to 22-8.

The Lakers were without the injured Anthony Davis and lost Dennis Schroder because of the NBA's health and safety protocols.

James, however, was not looking for excuses.

"Obviously missing AD and then our starting point guard in Dennis Schroder, it was a big a blow for us," he said.

"We just didn't play to our capabilities, but give them credit."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.