LeBron James recorded his second double-double of the season and first since opening night as the streaking Los Angeles Lakers withstood the Houston Rockets 119-117 on Tuesday.

James, who was a game-time decision again with his niggling ankle issue, scored 30 points – including two-of-four shooting from three-point – range along with 10 assists, four rebounds and two steals. The four-time NBA MVP added 14 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter.

The Lakers had led by eight points in the final quarter but escaped with the win, improving their record to 5-3 on the back of three straight victories, as Kevin Porter Jr.'s three-point attempt to steal the game on the buzzer rimmed out.

Star trio James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook scored a collective 84 points in their most productive game together after the latter arrived from the Washington Wizards in the offseason.

Davis added 27 points, nine rebounds and three assists, while former MVP Westbrook had 27 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

 

Paul third for all-time assists

Chris Paul had 18 assists along with 14 points and seven rebounds to help the Phoenix Suns overcome a 20-point deficit in their rallying 112-100 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans. Paul moved past Mark Jackson and Steve Nash into third for all-time NBA assists. The Suns guard has 10,336 assists, behind only John Stockton (15,806) and Jason Kidd (12,091).

Giannis Antetokounmpo posted 28 points, eight rebounds and nine assists as reigning champions the Milwaukee Bucks ended their three-game skid with a 117-89 win against the struggling Detroit Pistons.

Kyle Lowry drained six three-pointers among his 22 points and nine assists as the red-hot Miami Heat beat the Dallas Mavericks 125-110. Luka Doncic scored 33 points for the Mavs.

 

Clarkson's three-point woes

Utah Jazz point guard Jordan Clarkson shot poorly, going one of 11 from beyond the arc, scoring only two points in their 119-113 victory over the Sacramento Kings.

The regular season is over. All teams have made it through 72 games in a campaign played out amid the backdrop of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

For some, the focus now switches quickly to the playoffs. Those who missed out, however, get an early start to their offseason, a time for rest, reflection and perhaps a reset ahead of the NBA Draft in late July.

The contrasting situations for teams at this time in a campaign offers opportunities to those perhaps not used to being in the spotlight. It may be the final act in the show, but it allows some players to step in and take centre stage.

Powered by Stats Perform data, here is a look at some of those who have seized the moment in the latest edition of Heat Check.

RUNNING HOT...

Jordan Clarkson

Clarkson has excelled this season with the Utah Jazz and is the overwhelming favourite to be named Sixth Man of the Year in the NBA Awards. He has averaged 18.4 points across 68 games, of which he has started in just one. His final act in the regular season was a 33-point haul in a win over the Sacramento Kings, including landing half of his 12 attempts from beyond the arc.

Despite being without Mike Conley Jr and Donovan Mitchell down the stretch, the Jazz still finished strongly to end up as the top seeds in the Western Conference. Now they wait to find out who they will face first up in the playoffs, aiming to avoid an opening-round exit for a third successive campaign.

Kelan Martin

Martin is a prime case of a player capitalising on extended game time. Having gone undrafted, he had a spell in Germany before getting an NBA debut with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2019. However, he has looked right at home of late with the Indiana Pacers, including recording a career-high 25 points on May 10. During the past week, the 25-year-old has averaged 14.2 points per game and 2.6 successful three-point attempts.

Indiana have a play-in game to come against the Charlotte Hornets as they aim to keep their campaign alive – do not be surprised to see Martin remain involved in the rotation.

Malachi Flynn

Few teams have had it as tough as the Toronto Raptors. For starters, the Canadian franchise was relocated to Tampa due to travel restrictions in place during the global pandemic. Health and safety protocols have also taken a toll on player (and coach) availability and, with no hope of a top-10 finish in the Eastern Conference, several of their starters have been absent from duty.

That has offered further minutes for Malachi Flynn, though. The rookie guard rounded out his debut year with 26 and 27 points respectively in losses to the Dallas Mavericks and the Pacers. Across the past week, he averaged out at 3.25 successful attempts from three-point range, demonstrating his scoring touch from deep.

GOING COLD...

Elfrid Payton

To say Payton’s numbers are a concern is an understatement. The starting point guard for the playoff-bound New York Knicks has not reached double figures for points in his previous seven outings.

Indeed, across the past week, the former first-round pick by the Philadelphia 76ers has averaged 1.0ppg. One. Point. He made just two of 14 field goal attempts across four games. Considering the Knicks also have Frank Ntilikina and Derrick Rose on the roster, a change to the line-up would not be at all surprising.

Nikola Vucevic

Vucevic did not play on Sunday as the Chicago Bulls wrapped up their campaign with a win over the shorthanded Milwaukee Bucks. The center averaged 12.67 points in the three appearances across May 10-16, comfortably down on his mark of 23.9 entering the week. He struggled against the Brooklyn Nets in particular, landing just four of his 18 shots, including none of the eight attempts launched from three-point range.

Here is an example of how sometimes good intentions do not quite pan out as planned. Vucevic's arrival prior to the trade deadline was a show of intent by the Bulls to make the playoffs. Instead, they are left on the outside in the East, finishing up in 11th place in the standings for a second season in a row.

The race for top spot in the Western Conference is hotting up with only 10 games of the season remaining.

The Utah Jazz looked certain to secure the first seed earlier in the campaign, but damaging injuries and the form of the Phoenix Suns have closed the gap.

Utah could yet pull clear again but surely must win on Friday when they visit Phoenix.

The Suns are just a single game back and coming off a win over the Los Angeles Clippers that secured a playoff spot and should make second place the floor of their ambitions.

The Jazz also enjoyed a big victory on Wednesday, though, and are unlikely to go down without a fight.

 

TOP PERFORMERS

Jordan Clarkson – Utah Jazz

With 17.5 points over 58 games, but only one start, Clarkson is a shoo-in for Sixth Man of the Year.

When Donovan Mitchell, the team's leading scorer, went down injured this month, Clarkson was installed into the starting five in the next game. Although he played 46 minutes and tallied 27 points, the Jazz lost.

The 28-year-old point guard has since returned to the bench and, despite quiet nights in surprise consecutive defeats to the Minnesota Timberwolves, put up 23 points in a record-breaking midweek win at the Sacramento Kings.

The 154-105 victory made Utah the first road team to score as many as 154 points while winning by as many as 49.

With 988 bench points this year, Clarkson is set to pass 1,000 against the Suns – only Thurl Bailey, in three seasons, has previously reached that mark with the Jazz.

Chris Paul – Phoenix Suns

Veteran Paul, who turns 36 next week, will certainly be capable of handling the heat in high-stakes games such as these.

The 16-year point guard, averaging 16.2 for the year, scored 28 points in the win over the Clippers. Only five times this season has he topped that tally – most recently in the previous meeting with the Jazz earlier in April.

Of Paul's 29 points on that occasion, 11 came in the fourth quarter and five in overtime.

"Down the stretch, you might not find anybody better than Chris Paul," coach Monty Williams said that night.

Paul now ranks third for clutch points in 2020-21 with 133.

 

KEY BATTLE – GOBERT HAS A POINT TO PROVE

Along with Paul's heroics and 35 points from Devin Booker, the performance of Deandre Ayton drew particular praise the last time these teams met.

The big man had 18 points and 12 rebounds as Utah allowed 61 boards – still by far a season high among their opponents.

Ayton said afterwards he had brought his "A-game" in order to match up against presumed Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert.

Gobert will not want to be outfought again, and with Mitchell still out, he cannot afford to be.

 

HEAD TO HEAD

The Suns' overtime success was their second win against the Jazz this season and their third in a row, although they had lost 15 of the team's 16 matchups immediately prior to this run.

Phoenix's recent form in this series has given them a narrow 95-93 all-time lead.

LeBron James was left helpless as the Utah Jazz destroyed the Los Angeles Lakers, 114-89, with the defending champions slipping to a fourth straight loss.

James was the game's top scorer with 19 points while six Jazz players hit double-figures, with Rudy Gobert and Jordan Clarkson dropping 18, and the NBA leaders raced away with this contest between two championship contenders.

Utah stormed to a 16-point half-time lead before restricting the Lakers to a season-low 17-point third quarter, and the hosts once again set the bar high from downtown, shooting 22 threes, including a franchise-high 14 in the first half.

The lifeless Lakers offered little resistance while slipping to their biggest loss of the season as the Western Conference leaders cruised to a 22nd win in 24 games.

The Jazz's league-leading 15-2 home record improves them to 26-6 overall.

With Anthony Davis joined by Dennis Schroder on the sidelines, Montrezl Harrell (16 points) and Markieff Morris (12 points) were the only other Lakers players to hit double-figures as their record fell to 22-11.

Gallinari writes Hawks and NBA history

Danilo Gallinari set an Atlanta Hawks franchise record of 10 three-pointers in the 127-112 win against the Boston Celtics.

The Italian veteran had the best shooting day of his career, burying 13 of his 16 attempts from the field, while putting up a personal-best 38 points. 

Siakam ineffective for Raps

Pascal Siakam was only able to put up five points from his 24 minutes on court in the Toronto Raptors' 116-108 defeat by the Miami Heat.

The Raps center landed one of six field-goal attempts, sinking one of his three from distance and adding a pair of free throws, before being benched in the fourth quarter.

 

Dort beats the clock and comes up clutch 

Luguentz Dort's three-point buzzer-beater earned the Oklahoma City Thunder a dramatic 102-99 win over the San Antonio Spurs, after a career-high 42 points from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

The Canadian becomes only the third player in franchise history to sink a game-winning three since the move to Oklahoma, joining Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Wednesday's results

Atlanta Hawks 127-112 Boston Celtics
Golden State Warriors 111-107 Indiana Pacers
Cleveland Cavaliers 112-96 Houston Rockets
New Orleans Pelicans 128-118 Detroit Pistons
Oklahoma City Thunder 102-99 San Antonio Spurs
Miami Heat 116-108 Toronto Raptors
Chicago Bulls 133-126 Minnesota Timberwolves
Charlotte Hornets 124-121 Phoenix Suns
Utah Jazz 114-89 Los Angeles Lakers

 

Pelicans at Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led the Milwaukee Bucks (19-13) to third in the east and they host the Zion Williamson-inspired New Orleans Pelicans (14-17) on Thursday.

Western Conference leaders, the Utah Jazz, bounced back from their first loss in 10 games by draining a franchise-record 28 threes while crushing the Charlotte Hornets 132-110.

Donovan Mitchell top scored with 23 points, while three players – Joe Ingles, Jordan Clarkson and Georges Niang – came off the bench to post 20 points or more to send the Jazz to 25-6.

Ingles and Niang each shot seven from downtown, while Clarkson added five. 

Utah became the fastest team in NBA history to record 500 three-pointers in a season, setting the record at 31 games.

Ben Simmons believes his potential is "scary" after scoring a career-high 42 points against the Utah Jazz.

Playing at center in the absence of Joel Embiid for the Philadelphia 76ers, Simmons converted 15 of his 26 field goals, adding 12 assists and nine rebounds in a fantastic performance.

Utah still won the game 134-123 to make it 19 wins from 20.

Despite playing in a third straight loss, Simmons believes the record night shows he has made huge strides over recent weeks.

"I feel like I'm figuring it out," Simmons said after the game.

"Obviously, my scoring has been a lot higher the past five, six games.

"As long as I can keep doing that and stay locked in and keep working on my mental [game], I think it's scary.

"You have got to keep your foot down. Keep pushing forward offensively with me. Stay dominant - I know what I'm capable of.

"It felt good that I was able to dominate offensively. Defensively I did okay, not great. Offensively, I definitely had to pick up the slack especially if Joel is out. So yes [it was probably my most aggressive game].

"I loved when I saw Rudy [Gobert] was guarding me. I love being able to go at somebody like that. I felt like it was a little bit disrespectful to put him on me, but it is what it is.

"Honestly, I've just been working on my mentality and mental [game] a lot these past few weeks.

"It's not easy to do that. Your mindset will change the way you play or certain things in the game that come natural for certain people. It is all mental.

"People don't realise your mentality is a huge part of the game. For me I continue to work on that. I'm just trying to get better and progress my game and get to that next level.

"But we wanted to get this win bad. We didn't get it, so we've got to move on."

Getting Simmons matched up with Gobert was exactly what coach Doc Rivers had in mind, while he also praised Tobias Harris for a 36-point display.

Rivers said: "I didn't know we were going to get the 42 points out of him! But he did everything - he guarded, did a good job. Played with pace.

"We anticipated once Joel scratched that the lineup that we put on the floor, we were trying to create a lineup where Gobert would guard Ben and that happened.

"The key for us was getting stops and getting it to Ben and getting up the floor. We just felt like there was no way anybody was going to stay with Ben, especially a center.

"Tobias [Harris] was phenomenal as well. Look at those two guys, man!

"Harris has to be straight line, aggressive and powerful. When he plays like that, he's hard to deal with. He played a very decisive game and had very few indecisive plays.

"He is really keeping the game simple, playing with great force, scoring from the three[-point line], off the dribble and the post. He's doing exactly what we believe he can do.

"[Embiid] was just a late scratch. They came to me and told me his back is still stiff. So I don't think this is a long term issue or anything like that. It's just a game missed."

The Sixers are still top of the Eastern Conference at 18-10 and host the Houston Rockets next on Wednesday.

Jordan Clarkson scored 40 points off the bench for the impressive Jazz, who lead the Western Conference with an NBA-best record of 23-5.

Jordan Clarkson and Ben Simmons were drawn into a high-scoring shoot-out as the NBA-leading Utah Jazz powered past the Philadelphia 76ers 134-123 in a mouth-watering showdown.

In a battle pitting the Western Conference-leading Jazz against Eastern Conference pacesetters, the Jazz came out on top thanks to Clarkson's 40 points.

Utah's Clarkson nailed a stunning eight three-pointers as he became first player to come off the bench and score 40 points in less than 30 minutes since 1991.

In response, 76ers All-Star Simmons fired up for a career-high 42 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds, and Tobias Harris put up a 36-point, 10-rebound double-double, but the 76ers could not keep up with the Jazz.

Simmons opened with a career-best quarter of 19 points to give the 76ers a seven-point lead at the first buzzer before Utah took over and claimed an eighth straight win, and a 19th win in 20 games.

Missing Joel Embiid to a back injury, the 76ers' third straight loss opened the door for the Brooklyn Nets to close the gap in the east and they obliged, posting a franchise-record 25 three-pointers in a 132-121 win over the Sacramento Kings.

Kyrie Irving put up 40 points and former MVP James Harden added a triple-double (29 points, 14 assists and 13 rebounds) to lead the Nets to a third consecutive victory as the struggling Kings fell to a fourth straight defeat.

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