James Harden believes Brooklyn Nets team-mate Patty Mills is playing the best basketball of his career after the Australian’s 34-point haul in the victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Nets had seen their three previous matches called off due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the squad, with Harden, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and LaMarcus Aldridge among those affected.

But Harden, who admitted he was "just happy to be back on the court," and Mills were instrumental as they returned to action with a narrow 122-155 win on Christmas Day.

The pair combined for 42 of their side’s 66 first-half points, with Mills recording his best overall tally in the NBA this season and surpassing the 20-point mark for a 10th time.

The former San Antonio Spurs guard also registered a season-high seven assists, while landing a record number of three-pointers in an NBA game played on Christmas Day with eight.

Asked if he thought Mills was playing the best basketball of his career, Harden said: "I think so. 

"We know how many big shots Patty hit when he was in San Antonio, but he has a much bigger role in this team because of having all the injuries and dealing with guys dropping out of line-ups. 

"He's just playing consistent; his shot is always cash. He's doing a better job of just being a playmaker, putting the ball on the floor and getting it to the paint. He’s got his finishes, and he's making plays. He just looks more confident."

Mills added: "It was a massive team effort from every guy that stepped on the floor. 

We've been handling adversity throughout the whole season with different types of things, so I think this was no different. 

"With the past week that we've had, it was exciting to get some guys back and there was good energy there. 

"We're all about the big picture here and where we want to be at the end of the season, and I think that's what’s really keeping us moving forward in the right direction."

Los Angeles Lakers head coach David Fizdale lamented that LeBron James' effort is being "wasted on losses" after slipping to a 122-115 defeat against the Brooklyn Nets on Christmas Day.

The loss was the Lakers' fifth straight defeat and saw them slump to a disappointing seventh place in the Western Conference with a 16-18 record.

However, James put in another terrific individual performance – scoring a season-high 39 points, the fourth game in a row in which he has broken the 30-point barrier – and Fizdale revealed his frustration at not being able to capitalise on his star's strong showings.

"I'm kicking myself in the head because he's giving me incredible effort," Fizdale said after the game. "[I'm] trying to figure out ways to get him over the hump with that effort, and I hate that it's wasted on losses. Just spectacular.

"But to watch it, to be a part of it, even though those games are turning into L's, I've never seen anything like this guy. And we better sure as hell be thanking our lucky stars for this guy."

While James' individual display could hardly be faulted, the same could not be said of fellow Lakers star Russell Westbrook, who managed just 13 points on Saturday.

James defended the point-guard's performance, however, focusing instead on the effort his team-mate put in during the game.

"He gave us extra possessions, he gave us a lot of looks around the basket, which I know that he can't stand [failing to convert] as well," James said.

"But as far as the effort piece, if a guy plays hard, if a guy leaves it all out on the floor, I've got no problem with that. It's a make-or-miss league."

Fizdale agreed that the 33-year-old Westbrook could not be criticised for lack of effort, and suggested that taking some pressure off himself would lead to an improved scoring record.

"A big part of it is he just wants it so bad," Fizdale said. "I mean, you can just see it in him, everybody does. He wants it so bad. And I know that's just hard for him when it doesn't work out. And I know he cares like crazy.

"I just want him to take a lot of that pressure off himself, keep attacking, keep playing the way we know he can."

James Harden marked his return to action with a telling triple-double as the Brooklyn Nets snatched a dramatic 122-115 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

For the Lakers, LeBron James scored 39 points and became the NBA's highest scorer all-time in Christmas Day games, reaching 422 points on December 25 across his career to surpass Kobe Bryant's 395 haul.

However, Russell Westbrook shot only 4-of-20 from the field, meaning his own triple-double of 13 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists was tinged with disappointment.

It allowed Harden and Patty Mills to guide the Nets to a hard-earned win over a Lakers side who have lost five successive games to slide to 16-18 for the season.

Mills matched a career-best with 34 points, and his eight three-pointers established a new NBA record for Christmas Day.

 

Harden's haul of 36 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists came in his first game out of COVID-19 protocols and boosted the shorthanded Nets to 22-9, with Brooklyn rallying despite being without Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and LaMarcus Aldridge, among others.

The Lakers trailed 102-82 entering the final quarter but got back to 115-115 with 45 seconds remaining, yet Nic Claxton restored Brooklyn's lead, and Harden's accuracy from the free-throw line saw them pull clear in the closing moments.

This was the first Christmas Day game with multiple triple-doubles, the NBA said.


Antetokounmpo rebounds with stellar show

Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo joined Harden in making a stellar return to action, after also serving time in isolation due to the health and safety protocols.

After missing five games, Antetokounmpo scored 36 points and had 12 rebounds in a 117-113 win for the Bucks over the Boston Celtics.

That improved the Bucks, who sit third in the Eastern Conference, to 22-13 for the season. It was the fifth time this season that Antetokounmpo has topped 35 points in a game.

Christmas Curry proves a rare treat

Heading into the Golden State Warriors' game with the Phoenix Suns, Stephen Curry was averaging a meagre 13.1 points in his eight career games on Christmas. That ranked as his worst average points haul on any date he has played on more than twice.

This time Curry came good though, bagging a game-high 33 points in a 116-107 win for the Warriors.

There was cause for Christmas cheer for the New York Knicks' Kemba Walker too. The Knicks landed a 101-87 win over the Atlanta Hawks, led by Julius Randle's 25 points and 12 rebounds, with Walker weighing in with the team's first triple-double on Christmas Day. He finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists, and on the right side of the scoreboard.

A magical man with a big beard bringing joy to people on Christmas Day? Yes, James Harden is back from COVID-19 protocols as the Brooklyn Nets travel to the Los Angeles Lakers for a festive fixture.

Nets coach Steve Nash confirmed the news on Thursday, while Paul Millsap and Jevon Carter are also newly available, but Brooklyn still have 10 players in protocols.

Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Day'Ron Sharpe, LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre' Bembry, Bruce Brown and James Johnson have been joined by rookies Kessler Edwards, David Duke Jr. and Cameron Thomas.

The Nets have not played since a 100-93 defeat to the Orlando Magic on Saturday at Barclays Center. Their three games leading up to Christmas – at home against the Denver Nuggets and Washington Wizards, then a trip to Portland – were all postponed.

Nonetheless, Nash's team sit top of the Eastern Conference on a 21-9 record, and have not lost back-to-back games this season, though that could be put to the test with a team likely to still be extremely shorthanded in California.

Durant will be a big miss, with the 33-year-old leading the league in points per game (29.7), as will Aldridge, who sits 11th in the league for field-goal percentage (.573).

The home team have been missing players of late too, with head coach Frank Vogel and five of his men being absent as a result of being under the NBA's health and safety protocols in the chastening 138-110 defeat to the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday.

 

The Lakers sit on a surprisingly poor record under .500 (16-17) having lost four on the spin – at Minnesota and Chicago, followed by home defeats to Phoenix and the Spurs.

Despite having LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Rajon Rondo on the roster, Vogel has been unable to get a consistent tune out of his all-star line-up.

With the Nets shorthanded to an even greater degree, the opportunity to produce what would have to go down as a slight upset should the Lakers win, given their respective form and records, will surely never be higher.

Davis remains sidelined by an MCL sprain, but the Lakers should still be able to put out a team that looks as strong as any other on paper.

Whether it is the Lakers putting an end to their losing streak or the Nets pulling out a win with barely enough players to call on, someone may just be claiming the occurrence of a festive miracle in the first encounter at the newly-named Crypto.com Arena.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Los Angeles Lakers – LeBron James

Despite his team being thoroughly outplayed, James managed to score 36 points with nine rebounds, six assists and two blocks in Thursday's defeat to the Spurs, and he will need to pull out a similar effort if the Lakers are to end their losing streak.

The four-time NBA champion has put early-season injury issues behind him to play the last 10 games in a row, scoring 30 or more points in nine of his last 13 outings.

James has also improved his rebound numbers of late, getting double figures in five of his last 10 games, having only done so once in his previous 11.

Brooklyn Nets - James Harden

With Durant, Irving and Aldridge unavailable, all eyes will be on Harden to finally show the form that won him the 2018 NBA MVP award in Houston.

The 32-year-old is averaging just 20.8 points per game this season, his lowest since the 2011-12 season with the Oklahoma City Thunder. His 40.4 per cent success rate from the field is also the lowest since his rookie year.

However, Harden has proven in the past that he can rise to the occasion when he's the main man, and sitting just 20 career assists away from 6,000, he may just roll back the years and pull the strings in the arena now formerly known as the Staples Center.

KEY BATTLE – Can the Nets be as deadly in mid-range?

Brooklyn currently sit top of the table for mid-range points this season, averaging 49.1, well ahead of the Utah Jazz in second (45.3).

Harden is third in the league for most points per game created via assists (21.8), behind only Chris Paul (23.0) and Trae Young (21.9), while Harden (24.4 per cent) and fellow Nets star Patty Mills (29.7 per cent) claim the top two spots for highest percentage of assists for mid-range field goals made.

However, the Lakers have the fourth-best record in the league for lowest field goal percentage allowed from mid-range (38.0), and so it is an area to keep an eye out for, especially with Aldridge and Durant out, both sitting in the top 10 for highest field-goal percentage from mid-range.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

The Lakers prevailed 126-101 when these two last met in April, and the teams have enjoyed five wins each from their last 10 encounters.

In what had been a foregone conclusion for years, the Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry officially affirmed himself as the greatest 3-point shooter in NBA history just 11 days before Christmas.

Receiving a pass from Andrew Wiggins at the right wing at Madison Square Garden on December 14, Curry quickly put up a shot from 28 feet out that swished through the net for his 2,974th career 3-pointer, surpassing Ray Allen’s mark.

Curry has revolutionised the game of basketball, and while he didn't invent the 3-point shot, he is credited with being the first one to truly exploit its value.

He broke Allen's tally in 511 fewer games – that's more than six seasons – and when the three-time NBA champion and two-time league MVP finally decides to retire, it's conceivable he could have well over 5,000 made 3s.

While Curry is the best 3-pointer shooter to ever pick up a basketball, you would never guess it by his performances on Christmas.

This will be Curry's ninth game on Christmas, and the NBA's all-time 3-point king has never made more than two 3-pointers in a game on December 25.

That's right, the man who averages 3.8 made 3-pointers a game – the best in league history – and has an NBA-best 517 games with at least three 3-pointers made, is averaging 1.3 made 3s on Christmas.

This season alone, Curry is averaging 5.4 made 3-pointers a game, which beats out the 5.3 he averaged per game last season and the 5.1 he averaged in 2015-16 and again 2018-19 for the best in a single season in NBA history. No other player has averaged more than 4.8 made 3s in a season.

He also enters this Christmas having made at least three 3-pointers in each of his last 14 games, which is tied for the eighth-longest streak in NBA history (Curry is responsible for four of the seven longer streaks). But now he takes the court on a day when all those shots that routinely go through the hoop for him clank off the rim.

In his eight prior Christmas games, Curry has made 0, 0, 2, 1, 1, 2, 2 and 2 3-pointers giving him just 10 made 3s. He's made at least 10 3-pointers in a single game 22 times in his career – 17 more than Klay Thompson, who ranks second on the list.

Just how incomprehensible is it that Curry has never hit at least three 3-pointers on Christmas? There have been 292 times in his career where he's drained at least three 3-pointers in a quarter. Since Curry's 2009-10 rookie season, the only other player with more than 150 quarters with at least three 3-pointers made is Damian Lillard with 166.

Well, perhaps he's not attempting as many 3-pointers on December 25. Nope, that's not the case, he's simply missing badly, shooting 20.4 per cent on his 49 shots from beyond the arc. Just for the sake of comparison, of the 174 players with at least 80 3-point attempts this season, Curry's 20.4 per cent would finish dead last.

His 20.4 per cent shooting from 3-point range on December 25 is his second worst for a date he's played at least three games, beating out only the 17.6 per cent he's shot in three games on December 16.

Curry is typically deadly from the wing, knocking down 43.2 per cent of his shots from there to trail only Joe Harris' 43.3 per cent shooting for the best by any player who started his career in 2003 or later with at least 500 attempts from the wing. However, on Christmas, Curry is abysmal from the wing, misfiring on 28 of his 32 attempts to connect just 12.5 per cent of the time.

Overall, on Christmas he's shooting 30.2 per cent from the floor, which is his worst for a single day with a minimum of three games played. And not only is Curry's shooting on December 25 his worst for any single day, but it's also the worst for anyone who's played on Christmas since 1983 with a minimum of 50 attempts.

Not surprising given his shooting struggles, Curry is averaging 13.1 points on Christmas – 11.2 fewer than his career average – which, again, marks his lowest scoring average for any day in which he's played in at least three games.

It's just about unfathomable for someone with a 24.3-scoring average and 540 career 20-point games, but he has never scored more than 19 points on his eight Christmas Day games. There is only one other date Curry has played more than one game and failed to score 20 points and that is February 16 – and he's had six fewer opportunities, playing just twice on that day.

Part of Curry's Christmas shooting woes could stem from the competition he's facing. The NBA constructs a doozy of a schedule on Christmas Day, pitting the best teams up against one another with one marquee matchup followed by another. So, Curry's Warriors often find themselves in a playoff rematch or a date with another formidable foe.

And while he's struggled mightily on his Christmas Day matchups, Curry has often faced those same teams at other points in the same season and not had the same problems, averaging 20.3 points, on 48.9 per cent shooting from the field and 47.4 per cent from 3-point range.

Just last Christmas, Curry finished with 19 points on 6-of-17 shooting – including 2-of-10 on 3-pointers – in Golden State's 138-99 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. He got a measure of revenge in a rematch with the eventual champion Bucks later in April, exploding for 41 points while shooting 66.7 per cent and making half of his 10 3-point attempts in a one-point victory.

This Christmas, Curry and the Warriors face another huge challenge with a visit to the Phoenix Suns in a showdown between the teams with the league's best two records.

But if his last trip to the desert was any indication, Curry could be in for another long night. Just over three weeks ago on November 30, Curry had his worst shooting performance of the season, going 4-of-21 from the floor (19.0 per cent) and 3-of-14 (21.4 per cent) from beyond the arc for 12 points in a 104-96 loss at Phoenix.

Three days later against the same Suns team, Curry was a bit better, shooting 40 per cent on 20 field goal attempts and going 6-of-11 from the perimeter with 23 points in a 22-point win.

This time, though, he certainly seems poised to exorcise the ghost of Christmas past. He arrives back in Arizona coming off a 46-point performance while draining eight 3s in Thursday's win over the Memphis Grizzlies for his third straight game scoring at least 30 points – the first time this season he's accomplished that.

For the greatest 3-point shooter of all time, it seems that Curry can't possibly have another clunker on Christmas. He's too good to have been in such a funk and it doesn't seem to make sense he would struggle so much on one particular day – unless of course, he doesn't believe in Santa Claus.

LeBron James says the Los Angeles Lakers' slump is to be expected as they have "no chemistry" due to being so severely depleted.

The Lakers suffered a fourth straight defeat for the first time this season when they went down 138-110 to the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday.

Head coach Frank Vogel and five players were absent as a result of being under the NBA's health and safety protocols, while Anthony Davis remained sidelined with a knee injury in the final game at Staples Center before the venue becomes the Crypto.com Arena.

Four-time NBA champion and MVP James, who scored 36 points and claimed nine rebounds, says it should come as no surprise that the Lakers (16-17) are struggling.

He said: "Every year has its new challenges. This is another year where you can literally have one guy one night and the next night you don't. We've literally just seen that; having TA [Trevor Ariza] last game and then TA is out, so it's the unknown.

"Every time you take a test you've got to see who is positive and who is negative and go from there."

 

Lakers added: "In the past it's not like we had multiple guys who were out, we were just trying to figure out what's the best way for us to win and how do we win?

"What's the best line-ups to be on the floor? Let's log in so we can get better and better. We literally haven't had an opportunity to log-in anything.

"We don't know. We have no chemistry with any line-up from the single fact that we literally haven't logged enough minutes.

"What is our strong line-up besides me and Russ [Westbrook] and AD [Anthony Davis]? Or AD and Russ, or me and Russ? We've both been out, so we don't know."

Keita Bates-Diop scored a career-high 30 points for 13-18 San Antonio.

Stephen Curry scored 46 points including eight three-pointers as the Golden State Warriors defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 113-104 on Thursday.

Curry fell four points shy of his season-high 50-point haul but dominated throughout for the Warriors, shooting eight-of-14 from beyond the arc with four rebounds and four assists. The two-time MVP brought up his third return of 45 points or more this season.

Gary Payton II played a key role in the starting rotation with 22 points with four triples including a clutch three-pointer in the fourth quarter.

Curry's haul marked a return to form as Golden State improved to 26-6, remain one-half game behind the Phoenix Suns (26-5) for the best record in the NBA ahead of their Christmas Day match-up.

 

LeBron, Kemba and Jokic heroics fall short

LeBron James scored 36 points with nine rebounds, six assists and two blocks but it was not enough to prevent the Los Angeles Lakers from going down 138-110 to the San Antonio Spurs. The result leaves the Lakers with a record below .500 at 16-17 after four straight defeats.

Kemba Walker produced a vintage display with a season-high 44 points with nine rebounds and eight assists as the New York Knicks went down 124-117 to the Washington Wizards.

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic's heroics were also in vain as the Denver Nuggets lost 115-107 to the Charlotte Hornets despite the Serbian's 29 points, 21 rebounds and five assists.

Devin Booker (30 points, seven rebounds, seven assists) and Deandre Ayton (19 points, 12 rebounds) led the way as the Suns stayed top and claimed their fifth straight win in a 113-101 triumph over the Oklahoma City Thunder, while Khris Middleton (26 points, five rebounds, seven assists) and Jrue Holiday (24 points, seven rebounds, seven assists) delivered again in Giannis Antetokounmpo's absence as the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Dallas Mavericks 102-95.

 

Embiid loses his radar

Joel Embiid shot six-of-17 from the field as the Philadelphia 76ers lost 98-96 to the depleted Atlanta Hawks. Embiid finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds and two assists.

LeBron James is bullish that he will be fine for the Los Angeles Lakers' next game on Thursday despite an injury scare in Tuesday's 108-90 loss to the Phoenix Suns.

James went down writhing in pain in the third quarter after landing awkwardly on his left ankle when driving to the basket.

The 36-year-old, who has had ankle issues this season, punched the floor at the time, but eventually got up to play on, finishing with 34 points and seven rebounds.

The four-time MVP was benched late but was confident he would be fine to play the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday, brushing off questions about the ankle concern.

"I stepped on Jae Crowder's foot," James snapped at the post-game news conference when asked about what happened.

When pressed on the severity of the injury, he added: "Yeah, I'll be ready for the next game."

James clearly was not in a mood to discuss the concern as the Lakers' frustrating season continued, slipping to a 16-16 record after being dispatched by the Western Conference leaders.

The Suns and the Golden State Warriors continue to streak ahead in the west, boasting 25-5 and 25-6 records respectively.

"The Western Conference has got some really good teams right now, obviously Phoenix and Golden State are playing extremely good basketball," James added.

"For the majority of the season they've been extremely healthy. That definitely helps in terms of their chemistry."

The defeat comes with Anthony Davis sidelined with a knee injury for the next four weeks and leaves James uncertain about their status as genuine title contenders.

"I feel like that's a question I ask myself after every game," James said when asked if the Lakers were only good on paper rather than reality. "I don’t know, I don’t think so.

"We don’t know. We have no idea what this team could be. We haven’t been whole. February was the last time we played the same starting lineup or had the same rotation off the bench, it's been a long time so it's hard to assess that."

LeBron James hurt his ankle but played on as the Los Angeles Lakers were humbled by the in-form Phoenix Suns 108-88 led by Devin Booker with 24 points on Tuesday.

The Lakers had a major injury scare, with All-Star forward Anthony Davis already sidelined, after James rolled his left ankle driving to the basket in the third quarter, leaving him punching the floor.

The four-time MVP soldiered on, finishing with 34 points and seven rebounds, but spent the final few minutes on the bench as the Lakers were brushed aside by the Suns who improve to 25-5.

Phoenix have four straight and won six of their past seven games, having started the season 1-3. The Suns had seven different players in double figures on Tuesday.

Booker starred in his second game back after a hamstring injury with 24 points including six three-pointers, along with nine rebounds and seven assists. Suns center Deandre Ayton had 19 points and 11 rebounds.

Talen Horton-Tucker had a nightmare game for the Lakers, shooting one of 13 from the field and none of eight from beyond the arc, while Russell Westbrook had 22 points and 10 rebounds but also seven turnovers.

 

Lillard's heroics in vain as Blazers lose

Damian Lillard's 39 points, including six triples, were not enough to lift the Portland Trail Blazers past the New Orleans Pelicans, going down 111-97. Brandon Ingram finished with 28 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, while Jonas Valanciunas had 10 points with 16 rebounds.

Jalen Brunson stepped up in Luka Doncic's absence with 28 points including three triples in the Dallas Mavericks' 114-102 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Karl-Anthony Towns scored 26 points with 12 rebounds and seven assists for the Wolves.

Julius Randle had 21 points and 11 rebounds as the New York Knicks overcame the Detroit Pistons 105-91.

 

Brogdon injured as Pacers burnt by Heat

The Indiana Pacers' starting five combined for a measly 46 points in their 125-96 defeat to the Miami Heat. The Pacers were not helped by a sore right Achilles to Malcolm Brogdon which forced him off after eight minutes.

Chicago Bulls' DeMar DeRozan said he felt "as free as a bird" as he returned from isolation with a star turn against the Los Angeles Lakers.

DeRozan had not played in over two weeks after entering the NBA's health and safety protocols amid a COVID-19 outbreak within the Bulls' camp.

He was one of 10 Chicago players to have to quarantine, though did not suffer any symptoms, and he marked his comeback in emphatic style on Sunday.

DeRozan had 38 points, including decisive free throws inside the last 20 seconds, four rebounds and six assists as Chicago claimed a 115-110 win.

He leads the way for the Bulls on points per game (26.8) this season and despite his stint in quarantine, only Zach LaVine (703) has scored more points for Chicago so far in 2021-22 than DeRozan (671). 

DeRozan is also averaging 8.2 points per game in the fourth quarter this season, the most in the league.

"I felt free as a bird," DeRozan told reporters, as quoted by ESPN.

"Just getting out there, being with those guys, being in front of the fans. Just getting out the basement I was in for 10 days."

Bulls coach Billy Donovan was hugely impressed.

"When the ball is in his hands, there's just a calmness to him," Donovan said.

"He doesn't get rattled. He's been in so many of these moments throughout his life and his career. I think things slowed down for him.

"He knows exactly what he has to get done, what needs to get done and he finds ways to just stay totally locked in. It's really an incredible gift that he has."

Indeed, Carmelo Anthony, who had 21 points for the Lakers, acknowledged DeRozan was at the top of his game.

"The fact that he utilizes the midrange, a lot of people want to kind of discredit that part of the game, but I think that's a lost art," the Lakers forward said.

"DeMar is one of the guys who's mastered that. And at the end of the game, when you gotta down, and you gotta run something, threes are not falling, you gotta get to that. He mastered that.

"He mastered his spots on the court. I think that's why he's very efficient, especially this season, in the fourth quarter, specifically down the stretch."

The victory moved the Bulls to 18-10 for the season, with Chicago well placed in second in the Eastern Conference behind the Brooklyn Nets.

Los Angeles Lakers All-Star Anthony Davis revealed he feared the worst when he "heard something pop" as the Minnesota Timberwolves' Jaden McDaniels fell into his left knee on Friday.

Davis limped out of Friday's 110-92 defeat to the Timberwolves after sustaining the knee injury which has since been confirmed as an MCL sprain sidelining him for four weeks.

The Lakers power forward collapsed on his way down the tunnel and said he feared the worst at the time.

"I just reached a point where it was tough to walk," Davis told reporters on Sunday. "I had to take a break.

"I did hear something pop - and the first thing I thought of was [a major injury], which I was emotional, I was just like everywhere. But thank God that it wasn't that."

Davis has played 27 games this season, averaging 23.3 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.0 blocked shots per game.

The eight-time All-Star missed 36 games through injury last season and said he had a positive outlook about his latest setback.

"Mentally I'm fine. I'm in a good space," Davis said. "Last year was a more 'me' thing. This year was like a freakish play. So knowing that nothing I really could have done to avoid it, I guess, keeps me in a good place.

"The locker room keeps me in a good place. People around me outside of basketball keep me in a good place. Great conversation with my wife about it; she's the one who keeps me in a good place, for real."

The Lakers slipped to a 16-15 record with Sunday's 115-110 defeat to the Chicago Bulls without Davis.

"We're still in a good spot, for a team who feel like they can, could have done more, or win more games, games we should have won, and we're still in a good spot," he said.

"So hopefully we can stay afloat with all the stuff going on around the team and being able to still pursue our goal, which is to win a championship."

DeMar DeRozan had 38 points as the Chicago Bulls rallied past LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers late in the fourth quarter on the way to a 115-110 victory. 

DeRozan hit a jumper with 52.6 seconds to play to give the Bulls the lead and added a pair of free throws with 15.6 seconds left to extend the margin as Chicago held on late. 

Carmelo Anthony and Wayne Ellington missed game-tying three-point attempts after that before Lonzo Ball iced the win with two more free throws. 

Ball had 19 points and Nikola Vucevic added 19 points and 13 rebounds for the Bulls (18-10), who have the second-best record in the Eastern Conference behind the Brooklyn Nets (21-9). 

James led the Lakers with 31 points and 14 rebounds but made just one of seven shots from three-point range. Anthony had 21 points and Russell Westbrook finished with 20 points, nine rebounds and eight assists for Los Angeles (16-15).

 

Suns rip Hornets, hold NBA's best record

The Phoenix Suns (24-5) can now claim the best record in the NBA after a 137-106 demolition of the Charlotte Hornets as Devin Booker returned to the lineup after missing seven games with a hamstring injury. Booker had 16 points and was one of nine Suns to reach double figures as Phoenix led 37-15 after the first quarter and did not let up, making 20 of 41 three-point attempts to 10 of 45 from beyond the arc for Charlotte (16-16).

Damian Lillard scored 32 points as the Portland Trail Blazers (13-18) picked up a 105-100 road win against the Memphis Grizzlies (19-12). The Grizzlies had won five in a row and 10 of 11 but shot only 38.5 per cent from the field Sunday as they squandered a career-best 37-point night from Dillon Brooks. 

 

Lowry, Heat fall to lowly Pistons

The Miami Heat had won four out of five games entering Sunday but everything fell apart in a 100-90 loss to the Detroit Pistons, who had lost a franchise record-tying 14 in a row. Kyle Lowry made just three shots from the field in 42 minutes for the Heat (18-13), though he finished with 19 points as he went 11-of-16 at the free-throw line. Saddiq Bey had 26 point to lead the Pistons (5-24), who recorded their first victory since beating the Indiana Pacers on November 17. 

The Los Angeles Lakers have been dealt a major blow with eight-time All-Star Anthony Davis ruled out for at least four weeks with an MCL sprain.

Davis sustained the injury in Friday's 110-92 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves and underwent scans and evaluation on Saturday.

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel had hoped the forward's injury was only minor but the franchise confirmed on Saturday he has suffered an MCL sprain and will miss four weeks minimum.

Davis had played 27 of the Lakers' 30 games this season, averaging 23.3 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.0 blocked shots per game.

The loss of Davis is a setback for the Lakers who are 14-16 and already without Avery Bradley, Talen Horton-Tucker, Dwight Howard, Malik Monk, Kendrick Nunn and Austin Reaves due to the NBA's health and safety protocols.

Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis will undergo tests on Saturday to determine the extent of the injuries that forced him out of the defeat to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The 28-year-old took ankle and knee blows in the 110-92 setback on Friday, forcing him out of the game and leaving question marks over whether a lay-off could follow.

Lakers coach Frank Vogel said: "He did see the team doctor here. He's just going to have to be evaluated tomorrow [Saturday] with the MRI, and we'll know more at the time.

"Hopefully, it's something minor and he can get back soon, but we'll find out more tomorrow."

On the defeat, he added: "We have enough to win the game, and we didn't play well enough.

"I think their whole team was more physical. They definitely played a more physical brand of basketball today, and we've got to be better."

Davis is averaging 23.3 points plus 9.9 rebounds this season.

"You lose a player of AD's calibre, your team gets weakened," Vogel said. 

"We don't feel sorry for ourselves. You hope for the best for AD. You want him in there, and you hate to see any guys suffering any injuries, but we always feel like we have enough to win.

"So, we're not feeling sorry our ourselves or looking for excuses."

Davis managed just nine points in 20 minutes on court, while LeBron James scored a modest 18 points in 35:30 with five-of-13 shooting, adding 10 rebounds.

James is hopeful Davis will be soon back in action.

"I asked him how he's doing, and he said: 'I'll know more tomorrow', so that's all we know," James said.

"My concern is always for his health. You wish for the best."

James reflected on injuries and the COVID-19 crisis depleting the Lakers' ranks, with players coming in and out of isolation, and said the current circumstances felt "like a revolving door of what-ifs".

"Hopefully, we can get past it soon and can really show who we are as a team, what we are capable of and not having guys in and out so much," he added.

Stephen Curry posted 30 points as the Golden State Warriors reclaimed the best record in the NBA with a 111-107 victory at the Boston Celtics.

Curry – the league's all-time three-points leader – nailed five shots from beyond the arc to fuel the Warriors (24-5) on Friday.

The Warriors snapped a five-game losing streak against the Celtics as Andrew Wiggins added 27 points.

It was a milestone victory for head coach Steve Kerr, who became the third coach in franchise history to reach 400 career wins.

"We're coming off the emotional roller coaster ... a lot going on around the league," Curry said after Jordan Poole entered the NBA's COVID-19 protocols. "You try not to get distracted by all the things that are outside the locker room."

 

Lillard's 43 inspires Blazers

Damian Lillard torched the Charlotte Hornets with a season-high 43 points to help the Portland Trail Blazers end a seven-game losing streak by winning 125-116. Lillard was 12 of 19 from the field as he posted the 40th 40-point game of his career.

The San Antonio Spurs upstaged the Utah Jazz 128-126 behind Dejounte Murray's second triple-double in three games – 16 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists. San Antonio did not commit a turnover in the third quarter and registered a season-high 41 points in that period to snap Utah's eight-game winning run.

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic fell just short of a triple-double after scoring 20 points, collecting 10 rebounds and tallying seven assists in the Denver Nuggets' 133-115 win against the Atlanta Hawks. Trae Young's 34 points and 10 rebounds were not enough for the Hawks.

 

LeBron's Lakers beaten

LeBron James was five-of-13 shooting for 18 points and 10 rebounds in the Los Angeles Lakers' 110-92 defeat at the Minnesota Timberwolves. Isaiah Thomas had 19 points in his second Lakers debut as Karl-Anthony Towns inspired the Timberwolves with 28 points and 10 rebounds.

Not even a career-high 40 points from Jrue Holiday could lift defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks, who went down 116-112 to the New Orleans Pelicans after overtime in the absence of stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton.

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