Defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks outlasted the Charlotte Hornets 127-125 thanks to superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo in the NBA on Wednesday.

Antetokounmpo's monster double-double and late driving layup with 2.0 seconds remaining lifted the in-form Bucks (14-8) to their eighth consecutive victory midweek.

Milwaukee's Antetokounmpo had 40 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists in a near triple-double performance at home to the Hornets.

The Bucks withstood LaMelo Ball, who posted 36 points, nine assists and five rebounds on the road for the Hornets (13-11).

 

Doncic flexes his muscles

Luka Doncic fuelled the Dallas Mavericks' 139-107 victory at the New Orleans Pelicans. He put up 28 points and 14 assists in just 27 minutes. According to Stats Perform, Doncic is the first player to reach those numbers while playing 27 minutes or less since Hall of Famer Magic Johnson in 1987.

Jae'Sean Tate's career-high 32 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and five blocks helped the Houston Rockets rally past the Oklahoma City Thunder 114-110. The Rockets are the first team in NBA history with four straight wins immediately after a 15-game losing streak, per Stats Perform. As for Tate, he joined Hakeem Olajuwon as the only Rockets players to record 30-plus points, 10-plus rebounds, five-plus assists and five-plus blocks in a game.

 

Embiid struggles as Philly's offensive woes continue

In the absence of wantaway All-Star Ben Simmons, the Philadelphia 76ers continue to endure a topsy-turvy campaign following their 88-87 defeat to the Boston Celtics. MVP runner-up Joel Embiid had a double-double of 13 points and 18 rebounds, but he was just three-of-17 shooting. Tobias Harris was four-of-11 shooting – missing all four of his three-point attempts – for only eight points.

Duncan Robinson had a game to forget as the shorthanded Miami Heat went down 111-85 to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Robinson went scoreless in 20 minutes on 0-of-seven shooting from the floor, having failed to make any of his six efforts from beyond the arc.

Nikola Jokic's return proved the perfect tonic for the slumping Denver Nuggets after the reigning MVP helped snap a six-game slide in a 120-111 victory over the Miami Heat.

All eyes were on Jokic, who had missed four straight games because of a wrist injury amid Denver's worst six-game stretch since the 2014-15 season.

There was also plenty of interest as the Nuggets and Heat renewed hostilities for the first time since Jokic and Miami's Markieff Morris were involved in a dustup on November 8.

Jokic received a one-game ban after shoving Morris in the back as tempers flared – the Nuggets star reacting angrily after the Heat veteran came in with a hard foul, catching his opponent with a left elbow to the chest.

While the Heat were shorthanded in the absence of Morris – who has missed 11 consecutive games since the incident, Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro, Miami fans let their feelings known, booing Jokic every time he touched the ball.

Jokic, with his two brothers behind the Denver bench, was not fussed as he posted 24 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists.

Double-doubles from Bam Adebayo (24 points and 13 rebounds) and Kyle Lowry (17 points and 14 assists) were not enough for the Heat.

 

Doncic matches Robertson

Luka Doncic had 25 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds in the Dallas Mavericks' 114-96 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He tied Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson for the most triple-doubles (38) before turning 23. Mavericks star Doncic celebrates his 23rd birthday in February.

Lonzo Ball earned family bragging rights after the Chicago Bulls outlasted the Charlotte Hornets 133-119. Up against brother LaMelo and the Hornets, Lonzo's Balls prevailed thanks to Nikola Vucevic (30 points and 14 rebounds), DeMar DeRozan (28 points) and Zach LaVine (25 points). According to Stats Perform, Chicago are the first team to have a starting guard (LaVine), starting forward (DeRozan) and starting center (Vucevic) have 25-plus points, five-plus rebounds and five-plus assists in the same game since the Orlando Magic in January 1994. LaMelo Ball's 18 points and 13 assists were not enough for the Hornets.

Seth Curry put up 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting as the Philadelphia 76ers held on to beat the Magic 101-96 at home. The 76ers are riding a five-game winning streak against the Magic – their longest such streak against Orlando.

Jonas Valanciunas nailed seven of his three-point attempts as he torched the Los Angeles Clippers in a 39-point and 15-rebound performance, the New Orleans Pelicans triumphing 123-104.

 

Lillard struggles in Blazers loss

Much was said about All-Star Damian Lillard heading into the season amid question marks over his future with the Portland Trail Blazers. Had he outgrown the smalltown market? Well, his topsy-turvy campaign continued after scoring just 11 points on four-of-12 shooting from the floor in the 129-107 defeat at the Utah Jazz.

Rookie of the Year candidate Josh Giddey had a game to forget as fellow strugglers the Houston Rockets eased past the Oklahoma City Thunder 102-89. In 25 minutes, Giddey made only one of his nine shots from the field, missing his five three-point attempts for two points in total.

The Phoenix Suns extended their winning streak to 16 games on Saturday with a 113-107 victory over the Brooklyn Nets, who gave up 20 turnovers for the game.

The Nets coughed up 15 turnovers in the first half alone as the Suns claimed an early lead and were never headed, led by Devin Booker (30 points and four assists) and Chris Paul (22 points, eight rebounds and five assists).

James Harden managed a triple-double but it was far from his best game with seven turnovers while only scoring 12 points, going zero-of-four from beyond the arc. Harden also had 13 rebounds and 14 assists.

Kevin Durant top scored for the Nets with 39 points along with nine rebounds, seven assists and four steals but also had five turnovers.

The Suns can equal their franchise record winning streak when they face the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday. Phoenix's 17-3 mark for the season is their best record through 20 games since 2004-05.

 

Embiid returns with a bang

Joel Embiid scored 42 points and had 14 rebounds on his return after nine games out due to COVID-19 protocols but could not lift the sliding Philadelphia 76ers to victory, going down 121-120 to the Minnesota Timberwolves in double over-time. Embiid had a shot to win the game but was blocked by Anthony Edwards on the buzzer.

Luka Doncic scored 33 points with 10 assists as the Dallas Mavericks were beaten 120-114 by the Washington Wizards with Bradley Beal hitting 26 points. The Wizards improve to 13-7.

Houston Rockets center Christian Wood had a huge game with 33 points and 16 rebounds as his side defeated the Charlotte Hornets 146-143 in over-time.

 

Randle loses his handle

Julius Randle only managed eight points, shooting three-of-14 from the field as the New York Knicks beat the Atlanta Hawks 99-90.

Joel Embiid thought he was not going to overcome COVID-19 to play in Saturday's 121-120 double over-time defeat to the Minnesota Timberwolves yet he returned with 42 points.

Embiid had missed nine games after testing positive to COVID-19 on November 8 but dominated with 42 points, 14 rebounds, three assists and two blocks upon his return on Saturday.

In Embiid's absence, the 76ers struggled with a 2-7 record, with their latest defeat leaving them 10-10.

The 27-year-old center helped the 76ers haul in a 20-point deficit against the Timberwolves and had a chance to win the game in double over-time but failed to get a shot away under pressure from Anthony Edwards.

The defeat overshadowed Embiid's return, yet he revealed the severity of his COVID-19 experience post-game including breathing difficulties and headaches, making his 42-point haul all the more remarkable.

"It hasn’t been good," Embiid told reporters. "That jawn hit me hard.

"I really thought I wasn’t going to make it [to play against the Timberwolves]. It was that bad. I'm just thankful to be sitting here. I'm just glad I got over it."

Embiid averaged 28.5 points and 10.6 rebounds last season, when he was runner-up for MVP honours to Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic.

The 76ers center is averaging 23.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game in the 2021-22 season.

Stephen Curry hailed his "unbelievable" younger brother Seth as the sibling rivalry became a thrilling sideshow in the Golden State Warriors' win over the 76ers.

It appeared Seth was going to win the battle but lose the war when he led Stephen in scoring while Philadelphia trailed in the game, going into the closing minutes.

Yet a three-pointer with 1:27 to play from Stephen meant he reached 25 points as well as finishing on the winning team, while Seth ended the game on 24 points and on the beaten side.

On Thursday, both NBA stars were set to get together with their family for Thanksgiving, along with Golden State's Damion Lee, who is brother-in-law to the pair after marrying their sister, Sydel.

Philadelphia swept to a 34-23 lead after the first quarter as Seth Curry made a blazing start to Wednesday's game, but a dazzling second half from Stephen and the Warriors saw them dominate 64-35 to snatch a 116-96 win.

Seth missed all five of his three-point attempts, to put another downer on his night.

He said of facing Stephen: "It's not always fun to play against him. For 80 nights out of the year, I want him to have a good game and them to win, but tonight the switch is flipped and I gotta compete against him and try to stop him.

"It's good for our families to watch. I was a little upset in the end of the fourth: it was the first chance I had to outscore him and he gets a wide open three at the end of the game when it's said and done to eclipse me by one point, so I wasn't happy about that."

All the same, Seth was smiling about it all, so a family get-together looked sure to be an enjoyable affair.

He added: "Especially around the holidays it's good for everybody to see each other, and you don't take it for granted, me, Stephen and Damion playing against each other."

 

This was the second time this season the Warriors won a game by at least 20 points after trailing by at least 10. The rest of the NBA's teams only have three such games.

Stephen Curry made just one free throw (Seth was eight-from-eight from the line) but connected on six of 11 three-point attempts.

After the game, Stephen insisted he had been unaware Seth was close to pipping him for points until that late three-pointed.

"He reminded me right after the game. I didn't know the stakes were so high on that shot," Stephen said.

"That dude's playing unbelievable basketball. It's fun to watch and he continues to get better. It's impressive the way he's playing and the way he's stepped into his identity in this league. I'm a proud, proud brother."

Golden State have won nine straight home games, all by at least 13 points.

Stephen Curry felt the second-half contribution of Juan Toscano-Anderson was key to the comeback, with abundant energy complementing his 13 points, six rebounds and six assists.

"For sure. That is contagious. You feel a different spirit because of how much it means to him and how he knows he can influence and impact games," said Warriors star Curry.

"Anybody can skill their way into it and have that flashiness. He has that dog in him that comes out and it's contagious for sure and we feed off that."

It took a while, but big brother came out on top as Stephen and Seth Curry faced off Wednesday. 

Stephen's Golden State Warriors trailed by as many as 19 in the first half but rallied to cruise to a 116-96 victory over Seth's Philadelphia 76ers. 

Seth Curry led all scorers with 17 points before half-time as the 76ers (10-8) roared out of the gate, but they could not sustain it for the long haul. 

Golden State (15-2) opened the second half with a 14-2 run to take the lead and the teams went back and forth for a while before the Warriors iced the game with a 28-8 run in the fourth quarter. 

It was the second time this season the Warriors won a game by at least 20 points after trailing by at least 10. The rest of the NBA's teams only have three such games. 

Stephen Curry led the way with 25 points and added 10 assists, while Seth finished with 24 to lead the 76ers, but they took different routes to those similar point totals. 

Stephen made just one free throw but connected on six of 11 three-point attempts. Seth missed all five of his three-point tries but was eight-for-eight from the line. 

Golden State have won nine straight home games, all by at least 13 points. 

 

LeBron leads Lakers to OT win in return

LeBron James poured in a season-high 39 points and made a pair of key three-pointers in overtime as he returned from a one-game suspension to lead the Los Angeles Lakers past the Indiana Pacers 124-116. Russell Westbrook added 20 for the Lakers (10-10), who were playing without Anthony Davis as he was suffering from flu-like symptoms. Malcolm Brogdon led the Pacers (8-12) with 28 points.

Down by 10 to the Chicago Bulls midway through the third quarter, it appeared the Houston Rockets were on their way to a 16th consecutive loss, but a 27-9 run to end the period put the Rockets on top and they never looked back on the way to a 118-113 triumph. Houston (2-16) made eight of their 11 three-point attempts in the decisive third quarter and 17 of 36 threes overall in the game. Danuel House Jr. led the Rockets with 18 points in 17 minutes off the bench, all in the second half. Zach LaVine had 28 for the Bulls (12-7). 

Devin Booker scored 24 of his game-high 35 points in the first half as the Phoenix Suns held off a late challenge to win their 14th game in a row, 120-115 over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Chris Paul added 17 points and 12 assists for the Suns (15-3), while Jarrett Allen made nine of 10 shots from the field to lead Cleveland (9-10) with 25 points. 

Patty Mills had 23 points, Kevin Durant 21 and James Harden 20 as the Brooklyn Nets (14-5) opened up an early lead at the Boston Celtics (10-9) and kept rolling on the way to a 123-104 victory. 

 

Rare win for Pelicans over slumping Wizards

The Washington Wizards lost for the fourth time in five games on the heels of a five-game winning streak, getting blown out 127-102 by a New Orleans Pelicans team that entered the game with a 3-16 record. Washington (11-7) turned the ball over 19 times to 10 for New Orleans and made just seven of 31 three-point attempts (22.6) while also missing 13 of their 36 free-throw attempts. Brandon Ingram scored 26 for the Pelicans and Bradley Beal led Washington with 23. 

The Memphis Grizzlies scored the final seven points of the game for a stunning 119-118 road defeat of the Utah Jazz on Monday.

After Bojan Bogdanovic made a pair of three-pointers to give Utah a 108-112 lead with 1:28 to play, Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. combined to make four free throws and Jackson hit the go-ahead three-pointer with 5.7 seconds to play as Memphis (9-8) pulled out the win.

Utah (11-6) missed their final four shots of the game and also turned the ball over twice in the final 20 seconds. 

Morant had 32 points to lead all scorers and added seven assists, while Desmond Bane scored 28 and Jackson finished with 26. 

Bogdanovic led the Jazz with 24 points and Rudy Gobert contributed 23 on nine-of-10 shooting while grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds and blocking five shots. 

 

Durant, Nets hold off Cavaliers

Kevin Durant had 27 points and nine rebounds while James Harden chipped in 14 points and 14 assists for the Brooklyn Nets in a 117-112 road victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. LaMarcus Aldridge added 21 points on 10-of-14 shooting off the bench for Brooklyn (13-5) as Darius Garland led Cleveland (9-9) with 24 points and 11 assists as he made only nine of 27 shots from the field. 

Tyrese Maxey scored 24 and Andre Drummond collected 23 rebounds as the Philadelphia 76ers (10-8) pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 102-94 defeat of the Sacramento Kings (6-12) despite playing without Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris and Seth Curry. De'Aaron Fox led the Kings with 23 in Alvin Gentry's first game as interim head coach. 

Jaylen Brown scored 19 points in 23 minutes as he returned to the Boston Celtics lineup after missing the previous eight games with a right hamstring strain. Jayson Tatum led all scorers with 30 as the Celtics (10-8) defeated Houston 108-90, sending the Rockets (1-16) to their 15th consecutive loss as they fell to 0-11 on the road. 

The Phoenix Suns held off a late charge by the San Antonio Spurs to prevail 115-111 for their 13th consecutive win. Devin Booker had 23 points to lead the Suns (14-3) while Deandre Ayton added 21 points and 14 rebounds. 

 

Bulls draw blanks from field

The Chicago Bulls entered Monday level with the Nets for the best record in the Eastern Conference but could not find their shooting touch in an ugly 109-77 home defeat against the Indiana Pacers. The Bulls (12-6) made 31 of 85 shots from the field (36.5 per cent), including just six of 28 (21.4 per cent) from three-point range. They scored 30 points in the second quarter but just 47 in the other three combined as Indiana (8-11) built an earl lead, then ran away with it in the second half. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo's monster performance helped the Milwaukee Bucks top the Orlando Magic 117-108 in the NBA on Saturday.

Antetokounmpo posted 32 points and collected 20 rebounds to fuel the NBA champions at home to the lowly Magic in Milwaukee.

The Finals MVP became the fifth player to reach 32 points, 20 rebounds, five assists, two steals and three blocks in a game over the past 40 season, following in the footsteps of DeMarcus Cousins, Tim Duncan, David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon.

Bobby Portis added a season-high 24 points along with 15 rebounds as the streaking Bucks (9-8) celebrated their third consecutive victory.

 

 

Lillard leads Blazers

Damian Lillard had a season-high 39 points as the Portland Trail Blazers outlasted the Philadelphia 76ers 118-111. Portland improved to 8-1 at home to his season. The 76ers, who continue to be without MVP runner-up Joel Embiid (COVID protocol), were led by 28 points apiece from Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey.

All-Star pair Rudy Gobert (21 points and 14 rebounds) and Donovan Mitchell (26 points) inspired the Utah Jazz to a 123-105 victory away to the Sacramento Kings.

 

Lowry struggles from the floor

The Miami Heat's prized recruit, Kyle Lowry had an off night in the team's 103-100 loss at Eastern conference rivals the Washington Wizards. The NBA champion was just three-of-12 shooting – making one of only seven three-pointers in a seven-point display.

The Charlotte Hornets had their five-game winning streak snapped by the Atlanta Hawks, who prevailed 115-105. Charlotte tasted defeat, despite big performances from Miles Bridges (35 points and 10 rebounds) and LaMelo Ball (15 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds).

Stephen Curry led the Golden State Warriors' fourth-quarter charge and registered his fourth 40-point game of the season in a 104-89 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.

Curry had been listed as "questionable" for the game due to a hip complaint but overcame that to post 40 points including nine three-pointers for the Warriors who improve to 13-2.

Golden State had trailed by 13 points early in the final quarter, before going on a 17-0 initiated by three consecutive Curry triples.

Curry had 13 points during the 17-0 run and 20 for the final quarter, as the Warriors flicked the switch with a 36-8 last period.

Draymond Green played a strong deputy hand with 14 assists for the Warriors, while Darius Garland had 25 points for the Cavs.

Curry also broke his own record for the most triples made by a player in the first 15 games of season, overtaking his 2018-19 haul of 80 and moving his 2021-22 tally to 85.

 

Sixers snap five-game skid

Guards Seth Curry (20 points, six rebounds and five assists) and Tyrese Maxey (22 points, five rebounds and four assists) helped the Philadelphia 76ers end their five-game skid with a 103-89 win over the Denver Nuggets. Nikola Jokic had 22 points in the first half but finished with 30 for the game, along with 10 rebounds and seven assists.

Jimmy Butler had 32 points, five assists and four steals while Kyle Lowry dished off 12 assists as the Miami Heat downed the Washington Wizards 112-97, despite Bradley Beal's 30 points.

Ja Morant starred with 28 points, five rebounds and five assists for the Memphis Grizzlies in a 120-108 win over the Los Angeles Clippers, with Paul George managing 23 points, including five from beyond the arc.

 

Murray loses his radar

Dejounte Murray only managed seven points, shooting at 17 percent from the field, missing all four three-point attempts in the San Antonio Spurs' 115-90 defeat to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Doc Rivers is optimistic his injury-hit Philadelphia 76ers will improve despite seeing them lose a fifth game in a row as they fell 120-85 to the Utah Jazz on Tuesday.

Last season's Eastern Conference top seeds were missing MVP runner-up Joel Embiid, fellow All-Star Ben Simmons and Matisse Thybulle as they slipped to 8-7 after being overwhelmed by the Jazz.

Having won eight of their first 10 games this season, Philadelphia have now lost five straight - the first time they have done so since December 2017 - but Rivers is confident his team will get back to winning ways soon.

"We're in a little rut with guys out but you work through it. We'll get through it," Rivers told reporters after the defeat.

"There's no cavalry coming right now. We've got to play with what we have, we understand that. We've just got to do better.

"We don't have a margin of error in games. We almost have to play perfect to have a chance to win a game, and for a while we were doing that. Right now, we're not."

When asked about the absence of Embiid, Rivers added: “I don't talk about guys that aren't here. It's obvious you miss Joel Embiid and Matisse, but I'm not going to waste time talking about that.

"I've got to get our guys that are here to just keep hoping and keep getting better and see where we can get a win."

The Sixers head coach did have one positive to reflect on from the night, with rookie Charles Bassey posting five points, four rebounds and one block in 10 minutes off the bench.

"I thought he was fantastic," Rivers said. "He knows the coverages and stuff already. That's really impressive for a young guy. He actually got on a guy late in the game because the guy didn't do the right coverage. Just watching him, he knows how to play. He's raw, but I like how he plays."

Stephen Curry and the NBA-leading Golden State Warriors sent a message after crushing the championship-chasing Brooklyn Nets 117-99 on Tuesday.

Boasting Kevin Durant and James Harden, the Nets are dreaming big in their pursuit of a maiden title, but the star-studded franchise were reminded how far they must go after Curry torched Brooklyn with 37 points on the road.

Curry tallied his fifth career game with 35-plus points in less than 30 minutes – the most by any player since the three-point era (1980).

The two-time MVP reached 2,900 career three-pointers after making nine shots from beyond the arc at Barclays Center.

 

It marked Curry's 37th career game with nine three-pointers or more – no other player is in the 10-36 range as the high-flying Warriors improved to 12-2.

In his reunion with former team the Warriors, where he won two titles, Durant put up a season-low 19 points.

It was the first time this season Durant did not score at least 20 points in a game, shooting six-of-19 from the field as Harden led the Nets (10-5) with 24 points.

 

George dazzles in LA

Paul George maintained his red-hot form in the absence of injured star team-mate Kawhi Leonard, scoring 34 points and collecting nine rebounds to go with four assists and two steals as the Los Angeles Clippers defeated the San Antonio Spurs 106-92. San Antonio's Dejounte Murray (26 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists) narrowly missed out on a triple-double.

 

Philadelphia's slide continues

The Philadelphia 76ers were left to pick up the pieces following a fifth consecutive defeat, a 120-85 rout at the Utah Jazz (9-5). Missing MVP runner-up Joel Embiid and fellow All-Star Ben Simmons, the 76ers were simply no match for the Jazz in Utah as last season's Eastern Conference top seeds slipped to 8-7. Philadelphia have lost five straight games for the first time since December 2017.

Joel Embiid should be back in the lineup soon, but the Philadelphia 76ers need to figure some things out on defence in the meantime. 

Philadelphia fell 118-113 to the Indiana Pacers on Saturday after digging a large first-half hole as the 76ers proved unable to stop anyone from scoring. 

Indiana shot 67.4 per cent from the floor in the opening half, embarking on a 15-0 run beginning late in the first quarter and leading by as many as 20 before the break. 

"Listen, we didn’t deserve to win tonight," Philadelphia head coach Doc Rivers told reporters. "They shot 57 per cent from the field, 67 I think at half-time, and we cooled them off a little bit.

"They played harder. They beat us in transition, I think they had 18 transition points in the first half, we cut it in the second half to make the game manageable, but when you’re on the road, and you get down 20 and you dig yourself a hole, it’s hard coming back, it is.

"Give them credit. They were better prepared. They were the better team tonight."

It was the fourth successive loss for the 76ers as Embiid missed his fourth consecutive game after testing positive for COVID-19 on Monday. 

Matisse Thybulle also missed his fifth game in a row due to health and safety protocols, and Tyrese Maxey said the void is significant. 

"They’re like defensive bail-outs," Maxey said. "When you make a mistake, they’ll cover it up because they’re just special guys. You can go for a gamble, miss it, Matisse will cover it up and get a block.

"Joel’s seven-foot at the rim, you get blown by, he’s blocking it or he’s challenging shots. It’s hard for offensive players to score on them. We’ve got to be collectively more solid without those guys." 

In a stretch when the short-handed 76ers cannot afford any letdowns, Maxey also said the team's "competitive nature slipped" in the first half, "and that's one thing we can never let slip". 

 

The Philadelphia 76ers have been accused of worsening Ben Simmons' mental-health situation by agent Rich Paul, who criticised the NBA franchise for fining and suspending the wantaway All-Star.

Simmons is yet to feature for the 76ers this NBA season, notifying Philadelphia he is not mentally ready to play, having sought a trade following the team's shock playoff exit to the Atlanta Hawks in 2020-21.

He was suspended by the 76ers for the season opener due to "conduct detrimental to the team", while the Australian guard was reportedly fined for failing to co-operate with team physicians on his mental-health issues.

As Simmons' future continues to dominate headlines amid reported interest from the likes of the Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Portland Trail Blazers, Minnesota Timberwolves and Golden State Warriors, Paul provided an update.

"I truly believe the fines, the targeting, the negative publicity shined on the issue — that's very unnecessary and has furthered the mental health issues for Ben," Paul told The Athletic.

"Either you help Ben, or come out and say he's lying. Which one is it?"

"I don't think the 76ers are a bad organisation. Josh Harris and David Blitzer are great governors, they've done a great job with the organisation. I have respect for Daryl Morey," Paul said. "Ben has a mental issue, let's support him. I'm happy he got to a place where he realised and accepted help. I understand it's a business, but even in business, you need humanity.

"I have a great level of respect and love for the city of Philadelphia, as someone who loves the game, but this isn't about that. This is about Ben getting back to a place mentally where he can be back on the floor — and only Ben can tell us when that is. We have to allow him to do that."

 

Simmons – an elite defender who signed a five-year, $177.2million contract extension in 2019 – and his shooting problems were laid bare during the 2021 postseason with the top-seeded 76ers, who were eliminated in the semi-finals.

The 25-year-old had no fourth-quarter field-goal attempts in his last four games of the playoffs against the Hawks last season. He is the only NBA player in the last 20 seasons to have four consecutive postseason games with no field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter during a season in which he was an All-Star, according to Stats Perform.

Simmons averaged just 10.1 field-goal attempts in 2020-21 – a career low, which dropped to 7.9 in the playoffs. It was the same story with his scoring as it dropped to a career-worst 14.3 points per game and 11.9 in the postseason – both career lows.

Then there is Simmons and free throws. He was exposed by rival teams as they regularly sent him to the line, with the Melbourne-born guard making just 25 of 73 shots in the 2020-21 playoffs. His 34.2 free-throw percentage is the lowest ever in a single postseason.

"In this case, we have to get Ben help and not put finances above mental health," Paul said. "As an agent, I understand contractual obligations and I hold myself accountable in this business. But if someone is telling you something, we can no longer turn a blind eye in today's world.

"This is no longer about a trade. This is about finding a place where we can help Ben get back to his mental strength and get back on the floor. I want him on the floor playing the game that he loves.

"I want Ben on the floor whether that's in a 76ers uniform or any other uniform, that's not up to me, but I want him in a state where he can resume play. We want to cooperate and want to work him back on the floor."

On when Simmons could return to playing, Paul added: "He's not there yet. How can a doctor, who has only met with Ben once, say, 'Ben is mentally ready to play?' So do we keep digging on him, or help him?

"Now that we understand that reluctance from Ben, it all makes sense. There was a shying away from it. If Ben has repeatedly showed behaviour that entails he isn't mentally ready to play, embrace him. Support him. We have to remove our ego from it. We all have to take responsibility."

The Philadelphia 76ers suffered a third consecutive defeat in the NBA, this time upstaged 115-109 by the visiting Toronto Raptors.

While 2020-21 MVP runner-up Joel Embiid and Matisse Thybulle remain sidelined due to the league's health and safety protocol, last season's Eastern Conference top seeds the 76ers welcomed back star Tobias Harris and Seth Curry.

Tyrese Maxey also scored 33 points in back-to-back 30-point games, but it was not enough for the 76ers (8-5) at home to the Raptors in Philadelphia on Thursday.

Maxey became the first 76er in either his first or second season with consecutive 30-plus point games since Embiid in 2017.

 

But Eastern Conference rivals the Raptors (7-6) silenced Wells Fargo Center thanks to Fred VanVleet (32 points), Gary Trent Jr. (20 points) and Og Anunoby (20 points).

VanVleet and Trent hit back-to-back three-pointers over the final 1:10 to lift the Raptors, who had lost three games in a row.

 

Streaking Clippers cool Heat

The Los Angeles Clippers (7-4) posted their sixth successive victory after outlasting the Miami Heat 112-109. Paul George scored 27 points and Reggie Jackson registered all his 22 points in the second half as the Clippers overturned a 17-point deficit. Bam Adebayo's season-high 30 points and 11 rebounds were not enough for the Heat (7-5), who dropped their third straight game and fourth of five.

 

Jazz beaten at home

For the first time this season, the Utah Jazz (8-4) lost at home following a surprise 111-100 defeat against the Indiana Pacers. All-Star pair Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell were ejected in the fourth quarter, along with team-mate Joe Ingles and Indiana's Myles Turner. The Pacers (5-8) were led by Malcolm Brogdon's season-high 30 points.

Doc Rivers is unclear about the severity of Seth Curry's foot injury as the Philadelphia 76ers' availability concerns got worse with the guard withdrawn prior to Tuesday's 118-109 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

The 76ers went into the game leading the Eastern Conference at 8-3 despite being without Joel Embiid, Matisse Thybulle, Isaiah Joe and Tobias Harris due to COVID-19, with Ben Simmons also still unavailable.

Curry was pulled out of the 76ers side for the game shortly before tipoff with a left foot contusion.

"I don’t know," Rivers told reporters about Curry's injury after the game. "I literally thought he was gonna play and then late, you could hear the language, it didn’t sound like he was gonna play.

"We start adjusting pretty quickly after that. I’m not even sure what it is. I think it’s his toe, but I’m not sure."

Guard Tyrese Maxey scored 31 points, with five rebounds and four assists, while center Andre Drummond had 17 points along with 20 rebounds, but the 76ers missed their stars.

Rivers had indicated pre-game that Harris may be the closest to returning of the quartet who had entered the league's health and safety protocol.

"All the other guys are still where they're at. I would say just talking to Tobias, he's the one guy who'll be back sooner than later," Rivers said.

Rivers was impressed that the decimated 76ers, who also lost to the New York Knicks on Monday, were in the hunt against the reigning champions before a 27-16 fourth quarter.

"We gave ourselves a chance to win the game in both and there’s something to be taken from that so we do learn a lot," Rivers said. "But we didn’t win the games. That’s a fact.

"We had chances. It’s an opportunity to grow, an opportunity to get better, I’m not down about the loss. You either do one of two things in a competition. You either win the game or you lose the game. Period.”

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