Luka Doncic is hopeful of playing against the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday despite suffering a neck injury in Thursday's defeat to the Phoenix Suns.

Doncic, star man for the Dallas Mavericks, sustained the injury when he fell to the court after contact with Suns center Bismack Biyombo in the third quarter of the 109-101 loss.

The two-time NBA All-Star was seen clutching the back of his neck after the fall and had to apply a heat pack to the area.

The 22-year-old Slovenian made his way back onto the court to play out the final seven minutes, though he could not inspire the Mavs to victory as a four-game winning streak was snapped.

Doncic is confident he will be fine to return against the Grizzlies, however. 

"It's my neck. It's the spine," Doncic explained to reporters after the game. "When I fell down, I hit my back. It's pretty sore right now.

"I think it's a little worse because it's the spine. But it'll be OK in a couple of days."

Doncic, who registered 28 points against the Suns, played with a neck injury in last season's playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers.

He has averaged 25.2 points per game this season, 5.1 more than any other Mavs player, while he also leads the team for rebounds (8.8) and assists (8.7).

Across 31 games so far in 2021-22, Doncic's points average is down on last season (27.7 across 61 appearances).

The Mavs sit fifth in the Western Conference with 26-20 record and .565 win percentage. 

Thursday's defeat was only their second in 12 games, but the Suns simply had too much. Phoenix hold the NBA's best record so far this season, sitting on 35-9 with a .795 win rate.

Devin Booker led the Suns with 28 points, five rebounds and six assists, and claimed trust within the Phoenix roster has been crucial to their success so far.

"We all trust each other," Booker told reporters.

"We had a lot of learning curves last year, but having that time and that experience together, I know put us in a situation where we never hit the panic button.

"We never get flustered or out of whack. We just stick with what we do."

Stephen Curry scored 39 points but it was not enough as the Golden State Warriors were shocked by a depleted Indiana Pacers 121-117 in over-time on Thursday.

The Pacers were without Domantas Sabonis (ankle), Caris LeVert (calf) and Malcolm Brogdon (Achilles) yet found a way to win led by Chris Duarte with 27 points and seven rebounds.

Curry hit six three-pointers in his 39-point haul with five rebounds and eight assists while Kevin Looney had 13 points and 15 rebounds.

The two-time MVP shot 12 of 27 from the field, while Klay Thompson shot six of 17 from the field and zero of seven from beyond the arc.

The Warriors gave away 21 turnovers for the game which was costly as the Pacers claimed rare back-to-back road wins.

 

Suns clinch fifth straight win

The table-topping Phoenix Suns stormed home with a 35-19 fourth quarter to knock off Luka Doncic's Dallas Mavericks 109-101.

Devin Booker finished with 28 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, while Chris Paul had 20 points and 11 assists. The Suns enjoyed a 22-6 run to finish the game, with Paul underlining their clutch status with a late three-pointer.

Phoenix improve to 35-9 on the back of a five-game winning run. Doncic, who nursed a minor neck issue, had 28 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for the Mavs.

 

Knicks clipped by Pelicans

Julius Randle shot one-of-nine from the field as the New York Knicks were humbled 102-91 by the New Orleans Pelicans. Randle only managed four points, while Kemba Walker also struggled with only five points.

Two teams in the NBA are on league-leading four-game winning streaks heading into Thursday's schedule. The pair face one another at American Airlines Center.

The Phoenix Suns have pulled clear of the Golden State Warriors at the top of the West, their league-best record improving to 34-9 while Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Co are .500 across their past 10 games.

But this latest Suns run has been matched by the Dallas Mavericks, who are again recovering from a slow start.

The Mavs have won 10 of their past 11 outings after a 16-18 start. In 2020-21, Dallas recovered from an early 8-13 record to take the fifth seed – the same position they again occupy.

Dallas' problems prior to these recoveries have undoubtedly been linked to Luka Doncic, their sensational superstar who has tended to end seasons in more impressive fashion than he begins them.

Doncic has been the preseason MVP favourite in consecutive years but each time showed up looking a little out of shape.

The Slovenian is not denying that, saying in December: "I had a long summer. I had the Olympics, took three weeks off and I relaxed a little bit. Maybe too much. I've just got to get back on track."

But there are signs now that Doncic is delivering as promised. Having returned from an ankle injury to feature in nine of the Mavs' past 10 games, he had a year-high 41 points last time out against the Toronto Raptors. Three of his five triple-doubles for the year have come in this period, too.

Will this improvement continue against Phoenix, though?

The Suns are 5-0 against Dallas across the past two seasons, albeit all five meetings (three last year, two this year) have come during those tricky starts for the Mavs.

Since themselves returning to contention, Phoenix have not yet played a Mavs team in their groove.

 

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Dallas Mavericks – Kristaps Porzingis

The Suns have a wealth of talent, while Dallas too often have only had Doncic. The need for a second man to step up and help the two-time All-NBA First Team selection is evident. Porzingis is the obvious candidate.

While the Mavs struggled while Doncic was out, Porzingis has shown that he can play the role of leading man when required.

His usage rate of 28.6 per cent this year is the highest it has been since he moved to Dallas – explained by Doncic's lay-off – and the knock-on effect is an increased offensive output when the simple option of passing the ball to his team-mate is removed.

Porzingis has scored 22.8 points per game Doncic has missed this season, versus 18.6 when he has played. Even including those the pair have played together, Porzingis' offense improves from 29.8 points per 100 possessions with Doncic to 35.4 without.

Doncic's high usage (36.3 per cent, the highest in the NBA among those involved in 250 or more possessions) reduces Porzingis' role significantly at times, but Dallas need both to fire against a team like the Suns.

Phoenix Suns – Chris Paul

Nominally a point guard, Doncic is more of a point forward, hogging most of the shots himself. In truth, there are few genuine point guards remaining in the NBA. Paul is one of them.

Even at 36, Paul has started all 43 games – ranking 21st in the league for minutes (1,383) – and leads the NBA in assists (429), well clear of second-placed James Harden (390). Not since 2015-16 has he averaged this rate of 10.0 assists per game.

Given the frequency with which Paul is creating shots for team-mates, his assist-to-turnover ratio is even more impressive, ranking second with 4.38 dimes per turnover.

With Curry and the Warriors slightly on the wane, Paul could soon be in serious consideration for the MVP award. A big performance in a big game such as this one would aid his cause.

KEY BATTLE – Doncic to deliver in Ayton's absence?

The Suns will be without center Deandre Ayton, the player they selected first overall in 2018 before Doncic went two picks later.

Ayton, who has an ankle injury, was a little slower than Doncic to truly establish himself but has never struggled against the Mavs, enjoying a 10-1 record in such matchups.

Doncic missed Phoenix's first two wins against Dallas this season and has only three victories in the 11 games he has played versus the Suns.

With Ayton's role in Phoenix's recent success starting to alter the narrative around the 2018 draft, in which Doncic was quickly considered the most talented young player, the Dallas man may see this as an opportunity to send a message.

HEAD TO HEAD

This had been a closely fought rivalry until the Suns' dominance in the Ayton-Doncic years. Now, Phoenix boast a 93-74 record against the Mavs and will hope to improve that further on the road.

Dallas are a more impressive 47-36 in home games against the Suns.

LeBron James scored 25 points as the Los Angeles Lakers snapped their three-game losing streak by beating the Utah Jazz on Monday.

A superb late show from Stanley Johnson, who hit 10 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter, saw the Lakers respond to their loss to the Denver Nuggets two days ago by winning 101-95.

Utah were hoping that size mattered, with Rudy Gobert playing his second game back following a positive coronavirus test and Anthony Davis still sidelined.

Gobert came up with 19 points and 16 rebounds, his second double-double in as many days despite not attempting a shot until the second quarter, but he could not prevent Johnson's clever layup move that put the Lakers 89-87 ahead.

In reality, it was Johnson's day: having been re-signed to a 10-day contract earlier, he scored six consecutive points in the final quarter and tied the game at 83-83, making seven of his nine shots.

Russell Westbrook's 15 points also proved key, but it was his spectacular dunk over Gobert in the second quarter – called for a technical foul – that drew the biggest cheers.

 

Booker hits season-high 48 as Suns roll on

The Phoenix Suns moved to 34-9 with a fourth win in a row, defeating the San Antonio Spurs 121-107.

Devin Booker scored 48 points, his best return in a game this season, finishing 18-for-33 from the field and sinking five of 13 three-point attempts.

Double-doubles from Chris Paul and Bismack Biyombo helped the Phoenix to a dominant fourth-quarter display, outscoring the Spurs 34-16 as they made it five straight wins in San Antonio.

 

Adebayo back with a Bam, Doncic drags Mavs past Thunder

The Miami Heat edged out the Toronto Raptors 104-99 as All-Star center Bam Adebayo returned from six weeks out following thumb surgery.

Adebayo's 14 points and a triple-double from Jimmy Buttler of 19 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds helped the Heat move into a virtual tie for the lead in the Eastern Conference with the struggling Chicago Bulls.

The Dallas Mavericks made it three wins in a row, a triple-double from Luka Doncic helping them to hold off a second-half comeback from the Oklahoma City Thunder in a 104-102 victory.

CJ McCollum, back from a 17-game absence caused by a collapsed lung, scored 16 points as the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Orlando Magic 98-88 – their 10th straight victory over the East's bottom side.

 

Cade Cunningham insisted he was acknowledging his "people" and not taunting the opposition after he was ejected during the Detroit Pistons' loss to the Phoenix Suns.

The Pistons fell to a 135-108 reverse against the NBA-leading Suns on Sunday as they saw two of their players ejected in the second half.

Cunningham was the first to be dismissed in the third quarter, ending an enthralling battle with Devon Booker, for what referee Kevin Cutler later described as "a physical taunt for pointing at the defender".

Cutler was referring to Cunningham's gesture after he slammed past Jalen Smith and immediately pointed in the 21-year-old's direction, leading to his second technical foul.

But Cunningham – who had 21 points, one rebound and four assists before his ejection – provided a different view after the game as he justified his celebration.

"I had my people right behind the bench," said Cunningham, who finished on 9-for-15 shooting in 24 minutes. 

"I went baseline to dunk the ball, and he's right in between me and my people. I probably should've read that situation better. I don't really get into taunting too much. 

"Usually I'm chilling after a play. I realised the situation after he tech'ed me [technical fouled] up, but I didn't think I was going to get a tech. 

"I let coach Monty [Williams of the Suns] over there, let him know, 'Good game,' and stuff like that."

Detroit trailed by 20 at the time of Cunningham's removal, and that increased to 27 by the end of the game after Josh Jackson was also ejected with 41 seconds remaining.

Pistons coach Dwane Casey – whose side are 10-32, the second-worst record in the league – believes his team must manage their reputation by maintaining strong disciplinary levels.

"He [the referee] said Cade pointed at the guy that he dunked on," Casey said after the game. "I didn't see that part. I thought he was pointing towards his teammate. 

"That's why he said he got a technical for and got ejected for, he already had one. I've seen a lot worse things to get ejected for than that. 

"The Josh one, I haven't looked at it yet. He said Josh hit, or pushed, or whatever at [Ish] Wainright. I didn't see that part either, I have to look at that.

"We're not in a position as a team to complain. Let me be the bad guy to fight for us.

"As a young team, we shouldn't get that reputation of complaining to officials. Until we get to that level, we have to button up and zip up and play our butts off."

Despite Cunningham's dismissal, the 20-year-old has been in fine form recently – averaging 17.9 points, 5.7 assists and 4.9 rebounds since November 30 (a span of 18 games).

With the Pistons looking to bounce back with a trip to the Golden States Warriors on Tuesday, Cunningham insisted that his team are heading in the right direction.

"We're still locked in," Cunningham added. "We feel ourselves getting better and growing together. 

"This is a big road trip that we got to go into. We're going to play some good teams. We're excited to take that challenge on and see what we got." 

The Golden State Warriors felt the absence of Steph Curry and Draymond Green as they fell to a 119-99 loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday.

Curry was ruled out with a hand injury and Green missed a fourth straight game with a calf issue as the Warriors lost for a fifth time in their last seven outings.

Jaylen Nowell scored 17 points for the Timberwolves and Malik Beasley added 16, which included five second-half 3-pointers in a one-sided conclusion to the game.

The travel-weary Warriors, playing on the road for a fourth successive time, are now 31-12 for the season and remain second in the Western Conference.


Gobert guides Utah past Denver

Returning from a five-game coronavirus-enforced absence, Rudy Gobert made up for lost time with a double-double in the Utah Jazz's 125-102 win over the Denver Nuggets.

The Jazz had lost four in a row in Gobert's absence, but the center's 18 points and 19 rebounds got his side back on track at the Ball Arena.

Gobert has now recorded 15 straight double-doubles either side of his spell on the sidelines, while Bojan Bogdanovic finished with 21 points.

Nikola Jokic top-scored for the Nuggets with 25 points, 15 rebounds and 14 assists for his ninth triple-double of the season – no player has more.


Suns win again, Rockets looking up

The NBA-leading Phoenix Suns won for a sixth time in seven games with a 135-108 victory over the Detroit Pistons, with Devin Booker scoring 30 points.

JaVale McGee added 20 as the Pistons, who had Josh Jackson ejected in the fourth quarter, fell to a fourth defeat since New Year's Day, each of those by at least 27 points.

Elsewhere on Sunday, the Houston Rockets beat the Sacramento Kings 118-112 to exact some revenge two days on from losing to the same opponents.

Eric Gordon made a clutch bucket with 12.5 seconds left, adding to Christian Woods' 23 points and 14 rebounds as the Rockets won for a second time in three games.

The Golden State Warriors showed off their newfound depth and flexed their muscle with a 138-96 rout over the Eastern Conference-leading Chicago Bulls on Friday.

Three Warriors scored more points than Stephen Curry, who finished with 19 points including four three-pointers in the win without Draymond Green (calf) and Klay Thompson (rest).

Top 10 draft pick Jonathan Kuminga top scored with 25 points, while Jordan Poole added 22 including five triples and Andrew Wiggins contributed 21.

Golden State piled on 78 points in the first half, leading by 31 at the main break and never looked back after the Bulls lost Zach LaVine to a knee injury early in the first quarter.

DeMar DeRozan was kept quiet with 17 points, two rebounds and seven assists, while Nikola Vucevic top scored for the Bulls with 19 points along with 14 rebounds.

Chicago, who were humbled 138-112 by the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday, slip to a 27-13 record but remain top of the Eastern Conference.

 

Suns and Heat continue stellar records

Devin Booker scored 35 points including five three-pointers while Deandre Ayton had 27 points with 12 rebounds as the ladder-leading phoenix Suns won 112-94 over the Indiana Pacers. The Suns are 32-9 at the halfway mark, which is their second-best record in franchise history after 41 games.

Jimmy Butler returned from a three-game absence due to an ankle injury with 23 points, 10 assists and two steals as the Miami Heat rallied late to win 124-118 over the Atlanta Hawks. The Heat improve to 27-15 and sit second in the east.

Joel Embiid had 25 points, 13 rebounds and six assists as the Philadelphia 76ers got past the Boston Celtics 111-99. Embiid fell five points short of breaking the 76ers franchise record for 30 points or more in nine straight games.

 

Grizzlies winning run ended

The Memphis Grizzlies' 11-game winning streak came to a halt at the hands of Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks 112-85. The Grizzlies struggled from beyond the arc, making seven-of-31 (22.6 percent) from three-point range with Jaren Jackson Jr missing all six of his three-point attempts. Doncic had a triple-double with 27 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.

The Phoenix Suns were playing in front of an empty arena during Tuesday's win at the Toronto Raptors, but Devin Booker was still frustrated by a distracting figure.

Having already hit the go-ahead shot with a little over a minute remaining at Scotiabank Arena, Booker stepped up for a pair of free throws with 6.5 seconds remaining on the clock with the Suns leading 93-92.

Booker drained the first but was visibly frustrated and complained to the referee because he was rattled by the antics of the Raptors' mascot, named aptly "The Raptor", who was waving his arms in his eyeline.

The officials made Toronto's talisman move out of sight and into the corner like a naughty child before Booker nailed the second attempt to put the seal on a 95-92 triumph.

Booker's complaints drew plenty of derision on social media but the man himself explained after the game that all was well.

"We hashed it out, we homies now," he said with a smile.

"I was just trying to get him out the way. It worked. I'd rather be shooting them without him down there.

"We play shooting games all the time every day. These two (Chris Paul and Jae Crowder) do the same thing and I complain then. That's just me."

Booker had 16 points on the back of four-for-13 shooting, making two of seven from beyond the arc.

But it was far from a vintage Suns performance. Phoenix had 20 turnovers that resulted in 18 points for the Raptors, while they allowed Toronto 15 more field goal attempts and let their opponents record a season-high 22 offensive rebounds.

"It was a fight all night," Booker said. "They beat us up a little bit, but down the stretch we picked it up a little bit and did what we had to do."

The Suns' win sees them move to 31-9 on the season, the best record in the NBA.

Stephen Curry recorded his first triple-double since the opening game of the season but the Golden State Warriors went down to the streaking Memphis Grizzlies 116-108.

Ja Morant starred for the Grizzlies with 29 points including five in the final minutes as Memphis extended its winning run to 10 games and improved to 29-14.

Morant, who also had five rebounds and eight assists, spearheaded the Grizzlies' final-quarter 29-18 rally where Tyus Jones hit back-to-back triples to give them a lead they would not surrender.

Curry had 27 points with 10 rebounds and 10 assists for the Warriors although he only shot at 38 percent from the field.

Klay Thompson contributed 14 points with three rebounds and three assists in his second game back from long-term injury as the Warriors moved to 30-10.

 

Bulls pile on the points

The Chicago Bulls had eight players reach double-digit scoring as they hammered the struggling Detroit Pistons 133-87 with DeMar DeRozan starring with 20 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.

The Los Angeles Clippers overcame a 25-point third-quarter deficit to defeat the Denver Nuggets 87-85. MVP Nikola Jokic (21 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists) had a double-double but missed a game-winning three-point attempt on the buzzer.

Chris Paul provided 12 assists to go with his 15 points and five steals as the table-topping Phoenix Suns defeated the Toronto Raptors 99-95.

 

OKC slump in five-game skid

The Oklahoma City Thunder slumped to their fifth straight loss, going down 122-118 to the Washington Wizards. The result leaves OKC with a 13-27 record in second last in the west.

Giannis Antetokounmpo extended his run of 30-point games to eight in a row but it was not enough as the Milwaukee Bucks lost 114-106 to the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday.

The reigning NBA Finals MVP piled on 21 points in the final quarter to finish with 43 for the game as the Hornets held off the Bucks' charge, with Charlotte guard LaMelo Ball scoring 19 points, with nine rebounds and eight assists.

Antetokounmpo also recorded 12 rebounds and two blocks in a final all-round game for the Bucks, who were missing Jrue Holiday and head coach Mike Budenholzer due to the league's health and safety protocols.

Khris Middleton had a near triple-double with 27 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, including shooting four triples.

The result means the reigning champions hold a 26-16 record having lost three of their past four games, while the Hornets are 21-19.

Sabonis silences Jazz, Brown triple-double

Domantas Sabonis piled on 42 points, making his first 10 shots of the game, as the Indiana Pacers won 125-113 over the Utah Jazz minus Rudy Gobert.

Jaylen Brown recorded his first career triple-double with 22 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists as the Boston Celtics defeated the New York Knicks 99-75.

Jaren Jackson Jr scored 26 points with eight rebounds and five blocks as the Memphis Grizzlies, without Ja Morant, improved to a 27-14 record with a 123-108 win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Leaders cooled by Heat

Chris Paul was quiet with nine points, seven assists and four turnovers as the table-topping Phoenix Suns lost 123-100 to the Miami Heat. Devin Booker had 26 points but shot five of 15 from the field, while Tyler Herro scored 33 points off the bench for the Heat.

Cam Johnson warned the Phoenix Suns are "starting to click" after they extended their winning run to three games at the expense of the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday.

The Suns have the best record in the NBA of 30-8 following a 106-89 triumph over the Clippers at Footprint Center.

Johnson scored a career-high 24 points, while Chris Paul finished with 14 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists to leave the Suns sitting pretty at the top of the Western Conference.

Forward Johnson says there is more to come from Phoenix

"We're having a lot of fun playing together," Johnson said. "Things are starting to click."

Paul's tally of rebounds was a career-best for the 36-year-old in what his 1,128th regular-season NBA game.

The 11-time NBA All-Star said: "Some teams' biggest issue is that they don't know what they want to run or who they want to go to down the stretch.

"I think we have a good sense of that. We know what our go-to plays are."

 

Suns head coach Monty Williams says his players deserve great credit for the way they are going about their business.

He said: "I just think the players have done a really good job of driving our culture. We have unreal guard play, which really helps."

The Clippers are 19-20 following back-to-back defeats, but head coach Tyronn Lue could not fault the application his players showed. 

He said: "We scrapped and competed. That is a good ball club over there and they played well. Their stars took over down the stretch and took over the game."

Chris Paul recorded his first triple-double of the season with a career-high 13 rebounds in the Phoenix Suns' 106-89 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday.

Paul finished the game with 14 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists as the NBA-leading Suns improved to 30-8, while the Clippers slipped below .500 at 19-20 for the first time since they were 3-4 earlier this season, while Phoenix became the first team to reach 30 wins this season as they moved a game ahead of the Golden State Warriors.

The rebounding feats of Paul, playing his 1,128th NBA game, were complimented by the Suns veteran bringing up 41 assists from Phoenix's past three games.

Paul (474) also moved past NBA legend Oscar Robertson into third overall for most games with 10 or more points and 10 or more assists, behind John Stockton (714) and Magic Johnson (543).

Cameron Johnson had a career-high 24 points with seven rebounds for the Suns as Devin Booker went none-of-seven from beyond the arc for his 11 points.

Marcus Morris Sr had 26 points with eight rebounds and three assists for the Clippers who were without Paul George, Nicolas Batum and Kawhi Leonard.

Warriors lose without Curry and Green

The Warriors struggled in the absence of injured All-Star duo Stephen Curry (quad) and Draymond Green (hip), going down 101-96 to the New Orleans Pelicans.

Brandon Ingram scored 32 points with 11 rebounds and six assists for New Orleans.

Evan Fournier shot 10 three-pointers as he haunted his former side with 41 points and eight rebounds as the New York Knicks overcame the Boston Celtics 108-105 but it was RJ Barrett who hit a buzzer beater to clinch the win. Jayson Tatum had 36 points, six rebounds and nine assists.

 

Pistons pumped as Cunningham struggles

The Detroit Pistons were hammered by 30 points in the 118-88 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies with no player scoring more than 14 points.

The Pistons hold a 7-30 record this season with only three road victories from 20 games. They shocked the Milwaukee Bucks earlier this week but were no match for in-form Memphis, who extended their winning streak to seven.

Top draft pick Cade Cunningham shot five-of-19 for his 12 points.

LeBron James powered the Los Angeles Lakers to a hard-fought 122-144 win over the Sacramento Kings with a last-quarter barrage on Tuesday.

James finished with 31 points including 14 in the fourth quarter along with five rebounds and five assists for the game to help the Lakers improve to 20-19.

With the Lakers trailing 102-101 with less than five minutes to go, the four-time MVP hit back-to-back three-pointers to claim the ascendancy.

Malik Monk contributed 24 points for the Lakers, while Russell Westbrook had 19 points and seven rebounds.

De'Aaron Fox scored 30 points with three rebounds and six assists for the Kings who move to 16-23.

 

Paul and Booker shine for Suns

Chris Paul provided 15 assists alongside his 11 points as the west's second seeds, the Phoenix Suns, defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 123-110. Devin Booker scored 33 points for the Suns with nine rebounds and four assists, while Jonas Valanciunas had 25 points with 16 rebounds for the Pels.

The Memphis Grizzlies secured their sixth straight win with a 110-106 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers led by Ja Morant with 26 points, five rebounds and six assists. Darius Garland (27 points and 10 assists) and Kevin Love (18 points and 10 rebounds) were good for the Cavs.

 

Sabonis struggles from stripe

Domantas Sabonis struggled from the stripe making five-of-12 free-throws while he was bossed by Julius Randle as the Indiana Pacers were beaten 104-94 by the New York Knicks. Sabonis only managed 15 points with eight rebounds, while Randle scored 30 points with 16 rebounds. The Pacers have lost five in a row.

LeBron James led the way as the Los Angeles Lakers returned to .500 with a hard-fought 108-103 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday.

The four-time NBA MVP had 26 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals for the Lakers, who have won three of their past four games.

The Lakers had endured a rough period, losing six out of seven games, but are beginning to re-discover some form.

Russell Westbrook contributed 20 points with three rebounds and five assists but had nine turnovers, while Malik Monk added 22 points.

James also shot nine of 12 from the stripe, moving up to fourth on the all-time NBA free throws made list with 7,695, going past Oscar Robertson. Karl Malone, Moses Malone and Kobe Bryant are the players ahead of the 37-year-old.

 

Giddey breaks LaMelo's mark for youngest NBA triple-double

Oklahoma City Thunder's 19-year-old rookie Josh Giddey returned from COVID-19 protocols with a bang, becoming the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double, breaking LaMelo Ball's mark. Giddey had 17 points, 13 rebounds and 14 assists but OKC were beaten 95-86 by the Dallas Mavericks, who had Luka Doncic return from protocols with a near-triple-double with 14 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists.

Jaylen Brown scored a career-high 50 points, including 21 in the fourth quarter, in the Boston Celtics' 116-111 over-time win over the Orlando Magic. Brown also had 11 rebounds, four assists and two blocks.

Devin Booker scored 24 points with seven rebounds and three assists as the Phoenix Suns improved to 28-8 after beating the Charlotte Hornets 133-99.

 

Wayward Heat burnt by Kings

Jimmy Butler shot nine of 22 from the field and only one of six from beyond the arc the Miami Heat were beaten by the Sacramento Kings 115-113. Tyler Herro was also eight of 23 from the field.

DeMar DeRozan knocked down a buzzer-beating three-pointer as Eastern Conference leaders the Chicago Bulls dramatically defeated the Indiana Pacers 108-106.

The Bulls ended 2021 on a high with a sixth straight victory that came about when DeRozan picked up the ball with around nine seconds remaining, looked around for options on the court before taking on the shot himself when he noticed the clock winding down.

It was the second time in DeRozan's career he had hit a buzzer-beater, while no Bulls player had achieved the feat since Jimmy Butler in 2016.

DeRozan drained 28 points in total to go with six assists and three rebounds, while Coby White had 24 points. DeRozan is the league leader for both total points and points per game in the fourth quarter.

Victory sees the Bulls head into the new year top of the East, with an identical record (23-10) to the Brooklyn Nets.


Celtics stop the skid to down Suns

The Phoenix Suns entered their showdown with the Boston Celtics with the best record in the NBA but lost for the third time in four games with a 123-108 defeat.

Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart each scored 24 points with the former registering 11 rebounds and the latter eight assists as the Celtics stopped a three-game losing streak. Robin Williams had a triple-double of 10 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds.

Deandre Ayton and Jae Crowder missed a third straight game for the Suns due to being placed on the health and safety protocols. Devin Booker put up 22 points, Cam Johnson had 20, Jalen Smith registered 19, and Chris Paul had 14 points and eight assists, but it was all in vain for the Suns.

LeBron James had a season-high 43 points and extended his streak of 30-point games to seven as the Los Angeles Lakers routed the Portland Trail Blazers 139-106 to improve to 18-19 on the season.


Bulls on a hot-streak

Chicago's six-game winning streak has propelled the Bulls to the top of the East and represents their best winning run since December 2017.

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