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.

Ja Morant's 41 points overshadowed LeBron James as the Memphis Grizzlies won 104-99 to inflict a sixth defeat in seven games for the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.

Morant was excellent for the Grizzlies, draining six of seven three-pointers in his 41-point haul along with 10 rebounds and two assists.

James, who turns 38 on Friday, tried his best for the slumping Lakers with 37 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists, while Russell Westbrook had another triple-double with 16 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists.

But the four-time MVP came up short in the final 30 seconds, missing a three-point attempt to tie the game before an aimless pass turned the ball over.

Morant skilfully tipped in two to make it 102-97 with 1:15 to go and scored 25 of his 41 points in the second half.

Booker stars as Suns silence Thunder

Devin Booker landed six triples in his 38-point haul as the Phoenix Suns defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 115-97 to improve to a 27-7, putting them joint-top with the Golden State Warriors. Along with his 38 points, Booker also had seven rebounds and five assists.

The Chicago Bulls had a full team performance in their 131-117 victory over the Atlanta Hawks, with contributions from Zach LaVine (25 points), Coby White (17 points, 12 assists), Nikola Vucevic (16 points, 20 rebounds) and DeMar DeRozan (20 points, eight assists).

Rudy Gobert starred with 22 points and 14 rebounds as the Utah Jazz recorded their eighth straight road win, beating the depleted Portland Trail Blazers 120-105 despite Damian Lillard's 32 points.

Brown struggles from beyond the arc

Jaylen Brown has been in top form lately but hit one of 13 from beyond the arc as the Boston Celtics went down 91-82 to the Los Angeles Clippers.

James Harden scored 39 points in his second game since coming out of the NBA's COVID-19 protocols to inspire the Brooklyn Nets past the Los Angeles Clippers 124-108.

Harden returned with 36 points and a triple-double in the Nets' 122-155 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas Day and backed that up against the depleted Clippers, who were without star duo Paul George (elbow) and Kawhi Leonard (ACL).

The 2018 NBA MVP was in a dominant mood, with Kevin Durant absent in protocols, shooting 15 of 25 from the field and providing 15 assists, as well as having eight rebounds and two steals.

Patty Mills and Nicolas Claxton both contributed 18 points for the Nets, while the latter had three blocks. Marcus Morris Sr was the Clippers' best with 24 points, five rebounds and six assists.

 

Bulls duo combine for Hawks defeat

Trae Young returned from COVID protocols with 29 points and nine assists but it was not enough as the Atlanta Hawks lost 130-118 to the Chicago Bulls who had Zach LaVine (30 points, four rebounds, nine assists) and DeMar DeRozan (35 points, five rebounds, 10 assists) impress. LaVine and DeRozan became the first team-mates each with 20 points and five assists in a half over the last 25 seasons.

Ja Morant drained a last-gasp clutch shot to earn the Memphis Grizzlies a thrilling 114-113 win over the Phoenix Suns, who were missing center Deandre Ayton and head coach Monty Williams after entering protocols. Desmond Bane had a career-high 32 points and Morant finished with 33, grabbing the win after Devin Booker (30 points) had put the Suns ahead with five seconds left with a three-pointer.

The Utah Jazz extended their win streak to four games, even without injured Donovan Mitchell, as they defeated the San Antonio Spurs 110-104 with Jordan Clarkson (23 points, eight rebounds, five assists) starring off the bench.

 

In-form Celtic misses the mark

Jaylen Brown has been in hot point-scoring form lately but his shooting was down at 33.3 percent as the Boston Celtics – without Jayson Tatum who has entered COVID protocols - lost 108-103 to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Brown scored 26 points but made only two of eight from beyond the arc.

Stephen Curry hailed the Golden State Warriors' win against the Phoenix Suns on Christmas Day as "huge" given the number of players missing.

Against a comparatively healthy Suns squad, the Warriors were without Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole, Damion Lee and Moses Moody (health and safety protocols), along with several assistant coaches, and Andre Iguodala (knee), Klay Thompson (Achilles/ACL) and James Wiseman (meniscus) still out with injury.

Curry was available but has previously struggled on Christmas, averaging just 13.1 points in his eight career games on the festive day. That ranked as his worst average points haul on any date he has played on more than twice.

However, the Warriors' star guard excelled against the Suns on Saturday, achieving a game-high 33 points in the 116-107 win.

Otto Porter Jr also impressed in a rare start for Golden State, with a late flurry helping to see his team home as 13 of his 19 points came in the fourth quarter, making several clutch shots.

Speaking after the game, Curry said: "It's nice to win on Christmas, nice to win on the road against the best record in the league, short-handed. All the other context of the situation, a huge win.

"Everybody stepped up. It was a great atmosphere. Just toughed it out at the end, and obviously, Otto took over down the stretch, so that was huge all the way around."

Steve Kerr's Warriors now move half a game ahead of the Suns, with a league-best 27-6 record.

Kerr was delighted with the showing from his depleted side, making special mention of how Curry rose to the occasion despite being one of their only star men available.

"Steph was amazing," he said. "Facing that defense with so much attention on him, missing three of our best shooters, for him to see that type of defense and find his way to 33 points - he was a plus-24 - so even when he was not making shots, he was still impacting the game just by pulling the defense over towards him.

"Steph was brilliant, so was Draymond [Green]. I thought [Kevon] Looney did a hell of a job, as well, so it was a great team win."

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.

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.

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.

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. 

Kevin Durant was the hero again for the Brooklyn Nets after lifting the shorthanded Eastern Conference leaders past the Philadelphia 76ers 114-105.

The Nets have been ravaged by COVID-19, with superstar James Harden among the absentees after entering the NBA's health and safety protocols.

But Durant carried the Nets on Thursday, scoring 34 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists to help see off the rallying 76ers in Brooklyn.

With the game tied less than two minutes from the end, Durant came up big via a four-point play, having been fouled on a three-point attempt.

Durant was coming off an NBA season-high 51 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, and 34 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists in his previous two games.

Joel Embiid put up 32 points, nine rebounds and six assists but the slumping 76ers still fell to their third consecutive defeat.

 

Suns do their thing

The Phoenix Suns capped a balanced performance with a 118-98 victory at home to the Washington Wizards. All five starters, and eight players in total, had double-digit points. Thanks to the win, the Suns moved level with the Golden State Warriors for the NBA lead at 23-5.

The New York Knicks snapped a four-game losing streak via a 116-103 triumph over the Houston Rockets, behind Immanuel Quickley (24 points), Evan Fournier (23 points) and Julius Randle (21 points).

 

Sorry Pistons lose… again

The less said about the Detroit Pistons right now, the better. Detroit were condemned to a 13th successive loss, the Pistons beaten 122-113 by the Indiana Pacers. Detroit (4-23) own the NBA's worst record.

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