The Brooklyn Nets came back from a 21-point deficit to storm home in the second half, defeating the New York Knicks 

The Nets' defense struggled early on, conceding 38 points in just the second quarter on the way to trailing 67-50 at half-time.

Knicks' R.J. Barrett was the best player in the first half, and went on to finish with 23 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, but after his side peaked at a 71-50 lead one minute into the third period, it was all downhill from there.

Brooklyn would hold New York to just 31 points in the entire second half, snatching the lead in the fourth quarter and riding a hot shooting performance from Patty Mills in his return to form.

Mills hit five-of-seven from long range off the bench, including a deep contested step-back with the shot clock winding down late in the fourth quarter, while superstar Kevin Durant was spectacular throughout.

Durant scored 32 points on 11-of-22 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds to go with his 11 assists, while Barrett's shooting tailed off badly, finishing with figures of seven-of-27 from the field and two-of-11 from deep.

The win moves Brooklyn's record to 42-38, which is the same record as the Atlanta Hawks, but the Nets hold the tie-breaker and would finish in the eight seed if the season ended today.

 

Trae Young leads his Hawks in style

Atlanta has been arguably one of the league's most disappointing teams this year, but last season's Eastern Conference Finalists have found some form heading into the play-in tournament, beating the Washington Wizards 118-103 behind another spectacular showing from All-NBA point guard Trae Young.

Young, who in his past 10 games is averaging 29.7 points and 11.1 assists on shooting splits of 48/40/91, was again the best player on the floor against the Wizards, racking up an efficient 30 points (eight-of-17 shooting, 11-of-12 from the free throw line) to go with 11 assists.

Washington's Kristaps Porzingis also deserves a mention for his 26 points (eight-of-16 shooting) and 18 rebounds as the Wizards nearly broke even (minus three) in his 32 minutes played.

 

Celtics stifle struggling Bulls

The Boston Celtics have been the best defensive team in the NBA this season, and made life miserable for the Chicago Bulls for a 117-94 road win.

Both teams will make the playoffs, but while the Celtics have thrived in the second half of the season and look like a contender, the Bulls have stumbled, with no Chicago player scoring more than DeMar DeRozan's 16 points on six-of-16 shooting on Wednesday.

On a down night for Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown picked up the scoring load, finishing with 25 points on 10-of-21 shooting to go with four assists and four steals.

Trae Young's return to Madison Square Garden was like a recurring nightmare for New York Knicks fans as the Atlanta Hawks prevailed 117-111.

Young, who became public enemy number one in New York when he erupted in the playoffs, eliminating the Knicks in the process, was spectacular again on Tuesday night.

He finished with a game-high 45 points (13-of-25 shooting, seven-of-15 from three) to go with eight assists, and was supported by a season-high 32 points (11-of-20 shooting, four-of-10 from three) from Bogdan Bogdanovic off the bench.

New York's R.J. Barrett played hard, but was ultimately inefficient, scoring 30 points on nine-of-25 shooting, going one-of-seven from long range and 11-of-17 from the free throw line.

The win pulls the Hawks' record even at 36-36, with last year's Eastern Conference finalists set for a play-in battle as they occupy the 10 seed.

LeBron James became the first player in NBA history to reach 10,000 points, rebounds and assists respectively, in the Los Angeles Lakers' 140-111 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday.

James notched up his 10,000th assist during the second quarter, with a cross-court pass to Carmelo Anthony for an open three.

The Suns were dominant at home to the Lakers, though, putting up 48 points in the first quarter alone on their way to a commanding win.

Having already secured a playoff berth, despite losing at home to the Toronto Raptors on Saturday, Phoenix faced conveniently light work heading into a road back-to-back this week.

Devin Booker continued to shoulder the burden without Chris Paul, putting up 30 points and 10 assists.

With the loss, meanwhile, the Lakers move to 29-38 and teeter dangerously close to touching distance for the San Antonio Spurs and Portland Trailblazers, in the race for the final two Western Conference play-in spots.

Durant leads Nets with Irving in the building

Kevin Durant put up an individual season-high 53 points, including a game-breaking three to give the Brooklyn Nets a 110-107 win over the New York Knicks.

The shorthanded Nets were at least able to have Kyrie Irving in the building for the win, with New York mandates now enabling those unvaccinated for Covid-19 to spectate. However, the mandate still requires the vaccination for people who work there, meaning Irving is still unable to suit up.

At the end of the game, Irving walked off the Barclays Center floor arm-in-arm with Durant, who finished with nine assists and six rebounds to go with the 53 points - one point off his career-high.

Joel Embiid had his 30th 30-point game of the season as the Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Orlando Magic 116-114 in over-time. Embiid finished with 35 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists, while Tobias Harris came up with a crucial late three-pointer to finish with 26 points.

Ja Morant had a quiet game by his standards with 17 points, five rebounds and 10 assists as the Memphis Grizzlies improved to 47-22 with a 125-118 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

 

Doncic dagger propels Mavs to road win

The Dallas Mavericks claimed an impressive win on the road, edging the Boston Celtics 95-92 at the TD Garden. Despite leaving the floor with a hamstring scare in the first half, Luka Doncic’s fingerprints were all over the game’s dying moments - he hit the game-tying three-pointer with 1:21, before being called for fouling Marcus Smart on the potential tying three.

It was overturned on review however, and along with the win, Doncic put up 26 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. On a night where Kevin Garnett's No. 5 jersey was to be retired by the Celtics post-match, the Mavs moved to 42-26 for the year, half a game behind the Western Conference’s fourth-placed Utah Jazz.

Opinions on this 2021-22 NBA season are being firmly formed as we enter February.

Last month saw the All-Star starters announced, while the MVP race hotted up – or cooled down, with several early contenders struggling with form and fitness.

But who really lit up the league in January? And whose bright end to 2021 did not carry over into the new year?

Stats Perform's NBA Heat Check looks at the best and worst performers of the month...

RUNNING HOT...

RJ Barrett

Now in his third year with the New York Knicks, Barrett's has been a season of peaks and troughs. In the month of November, he averaged 12.8 points per game; in January, that mark was a mightily impressive 21.8.

Such inconsistency leaves the guard just below last year's average of 17.6 at 17.3, but he is now a man in form, scoring double-figures in 17 straight games – including all 15 in January.

Barrett's 31 points against the San Antonio Spurs on January 10 were followed by 32 against the Dallas Mavericks on January 12 in consecutive wins, before the Knicks traded for Cam Reddish, his old Duke team-mate, the next day. As stretches go, this was a good one.

Reddish is yet to find his feet in New York but at least finds a familiar face full of confidence in the locker room.

Kyle Kuzma

January finished with the Washington Wizards on a five-game losing streak that was extended to six on Tuesday, but it was a month of progress for Kuzma.

Comparing output for the past month to the rest of the season, Kuzma ranked second in the league for an increase in both scoring (up from 13.4 to 22.5) and rebounding (up from 8.0 to 11.1).

While this form is clearly not doing enough to get the Wizards' year back on track, it is at least providing the Los Angeles Lakers with a reminder of what they gave up in a trade for Russell Westbrook.

Kuzma was one of three players, along with a first-round pick, sent to Washington in exchange for Westbrook, who has again flattered to deceive and appears to be back on the market with the Lakers toiling at 24-27.

Anfernee Simons

One place behind the Lakers in the West, the Portland Trail Blazers are similarly out of sorts, with Damian Lillard falling below his usual standards and the rest of the team struggling to pick up the slack.

The Blazers have still had some breakout stars, however, with Simons the most obvious of those in year four after a dazzling January.

Already averaging double-figures at 11.9 heading into 2022 – something he had failed to do in his previous three campaigns – Simons was the most improved scorer last month, scoring 23.1 points across 15 games. He made 4.5 three-pointers per game over that period, also a league-leading improvement on his prior 2.0.

Third-year forward Nassir Little (13.1 points and 2.1 threes in January) ranked seventh and fifth by those metrics, only to sustain a season-ending labrum tear – a setback that just about summed up Portland's season.

GOING COLD...

Stephen Curry

Curry's 26.0 points per game this year are up on two of his three title-winning campaigns with the Golden State Warriors but significantly down on last year's 32.0 – enough to win the scoring title – and falling rapidly from his early-season standards.

The two-time MVP made a hot start with 28.7 points in October and was still operating at 27.7 come the end of 2021. In January, however, he scored only 22.3 points – the biggest drop in the NBA.

Curry also led an unwanted chart in seeing his 5.4 made threes per game decrease massively to 3.5, a career 42.9 per cent three-point shooter and 47.3 per cent field-goal shooter slumping to 32.9 per cent and 38.5 per cent.

Such is the depth of talent on the Warriors' roster – in Kevon Looney and Jonathan Kuminga, they had two of January's three most-improved rebounders – they have been able to ride out Curry's rough patch. However, Jordan Poole had also been struggling to maintain his high standards (fifth for scoring decrease in January), though a 31-point effort in Tuesday's win over the Spurs hinted at a return to form.

James Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving combined to score 61 points as the Brooklyn Nets beat the Chicago Bulls 138-112 in a table-topping Eastern Conference clash.

Durant's game-high 27 and Harden's double-double of 25 points and a season-high 16 assists inspired the Nets to a routine victory at United Center.

Kyrie Irving, who is barred from playing home games, added nine points in his third game back for the Nets, but it was Durant who stole the show with 17 points in the third.

The 11-time NBA All-Star has now scored at least 25 points in 12 straight games and in the process denied the Bulls a first regular-season sweep of the Nets since 1997-98.

After seeing off the Detroit Pistons 133-87 on Tuesday, the Bulls become the first team in NBA history to win by 45+ points one day and then lost by 25+ the next.

Kings snap losing streak against Lakers

LeBron James' 34 points were not enough as the Los Angeles Lakers fell 125-116 to the Sacramento Kings, who snapped a five-game losing streak in the process.

On their worst run of the season, the Kings regularly found themselves trailing and were six down at half-time before taking control in the third quarter.

Russell Westbrook's missed 3-pointer paved the way for Chimezie Metu to make a clutch 3-pointer with 46.7 seconds remaining and Tyrese Haliburton rounded off the scoring.

The Lakers, who saw James score 31 or more for the 11th time in 12 games in the injury absence of Carmelo Anthony, have now lost two in a row and are 21-21 for the season.

Heat's run goes on

The Miami Heat may have six players on their inactive list, but they won for a third game running with a 115-91 victory against the Atlanta Hawks.

Tyler Herro had a game-high 21 points and added 11 assists as the Heat, now 26-15 for the season, kept within touching distance of the Eastern Conference leaders.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, the Dallas Mavericks' six-game winning streak was brought to an end with a 108-85 loss to the New York Knicks.

RJ Barrett's 32 made him the youngest player in franchise history with consecutive 30-point games as the Knicks won for a fourth time in five games.

It's not every day in the NBA that a team comes from 25 points down to win with a buzzer-beater, capping a game where a player lands 10 or more three-pointers.

In fact, it happened for the first time in league history on Thursday as the New York Knicks stormed back to beat the Boston Celtics 108-105 at Madison Square Garden.

From 57-32 adrift in the second quarter, the Knicks were inspired by Evan Fournier's remarkable shooting from behind the line against his former team, and RJ Barrett came up with the last-gasp glory shot.

Each of the three standout facets of the Knicks' win had been achieved in isolation, but they had never all come in the same game, Stats Perform said.

The Knicks were able to celebrate their biggest comeback win since coming from 26 behind against Milwaukee in March 2004, while Fournier's 10 threes matched a franchise record set by JR Smith.

Barrett's buzzer-beater was the Knicks' first for over nine years, with Smith the last player to grab a win at the death with his shot against Phoenix on December 26 in 2012.

Fournier finished with 41 points, a career-best haul, and he has shone brightest in games against Boston this season, after his short-lived spell with the Celtics last season.

Only three times has Fournier topped 30 points for the Knicks, and each time Boston have been the opponents. He had 32-point games against them in October and December, and stepped it up in the latest meeting.

Fournier said, quoted in the New York Post: "Maybe there is a little bit of extra motivation, but it is not something that I do on purpose against the Celtics. But yes, three times in a row, so it is hard to say no, it is not a coincidence."

Jayson Tatum responded with 36 points for Boston, together with six rebounds and nine assists, before Barrett's pull-up jump shot for a three-pointer soared over him at the end of the game to win the day.

Barrett said: "Man, that was crazy – I didn't even really see it because I fell. I didn't see it go in but from everyone else's reaction, I knew it did."

Fournier's own feats were made all the more remarkable by the fact he failed to register a point in almost 22 minutes on court during the Knicks' previous game, a win over the Indiana Pacers two days earlier.

The Frenchman is still averaging a patchy 13.5 points per game this season, and has had scathing reviews, but for one night that disappointing start to his Knicks career did not seem to matter.

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