T.J. Warren ended a two-year exodus from the court after making his Brooklyn Nets debut in Friday's 114-105 win over the Toronto Raptors.

The small forward, who last played on December 29, 2020 with the Indiana Pacers, has been out since with a succession of surgeries for a left foot injury.

With Kyrie Irving's 27-point haul leading the hosts to victory at Barclays Center, Warren scored 10 and posted four rebounds over a 17-minute spell off the bench.

To finally get back on the floor, however, was the big success of the night for the 29-year-old, who was delighted to put his injury nightmare behind him.

"It almost felt like a dream," he said. "As soon as I checked in, it kind of hit me like, 'Wow, this is real.' Once I got up and down it was just like, 'All right, this is basketball.'.

"It was just super fun to be out there and compete with the guys."

Team-mate Kevin Durant was also happy to see Warren, who signed with the Nets in July, tick off a major milestone on his road back to the top of the professional game.

"He's a poised guy," he added. "He showed that he belongs out here. It felt like he didn't really miss too much of a [beat]. Two years he missed? It didn't feel like that.

"But we still got to be patient with him. We still understand that he had tough injuries, and he spent a lot of time away from the game, but he looked great to me."

The Nets will next face the Boston Celtics on Sunday, as they look to strengthen their hand in the Eastern Conference in the run-up to Christmas.

Kevin Durant produced his best scoring performance of the season to carry the Brooklyn Nets to a 109-102 victory against the Orlando Magic on Monday.

In a remarkably efficient outing, Durant hit 19-of-24 from the field, three-of-five from deep and all four of his free throws for 45 points in 39 minutes. He added seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks.

One of the greatest offensive players in league history, Durant has rediscovered his ability to protect the rim defensively this season, with his 1.8 blocks per game placing him eighth in the league while tying his career-high.

Durant was supported well by Kyrie Irving with 20 points on nine-of-17 shooting, but they had to see out the second half without Ben Simmons after the Australian left the game in the second quarter due to left knee soreness.

Starting center Nic Claxton picked up the slack with 17 points (seven-of-10 shooting), 13 rebounds and three blocks, while Joe Harris chipped in 17 points off the bench.

For Orlando, heavy favourite for Rookie of the Year and top overall pick from this year's draft Paolo Banchero continued to display his All-NBA upside, scoring an equal team-high 24 points on nine-of-17 shooting with five assists, four rebounds and two steals.

With the result, the Nets have now won five of their past seven games, and have pulled their record even at 11-11.

Siakam's return ignites Raptors

Pascal Siakam returned to the Toronto Raptors starting line-up and looked right at home with 18 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in a 100-88 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Siakam had missed the past 10 games due to a strained adductor, but mustered 30 minutes in his first game back.

O.G. Anunoby top scored for the Raptors with 20 points on eight-of-13 shooting, while in an interesting coaching decision, Nick Nurse opted to start Juancho Hernangomez and bring reigning Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes off the bench.

After starting the season with Siakam as the biggest player in the Raptors' starting line-up, Nurse pivoted to a larger group in his return, with Gary Trent Jr also relegated to the bench in favour of Thaddeus Young.

'Point Zion' orchestrates Pelicans win

With C.J. McCollum and Brandon Ingram both missing through injuries, Zion Williamson assumed the role of lead initiator in the New Orleans Pelicans' 105-101 triumph against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Williamson, who largely operated as the lead ball-handler during the second half of his breakout 2020-21 campaign, dished a season-high eight assists to go with his 23 points (11-of-18 shooting) and eight rebounds.

He did it on both ends, as his three blocks nearly matched his total for the season, having only tallied a combined four from his first 14 games

LeBron James scored a season-high 39 points with seven three-pointers to lift the Los Angeles Lakers to their fifth win from their past six games, beating the San Antonio Spurs 143-138 on Saturday.

James, in his second game back from a groin injury, scored 23 of his 39 points in the second half, shooting seven-of-12 from beyond the arc along with having 11 rebounds and three assists. The four-time MVP's seven three-pointers was a joint career high.

The Lakers were without Anthony Davis due to a minor calf contusion, with guard Dennis Schroder contributing 21 points and six assists.

Russell Westbrook also came off the bench to add 11 points, seven rebounds and six assists, linking up with James to set up a one-handed dunk just before half-time.

Westbrook was left bloodied after he suffered a deep cut to his forehead in the third quarter after an elbow from Zach Collins but played on.

The win improved the Lakers' record to 7-11, while it consigned the Spurs to their eighth-straight defeat, slumping to 6-15 overall.

The Spurs' losing streak is their equal fourth worst in franchise history. Their worst is 13 straight from 1989.

Keldon Johnson top scored for San Antonio with 26 points and 10 rebounds, while Tre Jones added 23 points with 13 assists.

DA and Booker lift Suns past Jazz

Deandre Ayton scored 29 points with 21 rebounds as the Phoenix Suns held off the Utah Jazz 123-122 for their fourth consecutive victory to improve to 13-6.

Devin Booker contributed 27 points on eight-of-27 field shooting, scoring 10-of-11 from the free-throw line, with 11 rebounds and seven assists for the Suns, who trailed by 10 at quarter-time. Nine of Ayton's 21 rebounds were offensive as he brought up a rare 20/20 double-double.

The Suns only managed six-of-22 from beyond the arc but the Jazz could not capitalise, giving up 12 turnovers. Jordan Clarkson top scored for Utah with 22 points.

Doncic's Mavs beaten by Raptors

The Dallas Mavericks lost their third straight game as Luka Doncic was kept to 24 points in a 105-100 loss to the Toronto Raptors.

Raptors small forward O.G. Anunoby scored 12 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter, top scoring alongside Fred VanVleet with 26, while Chris Boucher added a season-high 22 points with 13 rebounds.

NBA leading scorer Doncic shot eight-of-15 from the field and two-of-four from beyond the arc for the Mavs, with seven rebounds, nine assists and two steals.

Kyrie Irving was thrilled with the Brooklyn Nets' response to the "internet uproar" from Tuesday's 115-106 loss to the short-handed Philadelphia 76ers in Wednesday's 112-98 road win over the Toronto Raptors.

Irving led the way for the Nets with a team-high 29 points, including 19 in the third quarter, as they bounced back after being "embarrassed" by the 76ers who were missing Joel Embiid, James Harden and Tyrese Maxey.

The win improved the Nets to 9-10, fueled by a 39-25 third quarter where Irving scored three triples.

"We're in the business of winning," Irving told reporters after the game.

"We'll take this one, especially after last night's loss, and the whole internet going up in an uproar in terms of how embarrassed we should be, which is true.

"We just wanted to make sure we paid attention to detail tonight. We came out and responded."

Nets teammate Ben Simmons, who had his fifth straight game with 10 points or more, praised Irving for his role in the win.

"Just being Kyrie, that's what we want him to do, just be himself," Simmons said. "Have that confidence to come out and take those shots and be who he is.

"He's an incredible player, an incredible teammate, I'm glad he had a night like tonight."

Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn said his side had learned and applied valuable lessons from losses to short-handed opponents lately, including their 116-103 defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers missing LeBron James along with the 76ers.

"It really was a standard that we have to have for each other," Vaughn said. "A big piece of that is holding each other in a higher standard.

"I thought from the beginning of the game you saw that, a lot more talk from each other, a lot more communication and demand from each other which was great to see."

Kevin Durant was held to only 12 points for the game, but passed Kevin Garnett to be 18th on the NBA all-time points scorers' list.

Joel Embiid had an injury scare late as the short-handed Philadelphia 76ers charged home but ultimately fell short in a 112-109 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday.

Embiid appeared to roll his left ankle when he tripped over teammate Georges Niang with 5:53 remaining in the fourth quarter. He writhed in pain on the ground and was attended to by a trainer before hobbling to the bench at Wells Fargo Center.

The Sixers center played the game out but limped throughout yet nailed a three-pointer to make it 105-102, before Timberwolves top scorer Anthony Edwards steadied it with his second triple of the game.

Embiid finished with 32 points, including making 18-of-20 from the free-throw line, with nine rebounds, six assists and three steals for the Sixers, who were without James Harden and Tyrese Maxey due to foot injuries.

Shake Milton added 27 points, while De'Anthony Melton made five three-pointers in his 19-point haul. Melton's three with 29.1 seconds remaining moved the 76ers within one point, before he missed a lay-up and Edwards iced the game from the stripe. The Sixers had trailed by 20 points but rallied with a 25-15 fourth quarter.

For the winners, Edwards had 25 points with five rebounds and five assists, while point guard D'Angelo Russell scored 19 points with seven assists.

French center Rudy Gobert scored eight points with 13 rebounds and Karl-Anthony Towns added 12 points with eight rebounds.

The result leaves both sides with 8-8 records, with the Timberwolves having won three straight. Embiid's 32 points means he is averaging 41.25 across his past four games.

Trae shines as Hawks win with OT buzzer-beater

Trae Young fed A.J. Griffin under the basket for a buzzer-beating two-pointer in overtime as the Atlanta Hawks defeated the Toronto Raptors 124-122.

Young took an inbound pass with 3.8 seconds remaining in overtime with scores tied, racing clear as Griffin - who is the son of Raptors assistant coach Adrian Griffin - got behind the defense, allowing the Hawks guard to find him wide open for a routine lay-up in the nick of time.

Atlanta hauled in a seven-point deficit with 2:36 to go in the fourth quarter, led by Young, who finished with 33 points on 12-of-21 shooting with 12 assists. Scottie Barnes had a season-high 28 points for injury-hit Toronto, who only dressed nine players.

George hurt as Clippers blow out Spurs

Paul George hit three first-half three-pointers before being ruled out with knee soreness at half-time while Kawhi Leonard's impact was limited again but the Los Angeles Clippers blew out the San Antonio Spurs 119-97.

George played 15 first-half minutes, scoring 21 minutes on five-of-eight three-point shooting, while Leonard played 22 minutes for 11 points with four assists in his second game back after stiffness in his surgically repaired knee.

Norman Powell came off the bench to score a game-high 26 points, with five-of-seven three-point shooting, as the Clippers improved to 9-7. The Clippers hit 13 first-half triples and finished with 21 for the game on 53.8 per cent three-point shooting.

It was not Jimmy Butler's best offensive game of the season, but he was crucial in their narrow 113-112 home win against the Phoenix Suns on Monday.

The Suns led 102-89 with just eight minutes remaining, before Heat center Bam Adebayo took over, scoring 12 points to ignite a 24-10 run to close the contest.

Adebayo's two free throws with 35 seconds on the clock gave the Heat the lead, but an offensive rebound on the Suns' next possession would give Devin Booker a chance to win the game.

Pulling up from mid-range, Booker was blanketed by five-time NBA All-Defensive selection Butler for a game-winning blocked shot.

Adebayo led the way scoring the ball for Miami, finishing with a game-high 30 points on nine-of-18 shooting and 10 rebounds, but Butler was doing everything else, chipping in 13 rebounds, seven assists, a steal and the decisive block to go with his 16 points (five-of-12 shooting).

Booker played well for the Suns, posting a team-high 25 points on 11-of-22 shooting with eight rebounds, five assists and three steals, while Duane Washington Jr caught fire off the bench for 21 points (eight-of-14) in 19 minutes.

The win pulls the Heat's record even at 7-7, while the Suns are still in a good position at 8-5.

Tatum leads Celtics comeback

Jayson Tatum flashed incredible defensive ability in the Boston Celtics' 126-122 come-from-behind win against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Young Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his ridiculous start to the season, eclipsing 30 points for the ninth time in 14 games. He had 37 points on 13-of-26 shooting with eight assists, raising his averages to 31.1 points, 5.7 assists and 4.4 rebounds while shooting 54.3 per cent from the field.

But Tatum and running-mate Jaylen Brown were too much in the fourth quarter, leading a 37-26 final frame to swing the game in their favour. Tatum had 27 points on nine-of-23 shooting, but he was even better defensively, snatching three steals and blocking three shots.

Dalano Banton makes the most of his Raptors start

A second-round pick from the 2021 NBA Draft, Toronto Raptors point-forward Dalano Banton was tremendous in his side's 115-111 triumph on the road against the Detroit Pistons.

In his first start of the season due to Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and Gary Trent Jr all missing through injuries, the six-foot-seven Banton scored a game-high 27 points on nine-of-16 shooting, adding four rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks in his 25 minutes.

The Raptors are now 8-7, and will be considered a threat in the Eastern Conference once fully healthy.

Donovan Mitchell's spectacular start to life with the Cleveland Cavaliers continued against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, scoring 33 points in a 114-100 win.

Mitchell's 33 points was a game-high, and he delivered his production efficiently, hitting 10-of-17 from the field and 12-of-13 from the free throw line.

Through his first eight games with the Cavs since being acquired from the Utah Jazz in an offseason trade, Mitchell is averaging 31.1 points and 7.1 assists per game – both comfortably above his career-highs (26.4 points and 5.3 assists).

He was supported strongly by fellow All-Star Darius Garland, who chipped in 24 points (seven-of-18) and seven assists, while Kevin Love contributed a double-double (10 points and 10 rebounds) in 20 minutes off the bench.

For the Lakers, LeBron James was strong with 27 points on 13-of-23 shooting, adding seven rebounds and four assists, and Russell Westbrook posted 19 points (six-of-13) with 10 assists as he continues to produce well in a sixth-man role.

Cleveland are now 8-1, and are one of only two teams, along with the 9-0 Milwaukee Bucks, who are yet to record their second loss.

VanVleet steps up in Siakam's absence

With the Toronto Raptors' top option Pascal Siakam out for at least the next two weeks, Fred VanVleet stepped up and led his team to a 113-104 victory against the Chicago Bulls.

VanVleet finished with 30 points on nine-of-22 shooting, and also added 11 assists in an offensive masterclass from the diminutive point guard, posting a plus/minus of plus 27 in his 39 minutes. That means in the nine minutes VanVleet was on the bench, the Raptors were outscored by 18.

Starting in the place of Siakam was rookie Christian Koloko, and he made a big impression as he blocked six shots with his 11 points and seven rebounds.

Alex Caruso produced a noteworthy performance for the Bulls, finishing with an unconventional double-double as he collected 11 rebounds and 11 assists, while shooting one-of-11 for four points.

Bane, Morant carry the Grizzlies 

Desmond Bane and Ja Morant combined for nearly half of the Memphis Grizzlies' points in their 103-97 win against the Washington Wizards.

While Morant struggled with his efficiency, only hitting nine of his 27 shots on his way to 23 points, Bane was terrific, scoring 28 on nine-of-16 shooting. 

The Grizzlies are now 7-3, and Bane has been at the centre of their early success, elevating himself to potentially an All-Star level in his third season as he is averaging 24.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists while shooting 46 per cent from long-range.

Jayson Tatum's 36 points ended up being just enough for the Boston Celtics to overcome the Chicago Bulls 123-119 on Friday.

In front of Boston's home fans, the Celtics used a 37-26 second quarter to fight back from a sluggish start and take a 63-57 lead into the halftime break.

Chicago's DeMar DeRozan would try to will his side back into the contest in the third period, putting up 16 points in the quarter to trim the lead to 88-85 and set up a thrilling final term.

DeRozan added another 11 points in the fourth, going on to finish with a game-high 46 as he lived at the free throw line. He hit 13 of his 23 field goal attempts, and added another 20 points from his 22 free throw attempts.

Tatum put together his big game in a similar fashion, although he was less efficient from the field. He finished eight-of-23, but hit 17-of-20 from the free throw line, and had 11 points of his own in the final quarter to repel the Bulls' late charge.

Tatum's running-mate Jaylen Brown had a quieter game, scoring 16 points on six-of-14 shooting, but Malcolm Brogdon rose to the occasion off the Celtics' bench. 

Brogdon was clearly Boston's second-best player, shooting a hyper-efficient nine-of-10 from the field to put up 25 points and four assists in 29 minutes.

Luka magic leads to eighth straight 30-point performance

Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks is now one of two players to ever score at least 30 points in the first eight games of an NBA season, putting up 35 in a 111-110 win against the Toronto Raptors.

Doncic joins the great Wilt Chamberlain in that honour, with the 'Big Dipper' accomplishing it on two occasions. Chamberlain started the 1959-60 season with eight consecutive 30-point games, before hitting that benchmark in the first 23 games of the 1962-63 season for a record that will likely never be broken.

The 23-year-old Slovenian was 10-of-15 from the field for his 35 points, and he added eight rebounds, six assists, three steals and a block.

O.G. Anunoby was the shining light for the Raptors, putting up 27 points (11-of-21 shooting) with seven rebounds and five steals.

Mathurin shows star potential for the Pacers

Indiana Pacers rookie Bennedict Mathurin flashed some intriguing upside as he scored 23 points off the bench in a 101-99 upset win against the Miami Heat.

Mathurin, the sixth overall pick from this year's NBA Draft, has now scored at least 23 points in four of his nine NBA games, and has only scored fewer than 15 points on one occasion.

The six-foot-six scoring wing was five-of-11 from the field, three-for-seven from long range and 10-of-12 from the free throw line in a well-rounded performance, finishing with a plus/minus of plus four in his 37 minutes.

Bucks win again, remain undefeated

The Milwaukee Bucks, who are still missing All-Star Khris Middleton, continue to look like the best team in the league after moving to 8-0 with a convincing 115-102 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

In a game where two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo was not scoring the ball efficiently, finishing with 26 points on seven-of-17 shooting and a poor 10-of-20 from the free throw line, Jrue Holiday picked up the slack.

To Antetokounmpo's credit, he also added 13 rebounds and 11 assists for a strong triple-double, but Holiday was the star of the show, shooting 50 per cent from the field (12-of-24) for his 29 points, while grabbing eight rebounds, dishing six assists and snatching two steals to round out a terrific performance.

It is the first time in the Bucks' franchise history they have started a season 8-0.

With Joel Embiid out of the line-up for the Philadelphia 76ers' trip to take on the Toronto Raptors, it was third-year guard Tyrese Maxey rising to the challenge to set a new career-high points total in the 112-90 win.

Maxey, who prior to Friday had only ever scored more than 33 points once – a 39-point effort against the Denver Nuggets as a rookie – set a new personal-best with 44 points against the Raptors.

He was incredibly efficient, hitting 15-of-20 from the field and nine-of-12 from three-point range, while also leading the 76ers with eight rebounds and chipping in four assists.

Former league MVP James Harden was happy to cede the responsibility to his less-experienced running-mate, finishing with just 11 points, four rebounds and four assists as he assumed a supporting role.

It was also a breakout performance for De'Anthony Melton, who was given his first start in a 76ers uniform after being acquired in the offseason and made his presence felt defensively, snatching five steals to go with his 13 points, six assists and five rebounds.

Speaking to the media after the game, Maxey said his big night was simply the product of the offense running smoothly.

"It was [about] getting good looks," he said. "We got to the paint, sprayed off for threes, got in transition, and once you get stops, the game becomes way easier honestly, for not just myself, but for all of us.

"We were getting to the paint and driving and kicking, creating, generating offense for everybody. That’s why I got open threes, why [Melton] got open threes, Tobias [Harris] got open threes. 

"I just know how good we can be, I know how talented we are, but we’ve got to match our talent with the energy that we play with, and defensive tenacity.

"Tonight we knew it was going to be extremely hard without Joel. That made guys step up, that made guys do things they don’t normally do."

Teammate Matisse Thybulle was thrilled to see Maxey shine, but he said it was no surprise.

"Every time he gets an opportunity, he does something big with it," he said. "You could even take it back to the COVID games we were looking at our bench, like who’s gonna be the one to step up? 

"Tyrese Maxey did – and it’s like, time after time – Tyrese is the one that steps up, shows up big and he does it, obviously, as an individual, but for the team, and we all benefit from it."

Head coach Doc Rivers also enjoyed the show, and he pointed to it as an indicator of how well the 76ers adjusted without their star center.

"I just think he’s a heck of a basketball player," he said. "We came into the game knowing Joel wasn’t gonna play… we talked to [the rest of the team] this morning about trying to find matchups and then spacing the floor and attacking.

"They are a great help-defensive team and they can’t stop it. Us getting into the paint sucked everybody in, and that’s where we got shots. I thought we were ready for that and I thought we did a good job."

After starting the season with three consecutive losses, the 76ers have now won two of their past three to take a 2-4 record into their road trip against the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night.

Giannis Antetokounmpo went up a gear in the second half while Steve Nash was ejected for the first time as a head coach as the Milwaukee Bucks downed the Brooklyn Nets 110-99 on Wednesday.

Antetokounmpo scored 34 of his 43 points in the second half – 28 of those coming in the paint - as the Bucks put the foot down with a 67-44 after half-time at Fiserv Forum. 

The Greek forward backed up his 44 points against the Houston Rockets on Saturday, meaning his 87 points in their past two games is the most across a two-game span in his 10-year NBA career.

The Nets were leading 70-66 in the third quarter when Nash was ejected after being incensed by a non-call from the officials after Antetokounmpo bumped into Patty Mills.

Kevin Durant scored 33 points on 10-of-23 shooting from the field with six rebounds and five turnovers, while Kyrie Irving added 27 points for the Nets who led by as much as 12 points.

Ben Simmons battled again with four points on two-of-seven field shooting with none-of-two from the stripe, along with four personal fouls. Simmons has nine field goals and 18 personal fouls in four games this season.

The Bucks shot at 56 per cent from the field in the second half, with Antetokounmpo supported well by Bobby Portis with 20 points and 11 rebounds.

LeBron's Lakers' winless start drags on

LeBron James' Los Angeles Lakers slumped to an 0-4 start after Nikola Jokic put in a dominant display to lead the Denver Nuggets to a 110-99 victory.

Jokic scored 31 points with 13 rebounds and nine assists for the Nugs, who were far better defensively. The Serbian led both teams outright in points, rebounds and assists for the 85th time in his career, which is the most by a center in NBA history.

James, who fell to an 0-4 start for the second time of his career and first since his 2003-04 rookie season, managed 19 points with seven rebounds and nine assists, while Anthony Davis had 22 points with 14 rebounds. Russell Westbrook was out injured.

The Lakers' NBA-worst three-point struggles continued, albeit with a slightly improved eight-of-30 (27 per cent) from beyond the arc.

Sixers' struggles continue as Trent Jr sparkles

The Philadelphia 76ers' early season struggles continued too, going down 119-109 to the Toronto Raptors, leaving them with a 1-4 record.

The Sixers' record is their fifth 1-4 or worse start through five games. Philadelphia were 1-4 in 2017-18 yet made the playoffs, but missed out on the other three occasions when they were 0-3.

Joel Embiid scored 31 points with five rebounds and Tyrese Maxey impressed with 31 points including four three-pointers. Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr bettered him with five triples, scoring 27 points, while Pascal Siakam added 20 points and 13 assists.

Ben Simmons is "starting to show the player he can be", according to his coach Steve Nash after the Australian played a role in the Brooklyn Nets' win against the Toronto Raptors.

Simmons played over 32 minutes at Barclays Center on Friday, scoring six points and recording 10 rebounds and eight assists.

Kevin Durant (30 points) and Kyrie Irving (27) led the scoring for the Nets in a 109-105 victory, edging out Toronto despite an impressive triple-double from Pascal Siakam (37 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists).

Simmons played his first game in 16 months on Wednesday in defeat to the New Orleans Pelicans and struggled to make an impact, fouling out during his 23-minute appearance.

He was much-improved in Friday's win, though, and Nash expressed his pride for the 26-year-old, saying post-game: "From the jump he was more aggressive - he got in the paint, every time he gets in the paint he causes problems. 

"He's starting to show the player he can be, and I still think he's got a ways to go, so really proud of him. He shook off the first night, and I thought he was much more aggressive in an important game for us."

The player himself revealed Nash has been telling him to "Just attack, just be me," adding: "It's easy to say, but to go and do it, it's tough. But that's on me. Keep pushing myself."

A stunning 49-point outburst from Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant carried his side back from a 16-point first-half deficit to defeat the Houston Rockets 129-122 on Friday.

Morant had 18 points and six assists in the first half, but the rest of the Grizzlies were struggling, falling into a 42-26 hole early in the second quarter before trimming the margin to 70-62 at halftime.

The second pick from the 2021 NBA Draft, Jalen Green, showed why Rockets fans are so excited as he piled up 33 points on 13-of-21 shooting while going four-of-five from long range, but Morant was matching him step-for-step before running away late.

Memphis won the fourth quarter 34-22 as the Rockets ran out of gas, with Morant finishing 17-of-26 from the field, and five-of-six from long range, while adding eight assists, four rebounds, two blocks and a steal. He had 31 in the second half, and only a missed free throw in the fourth quarter kept him from scoring 50.

In an eye-catching performance, second-year center Alperen Sengun tallied 23 points (nine-of-13 shooting) with 12 rebounds in 27 minutes off the Houston bench.

Beal wins it for the Wizards

The Washington Wizards are now 2-0 after a Bradley Beal game-winner with seven seconds remaining handed his side a 102-100 win over the Chicago Bulls.

Chicago trailed by nine points with less than five minutes to play, but from that point on DeMar DeRozan dropped 11 of his 32 points (11-of-23 shooting), tying things up at 98-98 with a minute remaining after a pair of free throws.

Beal answered back with a layup, and DeRozan leveled the score again with a dunk, before Beal sank the dagger to finish with 19 points (nine-of-14 shooting) and eight assists. DeRozan had a chance to win it with a three-pointer on the buzzer, but could not deliver.

Brown and Tatum carry the Celtics

The combination of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum proved too much for the Miami Heat to overcome, with the duo combining for 57 points in the Boston Celtics' 111-104 triumph.

Tatum finished with 29 points on 10-of-22 shooting, getting to the line and hitting all seven of his free throws, while Brown was more efficient from the field, hitting 12-of-18 shots for 28 points after they scored 35 each in Boston's season opener.

The Heat could not survive in the minutes center Bam Adebayo had to sit down, as the big man posted 19 points (eight-of-11 shooting) with eight rebounds, five assists, two steals and a plus/minus of plus 20 in his 35 minutes. Unfortunately for Miami, they were minus 26 in the 12 minutes he was on the bench.

Simmons banks first win as a Net

The Brooklyn Nets won their first game with Ben Simmons as they defeated the Toronto Raptors 109-105 at home.

Simmons was solid without contributing much on the scoreboard, finishing with six points (three-of-five shooting), but he grabbed 10 rebounds, dished eight assists and blocked two shots.

Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant carried the scoring load, as Irving top-scored, producing 30 points on 11-of-24 shooting while adding seven assists, while Durant hit eight-of-18 shots for 27 points and six assists.

The New Orleans Pelicans sent a statement to the rest of the league with a 130-108 pounding of the Brooklyn Nets in their opening game of the season on Wednesday night.

Playing away from home, the Pelicans enjoyed a red-hot start, with eight points in the first quarter from Zion Williamson helping to build a 32-14 lead at the first break.

The Nets showed some fight in the second quarter, putting up 36 points in the frame to trim the margin to 58-50 as Kevin Durant had 21 in the first half, but the Pelicans came out of halftime and dropped 40 points in the third period to put the game to bed.

In his first game since May 2021, Williamson looked in tremendous shape, scoring 25 points on 11-of-22 shooting while adding nine rebounds, three assists and four steals. 

He was supported in fine fashion by Brandon Ingram, who top-scored for the Pelicans with 28 points (10-of-17 shooting), seven rebounds and five assists, and C.J. McCollum chipped in 21 points and six assists as well.

For the Nets, Durant showed he is still arguably the best scorer in the league with 32 points on 11-of-21 shooting, and he also tallied four blocks in an impressive two-way performance despite his team's shortcomings.

Box-office Banchero validates top draft selection 

Paolo Banchero was not thought to be an option for the Orlando Magic with the first overall pick until the day of the NBA Draft, but he showed exactly why they took him with a spectacular debut in a 113-109 loss on the road to the Detroit Pistons.

Banchero shattered the Magic record for points by a debuting rookie – previously set at 13 – with 27 on 11-of-18 shooting, and he also grabbed nine rebounds and dished five assists in a complete performance, posting a plus/minus of plus two in his 35 minutes.

It was a great debut for rookie Jaden Ivey as well, who the Pistons selected with the fifth overall pick, as he put up 19 points on eight-of-15 shooting with four assists and three steals.

Ivey complemented last year's top pick Cade Cunningham beautifully, with Cunningham running the show on his way to 18 points (six-of-16 shooting) and 10 assists, while newly acquired Bojan Bogdanovic top-scored for Detroit with 24 points on eight-of-16 shooting after hitting six of his first seven three-point attempts.

Morant lifts the Grizzlies in overtime

Ja Morant had his potential game-winner wiped off the board due to a contentious charging foul, but his Memphis Grizzlies got the job done at home in overtime to defeat the New York Knicks 115-112.

Morant was the game's top-scorer with 34 points on 11-of-24 shooting, and his nine assists was equal with New York's Jalen Brunson for the most in the contest.

Starting in place of the injured Jaren Jackson Jr, Santi Aldama gave a good performance with 18 points (seven-of-14 shooting) and 11 rebounds, while Julius Randle was the Knicks' best player, scoring 24 points (nine-of-16 shooting) with 11 rebounds and six assists.

Mitchell shines in Cavaliers debut despite loss

The Cleveland Cavaliers were treated to a terrific debut from star offseason acquisition Donovan Mitchell, but it was not enough to overcome an early Darius Garland injury in a 108-105 road loss to the Toronto Raptors.

All-Star point guard Garland only played 13 minutes before his night ended with a rough poke to the eye in the second quarter. Taking over some of Garland's point guard responsibilities, Mitchell dished off nine assists as well as leading the game in scoring with 31 on 12-of-21 shooting.

All five Raptors starters scored at least 15 points in classic Toronto fashion, with Pascal Siakam tallying 23 on nine-of-20 shooting with 11 rebounds and four steals, while reigning Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes had 15 points (seven-of-14 shooting) with seven assists and a game-high plus/minus of plus 20 in his 32 minutes.

The NBA season is finally here, with the Golden State Warriors looking to defend their title after defeating the Boston Celtics in this year's NBA Finals.

Golden State will have plenty of serious opposition in their way if they are to go back-to-back, as some powerhouses – like the Los Angeles Clippers and the Milwaukee Bucks – return to full health.

The list of contenders this year may be as deep as it has ever been, with the Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns all definitely believing they have what it takes, and young sides like the Memphis Grizzlies and the Minnesota Timberwolves going all-in with the cores they have assembled.

After one of the best rookie classes in recent memory last season, this year's draftees have plenty to live up to, so to preview the season, we will start at the top.

Who are the favourites?

Despite not making the NBA Finals this past season, any conversation about potential champions in 2022-23 begins with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks.

The Bucks took the Celtics to Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals, and that was while they were missing their second-best player as Khris Middleton was sidelined for the entire series after suffering a knee injury in the first round. 

There is a convincing case to be made that they would have gone back-to-back with a healthy Middleton, but instead, the Warriors were able to take care of business in the Finals and collect the fourth championship of the Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green era.

Golden State return almost their full team, and with even marginal improvement from second-year lottery picks Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga, they will be one of the deepest rosters in the league, and will have the ammunition to put together one of the better trade packages if a disgruntled star appears around the deadline.

The Celtics will likely remain one of the best defensive units in the league, and will therefore always have a chance in the playoffs, and if the Warriors are not to come out of the Western Conference, the Nuggets or the Clippers are finally healthy and poised to make some noise.

Who are the dark horses?

Despite winning the title in 2019, the Toronto Raptors will come into this season extremely under the radar in what is now a loaded Eastern Conference.

One of the biggest and most athletic teams in the league, the thing working in the Raptors' favour may also be the point working against them – they brought back almost the exact same team.

Focal points Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam are still only 28 years old, while O.G. Anunoby profiles as a potentially elite wing at 25-years-old, and 21-year-old second-year point forward Scottie Barnes is the reigning Rookie of the Year.

They were the five seed last year despite all of their starters missing significant time, and with their championship experience and natural improvement, they will be in the mix by default.

Out West, it's hard to go past the New Orleans Pelicans, who will have one of the best starting fives in the NBA.

With C.J. McCollum, Brandon Ingram and surprise packet Herb Jones on the perimeter, along with Jonas Valanciunas and the returning Zion Williamson inside, that group will be a tough out if Williamson can remain healthy.

 

Who will win Rookie of the Year?

The clear favourite to take home the honour as the best first-year player is the Orlando Magic's Paolo Banchero, who was selected first overall in June's NBA Draft.

Banchero – who at six-foot-10 and 250lbs is the same size as prime DeMarcus Cousins despite playing on the perimeter – has essentially been tasked with being the saviour of the franchise, and will have significant playmaking and scoring responsibilities from day one.

He could realistically average somewhere in the range of 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game if the franchise truly decides to put the ball in his hands and let him run the show, and he is the only player in the class that can be said about.

His biggest competition – literally – was the Oklahoma City Thunder seven-footer Chet Holmgren, who was taken second overall, but will miss the entire season after suffering a fracture in his foot in the preseason.

Third pick Jabari Smith Jr will likely be more of an off-ball player in year one, limiting his ability to rack up massive counting stats, and fifth pick Jaden Ivey will be sharing the floor with last year's top overall selection Cade Cunningham with the Detroit Pistons, where Cunningham is unquestionably the star.

Keegan Murray, the fourth overall pick by the Sacramento Kings, profiles as one of the better all-around scorers in the draft and will have the opportunity to make his mark, and Shaedon Sharpe showed some intriguing flashes in the preseason after not playing a single game of competitive basketball since graduating from high school, still earning the seventh overall pick by the Portland Trail Blazers.

 

Quick hitters:

Pelicans wing Herb Jones was never going to receive the credit he deserved last year as a 23-year-old second-round draft pick, but the rookie was quietly one of the best defensive players in the league last season.

As a rookie, he was guarding the best opposing perimeter player every night for the Pelicans, suiting up for 78 of the 82 regular season games and finishing top-10 in the league in deflections per game (3.1).

He is one of the only wings in the NBA who is tasked with carrying his side defensively, and health permitting, he will be honoured on the NBA All-Defensive teams this season.

– For those who do not play fantasy basketball, it must be a shock to hear Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton has emerged as a first-round pick, but the unbelievably efficient 22-year-old is in position to have an explosive breakout season.

After being traded to the Pacers last season, Haliburton averaged 17.5 points, 9.6 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists while shooting 50 per cent from the field, 41 per cent from three and 85 per cent from the free throw line, putting him in the top echelon of efficient guard scorers and playmakers.

With established veterans Buddy Hield and Myles Turner both reportedly on the trading block as the Pacers enter themselves into the Victor Wembanyama sweepstake, their departure would only amplify the massive season coming from the former Sacramento draft pick.

– The Cleveland Cavaliers will have their sights set on the playoffs this season after their aggressive trade for former Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell – but he may not even be the best guard on the Cavs roster.

Last season was a coming out party for point guard Darius Garland, who appears to be next up in the archetype of deep-shooting, slick-passing, small initiators. 

He shot a career-best 46 per cent from the field this past season while attempting a career-high 6.7 three-pointers per game, and he was also one of the best passers in the league, averaging 8.6 assists and forming spectacular chemistry with fellow All-Star and alley-oop partner Jarrett Allen.

Mitchell will bring a level of perimeter scoring and playoff pedigree to the Cavaliers that is desperately needed to lower the demands on Garland late in games, but it will be Garland running this team for the first 46 minutes.

The Boston Celtics have emerged as a possible trade destination for Kevin Durant, according to reports.

The 12-time All-Star forward rocked the Brooklyn Nets by requesting a trade last month, having joined the franchise in 2019.

Having won back-to-back NBA titles in 2017 and 2018 during his time with the Golden State Warriors, being named the finals' MVP on both occasions, Durant has reportedly shown signs of discontent with the Nets' failure to compete for a first-ever NBA title.

The Nets' 2022 playoff campaign was halted by a first-round defeat to the Celtics, who now appear to be in the hunt for Durant's signature.

According to a report from ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Celtics' ability to include 2021 All-star forward Jaylen Brown in any deal makes them a strong contender to acquire Durant, who is under contract until 2026.

Durant is expected to command a huge trade package, and ESPN claim Boston could offer as many as three unprotected first-round picks and two pick swaps alongside Brown's services.

The Miami Heat, the Phoenix Suns and the Toronto Raptors have also been credited with an interest in Durant, who led the Nets with an average of 29.9 points per game across his 2021-22 regular-season campaign, posting a 36-19 record in his 55 outings.

Page 1 of 15
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.