Kyrie Irving revelled in a hard-fought victory for the Brooklyn Nets over the Miami Heat after he went into a "winning" zone in the fourth quarter.

The Nets got back on track after consecutive defeats to the Cleveland Cavaliers by overcoming the Heat 128-124 on Saturday.

Up against an inspired Bam Adebayo, who scored a career-best 41 points, Brooklyn relied on the star power of Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden to get them over the line.

"It's not every day you see this collection of guys playing together in NBA history, so we want to take full advantage of that," Irving told reporters.

Irving proved decisive, with 18 of his 28 points coming in the fourth quarter, including three three-pointers.

"It's winning time," Irving told reporters while explaining his mentality in the final quarter.

"I've always said that throughout my career. When it gets down to that point, obviously you just want to buckle down on the defensive end, get stops, and I felt like we did that.

"We had two losses where we had to learn a lot very quickly and we just moved on to the next night. I feel like we gave the effort in spurts, and obviously we want to have more consistency in that, and that'll take time. I'm happy with the effort."

While Durant topped the Nets' scoring with 31 points, Harden also stepped up to the plate, posting 12 points and 11 assists with seven rebounds.

"It feels good not to have to score so much to give ourselves a chance to win a game," eight-time All-Star Harden said.

"I can go out there and just be a playmaker and shoot my shot when it's available and still get guys involved, and still have a chance to win the game.

"That's a change. But for me just being the player that I am, impacting the game in other ways other than scoring."

Durant, meanwhile, hailed Irving as the difference-maker.

"You've seen how special and talented and hard-working Kyrie is," Durant told reporters. "He works on all of those shots every day and he comes in with that mentality that especially late in the games he'll have to knock those down for us.

"He's an all-world player, he's a great team-mate but when the ball is in his hands late in the game, our team is just so unpredictable because he can make the pass, he can score in the mid-range, score in the three-point area, get to the basket and we've got weapons around him that makes it tough to guard.

"We're going to need that from him going forward and he was phenomenal in the fourth."

Though the Nets' star trio ultimately claimed the win, Miami's Adebayo was at his best, finishing with five rebounds and nine assists in addition to his 41 points.

"It was about time Bam had 40 in terms of getting a lot of those moves that he's been working on in the offseason," said Irving, who – against coronavirus protocols – attempted to swap jerseys with Adebayo on the court before a Heat official intervened.

"Just watching him grow since high school, be able to take over at this point for kind of an undermanned Miami team, it's good to see."

Reggie Miller hailed Stephen Curry as an inspiration after the Golden State Warriors guard went past him on the NBA's all-time three-pointers list.

The Warriors lost 127-108 to the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena on Sunday but Curry had a moment to savour when he sunk his 2,561st effort from deep.

It leaves only Ray Allen ahead of Curry on 2,973 and Miller joined the Warriors' postgame media call via Zoom to pass on some warm words.

"Congratulations, this is an unbelievable achievement," he said, accompanied on the call by his son - a self-confessed huge fan of Curry.

"I know the work is not done, I know you're chasing Ray, but you are an inspiration to so many little ones, like mine.

"I'm so proud of all the work because I know what goes into that.

"I know the countless hours, when it's easy to go hang with your boys, hit the clubs, sleep, do other things.

"But you're in the lab getting your work done."

Curry said going past Miller was "pretty special" and "something I've been looking forward to for a very long time".

"That means a lot, Reg. I appreciate it," he replied.

"Like you said, I know I have a lot more to take.

"That competitive juice, the work that goes in, the appreciation of every game I get to play - to shoot the ball at this level and follow your footsteps in that regard means a lot.

"You and Ray, to have two guys to have reached back and encouraged me the way you have means a lot. I appreciate you, man."

Even though he still needs more than 400 three-pointers to make up the ground on Allen, Curry's rate of scoring means his move to the top of the pile should only be a matter of time.

Over the course of a 715-game NBA career, he averages 3.6 per game and boasts a 43.3 per cent success rate from beyond the arc.

The Los Angeles Lakers eased to a win in the NBA on Saturday, while the Brooklyn Nets overcame the Miami Heat.

Anthony Davis posted 37 points in 28 minutes as the Lakers brushed past the Chicago Bulls 101-90 to improve to 9-0 on the road.

LeBron James had a double-double of 17 points and 11 rebounds in the comfortable win.

The Lakers (13-4) sit top of the Western Conference ahead of the red-hot Utah Jazz (12-4).

The Nets returned to winning ways after back-to-back losses, overcoming the Heat 128-124.

Kyrie Irving had 18 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter, while Kevin Durant (31 points), Joe Harris (23 points) and James Harden (12 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds) were also key contributors.

Heat star Bam Adebayo was in impressive form with 41 points.

 

Jazz win eighth straight, Embiid and Jokic star again

The Jazz made it eight straight wins as Donovan Mitchell recorded 23 points, seven rebounds and six assists in a 127-108 victory over the Golden State Warriors.

Warriors star Stephen Curry (24 points) passed Reggie Miller to move into second place for most three-pointers made in NBA history.

The Philadelphia 76ers improved to 12-5 as Joel Embiid had a double-double of 33 points and 14 rebounds in a 114-110 win against the Detroit Pistons.

Nikola Jokic's impressive season continued. The center had 29 points, 22 rebounds and six assists as the Denver Nuggets beat the Phoenix Suns 120-112 after overtime.

 

Grant struggles

Jerami Grant struggled from the field for the Pistons. He went three-of-19 for just 11 points in 35 minutes in the loss to the 76ers.

 

Curry passes Miller

Curry moved past Miller after making his 2,561st three-pointer in the NBA. Only Ray Allen (2,973) has made more.

Saturday's results

Minnesota Timberwolves 120-110 New Orleans Pelicans
Philadelphia 76ers 114-110 Detroit Pistons
Brooklyn Nets 128-124 Miami Heat
Houston Rockets 133-108 Dallas Mavericks
Utah Jazz 127-108 Golden State Warriors
Los Angeles Lakers 101-90 Chicago Bulls
Denver Nuggets 120-112 Phoenix Suns

 

Hawks at Bucks

The Milwaukee Bucks (9-6) have dropped back-to-back games ahead of hosting the Atlanta Hawks (8-7) on Sunday.

Paul George feels the Los Angeles Clippers are learning to "weather the storm" after their impressive win over his former team the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Clippers moved to 12-4, the NBA's best record along with city rivals the Lakers, with a 120-106 home win on Friday.

Their sixth consecutive win came courtesy of 31 points and eight rebounds from Kawhi Leonard.

George added 29 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while Serge Ibaka (17 points, 11 rebounds) contributed a double-double.

A run from the Thunder saw the Clippers' 27-point advantage reduced to 10 in the third quarter, but six straight points from Leonard ended that comeback attempt.

"Teams are going to make runs, regardless of if it is a top team or a young team," George, who connected with three of his seven attempts from behind the arc said, per ESPN.

"You got to learn how to win in adversity and learn how to weather the storm. 

"It's more so about us withstanding that and executing down the stretch."

The teams will play again at Staples Center on Sunday, with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander requiring special attention from his former team after an impressive 30-point, eight-assist outing for the Thunder.

"He was amazing - he had some great moves, great finishes around the basket as always," team-mate Mike Muscala said when asked about Gilgeous-Alexander. 

"He makes the game easier for everybody on the court."

But the Thunder have now lost four of their last five games, falling to 6-8 ahead of the rematch.

Meanwhile, the Clippers are 7-2 on home court and have won five consecutive home games in meetings between the two teams.

Stats Perform data shows their last home winning streak of five or more games against the franchise was a six-game home run against the Sonics from January 1990 to January 1992.

Oklahoma City have broken the 110-point mark only three times this season (3-0 in those games), fewest in the NBA, a run which will likely need to end for them to halt that streak and their recent slump.

James Harden says the Brooklyn Nets must be "more engaged" on defense after a second successive loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers again exposed their weakness.

According to Harden, who made the point repeatedly in a brisk post-game news conference, it is communication that the Nets need to work on to reach their potential.

With Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in their ranks, such potential is obviously something very special indeed.

But as Harden stressed, all their scoring power will be negated if they leak too many points to the opposition, as they did in sliding to Friday's 125-113 defeat.

It was a result that sent Brooklyn sliding to 9-8 this season, and recent arrival Harden hopes there can be improvement in the games ahead.

He said: "Our communication, our position, we never really had practice time so we're learning on the fly.

"It's just constant effort. We've got to be more accurate on loose basketballs, do a better job on rebounding basketballs, and then do a better job of keeping our man in front of us.

"There are some of the aspects we can get better on. If we do those things, then the schemes and all those plays we can figure those out later, the principles are those small things.

"I've got to be a little more aggressive. Honestly, our problem isn't offense. We scored 113 points tonight and even in the last game it was more than enough to win the game.

"Defensively we have to be more engaged."

That last game, to which Harden referred, was the 147-135 double-overtime loss to the Cavs.

The former Houston Rockets player and eight-time All-Star said it is "little tweaks" that are required, starting from Saturday's clash with the Miami Heat.

"Individually, our communication from the other four guys - the four guys that aren't guarding the ball - has to communicate on where the help is, where to send the dribbler, and just communicate, have each other's back," Harden said.

"Once our communication from all five guys are in sync, our defense will be that much better.

"But it seems like we're on an island out there and we have to all do a better job, including myself, of communicating and helping each other out defensively and that will happen."

With Durant absent after an Achilles problem, Harden bagged 19 points and 11 assists and Irving scored a game-high 38 points.

And while the combination of the three Nets superstars seems sure to click, Harden knows what the priority must be.

"As much as we can talk about scoring - we're very good at scoring - we've got to round up some stops and once we get that going we'll be in the lead on both sides of the ball, but right now our problem is defense," Harden said.

"[On Saturday] we've got another chance to get better."

Doc Rivers saluted the impact and influence of Joel Embiid after his stellar showing drove the Philadelphia 76ers to a 122-110 win over the Boston Celtics.

Two days on from scoring 42 points in seeing off the Celtics, Embiid was on it once more against the same opposition, plundering 38 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.

With Tobias Harris weighing in with 23 points from 10-of-12 shooting, and Ben Simmons coming on strong with 11 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter, Philadelphia had an irresistible combination.

"We're just growing, you can see it," coach Rivers told a post-game news conference.

"When you look at Joel's numbers - 11 from 15 - he didn't force it a lot, made some great plays out. 

"He let it comes to him. Down the stretch when they were starting to trap him, instead of winning the ball he actually was trying to get the ball to move the ball.

"It says so many things to your teammates. Then when Ben got it going it was Joel who was wanting to call the pick and rolls to get him going more.

"I like how the chemistry of this team grows each night. During COVID it's hard to try to get chemistry and you can see it growing."

Rivers applauded the "quick decisions" that Harris made in the game, declaring that on his best form he is an "unbelievable" talent.

"He's a train going downhill," Rivers said. "He's got a beautiful shot. I love how he's playing. I love what confidence he's playing with."

Even when Harris takes to showboating, Rivers is prepared to stomach it.

"It's going to happen and that's fine. He is talented enough to do it, I just don't think he's efficient when he does it."

Rivers said Simmons' impact in the closing quarter was "awesome". As well as his priceless points, Simmons also had 11 assists.

"He's doing so many things for this team. His winning formula is amazing," Rivers said. "Ben does a lot. He can't focus on one thing like focusing on just scoring, he's too good for that for me.

"It would be a waste if that's all we focused on with him.

"What I did like is he went downhill more tonight and finished at the basket. That's what he has to do and that's what we're working on."

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash was reluctant to overreact after another humbling loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but he insisted his star-studded line-up must improve as Kyrie Irving embraces the challenge.

Despite boasting Irving, James Harden and Kevin Durant, the Nets were swept by the Cavaliers in Cleveland following Friday's 125-113 defeat.

After losing 147-135 to the Cavaliers in double overtime on Wednesday, the Nets were again beaten by Cleveland, this time in the absence of Durant (Achilles rehab).

Despite boasting All-Stars and former MVPs in Irving, Harden and Durant, Brooklyn's defensive fragilities were exposed after being outrebounded 50-29 on Friday, while the Nets allowed 134 points in the paint across the two games.

"I don't want to overreact — but it is something we have to continue to chip away at," first-year coach Nash said afterwards. "We have to build that resolve, that hunger that desire to win some hustle battles, to win the turnover margin, to win the rebounding margin. Win in other ways.

"We've got a lot of things to work on. There's a lot to clean up. It's very early. It's relatively knew having Ky back after two weeks. James joining the team. Kevin sitting out tonight. It’s a lot thrown at us. So, you know, I don't want to overreact, but we are going to urge the guys to clean up as much as we can the hustle areas. But also, schematically, just continue to refine and get better and you know how this league is.

"A few days ago, we were on a four-game winning streak and now we under performed in two games. So, we've got to find a way to get ourselves playing a little cleaner, a little sharper, trying to clean up some of these categories that we're not competing well enough in."

Irving led the Nets with a game-high 38 points on the road, while Harden put up 19 points and 11 assists – his fourth double-double in as many appearances since joining in a blockbuster trade from the Houston Rockets as Brooklyn fell to 9-8 in the Eastern Conference.

Nash added: "You see you see the records. We've done well against better teams. But we've talked to them about having a target on our backs and that you're gonna get people's best shots. They'll be excited to play the guys that we have on our roster. So there's a certain element of that.

"We have to make them aware of that discrepancy in the effort against the team we're playing, but also just overall that we stick to what we will what our path is. And it's not a normal season, so it's not going to be two days between games sometimes where you can practice. It's going to be very rare. We're gonna have to really keep chipping away. It's gonna be small margins and small growth, but continually have that be our plan and not get sideways over a couple of losses.

"So we got to demand, we got to expect, we got to push and at the same time we got to understand that it's not going to be straightforward this season because of the parameters that were facing."

The Nets have dropped consecutive games since Irving returned from a seven-game absence due to personal reasons, and he said: "Whatever we have to do moving forward, like I said this was two humbling losses.

"… now we lost tonight's game, back-to-back. Now what are we gonna do? Nothing more but to pick ourselves up out there as competitors, go home, talk about it. And now we play in less than 24 hours. So I'm looking forward to the challenge with my team-mates."

Collin Sexton made history after helping the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Brooklyn Nets for the second time in three days, 125-113 in the NBA on Friday.

After scoring 42 points in a double-overtime upset of the Nets on Wednesday, Cavaliers star Sexton was at it again with 25 points and nine assists against Brooklyn in Cleveland.

Sexton became the first player in Cavs history to post 20-plus points in each of his first 10 games of the season.

It was another tough outing for the star-studded Nets, who crashed to a second consecutive loss since Kyrie Irving returned following a seven-game absence.

In the absence of Kevin Durant (Achilles rehab), Irving had a game-high 38 points, while James Harden put up 19 points and 11 assists – his fourth double-double in four games since joining the Nets in a blockbuster trade from the Houston Rockets.

Joel Embiid produced another MVP-calibre performance as the Philadelphia 76ers overcame Eastern Conference rivals the Boston Celtics 122-110.

Embiid dominated with 38 points and 11 rebounds, after his 42-point double-double against the Celtics midweek. The three-time All-Star was 11-of-15 from the field, while he made both of his three-point attempts.

Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with a game-high 42 points in Philadelphia.

 

Young and Capela soar for Hawks, Kawhi fuels Clippers

Trae Young posted a season-high 43 points and Clint Capela recorded 13 points, 19 rebounds and 10 blocks to guide the Atlanta Hawks past the Minnesota Timberwolves 116-98. Capela became the third player in Hawks history with 10 blocks in a game, joining Dikembe Mutombo and Josh Smith.

The Los Angeles Clippers beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 120-106 for their sixth straight win behind Kawhi Leonard's 31 points in LA. Paul George added 29 points of his own for the in-form Clippers, who are tied with defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers for the NBA's best record at 12-4.

Another game, another double-double for Nikola Jokic. The Denver Nuggets star tallied his 15th double-double (31 points and 10 rebounds) in 15 games this season to help secure a 130-126 OT victory at the Phoenix Suns.

Luka Doncic fell just short of a triple-double after posting 36 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds in the Dallas Mavericks' 122-117 win against the San Antonio Spurs.

Gordan Hayward finished with 34 points but the Charlotte Hornets still lost 123-110 at home to the Chicago Bulls.

 

Collin in Young's shadow

Hawks power forward John Collins has reportedly been unhappy with Young running the team's offense, but he did little to stake his own case. Collins was just two-of-eight shooting from the field for four points in 28 minutes. The rookie has been averaging 15.9 points per game this season.

The Miami Heat boast some great three-point shooters in Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn, but last season's NBA Finals participants struggled from beyond the arc in their 101-81 rout at the hands of the Toronto Raptors. Miami were just 22.6 per cent from three-point range – three of 31.

 

Brogdon calls came

Trailing 118-117, Malcolm Brogdon nailed a three-pointer with 2.8 seconds remaining as the Indiana Pacers topped the Orlando Magic 120-118 in overtime.

 

Friday's results

Chicago Bulls 123-110 Charlotte Hornets
Houston Rockets 103-102 Detroit Pistons
Indiana Pacers 120-118 Orlando Magic (OT)
Cleveland Cavaliers 123-115 Brooklyn Nets
Philadelphia 76ers 122-110 Boston Celtics
Toronto Raptors 101-81 Miami Heat
Atlanta Hawks 116-98 Minnesota Timberwolves
Dallas Mavericks 122-117 San Antonio Spurs
Denver Nuggets 130-126 Phoenix Suns (OT)
Los Angeles Clippers 120-106 Oklahoma City Thunder
Sacramento Kings 103-94 New York Knicks
Washington Wizards-Milwaukee Bucks (postponed)
Memphis Grizzlies-Portland Trail Blazers (postponed)

 

Heat at Nets

The Nets (9-8) will look to snap a run of back-to-back defeats when they host Eastern Conference rivals the Heat (6-8) on Saturday.

Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant will sit out Friday's NBA showdown with the Cleveland Cavaliers to rehabilitate his Achilles.

Durant, who has returned this season after sitting out the entire 2019-20 campaign due to an Achilles injury, played more than 50 minutes in Brooklyn's double-overtime loss to the Cavaliers on Wednesday.

With the Cleveland clash the first of back-to-back games as the Nets are also scheduled to face the Miami Heat on Saturday, Durant has been ruled out.

Durant – who injured his Achilles during his time with the Golden State Warriors in the 2019 NBA Finals – posted 38 points and 12 rebounds in Brooklyn's 147-135 defeat to the Cavaliers midweek.

The two-time NBA champion and Finals MVP became the second Net ever to post three straight 30-plus point games.

Durant – the 2014 league MVP – has been averaging 31.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game for Steve Nash's Nets (9-7) this season.

LeBron James said he was not fuelled by his MVP snub as he scored a season-high 34 points in a Los Angeles Lakers victory over Giannis Antetokounmpo's Milwaukee Bucks.

James also provided eight assists and claimed six rebounds in a 113-106 win for the NBA Western Conference leaders on Thursday.

Antetokounmpo, the NBA MVP and Defensive Player of the Year winner last season, finished with a 25-point haul but could not prevent the Bucks - third in the Eastern Conference - from slipping to 9-6.

Superstar James dismissed a suggestion he may have been out to prove a point after missing out on the MVP award last year, as the Lakers extended their franchise away record to eight consecutive wins on the road to start the season.

He told reporters: "I think you know me. I think all of you guys know me. It's never been about individual.

"It's all about the team success and that's all that matters. I can care less about that. I just try to play well and help our team win versus any opponent and that’s what it’s all about."

Lakers star Anthony Davis declared "I suck right now" after he scored 18 points, took nine rebounds, laid on six assists and came up with two blocks.

Yet James says his fellow All-Star is being too hard on himself.

"He's continuing to grow every single game. Every single film session, we kind of break those things down - what he sees on the floor," James said.

"Tonight was another example of him just seeing the other side of the floor and putting the ball on time, on target and guys knocking it down."

Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis provided a scathing assessment of his form despite another road win for the NBA champions, saying "I suck right now".

The Lakers extended their franchise away record to eight consecutive wins on the road to start the season by topping the Milwaukee Bucks 113-106 on Thursday.

LeBron James posted a season-high 34 points, while All-Star team-mate Davis had 18 points, nine rebounds, six assists and two blocks for the Western Conference-leading Lakers (12-4).

Davis, though, was far from pleased with his performance after shooting just eight-of-18 from the field and missing his only three-point attempt.

"Right now, to be hard on myself, man, I think I suck right now," Davis said post-game.

"I'm not making shots, I'm not making free throws. But I think tonight my aggressiveness, just being a poster and getting to the paint allowed guys to get open."

David added: "My aggressiveness tonight. That's the only way I feel like I'm gonna get out of this funk or whatever that I'm in.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself to be a better basketball player every game, and that's what I'm gonna continue to do."

"I trust my team-mates. AC [Alex Caruso] hit one for me. Bron hit one and Kenny [Kentavious Caldwell-Pope] hit one, and they're in the right spots where I want guys when I have the ball in the post," Davis continued.

"And just [am] able to make the read with their guys doubling or collapsing to the paint when I get there, and was able to kick it out and those guys made shots."

 

The Los Angeles Lakers stayed perfect on the road after beating the Milwaukee Bucks 113-106 in the NBA on Thursday.

LeBron James posted a season-high 34 points as defending champions the Lakers extended a franchise record after winning their eighth consecutive away game to start the season.

James also tallied eight assists and six rebounds to help the Lakers – 8-0 on the road – bounce back from a loss in the first of a seven-game road trip, upstaging reigning two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in the process.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 23 points for the Western Conference-leading Lakers (12-4) in Milwaukee, where the Bucks (9-6) dropped back-to-back games.

Antetokounmpo's double-double of 25 points and 12 rebounds were not enough for the Bucks, who also had solid contributions from Jrue Holiday (22 points) and Khris Middleton (20 points).

 

Curry stars

Stephen Curry put up 30 points, but the Golden State Warriors still went down 119-104 at home to the New York Knicks. The two-time MVP moved into fourth place on the franchise's all-time games played list after making his 714th regular-season appearance, surpassing Paul Arizin. RJ Barrett's 28 points for the Knicks were a career high.

Golden State's Eric Paschall scored his 1,000th career point in his 74th game, reaching the 1,000-point mark in the fewest amount of games played by a Warriors second round draft pick in the Modern Draft era (since 1966). Previously, Gilbert Arenas did so in 79 games.

Donovan Mitchell's season-high 36 points fuelled the Utah Jazz's 129-118 win over the New Orleans Pelicans. Mitchell was 11-of-19 shooting from the field, while he made six of eight three-point attempts. The Jazz have won seven straight games.

 

Schroder struggles in Milwaukee

Dennis Schroder failed to get going for the Lakers. The offseason recruit was just two of 10 from the field, while missing all three of his attempts from beyond the arc for four points in 33 minutes.

Kelly Oubre Jr. did not perform much better for the beaten Warriors. His seven points were on two-of-11 shooting from the field at home to the Knicks. Oubre also missed all four of his three-point attempts.

 

Steph with the behind-the-back pass

While the Warriors were unable to claim the win, Curry produced a couple of highlight moments. His behind-the-back pass to set up Draymond Green for the three-pointer was the pick of the bunch.

 

Thursday's results

Los Angeles Lakers 113-106 Milwaukee Bucks
Utah Jazz 129-118 New Orleans Pelicans
New York Knicks 119-104 Golden State Warriors

 

Celtics at 76ers

The Boston Celtics (8-5) and Eastern Conference rivals the Philadelphia 76ers (10-5) will do battle again at Wells Fargo Center on Friday after Joel Embiid's 42-point double-double inspired Doc Rivers' team midweek.

The list of Kobe Bryant's accomplishments during his 20 NBA seasons is almost too long to recount.  

Yet among his All-Star selections, championships and signature moments, his 81-point game stands out both for its historical significance and its representation of Bryant's personality and career.  

Friday marks the 15th anniversary of this astounding feat, the closest anyone has ever come to Wilt Chamberlain's NBA scoring record, a seemingly impossible 100 points.  

Chamberlain reached triple digits on March 2, 1962, in a much different NBA than the one Bryant faced. Chamberlain averaged 50.4 points per game that season while playing every minute of every game. In scoring 100 points, he led the Philadelphia Warriors to a 169-147 win over the New York Knicks.  

Bryant's feat, while falling short of the century mark, remains the gold standard for scoring in the modern game.  

On January 22, 2006, the Toronto Raptors travelled to Los Angeles to face the Lakers and were gaining confidence. After a desperate 1-15 start, Toronto's season had stabilised, and the Raptors entered Staples Center having won 10 of their previous 16 games. But Toronto had just allowed 113 points in a win against Seattle and entered the game giving up 102.2 points per game, third-most in the NBA.  

Bryant went on to make history, making 28 of his 46 field goal attempts – including 7-for-12 shooting from beyond the arc – and hitting 18 of 20 free throws.  

Perhaps the greatest testament to Bryant's achievement is that no player over the 15 years since has come particularly close to scoring 81 points in a game, despite several factors working in their favor.  

In 2005-06, a team got 79.0 field goal attempts per game on average, the fourth-slowest pace of all time. Almost any other season in NBA history would have been more likely to have an astounding scoring outburst.  

In the 1961-62 season, when Chamberlain made history, teams averaged 107.7 shots per game and attempted 37.1 free throws per game, nearly 11 more than in 2005-06.  

The league has picked up its pace since Bryant's feat as well, with teams attempting 88.8 field goals last season, giving the modern player more opportunities than Bryant had.  

The other advantage that current players have in piling up stats is the three-point shot.  

Bryant's 7-for-13 performance from deep was dynamic in 2006. Twice in the 2005-06 season, Chicago Bulls guard Ben Gordon made nine three-pointers in a game to lead the league. Only four players made more than seven threes in a game that season. The average team attempted 16.0 threes per game.  

Teams are launching an average of 35.1 three-point attempts during this young season, on pace to be the 10th in a row with an increase in long-range shooting. Ten players have already made eight or more threes in a game this season, despite most teams having played about 15 games.  

Even with a faster pace and increased frequency of long-distance barrages in the modern game, Bryant's 81-point mark still appears virtually unobtainable.  

Since that date, Devin Booker's 70 points are the high mark. There have been 19 games in which a player scored 60 or more, four by Bryant himself.  

One integral element to Bryant's scoring explosion was the composition of that Lakers team. Bryant did have Lamar Odom, but LA's other starters on that historic night were Kwame Brown, Chris Mihm and Smush Parker. The Lakers finished that season 45-37, far from a bad team, but Bryant scored 35.4 points per game as the Lakers relied on him almost entirely for scoring.  

Bryant scored 34.7 percent of the Lakers' points that season, the fourth-highest scoring share of all time. Only Chamberlain and Michael Jordan have scored a higher percentage of a team's points in a season.  

Given that profile, there are a few players who stand out as possible candidates to make a run at a historical scoring game in the foreseeable future.  

Booker, James Harden and Kemba Walker all have at least one 60-point game in their careers but now find themselves on teams with better supporting casts, making it unlikely they could get enough shots to chase history.  

Damian Lillard, however, could fit the mould perfectly. Team-mates CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic will both miss significant time due to injuries, and Lillard has crossed the 60-point barrier three times, all within the past 15 months. Add his 36.2 minutes per game – top 10 in the league – and 10.1 three-point attempts per game, and Lillard seems as likely as anyone to produce a dazzling scoring total.  

Stephen Curry scored a career-high 62 points on January 3 and will be a constant centerpiece in the Golden State Warriors' offense without Klay Thompson. While Curry is 25th in the league at 34.4 minutes per game, his historic three-point shooting makes him a constant threat.  

League scoring leader Bradley Beal remains in the mix, despite the Washington Wizards acquiring ball-hungry Russell Westbrook in the offseason. Westbrook has often taken games off due to rest, and Beal scored 60 on January 6. He also carries the advantage of getting to the free throw line 9.5 times per game, fourth in the NBA this season.  

That list ignores perennial MVP candidates Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, as well as young dynamos like Trae Young and Luka Doncic.  

The fact that there are so many candidates to make a run at 81 points without anyone coming close in the past 15 years indicates just how phenomenal Bryant's accomplishment was.  

Whether Bryant's mark lasts forever or is eventually bested, it will always be a brilliant snapshot of an all-time great player. He won championships before and after his 81-point game, but Bryant's legacy is as a scorer and a relentless competitor, perfectly represented by that gaudy scoring total 15 years ago.  

Bryant wore number eight and number 24 during his decorated career, but 81 is just as important to his legacy.

The NBA has announced the Memphis Grizzlies' next three games have been postponed in accordance with COVID-19 protocols.

Memphis had already seen Wednesday's scheduled meeting with the Portland Trail Blazers called off, the Grizzlies not having the league-required minimum of eight players available for action.

The same teams had been due to meet on Friday, however that clash will no longer be going ahead as planned.

Back-to-back games with the Sacramento Kings, set to take place on Sunday and Monday, are also postponed due to the combination of unavailable Grizzlies players and contact tracing for others on the roster. 

"The Memphis Grizzlies' next three games - Friday, January 22 at Portland and Sunday, January 24 and Monday, January 25 vs Sacramento - have been postponed in accordance with the NBA's health and safety protocols," the NBA said in a statement.

"The games are being postponed due to unavailable players for the Grizzlies and contact tracing for other players on their roster, and in order to ensure the health and safety of players on both teams."

In total, 20 games have been postponed during the NBA regular season as the competition deals with the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Grizzlies are 7-6 on the season and on a five-game winning streak. Following the postponements, they are next due to be in action on January 27, when they host the Chicago Bulls.

The Milwaukee Bucks host the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday in what most expected to be the matchup from last season's NBA Finals.

The Miami Heat put paid to that in the injury-enforced absence of reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the Lakers battled their way to the championship.

This will be their first meeting since then, though it could be lacking in star power with LeBron James questionable to appear due to a left ankle sprain.

The Bucks will be keen to bounce back and make a statement against one of the league's strongest teams after a five-game winning run ended at the hands of James Harden, Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets last time out.

The Lakers also have a point to prove, though, having suffered a fourth-quarter collapse against the Golden State Warriors in their previous outing.

Milwaukee are their first opponents on a gruelling seven-game road trip, though they are yet to be beaten away from Staples Center this season.

KEY PERFORMERS

Khris Middleton

Middleton has the best offensive rating of any of Bucks starter (126.5) and his net rating of 16.5 is only marginally bettered by Jrue Holiday (17.5).

He is making a career high 2.6 three-pointers per game this season and is doing a better job of punishing teams when he gets to the free throw line – he is shooting at 93.2 per cent from the stripe, a solid improvement on the career mark of 87.6 per cent he entered this season with.

He is not only a perpetual threat from beyond the arc, either. This season he has made 75 per cent of his field goals at the rim – that's better than Antetokounmpo (70.1 per cent).

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

There can be no doubt that James and Anthony Davis are the most important players on the Lakers roster, but Caldwell-Pope is proving that the decision to hand him a three-year, $40million contract to return to the team last November was a great decision.

He is shooting at 53.7 per cent from beyond the arc this season, second only to Seth Curry (59.5 per cent) among players with a minimum of 40 attempts in the league.

Caldwell-Pope also has the highest plus minus per game (11.4) for qualifying players in the league this season. It is a significant jump from the 2.3 he averaged over the previous campaign and shows just how much of an impact he is having early on.

KEY BATTLE: CAN DAVIS CONTAIN GIANNIS?

When the teams met back in March – before the season was shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic – Antetokounmpo drew two fouls from Davis within four minutes of the first quarter.

It piled the pressure on the Lakers, who were forced to try to defend the Bucks' best player using a backup option. But when your backup option is LeBron, you are in good hands.

Antetokounmpo ended the game with 32 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, but it was the Lakers who emerged 113-103 winners.

While defending Giannis, LeBron still shone on the offensive end and finished with 37 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and three steals.

Davis was limited to just 29 minutes due to his foul trouble and, particularly if James misses out due to his ankle injury, will need to be more disciplined on Friday.

HEAD TO HEAD

That was only the third time Antetokounmpo has faced the Lakers since LeBron joined the team ahead of the 2018-19 season and it was his first lost.

Los Angeles benefited from keeping Giannis to 47.6 per cent shooting from the field but it is not a guarantee for success – the Bucks are 20-17 when Antetokounmpo shoots below 50 per cent on at least 20 attempts.

Still, since Giannis entered the league in 2013, LeBron is 16-5 against the Bucks with an average of 27.4 points per game.

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