LeBron James had a homecoming to remember and his inspirations in a 46-point showing against the Cleveland Cavaliers were Tom Brady, his mom's cooking and an over-excited executive.

Superstar James guided the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Lakers to a 115-108 win on the road on what was his first return to Cleveland in two years.

James really turned it on in the fourth quarter, making nine of 10 shots including an outstanding 34-foot three-point effort that put the Lakers five points in front.

His last-quarter heroics followed James taking exception to an unidentified member of the Cavs' front office reacting a little too heartily to a missed shot towards the end of the third.

"It's someone I know for sure, I felt like he was just a little too excited about seeing me miss. That's what happened," James said. 

"I know who he is, he's part of the front office group. He was really excited about me missing that shot, a little bit more extra than I would have liked. He's gotta root for his team obviously, he showcased that. I knew I had another quarter and the fourth quarter is my favourite.

"The good thing for him is I only come here once. It's all good. He didn't say a word, he was just a little too excited about me missing a shot. There's a million cameras in these arenas, y'all just gotta find a shot of how excited he was. I didn't take it well."

But James, who was 73.1 per cent from the field and 63.6 per cent from the three-point range, also drew inspiration from seeing veteran quarterback Tom Brady lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Super Bowl, while enjoying some home comforts courtesy of his mother.

"Home cooking, the opportunity to see my mom and get a home-cooked meal," he replied when asked what inspired him against the Cavs.

"I saw my uncle too, it just felt good to be back in my haven, my rest haven, just being home.

"Also, you can be inspired watching the greatest play, watching Brady, that team, that inspired me too. It felt good from beginning."

Anthony Davis chalked up 17 points and 10 rebounds but was happy to just enjoy the LeBron show.

"When he's playing like that it's fun to watch, amazing to see the shots he makes and shots he takes. He's a hell of a player," Davis said.

"It was one of those nights for him, getting to the basket, hitting the three. He wasn't missing. From the first quarter I knew it was going to be a good night for him."

Head coach Frank Vogel described James' performance as "one of those nights for the ages for him" and added: "It was pretty awesome, just to see he can still turn it up like that.

"Obviously he wanted to win against his former team here, he came out the gates really strong."

James Harden insisted the best is yet to come for the Brooklyn Nets and their 'Big Three' as the former NBA MVP familiarises himself with fellow superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

The Nets have emerged as serious championship contenders after acquiring Harden in a blockbuster trade from the Houston Rockets earlier in January, teaming him up with Durant and Irving.

There have been teething problems – Harden, Durant and Irving are all dominant ball-handlers – but the Nets completed a sweep of the Miami Heat thanks to Monday's 98-85 win.

Harden posted 20 points and eight assists, Durant had 20 points and 13 rebounds, while Irving put up 16 points of his own at Barclays Center.

Asked about figuring out his role with the Nets, having only spent a matter of weeks in Brooklyn, eight-time All-Star Harden said: "I was in I was in a role for eight years, controlling the ball, dominating the ball. Now it's a different experience for me, but it's still great.

"It's still basketball at the end of the day. And I'm lucky to be able to do more than just one thing on the basketball court. So, it's fun. Like I said before it's a game within the game, you got to pick and choose when to be aggressive, when it gets your shooters going, when to let KD and Kyrie get going.

"Once we get a rhythm and flow and we kind of start to feel each other out more, it'll be a lot easier for us, and our team will have a lot more flow throughout the course of the game.

"Right now we're trying to find it, and we show a really good glimpses of it, but it'll be more consistent."

Two-time NBA Finals MVP Durant – also a league MVP – stayed hot as the Nets took down the Heat again.

Durant registered his 14th consecutive double-double, becoming the fourth player in league history to do so alongside Wilt Chamberlain, Adrian Dantley and Dominique Wilkins.

On former Oklahoma City Thunder team-mate Harden, Durant added: "Feels like he just transferred to a new school and he's trying to figure out the curriculum.

"And it's going to take some time to figure out who your teammates are, what your rotations are in the game, when to be aggressive, when to score, pass.

"As a scorer and the focal point of your offense, sometimes the balance between score and pass -- you got to figure that out each night."

Brooklyn's first-year head coach Steve Nash said of Harden: "Would I like James to be more aggressive? Yes. Will he be more aggressive in time? I think so.

"I think once he gets more comfortable with his team-mates, when he gets in better shape, when he's adapted to this whole new environment, we'll see an improved James scoring the ball."

LeBron James made history following his season-high performance as defending NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers stayed perfect on the road with a 115-108 win at the Cleveland Cavaliers.

James posted 46 points to lead the Lakers past former team the Cavaliers in Cleveland, where the Los Angeles franchise improved to 10-0 away from home on Monday.

Lakers superstar James – who had 21 points in the fourth quarter – became the first player in NBA history to tally 46 points, eight rebounds, six assists, two blocks, two steals and seven three-pointers made, per Stats Perform.

Behind James' mammoth display, the Lakers became the sixth team in history to start the season with a 10-plus game winning streak on the road.

Anthony Davis contributed a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Andre Drummond led the Cavaliers with 25 points and 17 rebounds.

Elsewhere, Kevin Durant stayed hot as the Brooklyn Nets took down last season's NBA Finals participants the Miami Heat 98-85.

Durant registered his 14th consecutive double-double, becoming the fourth player in league history to do so alongside Wilt Chamberlain, Adrian Dantley and Dominique Wilkins.

Bam Adebayo's double-double of 26 points and 10 rebounds were not enough for the Heat, who have lost three straight.

 

Red-hot Doncic matches MJ

Luka Doncic recorded another triple-double (35 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds) in the Dallas Mavericks' 117-113 loss to the Denver Nuggets. It was his 31st career triple-double. Doncic tied Hall of Famer Michael Jordan (16) for the eighth-most 30-point triple-doubles in NBA history. The 21-year-old Mavericks star also matched Magic Johnson (31) for the second-most triple-doubles before the age of 23.

Stephen Curry put on a show with a game-high 36 points to fuel the Golden State Warriors' 130-108 victory at home to the Minnesota Timberwolves. He was 11-of-21 from the field, while he made seven of 12 three-point attempts.

The Indiana Pacers beat the Toronto Raptors 129-114 thanks to Malcolm Brogdon's career-high 36 points.

Jerami Grant (25 points, eight rebounds and five assists) and Delon Wright (28 points, seven rebounds and nine assists) became the first Detroit Pistons dup to record 25-plus points, five-plus rebounds and five-plus assists in the same game since Rodney Stuckey and Tayshaun Prince in 2012. The Pistons upstaged the Joel Embiid-less Philadelphia 76ers 119-104.

 

Curry struggles as Philly feel Embiid's absence

Embiid sat out due to back tightness, and the Eastern Conference-leading 76ers fell. Seth Curry – Philadelphia's best shooter – was just two-of-10 from the field, while he only made one of four shots from beyond the arc for seven points.

 

From way back!

Stephen Curry was at his brilliant best against the Timberwolves – a long-range three the icing on the cake for the two-time MVP.

 

Monday's results

Detroit Pistons 119-104 Philadelphia 76ers              
Indiana Pacers 129-114 Toronto Raptors
Orlando Magic 117-108 Charlotte Hornets
Brooklyn Nets 98-85 Miami Heat
Los Angeles Lakers 115-108 Cleveland Cavaliers
Denver Nuggets 117-113 Dallas Mavericks
Boston Celtics 119-103 Chicago Bulls
Golden State Warriors 130-108 Minnesota Timberwolves
Oklahoma City Thunder 125-122 Portland Trail Blazers
Sacramento Kings-Memphis Grizzlies (postponed)
San Antonio Spurs-New Orleans Pelicans (postponed)

 

Clippers at Hawks

The Los Angeles Clippers (13-4) will look to make it eight consecutive wins when they visit the Atlanta Hawks (8-8) on Tuesday.

An intriguing NBA season continued to take shape last week with more shock results in the East.

The Philadelphia 76ers are at the summit as the teams below them trade wins in a far more balanced conference than the Los Angeles-led West.

Therefore, the big increases and decreases in production across the NBA were centred on the East, including big displays from one Sixers star while another tailed off.

We take a look at the best and worst performers of the week with the help of Stats Perform data.

 

RUNNING HOT...

Joel Embiid

Knee and back issues, along with the Philadelphia 76ers' coronavirus crisis, have impacted Embiid's time on the floor already this season, but he is now moving through the gears. The center had scored 45 points against the Miami Heat on January 12, only to then contribute just nine against the same team two days later. But there since looks to be consistency to Embiid's play as he tallied 42, 38 and 33 points in three Sixers wins last week, recording a double-double on each occasion. This weekly average of 37.7 improved the 26-year-old's season scoring from 25.0 points per game to 27.7 and appeared to lift the big man into the early MVP conversation.

Gordon Hayward

Staying fit is always likely to be the key for Hayward, given his awful injury record. He has played in 15 of the Charlotte Hornets' 16 games so far, though, and is averaging a career-high 24.1 points for the season. That mark was boosted from 22.2 points per game over the past week as Hayward turned in a pair of big performances against the Chicago Bulls and the Orlando Magic. His 34 points in the first game were not enough for a win, but 39 points at Orlando, along with nine rebounds, helped lift the Hornets to a competitive 7-9. Hayward's big contract has been justified to this point.

Clint Capela

The Atlanta Hawks recovered to a .500 record last week and Capela had a huge impact on both ends of the floor. The former Houston Rockets center averaged 21.0 points across three Hawks wins before sitting out the defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday, but scoring is just one facet of his game; Capela also contributed 20.0 rebounds per game - the biggest increase on a seasonal average across the whole league. Perhaps most notable of all, though, was the 10-block triple-double that saw Atlanta past the Minnesota Timberwolves. His 2.3 blocks per game rank third in the NBA.

Kendrick Nunn

COVID-19 protocol kept Nunn on the sidelines for a stretch earlier this month, but the second-year point guard is back in the groove - even if the Miami Heat are still struggling to rediscover their playoff form from last season. Nunn started all 67 of his regular season appearances in 2019-20, only to lose his place in the starting five for the run to the NBA Finals. He is being utilised from the bench again this year but provided a huge scoring boost last week. The 25-year-old averaged 21.5 points across the Heat's four games, his increase of 16.0 from his prior mark of 5.5 per game the biggest such improvement in the league.

GOING COLD...

Terry Rozier

While Hayward stepped up in Charlotte, it was not a vintage week for team-mate Rozier. With 42-point and 35-point games to his name this season, the former Boston Celtics point guard was way off the pace in averaging 8.5 points across two games in which he played 38 minutes on both occasions. That knocked Rozier's season average down from 19.9 to 18.5, with a clear decline in his three-point shooting the obvious cause for concern. He shot 2-of-12 from beyond the arc, making 1.0 threes per game, down from 3.4.

Andre Drummond

The Cleveland Cavaliers stole the show last week with a sweep of the Brooklyn Nets in their double-header, but Drummond did not match the standard he had set previously in a monster game against the New York Knicks. Drummond had season-highs of 33 points and 23 rebounds as the Knicks visited Cleveland, yet he then fell short of a double-double for the first time all year in the first Nets game. Sunday's trip to the Celtics then saw Drummond play just 18 minutes, scoring a meagre 11 points, and he finished the week with 9.3 rebounds per game - solid enough but well down on his prior average of 15.8.

Tyrese Maxey

The Sixers' COVID-19 issues might have slowed the team's early momentum, but rookie Maxey was flying heading into last week. Outstanding with 39 points in a seven-man rotation against the Denver Nuggets on January 9, the 20-year-old kept his place and was averaging 11.4 points per game prior to Wednesday's meeting with Boston. But Maxey did not score a single point in that win and duly lost his place for the second Celtics matchup. He finished the week with just four points from three games, shooting 2-of-9 from the field.

LaMelo Ball

Rookie seasons tend to be rollercoaster affairs and Ball is certainly finding that. He is yet to start for the Hornets this season but was steadily contributing double-figures at the turn of the year, including an outstanding triple-double against Atlanta on January 9. Last week, Ball averaged just 9.0 points and 3.0 rebounds across Charlotte's two games, although he did contribute eight assists in the win over the Magic.

Tyronn Lue hailed Kawhi Leonard's performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder, acknowledging the Los Angeles Clippers had to "ride him pretty hard" to get the win.

Leonard stepped up with 34 points, nine rebounds and eight assists to drag the Clippers to a 108-100 triumph in Sunday's contest.

He became the fifth player in the franchise's history to register those numbers and the first since Ron Harper against the Golden State Warriors in March 1994.

The Clippers have now won seven straight games and hold the joint-best record in the NBA at 13-4.

With Paul George sitting out the closing minutes due to hamstring tightness, head coach Lue praised Leonard for stepping up.

"He's been phenomenal for us, tonight we had to ride him," he said.

"Kawhi had it going so we played through him a lot, especially in the second half. He created points for himself and for the team as well.

"We had to ride him pretty hard just so we could continue to keep the lead and play through him a lot, I think he did a good job with that."

George had 11 points from 33 minutes and Lue explained why he was not involved in the final stages.

"I benched him…I benched him!" Lue joked, before adding: "No, I'm just joking. He had some tightness going into the game tonight.

"He got loose when he played but had tightness, that last four and a half minutes he tightened up again so it was just a precaution. Just his hamstring."

The Clippers are flying in the NBA and Leonard offered his thoughts on why the team are firing.

"I think our three-point percentage, not allowing threes, making sure the other team isn't getting good looks from three-point line is helping us," he said.

"We're playing team basketball, sharing the ball, staying level-headed, staying positive, making shots right now. We're trying to get better."

The Milwaukee Bucks snapped a two-game skid thanks to Giannis Antetokounmpo, whose double-double fuelled a 129-115 win over the Atlanta Hawks.

After the Bucks dropped back-to-back games, two-time reigning NBA MVP Antetokounmpo posted 27 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists on Sunday.

Antetokounmpo became the sixth Bucks player to record 11,000 career points thanks to his performance in Milwaukee.

The Hawks – playing without Trae Young – were led by De'Andre Hunter's game-high 33 points and John Collins' 30 points but it was not enough.

Jaylen Brown produced a scintillating display as the Boston Celtics outlasted the Cleveland Cavaliers 141-103.

Brown had 33 points in just 19 minutes – the most by any player in fewer than 20 minutes played during the shot-clock era (1954-55), according to NBA.com/Stats.

 

Kawhi stars

The Los Angeles Clippers celebrated their seventh consecutive victory behind Kawhi Leonard's 34 points in a 108-100 win against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Clippers improved to 13-4, tying defending champions and city rivals the Los Angeles Lakers for the league's best record.

Gordon Hayward flexed his muscles with a game-high 39 points to lead the Charlotte Hornets past the Orlando Magic 107-104.

A season-high 30 points from OG Anunoby saw the Toronto Raptors top the Indiana Pacers 107-102 for a fifth victory in six games.

 

Westbrook struggles on return

For the first time in almost two weeks, Russell Westbrook was back on the court for the struggling Washington Wizards. However, the former MVP finished with just nine points in 25 minutes. Westbrook was three-of-11 from the field, while he made just one of three attempts from beyond the arc. He also had four turnovers as the Wizards lost 121-101 to the San Antonio Spurs.

Paul George has been in good form this season, but he struggled in the Clippers' win. He was four-of-13 from the field and only two-of-eight from three-point range for 11 points and four turnovers in 33 minutes.

 

Hayward proving his worth

Michael Jordan and the Hornets opted to give Hayward a big payday to lure him from Boston. The former All-Star has returned to his best with the Hornets, continuing his fine form with the game-winning shot with 0.7 seconds remaining.

Sunday's results

Toronto Raptors 107-102 Indiana Pacers
Los Angeles Clippers 108-100 Oklahoma City Thunder
Boston Celtics 141-103 Cleveland Cavaliers
Charlotte Hornets 107-104 Orlando Magic
San Antonio Spurs 121-101 Washington Wizards
Milwaukee Bucks 129-115 Atlanta Hawks
Portland Trail Blazers 116-113 New York Knicks
Memphis Grizzlies-Sacramento Kings (postponed)

 

76ers at Pistons

The in-form Philadelphia 76ers (12-5) – the Eastern Conference leaders – will put their three-game winning streak on the line against the lowly Detroit Pistons (3-13) on Monday.

Washington Wizards star Russell Westbrook will return from injury to face the San Antonio Spurs in Sunday's clash, the NBA franchise announced.

Westbrook – a blockbuster arrival in a trade with the Houston Rockets in December – has been sidelined for almost two weeks due to a left quadriceps injury.

But the former MVP and nine-time All-Star will suit up for the struggling Wizards (3-8) against the Spurs.

Westbrook is averaging 19.3 points, 11.3 assists and 9.7 rebounds per game in seven appearances for the Wizards this season.

Meanwhile, there has already been speculation the Wizards could trade the 32-year-old Westbrook.

The Wizards continue to struggle despite Westbrook's presence, and they could reportedly part with the guard if he does not impress alongside Bradley Beal.

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.

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