Seven players hit double figures as the Philadelphia 76ers surged to 6-1 while Malcolm Brogdon landed an overtime winner as the Indiana Pacers take up chase in the East.

Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia remain ahead of the pack after a second-quarter flurry helped to sink the Charlotte Hornets, 118-101, with Tobias Harris leading the scoring on 22 points.

Joel Embiid (14 points and 11 rebounds) and Ben Simmons (12 points and 10 rebounds) played key supporting roles with double-doubles as the 76ers continue to fly high.

Indiana improved to 5-2 in a 118-116 thriller against the New Orleans Pelicans after Brogdon capped his double-double with the clutch OT winner, while Victor Oladipo top scored for the Pacers with 25 points.

In-form Pelicans duo Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson combined for 55 points in the loss, as Ingram scored 31 and Williamson recorded a double-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds.

Orlando also stayed in the hunt for top spot as Aaron Gordon (24 points, 11 rebounds) and Nikola Vucevic (23 points) inspired the Magic to move to 5-3 with a 103-83 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Malcolm Brogdon hits the game-winning floater in OT as the @Pacers pick up their 5th W of the season!

Brogdon: 21 PTS, 7 REB, 11 AST
Victor Oladipo: 25 PTS, 6 AST
Brandon Ingram: 31 PTS, 8 AST
Zion Williamson: 24 PTS, 10 REB pic.twitter.com/XfWbcMXemJ

— NBA (@NBA) January 5, 2021


Doncic, Giannis go off as Mavs and Bucks win

Luka Doncic dominated with 33 points and a triple-double as the Dallas Mavericks ended the Houston Rockets’ winning streak with a 113-100 win.

Doncic added 16 rebounds and 11 assists, while Tim Hardaway Jr shot for 30 points to boost the Mavs. Houston's Christian Wood, Eric Gordon and a returning James Harden all put up more than 20 points.

The NBA is back! A shortened schedule, a new play-in tournament and increased roster sizes have created plenty of interest in a new season.

A December start seems to have caught a few of the potential title hopefuls a little cold, though it is still early days. The key is not about starting fast, but finishing strong.

Still, some have hit the ground running. Each week, Stats Perform will take a look at the players who are impressing, as well as those seemingly stuck in a bit of a slump.

For this opening edition, however, all statistical comparisons are made to performances on average across the entire 2019-20 season.
 

RUNNING HOT... 

Stephen Curry (32.3ppg versus 20.8ppg) 

Scoring 62 points in a game sure helps to boost the average. Curry actually started out a little slowly – hardly a surprise considering injury meant he played just five games in the previous campaign – as he made only 13 of his combined 48 field goal attempts in defeats to the Nets and Bucks. However, Curry was certainly cooking against the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday, hitting eight three-pointers as he posted a new career-high points total. So far in this season, he is making 4.3 three-pointers per outing. 

Christian Wood (23.8ppg versus 13.1ppg) 

These are uncertain times in Houston, where James Harden seemingly no longer wants to be. While his future remains the headline story for the franchise, Christian Wood has quickly shown why he was such an astute signing. Having gone undrafted out of college, the 25-year-old flashed potential with the Detroit Pistons in 2019-20, tempting the Rockets to sign him to a three-year, $41million deal. Their reward? Wood has averaged 23.8 points while playing 36.5 minutes for a team that boasts a 2-2 record through four games. 

Kyle Anderson (16.7ppg versus 5.8ppg) 

Opportunity knocks for Anderson in Memphis due to the absence of Jaren Jackson Jr with a knee issue. The forward's minutes on court have risen as a result – and so, too, has his production. Having never averaged in double digits for points for his previous six seasons in the NBA, Anderson is now up at 16.7 per game for the Grizzlies. Ja Morant was, less surprisingly, on the rise in terms of his scoring output as well, up at 26.3 points per game before suffering an ankle injury. 

Luguentz Dort (14.6ppg versus 6.8ppg) 

Someone has to score points for Oklahoma, right? GM Sam Presti is clearly in it for the long haul in terms of a rebuild, considering the number of moves made in the offseason and draft picks now owned by the team. Still, Dort remains on the roster and has stepped up to accept greater responsibility. The Canadian has raised his successful three-point attempts from an average of 0.8 to 2.4 a game, shooting an impressive 44.4 per cent from deep. Team-mate Isaiah Roby is another to catch the eye for the Thunder, averaging 13 points and 6.5 total rebounds.


GOING COLD...

Devonte' Graham (9.0ppg versus 18.2ppg)

The moment Charlotte selected fellow point guard LaMelo Ball with the third pick in the draft, Graham was under pressure. He retained his starting job in the Hornets' backcourt but the pressure is mounting now, considering the form of both players. While Ball seems to be a quick learner after some preseason concerns, his teammate has struggled. Graham is at just nine points per game - half his average from the previous season. His three-point shooting has dipped to 2.0 made per outing from 3.5. He forced himself off the bench and into the rotation for the Hornets last year, yet could soon find himself moving in the opposite direction.

Jimmy Butler (8.3ppg versus 19.9ppg)

There are reasons behind the five-time NBA All-Star's sluggish start. Butler has featured in just three games so far - and one of those he only played in the first half, with an ankle issue keeping him off the court for the remainder of the clash with the Pelicans. He averaged 19.9 per game for a Heat team that made it all the way to the Finals last term. The early going has seen an 11.6-point decrease in his scoring output, though expect that to rise as the weeks progress.

Kelly Oubre Jr. (9.7ppg versus 18.7ppg)

Oubre was on the merry-go-round headlined by Chris Paul going from Oklahoma to Phoenix. His form last season with the Suns was not enough for the Thunder to keep him around, though, as they dealt him to Golden State. It has not been plain sailing with the Warriors; while not required to contribute quite so much on offense for his new team, the concern is his three-point shooting. Having made 1.9 on average per game last season, Oubre's been successful with two of his 30 attempts so far. The early report card for him reads as such: Must do better.

Ben Simmons led the way with his 29th career triple-double as the Philadelphia 76ers claimed top spot in the NBA Eastern Conference with a 127-122 win over the Charlotte Hornets.

Simmons dropped 15 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists as Philly opened up a 15-point first quarter lead and never looked back to go 5-1.

Joel Embiid contributed with a double-double of 19 points and 14 rebounds, while Tobias Harris top scored with 24 points as the 76ers claimed a third straight victory.

Ben Simmons (15 PTS, 12 REB, 11 AST) puts up a triple-double as the @sixers move to 5-1!

Tobias Harris: 24 PTS, 9 REB, 6 AST, 4 STL, 3 BLK
Seth Curry: 21 PTS (8-11 FGM), 6 AST
Joel Embiid: 19 PTS, 14 REB
Terry Rozier: 35 PTS, 7 3PM pic.twitter.com/ZgvqSUC9kp

— NBA (@NBA) January 3, 2021

The Atlanta Hawks (4-2) fell off the pace in the East following a 96-91 loss against the Cleveland Cavaliers as Colin Sexton scored 13 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter to snatch the win. 

John Wall led the scoring with 28 points as the Houston Rockets made it back-to-back triumphs against the Sacramento Kings, 102-98, in Texas.

Christian Wood posted a double-double with 15 rebounds and 20 points as the Rockets improved from 0-2 to 2-2 since Wall’s arrival, while James Harden was sidelined with an ankle injury.

Big scorers come up short for Magic, Pacers

Nikola Vucevic dazzled, putting up 30 points and 13 rebounds, but it was not enough to prevent the Orlando Magic slipping to 4-2 after a 108-99 loss against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Six OKC players hit double-figures in an all-round team effort as Darius Bazley top scored with 19 points and 12 rebounds.

John Wall impressed on his Houston Rockets debut, while the Philadelphia 76ers' fine start to the NBA season continued.

In his first regular-season appearance since December 2018, Wall helped the Rockets to their first win of the season with a 122-119 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Thursday.

Wall posted 22 points, nine assists and six rebounds on his Rockets debut after being traded from the Washington Wizards at the start of December.

James Harden again starred, finishing with 33 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

The 76ers improved to 4-1 and handed Orlando their first loss of the season, beating the Magic 116-92.

Joel Embiid was seven-of-11 from the field for 21 points, while he also pulled down nine rebounds.

 

Westbrook's Wizards fall again as Booker shines

Russell Westbrook posted another triple-double with 22 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, but the Washington Wizards dropped to 0-5 after a 133-130 loss to the Chicago Bulls. Westbrook joined Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history to open a season with four triple-doubles in their first four games.

Thomas Bryant had 28 points for the Wizards after going 10-of-11 from the field.

Devin Booker's game-high 25 points helped the Phoenix Suns past the Utah Jazz 106-95. The Suns are 4-1.

Domantas Sabonis had a double-double of 25 points and 11 rebounds in the Indiana Pacers' 119-99 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Sabonis has posted at least a double-double in all five of his games this season.

 

Terrible Thunder

The Oklahoma City Thunder shot at just 37.5 per cent from the field in a 113-80 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.

 

Harden, Wall power Rockets

Harden and Wall finished with 55 points and 17 assists between them against the Kings.

Thursday's results

Indiana Pacers 119-99 Cleveland Cavaliers
Chicago Bulls 133-130 Washington Wizards
Philadelphia 76ers 116-92 Orlando Magic
Houston Rockets 122-119 Sacramento Kings
Toronto Raptors 100-83 New York Knicks
New Orleans Pelicans 113-80 Oklahoma City Thunder
Phoenix Suns 106-95 Utah Jazz

 

Lakers at Spurs

The Los Angeles Lakers (3-2) and San Antonio Spurs (2-2) will meet again on Friday. LeBron James powered the Lakers to a win over San Antonio on Wednesday.

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