NBA

Jokic outduels Lillard in Nuggets win, Embiid overpowers the Clippers

By Sports Desk January 18, 2023

Denver Nuggets superstar Nikola Jokic took another step towards a third consecutive MVP after dominating the Portland Trail Blazers in a 122-113 victory on Tuesday.

Jokic was unstoppable offensively, finishing with 36 points on 13-of-14 shooting while adding 12 rebounds and 10 assists. 

In doing so, he became the first player in NBA history to record multiple 35-point triple-doubles while shooting at least 90 per cent from the field. Hall-of-Famer Wilt Chamberlain is the only other player with even one such game.

Jokic was supported well by Michael Porter Jr, who scored 23 points on nine-of-13 shooting, while Jamal Murray chipped in 17 points (six-of-15), seven assists, five rebounds and two steals.

For the Blazers, it was another spectacular showing from the franchise's all-time scoring leader as Damian Lillard had a game-high 44 points on 12-of-20 shooting with eight assists.

It continued a blistering run of form for Lillard, who is averaging a league-leading 39 points per game across his past six outings, although Portland have only been able to convert his stellar play into two wins from six.

With the victory, the Nuggets are now alone atop the Western Conference with a record of 31-13, which the Memphis Grizzlies can tie if they can secure their 11th consecutive win when they face the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday.

Holiday delivers for the Giannis-less Bucks

Jrue Holiday has set a new season-high points total in back-to-back games after putting up 37 in the Milwaukee Bucks' 130-122 triumph at home against the Toronto Raptors.

Holiday scored a season-high 35 on Monday against the Indiana Pacers in the first leg of the Bucks' back-to-back, and he followed it up with 37 against the Raptors.

He shot 16-of-26 from the field while adding seven assists, six rebounds, two steals and a block, and Fred VanVleet was just as good for Toronto.

VanVleet tied his season-high by scoring 39 points on 15-of-28 shooting, with nine rebounds and seven assists.

The Bucks are now 29-16 and occupy the second seed in the Eastern Conference.

Embiid bullies the Clippers

Joel Embiid was too big and too strong on his way to a game-high 41 points in the Philadelphia 76ers' 120-110 road win against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Embiid shot 12-of-22 from the field and 15-of-18 from the free throw line while adding nine rebounds, three assists and two blocks in a comprehensive performance.

Tobias Harris was sharp in a supporting role, snatching five steals in the first half while scoring 20 points on efficient eight-of-12 shooting.

For the Clippers, Kawhi Leonard made it five consecutive games with at least 24 points and a steal as he begins to recapture his All-NBA form following a string of injuries.

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  • Embiid aiming to return this season, targets Paris Olympics Embiid aiming to return this season, targets Paris Olympics

    Joel Embiid is aiming to return to action before the end of the NBA season, as he targets making an appearance at the Paris Olympics.

    Embiid, the reigning NBA MVP, underwent surgery on a knee injury in early February.

    The Philadelphia 76ers star was averaging 35.3 points, 11.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists prior to sustaining the injury in a loss to the Golden State Warriors at the end of January.

    While there is no firm timeline on his return, Embiid is confident he will be back for the end of the campaign.

    "That's the plan," Embiid said.

    "Obviously everything has to go right, as far as getting healthy and being as close as I'm supposed to be. But yeah, that's the plan."

    Embiid suggested playing at the Olympics influenced his decision to have surgery.

    "I think when you look at what unfolded and what we saw, there was only one decision, and it was to go the route that I did," he added.

    Embiid looked well in with a shot of retaining the MVP crown, though that now looks unlikely.

    "That's why it was extremely disappointing," Embiid said. "I was on a roll and I felt like I wasn't even close to where I wanted to be, body-wise and basketball-wise, because I wasn't at my best, so I felt like there was still another level that I could go to. It was very disappointing. But I was having fun, playing, getting a lot of wins, dominating.

    "The 70-point game was fun. I never would've thought that I could be in a position to score 70 in a basketball game and having the dominance that I was doing. It was fun, but it's not over. The mindset is 'come back if everything goes well, go from there.'

    "My mindset is playing basketball, playing as much as I can.

    "For two months, I was not at 100 per cent, I was not even close to it. And I just felt the need to give my all to the team and just wanting to win. Because I know I can, you know, I can add that to this basketball team.

    "So there's nothing different I would've done. This was very depressing. But the way I also look at it is that's another way to work on myself, on my body, and just get as healthy as possible."

  • Spurs 'don't want to change' Wembanyama Spurs 'don't want to change' Wembanyama

    The San Antonio Spurs are not looking to change Victor Wembanyama, so says teammate Tre Jones.

    Wembanyama recorded a stat line that had never been seen in an NBA game in the Spurs' 132-118 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday.

    The rookie sensation finished with 28 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, five blocked shots and five 3-pointers. He is the first player in NBA history with at least 10 boards, five assists, five blocks and five made 3s in a game.

    And Jones says the Spurs are just letting Wembanyama do his own thing.

    "I think just let him be him," Jones said. "We don't want to change that. Look where it's gotten him to this point."

    Spurs coach Gregg Popovich added: "He obviously is not afraid to put himself out there.

    "He will take shots and he is not afraid. He is not worried if he misses it or what the consequences are or anything like that. He likes those moments."

    Wembanyama, meanwhile, channeled the words of the late, great Kobe Bryant.

    "It's a lot [to do with] mentality," he said. "You know Kobe said to win a game, it mostly takes shots, big shots, because they don't call like any fouls.

    "It's not as much the physical battle. Even though in defense it's 90 per cent effort, but offensively it's a lot of mental."

    Wembanyama came out on top in the tussle of the rookies against Chet Holmgren, who finished with 23 points as the Thunder saw a six-game winning run come to an end.

    "It's just another reminder that this is the NBA," Holmgren said.

    "No team is in the NBA for no reason. No player is in the NBA for no reason. Any team can beat another on any given night regardless of record or anything. They came out confident. Part of that was them, part of that was us. We should be better [in] the next one. A lot of guys stepped up and hit big shots. Credit to them for coming ready to play."

  • Curry leads Warriors to victory at New York to extend road winning streak to seven games Curry leads Warriors to victory at New York to extend road winning streak to seven games

    One game after going without a point in the first half, Stephen Curry had nine points before the New York Knicks even scored.

    Curry finished with 31 points and 11 rebounds and the Golden State Warriors rode a fast start for a 110-99 win at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.

    The Warriors scored the game’s first 14 points, as the Knicks missed their first nine shots until Donte DiVincenzo converted a layup with 6:35 left in the opening quarter. By that time Curry already had nine points.

    After failing to score in the first half in Tuesday's win over the Washington Wizards, Curry opened the scoring at MSG with a 27-foot 3-pointer 20 seconds after the opening tip. He finished 8-of-18 from 3-point range.

     

    Jonathan Kuminga had 25 points and Klay Thompson had 16 points off the bench for the Warriors, who pushed their road winning streak to seven games. This is their longest road winning streak since reeling off 11 in a row in the 2018-19 season.

    Overall, Golden State (31-27) has won 12 of 15 games following a 4-10 stretch.

    New York (35-25), meanwhile, wrapped up a 4-8 February after going an NBA-best 14-2 in January.

    Jalen Brunson led the Knicks with 27 points and DiVincenzo added 16, though he missed 15 of his 21 shot attempts.

    As a team, New York shot 36.8 per cent - its worst shooting performance since shooting a season-worst 34.8 per cent in a 117-100 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on November 20.

     

    Wembanyama stuffs stat sheet as Spurs beat Thunder

    Victor Wembanyama recorded a stat line that had never been seen in an NBA game in the San Antonio Spurs' 132-118 win over Oklahoma City, ending the Thunder's six-game winning streak.

    The rookie sensation finished with 28 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, five blocked shots and five 3-pointers.

    He is the first player in NBA history with at least 10 boards, five assists, five blocks and five made 3s in a game.

    Wembanyama won the battle of first-year big men, coming up with a huge block of Chet Holmgren in the final minutes.

     

    Although the Spurs (12-48) have the worst record in the Western Conference, they beat a Thunder team that was hoping to move into a tie with the Timberwolves atop the conference.

    Oklahoma City (41-18) had won its last six games by an average of 20.2 points, but shot just 29.0 per cent from 3-point range (9 for 31).

    Shai Gilgeous-Alexander paced the Thunder with 31 points, while Jalen Williams scored 26 and Holmgren added 23.

    Devin Vassell had 28 points and nine assists for the Spurs, who were playing in San Antonio for the first time since February 3 following a 1-8 road swing.

     

    Nuggets hold on to beat Heat in NBA Finals rematch

    Meeting for the first time since Denver captured the franchise's first NBA title last June, the Nuggets held on for a 103-97 win over the Miami Heat.

    The Nuggets looked like they were going to win easily, leading by 16 in the fourth quarter, but the Heat pulled within 99-97 on Jimmy Butler's floating bank shot with 11 seconds to play.

    The Heat would get no closer, however, as Denver (41-19) improved to 5-0 since the All-Star break and moved within 1 1/2 games of the Timberwolves for the best record in the West.

     

    Michael Porter Jr. had 30 points and 11 rebounds, while Nikola Jokic had 18 points, 11 boards and seven assists.

    Denver overcame an injury to Jamal Murray, who sprained his right ankle when he landed on Aaron Gordon's leg just before half-time.

    The Heat (33-26) arrived in Denver riding a five-game winning streak, in which they were averaging 113.0 points, but they had just 70 points through three quarters against the Nuggets.

    Bam Adebayo led Miami with 22 points and eight rebounds, while Butler had 21 points and seven boards.

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