Kevin Durant was satisfied with his night's work after recording 41 points as the Brooklyn Nets eventually overcame a spirited Detroit Pistons on Tuesday at Barclays Center.

The Nets moved to 40-36 following the win, and sit in eight place in the Eastern Conference, while the Pistons have the joint-worst record in the east (20-56, along with the Orlando Magic).

Kyrie Irving added 24 in only his second home appearance of the season following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions on unvaccinated athletes in New York.

Durant was the star of the show, though, also managing 11 rebounds and five assists, while sinking four of six attempts from beyond the arc.

"I want to get better shots sometimes, but like a couple of them are like, 'I'm hot, let me risk it,'" Durant said after the win.

"I was just trying to get the best shots that I can. Sometimes it might be over a guy in the lane, but I feel like that’s open and I have to keep knocking them down."

The Nets had been 12 points behind at one point, but were able to turn things around to eventually secure victory, and Durant was quick to praise Detroit despite their undesirable record. 

"I know their record isn’t good, but they still have pros over there," he added. "They still made shots early and gained confidence as a team. This was a good test for us."

Andre Drummond put up 14 points and 13 rebounds, and expressed his belief that Brooklyn will need to be better against stronger opponents, with the playoffs not far away and the Nets hoping to sneak in.

"We can't hang our hat on the second half, we have to play a complete game," Drummond said.

"It's never going to be easy to make that turn against great teams. Not that the Pistons aren't a great team. They played a great game, but we just turned it up in the second half."

Seth Curry's 23-point arrival helped the Brooklyn Nets snap their 11-game skid in a 109-85 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Monday.

Curry landed four three-pointers with seven rebounds and five assists while fellow debutant Andre Drummond added 11 points, with Ben Simmons still out despite being present for the pre-game shootaround.

The Nets led from start to finish but were propelled by a 54-37 second half with LaMarcus Aldridge scoring 19 points with eight rebounds off the bench.

Bruce Brown had season-high returns with 19 points, six assists and five steals for the new-look Nets who improved to 30-27.

De'Andre Fox had a game-high 26 points for the Kings who were limited to 34.4 per cent shooting (31-of-90) overall.

 

Steph stars but Warriors lose

Stephen Curry made eight three-pointers in a 33-point haul but it was not enough to get the Golden State Warriors past the Los Angeles Clippers who won 119-104. Terance Mann scored 25 points with seven rebounds and six assists for the triumphant Clippers.

Julius Randle had a triple-double with 30 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists but he was overshadowed by Rookie of the Year contender Josh Giddey as the Oklahoma City Thunder won 127-123 in overtime. Giddey also had a triple-double with 28 points including three triples along with 11 rebounds and 12 assists.

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic starred with 26 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists as the Denver Nuggets brushed aside the Orlando Magic 121-111, while Donovan Mitchell had 30 points with six rebounds and seven assists in the Utah Jazz's 135-101 victory over the Houston Rockets.

 

Middleton loses radar as Bucks go down

Khris Middleton almost had a triple-double but shot poorly, going three-of-15 from the field and one-of-eight from beyond the arc as the Milwaukee Bucks went down 122-107 to the Portland Trail Blazers. Anfernee Simons scored 31 points for the Blazers, while Middleton had 16 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists as the Bucks lost in Giannis Antetokounmpo's absence due to a sore ankle.

The Philadelphia 76ers solved their Ben Simmons conundrum with a blockbuster trade for James Harden of the Brooklyn Nets before the NBA trade deadline passed on Thursday. 

Simmons has refused to play for the Sixers this season after coach Doc Rivers and center Joel Embiid were critical of his performances in the Eastern Conference semifinals loss to the Atlanta Hawks last season. 

Philadelphia had been trying to trade the fifth-year guard/forward ever since, but the former Rookie of the Year's value plummeted after he came up short against the Hawks. 

However, according to multiple reports a deal was finally struck to send Simmons to Brooklyn in exchange for the 2018 NBA MVP Harden. Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, an unprotected 2022 first-round pick and a protected 2027 first-round pick were also sent to the Nets, with Paul Millsap going in the opposite direction. 

Harden can become a free agent in the offseason, while Simmons is under contract until 2025 after signing a five-year, $177.2million deal in 2019.

While the 76ers seemingly boosted their chances of contending by adding Harden, the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors remained idle. However, there were still plenty of other deals reported on Thursday.

 

Mavericks move on from Porzingis

The Luka Doncic-Kristaps Porzingis era is over in Dallas.

The Mavs sent Porzingis and a second-round pick to the Washington Wizards in exchange for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans.

Injuries have continued to trouble the 7ft 3in center, who averaged 20 points and 8.8 rebounds per game in two and a half seasons in Dallas.

Kings trade Bagley, Bucks get Ibaka 

The Sacramento Kings made Marvin Bagley III the second overall pick in the 2018 draft but brought an end to his time in California as part of a seven-player, four-team trade. 

Bagley was sent to the Detroit Pistons, with Josh Jackson and Trey Lyles going to Sacramento. The Kings also received Donte DiVincenzo from the Milwaukee Bucks, who swapped Serge Ibaka for Semi Ojeleye and Rodney Hood. The reigning NBA champions also received two future second-round picks and cash considerations. 

Bagley has started just 17 games for Sacramento this season, averaging 9.3 points and 7.2 rebounds in 21.9 minutes per game.

Celtics bring Theis back, send Schroder to Houston

Daniel Theis is back for a second spell with the Boston Celtics.

Less than a year after he was traded to the Chicago Bulls by the Celtics, Theis was brought back from the Houston Rockets in exchange for Dennis Schroder, Enes Freedom and Bruno Fernando. Freedom is expected to be waived by the Rockets, though.

Boston also sent Bol Bol and PJ Dozier, who are both out for the season, to the Orlando Magic and offloaded Josh Richardson and Romeo Langford to the San Antonio Spurs. The Celtics' brought in Derrick White.

Elsewhere...

Goran Dragic's time with the Toronto Raptors is up after he was traded to the Spurs for Thaddeus Young, Drew Eubanks – whom they were set to waive – and a 2022 lottery-protected first-round pick. Dragic is expected to be bought out, with the Chicago Bulls, Mavs, Bucks, Warriors, Nets and Clippers all credited with an interest.

The Charlotte Hornets added Montrezl Harrel from the Wizards. Ish Smith and Vernon Carey Jr went the other way. 

Torrey Craig is back with the Phoenix Suns following a deal that saw Jalen Smith land with the Indiana Pacers. Aaron Holiday was also acquired from the Wizards.

James Harden is leaving the Brooklyn Nets to join the Philadelphia 76ers, according to reports.

The teams have agreed a trade that will see Harden move to Philadelphia, while Ben Simmons, Seth Curry and Andre Drummond head the other way, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said.

The deal reportedly also includes the Sixers sending the Nets an unprotected 2022 first-round pick as well as a protected 2027 first-round pick. The Nets will also include Paul Millsap in the deal.

Simmons was the subject of trade rumours in January 2021 when the Sixers pursued Harden from the Houston Rockets. Harden instead headed for the Nets, and Simmons saw out the season in Philadelphia, only for speculation to ramp up again after a deeply dissatisfying playoff exit.

Simmons has not played since June when Joel Embiid and Doc Rivers appeared to blame the former first overall pick for a Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

The 25-year-old Simmons averaged 14.3 points per game last season from his 58 appearances, plus 7.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists.

Harden, 32, has failed to settle in Brooklyn since arriving from Houston last January, averaging just 22.5 points per game this season, his lowest average since the 2011-12 season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, as well as 8.0 rebounds and 10.2 assists.

Curry has been enjoying the best season of his career in Philadelphia, averaging 15.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game, while Drummond has managed just 6.1 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game, the worst return of his career.

James Harden is leaving the Brooklyn Nets to join the Philadelphia 76ers, according to reports.

The teams have agreed a trade that will see Harden move to Philadelphia, while Ben Simmons, Seth Curry and Andre Drummond head the other way, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said.

The deal reportedly also includes the Sixers sending the Nets an unprotected 2022 first-round pick as well as a protected 2027 first-round pick. The Nets will also include Paul Millsap in the deal.

Simmons was the subject of trade rumours in January 2021 when the Sixers pursued Harden from the Houston Rockets. Harden instead headed for the Nets, and Simmons saw out the season in Philadelphia, only for speculation to ramp up again after a deeply dissatisfying playoff exit.

Simmons has not played since June when Joel Embiid and Doc Rivers appeared to blame the former first overall pick for a Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Joel Embiid took to Twitter to revel in the Philadelphia 76ers' overtime victory against the Memphis Grizzlies.

The team's leading scorer was rested for Monday's clash and watched on as Doc Rivers' men made it five wins in a row.

In Embiid's absence, Andre Drummond, Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris stepped up to get the job done despite a fine showing from Memphis' All-Star Ja Morant, who put up 37 points.

It was Maxey who snatched a 122-119 triumph in overtime with a driving layup.

And Embiid tweeted: "They hate the process but we will keep thriving. Great Dub!! Hell Yeaa."

Speaking about Embiid, man of the moment Maxey told reporters: "He's a great team-mate; he's our MVP."

Despite leading the way for the Grizzlies, Morant shouldered the blame for the team's loss.

"If there's anybody you want to be mad at, it can be me," he said. "If I made free throws, we probably wouldn't have even gone into overtime."

Drummond offered consolation to his beaten opponent with some warm words of praise for Morant.

He said: "He’s a great athlete, he's able to make spectacular plays, but at the end of the day it's still two points.

"You have to take your hat off to him, but we won the game."

The Golden State Warriors won a sixth straight game as Stephen Curry returned to form with a 40-point haul in Texas.

Golden State saw off the Houston Rockets 122-108 on Monday, with Curry finishing with 40 points, 21 of which came in the final quarter.

It marked the end of a below-par month for Curry, who had previously had over 30 points on just one occasion since the turn of the year.

Curry has now scored 40 points or more in six games this season. He made seven three-pointers to go along with nine assists and five rebounds.

He has scored 20 points or more in a quarter 37 times in his career, surpassing the late Kobe Bryant for the most by any NBA player since at least 1996-97.

Andrew Wiggins added 23 points for Golden State, while Kevon Looney had 14 rebounds.

Christian Wood offered some resistance for the Rockets with a double-double, but Houston are without a win at home in 11 games.

Sixers do the businesses without Embiid

With Joel Embiid rested, the Philadelphia 76ers nevertheless clinched a fifth straight win as Andre Drummond, Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris stepped up against the Memphis Grizzlies.

All-Star Ja Morant had 37 points for Memphis, but it was Maxey (33 points) who snatched a 122-119 victory in overtime with a driving layup.

Drummond had 16 points but amassed a huge 23 rebounds, while Harris also had 31 points, with Desmond Bane's career-high 34 in vain for the Grizzlies.

Heat lose their flame

The Miami Heat lost a second straight game and gave up their place at the top of the Eastern Conference after a 122-92 defeat to the Boston Celtics.

Jaylen Brown led Boston with 29 points, as the Celtics moved to 27-25 for the season after a fourth successive win.

The Cleveland Cavaliers posted a fifth straight home win as they overcame the New Orleans Pelicans 93-90, while Isaiah Jackson had a double-double for the Indiana Pacers in a 122-116 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Milwaukee Bucks picked up a much-needed victory against a depleted opponent on Tuesday, outlasting the Philadelphia 76ers 118-109. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 31 points and 16 rebounds for the reigning NBA champions, who had lost five of their previous six games. 

Milwaukee (5-6) caught the 76ers at the right time, with Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris among four players sidelined by COVID-19 protocols and Seth Curry nursing a left foot contusion. 

Despite those absences, Philadelphia (8-4) stayed in the game until the closing minutes, leading by as many as 13 in the second quarter and entering the fourth quarter up 93-91. 

Tyrese Maxey had 39 points and Embiid's replacement, Andre Drummond, contributed 17 points and 20 rebounds for the 76ers, who have dropped six straight games to the Bucks. 

 

George, Clippers keep Blazers winless on road

Paul George led a balanced Clippers attack with 24 points, nine rebounds and seven assists as Los Angeles defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 117-109. The loss kept Portland (5-6) winless in five road games this season, with two of those losses coming at Staples Center. 

Reggie Jackson added 23 points for the Clippers (6-4), while Nicolas Batum contributed 22 as he made six of eight shots from three-point range. Damian Lillard scored 27 to lead the Blazers. 

 

Cold-shooting Hawks fall to Jazz

The Atlanta Hawks made an impressive 51.4 percent of their three-point attempts (18 of 35) against the Utah Jazz, but connected on just 19 of 50 (38 per cent) from two-point range as they fell 110-98. 

Stephen Curry posted 50 points and 10 assists to guide the NBA-leading Golden State Warriors to a 127-113 win over the Atlanta Hawks.

Curry enjoyed a season-high night in terms of points as the Warriors won for the ninth time in their opening 10 games of the 2021-22 campaign on Monday.

The two-time MVP became the only NBA player in the last 25 years to have 50-plus points, 10-plus assists and a plus-minus of 30 or better in a single game, according to Stats Perform.

Curry, who had seven rebounds and nine three-pointers, also joined James Harden as the only players to put up 50-plus points, 10-plus assists in 35 minutes or fewer in the last 40 seasons.

The three-time champion became the third Warriors player in franchise history with at least 10 50-point games.

 

 

Bulls stop star-studded Nets

Kevin Durant recorded 38 points and 10 rebounds but the Brooklyn Nets still lost 118-95 at the Chicago Bulls. All of Chicago's starters – DeMar DeRozan (28), Zach Lavine (24), Nikola Vucevic (11 and 13 rebounds), Lonzo Ball (11) and Javonte Green (11) – finished with double-digit points to snap Brooklyn's five-game winning streak.

In the absence of Joel Embiid (health and safety protocol), Andre Drummond had 14 points and 25 rebounds for the Philadelphia 76ers. He became the first 76er with 25-plus rebounds in a game since Charles Barkley in 1987. Shorthanded Eastern Conference leaders the 76ers lost 103-96 to the New York Knicks, however.

Russell Westbrook (17 points, 14 assists and 12 rebounds), Anthony Davis (32 points and 12 rebounds) and Carmelo Anthony (29 points on seven-of-10 three-pointers) helped the Los Angeles Lakers outlasted the Charlotte Hornets 126-123 in overtime. LaMelo Ball had a triple-double of 25 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists for the Hornets.

 

Jokic loses his head

The Denver Nuggets upstaged the high-flying Miami Heat 113-96, despite having reigning MVP Nikola Jokic ejected. Jokic registered a triple-double of 25 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists before he was tossed for violently slamming his shoulder into Markieff Morris late in the final period.

The NBA is nearing the end of its regular season.

Soon the fight for playoff positioning will give way to the drama of the play-in round and the subsequent seven-game series that will decide the destination of the title.

In other words, it is time for the league's elite to find their best.

While several of those stars are hitting form at exactly the right time, there are others enduring worrying declines ahead of the postseason.

Here we examine the performances of those excelling going into the playoffs, and those who need to turn it around in this week's edition of Heat Check.

RUNNING HOT

Kyrie Irving - Brooklyn Nets

Irving went into last week having failed to score 30 points in three straight appearances, but he was back to his best over the past seven days.

Having previously averaged 26.7 points for the season, Irving put up 38 points per game across three outings last week, with a 45-point display against the Dallas Mavericks sandwiched by a 38-point effort in defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks and a 31-point showing versus the Denver Nuggets.

Only the game with the Nuggets ended in victory, but the Nets will be encouraged by Irving's form with the playoffs approaching. He was excellent from beyond the arc, hitting 5.67 threes per game having entered the week averaging 2.63.

Irving converted 17 of his 32 three-point attempts last week, a percentage of 53.1 that ranks 10th among players to have attempted at least 20 last week.

Russell Westbrook - Washington Wizards

Westbrook made history on Saturday as he tied Oscar Robertson's record for triple-doubles with the 181st of his career against the Indiana Pacers on Saturday.

The way in which his athleticism has translated to success on the boards has been key to Westbrook's successful pursuit of Hall of Famer Robertson.

And his rebounding was nothing short of incredible over the past seven days. Having entered the week averaging 11.16 rebounds, Westbrook racked up 17.25 per game across his last three games, culminating with 19 in his record-equalling display in an overtime win over Indiana.

He'll hope for more success on the glass against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday to take him past Robertson.

Stephen Curry - Golden State Warriors

The best shooter in the game had another stunning week from beyond the arc as he continues to fuel the Warriors' push towards the playoffs.

Curry's 5.2 made threes per game was already the gold standard in the NBA this season but he was even more devastating from deep in four games last week.

Indeed, Curry averaged 8.25 threes per game, with that jump fuelled largely by him hitting 11 on Saturday as he scored 49 points in 29 minutes against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

As long as he continues his excellent form, the Warriors should have a great chance of coming through the play-in round and making it to the postseason.

GOING COLD...

Andre Drummond - Los Angeles Lakers

It was a rough week for Lakers big Drummond, who endured the largest drop-off in the NBA in both points and rebounds per game.

Drummond entered last week putting up 15.89 points per game but saw his average over four games dip to 5.75.

He failed to score double-digit points in any of those outings and was similarly ineffective on the boards.

His rebounds per game dipped from 12.37 to 6.25, Drummond having started the week by failing to record a single rebound in a game for only the third time in his career in a win over the Nuggets.

Luka Doncic - Dallas Mavericks

It is pleasing for the Mavs that they can win without Doncic delivering his best every night, as they did not get it last week.

Doncic was far from terrible, as he topped 20 points in three of his four outings, but he saw his points per game average drop from 28.64 entering the week to 21.50 in those appearances.

The Mavs won each of those contests, with Doncic contributing double-doubles in two, though he had an underwhelming 15-point game to end the week against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

So, while he may be 'going cold' relative to his usual standard in scoring, Doncic is finding ways to help Dallas build momentum ahead of the playoffs.

Kawhi Leonard - Los Angeles Clippers

Leonard has been bothered by injury issues in recent weeks, with his best form eluding the two-time NBA Finals MVP.

For the season, Leonard was averaging 25.51 points per game going into the last week, but could only manage to put up 19 over the course of three games in the past seven days.

And that average was inflated by a 29-point effort in the Clippers' loss to the New York Knicks on Sunday.

Prior to that return to something like normal service, Leonard had failed to score 20 points in each of his last four games.

Even his effort against the Knicks came on an inefficient shooting performance where he went nine for 26, indicating Leonard is some way off the standard he will need for the Clippers to contend in the playoffs.

Andre Drummond is itching to experience more of the thrills of a home-court win with the Los Angeles Lakers after helping see out an overtime victory against the Utah Jazz.

Acquired at the end of March, Drummond found out for the first time how it felt to earn a win at the Staples Center as a Lakers player, as around 1,700 fans saw Los Angeles earn a 127-115 overtime triumph over the NBA Western Conference leaders.

The Lakers had previously seen a 14-point advantage evaporate, with the Jazz taking the lead towards the end of the fourth quarter, before Dennis Schroder tied things up with three seconds to play.

Still without the injured LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Drummond finished with 27 points, eight rebounds and three assists to aid the team's cause, while the impressive Schroder had 25 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

Since joining the Lakers, Drummond is averaging 9.2 points, 1.2 assists and 9.2 rebounds and he feels the depleted Lakers – fifth in the Western Conference – are beginning to gel.

"With the fans being in the arena it was kind of a surreal moment for me because I've been on the other side," he said. 

"Seeing them win, seeing the streamers come down, to be on this end it was definitely a great feeling and something I want more of.

"I think tonight was a good game for all of us, for me personally I think it was a pretty solid game. 

"As a unit we clicked on all cylinders. We didn't allow adversity to get us out of our game, they did have a hell of a run down the stretch to tie up the game and take the lead. 

"The chemistry is getting there, we're having fun day by day doing it."

Head coach Frank Vogel was impressed by the way his Lakers side kept their cool after seeing their lead wiped out.

"We made more in-game adjustments than we have all year just to counter their attack," Lakers Vogel said. 

"To have a team storm back and take the lead and [us] not panic is definitely something we can draw on going forward. We'll have this experience to know that we’ll prevail."

The NBA ladder leading-Utah Jazz felt the absence of Donovan Mitchell as they lost 127-115 in over-time to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.

Mitchell hurt his ankle during the week and was unavailable for the clash against the Lakers who were missing injured pair LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Lakers center Andre Drummond dominated with 27 points, eight rebounds and three assists, while Dennis Schroder had 25 points, six rebounds and eight assists too.

The Jazz could have won the match in normal time when Jordan Clarkson's buzzer beater missed with scores locked at 110-110.

The Lakers ran away with it in over-time, but had a late injury scare with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who also had 25 points, clutching his right ankle.

The result improves the Lakers to 35-22, while the Jazz remain top of the West with a 42-15 record.

Giannis Antetokounmpo's Milwaukee Bucks stumbled to a 128-115 home loss to the surging Memphis Grizzlies.

The Grizzlies kept the Bucks at arm's length the whole match led by Grayson Allen who shot 26 points including seven-from-10 beyond the arc.

A fired-up Dillon Brooks had 21 points, six rebounds and four assists for Memphis, while Giannis had 28 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in a losing side.

 

Celtics edge shootout with Curry

Jayson Tatum won an All-Star shootout against Stephen Curry as the Boston Celtics edged the in-form Golden State Warriors 119-114.

Boston forward Tatum had 44 points and 10 rebounds, while Curry played a leading role for GSW with 47 points, including 11 three-pointers as well as seven rebounds and three assists.

Tatum had outstanding assistance from Kemba Walker, particularly in a tight final quarter, with 26 points and eight rebounds as the Celtics won their sixth straight.

Russell Westbrook had another triple-double with 15 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists while Bradley Beal made 37 points in the Washington Wizards' 121-100 win over the Detroit Pistons.

The Phoenix Suns were well beaten by the San Antonio Spurs 111-85, while Nikola Vucevic had 25 points in the Chicago Bulls' 106-96 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

 

Scary sideline spell

There was a scary incident late in the Warriors' loss to Boston when youngster Juan Toscano-Anderson threw himself at a loose ball, with his momentum seeing him bundling over the scorers' fence across tables and monitors. He lay injured for several minutes before eventually walking to the locker room aided, with a towel on his head.

 

Russell makes triple-double history

In-form Wizards guard Westbrook's triple-double made history as he became the first player in NBA history to have 15 in a 20-game span. 

 

Saturday's results

Los Angeles Lakers 127-115 Utah Jazz
Washington Wizards 121-100 Detroit Pistons
Chicago Bulls 106-96 Cleveland Cavaliers
Boston Celtics 119-114 Golden State Warriors
Memphis Grizzlies 128-115 Milwaukee Bucks
San Antonio Spurs 111-85 Phoenix Suns 

 

Nets in Miami

With Kevin Durant back, the Brooklyn Nets (38-18) make the trip to face the Miami Heat (28-28), although they will likely still be without the injured James Harden.

Andre Drummond struggled to describe a gruesome toenail injury without laughing after the Los Angeles Lakers lost another star player.

LeBron James (ankle) and Anthony Davis (calf) both remain on the sidelines, meaning the signing of Drummond - bought out by the Cleveland Cavaliers - came as a big boost to the defending NBA champions.

But the center, playing for the first time since February 12, lasted just 14 minutes in a 112-97 debut defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday.

Drummond was stepped on by Brook Lopez in the first quarter, he later revealed, and eventually succumbed to the injury in the second half after taking his sock off to assess the damage.

"In the first quarter when I came out, Brook stepped on my foot and I didn't really think anything of it," the two-time All-Star said.

"I came back in the second quarter and it was hurting a little bit more. After halftime, I finally took my sock off to look and my whole toenail was gone. It was all bad from there. I couldn't walk or run so I told coach to take me out."

X-rays returned negative results, meaning Drummond should avoid a lengthy lay-off, but the player was not entirely sure how to manage the injury.

He said: "What do you do for a toe? I don't know. I'm not really sure what to do. I'm just going to talk to the training staff and find out what's the best thing to do to get back as quick as possible.

"I've lost a toenail before, but this one was very painful.

"You see me looking down at it because I can't even put shoes on. I have flip-flops on right now. It's very, very painful."

Despite his limited minutes, Drummond showed what the Lakers might be able to expect when he can return to the court.

The 27-year-old had four points, two assists, a rebound and a block.

He also missed two free throws - Drummond's career percentage of 46.6 per cent is the worst of all players to attempt 1,000 or more - but felt he had a positive impact overall.

"If you saw the first couple of minutes of the game that I was out there, just the energy defensively that I brought, it kind of boosted everybody on both ends of the court," Drummond said, although his plus/minus was negative eight.

"It's just unfortunate to have this happen to me in my first game. It was a little deflating for me.

"But my head is high, I'm going to take it day by day and come back better than ever."

Coach Frank Vogel, eager not to mull on more fitness problems as the Lakers fell to 30-18, added: "We've got a 'next man up' mentality with this group.

"Obviously we were all excited to see Dre in a Lakers uniform and it didn't play out as long as we wanted."

Wednesday's meeting between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Milwaukee Bucks should be one of the most mouth-watering contests of the NBA season.

But the allure of the matchup has been lost somewhat – the Lakers still without LeBron James because of an ankle injury and Anthony Davis due to a calf/Achilles issue that has kept him on the sideline since February.

As such, the Bucks, three games back of the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers, will be the favourites against a Lakers team that stands as the fourth seed in the West.

However, the Lakers have shown fight in ending a four-game losing skid with back-to-back victories and recently added a two-time All-Star center to their roster.

Here, with the help of Stats Perform data, we look at the performers and the battles that will decide this marquee game.

TOP PERFORMERS

Milwaukee Bucks - Giannis Antetokounmpo

The back-to-back MVP returned to something approaching his best in the Bucks' defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers last time out.

Coming off a nagging knee injury, Antetokounmpo dropped 32 points for Milwaukee, going 10 for 21 from the field and two of five from the three-point line.

It was his first 30-point game since the win over the Philadelphia 76ers on March 17 and served as an ominous warning to the under-strength Lakers.

Los Angeles Lakers - Montrezl Harrell

Averaging 15.2 points for the season, Harrell has stepped it up in the absence of Davis and James.

He has put up 19.5 points per game across March. James (25) is the only Laker with a better average in that regard.

The former Clippers big man has produced seven 20-point games this month and may need an eighth to propel the Lakers to another victory without their two stars.

KEY BATTLE - CAN DRUMMOND BOOST LAKERS ON BOARDS

After reaching a buyout agreement with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Drummond signed with the Lakers with an eye on helping them retain the title by any means necessary.

"For me, I'm just here to help in any capacity," Drummond said on Monday. "I'm not here to do anything besides win."

"I'm just here to help in whatever capacity it may be. I'm not here to steal nobody's shine."

The center will primarily be asked to help the Lakers on the boards. Without LeBron and Davis, their rebounding has declined this month.

For the season, they are ninth in the NBA in rebounds per game with 45.2, but that number has tailed off to 43.5 in March, tied for 17th.

Frank Vogel has confirmed Drummond will start against Milwaukee, with the Lakers surely looking for the four-time rebounding leader to help them compete on the glass against a Bucks team second in the league with 48.2 rebounds per game.

HEAD TO HEAD

Having previously won six straight against the Lakers, the Bucks head into this potential Finals preview out to avoid a third consecutive defeat to Los Angeles, having come undone at the hands of James in their 113-106 loss back in January.

Los Angeles Lakers CEO and president Jeanie Buss has told the Brooklyn Nets to "bring it on", insisting the star-studded franchise are bringing out the best in the NBA champions.

The Nets have emerged as the NBA's newest superteam after former All-Stars Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge joined Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn.

While the Nets have made moves in the Eastern Conference, Buss and the Lakers are unfazed in the west.

"It brings out the best in us," Buss, whose Lakers are fourth in the Western Conference in the absence of injured superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, told ESPN+ on Monday.

"When teams identify us as the team to beat and they gear up to go at us head-to-head, that makes us work harder.

"So, bring it on."

The Lakers added two-time All-Star Andre Drummond to the roster on Sunday after he cleared waivers.

Drummond – who has not played since February 12 – agreed to a contract buyout with the Cleveland Cavaliers last week.

"The addition of Andre Drummond, who we picked up in the buyout market, will certainly fortify a season where we've had to deal with injuries and COVID," Buss said.

"Having Marc Gasol, who is our starting center, was out for several weeks with COVID and a really tough case where he was on a minutes restriction even though he's back in the line-up."

James (ankle) and Davis (calf) remain sidelined, and Buss added: "That's what's important, is they get back healthy -- 100 percent healthy -- before they come back so that they stay healthy for the playoffs."

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