LaMarcus Aldridge, a seven-time All-Star who scored over 20,000 points over an accomplished 16-year NBA career, officially announced his retirement on Friday.

Aldridge has not played this season after appearing in 47 games with the Brooklyn Nets in 2021-22.

The 37-year-old briefly retired following the 2020-21 season after being diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat but returned to the Nets the following September after receiving medical clearance.

And Aldridge channelled one of the great sports stars in his announcement.

"In the words of [Tom Brady], you only get one big, emotional retirement," Aldridge wrote on his Twitter account.

"So, on that note... I'm thankful for all the memories, family and friends I made throughout my career. It was one hell of a ride and I enjoyed every min!"

Aldridge entered the NBA in 2006 as the second overall pick of that year's draft following a standout career at the University of Texas.

He spent his first nine seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers and is the franchise's career leader in rebounds, while his 12,562 points in a Blazers uniform trail only Damian Lillard and Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler.

The power forward made four All-Star teams in Portland and was an All-NBA second team selection in his final season with the Blazers in 2014-15 after averaging a career-high 23.4 points per game.

Aldridge left Portland following that season to return to his native Texans by signing a four-year, $80million contract with the San Antonio Spurs. He earned three more All-Star selections over six seasons with San Antonio and again garnered second team All-NBA honours in 2017-18.

The Spurs bought out Aldridge's contract in March 2021 and he signed with the Nets just days afterward in hopes of winning a first NBA championship, though he played just five games over the remainder of that season due to a rapid heartbeat that led to his temporary retirement.

Aldridge became the 48th player in NBA history to reach 20,000 points during his final season and finished his career with 20,558 points, good for 46th place on the NBA's all-time scoring list.

He is one of only 16 players in league history to record 20,000 points and 1,000 blocked shots in a career.

Ben Simmons will not return this season, Brooklyn Nets coach Jacque Vaughn confirmed on Tuesday.

Simmons did not play a single game in the 2021-22 campaign, in which he was traded by the Philadelphia 76ers to the Nets, and has again had a limited role this year.

The one-time Rookie of the Year has played only 42 games, with 33 of those starts, and averaged career lows in points (6.9), assists (6.1), rebounds (6.3), blocks (0.6) and steals (1.3).

Simmons last played on February 15, since when he has been absent with an unspecified issue.

As recently as March 16, coach Vaughn said the Nets were "definitely operating under that belief" that Simmons would return before the end of the season.

Yet less than two weeks on, he told reporters the point guard would "not be joining us the rest of the year".

Simmons is expected to make a full recovery, Vaughn added, although details about the nature of his absence remain scarce.

The Nets are sixth in the Eastern Conference and set for the playoffs despite trading Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving midseason.

No Paul George, no worries for the Los Angeles Clippers as Kawhi Leonard carried them to an important 127-105 home win against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday.

It was the second consecutive meeting between these two sides in Los Angeles after George limped off with a knee injury in Tuesday's 101-100 loss to the Thunder, but with the Clippers' playoff future up in the air, Leonard rose to the occasion.

The two-time NBA Finals MVP scored a game-high 32 points on red-hot 13-of-15 shooting from the field. He was seven-of-seven for 15 points in the first quarter, with his team leading 36-29, but the Clippers began to fall apart as he tried to look for his team-mates in the second period.

Leonard did not attempt a field goal in the second, allowing the Thunder to claw back to 54-54 at half-time, but he came out of the break determined to decide the outcome.

The Clippers' franchise star played the entire third quarter, and the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, not coming out until his side had built a 103-85 lead.

Leonard added six rebounds, six assists and four steals in a dominant two-way performance, finishing with a plus/minus of plus 16 in his 35 minutes. 

He was supported well by an efficient night from Russell Westbrook, as he chipped in 24 points (eight-of-13 shooting) with seven assists.

A loss would have seen the Clippers tied with the Golden State Warriors at 38-36 in the sixth seed – only one game clear of the play-in tournament placings – but they are now two games clear of the drama in fifth with only eight fixtures remaining.

It was a devastating loss for the Thunder's playoff hopes, blowing an opportunity to move into the seventh seed outright, and instead slipping down to 11th, although there is now a four-way tie at 36-37.

Okoro wins it at the buzzer

The Cleveland Cavaliers secured a 116-114 road win against the Brooklyn Nets in the last second as Isaac Okoro drilled a game-winning three-pointer from the corner.

Cleveland rode the dynamic duo of Donovan Mitchell and Evan Mobley all night, with Mitchell scoring a team-high 31 points on 11-of-24 shooting, while Mobley racked up 26 points (11-of-18), 16 rebounds, four blocks and three assists.

But the biggest moment of the game came down to Caris LeVert and Okoro, as the former Net came up with a loose ball and zipped a cross-court pass for Okoro's three in a hectic closing sequence.

The Cavs have been a disappointing 18-20 away from home this season, but have now won five of their past six on the road.

With the loss, the Nets fell to 39-34 and down into play-in spots. The Miami Heat (40-34) leapfrogged them into sixth.

Magic continue to show progress

The Orlando Magic have quietly become one of the most exciting young teams in the league, and they knocked off another playoff side with a 111-106 home win over the New York Knicks.

It was Orlando's third win from their past four outings, also taking down the Clippers and the Washington Wizards, and their number one draft pick led the way. Paolo Banchero scored a team-high 21 points on seven-of-17 shooting, adding six rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks.

Both Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes scored 25 points each in the absence of starting Knicks point guard Jalen Brunson, but a three-of-12 performance with five turnovers from R.J. Barrett was hard to overcome.

Donovan Mitchell says his dunk on Brooklyn Nets wing Yuta Watanabe is up there with his best, and that it also sparked the Cleveland Cavaliers in their 115-109 win on Tuesday.

Mitchell, who finished with 31 points on 10-of-22 shooting and five rebounds, slammed over Watanabe early in the fourth quarter as the Cavs looked to repel the Nets' rally.

The Cavs were up 96-80 with 10:55 remaining when Mitchell received the ball on a fast break from Caris LeVert, taking four steps before dunking over Watanabe who contested the attempt.

"Everyone's reaction was like 'that's your best one'," Mitchell told reporters after the game.

"It's up there. I don’t know if it's my best one, but it's definitely up there."

In a moment of celebration, Mitchell was caught out of position, allowing Mikal Bridges to score down the other end, before glancing up to the Barclays Center screens for a replay.

"I was trying to see it but I forgot we're on the road," Mitchell said. "They’re definitely not going to show it.

"First time I saw it was when we went back in the locker room. It was not bad."

The poster dunk sent social media into a frenzy but it also "sparked" the Cavs according to Mitchell, pulling ahead to a 22-point lead which put the game to bed.

"It really sparked us," he said. "It gave us a little bit of a boost. Those are defining plays. Different plays for different moments to continue to push us going forward.

"It's not like I go into a game thinking 'alright, I'm going to try get a dunk on somebody', but sometimes that's what's needed.

"I felt good enough to try get up there and dunk it. I figured I'd try use my body and finish. It worked out."

The result saw the Cavs firm up their grip on the four seed in the East with a 46-28 record ahead of the 42-31 New York Knicks, while the Nets are sixth at 39-33.

In a clash between two of the seven best records in the NBA, the Boston Celtics produced an impressive 132-109 road blow-out win against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday.

It was shaping up as a shoot-out as both teams started red hot from three-point range, but the Kings could not keep up as the Celtics scored at least 30 points in all four quarters.

Jayson Tatum led the way for Boston with a game-high 36 points on 14-of-25 shooting, adding eight rebounds, four assists and two steals. His All-Star co-pilot Jaylen Brown chipped in an efficient 27 points (10-of-16 shooting) with five rebounds and four assists.

Kings All-Star Domantas Sabonis put together his 12th triple-double of the season with 16 points (seven-of-12), 13 rebounds and 12 assists, although his six turnovers were costly.

The win improved the Celtics' record to 50-23, becoming the second team in the league to reach 50 wins this season, while their 24-14 mark on the road is bettered only by the Philadelphia 76ers (22-12).

Sacramento are still sitting pretty at 43-28, holding a five-game buffer in the Western Conference's third seed.

Mitchell poster highlights Cavs victory

Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star Donovan Mitchell threw down arguably his biggest dunk of the season to put an exclamation point on a 115-109 win over the Brooklyn Nets.

Mitchell ended up with a game-high 31 points on 10-of-22 shooting, including five-of-nine from three-point range, highlighted by a monstrous fast-break poster jam over Yuta Watanabe as both leapt off two feet and met chest-to-chest.

After missing 10 days due to an eye injury, Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen looked right back to his best with 12 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks, with eight of his rebounds coming on the offensive end.

The victory improves Cleveland's record to 46-28, and while they have been a disappointing 17-20 on the road, they have now won four of their past five away from home.

Top pick Banchero flirts with first triple-double

Orlando Magic top draft pick and overwhelming Rookie of the Year favourite Paolo Banchero nearly posted the first triple-double of his career in a 122-112 home win against the Washington Wizards.

The 20-year-old finished with 18 points (six-of-nine shooting), nine rebounds and eight assists for his second close call of the month. It comes 10 days after he put up 17 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in an overtime win against the Miami Heat.

Kristaps Porzingis led the Wizards with 30 points (12-of-22 shooting), six rebounds, three assists and two blocks, continuing what has been arguably the best season of his eight-year NBA career.

In a clash between two of the seven best records in the NBA, the Boston Celtics produced an impressive 132-109 road blowout against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday.

It was shaping up as a shootout as both teams started red-hot from three-point range, but the Kings could not keep up as the Celtics scored at least 30 points in all four quarters.

Jayson Tatum led the way for Boston with a game-high 36 points on 14-of-25 shooting, adding eight rebounds, four assists and two steals. His All-Star co-pilot Jaylen Brown chipped in an efficient 27 points (10-of-16 shooting) with five rebounds and four assists.

Kings All-Star Domantas Sabonis put together his 12th triple-double of the season with 16 points (seven-of-12), 13 rebounds and 12 assists, although his six turnovers were costly.

The win improves the Celtics' record to 50-23, becoming the second team in the league to reach 50 wins this season, while their 24-14 mark on the road is bettered only by the Philadelphia 76ers (22-12).

Sacramento are still sitting pretty at 43-28, holding a five-game buffer in the Western Conference's third seed.

Mitchell poster highlights Cavs victory

Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star Donovan Mitchell threw down arguably his biggest dunk of the season to put an exclamation point on a 115-109 win over the Brooklyn Nets.

Mitchell ended up with a game-high 31 points on 10-of-22 shooting, including five-of-nine from three-point range, highlighted by a monstrous fast-break poster jam over Yuta Watanabe as both leapt off two feet and met chest-to-chest.

After missing 10 days due to an eye injury, Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen looked right back to his best with 12 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks, with eight of his rebounds coming on the offensive end.

The victory improves Cleveland's record to 46-28, and while they have been a disappointing 17-20 on the road, they have now won four of their past five away from home.

Top pick Banchero flirts with first triple-double

Orlando Magic top draft pick and overwhelming Rookie of the Year favourite Paolo Banchero nearly posted the first triple-double of his career in a 122-112 home win against the Washington Wizards.

The 20-year-old finished with 18 points (six-of-nine shooting), nine rebounds and eight assists for his second close call of the month. It comes 10 days after he put up 17 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in an overtime win against the Miami Heat.

Kristaps Porzingis led the Wizards with 30 points (12-of-22 shooting), six rebounds, three assists and two blocks, continuing what has been arguably the best season of his eight-year NBA career.

The Brooklyn Nets will attempt to arrest their slide in the Eastern Conference when they host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday.

Brooklyn and the Cavs square off twice in New York this week, the second meeting coming on Thursday.

And the Nets head into the first game of the doubleheader on the back of a three-game losing streak.

The Nets, sixth in the East, are now 39-32, just two games in the loss column ahead of the Miami Heat at 39-34.

As such, they are at risk of slipping into the play-in tournament places, and the Nets understand they must get better at rebounding if they are to return to winning ways.

The Nets are last in total rebounds in home games and were outrebounded 40-33 by the Denver Nuggets in Sunday's loss to the Western Conference leaders.

Cleveland represent formidable opposition, with the Cavs sitting at 45-28, fourth in the East. They have won seven of their last 10 games.

But this is a matchup in which the Nets may actually have an edge on the boards to help them end their losing run.

PIVOTAL PLAYERS

Brooklyn Nets – Mikal Bridges

Bridges has quickly become the Nets' talisman having been acquired in the trade that sent Kevin Durant to the Phoenix Suns, and he has been one of the most prolific scorers in the NBA in March.

He is averaging 27.1 points per game this month, putting him 10th in league. No other Brooklyn player is averaging 20.

Cleveland Cavaliers – Jarrett Allen

The player who will bear much of the responsibility for ensuring the Nets continue to struggle on the boards is a former Brooklyn player.

Cavs center Allen has thrived on the glass this season, averaging 9.8 rebounds per game, the 11th-most in the NBA.

KEY BATTLE – Can Nets win the rebound challenge?

After their struggles on the boards against the Nuggets, head coach Jacque Vaughn was asked about how the Nets need to go about improving their rebounding.

"We have to accept it, it's truth, it's staring us in the face," he said. "The scouting report says try to go to offensive rebound versus the Nets, and we have to understand that and really do a diligent job of trying to do it together. We can't do it with two people or three people.

"We're trying to be systematic in how we embrace this problem, but I just want our guys to embrace it and realise that it is really a big difference from us being a pretty good defensive team, and that challenge we have to take on, and we have to win it. We have to win that challenge."

Winning that challenge may be easier against the Cavs who, despite Allen's prowess on the glass, are 25th in the NBA in rebounds per game with 41.4, just 1.2 more than the Nets.

HEAD TO HEAD

The Nets were victorious over the Cavs in their previous meeting in Cleveland on December 26 and have won five of the last six games between the teams.

Nikola Jokic recorded his 28th triple-double of the season as the Western Conference-leading Denver Nuggets rediscovered some form with a 108-102 road victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday.

The Nuggets had lost five of their past six games, but improved to 48-24 with the triumph, maintaining a sizeable buffer at the top of the West from the second-placed Sacramento Kings (43-27).

Serbian center Jokic starred with 22 points on nine-of-12 shooting with 17 rebounds and 10 assists, while Michael Porter scored a team-high 28 points with five-of-nine three-point attempts.

Jamal Murray added 25 points, nailing all four of his attempts from beyond the arc, and he posted 20 of his haul in the opening quarter as Denver got a fast start to lead 33-21 at the first break.

The Nuggets were coasting to victory with a 91-71 lead at three-quarter time before the Nets rallied in the fourth, with Porter settling the game with one of his five triples.

The defeat dents Brooklyn's aspirations to claim a top-six seed in the Eastern Conference, falling to 39-32, marginally ahead of the seventh-placed Miami Heat (39-34).

Mikal Bridges top scored for the home side with 23 points on eight-of-18 shooting from the field, while Nic Claxton chipped in 19 points and eight rebounds.

Giannis records triple-double in Bucks win

The Milwaukee Bucks stormed past the Toronto Raptors 118-111 on a 29-16 fourth-quarter charge as Giannis Antetokounmpo brought up his 33d career triple-double.

Antetokounmpo finished with 22 points on 100 per cent shooting from the field with 13 rebounds and 10 assists, while Brook Lopez added a team-high 26 points with Khris Middleton scoring 20.

Lopez scored 17 of his 26 points in the final period, including the first eight of the quarter, with the Bucks going on a game-changing 15-2 run. The NBA-best Bucks are now 51-20.

SGA leads OKC past Suns

Shai Gilgeous-Alezander scored 40 points, came up clutch down the stretch and garnered M-V-P chants as the Oklahoma City Thunder boosted their play-in hopes with a 124-120 win over the Phoenix Suns.

Gilgeous-Thunder hit two free throws with 10 seconds left to hold off the Suns, who had Devin Booker score 46 points, including 30 in the second half, having led 69-57 at half-time. Chris Paul scored 14 points with 13 assists.

OKC (35-36) have four wins from their past five games to stay in the play-in hunt, thanks in large part to Gilgeous-Alexander's perfect 11-of-11 free throws in the second half, while Luguentz Dort added 20 points.

Ben Simmons has had "zero discussions" with the Brooklyn Nets about bringing his season to an end, says head coach Jacque Vaughn.

While remaining vague about the specific issue keeping Simmons sidelined, the 26-year-old has been contending with back and knee problems.

Speaking prior to the Nets' 101-96 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Thursday, Vaughn confirmed he expects Simmons – who last featured on February 15 – to be back on court before the season ends.

"Definitely operating under that belief," Vaughn replied when asked if Simmons will play again this campaign.

"There's zero discussions about him not playing. We expect him to be back, waiting for him to be back."

It has been a frustrating time in Brooklyn for Simmons, who did not play at all last season after moving to the Nets in the huge trade that saw James Harden switch to the Philadelphia 76ers.

He sat out the first half of the season while he was waiting to be traded, then missed the rest of the campaign with a back issue.

While he has played 42 games this term, Simmons is averaging career-lows for points (6.9), rebounds (6.3), assists (6.1) and steals (1.3).

Vaughn added there has been no setback to his recovery.

"No setbacks. He's progressing. So, great to see him," he added.

"He's doing some work on court right now, so as more updates come, I'll definitely give them to you guys, but good to see him back on court getting some work in."

The Nets' setback to the Kings leaves them sixth in the Eastern Conference, two wins back of rivals the New York Knicks.

Forward Mikal Bridges was pretty frank about why the Nets failed to get the job done.

"They just played harder," Bridges said. "Get stops and they were just scoring. Getting to the line. But, yeah they just played harder than us."

The Sacramento Kings can be "dangerous" after ensuring their first winning season since 2005-06 with a 101-96 triumph over the Brooklyn Nets, believes coach Mike Brown.

Domantas Sabonis starred with 24 points, 21 rebounds, five assists and four blocks as the Kings took control of the Western Conference's second seed with Thursday's win.

No team in the NBA has a better record over their last 10 games than the Kings' 8-2 mark, and their 42nd win of the campaign ensures they will snap a 17-year run without a winning season – an NBA record.

"It means a lot for the fans and the organisation," Brown said after the game. "Sacramento, it's a proud fan base and they don't get a lot of love around the nation or even in the state of California. 

"So to be able to pound their chest and be able to walk with their heads high and talk with their friends to have a little bit of bragging rights, it's great."

With the 42-27 Kings now 4.5 games behind the Denver Nuggets and 5.5 clear of the play-in tournament placings, Brown believes they should be aiming high.

"It's been pretty easy. The guys understand what my messaging has been all along, and they understand how passionate I am about it," Brown said. 

"I do feel that this group believes in themselves. Not just because I'm telling them they're good, but because they've gone out and proven it time after time after time, whether it's individually in certain situations, or collectively as a team.

"When you have a team that believes, they can be dangerous. When you've got a collected team that believes, that can be a very dangerous team. That's what our group is right now."

The Kings continue their road stretch against the Washington Wizards on Saturday and the Utah Jazz on Monday, before returning home to face the Boston Celtics.

Reigning back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic prioritised his scoring to help the Denver Nuggets snap their four-game losing streak on Thursday.

Jokic posted a game-high 30 points to go with 10 rebounds and nine assists as his Nuggets came back from an early deficit to defeat the Detroit Pistons 119-100 on the road.

Denver trailed by six at half-time, but went on to outscore the Pistons 61-36 the rest of the way, and Jokic was leaving nothing to chance.

Between December 30 and March 10, Jokic had only one game where he made at least 14 field goals. He has now reached that figure in three of his past four outings, and over that span he has put up averages of 32.5 points, 12.3 rebounds and 9.5 assists to try and shake the Nuggets out of their mini-slump.

A big reason for their recent dip in form has been the play of second-star Jamal Murray, who came into the contest after shooting 19-of-58 (32.8 per cent) over his past three. He was not at his scoring best against the Pistons, but he was a worthy contributor, chipping in 19 points (seven-of-15 shooting) with 10 assists and six rebounds.

On the other side, it was an eye-opening performance off the bench from rookie Jalen Duren, piling up 15 points (seven-of-10 shooting), 13 rebounds, four assists and three steals in his 27 minutes.

The victory improves Denver's Western Conference-leading record to 47-23, while the 16-55 Pistons own the league's worst record and the best odds at landing the number one draft pick.

Sabonis shines as Kings remain one of the league's hottest teams

Domantas Sabonis was the star of the show as his Sacramento Kings fought off the gritty Brooklyn Nets for a 101-96 road win.

No team in the NBA has a better record over their past 10 games than the Kings' 8-2 mark, and they were propelled Thursday by Sabonis' 24 points (eight-of-14 shooting), 21 rebounds, five assists and four blocks. In doing so, Sabonis broke Otis Thorpe's franchise record (1987-88 season) for the most rebounds in a single regular season (837).

Sacramento will be anxiously awaiting further news on starting wing Kevin Huerter after he left in the first quarter with a hamstring injury, but they have plenty of wiggle room after taking sole possession of the West's second seed.

At 42-27, the Kings are 4.5 games behind the Nuggets, and 5.5 games clear of the play-in tournament placings.

Bucks defense goes missing in Pacers upset

One of the best defenses in the league had no answers for the Indiana Pacers as the Milwaukee Bucks fell in a surprising 139-123 upset.

The Bucks looked on course to add to their league-best 50 wins after piling on 40 points in the first quarter, but they undid all their good work by allowing the Pacers to score 84 in the second half.

Eight Pacers scored double-figures, led by Andrew Nembhard's 24 points on 10-of-21 shooting, while the highlight of the game came from Myles Turner's posterising dunk over Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Milwaukee (50-20) sit two games clear atop the East, with the Boston Celtics (48-22) their closest competitor in the race for the league's best record.

Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone says his side have been in "cruise control" after Sunday's 122-120 loss to the Brooklyn Nets marked three straight defeats.

The Nuggets remain clear atop the West with a 46-22 record, with the second-placed Sacramento Kings back at 40-26, inviting a level of complacency.

Denver were unable to win despite reigning back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic managing a 35-point triple-double with 20 rebounds and 11 assists.

"We've been on cruise control for a really long time, making it look easy," Malone told reporters. "We've spoilt a lot of people, like we're going to win our last 15 games, we're great. It doesn’t work like that.

"What do you think [2022 NBA champions] Golden State's record was after the All-Star break last year. It was 11-12. It happens.

"Is it ideal? Hell, no. We don’t want to lose three in a row and now we're going one a very demanding and difficult five-game road trip. 

"I think the most important for me as head coach is the delicate balance of coaching, holding guys accountable, teaching but also not panicking.

"Losing sucks, we all realise that, but let's stay together, stay poised and find a way to put 48 minutes together."

Denver have blown double-digit leads in all of their past three defeats, with Malone lamenting their inability to play a full four quarters.

The Nets took control of Sunday's game on the back of a 37-18 third quarter, with Malone pointing to similar periods in their previous two games.

"Everybody in that third quarter played poorly," Malone said. "Looking at the last game and looking at tonight, one quarter has cost us the game.

"San Antonio, it was the second quarter, we gave up 42 points. Tonight it was the third quarter, 37-18. In this league, against a team that's fifth in the East, you can't play three quarters and expect to win."

The Nuggets were not helped by Jamal Murray's poor shooting night, finishing five-of-19 from the field for his 16 points. Murray sat out the fourth quarter with left knee soreness.

"I haven’t had a chance to speak with Jamal or our trainers yet," Malone said. "We'll see how it is."

Mikal Bridges' incredible start to his career as a Brooklyn Net continued on Sunday as he led his team to a 122-120 road upset against the Western Conference-leading Denver Nuggets despite Nikola Jokic's massive triple-double.

Bridges, 26, arrived from Phoenix as the central piece heading to Brooklyn in the Kevin Durant trade, and he has lived up to even the most lofty expectations about what he could produce as the focal point of an offense.

Playing in a supporting role during his time with the Suns, Bridges was averaging a career-high 17.2 points per game this season. It is the fifth season in a row he has improved his points per game, all with career shooting splits of 49.9 per cent from the field, 37.6 per cent from deep and 85.2 per cent from the free throw line.

In his 12 games since joining the Nets, Bridges has shown he is indeed capable of filling a featured role, averaging 25.8 points while maintaining elite efficiency at 51.4 per cent from the field, 49.2 per cent from deep and 90 per cent at the line.

Against the Nuggets, Bridges again led his team in scoring with 25 points on seven-of-16 shooting, while fellow trade deadline acquisition Spencer Dinwiddie posted a career-high 16 assists to go with his 15 points (five-of-15) and six rebounds.

After starting the season a perfect 25-0 in games when reigning back-to-back MVP Jokic has tallied a triple-double, Denver have now dropped two in a row, with his 35 points (14-of-23), 20 rebounds and 11 assists proving not enough to make up for Jamal Murray's ice-cold five-of-19 shooting night.

The Nets have now won five of their past six to improve to 39-29, sitting 3.5 games clear of the play-in tournament placings, while the 46-22 Nuggets are still five games clear atop the West.

Murphy's big night carries the Pelicans

Second-year wing Trey Murphy III dropped a career-high 41 points as the New Orleans Pelicans defended their home court 127-110 against the visiting Portland Trail Blazers.

With Damian Lillard out of action for Portland, they did not have a single player exceed 17 points, while Murphy caught fire.

The 22-year-old hit 13-of-20 shots and nine-of-14 three-pointers, eclipsing his previous high score by nine points as he reached the 30-point mark for the third time. 

Much like Bridges, Murphy has excelled when given an expanded opportunity, providing a silver lining to the absences of Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson.

Embiid too big, too strong for the Wizards

Philadelphia 76ers MVP candidate Joel Embiid was once again the most dominant player on the floor during Sunday's 112-93 manhandling of the Washington Wizards.

Embiid, who leads the race for the scoring title at 33.4 points per game, raised his average ever so slightly with 34 points on 12-of-21 shooting, adding eight rebounds, four assists, four blocks and a steal.

James Harden, who is leading the league in assists at 10.8 per game, made his center's life easier with another 14 dimes to go with 18 points (six-of-11).

The win is the 76ers' fifth in a row, and they are now only 1.5 games behind the Boston Celtics (47-21) as they both try to chase down the conference-leading Milwaukee Bucks (48-19).

Joel Embiid did his MVP chances no harm on Friday as he carried the Philadelphia 76ers to their fourth win in a row with a 120-119 home win against the Portland Trail Blazers.

It was looking like Portland's night early on as they built a 71-50 lead approaching half-time, led primarily by the hot-shooting Anfernee Simons on his way to a team-high 34 points on 13-of-22 from the field.

But from that point on they were outscored 70-48 in a true game of two halves, although the 76ers still found themselves down 11 going into the final period.

The driving force behind the comeback was Embiid, who re-entered the game with 6:33 remaining and his team down 110-98. He scored nine of his game-high 39 points in the final six minutes – matching Portland's scoring efforts as a team down the stretch.

He finished 13-of-20 from the field and 13-of-18 from the free throw line, adding seven rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals in a dominant two-way masterclass.

James Harden chipped in a near triple-double in support, scoring 19 points (six-of-14 shooting) with nine rebounds and eight assists.

With the win, Philadelphia improved their record to 44-22, just 1.5 games behind the Boston Celtics (46-21) in the race for the second seed in the East as the Milwaukee Bucks (48-18) pull away in front.

Portland fell to 31-36, leaving them 13th in the West and 1.5 games outside of the play-in tournament placings.

Jokic's triple-double winning streak comes to an end

The Denver Nuggets had been unbeaten in the 25 games this season Nikola Jokic had tallied a triple-double, until the San Antonio Spurs upset them 128-120.

The loss was not the fault of the reigning back-to-back MVP, as he scored a game-high 37 points (14-of-24 shooting) to go with 11 rebounds and 11 assists, but he lost his top offensive wing in the third quarter when Michael Porter Jr was ejected.

San Antonio had six players reach double figures, led by Keldon Johnson's 23 points (eight-of-17 shooting), eight rebounds, six assists and two steals, while Tre Jones was a game-high plus/minus of plus 21 off the bench after contributing 14 points (five-of-seven), eight assists and three steals.

Denver remain six games clear atop the Western Conference.

Nets survive in overtime

The playoff-bound Brooklyn Nets have won four of their past five after emerging victorious 124-123 following an overtime scare on the road against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Brooklyn made it to the fourth quarter with a nine-point lead, but scored only 17 points in the period to allow Minnesota back into the game, and Naz Reid completed the comeback with a clutch game-tying three-pointer to beat the buzzer.

But led by Mikal Bridge's 34 points (13-of-24) and Spencer Dinwiddie's 29 (11-of-24) with 11 assists, the Nets narrowly prevailed in the extra five minutes, with Dorian Finney-Smith's go-ahead three-pointer proving the difference.

Domantas Sabonis recorded a second straight triple-double as the Sacramento Kings held off the New York Knicks 122-117 to move another step closer to ending their 16-year playoffs wait.

The Knicks erased a 21-point deficit to tie the game at 96-96 in the fourth quarter but the Kings held their nerve, claiming the win at Golden 1 Center on Thursday to restore second seed in the Western Conference.

Sabonis scored a team-high 24 points with 13 rebounds and 10 assists, while De'Aaron Fox came alive in the fourth quarter to finish with 23 points and seven assists.

Fox scored 15 of his 23 points in the fourth. The Kings guard has scored 10 or more points in the fourth quarter 23 times this season, which is tied for the most in the NBA with Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Knicks were not helped by losing Jalen Brunson in the third quarter to injury, with a repeat of the foot injury that had kept him out of the previous two games.

Brunson scored 19 points with three-of-five three-point shooting from 19 minutes with the Knicks missing him down the stretch, giving up three turnovers in the final two-and-a-half minutes.

Julius Randle was guilty of one of those turnovers, mishandling the ball at 119-115 with 13.1 seconds to go. Randle finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds, while R.J. Barrett had 25 points.

The defeat means the Knicks have lost two in a row after going on a nine-game winning streak, leaving them fifth in the East at 39-29.

Ja-less Grizzlies down Warriors

The Golden State Warriors' road woes worsened as the Memphis Grizzlies downed the reigning champions 131-110 in the continued absence of Ja Morant.

Grizzlies point guard Tyus Jones scored a team-high 22 points with 11 assists, while Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr both added 21 points.

Stephen Curry finished with a game-high 29 points on 10-of-19 shooting from the field, but the Warriors shot 15-of-45 from beyond the arc as a team.

Memphis put up a massive 48 points in the first quarter, but held only a six-point three-quarter time lead before racing away with a comprehensive victory, improving to 39-26.

Lopez sets blocks record in Bucks win

Brook Lopez recorded an NBA season-high nine blocks as the league-best Milwaukee Bucks got past the short-handed Brooklyn Nets 118-113.

Lopez scored 24 points with 10 rebounds and a career-high nine blocks for the Bucks, who were without Giannis Antetokounmpo due to a sore right hand. Bobby Portis scored a game-high 28 points with 13 rebounds.

The Nets were without a host of players due to injuries, including Nic Claxton, Royce O'Neale, Spencer Dinwiddie and Ben Simmons, with Patty Mills top scoring off the bench with 23 points, making five-of-nine triples.

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