The Splash Brothers found their range as Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 64 points including 10 three-pointers in the Golden State Warriors' 129-117 win over the Toronto Raptors on Friday.

Curry top scored with 35 points on 13-of-21 shooting from the field, making four-of-eight from beyond the arc, with seven rebounds, 11 assists and two steals at Chase Center.

Thompson finished with 29 points but nailed six-of-14 three-point attempts, along with eight rebounds.

Donte DiVincenzo made another strong impression off the bench, playing 33 minutes for 12 points with two-of-five three-pointers and 11 assists.

As a team, Golden State shot at 55.6 per cent from the field (50-of-90), while they had 40 assists compared to Toronto's 24.

The win improves the Warriors' home record to 19-6, while they nudge over .500 with a 25-24 overall record to move up seventh in the Western Conference.

Raptors guard Fred VanVleet scored a team-high 28 points on five-of-10 three-point shooting with 10 assists, while Scottie Barnes chipped in with 24 points.

Giannis dominates as Middleton comeback continues

Giannis Antetokounmpo held off another Indiana Pacers' late charge as the Milwaukee Bucks won 141-131 fuelled by the Greek's 41 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.

Antetokounmpo made five-of-eight free-throws in the final four minutes as the Bucks held on. Jrue Holiday contributed 20 points with nine rebounds and nine assists.

Khris Middleton continued his gradual return to full fitness, scoring 17 points in 15 minutes off the bench, while Myles Turner top scored for Indiana with 24 points.

SGA racks them up again for OKC

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander recorded his fourth straight 30-point game as the Oklahoma City Thunder down the Cleveland Cavaliers 112-100 after scores were locked at three-quarter time.

Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 35 points, with eight assists and five rebounds for OKC, who won for the sixth time in eight games to improve to 24-25.

The Cavs were without Donovan Mitchell due to a groin injury, with Darius Garland starring for them with 31 points and 13 assists.

Meanwhile, Ja Morant recorded his fourth triple-double of the season with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists in the Memphis Grizzlies' 111-100 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Evan Mobley scored a career-high 38 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers secured a big win in the Eastern Conference, downing the Milwaukee Bucks 114-102.

The 2021 NBA Draft third overall pick shot 19-of-27 from the field with nine rebounds and three assists for the Cavs, who improved to a 29-19 record to sit fifth in the east, with the Bucks third at 29-17.

Cavs point guard Darius Garland added 21 points, including 10 in the third, with 10 assists.

The Bucks were without Giannis Antetokounmpo who missed his fifth straight game due to knee soreness. Milwaukee are 6-5 on the season when playing without the MVP contender.

Jrue Holiday led the way for Milwaukee with 28 points, four rebounds and 10 assists, while Bobby Portis added 23 points including five three-pointers with 11 rebounds.

In Antetokounmpo's absence, Milwaukee turned to three-point shooting with regularity, but shot 14-of-39 from beyond the arc.

On Antetokounmpo's continued absence, Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said: "There's still just things he's working on, I think body-wise, to get to that point where; there's a big difference between practicing and playing a game.

"I know I've said it pretty much every day – we continue to be confident and feel like this is kind of the things we've managed and dealt with for most of his career. So we'll just continue to take it day-by-day. He's getting good work in, good lifts."

Celtics win but pick up injuries

The Boston Celtics won 106-104 over the Toronto Raptors but lost guard Marcus Smart and center Robert Williams to ankle and knee injuries respectively.

Jaylen Brown top scored with 27 points, eight rebounds and six assists for Boston, for whom Jayson Tatum sat out the game with a sore left wrist.

Grant Williams and Malcolm Brogdon played increased minutes, scoring 25 and 23 points respectively off the bench, while Pascal Siakam had 29 points and 10 rebounds for the Raptors.

Edwards stars as Rockets sink to new low

Former NBA Draft top overall pick Anthony Edwards scored a season-high 44 points to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves past the struggling Houston Rockets 113-104.

Edwards shot 17-of-29 from the field with eight three-pointers for the Wolves, who improved to a 24-24 record. Edwards also had six rebounds, four assists, three steals and three blocks, while D'Angelo Russell contributed 23 points.

The defeat condemned the Rockets to their 13th straight loss, which is the longest streak this season. Houston gave up 23 turnovers that led to 30 Wolves points.

The Memphis Grizzlies' achieved a franchise record 11th straight win with Desmond Bane and Ja Morant starring in a thrilling 115-114 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday.

Darius Garland had a three-point shot on the buzzer blocked by Dillon Brooks, after Steven Adams tipped in with 16 seconds left after Morant's miss.

Bane top scored for the Grizzlies with 25 points, including five-of-eight three-point shooting. Morant added 24 points with eight assists for Memphis, who improved to 31-13, along with 20-3 at home.

Morant had spent time in the locker room in the first quarter after copping a knee to his neck, but re-entered the game in the second quarter.

Game-winner Adams scored 13 points with 10 rebounds and four assists, while Jaren Jackson Jr had an excellent all-round game with 15 points, seven rebounds, two steals and four blocks.

Memphis also managed an 11th consecutive game with 115 or more points.

The Cavs were missing Donovan Mitchell due to a groin strain, with Garland top scoring with 24 points on five-of-11 three-point shooting along with 14 assists.

Caris LeVert added 23 points with four rebounds and six assists, with power forward Evan Mobley scoring 18 points and bringing down 15 rebounds with two blocks. The Cavs are now 28-18.

Trae downs Doncic as Hawks win fourth straight

The Atlanta Hawks continued their run of momentum with their fourth straight win in a 130-122 victory over Luka Doncic's Dallas Mavericks.

Dejounte Murray scored 30 points, making four-of-six three-pointers, while John Collins added 19 along with 18 from Trae Young plus 12 assists, as the Hawks secured a season-best four-game winning streak to move above .500 at 23-22.

Doncic, who was traded as a top-five pick for Young at the 2018 NBA Draft, scored 30 points for the Mavs, but only 11 after quarter-time, while he gave up seven turnovers.

Jokic adds another franchise record in Nuggets win

Nikola Jokic recorded his 14th triple-double of the season as he surpassed Alex English for the most assists in franchise history in the Denver Nuggets' 122-118 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The MVP candidate finished with 31 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists, going past English's 3,680-assist franchise record with a dime for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Jamal Murray added 28 points for the Nuggets, who secured their eighth straight win and 15th successive victory at home to remain top in the west, at 32-13.

The Memphis Grizzlies will get a chance to tie their longest winning streak in franchise history when they host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday.

Monday's 30-point demolition of the Phoenix Suns extended the Grizzlies' streak to 10, and they are now one victory away from tying the 11-game streak from the 2014-15 campaign starring Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, which was matched last season.

Over their last 10 fixtures, the Grizzlies have been a juggernaut on both ends of the court, scoring 119.9 points per 100 possessions to sit third in offensive rating, while also boasting the best defense in the NBA, allowing just 106.5.

Meanwhile, the team the Grizzlies overtook to snatch top spot in the defensive rankings was the Cavaliers, who still sit second for the season.

Another key indicator for the true contenders is net rating – which measures how much better a team's offensive rating is compared to their defense – and both of these sides have excelled through the first half of the season. The Grizzlies sit second overall with a net rating of 5.8, while the Cavaliers are third at 4.7.

Two very similar teams, both the Cavaliers and the Grizzlies utilise two defensive anchors in their starting line-up, leaning away from the more prevalent "small ball" roster constructions seen around the league.

For the Grizzlies, Steven Adams is arguably the strongest rebounder in the league while Jaren Jackson Jr leads the NBA in blocks per game at 3.3. On the Cavaliers' side, All-Star Jarrett Allen and defensive prodigy Evan Mobley roam the interior.

While these sides are almost identical defensively, the way they attack on offense, particularly through their star players, could decide their fate.

Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant is, without a doubt, one of the best guards in league history when it comes to finishing at the rim. He is averaging five makes per game within five feet of the basket – the only guard in the league to do so – while converting at a terrific 61 per cent clip.

The problem with that is how well both of these teams protect the basket, as it creates the question of what happens when an unstoppable force – Morant – meets an immovable object – the rim protection of Allen and Mobley.

On the other hand, the combination of Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell for the Cavaliers are far more malleable with the way they create their offense.

Garland excels in 'floater range' from five-to-nine feet away from the hoop, sitting 15th in the league with 1.3 makes per game at an efficient 50 per cent, while Mitchell provides the long-range assault.

Mitchell is averaging 3.1 makes per game on deep threes (greater than 25 feet), which trails only the Golden State Warriors' Splash Brothers, Stephen Curry (3.8) and Klay Thompson (3.2).

It should be a mouthwatering clash between the league's best two defensive teams, who both have all their young stars healthy and ready to go as they look to strengthen their playoff positions.

 

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS 

Cleveland Cavaliers – Jarrett Allen

It is no secret that Morant is the driving force behind the Grizzlies' success, and for him to dominate games, he needs to control the paint.

Allen is the Cavaliers' primary rim protector and will be tasked with preventing Morant from producing more of his highlight-reel finishes, and if he can turn Morant into a jump-shooter for the night, Cleveland will consider that a massive win.

Memphis Grizzlies – Desmond Bane

Desmond Bane is the perfect counterbalance to Morant, providing the Grizzlies with a dynamic shooting threat who holds the defense's attention at all times.

Through three seasons, Bane owns a ridiculous career three-point percentage of 43.3. It is not just a strong number, it is the seventh-best career figure of all-time, and places him in the absolute top echelon of shooters in today's game.

If he can hit a couple early and force the Cavaliers' defense to divert some of their attention away from Morant, Bane could open up everything for the Grizzlies' offense.

KEY BATTLE – Can the Cavaliers figure out how to win on the road?

Heading into this contest, both the Grizzlies (19-3) and the Cavaliers (19-4) sit top-three in the NBA's best home records.

The Grizzlies will get the honour of hosting this time, leaving the Cavs as the underdogs as they try to figure out what is behind their disappointing 9-13 record away from home this campaign.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

This will be the first time this season these two teams meet, although the Grizzlies have won each of the past three matchups.

The Cavaliers defeated the Grizzlies once during Morant's rookie season in 2019, but the former Rookie of the Year has not lost to them since.

Kevin Durant went down injured before Royce O'Neale scored the game-winning two-pointer with 3.2 seconds left as the Brooklyn Nets edged the Miami Heat 102-101 on Sunday.

Durant exited late in the third quarter with a right knee issue after Jimmy Butler fell on him, but the Nets did enough without him to improve to 27-13 overall and second spot in the Eastern Conference. Brooklyn have won 18 of their last 20 games.

Butler put the Heat ahead 101-100 with a dunk with 1:12 remaining, but O'Neale had the final say with a putback after Kyrie Irving had missed a 30-foot three-point attempt.

Irving top scored for Brooklyn with 28 points, including six-of-15 from three-point range with six assists, while Nic Claxton contributed strongly again with 13 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks.

Durant managed 17 points on five-of-11 shooting from the field with five rebounds in his 30 minutes on the court.

Butler top-scored for the Heat with 26 points, but shot nine-of-21 from the field with two turnovers, while Tyler Herro finished with 24 points before limping off late.

Bam Adebayo was also limited by a right-hand contusion, scoring 10 points with eight rebounds.

Harden records triple-double in 76ers win

James Harden recorded a triple-double and became the 27th NBA player with 24,000 career points as the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Detroit Pistons 123-111.

Harden finished with 20 points on seven-of-14 shooting, including three-of-five from beyond the arc, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.

Tyrese Maxey also came to the fore for the Joel Embiid-less 76ers, while Pistons guard Killian Hayes had a game-high 26 points, with four three-pointers.

Suns slump to sixth straight loss

The Cleveland Cavaliers consigned the short-handed Phoenix Suns to their sixth straight defeat with a 112-98 victory as Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland scored 22 points each.

Mitchell, who scored a season-high 71 points in last weeks' OT win over the Chicago Bulls, made seven-of-12 from the field, while Garland dished off seven assists in a fine display.

The Suns were missing their backcourt of Chris Paul and Devin Booker but were within one point at three-quarter time before fading.

Duane Washington top scored for Phoenix in 25 minutes off the bench with 25 points including five triples.

The Brooklyn Nets scored the third most first-half points in NBA history on their way to a 143-113 rout of the short-handed Golden State Warriors at the Barclays Center on Wednesday.

The Nets led 91-51 at half-time, which was also a franchise record first half, led by Kevin Durant who scored 21 of his 23 points before the main break as they claimed their seventh straight win.

The result compelled the Warriors to back-to-back 30-point losses for the first time since 2001 and extended their poor road record to 3-16, leaving them 15-18 overall.

Brooklyn's 46-17 quarter-time lead, which equated to a 29-point differential, was the largest in any period this NBA season.

The Nets were ruthless in the first half, capitalizing on turnovers from the Warriors, who were without Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins and playing the second game in a back-to-back after losing 132-94 to the New York Knicks on Tuesday.

Brooklyn, who were without Kyrie Irving due to calf tightness, also matched a franchise record with nine players reaching double-figure scoring, including Edmond Sumner (16), Royce O'Neale (14) and Ben Simmons (10).

James Wiseman offered some positivity for Golden State, with 30 points from 28 minutes off the bench, while Jordan Poole struggled on four-of-17 shooting with seven turnovers.

The Nets, who have won 11 of their past 12 games, improved to 20-12, while the Warriors end their six-game road trip with a 1-5 record but can look forward to an eight-game home stand.

Knicks win streak over after Siakam domination

The New York Knicks' eight-game winning streak was ended by the struggling Toronto Raptors as Pascal Siakam scored a career-high 52 points in a 113-106 win.

Siakam scored 34 through the second and third quarters, shooting 17-of-25 from the field along with 16-of-18 from the free-throw line as the Raptors halted their own six-game losing run.

Fred VanVleet added 28 points for Toronto, while Julius Randle scored 30 with 13 rebounds for the Knicks, with R.J. Barrett draining four triples in his 30-point haul.

Mitchell's Cavs down Giannis' Bucks

Not even a trademark Herculean Giannis Antetokounmpo performance was enough for the Milwaukee Bucks, who went down 114-106 to Donovan Mitchell's Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Greek forward scored a season-high 45 points with 14 rebounds, four assists and two blocks as the Bucks rallied in the fourth quarter but fell short.

Mitchell was key for the Cavs with 36 points, four rebounds, six assists and two steals, while Darius Garland added 23 points and Jarrett Allen had 19 points with eight rebounds.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have quietly built an elite championship profile with a top-five offense and a top-five defense, and they were too good for fellow Eastern Conference playoff contenders the Atlanta Hawks on Monday.

Against the Hawks, the Cavaliers rode the offensive brilliance of their two All-Star guards. Darius Garland, who the team drafted fifth overall back in 2019, had an efficient 26 points on nine-of-14 shooting, while their offseason trade acquisition Donovan Mitchell top-scored with 29 points on 11-of-22 shooting.

While having two terrific scorers in the backcourt is one thing, having two elite playmakers unlocks a whole new level of play.

Both Garland and Mitchell finished with nine assists each, with Mitchell averaging a career-high 5.8 assists since arriving from the Utah Jazz, while Garland's 7.7 assists per contest ties him for the sixth-most in the league.

When factoring in that they both play close to 40 minutes a night, coach J.B. Bickerstaff can stagger his rotation in a way where one of them is always on the floor, giving them 48 minutes of structured, competent offense, regardless of who the four surrounding players are.

While their dynamic duo are the heartbeat of their offensive success – producing the fifth-best offensive rating in the league at 114.8 points per 100 possessions – they have an equally impactful pairing in the frontcourt with seven-footers Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley.

Allen, along with Garland, was honoured last season as a first-time All-Star, while Mobley came into the league as one of the greatest defensive prospects in the history of college basketball.

It is the brilliance of that combination that has allowed the Cavaliers to concede the third-fewest points per 100 possessions (108.2) despite starting two small guards, making them the only team in the top-five of both offensive and defensive efficiency.

After Monday's win against the Hawks, Garland spoke about how their defense was able to deliver a 12-point win despite committing 20 turnovers as a team.

"We're just trying to cut the turnovers down, really – even though we had a lot tonight, we made it up on defense," he said.

"That's how we got easy buckets and got out in transition – got us a couple lay-ups, a couple lobs, and that's really what got us going.

"Our team is just unselfish – everybody sees it. We all love each other, we just want to win, we're just competitors."

Coach Bickerstaff expanded on what makes their defense so good during his postgame press conference, pointing to it as a driving force of their offense, as well.

"We've shown what we're capable of defensively," he said. "We know when we're at our best we can create stops, we can force turnovers, we can create easy opportunities for ourselves.

"In that fourth quarter, holding them to 17 points until that last three – that's how you win basketball games against good teams. You lock down defensively, and that helped our offense.

"When you're getting stops, you're playing in the flow and not against a set defense as much. All of our stuff works together – our offense helps our defense, and our defense helps our offense

"We need to be able to slow the game down and control the game. If you have to go against our half-court defense, you're going to be in for a tough time."

He went on to discuss how special the Allen and Mobley connection is, and why it is such a stark difference when Allen is out injured. The Cavaliers have a woeful defensive rating of 126.6 in the two games Allen has missed this season, and what would be a league-leading figure of 104.0 in the 15 games he has played.

"Jarrett is a Defensive Player of the Year-caliber player," he said. "When you take that away, it's obviously going to have an impact. 

"But when he's on the floor, we're a different team, and when our two big guys are on the floor together, and they're working as a pair, they're hard to score on.

"Evan [Mobley] is an All-Defensive player himself, we're extremely fortunate to have two guys who can defend the way they can defend. When they're working together, you're hard-pressed to find easy looks out there."

With the win, the Cavaliers are now 7-1 at home and 11-6 overall, occupying the third seed in the Eastern Conference – a position they will be aiming to maintain all season.

Darius Garland was the game's top scorer as his Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Charlotte Hornets 132-122 in double-overtime, but he was more impressed with the work of his young teammate Evan Mobley.

Mobley, 21, was the third overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, entering the league as one of the best defensive prospects in the history of college basketball.

Standing at seven-feet tall, the USC product has shown the ability to guard all five positions, showing at a young age that he can switch onto shifty point guards and hold up stoutly, putting him in rare company with the likes of all-time great defenders Kevin Garnett and Anthony Davis.

In an action-packed game, the Hornets incredibly came back from a 10-point deficit with only 45 seconds remaining in regulation, with three-pointers from P.J. Washington, Kelly Oubre Jr and two from Terry Rozier, including a game-tying bomb with one second on the clock.

That forced overtime, where it was the Cavs' turn to save the game. A potential game-tying three from Donovan Mitchell clanked off the rim, but Mobley was there for the offensive rebound, kicking it out for Garland to tie it.

The Hornets then had a chance to win it with the last shot of the extra period, getting Rozier one-on-one with Mobley, but the young Cavs star held firm and forced double-overtime.

Their defense would lift in the second extra period, holding Charlotte to just two points to seal the win.

Garland top-scored with 41 points on 16-of-26 shooting, adding five steals, but the post-game press conference centered on the brilliance of Mobley, who finished with 21 points (nine-of-14), 18 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and a steal.

"Evan was kind of angry tonight – I loved it," Garland said. "We always tell Evan he's the man, he's him. So I want him to start acting like it, keeping that same fire and same energy.

"He had a huge game tonight, he helped us offensively and defensively, came up with some big rebounds, and he switched onto [Terry] Rozier on that big possession in overtime.

"You don't usually see a seven-footer out there guarding a guard like that, either. He's special, we really need him, and we're happy to have him.

"I feel comfortable with Evan guarding anybody, literally. He moves his feet really well, and he keeps his distance because he's so long.

"I think Evan can guard anybody in this league if he puts his mind to it, and that's what we do. We switch three-through-five, and he guards some threes, some fives. That's what he's here for."

While he is currently a supporting piece on the offensive end, Mobley was urged by his All-Star point guard to try to dominate on that end the same way he does defensively.

"I want him to take more shots," he said. "His one-on-one game is really, really good for his size, and he can get to any shot that he wants to. 

"I mean 14 [shot attempts] is a good number, but I think he should take a lot more, in my opinion. I want him to be more aggressive, I want him to really ask for the ball – tell me to give him the ball.

"He's going to get there, he's building his confidence every day."

When asked about his comfort level when getting pulled away from the basket in isolation situations, Mobley said he thrives in it.

"I'm real comfortable [against smaller guards], honestly," he said. "I feel like I have good enough size, and I'm also quick enough to stay in front, so any shot they really take, I'm going to be there.

"I knew [Rozier] likes step-backs, so I was just giving him a good amount of space, using my length. I knew I could slide my feet – I'm pretty fast – so I was just using my length, and when he shot it, just get a good contest."

The win snaps a five-game losing streak for the Cavs, bringing their record to 9-6, and 5-1 at home.

Joel Embiid flexed his muscles with arguably the best game of his career, with a season-best 59-point haul in the Philadelphia 76ers' 105-98 victory over the Utah Jazz on Sunday.

Embiid was dominant in every facet, with his 59 points coming on 19-of-28 shooting, making 20-of-24 from the stripe, while having 11 rebounds, eight assists and seven blocks.

The Sixers center is the first player since blocks became official in 1973-74, to record 50-plus points, 10-plus rebounds, five-plus assists and five-plus blocks in a game.

Embiid is also the first player since Damian Lillard in 2019 to have more than half of his team's points in a game.

The Cameroonian erupted in the fourth quarter with 26 points, taking him into fifth spot for the best scoring performances in franchise history. It was a career-best points haul for 28-year-old Embiid.

Tyrese Maxey was Philadelphia's next best with 18 points and four steals, with James Harden still out with a foot injury.

The Jazz had no answers to Embiid, who had scored 42 points on Saturday against the Atlanta Hawks, with Malik Beasley scoring 18 off the bench while Lauri Markkanen had 15 points with 10 rebounds.

Garland briefly holds season-high points haul

Darius Garland piled on 27 fourth-quarter points for a career-high 51 points, but he could not lift the Cleveland Cavaliers past the Minnesota Timberwolves, losing 129-124.

Garland's 51 points, which included 10 triples, was briefly a league season-high, before Embiid's monster game for the Sixers.

The Timberwolves led by 24 points late in the third before the Cavs rallied, led by Garland, who became the fourth Cleveland player to reach 50 points.

Karl-Anthony Towns scored 29 points with 13 rebounds, while D'Angelo Russell added 30 points with 12 assists.

AD lifts Lakers without LeBron to snap skid

Anthony Davis stepped up in LeBron James' absence, scoring 37 points with 18 rebounds as the Los Angeles Lakers snapped their five-game losing run with a 116-103 win over the Brooklyn Nets.

Davis shot 15-of-25 from the field, while bringing down 10 offensive rebounds among his 18 for the game, with Lonnie Walker adding 25 points, making four-of-five from beyond the arc.

Kevin Durant was a lone hand on offense for the Nets with Seth Curry, Ben Simmons and Kyrie Irving all absent. Durant scored 31 points with nine rebounds and seven assists.

Meanwhile, Stephen Curry hit 27 points as the Golden State Warriors' winless road run (0-7) extended to 0-7 after being downed 122-115 by the Sacramento Kings.

Joel Embiid flexed his muscles with arguably the best game of his career, with a season-best 59-point haul in the Philadelphia 76ers' 105-98 victory over the Utah Jazz on Sunday.

Embiid was dominant in every facet, with his 59 points coming on 19-of-28 shooting, making 20-of-24 from the stripe, while having 11 rebounds, eight assists and seven blocks.

The Sixers center is the first player since blocks became official in 1973-74, to record 50-plus points, 10-plus rebounds, five-plus assists and five-plus blocks in a game.

Embiid is also the first player since Damian Lillard in 2019 to have more than half of his team's points in a game.

The Cameroonian erupted in the fourth quarter with 26 points, taking him into fifth spot for the best scoring performances in franchise history. It was a career-best points haul for 28-year-old Embiid.

Tyrese Maxey was Philadelphia's next best with 18 points and four steals, with James Harden still out with a foot injury.

The Jazz had no answers to Embiid, who had scored 42 points on Saturday against the Atlanta Hawks, with Malik Beasley scoring 18 off the bench while Lauri Markkanen had 15 points with 10 rebounds.

Garland briefly holds season-high points haul

Darius Garland piled on 27 fourth-quarter points for a career-high 51 points, but he could not lift the Cleveland Cavaliers past the Minnesota Timberwolves, losing 129-124.

Garland's 51 points, which included 10 triples, was briefly a league season-high, before Embiid's monster game for the Sixers.

The Timberwolves led by 24 points late in the third before the Cavs rallied, led by Garland, who became the fourth Cleveland player to reach 50 points.

Karl-Anthony Towns scored 29 points with 13 rebounds, while D'Angelo Russell added 30 points with 12 assists.

AD lifts Lakers without LeBron to snap skid

Anthony Davis stepped up in LeBron James' absence, scoring 37 points with 18 rebounds as the Los Angeles Lakers snapped their five-game losing run with a 116-103 win over the Brooklyn Nets.

Davis shot 15-of-25 from the field, while bringing down 10 offensive rebounds among his 18 for the game, with Lonnie Walker adding 25 points, making four-of-five from beyond the arc.

Kevin Durant was a lone hand on offense for the Nets with Seth Curry, Ben Simmons and Kyrie Irving all absent. Durant scored 31 points with nine rebounds and seven assists.

Meanwhile, Stephen Curry hit 27 points as the Golden State Warriors' winless road run (0-7) extended to 0-7 after being downed 122-115 by the Sacramento Kings.

Dejounte Murray showed exactly why the Atlanta Hawks pulled the trigger on their big offseason trade, carrying his new team to a 112-99 road win against the New York Knicks on Wednesday.

Murray, 26, was a first-time All-Star this past season with the San Antonio Spurs, before the Hawks traded for him in a deal centred around three first-round draft picks.

There were eyebrows raised at the time about if Murray could fit and produce next to another All-Star point guard in Trae Young, but he continued to exceed expectations in a starring performance against the Knicks.

He finished with a game-high and career-high 36 points on 14-of-27 shooting, hitting five of his 12 three-point attempts while adding nine assists, six steals and four rebounds. 

His performance came at a good time for the Hawks, with Young struggling on his way to 17 points on seven-of-22 shooting after briefly leaving the game due to a nasty scratch to his eye

It is the first time this season Murray has surpassed 26 points in a game – also setting season-highs for field goal makes and attempts, three-point makes and attempts, and steals.

Also finding his footing with a new team, the Knicks' Jalen Brunson was comfortably his side's best performer, finishing with an efficient 20 points (eight-of-15 shooting) and five assists.

Since arriving with the Knicks, Brunson is averaging career-highs in points (18.2), assists (7.2), rebounds (4.2) and steals (1.3).

Bucks remain the NBA's last undefeated team

It was smooth sailing for the Milwaukee Bucks in their 116-91 home win against the Detroit Pistons, moving to 7-0 for the season as the only team without a loss.

Two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is making a strong case as the favourite to win his third, continuing his blistering start to the season with 32 points (11-of-24 shooting, 10-of-12 free throws), 12 rebounds, five steals, four assists and two blocks.

He was supported in style by Jrue Holiday, who hit 11 of his 16 shots on his way to 26 points and seven rebounds.

Doncic mounts his own MVP case

Antetokounmpo's biggest challenger for this year's MVP trophy appears to be Luka Doncic, who carried his Dallas Mavericks to a 103-100 win over the Utah Jazz.

In the win, which lifted the Mavericks to 4-3, Doncic shot 60 per cent from the field for his 33 points (12-of-20), leading the game in points and assists (11). Doncic has now scored at least 30 points in each of his team's first seven games, becoming the first player to do so since Wilt Chamberlain in 1962-63.

Still yet to break into the starting lineup after being acquired from the Houston Rockets, Christian Wood put in a strong showing off the bench, scoring 21 points on 10-of-15 shooting with 10 rebounds.

Garland returns in Cavaliers' overtime win

All-Star point guard Darius Garland returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers' lineup and played a big part in their 114-113 overtime win at home against the Boston Celtics.

Having not played since suffering an eye injury in the Cavs' season-opener, Garland did not miss a beat, dishing a game-high 12 assists to go with his 29 points (nine-of-20 shooting) in 42 minutes.

Running-mate Donovan Mitchell showed there were plenty of shots to go around, chipping in 25 points (11-of-27) with six assists in the first real look at the Cavaliers' two-pronged attack using their All-Star backcourt.

Boston Celtics forward Grant Williams has been banned for one game for "recklessly making contact" with a referee in Monday's 120-102 loss to the Chicago Bulls.

Williams made physical contact with referee Cheryl Flores, after he jumped up in anger after being called for an offensive blocking foul while defending Zach LaVine in the fourth quarter.

The Celtics forward was immediately given a technical foul and ejected from the game.

Williams had to be restrained by teammate Derrick White, before being escorted off the court as he yelled back towards the court as he headed towards the locker room.

NBA executive vice president, head of basketball operations Joe Dumars announced the suspension for "recklessly making contact with and directing inappropriate language toward a game official" on Wednesday.

Williams will serve the one-game suspension in Friday's game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Darius Garland is in contention to return for the Cavs in that game, having been out since suffering a left eye injury in their season opener against the Toronto Raptors.

The Cavs' All-Star participated in team shootaround on Wednesday while wearing goggles for protection but missed the 103-92 win over the Orlando Magic later that day.

All-Star point guard Darius Garland has been cleared of any structural damage after suffering a left eye laceration in the Cleveland Cavaliers' 108-105 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday.

Garland exited the game in the second quarter after an accidental poke to his eye from Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr.

The Cleveland guard could not return to play with his eye closed over, with Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff confirming it was a "laceration on the inside of his eye lid" after the game.

The Cavs provided a status update on Thursday, revealing that Garland does not require surgery.

"The location of the injury required further evaluation and Garland missed the remainder of the game versus the Raptors," the Cavs said.

"Garland will be re-evaluated over the next couple of days and his status will be updated as appropriate."

Cleveland's next game is against the Chicago Bulls on Saturday.

The Cavs are expected to contend for the playoffs this season, having bolstered their side with the addition of Donovan Mitchell alongside an emerging line-up featuring Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley and Garland.

Garland averaged career-best numbers in 2021-22 leading to his maiden All-Star selection, with 21.7 points on 46.2 field goal percentage, 8.7 assists and 1.3 steals per game.

The NBA season is finally here, with the Golden State Warriors looking to defend their title after defeating the Boston Celtics in this year's NBA Finals.

Golden State will have plenty of serious opposition in their way if they are to go back-to-back, as some powerhouses – like the Los Angeles Clippers and the Milwaukee Bucks – return to full health.

The list of contenders this year may be as deep as it has ever been, with the Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns all definitely believing they have what it takes, and young sides like the Memphis Grizzlies and the Minnesota Timberwolves going all-in with the cores they have assembled.

After one of the best rookie classes in recent memory last season, this year's draftees have plenty to live up to, so to preview the season, we will start at the top.

Who are the favourites?

Despite not making the NBA Finals this past season, any conversation about potential champions in 2022-23 begins with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks.

The Bucks took the Celtics to Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals, and that was while they were missing their second-best player as Khris Middleton was sidelined for the entire series after suffering a knee injury in the first round. 

There is a convincing case to be made that they would have gone back-to-back with a healthy Middleton, but instead, the Warriors were able to take care of business in the Finals and collect the fourth championship of the Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green era.

Golden State return almost their full team, and with even marginal improvement from second-year lottery picks Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga, they will be one of the deepest rosters in the league, and will have the ammunition to put together one of the better trade packages if a disgruntled star appears around the deadline.

The Celtics will likely remain one of the best defensive units in the league, and will therefore always have a chance in the playoffs, and if the Warriors are not to come out of the Western Conference, the Nuggets or the Clippers are finally healthy and poised to make some noise.

Who are the dark horses?

Despite winning the title in 2019, the Toronto Raptors will come into this season extremely under the radar in what is now a loaded Eastern Conference.

One of the biggest and most athletic teams in the league, the thing working in the Raptors' favour may also be the point working against them – they brought back almost the exact same team.

Focal points Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam are still only 28 years old, while O.G. Anunoby profiles as a potentially elite wing at 25-years-old, and 21-year-old second-year point forward Scottie Barnes is the reigning Rookie of the Year.

They were the five seed last year despite all of their starters missing significant time, and with their championship experience and natural improvement, they will be in the mix by default.

Out West, it's hard to go past the New Orleans Pelicans, who will have one of the best starting fives in the NBA.

With C.J. McCollum, Brandon Ingram and surprise packet Herb Jones on the perimeter, along with Jonas Valanciunas and the returning Zion Williamson inside, that group will be a tough out if Williamson can remain healthy.

 

Who will win Rookie of the Year?

The clear favourite to take home the honour as the best first-year player is the Orlando Magic's Paolo Banchero, who was selected first overall in June's NBA Draft.

Banchero – who at six-foot-10 and 250lbs is the same size as prime DeMarcus Cousins despite playing on the perimeter – has essentially been tasked with being the saviour of the franchise, and will have significant playmaking and scoring responsibilities from day one.

He could realistically average somewhere in the range of 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game if the franchise truly decides to put the ball in his hands and let him run the show, and he is the only player in the class that can be said about.

His biggest competition – literally – was the Oklahoma City Thunder seven-footer Chet Holmgren, who was taken second overall, but will miss the entire season after suffering a fracture in his foot in the preseason.

Third pick Jabari Smith Jr will likely be more of an off-ball player in year one, limiting his ability to rack up massive counting stats, and fifth pick Jaden Ivey will be sharing the floor with last year's top overall selection Cade Cunningham with the Detroit Pistons, where Cunningham is unquestionably the star.

Keegan Murray, the fourth overall pick by the Sacramento Kings, profiles as one of the better all-around scorers in the draft and will have the opportunity to make his mark, and Shaedon Sharpe showed some intriguing flashes in the preseason after not playing a single game of competitive basketball since graduating from high school, still earning the seventh overall pick by the Portland Trail Blazers.

 

Quick hitters:

Pelicans wing Herb Jones was never going to receive the credit he deserved last year as a 23-year-old second-round draft pick, but the rookie was quietly one of the best defensive players in the league last season.

As a rookie, he was guarding the best opposing perimeter player every night for the Pelicans, suiting up for 78 of the 82 regular season games and finishing top-10 in the league in deflections per game (3.1).

He is one of the only wings in the NBA who is tasked with carrying his side defensively, and health permitting, he will be honoured on the NBA All-Defensive teams this season.

– For those who do not play fantasy basketball, it must be a shock to hear Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton has emerged as a first-round pick, but the unbelievably efficient 22-year-old is in position to have an explosive breakout season.

After being traded to the Pacers last season, Haliburton averaged 17.5 points, 9.6 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists while shooting 50 per cent from the field, 41 per cent from three and 85 per cent from the free throw line, putting him in the top echelon of efficient guard scorers and playmakers.

With established veterans Buddy Hield and Myles Turner both reportedly on the trading block as the Pacers enter themselves into the Victor Wembanyama sweepstake, their departure would only amplify the massive season coming from the former Sacramento draft pick.

– The Cleveland Cavaliers will have their sights set on the playoffs this season after their aggressive trade for former Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell – but he may not even be the best guard on the Cavs roster.

Last season was a coming out party for point guard Darius Garland, who appears to be next up in the archetype of deep-shooting, slick-passing, small initiators. 

He shot a career-best 46 per cent from the field this past season while attempting a career-high 6.7 three-pointers per game, and he was also one of the best passers in the league, averaging 8.6 assists and forming spectacular chemistry with fellow All-Star and alley-oop partner Jarrett Allen.

Mitchell will bring a level of perimeter scoring and playoff pedigree to the Cavaliers that is desperately needed to lower the demands on Garland late in games, but it will be Garland running this team for the first 46 minutes.

Three-time All-Star Donovan Mitchell admitted his preseason debut for the Cleveland Cavaliers was "definitely weird" following his blockbuster offseason trade from the Utah Jazz.

Mitchell left the Jazz after five seasons in Salt Lake City, opting against a move to the New York Knicks to join an exciting Cavs line-up where he will play in the backcourt alongside Darius Garland.

The Cavs also boast All-Star Jarrett Allen and 2021-22 Rookie of the Year runner-up Evan Mobley along with veteran Kevin Love, offering hope of their first playoffs campaign since 2017-18.

Mitchell played 19 minutes, scoring 16 points on six-for-nine shooting, including three three-pointers along with five assists, in the Cavs' 113-112 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers in his first outing for his new franchise.

"Today, I just kind of sat there and had one of those moments where you sit there and look out and see everything, and it's like, 'Wow. It's really here'," Mitchell said.

"Then once you get on the court, basketball is basketball. But all the little things, it's definitely weird. A little different. But I'm excited. It's going the way I thought it would, in a good way.

"It just didn't feel real… it still didn't hit me yet."

Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff was pleased with Mitchell's initial cohesion alongside All-Star point guard Garland.

"I thought it was pretty seamless," Bickerstaff said. "The way they played together, the way the ball moved, everybody got involved.

"As long as we play in the same style we want to play, where it isn't just based on one guy, but based on the team, I think it's going to work out well for us."

The Cavs finished last season with a 44-38 record, missing the playoffs after losing in the Play-In Tournament to the Atlanta Hawks in the number eight seed game.

Page 1 of 2
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.