Nikola Jokic admitted the Denver Nuggets need to be concerned following defeat against the New York Knicks.

A 116-110 reverse at Madison Square Garden condemned the Nuggets to a fifth loss in six games, reducing their lead at the summit of the Western Conference.

The Nuggets now stand four wins ahead of the Sacramento Kings and Memphis Grizzlies, with their form dwindling at a crucial stage of the season.

Despite that, Denver are still poised for the number one seed and home court advantage throughout the playoffs – though Jokic remains worried about their form.

"It is what it is. We need to be concerned. We need to try to win the next one," he said.

"Me first, and then everybody collectively, needs to do a better job of rebounding the ball, because even when we made a couple of stops, we didn't rebound and they just got easy ones.

"They had like 15 offensive rebounds, so that's a lot. That's 15 chances to score again."

Nuggets coach Michael Malone also highlighted rebounding as a problem for his side, particularly late in the game.

"It was the rebounding, and our inability to defend without fouling. Now you're playing against a set defense for 12 minutes, and then you couple that on top of turnovers. I think those are three areas that stood out to me," he told reporters.

The Nuggets will aim to stop the rot in their second consecutive game in New York against the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday.

Walker Kessler produced a game-winning block to deny Grant Williams' after Lauri Markkanen's 27th double-double of the season as the Utah Jazz edged the Boston Celtics 118-117 on Saturday.

The Jazz, fighting for a playoff spot in the tight Western Conference, had re-taken the lead with 35.3 seconds remaining from Talen Horton-Tucker's lay-up before Kessler blocked Williams' game-winning two-point attempt on a drive to the basket on the buzzer.

Utah rallied back from a 19-point deficit but the Celtics went on a 14-3 run to re-claim the lead before the late drama.

All-Star Markkanen was brilliant with 28 points including four three-pointers with 10 rebounds and three assists for Utah, while Horton-Tucker added 19 points. Among Markkanen's triples was one with 1:19 to play in the fourth to cut the margin to one point at 117-116.

Williams had produced a career-high seven three-pointers in his 23-point haul, while Jayson Tatum was kept to 15 points on four-of-12 shooting with six assists in a quiet second half.

Boston guard Jaylen Brown scored a team-high 25 points, making four-of-nine from beyond the arc, with six assists.

The Celtics shot 22 three-pointers at 43.1 per cent, but the Jazz hauled down 56-40 rebounds and scored 17-of-22 from the free-throw line.

Boston, playing their third game in four nights, clinched their playoff spot despite the defeat, by virtue of the Miami Heat's 113-99 loss to the Chicago Bulls.

Despite his cold night, Tatum (two) became the fourth Celtics' player to reach multiple 2,000-point seasons, alongside Larry Bird (four), Paul Pierce (four) and John Havlicek (two)

Embiid exceeds Iverson & Wilt franchise record

Joel Embiid became the first Philadelphia 76ers player to record nine straight 30-point games as they downed the Indiana Pacers 141-121.

Embiid scored 31 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the field along with 10-of-13 from the free-throw line, plus seven rebounds, seven assists and two blocks.

The center has averaged 36.1 points per game during his nine-game 30-point run, exceeding Allen Iverson and Wilt Chamberlain's previous joint record of eight.

Tyrese Maxey added 31 points with five triples while Tobias Harris contributed 24 points for the 76ers, who move into second in the Eastern Conference following Boston's loss.

Brunson leads Knicks past slumping Nuggets

Jalen Brunson made an impressive return from a foot injury with 24 points, including 16 in the first quarter, as the New York Knicks got past the Denver Nuggets 116-110.

The Knicks (42-30) rallied from a 13-point third-quarter deficit, with Brunson making two free throws with 43 seconds remaining, before lobbing to Mitchell Robinson to seal the win with 24 seconds left.

Nikola Jokic scored 24 points with 10 rebounds and eight assists for the Western Conference-leading Nuggets, who have lost five of their past six games to fall to a 47-24 record.

The West's second-ranked Memphis Grizzlies closed the gap on the Nuggets with a 133-119 win over the Golden State Warriors, led by Jaren Jackson Jr's 31 points, seven rebounds and four blocks.

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.

Michael Malone suggested complacency is behind the Denver Nuggets' four-game losing streak.

The Nuggets went down 125-110 to the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday, and are now winless since March 6.

Denver are still hold a four-game lead at the top of the Western Conference, with a 46-23 record for the season, but coach Malone is far from happy.

"Right now we're just in chill mode," said Malone. "And you can't be in chill mode with 13 games to go in the season.

"We've got to try to find a way to get our swagger back. Maybe we've gotten a little soft with success.

"We've been on cruise control for so long, number one in the West since like December 15.

"I just told our players we've gotten away from who we are."

Denver never led on Tuesday after allowing 49 points in the first quarter, going on to concede at least 100 points for the fifth consecutive game. Indeed, they have conceded over 120 in each of their past three games.

"We just dug too much of a big hole and couldn't climb the mountain from there," said Nuggets guard Jamal Murray.

Toronto led 88-64 after Pascal Siakam found the net with eight minutes remaining in the third, before Denver went on a run to cut the gap to 98-92, but they struggled to maintain that momentum in the final quarter.

Malone added: "When you expend so much energy getting back in the game you have nothing left to finish."

The Nuggets remain on the road for their next four games starting with Detroit Pistons (16-54) on Thursday, before a home meeting against the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks (50-19) on March 26.

The Milwaukee Bucks underlined their NBA title favouritism as they reached 50 wins for the season with a commanding 116-104 road victory over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo backed up Monday's 40-point return against the Sacramento Kings with 36 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists at the Footprint Center.

The Bucks have won 20 of their past 22 games, including a 15-game winning streak during that stretch, while the Suns have now lost three consecutive games.

Milwaukee's record is 50-19, pulling clear of the Boston Celtics (47-22) in second in the Eastern Conference, while the 37-31 Suns remain among the mayhem in the tight Western Conference playoffs race.

The Suns had rallied from a 57-48 half-time deficit to take the lead in the fourth quarter but the Bucks steadied, with Antetokounmpo's block on Devin Booker's two-point attempt among the highlights.

Bucks center Brook Lopez added 21 points with 10 rebounds, while Jrue Holiday chipped in with 12 points, six rebounds and five assists.

Booker top scored for the Suns, still missing Kevin Durant due to an ankle injury, with 30 points on 13-of-27 shooting, while Chris Paul added 11 points with eight assists. Phoenix only made eight three-pointers for the game.

Nuggets fall to fourth straight defeat

The Western Conference-leading Denver Nuggets slumped to their fourth straight defeat despite a third-quarter rally, going down 125-110 to the Toronto Raptors.

Fred VanVleet scored 36 points on 13-of-22 shooting including eight triples as the Raptors flew out of the blocks with a franchise-record 49-point first quarter, improving their record to 33-26.

The Nuggets fall to 46-23 amid their slump, with Nikola Jokic scoring 28 points with eight rebounds and seven assists, while Michael Porter Jr added 23 points with five three-pointers.

Lakers hit franchise record in key win over Pels

Anthony Davis produced a bounce-back display after his "terrible" showing two nights ago with 35 points and 17 rebounds as the Los Angeles Lakers won 123-108 over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Malik Beasley added 24 points, shooting seven-of-12 from beyond the arc, as the Lakers moved closer to .500 with a 34-35 record to boost their playoffs hopes.

Beasley's three-point shooting helped the Lakers achieve a franchise record for threes made in a half, with 15 as a team before half-time.

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.

The Brooklyn Nets produced the biggest comeback of the NBA season led by Mikal Bridges as they stunned the Boston Celtics 115-105 on Friday.

The Nets trailed by 28 points in the second quarter but rallied back with a 34-20 third quarter, eclipsing the previous largest comeback this season, set by the Los Angeles Lakers earlier this week, fighting back from 27 points down against the Dallas Mavericks.

Brooklyn outscored Boston 74-47 across the second and third quarters, claiming a three-quarter time lead before running away with their best victory since Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving's departures.

The Nets, sixth in the Eastern Conference, improve their record to 35-28, halting a four-game losing streak.

Bridges, who came in from the Phoenix Suns as part of the exchange for Durant, top scored with 38 points on 13-of-22 shooting with 10 rebounds and four assists.

New acquisitions Cam Johnson, who also joined in that trade from the Suns, Dorian Finney-Smith and Spencer Dinwiddie contributed 20, 17 and 17 points respectively.

Jayson Tatum went none-of-eight from beyond the arc, scoring 22 points with 13 rebounds, five assists and two blocks.

Jaylen Brown top scored for the Celtics with 35 points on 15-of-27 shooting from the field, but Boston shot nine-of-30 from three-point range.

Nugs down Grizz in west top-two clash

The Denver Nuggets rallied back from 11 points down in a clash against the top two teams in the Western Conference, winning 113-97 over the Memphis Grizzlies.

Nikola Jokic recorded another triple-double with 18 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists, but it was Michael Porter Jr who top scored with 26 points. Jamal Murray added 22 points with four three-pointers.

Ja Morant scored a game-high 27 points for the Grizzlies, who led by seven points with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, before the Nuggets stormed home, winning the fourth period 33-17.

The Nuggets' win, combined with the Celtics' loss, means Denver have the second-best record in the NBA, improving to 45-19. Memphis falls to 38-24.

Knicks stay hot after clutch Randle triple

The New York Knicks extended their winning streak to eight games as Julius Randle scored 43 points with eight three-pointers in their 122-120 triumph over the Miami Heat.

Randle's eight triples included a game-winning clutch three-pointer with 1.7 seconds remaining, underlining an outstanding individual display, helping the Knicks improve their record to 38-27 to close in on the east's top four.

Tyler Herro, who finished with 29 points had put the Heat up with a layup with 23.1 seconds left, before Randle made the crucial score, albeit in a broken play under pressure from Jimmy Butler. Butler had a team-high 33 points with eight rebounds, five assists and two steals.

The surging Denver Nuggets (44-19) host the struggling Memphis Grizzlies (38-23) on Friday in a clash between the top two teams in the Western Conference.

Since the turn of the year, only the 22-5 Milwaukee Bucks have boasted a better record than Denver's 21-7, and the Nuggets have surged to a five-game lead atop the West.

Their closest challengers are the Grizzlies, who have been flailing since starting center Steven Adams suffered a knee injury on January 22, going 7-8 in the 15 games since.

Adams is only averaging 8.6 points per game in his 27 minutes of action, while shooting a league-worst 36.4 per cent from the free-throw line, but his impact on the Grizzlies' success has proven to be immense.

During the first 46 games of the season – prior to Adams' injury – the Grizzlies owned the best defensive rating in the NBA, while also boasting the second-best rebounding rate, and a top-10 offense.

Since then, Memphis have held up surprisingly well defensively and have been fourth in defense over the past 15 games, but their offense has cratered – becoming the 24th-ranked unit – and their ability to rebound has fallen off a cliff.

Adams leads the team at 11.5 rebounds per game, but his value goes far beyond just the rebounds he hauls down himself, as he is almost universally considered the physically strongest player in the league, and he uses that to wreak havoc on the offensive boards.

The Grizzlies have been 27th in rebounding rate since his injury, falling from the second-best offensive rebounding team to 18th in that category, while also dropping from 15th in defensive rebounding to 28th.

While it is easy to point to some recent cold shooting from Memphis as the reason for their recent struggles – 29th in three-point percentage (31.7 per cent) since Adams' injury – it is their failure in the rebounding department that is ruining a lot of their good work.

It is great to have a top-five defense, but when you are only gathering 68.2 per cent of opponents' misses, it means that even your strength is no longer a strength.

It goes to show that while Jaren Jackson Jr is Memphis' best defensive player – and a strong favourite to win Defensive Player of the Year – Adams may be their most important piece on that end. 

That is even more true when the other team rolls out a center like Nikola Jokic.

Jokic, the reigning back-to-back league MVP and favourite to earn the first three-peat since Larry Bird from 1984-86, is essentially unguardable, but it is incredibly helpful to have a physical presence like Adams who is impossible to push around and can at least dictate Jokic's catch positions.

With Adams out, Jackson will likely assume the responsibility, and while that is a mouth-watering matchup between arguably the league's most gifted players on each side of the ball, the Grizzlies ace will need to be on his most disciplined behaviour.

Leading the league with 3.3 blocks per game, Jackson also sits sixth in fouls per game (3.4), and could leave his team without an anchor on the defensive end if the crafty Jokic draws a couple of early calls and puts his opponent in foul trouble.

But Jokic, while almost flawless on the offensive end, still has his own exploitable warts defensively.

The Serbian has shed the reputation of being a poor defender – leading all centers with 1.3 steals per game – but remains a liability when it comes to protecting the rim, with Denver ranking 25th when it comes to preventing points in the paint.

That is where the Grizzlies will see their greatest advantage as the league leaders for points in the paint, with Ja Morant's 14.8 points per game in that area trailing only Oklahoma City Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (15.5) for the most among all guards.

Denver's plan of attack will likely be the complete opposite, as Memphis are the fourth-best team at preventing points in the paint but allow the fourth-most made three-pointers per game, while the Nuggets lead the league in three-point percentage (39.2 percent).

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Memphis Grizzlies – Ja Morant

Sometimes it is complicated to see whose impact will have the greatest effect on their team's success, and sometimes it is painfully obvious.

Morant is the Grizzlies' franchise player, leading scorer (27.1 points per game), leader in assists (8.2) and the heartbeat of their fast-paced, rim-attacking offense.

It will be his responsibility to exploit Jokic's defensive deficiency and generate high-quality looks inside for himself and team-mates, as Memphis are likely doomed if they have to rely on outside shooting (24th in three-point percentage).

Denver Nuggets – Jamal Murray

The Nuggets know what they are going to get from the metronomically consistent Jokic on a nightly basis, but the contributions from second star Jamal Murray are often what make or break their results.

In the 35 wins he has played in this season, Murray is averaging 21.7 points and 6.1 assists per game while shooting 48.3 per cent from the field, 41.6 per cent from deep and 85.5 per cent from the free-throw line.

In 14 losses, those figures plummet to 16.3 points and 5.5 assists on dismal shooting splits of 38.2/29.7/76.9 – illustrating that when it is not Murray's night, it is usually not the Nuggets' night either.

KEY BATTLE – Can Denver capitalise on the absence of Adams?

While Jokic is one of the best defensive rebounders in the league, having the third-best rate among players averaging at least 20 minutes, he is not even close to the same kind of threat on the offensive boards, where Adams' absence will be felt.

If Memphis can figure out how to limit Denver to one shot per possession and secure the defensive glass, it will not just limit second opportunities, but it will ignite the Grizzlies' fast-break offense and allow Morant to operate in the open floor with a runway.

Another key factor is that while Denver have been shooting the lights out, and Memphis have been struggling from distance, three-point percentage is often a stat that regresses to the mean over time, meaning at some point their fortunes will likely reverse.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

These sides have split their two meetings this season, with Denver securing a 14-point home win in December, before Memphis evened the ledger with an 18-point home win of their own in January.

It fits with their evenly matched recent history, with a 2-2 record from their past four meetings, and a 5-5 record dating back to January 2020.

Nikola Jokic became the sixth player in NBA history to reach 100 career triple-doubles as the Denver Nuggets won 133-112 against the Houston Rockets on Tuesday.

The Serbian center finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for his 24th triple-double of the season.

It was also Jokic's 15th triple-double in his past 20 games, with the Nuggets winning every game he has achieved the feat this season.

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said: "We haven't lost a game in those triple-doubles which speaks to his greatness."

Jokic joined Russell Westbrook (198), Oscar Robertson (181), Magic Johnson (138), Jason Kidd (107) and LeBron James (106) in reaching triple figures for triple-doubles in the NBA.

At 28 years old, Jokic could foreseeably climb up that list if he continues on the trajectory of his past two back-to-back MVP seasons.

"For him to be mentioned with all these historical accomplishments, reminds you that we are so blessed to have a guy like Nikola," Malone added.

"I challenge all of us in Denver to never take him for granted. To never take his greatness for granted."

Malone subtly added that Jokic should win a third straight MVP, while discussing his strengths.

"We all know he's a two-time MVP, about to be a three-time MVP, you talk about the skill level, the IQ, the rebounding, playmaking, scoring all that but the intangibles are the areas Nikola has grown the most," Malone said.

On Jokic's defense, Malone added: "He's a high IQ player. He has tremendous anticipation and outstanding hand-eye coordination.

"People think if you're not a great athlete, you can't be a good defender but I think that's malarkey.  I think Nikola is a living example of a guy who can be an effective defender and not necessarily be an elite athlete."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic compared himself to basketball star Nikola Jokic after returning from a nine-month injury lay-off in Milan's victory over Atalanta.

The evergreen striker came on in the second half of Sunday's 2-0 win at San Siro, having previously been an unused substitute in three matches this month.

He made history by overtaking Alessandro Costacurta (41y and 25d) as Milan's oldest Serie A player in the three-points-per-win era (since 1993-94) at 41 years and 146 days.

While the Sweden international may turn 42 later this year, he still feels he has a big part to play, just like two-time NBA MVP Jokic for the Denver Nuggets.

"I want to help the team in every way by doing what I have to do to be there on the field," he told Sky Sport. "I want to be there when the coach and the team need me.

"It's obvious things change between the age of 30 and 41, but I feel like Jokic in the NBA."

Ibrahimovic's previous appearance for Milan came in a 3-0 win over Sassuolo on May 25 last year, with the former Barcelona striker injuring his knee and undergoing surgery.

Given his age at the time of the operation and the length of the lay-off, many expected Ibrahimovic to call time on his legendary career.

"I've lived this year with great suffering," he said when asked what it means to be back playing again at the highest level. "I've been out for a year. 

"I didn't feel well and I couldn't do what I wanted to do. I went on with suffering to help the team but in reality I wasn't well. 

"Today I can say that I'm fine and that I can give what I can to the team. Then obviously the more you play, the more you train and the more you improve."

 

Juan Musso's own goal – after Theo Hernandez's volley hit the post and went in off the goalkeeper's back – and Junior Messias' late strike earned Milan a fourth win in a row.

That includes three Serie A wins on the spin without conceding for the first time in a year, helping to lift the Rossoneri level on points with second-place rivals Inter.

It has been a largely disappointing campaign on the whole for Milan as they are 18 points adrift of leaders Napoli, something Ibrahimovic suggested may be down to his absence.

"I've done everything I can to recover, but in the last few weeks I've seen the team do well," he said. "We must continue doing more if we are to do well.

"I feel important and have a great responsibility here. I started an adventure with this team and helped to bring it where we are today. 

"When I'm not available I suffer, and perhaps the teams lacks a bit of my pressure as well as a result."

Jayson Tatum scored a clutch three-pointer before Joel Embiid's full-court buzzer-beater was wiped off as the Boston Celtics clung on for a 110-107 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.

Tatum drained the go-ahead triple with 2.0 seconds left from Marcus Smart's clever assist after Derrick White's inbound.

Embiid launched a desperate long-range shot which he hit but replays showed he released the ball after time had elapsed meaning the Celtics secured the win.

Tatum did not shoot the ball well throughout the game, finishing with 18 points on seven-of-17 shooting, but came up big when it mattered. The MVP candidate also pulled down 13 rebounds with six assists.

Al Horford turned the game with four three-pointers in the third quarter as the Celtics rallied from a 15-point deficit to lead at the final change.

Horford finished with 15 points, while Jaylen Brown top scored for Boston with 26 points with three steals.

Embiid had 41 points for the game with 12 rebounds and five assists, while James Harden added21 points with eight assists.

The Eastern Conference-leading Celtics have won three straight, improving their record to 44-17, while the 76ers, third in the east, are 39-20.

Grizzlies rout Nuggets in best in the west battle

The Memphis Grizzlies blew away the Denver Nuggets 112-94 in a match-up between the Western Conference's top two as Ja Morant scored 23 points with seven rebounds.

The Grizzlies led by as many as 35 points, opening up a 66-42 half-time lead and keeping the Nuggets to a season-low team score. Denver are 42-19 while Memphis are 36-23.

Nikola Jokic scored 15 points with 13 rebounds and three assists, while Jamal Murray only managed eight points on three-of-13 shooting from the field.

Knicks rout Pelicans in front of championship team

The New York Knicks honoured their onlooking 1972-93 NBA championship team in style, with a 128-106 rout of the New Orleans Pelicans making it five straight wins.

Julius Randle top scored with 28 points making five-of-10 three-point attempts along with seven rebounds and five assists, as five Knicks players reached double figures.

R.J. Barrett added 25 points with a season-high seven assists while Jalen Brunson scored 20 points. Zion Williamson was absent again for the Pels, for whom Brandon Ingram top scored with 19.

Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone did not mince words when discussing his superstar, declaring Nikola Jokic as the league's most valuable player.

Jokic, already the reigning back-to-back winner of the award, has a chance to become the first player since Larry Bird from 1984-1986 to win three MVPs in a row. The only other player to three-peat was Wilt Chamberlain (1966-1968).

This season, the 28-year-old Serbian has taken his already spectacular playmaking to a new level, averaging a career-high 10.2 assists per game while also shooting career-best percentages for his 24.7 points and 11.6 rebounds.

No center in league history has ever averaged more than Chamberlain's 8.6 assists per game in the 1967-68 season.

Among players attempting at least 10 field goals per game this season, Jokic leads the league with his 63.2 field goal percentage, while his true shooting percentage of 70.4 per cent – which takes into account his 40.2 per cent three-point clip and 82.5 per cent from the free throw line – leads all players averaging at least 25 minutes per game.

He also sits fifth in rebounds per game (11.6), his 1.3 steals per game leads all centers, and his average plus/minus of plus 10.5 also leads the entire league.

Jokic piled up 24 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists in a tough 115-109 road win against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday, keeping the Nuggets a perfect 22-0 in games their superstar has posted a triple-double in this season.

Speaking to reporters after the victory, Malone made it clear that he believes Jokic should be honoured for the third year in a row.

"He's the MVP," he said. "When the MVP goes out and puts up a triple-double, that means that he's impacting the game at a high level across the board.

"I think the most important stat – and he's going to set the record this year – for most assists per game by a center in NBA history. He's going to blow it out of the water, because he's going to average 10-plus assists per game.

"But his playmaking ability, to generate the shots, and the quality of shots he does every night, is just remarkable. "There are a lot of guys who can score, there are a lot of guys who can rebound, but the playmaking, and the ability to make everyone around him better, is what makes him truly a historically great basketball player."

With a record of 42-18, the Nuggets are six games clear atop the Western Conference standings.

Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner had a career night, but his side ultimately went down 142-138 in an overtime shootout against the Boston Celtics on Thursday.

Playing in front of his home fans after recently signing a contract extension, Turner tied his career-high with 40 points while shooting a spectacular 13-of-15 from the field. He also hit a career-high eight three-pointers from 10 attempts.

Among all centers this season, Turner's 78 made threes trail only Milwaukee's Brook Lopez (104), Washington's Kristaps Porzingis (100), Chicago's Nikola Vucevic (98) and Boston's Al Horford (92).

His All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton was terrific in support, scoring 22 points (seven-of-14 shooting) with 14 assists, three steals and two blocks, but the Celtics duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown proved overwhelming down the stretch.

It was a rough shooting night for Tatum, finishing nine-of-25 from the field, but he worked his way to the free throw line to finish with 31 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and a block. Meanwhile, Brown – wearing a protective face mask in his first game returning from a facial fracture – had 30 points (11-of-24), 11 rebounds and three assists.

Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart chipped in 15 points and two steals, but he came through when it mattered, scoring seven of the Celtics' first eight points in the overtime period.

With the win, Boston remain alone atop the standings with a 43-17 record, while the Pacers sit 12th in the East at 26-35.

Jokic cruises to another big triple-double

Reigning back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic was dominant in the Denver Nuggets' 115-109 road win against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers came into the contest boasting one of the best home records in the NBA at 25-6, and they led at three-quarter time, but Jokic defied his unusual seven turnovers to produce another monster showing.

His 24 points on eight-of-13 shooting trailed only team-mate Michael Porter Jr (25) for the Nuggets' most, while Jokic also led both teams with 18 rebounds and 13 assists for his league-leading 22nd triple-double this season. The Nuggets are 22-0 in the games he has posted a triple-double.

Their win, combined with the Memphis Grizzlies' loss, leaves Denver (42-18) six games clear in the race for the Western Conference one seed.

Harden ignites late 76ers comeback

The Philadelphia 76ers overcame a rare poor shooting night from Joel Embiid to produce a fourth-quarter comeback, beating the Grizzlies 110-105 at home.

Embiid ended up with a gaudy stat line of 27 points, 19 rebounds, six assists and six blocks, but he shot just seven-of-25 from the field for his worst field goal percentage of the season.

The 76ers trailed by 12 with eight minutes remaining, but James Harden was in full control from that point, scoring nine of his game-high 31 points and dishing five of his seven assists, igniting a 31-14 run to close the show.

At 39-19, the 76ers own the fourth-best record in the league, and sit third in the East.

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