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.

James Harden was saluted for an "incredible" feat by coach Doc Rivers after becoming the first Philadelphia 76ers player to post 20 assists in a game twice in a season.

After scoring a personal season-high 38 points in the 147-143 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday, Harden made his next game one to remember, too.

He was not so prolific in the points column against the Indiana Pacers on Monday night, with a modest 14 to his name, but 20 assists and nine rebounds helped to guide the Sixers to a 147-143 victory.

It followed his 21-assist game against the Los Angeles Clippers in December. These are the only 20-plus rebound games in 33-year-old Harden's career to date.

Joel Embiid led scorers with 42 points, while Tyrese Maxey (24 points) and Jalen McDaniels (20) also weighed in.

Rivers said of Harden's effort, amid a strong team display: "It's just incredible. The great thing about James overall is he pretty much doesn't turn the ball over a lot, makes smart plays.

"But his passing when he plays like tonight and the other night – the other night he had 30 and 10, tonight he had 14 and 20 – it just makes us so hard to beat with his ability to pass."

Looking at some of Harden's most audacious passing, Rivers said few in the NBA possessed comparable quality.

"Those passes are five-guys-in-the-league, maybe, passes," Rivers said.

Harden joked about Maxey failing to secure him a 21st assist late in the game, as Philadelphia (42-22) consolidated third spot in the Eastern Conference.

"Seriously man, what are we doing? I'm just playing," Harden said.

"But I'm just trying to make plays. Not really efficient scoring the basketball tonight but find other ways to put an impact on the game. I saw some different things, made some good passes and had one turnover and that's because Joel couldn't catch the basketball.

"All in all, I'm just happy to come out with the win."

Quoted by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Harden reflected on twice getting to 20 assists in games this season. He leads the league with an average of 10.8 assists per game.

"It's an unbelievable franchise, man," Harden said. "They got so many great players that have put on a 76ers jersey. To be added to the list is one of those feelings."

 

Going over 40 for the 11th time this season 

Joel Embiid finishes with 42 PTS in the @sixers win on the road! pic.twitter.com/UddGffAIc9

— NBA (@NBA) March 7, 2023

The Cleveland Cavaliers pulled off an unlikely 118-114 home comeback win in overtime on Monday, but not without some help from the visiting Boston Celtics.

Boston, who led 92-78 at three-quarter time, and 102-91 with 4:30 remaining, gave up a 16-4 from that point to allow the Cavaliers to hit the lead with 24 seconds on the clock.

A Derrick White three-pointer put the Celtics back in front by two, before Donovan Mitchell tied things up at 109-109, but the visitors looked poised to get away with their sloppy fourth quarter after Grant Williams was sent to the free throw line with 0.8 seconds left.

After appearing to tell Mitchell "I'll make them both", Williams proceeded to miss both attempts, blowing a golden opportunity and sending the game to overtime.

The Celtics only mustered five points in the extra five minutes, clearly feeling the absence of missing star Jayson Tatum down the stretch, while Mitchell put the finishing touches on his 40-point night.

Cleveland's top scoring option finished 14-of-34 from the field, adding 11 rebounds and four assists, while rising second-year defensive ace Evan Mobley impressed with 25 points (10-of-14 shooting), 17 rebounds and three blocks.

Jaylen Brown did his best to cover for Tatum, finishing with team-highs in points (32), rebounds (13) and assists (nine), and Malcolm Brogdon was strong off the bench with 24 points (eight-of-14 shooting) and five assists.

Boston (45-21) are now two games behind the Milwaukee Bucks in the hunt for the Eastern Conference's top seed, while the Cavaliers (41-26) are also trending towards having home court advantage in the first round, sitting fourth.

Dame carries the Blazers

Damian Lillard produced his second triple-double of the season, and the third of his career, to lift his Portland Trail Blazers to a 110-104 victory on the road against the Detroit Pistons.

The current third-highest scorer in the league at 32.5 points per game, Lillard showed off his all-round skill set as he snatched down 13 rebounds to go with 12 assists and 31 points, shooting 10-of-28 from the field and six-of-14 from deep.

It was also an eye-opening performance from Cam Reddish. The Portland trade deadline acquisition had never registered more than six assists in a game before, but he flashed some impressive playmaking with eight assists, 13 points, six rebounds and two steals in 40 minutes.

The result leaves the Trail Blazers tied with the 10th-seeded Utah Jazz at 31-34 as they try to force their way into the Play-In Tournament.

Harden and Haliburton combine for 36 assists in shootout

In a clash between the league's top two assist leaders, James Harden's Philadelphia 76ers overcame Tyrese Haliburton's Indiana Pacers in a 147-143 shootout.

Harden finished with 14 points (three-of-11), 20 assists, nine rebounds, and just one turnover, becoming the first player in 76ers history to record multiple 20-assist games in one season. 

Meanwhile, Haliburton exploded for one of the best games of his career with 40 points (12-of-19), 16 assists and two turnovers.

Joel Embiid carried the scoring load for Philadelphia, leading the way with 42 points (11-of-16 shooting, 19-of-19 free throws) while also forcing elite defender Myles Turner to foul out in just 17 minutes.

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.

They say styles make fights, and it will be a true styles clash when the run-and-gun Indiana Pacers travel to take on the grinding Miami Heat on Wednesday.

Coming into the contest, the Heat sit sixth in the Eastern Conference with a record of 29-25, 4.5 games ahead of the 10th-placed Pacers (25-30). Miami have been treading water recently with a 5-5 record from their past 10, while Indiana have struggled to a 2-8 run.

While there are many complex layers to this contest, a lot of it boils down to one simple point: the Pacers want to play fast, and the Heat want to play slow.

The young Pacers, led by the current official league-leader in assists Tyrese Haliburton (10.3 per game), play at the fourth-highest pace in the league (101.9 possessions per game). Meanwhile, the veteran Heat outfit, led by the current league-leader in steals Jimmy Butler (2.1 per game), play at the third-slowest pace (97.1 possessions).

That mindset dictates many key indicators for each team, starting with the disparity in fast-break offense.

The Pacers lead the league with 19 fast-break points per game, while the Heat are 27th at 11.3 – so Indiana will run all over Miami, right?

Well, not necessarily. The hectic pace the Pacers play at is conducive to high-scoring offense from both teams – allowing the sixth-most fast-break points per game (15.0) – while the Heat often control the tempo and limit fast-breaks all together, allowing the fourth-fewest points per game in that category (12.1).

Another symptom of playing fast at all costs is turnovers, and that is an area the Heat will look to exploit.

Miami forces a turnover on 16.8 per cent of opponent possessions – the best rate in the league – and 17.4 per cent of their total points come directly from these turnovers, which is the second-highest percentage.

Meanwhile, the Pacers' commit turnovers on 15.0 per cent of their possessions, making them the eighth-most turnover prone side in the NBA.

Another key difference between the two franchises is their discipline defensively, which primarily presents itself in two areas – fouling and boxing out.

Miami allows an offensive rebound on just 8.6 per cent of opponent misses – the best rate in the league – while Indiana allow the second-most (12.1 per cent).

The Heat also limit their opponents to the second-fewest made free throws per game (16.2), while the Pacers give up the most (20.3).

While this game is essentially about a fast team and a slow team, it is also about a good defense and a bad defense.

For the season, the Heat boast the fifth-best defensive efficiency in the league, allowing 111.0 points per 100 possessions, and they have been even better than that recently, with their mark of 109.8 across their past 15 games the third-best figure during that period.

Unfortunately for the Pacers, who started the season so far above expectations, their offense has cratered over that same 15-game span as Tyrese Haliburton's injury triggered a dismal run that resulted in the league's worst offense (109.3 points per 100 possessions). Haliburton has returned for their past three games, but there has been no improvement, with their 104.2 offensive rating in those three games also the worst figure in the league.

Indiana also rank 22nd in defense for both the full season and across the past 15 games, and their one strength on that end – Myles Turner, who is top-five in blocks per game (2.4) for the seventh consecutive season – is partially negated by the fact that Miami's offense only absorbs 3.8 blocks per game, tied for the league's fewest.

However, the silver lining for the Pacers is that they can bomb away from long range – averaging the sixth-most made three-pointers per game (13.8) – while the Heat are not equipped to stop them, allowing the second-most made threes per game (13.2).

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Indiana Pacers – Buddy Hield

While Haliburton and Turner are the Pacers' two best players at both ends of the court, Hield is the X-factor thanks to his marksmanship and the Heat's tendency to get beat from long range.

Averaging 3.8 made three-pointers per game, he trails only Golden State Warriors duo Stephen Curry (4.9) and Klay Thompson (4.2), Portland Trail Blazers superstar Damian Lillard (4.1) and Charlotte Hornets point guard LaMelo Ball (3.9) – and Hield's three-point percentage of 42.8 is better than all of them.

Miami Heat – Jimmy Butler

Adebayo is the only All-Star selection this season for the Heat, but Butler is the straw that stirs the drink, and the key to their efficient half-court offense.

He is metronomically consistent – averaging exactly 14.1 field goal attempts per game in both wins and losses this season. Butler's ability to control the pace and not allow his opposition to dictate play will be crucial against a team with such a different style, as will his distribution skills, with a 20 per cent assist increase (4.4 up to 5.3) in wins.

KEY BATTLE – Who will control the pace?

It goes without saying that whichever team forces the game to be played at their pace should have the advantage, and unfortunately for the Pacers, it is far easier to slow the game down than speed it up.

By controlling the rebounds, limiting their own turnovers and staying switched on defensively, Miami can turn this into a halfcourt grind and take the sting out of Indiana's speed in transition, so it will be imperative that the visitors shoot well from deep.

If the Pacers can hit some early threes and build a lead, it will create a sense of urgency in the trailing side that inevitably leads to quicker shots, more possessions and a style that suits the away team.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Since the beginning of the 2021-22 season, these two sides have met on six occasions. Despite the fact that Miami have been a staple in the playoffs and the Pacers are on track to miss out for the third season in a row, they have split those six meetings 3-3.

Illustrating how evenly matched the teams have been, they are 2-2 in their past four, and 1-1 in their past two, while the three most recent contests have been decided by a combined margin of 10 points.

The NBA banned a number of acquaintances of Memphis Grizzlies All-Star Ja Morant from attending the team's home games following a postgame incident that occurred last week. 

According to a report from The Athletic, members of Morant’s group reportedly confronted representatives of the Indiana Pacers' travelling party following the Grizzlies' 112-100 win over Indiana in Memphis on January 29.

The report states that a red laser coming from an SUV that was believed to be carrying Morant was pointed towards Pacers players and coaches as they made their way to the team bus, and witnesses told NBA investigators they feared the laser was attached to a gun.

A league spokesman said a resulting investigation found no evidence of any weapons present, but confirmed to The Athletic that multiple people have been prohibited from attending Grizzlies’ home games following the probe.

"NBA security and league investigators conducted an investigation interviewing numerous eyewitnesses and reviewing video surveillance following allegations made by the Indiana Pacers organisation regarding a postgame incident on January 29," the league said in a statement.

"While we substantiated that a postgame situation arose that was confrontational, based on interviews and other evidence gathered, we could not corroborate that any individual threatened others with a weapon.

"Certain individuals involved in the postgame situation and a related matter during the game that night have been subsequently banned from attending games in the arena. If additional information becomes available related to the postgame situation, the league office will conduct a further review."

Morant, who was named to his second straight All-Star Game earlier this week, tweeted Sunday that his brother was barred from FedEx Forum for a year as a result of the investigation. The standout point guard received no league discipline.

"Did a investigation [and] seen they were cappin,” Morant tweeted. "Still let a article come out to paint this negative image on me and my fam, and banned my brother from home games for a year. Unbelievable."

Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins told reporters prior to Sunday's game against Toronto that the team cooperated fully with the NBA's investigation, though he did not comment on any specific details of the situation.

"That was addressed internally. We're aware of the investigation of the NBA," he said. "They did a full investigation, we were fully compliant with it and I think they came out with a statement saying nothing was corroborated or found.

"That’s what I know and that’s all I’m going to comment on."

The New York Knicks stormed home with a 32-18 final period to defeat the visiting Philadelphia 76ers 108-97 on Sunday,

The Knicks were on the second night of a back-to-back, coming off a disappointing overtime loss at home against the Los Angeles Clippers, but they steadied the ship to avoid a fourth loss from their past five.

Point guard Jalen Brunson finished with 21 points on six-of-16 shooting with seven assists and five rebounds, while All-Star team-mate Julius Randle posted 24 points (eight-of-19), nine rebounds and seven assists.

They were solid, but inefficient, shooting a combined 40 per cent from the field while both finished with a plus/minus figure in the negatives.

What won the game for the Knicks was their production off the bench. Evan Fournier scored a season-high 17 points (six-of-11), Deuce McBride added 14 points (three-of-eight), and the pair combined to shoot eight-of-14 from long range, while both posting a plus/minus of plus 28 or better.

Backup center Isaiah Hartenstein was similarly impactful, snatching an equal season-high 14 rebounds in his fourth consecutive appearance with at least 10 boards.

MVP candidate Joel Embiid was respectable for the 76ers, finishing six-of-16 from the field, but he still produced 31 points and 14 rebounds after shooting 18-of-19 from the free throw line.

With the win, the Knicks improved their record to 29-26, and they now sit just a half-game back from the six seed in the Eastern Conference.

Balanced Raptors overcome Morant-less Grizzlies

With Ja Morant out injured, the Memphis Grizzlies were unable to protect their lead down the stretch, going down 106-103 at home against the Toronto Raptors.

The Grizzlies led by 15 points late in the third quarter, before the Raptors closed the show on a 40-22 run.

Seven of the eight Raptors to play finished with between 10 and 19 points, with Pascal Siakam's 19 points on seven-of-17 shooting leading the scoring, while Scottie Barnes was a menace defensively as he had two steals and two blocks to go with his 16 points and seven rebounds.

Desmond Bane (26 points and four steals) and Jaren Jackson Jr (18 points and four blocks) were the bright spots for the Grizzlies, who at 32-21 are now four-and-a-half games behind the Western Conference-leading Denver Nuggets.

Cavs starters light up the Pacers

The Cleveland Cavaliers' starting-five shot a blistering 58.7 per cent from the field as they blew out the Indiana Pacers 122-103 on the road.

Donovan Mitchell had 19 points on six-of-18 shooting, but he was the only Cleveland starter to hit less than half his shots as Darius Garland (eight-of-13), Evan Mobley (seven-of-12), Jarrett Allen (nine-of-11) and Isaac Okoro (seven-of-nine) combined to shoot 68.8 per cent.

Newly extended Pacers center Myles Turner had strong production in the losing effort, finishing with 27 points (nine-of-18), 10 rebounds and three blocks.

The Philadelphia 76ers have now won nine of their past 10 games after Joel Embiid overpowered the San Antonio Spurs in a 137-125 road victory on Friday.

Embiid, who is leading the league in scoring at 33.5 points per game, put together what seemed like an effortless 33 points on 10-of-18 shooting. He also added 10 rebounds, four assists and two steals.

His 1.1 steals per game this season are tied for his career-high, while Embiid is also one of six players averaging at least one steal and one block per game, joining Anthony Davis, Kristaps Porzingis, Jaren Jackson Jr, Jaden McDaniels and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

The 76ers took control of the game with a 47-point second quarter, jumping ahead by 12 at half-time, and the margin never got any closer than nine points the rest of the way.

Embiid was supported well by Tyrese Maxey off the bench with 25 points (eight-of-15 shooting) in 27 minutes, while James Harden finished with 16 points (four-of-10) and eight assists.

For the Spurs, it was an impressive showing from first-round rookie Malaki Branham as he scored a career-high 26 points on 11-of-16 shooting, just two days after setting a career-high of 22 points (nine-of-13) against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday.

With the win, the 76ers improved to 34-17 – the fourth-best record in the NBA.

Suns resurgence continues

The Phoenix Suns (28-26) have climbed back into the Western Conference's top-six after a strong 106-94 road win against the league-leading Boston Celtics (37-16).

Phoenix's season was on life support a couple of weeks ago as they collected only two wins from a 14-game stretch while both Devin Booker and Chris Paul sat out with injuries, but Paul's return has ignited a 7-2 run from their past nine.

Against the Celtics, Paul led both teams with a game-high eight assists to go with 15 points (six-of-15) and six rebounds, while Mikal Bridges's 25 points on nine-of-20 shooting led the Suns in scoring.

It was a night to forget for Celtics MVP candidate Jayson Tatum, shooting just three-of-15 from the field.

Pacers claim bragging rights over trade partner

In a clash between All-Stars who swapped places last season, it was Buddy Hield leading the Indiana Pacers to a 107-104 home win against the Sacramento Kings.

These teams engaged in one of the biggest trades of the 2021-22 campaign when the Pacers sent Domantas Sabonis to the Sacramento Kings for point guard Tyrese Haliburton and Hield, with Sabonis and Haliburton both earning All-Star nods this season on their new teams.

But it was Hield rising to the occasion against his former side, scoring a team-high 21 points on eight-of-15 shooting while also collecting his third double-double of the season with 10 rebounds, and his six assists were his most since October.

The Los Angeles Lakers "hardly ever discuss" LeBron James' hunt for the NBA points record, according to coach Darvin Ham.

James scored 26 points, added seven rebounds and provided seven assists as the Lakers fought back to beat the Pacers 112-111 on Thursday.

That haul moved James onto 38,325 points across his illustrious career, 62 short of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's all-time record.

It means James is likely to break the record against the Oklahoma City Thunder next week.

Ham, however, says the Lakers do not treat it as too big of a deal.

"I think it's an amazing feat," Lakers coach Darvin Ham told reporters.

"When it happens, kudos to Bron for all his longevity and not just longevity, but longevity at the top of the list at an elite level.

"But our day-to-day, we hardly ever discuss it unless we're asked about it. For us, it's just, how can we get our team in the best position to make a run?"

James, though, did not look to downplay the importance of the record.

"I think it's one of the greatest records in sports, in general. It's like the home run record in baseball," he said.

"It's one of those records that you don't ever see or think will be broken.

"You see guys like Hank Aaron, who had [baseball's home run record] for so long. You see guys like Sammy [Sosa] and Mark McGwire and you start climbing it and it's like, 'Oh, this could really happen.'

"It's a fun thing as a sports person. It was fun watching those guys chasing it."

Anthony Davis led the Lakers with 31 points and 14 rebounds, and it was his 11-foot shot with 35 seconds left put Los Angeles ahead, before he made a crucial block from Tyrese Haliburton.

Davis missed out on selection for the All-Star Game, though that was of little concern.

"I'm here to win, to try to compete for championships, not to get into All-Star Games," Davis said.

"My wife is ecstatic. She already texted me, 'So, where we going [during All-Star break]?'"

The Los Angeles Lakers trailed by 14 early in the fourth quarter before storming back to defeat the Indiana Pacers 112-111 on the road.

Los Angeles' defense let them down early on Thursday as they gave up 35 points in the first quarter and another 32 in the second, heading into the long break trailing 67-54.

The Lakers were finally able to hold the Pacers under 30 points in a 30-29 third frame, before their defense woke up in the final period and kept the home side to just 15.

The visiting team did not claim their first lead of the game until LeBron James drained a three-pointer to jump ahead 108-106 with 2:35 remaining, but a jump shot from rookie Andrew Nembhard put the Pacers up by one with under a minute to play.

With the game on the line, Anthony Davis drained a clutch post fadeaway over elite defensive center Myles Turner to retake the lead, and although the Lakers left the door open with a pair of missed free throws from Pat Beverley, Buddy Hield's potential game-winner was off the mark thanks to Beverley's smothering defense.

It was a gutsy comeback to give the Lakers their second win in a row, led by Davis' 31 points on 13-of-27 shooting with 14 rebounds and two blocks. 

Meanwhile, James was efficient with 26 points on 11-of-19 shooting, adding seven rebounds and seven assists. He is now 62 points away from tying Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's all-time scoring mark.

For the Pacers, Tyrese Haliburton enjoyed a strong return from injury after three weeks on the sideline, leading his team in points (26) and assists (12) after being named to his first All-Star team earlier in the day.

Jokic toys with the Warriors

Reigning back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic continued his march towards a three-peat as he dominated the Golden State Warriors in the Denver Nuggets' 134-117 triumph.

Jokic finished with 22 points on nine-of-13 shooting with 16 assists and 14 rebounds. Over his past 17 games, he has only finished with fewer than nine assists once, and no player is averaging more than his 11.9 assists over their past 15 games.

It was also another strong performance from Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, scoring 33 points on 12-of-23 shooting with eight assists and five rebounds. Over his past five outings, Murray is averaging 27.6 points and 7.2 assists.

The Nuggets sit four games clear atop the Western Conference at 36-16, while the 26-26 Warriors are ninth.

Mavericks hold on as Doncic leaves hurt

The Dallas Mavericks led the New Orleans Pelicans by 31 points during the second quarter, but ended up getting pushed all the way in a 111-106 victory.

Slovenian superstar Luka Doncic had 27 points in the first half, and made his way up to 31 early in the third period before he suffered a heel injury due to a hard fall, ending his night.

The Mavericks led by 28 when he exited the game, and from that point on the Pelicans closed the contest on a 50-27 run. They ultimately came up short after a controversial refereeing mistake in the final seconds robbed them of a chance to shoot for the tie.

It was the Pelicans' 10th loss in a row as they desperately await the return of Zion Williamson from his hamstring injury, while the Mavericks improved to fifth in the West at 28-25.

Former MVP James Harden and Atlanta Hawks franchise player Trae Young were among those to miss out on All-Star selection after the Eastern Conference reserves were announced on Thursday.

The starters had already been named a week ago, with Brooklyn Nets tandem Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant being joined by Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell and Boston Celtics MVP candidate Jayson Tatum on the East team, captained by Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.

After being a surprise omission from the starters, Philadelphia 76ers back-to-back MVP runner-up Joel Embiid headlined the reserves, where he will be joined by Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo, Celtics wing Jaylen Brown, New York Knicks big-man Julius Randle, Chicago Bulls wing DeMar DeRozan, Bucks point guard Jrue Holiday and Indiana Pacers rising star Tyrese Haliburton.

It is the sixth consecutive All-Star selection for Embiid, the sixth overall for DeRozan, while it will be the second time for Adebayo, Brown, Randle and Holiday – with Holiday having to wait 10 years between drinks after his first selection in 2013.

Haliburton was the only first-time All-Star in the East, and he had to beat out some serious names to earn the honour.

The Pacers point guard is averaging career-highs in points (20.2) and assists (10.2) after being traded from the Sacramento Kings at last season's trade deadline, while his 1.8 steals per game has him sitting fourth in the league.

His 10.2 assists per game trails only Harden (11.0), while Harden is also averaging more points (21.4), rebounds (6.4 to 4.0) and owns a superior record. Harden – who had made 10 consecutive All-Star Games prior to this season – is 23-11 in his 34 contests entering Thursday, while Haliburton's Pacers are 22-18 in his 40 appearances.

The 76ers are the only of the East's top-four teams to not send two players to All-Star Weekend.

Meanwhile, Young's Hawks also sit two places above the Pacers in the standings with a 26-26 record. With 27.0 points and 9.9 assists per game, Young joins Harden and back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic as the only players in the league averaging at least 21 points and nine assists.

After hearing his name frequently mentioned in trade rumours the past few years, Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner finally has some long-sought piece of mind after he and the team agreed to a contract extension that was officially announced Monday.

"Definitely there’s a sense of relief knowing there’s some security and you can just play the game," Turner said at Monday’s press conference confirming the new deal, which ESPN reported to be for two years and $60million.

"It [the trade rumours] is something I’ve been through my entire career. But I wanted to be here in Indy."

Turner’s future in Indiana had been in question with the Pacers expected to be in a rebuild and the 26-year-old in the final year of his current contract. The Pacers seemed ready to move on this past summer when they signed Phoenix center Deandre Ayton to a four-year, $133m offer sheet that the Suns ultimately matched to keep the restricted free agent.

Despite continued interest from teams leading up to the February 9 trade deadline, the Pacers instead affirmed their commitment to the eight-year veteran and the team’s longest-tenured player as one of its core members.

"As a staff, we were hoping this day would come very desperately," coach Rick Carlisle said. "Over the last year and a half, since he transitioned back to his natural position, the five, we've seen tremendous things."

Carlisle was referring to last February’s trade of All-Star forward Domantas Sabonis to the Sacramento Kings, freeing up Turner as the primary interior presence while also landing standout point guard Tyrese Haliburton and long-range shooter Buddy Hield in return.

Turner has indeed thrived from both the switch and from playing with Haliburton, as he’s averaging career-highs of 17.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game this season while remaining one of the NBA’s top rim protectors.

His 2.4 blocks per game places him fourth in the league, and if he can maintain that, it will be his seventh consecutive season in the top-five for blocks per game, having led the league in the 2018-19, 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons.

"I think it made it easy, when given the full-time position at the five. That’s something I was definitely looking for," he said. "Given the situation I’m in now where I do get to see expanded minutes at the five, that was one of the main things I was looking for."

The new deal, which added over $17m to Turner’s 2022-23 salary to help the Pacers climb above the salary cap floor, also provides Indiana more flexibility going into the offseason with all five starters now under contract for next season.

Two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo was an unstoppable force on the offensive end as his Milwaukee Bucks collected a 135-110 home victory against the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday.

Antetokounmpo scored a game-high 50 points on 20-of-26 shooting, hitting three of his four attempts from downtown while adding 13 rebounds and four assists.

It was the sixth time in the Greek superstar's career that he had reached 50 points, and the second time this month after setting a new career-high with 55 points against the Washington Wizards on January 3. Antetokoumpo is averaging a career-high 31.7 points per game, placing him third in the league.

The contest got out of hand early as the Bucks jumped out to a 37-19 lead at the end of the first quarter, with Antetokounmpo scoring 16 of his side's first 21 points.

Fans were treated to a shootout in the third period as the two teams scored 44 points each, but the undermanned Pelicans did not have the firepower to keep up, with not a single player from the away team reaching 20 points.

With the victory, the Bucks improved their record to 33-17 – the fourth-best in the league – while the Pelicans dropped their eighth in a row to slip to 26-25, occupying the eighth seed in the West.

Grizzlies storm home in comeback win

Ja Morant posted his second consecutive triple-double to lift his Memphis Grizzlies to a stirring 112-100 comeback win at home against the Indiana Pacers.

Morant dished 15 assists in his second-highest tally of the season to go along with 27 points (nine-of-21 shooting), 10 rebounds and two steals.

The Grizzlies needed every bit of his heroics as they found themselves trailing by 16 early in the third quarter, before finishing the game on a 60-32 run as they won the third period 30-17 and the last 32-21.

Memphis are now 32-18, and the only Western Conference side within six games of the top-seeded Denver Nuggets (34-16).

Rozier ignites Hornets upset

The Charlotte Hornets have now won four of their past six after an upset 122-117 triumph against the visiting Miami Heat.

Terry Rozier was the star of the show, scoring a game-high 31 points on 11-of-19 shooting with seven assists and six rebounds, while 24-year-old former lottery pick P.J. Washington showed promising signs on his way to 27 points (11-of-19), six rebounds and five assists.

Jimmy Butler was terrific for the Heat, shooting 11-of-14 from the field for his 28 points, seven rebounds and three steals, but it was Miami's defense that was the issue, allowing Charlotte to shoot 54 per cent overall.

Myles Turner has decided against becoming an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season after signing a two-year, $58million extension with the Indiana Pacers on Saturday.

Turner, 26, was playing in the final year of his four-year, $80m rookie extension, and he will now add two more years at essentially the same salary ($20.9m next season, $19.9m in 2024-25).

The Pacers were able to secure Turner on two more relatively affordable seasons after deciding to capitalise on their extra cap space this campaign. His new deal includes a $17.1m increase on his salary for the current season – increasing it from $18m to $35.1m – which is the largest re-negotiation bump in league history.

It indicates a surprising change of heart for Turner, who had been open about his desire to leave via trade or free agency, but has instead found himself flourishing with a career-best season on a Pacers team seemingly already finished with their rebuild.

Turner previously shared how he was unhappy with his role as a supporting piece while All-Star Domantas Sabonis patrolled the interior – often spending entire offensive possessions standing in the corner spacing the floor.

However, with Sabonis being shipped to the Sacramento Kings this past season in exchange for point guard and rising star Tyrese Haliburton, Turner has found himself in a featured role, and he has taken full advantage.

The six-foot-11 defensive anchor has always been an elite shot-blocker, sitting top-five in blocks per game (2.4) for the seventh consecutive campaign after leading the league in the 2018-19, 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons.

But it is his offense that has taken the biggest leap with Sabonis out of the picture, posting career-highs across the board.

Turner is averaging career-highs in field goal makes (6.3) and attempts (11.6), three-point makes (1.6), three-point percentage (39.1), free throw makes (3.3) and attempts (4.3), rebounds (7.9) and points (17.5).

He has played in 42 of a possible 51 games this season, and is looking like he has turned the corner physically after only managing 42 appearances in the entirety of this past season and 47 games in 2020-21.

The Pacers are 24-27, sitting ninth in the Eastern Conference, although they are only 1-9 since Haliburton suffered an injury against the New York Knicks on January 11, having not played since.

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.

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