Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone has slammed his side claiming that they "gave in and quit" in Sunday's 124-104 loss to the Boston Celtics.

The Nuggets trailed 68-43 at half-time after a 46-21 run to the Celtics, leading to Malone benching several starters for the third quarter, including MVP Nikola Jokic who shot eight-of-23 from the field for his 23 points.

Malone was livid with his side, who slipped to a 42-30 record and seventh spot in the Western Conference.

"To me, it appeared we just kind of gave in and quit. I didn't want to reward that behaviour," Malone told reporters after the game.

"I thought the bench unit was at least going out there and competing and fighting."

Malone added: "If somebody’s kicking our ass and we’re fighting and competing, and they’re better than us, so be it,"

"They’re a very good team, but if we’re getting our butts kicked, and we’re just taking it, possession after possession, heads are dropped, body language giving in, I’m not going to reward that behaviour.

"There’s principles in life, and that goes against every principle inside my body."

Jokic was well down on his usual output with eight rebounds and four assists along with his 23 points, while starters Aaron Gordon (13 points, four rebounds), Monte Morris (seven points, four rebounds and four assists), Will Barton (eight points and five rebounds) and Jeff Green (six points and one rebound) struggled for impact.

"Tonight I can't point to one thing we did well," Malone said.

Jokic added: "Overall, they had a really good defensive game and I had a really bad offensive game."

Jayson Tatum, who was serenaded with "MVP" chants from the Celtics crowd, was joint top scorer with 30 points along with Jaylen Brown.

Boston's win improves their record to 44-28 and fourth in the east, having won three in a row and 10 of their past 12 games.

The ascending Boston Celtics added another scalp to their resume, holding reigning MVP Nikola Jokic to his season-worst shooting percentage in a 124-104 win over the Denver Nuggets on Sunday.

In a stunning year-on-year improvement, the Celtics have been the best defence in the NBA this season after finishing 17th in that department this past season.

With new coach Ime Udoka going all-in on a switching defensive system, it was theoretically going to be tested against the best passing big man in league history, and arguably the league's most dominant offensive force.

However, Jokic was bottled up similarly to everyone else the Celtics have played in 2022, going 8-of-23 (34.7 per cent) from the field in the blowout loss.

Jokic, who is shooting 57 per cent from the field for the season, had previously had his worst shooting performance when he went 6-of-17 (35.3 per cent) in an early-December loss against the Chicago Bulls.

Boston's two superstar wings combined for 60 points, as Jayson Tatum posted 30 points (11-of-17 shooting, 6-of-10 from three) with seven assists, while Jaylen Brown had 30 points (12-of-19 shooting, 3-of-6 from three) with six rebounds.

The ascending Boston Celtics added another scalp to their resume, holding reigning MVP Nikola Jokic to his season-worst shooting percentage in a 124-104 win over the Denver Nuggets on Sunday.

In a stunning year-on-year improvement, the Celtics have been the best defence in the NBA this season after finishing 17th in that department this past season.

With new coach Ime Udoka going all-in on a switching defensive system, it was theoretically going to be tested against the best passing big man in league history, and arguably the league's most dominant offensive force.

However, Jokic was bottled up similarly to everyone else the Celtics have played in 2022, going 8-of-23 (34.7 per cent) from the field in the blowout loss.

Jokic, who is shooting 57 per cent from the field for the season, had previously had his worst shooting performance when he went 6-of-17 (35.3 per cent) in an early-December loss against the Chicago Bulls.

Boston's two superstar wings combined for 60 points, as Jayson Tatum posted 30 points (11-of-17 shooting, 6-of-10 from three) with seven assists, while Jaylen Brown had 30 points (12-of-19 shooting, 3-of-6 from three) with six rebounds.

Jayson Tatum was living in dreamland after his 54-point haul in the Boston Celtics' 126-120 victory over a Brooklyn Nets team boasting Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on Sunday.

Durant and Irving teamed up for only the fourth time this season, but it was Tatum who took centre stage, shooting 16-of-30 from the field and eight-of-15 from beyond the arc.

His incredible display included 34 second-half points, with 18 coming during the final quarter as the Celtics overturned a one-point deficit.

While Durant put up 37 points in only his second game back from an MCL sprain, becoming the 23rd player to reach 25,000 career NBA points, Irving managed just 19 points with four rebounds and six rebounds.

And Tatum was thrilled to get the better of two stars of the game as the Celtics, for whom Jaylen Brown scored 21 points, improved to 39-27.

"As a competitor, night in, night out, but especially games like this, those matchups when you're [against] one of the better teams in the league with two of the best guys, just as a competitor, these are the kinds of moments that as a kid you dreamed about and looked forward to," he said.

"When those opportunities come, you try to make the most of it.

"Obviously, somebody like myself or [Brown] can have nights like this. And it's contagious when guys are hitting shots, spreading the wealth and making the extra pass, driving and kicking.

"Just getting those open looks and seeing them go in, it just opens everything up for us. We know how tough we can be on defense. When we kind of match that energy on offense, we'll really be special."

Team-mate Marcus Smart cited slight tweaks in Tatum's approach that had led to an upturn in his performances.

He said: "He stopped trying to force it, and making the right read, making the game easy for himself.

"Saving that energy and not trying to beat every double-team that comes his way and that's allowing him to do what he does at the end of games. He has the legs late in those fourth quarters to take over the games and that's what it's all about.

"When you are a great player, that's what it's about, having those legs in crunch time to be able to do that. The way you do that is getting everyone else involved, picking your spots wisely.

"He's doing a great job of that, him and Jaylen. They both are and that's the reason why we are doing what we are doing. That's good players that get us going on the offensive end, making sure we get great shots either for themselves or for their team-mates."

Jayson Tatum said having fun was the key to the Boston Celtics' strong form after Thursday's 120-107 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Celtics moved to 38-27 as Tatum put on a 21-point fourth-quarter blitz, racking up 37 points overall on his 24th birthday.

His stellar showing was key as Grizzlies star Ja Morant impressed again, with 38 points, four rebounds and seven assists.

And Tatum, whose side sit fifth in the Eastern Conference, believes that embracing the fun factor has been crucial to the Celtics' promising season.

“I think watching us now, we play with a lot more passion,” he said. “We just seem like we’re having a lot more fun.

“This is basketball at the end of the day, and it’s supposed to be a lot of fun,” said Tatum. "And we've been having a lot of fun lately.”

Team-mate Al Horford cited the side's solid work on defense as the foundation of their success, with the Celtics boasting a defensive rating of 105.4 – second only to the Golden State Warriors.

However, he conceded there was still work to be done on the offensive front.

“Defensively, I feel like we know who we are,” Horford said. "On offense, I feel like we're continuing to find our identity and how we want to play and what we want to do.

"The more and more you start playing that way, it almost becomes second nature.

"We're not there yet, but I feel like we're making a lot of progress and it's going to be at the point that we're not even thinking about it and we're moving the ball, making the simple reads, and I feel like that's when we'll be at our best.”

Luka Doncic stepped up to help the Dallas Mavericks recover and overcome the Los Angeles Lakers 109-104 in Tuesday's topsy-turvy encounter.

The Mavericks blew a 21-point lead in the space of 12 minutes spanning half-time at Crypto.com Arena and trailed 100-94 with seven minutes to play.

But 11 consecutive points ensured Jason Kidd's side claimed an eighth win in 10 outings, while the out-of-form Lakers slid to a season-worst seven games below .500.

While not at his best, Doncic led the scoring for the Mavericks with 25 points – seven of those in the final quarter – as he went 9 of 21.

LeBron James scored 26 points for the Lakers and Carmelo Anthony had 20, but it was not enough to prevent the hosts from tasting a sixth loss in seven outings.

 


Timberwolves inflict another defeat on Warriors

The Golden State Warriors (43-19) have the second-best record in NBA, but they lost for a sixth time in eight games with a 129-114 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Karl-Anthony Towns had 39 points and nine rebounds, while going 14 for 22 from the floor, as the Timberwolves made it back-to-back victories.

"We're going to be fine long-term. I'm excited about our team and excited about where we can go, but we've just got to weather this storm," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.


Clippers' run goes on, Nets downed by Raptors

The Los Angeles Clippers beat the Houston Rockets 113-100 thanks to Ivica Zubac's 22 points and 12 rebounds for their fourth win in a row as they went 33-31 for the season.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, the struggling Brooklyn Nets lost to the Toronto Raptors for a second time in two days, going down 109-108 in a tight contest at Scotiabank Arena.

Jayson Tatum's 33 points, eight rebounds and seven assists inspired the Boston Celtics to a 107-98 win against the Atlanta Hawks, while the Washington Wizards beat the Detroit Pistons 116-113.

The short-handed Brooklyn Nets slumped to their 13th defeat from their past 15 games as Jayson Tatum led the Boston Celtics to a 129-106 victory on Thursday.

Tatum scored 30 points including four three-pointers along with seven rebounds and four assists for the Celtics who have won 10 of their past 11 games.

The Celtics' hot form is in contrast to the Nets, who have slumped to a 31-29 record in the absence of the injured Kevin Durant, unavailable Kyrie Irving and unfit Ben Simmons.

Boston led from start to finish, opening up a 35-22 quarter-time lead, with good support from big men Robert Williams III (12 points and 11 rebounds) and Al Horford (11 points and 13 rebounds).

Seth Curry top scored for the Nets with 22 points but only made two-of-seven from beyond the arc, while Patty Mills struggled with one point from 28 minutes, shooting none-of-nine from the field.

 

Morant hurt in tight loss

Ja Morant airballed a game-tying three-point attempt in the dying seconds and had a third-quarter injury scare as the Memphis Grizzlies lost 119-114 to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Morant finished with 20 points and eight rebounds but seemed to pick up a leg injury on a drive which impacted his final quarter. D'Angelo Russell scored 23 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter for the Timberwolves.

The ladder-leading Phoenix Suns had no issues without Chris Paul as they extended their winning streak to eight games with a 124-104 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Devin Booker scored 25 points with five rebounds, 12 assists and a career-high six steals.

Stephen Curry was benched late after 18 points and 14 assists as the Golden State Warriors won 132-95 over the Portland Trail Blazers, while Nikola Jokic had 25 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists in the Denver Nuggets' 128-110 triumph over the Sacramento Kings.

 

Trae wayward in Hawks loss

Trae Young struggled as the Atlanta Hawks went down 112-108 to the Chicago Bulls. The Hawks guard made three-of-17 from the field in his 14 points for the game. For the Bulls, who have won six in a row, in-form DeMar DeRozan scored 37 points while Zach LaVine returned from injury with 20 points.

With another NBA All-Star weekend in the books, Thursday sees the league back in regular season action, with one of the more intriguing games taking place at Barclays Center when the Brooklyn Nets entertain the Boston Celtics.

They played in the same venue earlier this month, with Boston easing to a 126-91 victory, which the Nets will be eager to avenge this time.

Somewhat surprisingly given the strength of their respective rosters, Celtics star Jayson Tatum was the only player representing either team to play in the All-Star game, scoring eight points during his 20 minutes on court for Team Durant.

Kevin Durant missed the game in Cleveland with a knee injury and is likely to be out of this clash as well. 

Nets general manager Sean Marks recently said Durant and new arrival Ben Simmons could be ready to play in the coming weeks, but the visit of the Celtics is likely to come too soon for both.

Steve Nash's team currently sit eighth in the Eastern Conference on 31-28, having fallen away dramatically in the last month, losing 11 games in a row until beating the Sacramento Kings on Valentine's Day.

Injuries have played a big part in the dip in form, but back-to-back wins against the Kings and the New York Knicks suggested they could be about to turn things around, even with a defeat to the Washington Wizards in their last game before the All-Star break.

The Celtics, meanwhile, have been going in the other direction, winning nine games in a row before a loss to the Detroit Pistons ahead of the break, and they find themselves sixth in the East on 34-26.

Coach Ime Udoka has led his team to a five-game winning streak on the road and will be looking to make it six in Brooklyn.

He will be reliant on Tatum and Jaylen Brown to pick up where they left off. The Celtics' star duo combined for 57 points and 20 rebounds in the recent 135-87 thrashing of the Philadelphia 76ers.

The impact of guard Derrick White could also be crucial after his recent arrival from the San Antonio Spurs. He has made a respectable start to life with Boston, averaging 12.3 points per game in his four outings.

The restart of the league signals the beginning of what will no doubt be a tense run in a tightly contested Eastern Conference, and both these teams will be looking to get off to a perfect start on Thursday.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Brooklyn Nets – Patty Mills

It's a home game, so Kyrie Irving (vaccination status) cannot play, and with James Harden gone and no Durant or Simmons yet, the pressure will once again fall on Mills to be his team's main man.

The Australian narrowly missed out on the three-point finals at All-Star weekend but is enjoying a career-best season for points (13.4 average per game) in Brooklyn after moving from San Antonio last year.

His three-point shooting is what has been letting him down in recent times, going five games in a row scoring single figures for points, before hitting 22 in the loss to Washington before the All-Star break, including five of seven from beyond the arc.

Boston Celtics – Jayson Tatum

Tatum has been his team's standout player this season, and the momentum from featuring in the All-Star game could see him raise that level even higher.

Only three players in the league have scored more than his 1,439 points this season (DeMar DeRozan - 1,547, Trae Young - 1,475, Giannis Antetokounmpo - 1,443), while only DeRozan (566) and Nikola Jokic (516) have hit more than his 500 field goals.

Interestingly, Tatum took more of a back seat when Boston beat Brooklyn earlier this month, with Brown and Marcus Smart (both 22) scoring more than his 19 points.

KEY BATTLES – Make a better start, Brooklyn

The recent game between these two saw the Celtics race out to a 35-16 lead after the first quarter. It was always a big ask for the Nets to do anything from there.

Where Brooklyn will likely look for success is in mid-range, where no team in the league has a higher percentage of field goals from (48.7). However, only four teams have a lower percentage of mid-range field goals allowed than Boston (39.9 per cent).

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Although the Celtics won at Barclays Center earlier this month, the Nets had won the previous four meetings between the two, including at TD Garden in November, and all three encounters last season.

Jayson Tatum scored 38 points including four triples as the Boston Celtics clinched their eighth consecutive victory beating the Atlanta Hawks 105-95 on Sunday.

Tatum led the Celtics' third-quarter charge as they piled on 42-23 to open up the game after trailing by 12 points early in the period.

The Celtics small forward had 10 rebounds, three assists, one steal and two blocks to go with his 38 points, while Jaylen Brown added 17 points and nine rebounds.

Trae Young starred for the Hawks, who never gave in, scoring 30 points with four rebounds and 10 assists.

Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 26 points off the bench for the Hawks who reached last year's Conference Finals but are 26-30 this season.

 

Edwards shines as Timberwolves win

Former NBA Draft first pick Anthony Edwards dominated with 37 points to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 129-120 win over the Indiana Pacers.

Edwards' haul included seven three-pointers along with five rebounds and four assists, overshadowing Karl-Anthony Towns (15 points, 13 rebounds, three assists).

The Timberwolves shot at 52.9 per cent from beyond the arc, making 18 triples for the game.

The Pacers, who were busy late in the trade period, were soundly beaten but new acquisition Tyrese Haliburton was impressive with 22 points, five rebounds and 16 assists. Oshae Brissett also had 22 points with 13 rebounds.

Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball and San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray will both make their NBA All-Star Game debuts after being added as injury replacements on Monday.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver confirmed that the pair would be added with Draymond Green (back) and Kevin Durant (knee) out injured.

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum will come into the Eastern Conference's starting line-up for Durant.

Durant will still participate as the east's captain in the All-Star Draft on Thursday alongside Western Conference captain LeBron James.

Last season's NBA Rookie of the Year Ball is averaging 19.6 points, 7.5 assists and 7.1 rebounds per game this season.

Murray is averaging 19.6 points, 9.2 assists, 8.4 rebounds and 2.1 steals so far in 2021-22.

The All-Star Game is due to take place on February 20 in Cleveland.

Darius Garland and Fred VanVleet have both been selected to the NBA All-Star Game for the first time as Eastern Conference reserves.

After the 2022 captains and starters were announced a week earlier, the rest of the pool of players was filled out on Thursday.

Garland, having led the Cleveland Cavaliers into fifth place in the East, was a popular pick.

Charles Barkley said on TNT: "I like it when they earn it. They don't just get the fan vote, like a lifetime achievement award. This kid deserves to be at the All-Star Game."

Third-year point guard Garland becomes the first Cav to be recognised since LeBron James left the team, rewarded for averaging 19.8 points and 8.2 assists this season.

He is not the only new face, however, as VanVleet also made the cut in a career year. The 2019 champion is leading the Toronto Raptors in scoring with his 21.5 points.

Fellow pick in the East James Harden is far more familiar with this stage, included for a 10th consecutive season. Only James (18) is on a longer active streak.

Jimmy Butler, Zach LaVine, Khris Middleton and Jayson Tatum all also return.

LaMelo Ball, Miles Bridges, Tyler Herro and Jarrett Allen were among the players to narrowly miss out in a hugely talented Eastern Conference.

In the West, Chris Paul makes his 12th appearance, and Luka Doncic is also included.

Paul is joined by Phoenix Suns team-mate Devin Booker, while Draymond Green boosts the number of Golden State Warriors to three, alongside starters Stephen Curry and Andrew Wiggins.

Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell and Karl-Anthony Towns complete the roster.

Injured Warriors forward Green, speaking in his role as a pundit, said he hoped the San Antonio Spurs' Dejounte Murray would be called up in his place.

Earlier on Thursday, the NBA unveiled new designs for the trophies to be handed out across All-Star Weekend – including the Kobe Bryant Trophy, awarded to the All-Star Game MVP.

Kyrie Irving finished with 22 points in his second game back but could not inspire the Brooklyn Nets to victory as they went down to a depleted Portland Trail Blazers 114-108 on Monday.

Anfernee Simons starred with 23 points, six rebounds and 11 assists for the Blazers who were missing Damian Lillard (abdomen).

The Nets were also without James Harden (knee), but had Kevin Durant (28 points, 10 rebounds, five assists) and Irving (22 points, eight rebounds, four assists) on court.

Durant's points return marks 19 straight games with 20 or more points, which is the second-longest streak of 20-point games in franchise history.

The defeat means the Nets are 25-14 and second in the east while the Blazers improve to 16-24.

 

Giannis cannot lift Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 26 points with 13 rebounds and eight assists but it was not enough as the Milwaukee Bucks lost their second straight game, going down 103-99 to the Charlotte Hornets. Khris Middleton had 27 points, seven rebounds and 11 assists for the Bucks.

First draft pick Cade Cunningham scored a career-high 29 points to lead the Detroit Pistons to an upset 126-116 win over the Utah Jazz, who were without Rudy Gobert again.

Joel Embiid scored 31 points with eight rebounds and six assists for the Philadelphia 76ers who beat the Houston Rockets 111-91.

 

Tatum cool as Celtics win in OT

Jayson Tatum went zero-of-seven from beyond the arc and shot at 33 percent from the field for his 24 points as the Boston Celtics edged the Indiana Pacers 101-98 in over-time. Domantas Sabonis had a triple-double for the Pacers.

It's not every day in the NBA that a team comes from 25 points down to win with a buzzer-beater, capping a game where a player lands 10 or more three-pointers.

In fact, it happened for the first time in league history on Thursday as the New York Knicks stormed back to beat the Boston Celtics 108-105 at Madison Square Garden.

From 57-32 adrift in the second quarter, the Knicks were inspired by Evan Fournier's remarkable shooting from behind the line against his former team, and RJ Barrett came up with the last-gasp glory shot.

Each of the three standout facets of the Knicks' win had been achieved in isolation, but they had never all come in the same game, Stats Perform said.

The Knicks were able to celebrate their biggest comeback win since coming from 26 behind against Milwaukee in March 2004, while Fournier's 10 threes matched a franchise record set by JR Smith.

Barrett's buzzer-beater was the Knicks' first for over nine years, with Smith the last player to grab a win at the death with his shot against Phoenix on December 26 in 2012.

Fournier finished with 41 points, a career-best haul, and he has shone brightest in games against Boston this season, after his short-lived spell with the Celtics last season.

Only three times has Fournier topped 30 points for the Knicks, and each time Boston have been the opponents. He had 32-point games against them in October and December, and stepped it up in the latest meeting.

Fournier said, quoted in the New York Post: "Maybe there is a little bit of extra motivation, but it is not something that I do on purpose against the Celtics. But yes, three times in a row, so it is hard to say no, it is not a coincidence."

Jayson Tatum responded with 36 points for Boston, together with six rebounds and nine assists, before Barrett's pull-up jump shot for a three-pointer soared over him at the end of the game to win the day.

Barrett said: "Man, that was crazy – I didn't even really see it because I fell. I didn't see it go in but from everyone else's reaction, I knew it did."

Fournier's own feats were made all the more remarkable by the fact he failed to register a point in almost 22 minutes on court during the Knicks' previous game, a win over the Indiana Pacers two days earlier.

The Frenchman is still averaging a patchy 13.5 points per game this season, and has had scathing reviews, but for one night that disappointing start to his Knicks career did not seem to matter.

Chris Paul recorded his first triple-double of the season with a career-high 13 rebounds in the Phoenix Suns' 106-89 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday.

Paul finished the game with 14 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists as the NBA-leading Suns improved to 30-8, while the Clippers slipped below .500 at 19-20 for the first time since they were 3-4 earlier this season, while Phoenix became the first team to reach 30 wins this season as they moved a game ahead of the Golden State Warriors.

The rebounding feats of Paul, playing his 1,128th NBA game, were complimented by the Suns veteran bringing up 41 assists from Phoenix's past three games.

Paul (474) also moved past NBA legend Oscar Robertson into third overall for most games with 10 or more points and 10 or more assists, behind John Stockton (714) and Magic Johnson (543).

Cameron Johnson had a career-high 24 points with seven rebounds for the Suns as Devin Booker went none-of-seven from beyond the arc for his 11 points.

Marcus Morris Sr had 26 points with eight rebounds and three assists for the Clippers who were without Paul George, Nicolas Batum and Kawhi Leonard.

Warriors lose without Curry and Green

The Warriors struggled in the absence of injured All-Star duo Stephen Curry (quad) and Draymond Green (hip), going down 101-96 to the New Orleans Pelicans.

Brandon Ingram scored 32 points with 11 rebounds and six assists for New Orleans.

Evan Fournier shot 10 three-pointers as he haunted his former side with 41 points and eight rebounds as the New York Knicks overcame the Boston Celtics 108-105 but it was RJ Barrett who hit a buzzer beater to clinch the win. Jayson Tatum had 36 points, six rebounds and nine assists.

 

Pistons pumped as Cunningham struggles

The Detroit Pistons were hammered by 30 points in the 118-88 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies with no player scoring more than 14 points.

The Pistons hold a 7-30 record this season with only three road victories from 20 games. They shocked the Milwaukee Bucks earlier this week but were no match for in-form Memphis, who extended their winning streak to seven.

Top draft pick Cade Cunningham shot five-of-19 for his 12 points.

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