The Phoenix Suns extended their winning streak to 16 games on Saturday with a 113-107 victory over the Brooklyn Nets, who gave up 20 turnovers for the game.

The Nets coughed up 15 turnovers in the first half alone as the Suns claimed an early lead and were never headed, led by Devin Booker (30 points and four assists) and Chris Paul (22 points, eight rebounds and five assists).

James Harden managed a triple-double but it was far from his best game with seven turnovers while only scoring 12 points, going zero-of-four from beyond the arc. Harden also had 13 rebounds and 14 assists.

Kevin Durant top scored for the Nets with 39 points along with nine rebounds, seven assists and four steals but also had five turnovers.

The Suns can equal their franchise record winning streak when they face the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday. Phoenix's 17-3 mark for the season is their best record through 20 games since 2004-05.

 

Embiid returns with a bang

Joel Embiid scored 42 points and had 14 rebounds on his return after nine games out due to COVID-19 protocols but could not lift the sliding Philadelphia 76ers to victory, going down 121-120 to the Minnesota Timberwolves in double over-time. Embiid had a shot to win the game but was blocked by Anthony Edwards on the buzzer.

Luka Doncic scored 33 points with 10 assists as the Dallas Mavericks were beaten 120-114 by the Washington Wizards with Bradley Beal hitting 26 points. The Wizards improve to 13-7.

Houston Rockets center Christian Wood had a huge game with 33 points and 16 rebounds as his side defeated the Charlotte Hornets 146-143 in over-time.

 

Randle loses his handle

Julius Randle only managed eight points, shooting three-of-14 from the field as the New York Knicks beat the Atlanta Hawks 99-90.

Joel Embiid thought he was not going to overcome COVID-19 to play in Saturday's 121-120 double over-time defeat to the Minnesota Timberwolves yet he returned with 42 points.

Embiid had missed nine games after testing positive to COVID-19 on November 8 but dominated with 42 points, 14 rebounds, three assists and two blocks upon his return on Saturday.

In Embiid's absence, the 76ers struggled with a 2-7 record, with their latest defeat leaving them 10-10.

The 27-year-old center helped the 76ers haul in a 20-point deficit against the Timberwolves and had a chance to win the game in double over-time but failed to get a shot away under pressure from Anthony Edwards.

The defeat overshadowed Embiid's return, yet he revealed the severity of his COVID-19 experience post-game including breathing difficulties and headaches, making his 42-point haul all the more remarkable.

"It hasn’t been good," Embiid told reporters. "That jawn hit me hard.

"I really thought I wasn’t going to make it [to play against the Timberwolves]. It was that bad. I'm just thankful to be sitting here. I'm just glad I got over it."

Embiid averaged 28.5 points and 10.6 rebounds last season, when he was runner-up for MVP honours to Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic.

The 76ers center is averaging 23.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game in the 2021-22 season.

Doc Rivers is optimistic his injury-hit Philadelphia 76ers will improve despite seeing them lose a fifth game in a row as they fell 120-85 to the Utah Jazz on Tuesday.

Last season's Eastern Conference top seeds were missing MVP runner-up Joel Embiid, fellow All-Star Ben Simmons and Matisse Thybulle as they slipped to 8-7 after being overwhelmed by the Jazz.

Having won eight of their first 10 games this season, Philadelphia have now lost five straight - the first time they have done so since December 2017 - but Rivers is confident his team will get back to winning ways soon.

"We're in a little rut with guys out but you work through it. We'll get through it," Rivers told reporters after the defeat.

"There's no cavalry coming right now. We've got to play with what we have, we understand that. We've just got to do better.

"We don't have a margin of error in games. We almost have to play perfect to have a chance to win a game, and for a while we were doing that. Right now, we're not."

When asked about the absence of Embiid, Rivers added: “I don't talk about guys that aren't here. It's obvious you miss Joel Embiid and Matisse, but I'm not going to waste time talking about that.

"I've got to get our guys that are here to just keep hoping and keep getting better and see where we can get a win."

The Sixers head coach did have one positive to reflect on from the night, with rookie Charles Bassey posting five points, four rebounds and one block in 10 minutes off the bench.

"I thought he was fantastic," Rivers said. "He knows the coverages and stuff already. That's really impressive for a young guy. He actually got on a guy late in the game because the guy didn't do the right coverage. Just watching him, he knows how to play. He's raw, but I like how he plays."

Joel Embiid should be back in the lineup soon, but the Philadelphia 76ers need to figure some things out on defence in the meantime. 

Philadelphia fell 118-113 to the Indiana Pacers on Saturday after digging a large first-half hole as the 76ers proved unable to stop anyone from scoring. 

Indiana shot 67.4 per cent from the floor in the opening half, embarking on a 15-0 run beginning late in the first quarter and leading by as many as 20 before the break. 

"Listen, we didn’t deserve to win tonight," Philadelphia head coach Doc Rivers told reporters. "They shot 57 per cent from the field, 67 I think at half-time, and we cooled them off a little bit.

"They played harder. They beat us in transition, I think they had 18 transition points in the first half, we cut it in the second half to make the game manageable, but when you’re on the road, and you get down 20 and you dig yourself a hole, it’s hard coming back, it is.

"Give them credit. They were better prepared. They were the better team tonight."

It was the fourth successive loss for the 76ers as Embiid missed his fourth consecutive game after testing positive for COVID-19 on Monday. 

Matisse Thybulle also missed his fifth game in a row due to health and safety protocols, and Tyrese Maxey said the void is significant. 

"They’re like defensive bail-outs," Maxey said. "When you make a mistake, they’ll cover it up because they’re just special guys. You can go for a gamble, miss it, Matisse will cover it up and get a block.

"Joel’s seven-foot at the rim, you get blown by, he’s blocking it or he’s challenging shots. It’s hard for offensive players to score on them. We’ve got to be collectively more solid without those guys." 

In a stretch when the short-handed 76ers cannot afford any letdowns, Maxey also said the team's "competitive nature slipped" in the first half, "and that's one thing we can never let slip". 

 

Doc Rivers is unclear about the severity of Seth Curry's foot injury as the Philadelphia 76ers' availability concerns got worse with the guard withdrawn prior to Tuesday's 118-109 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

The 76ers went into the game leading the Eastern Conference at 8-3 despite being without Joel Embiid, Matisse Thybulle, Isaiah Joe and Tobias Harris due to COVID-19, with Ben Simmons also still unavailable.

Curry was pulled out of the 76ers side for the game shortly before tipoff with a left foot contusion.

"I don’t know," Rivers told reporters about Curry's injury after the game. "I literally thought he was gonna play and then late, you could hear the language, it didn’t sound like he was gonna play.

"We start adjusting pretty quickly after that. I’m not even sure what it is. I think it’s his toe, but I’m not sure."

Guard Tyrese Maxey scored 31 points, with five rebounds and four assists, while center Andre Drummond had 17 points along with 20 rebounds, but the 76ers missed their stars.

Rivers had indicated pre-game that Harris may be the closest to returning of the quartet who had entered the league's health and safety protocol.

"All the other guys are still where they're at. I would say just talking to Tobias, he's the one guy who'll be back sooner than later," Rivers said.

Rivers was impressed that the decimated 76ers, who also lost to the New York Knicks on Monday, were in the hunt against the reigning champions before a 27-16 fourth quarter.

"We gave ourselves a chance to win the game in both and there’s something to be taken from that so we do learn a lot," Rivers said. "But we didn’t win the games. That’s a fact.

"We had chances. It’s an opportunity to grow, an opportunity to get better, I’m not down about the loss. You either do one of two things in a competition. You either win the game or you lose the game. Period.”

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid has entered the NBA's health and safety after reportedly testing positive for COVID-19. 

Embiid was expected to sit out Monday's meeting with the New York Knicks as planned rest on the first leg of a back-to-back, but the 76ers subsequently announced he had entered the protocols. 

According to ESPN, the four-time All-Star will now sit out for at least 10 days, ruling him out of Philadelphia's next five games. He could return against the Denver Nuggets next week with the 76ers on a six-game road trip. 

Embiid is averaging 21.4 points, 9.4 rebounds and a career-high 4.0 assists for the 8-2 76ers, who top the Eastern Conference despite having been shorthanded for much of the season.

The 76ers already had Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle and Isaiah Joe in the health and safety protocols. 

They have won all four of their games without Harris, including a 113-103 success over the Portland Trail Blazers that Embiid was rested for. 

Danny Green sustained a hamstring injury in that game and was questionable to make his return against the Knicks. 

Philadelphia also remain without Ben Simmons, who has yet to feature this season as he seeks a trade. 

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers savoured the nature of Saturday's win over the Chicago Bulls, not his personal achievement of 1,000 NBA career victories.

Rivers became the 10th NBA coach to reach 1,000 wins in the league following Philadelphia's 114-105 triumph in Chicago.

Joel Embiid fuelled the 76ers to their sixth straight win with 30 points, 15 rebounds, three assists and two blocks in the absence of Tobias Harris, Danny Green and Ben Simmons.

It clinched a milestone for former Orlando Magic, Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers coach Rivers – a Chicago native.

"I had no idea that I was at 999," Rivers – an NBA champion with the Celtics – told reporters. "I don't count. That's not why I do it and this win being shorthanded, being in Chicago means a lot, and it also means I'm very lucky.

"When I go back and look at the coaching staff that I've had and all the players, wins like tonight, obviously, winning the title is great, but wins like tonight is why you coach.

"When you when you just piecemealing it together and the guys are pulling together. We did it in Detroit, we did it in the last Chicago game, we did it again tonight.

"These are these are the games that are when you sit back and think special wins, these are the ones that are really special."

 

Eastern Conference leaders the 76ers (8-2) have won eight of their opening 10 games for the first time since a 10-0 start in 2000-01.

The 76ers were inspired by another red-hot performance from three-point range as Philadelphia shot 50 per cent – Embiid was four-of-five shooting from three, while Furkan Korkmaz (25 points) matched a career high with seven made threes.

"The chemistry that we have is very different from the previous years," Last season's MVP runner-up Embiid said. "We're complete. We're on the same page.

"Everybody feels like they have something to prove."

Korkmaz added: "I gotta say this is coming from the coaching staff for sure because they trust me more. They give me more confidence. They are running more plays for me and not just for scoring, not just for shooting, I'm trying to make more plays also for my team-mates.

"I've been working on this, but I think this year, I have equal opportunity, especially in the second unit to show this, and definitely, I can say this is coming from the coaching staff."

Joel Embiid starred as the Philadelphia 76ers extended their winning streak to six games by topping Eastern Conference hopefuls the Chicago Bulls 114-105 in the NBA on Saturday.

Embiid – last season's MVP runner-up – posted 30 points, 15 rebounds, three assists and two blocks to fuel the in-form 76ers on the road in Chicago.

He also made four of five three-pointers as the 76ers finished 50 per cent from beyond the arc, while Furkan Korkmaz (25 points) matched a career high with seven made threes.

It was a memorable night for 76ers head coach Doc Rivers, who celebrated his 1,000th career victory – the 10th NBA coach to achieve the feat.

 

Eastern Conference leaders the 76ers (8-2) have won eight of their first 10 games for the first time since a 10-0 start in 2000-01.

 

Doncic on the buzzer

Luka Doncic hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer as the Dallas Mavericks topped the Boston Celtics 107-104. Doncic finished with 33 points.

The Denver Nuggets edged the lowly Houston Rockets 95-94 behind reigning MVP Nikola Jokic. Along with 28 points and 14 rebounds, Jokic also made the crucial block on Jae'Sean Tate's drive to the basket as time expired.

Kyle Lowry put up a triple-double of 20 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists – the 19th of his career – to key the high-flying Miami Heat's 118-115 victory at home to the Utah Jazz. Donovan Mitchell's 37 points were not enough for the Jazz.

 

Westbrook headlines Lakers' woes

Without LeBron James (abdominal strain) and Anthony Davis (two points) only managing seven minutes, Russell Westbrook struggled in the 105-90 loss away to the Portland Trail Blazers. Westbrook made just one of 13 shots for eight points, while he turned the ball over on six occasions.

Last season's NBA Finals runners-up the Phoenix Suns took down the Houston Rockets 123-111 for their third consecutive win on Thursday.

Devin Booker inspired the Suns with 27 points while Landry Shamet added 19 points off the bench in Phoenix.

Chris Paul contributed 13 assists, nine points and five steals for the Suns (4-3), who moved above .500 for the first time this season.

Paul is averaging 12.0 assists and 2.4 steals per game in 2021-22. Entering the contest, this season had marked the fifth time in the last 25 years a player has averaged at least 11.0 assists and 2.0 steals over his first six games of a season – the Suns All-Star has been responsible for four of the five, per Stats Perform.

 

Christian Wood (18 points and 15 rebounds) and Kevin Porter Jr. (20 points) starred but the lowly Rockets (1-7) dropped their fifth straight game.

 

Celtics cool red-hot Heat

The Boston Celtics (4-5) have struggled for form this season, though they made a statement with a 95-78 win over the Miami Heat (6-2). Miami – top of the Eastern Conference prior to the game – had their worst scoring performance since January 2016.

The Philadelphia 76ers (7-1) moved to the top of the east thanks to a 109-98 win at the struggling Detroit Pistons (1-7). Seth Curry produced another stellar shooting display – going nine of 14 from the field – for 23 points. MVP runner-up Joel Embiid had 19 points and nine rebounds as he collected his 3,000th career board in his 268th game – the only 76er in history to reach the mark sooner was Hall of Famer Charles Barkley (253 games).

 

Lakers streak snapped

Playing without injured superstar LeBron James, the Los Angeles Lakers (5-4) had their three-game winning streak ended after being stunned 107-104 by the Oklahoma City Thunder (2-6).

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers hailed Joel Embiid for taking an "Alonzo Mourning approach" with his decisive block on DeMar DeRozan in a 103-98 win over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday.

With less than 10 seconds left and the 76ers leading 102-98, DeRozan drove to the bucket for a dunk that would have ensured a tense finale but was blocked by Embiid. It was a play that Rivers labelled "game-saving" and likened to a move by Miami Heat great Mourning.

Embiid has not been at his best this season, averaging 21.0 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. He finished this game with 18 points, nine rebounds and seven assists but stood up when it counted.

"Big play at the rim. Really big play," Rivers told reporters after the game. "I love when bigs go after dunks. Half these guys in the league won't go after it because they are worried if they get dunked on.

"I love the Alonzo Mourning approach. I thought Joel took it. Going after DeRozan, that's a big play, that's a game-saving play."

Seth Curry top-scored for the Sixers with 22 points, shooting nine from 14 from the field, including a clutch two-pointer to put them 102-98 up.

The result improved Philadelphia, who are still without Ben Simmons, to 6-2 and completed a run of four home games with four wins.

The 76ers were also missing starters Tobias Harris (COVID-19) and Danny Green (hamstring), making their run of victories more impressive having been 2-2 after a 112-99 loss to the New York Knicks.

"It was huge. We talked about it after the New York game. We had a four-game home stand, we had to win them all," Rivers said.

"We obviously didn’t know we'd have all these guys out. The fact we still won them all with all these guys out was pretty cool."

The Golden State Warriors lost for the first time this NBA season, Stephen Curry and his team-mates outlasted 104-101 by the rallying Memphis Grizzlies after overtime.

Golden State were riding a 4-0 record – their sixth such start to a campaign in franchise history – but the Warriors came unstuck at home to the Grizzlies on Thursday.

Having forced overtime with a 25-19 fourth quarter, Ja Morant's Grizzlies outscored the Warriors 6-3 in OT to inflict a first loss of the season on Golden State.

Morant – leading the league with 30.4 points per game this season – fuelled the Grizzlies with 30 points on the road after overturning a 19-point deficit.

 

Curry, who did not score in the fourth quarter or OT, had a game-high 36 points as the Warriors ended the game with 22 turnovers.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Bulls – enjoying their first 4-0 start to a season since 1996-97 – also lost for the first time in 2021-22, edged 104-103 by the New York Knicks.

 

Embiid leads the way, Jazz stay undefeated

Despite a sore right knee, last season's MVP runner-up Joel Embiid inspired the Philadelphia 76ers to a 110-102 victory over the winless Detroit Pistons. Embiid had 30 points and 18 rebounds. The 76ers star put up 19 points and 12 boards in the opening half – the sixth time since the start of last season he has posted a point-rebound double-double in a half, tied for seventh in the NBA during that span.

The Utah Jazz – last season's Western Conference top seeds – are the lone unbeaten team in the league after routing the Houston Rockets 122-91. All-Star Rudy Gobert (16 points and 14 rebounds) recorded another double-double. According to Stats Perform, it is the first time ever the Jazz are the last remaining undefeated side in the NBA.

 

Slumping Spurs lose again

The San Antonio Spurs lost their fourth consecutive game, this time falling to rivals the Dallas Mavericks 104-99.

Kevin Huerter was one of the surprising stars of the Atlanta Hawks' run to the Eastern Conference Finals last season, but he struggled in the 122-111 loss at the Washington Wizards. He was scoreless in 14 minutes, having missed all four of his shots from the field.

The Los Angeles Lakers claimed their first win of the season after outlasting Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies 121-118 in the NBA on Sunday.

LeBron James and the Lakers had lost back-to-back games to open the 2021-22 campaign but finally had something to celebrate at home to the Grizzlies.

Anthony Davis posted 22 points and eight rebounds, while team-mate James finished with 19 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Lakers (1-2).

But it was Lakers veteran Carmelo Anthony who led the way with 28 points (on 10-of-15 shooting) from the bench.

Anthony passed Moses Malone for ninth place on the all-time NBA leading scorers list.

Morant excelled with 40 points and 10 assists, but it was not enough for the Grizzlies (2-1), who lost for the first time.

 

 

Curry brothers star as Steph makes history

Stephen Curry was at it again to lead the Golden State Warriors to their first 3-0 start to a season since 2015 after a 119-107 victory against the Sacramento Kings. The two-time MVP put up 27 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and three steals to fuel the unbeaten Warriors. With his fifth assist, Curry became the first player in franchise history to dish out 5,000 career assists.

The Philadelphia 76ers topped the rebuilding Oklahoma City Thunder 115-103. Seth Curry maintained his red-hot form, going seven-of-10 from three-point range for a team-high 28 points. Curry was six of seven from beyond the arc for 23 points in the opening quarter – a new career-high for a single period. He is the fourth 76ers player with at least 20 points in a quarter since 2010, joining Joel Embiid (four times), Jodie Meeks and Lou Williams. Embiid had 22 points, nine rebounds and six assists against the Thunder.

Jalen Green enjoyed a breakout game, despite the Houston Rockets going down 107-97 to the Boston Celtics. Green became the first rookie in Rockets history with 30-plus points and eight three-pointers in a game after finishing with 30 points – including eight threes, four rebounds and three assists.

The Charlotte Hornets are off to their first 3-0 start to the season thanks to a 111-95 win over the Brooklyn Nets behind Miles Bridges' 32 points. Kevin Durant led the Nets with 38 points in Brooklyn.

 

Harden struggles from the floor in Nets loss

James Harden was far from his best against Hornets, going just six-of-16 shooting from the field for 15 points in 33 minutes, while he also finished with eight turnovers.

Evan Fournier was three-of-11 shooting from the field – making just two of seven three-pointers – as the New York Knicks were stunned 110-104 by the Orlando Magic.

Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid made an impassioned plea for fans to support team-mate Ben Simmons amid his continued absence.

Simmons is yet to feature for the 76ers this NBA season, sitting out Friday's clash with Eastern Conference rivals the Brooklyn Nets, having been suspended for Wednesday's opener against the New Orleans Pelicans due to "conduct detrimental to the team".

The three-time All-Star has sought a trade away from the 76ers following last season's shock playoff exit to the Atlanta Hawks, while he was reportedly ejected from Tuesday's practice as head coach Doc Rivers grew frustrated with his lack of engagement.

After a meeting between Simmons, Embiid and the rest of the team, last season's MVP runner-up threw his support behind the former number one pick prior to tip-off against the Nets in Philadelphia.

"I urge you guys to continue to support us and our team-mate Ben, because he's still our brother," Embiid said as he grabbed the microphone on court.

Following the meeting, ESPN reported Simmons notified the 76ers he was not mentally ready to play and needed time to step away.

"I felt good up and down throughout and I kept saying that, things do change," Rivers told reporters pre-game.

"That still doesn't mean it's gonna work out perfect or it could, but I always believed that. I've never wavered from that. I've said that 100 times and I still stick with it."

Rivers added: "It was a productive day, but it's a start. That's the only way you can get going, you gotta start, and today was a start."

 

Simmons – an elite defender who signed a five-year, $177.2million contract extension in 2019 – and his shooting problems were laid bare during the 2021 postseason with the top-seeded 76ers, who were eliminated in the semi-finals.

The 25-year-old had no fourth-quarter field-goal attempts in his last four games of the playoffs against the Hawks last season. He is the only NBA player in the last 20 seasons to have four consecutive postseason games with no field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter during a season in which he was an All-Star, according to Stats Perform.

Simmons averaged just 10.1 field-goal attempts in 2020-21 – a career low, which dropped to 7.9 in the playoffs. It was the same story with his scoring as it dropped to a career-worst 14.3 points per game and 11.9 in the postseason – both career lows.

Then there is Simmons and free throws. He was exposed by rival teams as they regularly sent him to the line, with the Melbourne-born guard making just 25 of 73 shots in the 2020-21 playoffs. His 34.2 free-throw percentage is the lowest ever in a single postseason.

"He is part of the team," he continued. "We have certain rules, obviously, the other day, that didn't happen, but today was a good day.

"Most people, we look at problems instead of the possibilities and I think if we focus on the possibilities, just in life in general, you have a pretty good chance of going to a good place. If you focus on the problems, you're probably gonna continue to have problems."

Philadelphia 76ers general manager Daryl Morey says the Ben Simmons saga could be drawn out for four years as he remains unflinching in the standoff.

Simmons was suspended by the Sixers for conduct detrimental to the team before failing to appear at an individual workout on Thursday, following the side's season-opening 117-97 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Three-time NBA All-Star Simmons has demanded a trade amid criticism following last season's shock playoff exit to the Atlanta Hawks. He was absent from Philadelphia for the first two weeks of preseason work before showing up on October 11 to begin fulfilling COVID-19 protocols that would allow him to re-join the championship-chasing franchise.

The situation has not improved internally with team-mate Joel Embiid admitting he would not "baby-sit" Simmons, while head coach Doc Rivers said the predicament was not fun.

Morey added on Thursday that the Sixers would not trade Simmons as they were not satisfied what they could get in return would help them win an NBA title with their window open now. As a result, Morey said the icy situation could drag on.

"You're going to think I'm kidding, I'm not, this could be four years," Morey told the Mike Missanelli Show. "The conditions I'm pointing out to you don't change.

"People should buckle in, this is gonna go a long time because my only job is to help give us the best chance to win the title.

"Unless Ben Simmons is traded for a difference-maker, we're in the prime of Joel [Embiid]'s career. We have to get back either Ben Simmons playing well for us, who helps us win the championship, or we have to get back a difference-maker for Ben Simmons. Or this could be four years from now, and we're still like, 'Hey, we took the best shot at it we could'.

"This could be four years. This is not day-to-day. Every day, we're going to expect Ben Simmons to be back here, or we're trading him for a difference-maker.

"There's no other outcome that doesn't materially hurt our chance to win the championship in Joel Embiid's prime.

"We would want him to play and be back starting tomorrow. But if he chooses to take some other path, that's his choice."

The 76ers had the best record in the Eastern Conference regular season at 49-23 before losing to the Hawks in the Conference semifinals.

Joel Embiid praised the Philadelphia 76ers' team spirit following their 117-97 win over the New Orleans Pelicans despite the absence of wantaway star Ben Simmons.

Simmons was ejected from practice prior to the game due to issues with his conduct as the 25-year-old guard seeks a trade, but the 76ers did not miss him en route to a comfortable victory.

Embiid, who had 22 points and 12 rebounds, noted the healthy atmosphere in the rest of the squad following a team dinner ahead of the opening fixture.

“We've been practicing hard,” Embiid said. “It was good to kind of get off to a good start, get a win and kind of forget about the off-the-court stuff.

"[The spirit on the bench] - that’s us. That’s how we’ve been this whole summer. That’s the attitude everybody has had. That’s the definition of us. Being together, having fun together, doing stuff with each other. I think it goes a long way.

"It's good to just go out and kinda not talk about basketball and talk about life. That's also an evolution for me, because usually, when I used to go on the road, I'd just like to stay in my room and be on the phone and play video games."

Simmons' replacement in the team, Tyrese Maxey, managed 20 points, with seven rebounds and five assists and agreed with his team-mate, explaining that the squad's chemistry is a crucial factor in their success.

“Everybody's capable,” Maxey said. "At the end of the day, basketball's a team effort. You need an entire team to be able to win. I felt like the focus was there from shoot-around, probably even from when we got on the plane yesterday.

“The chemistry is really [good]. Guys like playing with each other, guys like being around each other. Sometimes adversity makes you stronger, makes the bond closer and we got to just keep building.”

Head coach Doc Rivers insisted that Simmons' antics have not disrupted the rest of his players, and praised their collective development as a team.

"[The players] have been normal, the only abnormal part is when they have to talk to the media afterwards and they're asked questions [about Simmons]," Rivers said.

"It's about playing basketball and growing together, and they've done a great job of that."

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