LeBron James had a double-double but it was not enough for the fast-finishing Los Angeles Lakers to overcome his former side the Miami Heat who won 113-107 on Sunday.

The Heat led by 23 points but the Lakers charged home with 37-24 points down the stretch.

James finished with 33 points, 11 rebounds and four assists for the Lakers, while Russell Westbrook had 24 points and nine rebounds.

Jimmy Butler starred for the Heat, breaking James' franchise record for triple-doubles with his 22 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists.

The Heat are top of the Eastern Conference with a 30-17 record, while the Lakers drop below .500 with a 23-24 record.

 

Embiid continues scoring streak

Joel Embiid continued his hot streak with a double-double as the Philadelphia 76ers beat the San Antonio Spurs 115-109. Embiid had 38 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, extending his 14-game run of 25 points or more.

Luka Doncic had a double-double with 37 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists as the Dallas Mavericks won 104-91 over the Memphis Grizzlies, for whom Ja Morant had 35 points and 13 rebounds, while the Golden State Warriors won 94-92 over the Utah Jazz, despite only 11 fourth-quarter points.

Jayson Tatum scored 51 points, including 48 in the first three quarters, as the Boston Celtics won 116- 87 over the Washington Wizards, while DeMar DeRozan had 41 points as the short-handed Chicago Bulls' slide continued with a 114-95 loss to the lowly Orlando Magic.

 

Harden subdued as Nets cut down

James Harden shot four-of-13 for the game as the Brooklyn Nets were downed 136-125 by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Harden only managed 13 points, while Kyrie Irving had 30 points with six rebounds and five assists.

James Harden and Dejounte Murray both had triple-doubles as the Brooklyn Nets got past the San Antonio Spurs 117-102 on Friday.

Harden scored 37 points with 10 rebounds and 11 assists with Kevin Durant out with a sprained left MCL as the Nets rallied from a 51-50 half-time deficit to improve to 29-16.

Kyrie Irving contributed 24 points with three rebounds and four assists for the Nets, who are top of the Eastern Conference.

Harden's triple-double was the 66th of his career, moving him to eighth on the all-time list, while Murray – who had 25 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists – recorded his ninth triple-double of the season and 13th of his career.

 

LeBron leads Lakers past Magic

LeBron James led the Los Angeles Lakers' second-half response as they fought back from an eight-point half-time deficit to win 116-105 over the Orlando Magic. James finished with 29 points, seven rebounds and five assists, playing the second half at center, while Russell Westbrook contributed 18 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.

The Milwaukee Bucks edged the Chicago Bulls 94-90 in an important game in the Eastern Conference standings. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 30 points with 12 rebounds and three assists as the Bucks overcame Grayson Allen's ejection.

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic recorded another triple-double with 26 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists but Ja Morant overshadowed him with 38 points as the Memphis Grizzlies won 122-118 over the Denver Nuggets, while Stephen Curry had 22 points including a game-winning buzzer beater in the Golden State Warriors' 105-103 win over the Houston Rockets.

 

Sixers fluff 24-point lead

The Philadelphia 76ers blew a 24-point lead to lose 102-101 to the Los Angeles Clippers despite Joel Embiid scoring 40 points with 13 rebounds. Reggie Jackson finishing with 19 points and nine assists for the Clippers.

The Brooklyn Nets clinched a contentious one-point win over the Washington Wizards, with Kyrie Irving the star man for the visiting team.

Irving had 30 points, three rebounds and seven assists as the Nets triumphed 119-118 on Wednesday, with Kyle Kuzma and Spencer Dinwiddie missing late three-pointers in the closing seconds for the Wizards.

Kuzma was left infuriated, however, as he reflected on a moment earlier in the fourth quarter when it appeared a member of the Brooklyn bench purposefully deflected a pass that had been headed his way.

Nevertheless, Kuzma and his Washington team-mates must reflect on an opportunity missed as they were unable to build on their 117-98 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Wizards are now 23-22 for the season and sit eighth in the Eastern Conference, five places behind the 28-16 Nets.

Brooklyn were without talisman Kevin Durant, but Irving – who can only play in road games due to his refusal to be vaccinated against COVID-19 – stepped up.

Irving scored 22 of his 30 points in the first half and has averaged 20.0 points per game since his return to the team.

Pacers stun LeBron's Lakers

LeBron James brought up his 10,000th career regular-season rebound but his 30-point haul was not enough as the Los Angeles Lakers slumped to a 111-104 home defeat to the struggling Indiana Pacers.

James' double-double could not stem the Pacers' tide in a fourth-quarter blitz as Indiana, 13th in the East, inflicted a fourth defeat on the Lakers in the space of five games and increased the pressure on Los Angeles coach Frank Vogel.

It is just the second win in 12 games for Indiana, who snapped a four-game losing streak. Caris LeVert had 30 points, while Domantas Sabonis hit a triple-double of 20 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.

 

It was a miserable night all-round for Los Angeles teams, with the Clippers slipping to a 130-128 overtime defeat in Denver.

Nikola Jokic had a triple-double of 49 points – the second-best tally of his career in a single game, after a 50-point showing against the Sacramento Kings last season – 14 rebounds and 10 assists, the last of which teed up Aaron Gordon for the winning three-pointer with 1.9 seconds remaining in OT.

Bucks down depleted Grizzlies, Embiid hits 50

Reigning NBA champions the Milwaukee Bucks capitalised on the Memphis Grizzlies' lack of star power as they claimed a 126-114 win.

Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 33 points and 15 rebounds for the Bucks, who took advantage of Memphis being without two of their leading scorers in Dillon Brooks and Desmond Bane, though Ja Morant (33 points, 14 assists) gave his all for the Grizzlies.

Elsewhere, Joel Embiid scored 50 points in only 27 minutes in a 123-110 victory for Philadelphia over the Orlando Magic.

Embiid is now the third player in Sixers history to have multiple games with 50 points or more, while he reached 50 points and 10 rebounds quicker than any NBA player since 1955.

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic recorded another triple-double as the Los Angeles Lakers slumped below .500 again following a 133-96 humiliation at the hands of the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.

Nuggets center Jokic finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds and 13 assists and brought up his triple-double in the third quarter, as Denver piled on 73 first-half points before restricting the Lakers to only 36 points in the second half.

LeBron James scored 25 points with nine rebounds and two blocks for the Lakers, while Russell Westbrook had 19 points, five rebounds and three assists.

The defeat means the Lakers, who are still without Anthony Davis due to injury, move to a 21-22 record after losing three games in a row.

Bones Hyland was brilliant off the bench for Denver, who improve to 22-19, with a career-high 27 points including six triples and 10 rebounds.

 

Durant injured as Nets win

Kevin Durant limped out with a knee sprain as James Harden had 27 points, eight rebounds and 15 assists while Patty Mills scored 21 points as the Brooklyn Nets won 120-105 over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Pascal Siakam over-shadowed Giannis Antetokounmpo with a triple-double with 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists as the Toronto Raptors won 103-96 over the Milwaukee Bucks. Antetokounmpo scored 30 points with six rebounds and four assists.

Jayson Tatum had 23 points with 12 rebounds as the Boston Celtics won 114-112 to condemn the Eastern Conference-leading Chicago Bulls to three straight losses, while Darius Garland had 27 points and a career-high 18 assists in the Cleveland Cavaliers' comeback 107-102 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

 

Butler struggles as Heat go cold

Jimmy Butler struggled from the field, making one of 11 for his eight points as the Miami Heat's four-game winning streak was ended by the in-form Philadelphia 76ers 109-98. Joel Embiid had 32 points with 12 rebounds for the 76ers.

Giannis Antetokounmpo dropped his third triple-double of the season to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to a commanding 118-99 win over the Golden State Warriors on Thursday.

The two-time NBA MVP had 30 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in front of coach Mike Budenholzer, who was back after returning from the league's health and safety protocol.

Antetokounmpo's 28th career triple-double came in under 30 minutes played, making him the first player in NBA history to achieve that feat multiple times.

Kris Middleton added 23 points for the Bucks, who move to 27-17 for the season, while Bobby Portis and Grayson Allen registered 20 and 15 respectively.

The Warriors trailed 77-38 at half-time and have now lost four times in five matches, yet they still boast the second-best record in the Western Conference.

Grizzlies' run goes on

The Memphis Grizzlies finished strongly to overcome the Minnesota Timberwolves 116-108 and extend their franchise-record run to 11 wins in a row.

Desmond Bane scored 21 points and Jaren Jackson Jr. added 20 for the in-form Grizzlies, who were also inspired by John Konchar's 15 and career-best 17 rebounds.

The Grizzlies suffered their heaviest loss of the season when the sides met in November, but they pulled away late on in this back-and-forth encounter to go 30-14 in the West.

As for the Timberwolves, they have now let successive games slip away after also going down 128-125 against the New Orleans Pelicans with 1.3 seconds to go on Tuesday.

Nets beaten in Durant and Irving's absence

The travel-weary Brooklyn Nets were made to pay for resting NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant as they suffered a 130-109 defeat to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving combined to great effect in the previous night's win at Eastern Conference-leading Chicago Bulls, but that trident was split up.

With Irving still unable to play home games due to vaccine laws in New York and Durant and Patty Mills watching on from the side, the Thunder ran out deserved winners.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the way with 33 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists as the Thunder snapped a five-game losing run.

Elsewhere, Nikola Jokic powered the Denver Nuggets to a 140-108 win over the Portland Trail Blazers and the Pelicans were too strong for Los Angeles Clippers in a 113-89 win.

Stephen Curry recorded his first triple-double since the opening game of the season but the Golden State Warriors went down to the streaking Memphis Grizzlies 116-108.

Ja Morant starred for the Grizzlies with 29 points including five in the final minutes as Memphis extended its winning run to 10 games and improved to 29-14.

Morant, who also had five rebounds and eight assists, spearheaded the Grizzlies' final-quarter 29-18 rally where Tyus Jones hit back-to-back triples to give them a lead they would not surrender.

Curry had 27 points with 10 rebounds and 10 assists for the Warriors although he only shot at 38 percent from the field.

Klay Thompson contributed 14 points with three rebounds and three assists in his second game back from long-term injury as the Warriors moved to 30-10.

 

Bulls pile on the points

The Chicago Bulls had eight players reach double-digit scoring as they hammered the struggling Detroit Pistons 133-87 with DeMar DeRozan starring with 20 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.

The Los Angeles Clippers overcame a 25-point third-quarter deficit to defeat the Denver Nuggets 87-85. MVP Nikola Jokic (21 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists) had a double-double but missed a game-winning three-point attempt on the buzzer.

Chris Paul provided 12 assists to go with his 15 points and five steals as the table-topping Phoenix Suns defeated the Toronto Raptors 99-95.

 

OKC slump in five-game skid

The Oklahoma City Thunder slumped to their fifth straight loss, going down 122-118 to the Washington Wizards. The result leaves OKC with a 13-27 record in second last in the west.

Giannis Antetokounmpo extended his run of 30-point games to eight in a row but it was not enough as the Milwaukee Bucks lost 114-106 to the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday.

The reigning NBA Finals MVP piled on 21 points in the final quarter to finish with 43 for the game as the Hornets held off the Bucks' charge, with Charlotte guard LaMelo Ball scoring 19 points, with nine rebounds and eight assists.

Antetokounmpo also recorded 12 rebounds and two blocks in a final all-round game for the Bucks, who were missing Jrue Holiday and head coach Mike Budenholzer due to the league's health and safety protocols.

Khris Middleton had a near triple-double with 27 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, including shooting four triples.

The result means the reigning champions hold a 26-16 record having lost three of their past four games, while the Hornets are 21-19.

Sabonis silences Jazz, Brown triple-double

Domantas Sabonis piled on 42 points, making his first 10 shots of the game, as the Indiana Pacers won 125-113 over the Utah Jazz minus Rudy Gobert.

Jaylen Brown recorded his first career triple-double with 22 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists as the Boston Celtics defeated the New York Knicks 99-75.

Jaren Jackson Jr scored 26 points with eight rebounds and five blocks as the Memphis Grizzlies, without Ja Morant, improved to a 27-14 record with a 123-108 win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Leaders cooled by Heat

Chris Paul was quiet with nine points, seven assists and four turnovers as the table-topping Phoenix Suns lost 123-100 to the Miami Heat. Devin Booker had 26 points but shot five of 15 from the field, while Tyler Herro scored 33 points off the bench for the Heat.

Cam Johnson warned the Phoenix Suns are "starting to click" after they extended their winning run to three games at the expense of the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday.

The Suns have the best record in the NBA of 30-8 following a 106-89 triumph over the Clippers at Footprint Center.

Johnson scored a career-high 24 points, while Chris Paul finished with 14 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists to leave the Suns sitting pretty at the top of the Western Conference.

Forward Johnson says there is more to come from Phoenix

"We're having a lot of fun playing together," Johnson said. "Things are starting to click."

Paul's tally of rebounds was a career-best for the 36-year-old in what his 1,128th regular-season NBA game.

The 11-time NBA All-Star said: "Some teams' biggest issue is that they don't know what they want to run or who they want to go to down the stretch.

"I think we have a good sense of that. We know what our go-to plays are."

 

Suns head coach Monty Williams says his players deserve great credit for the way they are going about their business.

He said: "I just think the players have done a really good job of driving our culture. We have unreal guard play, which really helps."

The Clippers are 19-20 following back-to-back defeats, but head coach Tyronn Lue could not fault the application his players showed. 

He said: "We scrapped and competed. That is a good ball club over there and they played well. Their stars took over down the stretch and took over the game."

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.

Kevin Durant has slammed his Brooklyn Nets teammates for "f****d-up attitude" after suffering a shock 120-116 defeat to the under-strength Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday.

The Clippers charged home in the final quarter, despite Durant's 28 points and nine rebounds, scoring 40-29 to claim the four-point win.

The defeat, with the Clippers missing star trio Kawhi Leonard (ACL), Nicolas Batum (ankle) and Paul George (elbow), left Durant furious with his side.

"We just relaxed too much," Durant said at the post-game news conference. "We get up 10 [points], miss a layup or turn the ball over, and they get a fast break, give up a three, straight-line drive - like coach [Steve Nash] said, we didn't deserve to win this game.

"We came in here with a f****d-up attitude. Thinking we were just going to walk into a W."

He added: "It's natural when a team is missing so many players. They're going through so much over there. [We] relaxed.

"You don't think you could lose an NBA game like this. They're missing how many guys? They're playing guys that are up from the G League.

"Xavier Moon came in and hit some shots for them. Keon Johnson, James Ennis - they all made an impact I felt on the game, and I think we came in too chill to start."

The Nets, who coughed up 15 turnovers, slip to a 23-11 record, while Eastern Conference contenders the Chicago Bulls (24-10) and the Milwaukee Bucks (25-13) both won on Saturday.

Nets head coach Steve Nash lamented his side's lack of "care factor", with the defeat coming two days after going down to the Philadelphia 76ers 110-102.

"I just think [conceding] 71 points in the second half is unacceptable," Nash said. "We just never really had the care factor.

"Turned it up, we had a chance up nine, 10, 11 in the third and fourth at different times and just took our foot off the gas and got what we deserved, really.

"All those guys in there, I think they know it, they're disappointed of course, but it's a disappointment for all of us - that was obviously a very winnable game that we let get away."

James Harden became the first player in Nets franchise history with back-to-back triple-doubles with 30 or more points, with 34 points, 12 rebounds and 13 assists against the Clippers.

Kevin Durant has slammed his Brooklyn Nets teammates for "f****d-up attitude" after suffering a shock 120-116 defeat to the under-strength Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday.

The Clippers charged home in the final quarter, despite Durant's 28 points and nine rebounds, scoring 40-29 to claim the four-point win.

The defeat, with the Clippers missing star trio Kawhi Leonard (ACL), Nicolas Batum (ankle) and Paul George (elbow), left Durant furious with his side.

"We just relaxed too much," Durant said at the post-game news conference. "We get up 10 [points], miss a layup or turn the ball over, and they get a fast break, give up a three, straight-line drive - like coach [Steve Nash] said, we didn't deserve to win this game.

"We came in here with a f****d-up attitude. Thinking we were just going to walk into a W."

He added: "It's natural when a team is missing so many players. They're going through so much over there. [We] relaxed.

"You don't think you could lose an NBA game like this. They're missing how many guys? They're playing guys that are up from the G League.

"Xavier Moon came in and hit some shots for them. Keon Johnson, James Ennis - they all made an impact I felt on the game, and I think we came in too chill to start."

The Nets, who coughed up 15 turnovers, slip to a 23-11 record, while Eastern Conference contenders the Chicago Bulls (24-10) and the Milwaukee Bucks (25-13) both won on Saturday.

Nets head coach Steve Nash lamented his side's lack of "care factor", with the defeat coming two days after going down to the Philadelphia 76ers 110-102.

"I just think [conceding] 71 points in the second half is unacceptable," Nash said. "We just never really had the care factor.

"Turned it up, we had a chance up nine, 10, 11 in the third and fourth at different times and just took our foot off the gas and got what we deserved, really.

"All those guys in there, I think they know it, they're disappointed of course, but it's a disappointment for all of us - that was obviously a very winnable game that we let get away."

James Harden became the first player in Nets franchise history with back-to-back triple-doubles with 30 or more points, with 34 points, 12 rebounds and 13 assists against the Clippers.

The Golden State Warriors stormed home with a strong final quarter led by Stephen Curry to halt the Utah Jazz's winning run with a 123-116 victory on Saturday.

The Warriors fought back from a 16-point deficit in the third quarter with a 37-25 final period, going 13 of 18 from the field.

Curry finished the game with 28 points including six three-pointers with six rebounds and nine assists, while Andrew Wiggins contributed with 25 points.

Donovan Mitchell scored 20 points with nine assists, Rudy Gobert had 20 points and 19 rebounds while Bojan Bogdanovic netted 20 points including four triples for the Jazz who had won six in a row.

The result improves the Warriors to 28-7 while the Jazz are 26-10 in the Western Conference.

 

DeRozan does it again

DeMar DeRozan became the first player to hit a game-winning buzzer beater in successive games since 1997-98 as the Chicago Bulls won 120-119 over the Washington Wizards. DeRozan finished with 28 points, nine rebounds and five assists, while Zach LaVine had 35 points for the Bulls. Bradley Beal had 27 points and 17 assists for the Wizards.

Giannis Antetokounmpo started the year with a triple-double as the Milwaukee Bucks claimed their sixth straight win, beating the New Orleans Pelicans 136-113. Antetokounmpo scored 35 points with 16 rebounds and 10 assists.

Nikola Jokic scored 34 points with 11 rebounds and Facundo Campazzo delivered 22 points and 12 assists as the Denver Nuggets won 124-111 over the Houston Rockets.

 

Nets beaten as stars shooting off

The Brooklyn Nets stars were back together but they were humbled by the depleted Los Angeles Clippers 120-116. Kevin Durant shot 11 of 24 from the field for his 28 points while James Harden went nine of 22 from the field. Harden did have 34 points with 12 rebounds and 13 assists.

Ja Morant's 41 points overshadowed LeBron James as the Memphis Grizzlies won 104-99 to inflict a sixth defeat in seven games for the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.

Morant was excellent for the Grizzlies, draining six of seven three-pointers in his 41-point haul along with 10 rebounds and two assists.

James, who turns 38 on Friday, tried his best for the slumping Lakers with 37 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists, while Russell Westbrook had another triple-double with 16 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists.

But the four-time MVP came up short in the final 30 seconds, missing a three-point attempt to tie the game before an aimless pass turned the ball over.

Morant skilfully tipped in two to make it 102-97 with 1:15 to go and scored 25 of his 41 points in the second half.

Booker stars as Suns silence Thunder

Devin Booker landed six triples in his 38-point haul as the Phoenix Suns defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 115-97 to improve to a 27-7, putting them joint-top with the Golden State Warriors. Along with his 38 points, Booker also had seven rebounds and five assists.

The Chicago Bulls had a full team performance in their 131-117 victory over the Atlanta Hawks, with contributions from Zach LaVine (25 points), Coby White (17 points, 12 assists), Nikola Vucevic (16 points, 20 rebounds) and DeMar DeRozan (20 points, eight assists).

Rudy Gobert starred with 22 points and 14 rebounds as the Utah Jazz recorded their eighth straight road win, beating the depleted Portland Trail Blazers 120-105 despite Damian Lillard's 32 points.

Brown struggles from beyond the arc

Jaylen Brown has been in top form lately but hit one of 13 from beyond the arc as the Boston Celtics went down 91-82 to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Steve Nash praised a "historically great" James Harden after he joined an exclusive club with his instrumental performance for the Brooklyn Nets against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Harden, having racked up 36 points in his first game since exiting the NBA's health and safety protocols in the Nets' Christmas Day win over the Los Angeles Lakers, backed that effort up with a 39-point display versus the Clippers, which also saw him register 15 assists and eight rebounds.

His showing in the 124-108 triumph saw Harden become the 10th player in NBA history with 20,000 points, 6,000 assists and 5,000 rebounds. 

Also in that club are Kobe Bryant, Clyde Drexler, John Havlicek, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Gary Payton, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West and Russell Westbrook.

And Nash said of the 2018 MVP: "He's historically great. The numbers he's put up are incredible.

"He's one of the best players of his generation and it's mind-boggling to think of all the numbers he's put up and all the success he's had.

"He's one of those very, very special players not only of his generation but historically. The numbers back it up."

On his spectacular return following his time in the protocol, Nash added: "You're expecting guys to feel their way back into it. But from the jump against the Lakers, again [v the Clippers], he's just been clinical.

"Just such a great head of the snake for us. When he plays like that we are very difficult to beat."

Asked if he felt he benefited from his two-week lay-off, Harden replied: "Probably. I was starting to feel good right before then…That break, Covid, or protocol, or rest, whatever you want to call it, it could've went two ways.

"I just locked in on my body, my eating, and when I was able to start working out, my workouts. I felt good. My body felt good.

"I'm trying to make sure my body feels great so I can continue to keep going up in the regular season and preparing for the playoffs. 

"Individually I have to make sure I'm in the best shape and I'm the best James that I can be for my team-mates.

"If I'm in that form, good things will happen for my team."

James Harden scored 39 points in his second game since coming out of the NBA's COVID-19 protocols to inspire the Brooklyn Nets past the Los Angeles Clippers 124-108.

Harden returned with 36 points and a triple-double in the Nets' 122-155 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas Day and backed that up against the depleted Clippers, who were without star duo Paul George (elbow) and Kawhi Leonard (ACL).

The 2018 NBA MVP was in a dominant mood, with Kevin Durant absent in protocols, shooting 15 of 25 from the field and providing 15 assists, as well as having eight rebounds and two steals.

Patty Mills and Nicolas Claxton both contributed 18 points for the Nets, while the latter had three blocks. Marcus Morris Sr was the Clippers' best with 24 points, five rebounds and six assists.

 

Bulls duo combine for Hawks defeat

Trae Young returned from COVID protocols with 29 points and nine assists but it was not enough as the Atlanta Hawks lost 130-118 to the Chicago Bulls who had Zach LaVine (30 points, four rebounds, nine assists) and DeMar DeRozan (35 points, five rebounds, 10 assists) impress. LaVine and DeRozan became the first team-mates each with 20 points and five assists in a half over the last 25 seasons.

Ja Morant drained a last-gasp clutch shot to earn the Memphis Grizzlies a thrilling 114-113 win over the Phoenix Suns, who were missing center Deandre Ayton and head coach Monty Williams after entering protocols. Desmond Bane had a career-high 32 points and Morant finished with 33, grabbing the win after Devin Booker (30 points) had put the Suns ahead with five seconds left with a three-pointer.

The Utah Jazz extended their win streak to four games, even without injured Donovan Mitchell, as they defeated the San Antonio Spurs 110-104 with Jordan Clarkson (23 points, eight rebounds, five assists) starring off the bench.

 

In-form Celtic misses the mark

Jaylen Brown has been in hot point-scoring form lately but his shooting was down at 33.3 percent as the Boston Celtics – without Jayson Tatum who has entered COVID protocols - lost 108-103 to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Brown scored 26 points but made only two of eight from beyond the arc.

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