Stephen Curry had a wayward shooting game but moved closer to Ray Allen's all-time record as the Golden State Warriors were humbled 102-93 by the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.

Joel Embiid scored a game-high 26 points along with nine rebounds and four assists for the 76ers, who ended the game with a 41-20 run to improve their record to 15-12.

Curry, who started the game 10 triples away from Allen's all-time NBA record for most three-point attempts made, finished with 18 points including three triples.

As a result, two-time MVP Curry is seven three-pointers away from breaking Allen's mark of 2,973 career triples.

Curry drained two three-pointers late in the second quarter but did not add to his tally until the fourth quarter, shooting a disappointing three-of-14 from beyond the arc. The guard finished the game shooting 30 percent from the field.

 

Jokic stars but triple-double run ends

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic's run of three straight triple-doubles ended but he still managed a double-double with 35 points and 17 rebounds in the Denver Nuggets' 127-112 win over the San Antonio Spurs.

Reggie Jackson hit a late two-pointer with 2.2 seconds left to lead the Los Angeles Clippers past the Orlando Magic 106-104, finishing the game with 25 points in Paul George's absence.

The Utah Jazz extended their winning streak to seven games as Donovan Mitchell had 28 points with Ruby Gobert grabbing another double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds in their 123-98 win over the Washington Wizards.

 

Turnovers cost Bulls vs Heat

Point guard Lonzo Ball committed five turnovers and only managed 15 points as the Chicago Bulls lost 118-92 to the Miami Heat. Zach LaVine was also guilty of four turnovers, although he finished with 33 points including seven three-pointers.

The Eastern Conference clash between the Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls on Saturday would have been a fascinating contest regardless, but as we are all learning to live with, matters have been complicated by COVID-19.

The Bulls have seen their options depleted, with several players entering the NBA's health and safety protocols in recent days, including star man DeMar DeRozan.

Coming off a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago will be determined to get back to winning ways in Miami, but it is unclear at this stage who will even be taking to the court for Billy Donovan's team.

The Bulls (17-9) are second in the Eastern Conference as they travel to Florida to face the fourth-placed Heat (15-11), but have seen DeRozan, Derrick Jones Jr, Coby White, Matt Thomas and Javonte Green all sidelined by the health and safety protocols.

The Bulls' form has been one of the stories of the season in the NBA, with those who delighted in the Netflix documentary 'The Last Dance' dreaming of a first championship for Chicago since 1998.

Miami have been impressing as well, though. Having disappointingly followed up their run to the NBA Finals in 2019-20 with a first round playoff exit in a whitewash 0-4 defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks last season, they appeared to be back to previous levels after winning six of their first seven games of this campaign.

That form has evened out in recent times, but with a home record of 7-4, including an impressive win against the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday, the Heat will be confident of taking advantage of a depleted Bulls team, who they beat only a couple of weeks ago in Chicago.

One key area could well be how often the Bulls get into the paint, with Miami highest in the league for field goal percentage allowed in the paint (59.9), while Chicago have the second lowest (52.1).

Expect a strong start from Chicago, who boast the second most points per game from starters in the league (82.5) compared to Miami who have fifth fewest (68.2), although things may well turn as the Heat have the fifth-highest average points from the bench (39.1) while the Bulls have the second fewest (26.4).

DeRozan would undoubtedly be a huge miss for the Bulls. The 32-year-old has found life a breeze in the Windy City, scoring at least 20 points in all but four of his 24 appearances so far, sitting fourth in the league for average points per game (26.4).

Another possible absentee in the game is former Bull Jimmy Butler, who is 16th in the league for average points per game (22.8) but has missed the last few outings for the Heat with a tailbone injury, while Bam Adebayo will definitely be out after requiring thumb surgery.

Caleb Martin posted career-highs in points (28) and triples (six) as the Heat beat the Bucks 113-104, and along with Kyle Lowry, P.J. Tucker and Tyler Herro, will be hoping to go big again and take advantage of the shorthanded Bulls.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Chicago Bulls – Zach LaVine

If DeRozan is unable to play, the onus will fall on Zach LaVine and Lonzo Ball to carry the Bulls to victory in Miami, with LaVine in particular almost certainly required to post a big score.

That should not be too much of a problem for the top point scorer in the NBA right now (670) who has played all 26 games for the Bulls so far this season, only failing to score more than 20 points on three occasions.

The shooting guard is also third in the league for dunks on a fast break with 17, which could come in handy when up against one of the older rosters in the NBA. Miami has the third-oldest active roster (28 years and 291 days) compared to the tenth-youngest Chicago (25 years and 112 days).

Miami Heat – Tyler Herro

The man announced as the best dressed athlete at Sports Illustrated's SI Awards on Tuesday will be hoping to look as impressive on the court when the Bulls come to town.

Herro scored 20+ points in 12 of his first 17 games this season, but has managed it just twice in his last six outings, including only scoring nine in the win against the Bucks.

The 21-year-old in his third season is increasingly becoming the Heat's key player, averaging 20.8 points per game, the 23rd most in the league, and will hope to impress more than judges of his attire with a big showing on Saturday.

KEY BATTLE – Will Bulls be able to find their mid-range?

The topic of mid-range shots and their usefulness seems to divide basketball fans, but it is an area that the Bulls in particular like to utilise as the team with the third-highest field-goal percentage from mid-range this season (45.1), behind only the Brooklyn Nets (49.0) and Portland Trail Blazers (46.7).

However, the Heat tops the table for lowest percentage of field-goals allowed from mid-range (34.7).

With DeRozan – who has the most field-goals made from the elbow this season (79) – likely to be missing, it could be that Chicago has to adjust their method of attack in Miami.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

The Heat prevailed 107-104 when these two met in November, and have won five of the last six meetings between the teams.

Nikola Jokic showed why he is the reigning NBA MVP after leading the Denver Nuggets to a 120-114 overtime win against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Jokic posted back-to-back triple-doubles as the Nuggets outlasted the Pelicans in NBA action on Wednesday.

After putting up a triple-double on Monday, Jokic was at it again midweek with a season-high 39 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.

Jokic scored 11 of his points in OT to help the Nuggets take down the Pelicans – the Serb star posting his ninth career 30-point triple-double, the most in NBA history by a center not named Wilt Chamberlain.

Overall, it is Jokic's 61st career triple-double, one behind Brooklyn Nets superstar James Harden, who ranks seventh all-time.

 

Red-hot Rockets win again

The Houston Rockets capitalised on Kevin Durant's absence in a 114-104 win over the shorthanded and Eastern Conference-leading Brooklyn Nets. Durant was rested and the Rockets extended their winning streak to seven games. According to Stats Perform, the Rockets are the first NBA/NBA/NHL team to have a losing streak of 15-plus games and then a winning streak of at least seven games later that same season (at any point) since the Louisville Colonels in 1895.

Joel Embiid was the source of inspiration again for the Philadelphia 76ers, who prevailed 110-106 against the Charlotte Hornets. Embiid had 32 points to lead the 76ers. It is the ninth time in Embiid's career he has tallied at least 75 points and 20 rebounds in a two-game span. The only other 76ers to do so at least nine times are Hall of Famers Chamberlain and Charles Barkley.

The NBA-leading Golden State Warriors were too good for Western Conference rivals the Portland Trail Blazers 104-94.

 

Giannis struggles as champs fall

Defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks lost 113-104 at the Miami Heat after superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with just 15 points on four-of-13 shooting in 33 minutes.

Joel Embiid produced a monster double-double to lift the Philadelphia 76ers past the Charlotte Hornets 127-124 in overtime.

Embiid carried the 76ers (13-11) to victory away to the Hornets on Monday, posting a season-high 43 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists.

Last season's MVP runner-up, Embiid – scorer of six of Philadelphia's eight points in OT – was 15-of-20 shooting as he recorded his 10th career 40-point, 15-rebound game for the 76ers – only Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain (30) has more in franchise history.

Tobias Harris added 21 points and 11 rebounds for the 76ers, who claimed back-to-back victories while extending their winning streak against the Hornets to 15 games, dating back to 2017.

Kelly Oubre Jr.'s 35 points, which included six three-pointers, was not enough for the Hornets (14-12).

 

Curry up to his old tricks

Stephen Curry nailed a stunning half-court buzzer-beater at the end of the first quarter in the Golden State Warriors' 126-95 rout of the lowly Orlando Magic. Curry finished with 31 points and eight assists, while Andrew Wiggins (28 points) nailed a career-high eight three-pointers.

Birthday boy Giannis Antetokounmpo had 27 and 12 rebounds to inspire defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks to a 112-104 victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Milwaukee won for the 10th time in 11 games on Antetokounmpo's 27th birthday.

Despite a triple-double from reigning MVP Nikola Jokic (17 points, 12 rebounds and a season-high 15 assists), the Denver Nuggets were beaten 109-97 by the high-flying Chicago Bulls.

 

Portland's skid continues

The Portland Trail Blazers tasted defeat for the third consecutive game after going down 102-90 to the Los Angeles Clippers. The shorthanded Blazers – playing without All-Star Damian Lillard – have lost six of their last seven games and have the worst defence this season.

After snapping the Phoenix Suns' franchise-record winning streak, the high-flying Golden State Warriors crashed back down to earth in a shock 112-107 defeat to the San Antonio Spurs.

In the second of back-to-back games, having halted Phoenix's memorable 18-game run, the league-leading Warriors (19-4) were unable to rally past the Spurs on home court in the NBA on Saturday.

The Spurs (8-13) used an 8-1 run to close out the game for their fourth consecutive victory, fuelled by Dejounte Murray's 22 points and 12 rebounds.

Stephen Curry scored 27 points for the Warriors, who had won 11 successive home games – tied for their longest home winning streak since they claimed 54 straight from January 2015 to March 2016.

 

 

Bulls battle past Nets

The Chicago Bulls went on a rampage at Barclays Center, where they overturned a double-digit deficit to trump the Eastern Conference-leading Brooklyn Nets 111-107. Zach LaVine (31 points) and DeMar DeRozan (29 points) inspired the Bulls in the Eastern Conference blockbuster. Kevin Durant led the Nets with 28 points, while James Harden had 14 points and 14 assists.

Jayson Tatum (also 10 rebounds) and Dennis Schroder scored 31 points apiece to lead the Boston Celtics to a 145-117 blowout of the Portland Trail Blazers, who were without Damian Lillard.

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic put up 32 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in just 27 minutes as the Denver Nuggets beat the slumping New York Knicks 113-99.

No Giannis Antetokounmpo? No worries for defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks, who defeated the Miami Heat 124-102. Bobby Portis sparked the Bucks with 19 points, 16 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks. He is the first Bucks player with a 15/15/2/2/2 game in under 30 minutes since 1984.

 

George unable to lift Clippers

Paul George finished with a double-double but it was a rough night for him and the Los Angeles Clippers following a 104-99 loss at the Sacramento Kings. George only made five of his shots from the floor, while turning the ball over five times on the road.

Giannis Antetokounmpo sat out the Milwaukee Bucks' NBA clash with the Miami Heat due to right calf soreness on Saturday.

Antetokounmpo was absent for the second consecutive game after missing Thursday's loss to the Toronto Raptors because of the same problem.

The Finals MVP was a late withdrawal for the defending champions' 97-83 defeat against the Raptors, with Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer initially hopeful it was only a "short-term" issue.

On Saturday, Budenholzer said: "We'll just take it day by day. See how it goes."

Antetokounmpo is averaging 27.6 points – only behind Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant entering Saturday's play, 11.8 rebounds and a career-high 6.0 assists per game this season.

Before facing Eastern Conference rivals the Heat, the Bucks boasted a 14-9 record to be fifth – three and a half games behind the Nets.

The Golden State Warriors ended the Phoenix Suns' franchise-record 18-game winning streak with a 118-96 victory to re-claim top spot in the Western Conference on Friday.

Stephen Curry top scored for the Warriors with 23 points including six of 11 from three-point range, after managing only 12 points in the defeat to the Suns on Tuesday.

The defeat was Phoenix's first since October 27 against the Sacramento Kings, although they were without All-Star guard Devin Booker with a hamstring injury.

Curry had 15 points by half-time for the Warriors, who led by 27 points at one stage. Gary Payton II scored 19 points off the bench.

The Suns had few winners, with Deandre Ayton scoring 23 points with six assists, while veteran Chris Paul had 12 points with eight assists.

 

LeBron returns but Lakers lose

LeBron James returned after briefly entering COVID-19 protocols but was held to only seven points in the first half before finishing with 23 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in the Los Angeles Lakers' 119-115 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. The Lakers are now 12-12 for the season.

Kevin Durant also managed a double-double with 30 points, 10 rebounds and six assists as the Brooklyn Nets made it six victories in seven games as they won 110-105 over the Minnesota Timberwolves, while Donovan Mitchell scored 34 points as the Utah Jazz defeated the Boston Celtics 137-130.

Joel Embiid had a double-double as the Philadelphia 76ers shut down the Atlanta Hawks late to win 98-96. Embiid had 28 points, 12 rebounds and four assists as the 76ers won the fourth quarter 20-9 to claim a come-from-behind victory.

Kyle Lowry scored 26 points including six three-pointers with nine assists as the Miami Heat beat the Indiana Pacers 113-104, while Darius Garland starred with 32 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists as the Cleveland Cavaliers won 116-101 over the Washington Wizards.

 

Doncic and George's shooting radar off

Luka Doncic's Dallas Mavericks were soundly beaten 107-91 by the New Orleans Pelicans with the Slovenian shooting none of six from beyond the arc, finishing 21 points and seven turnovers.

The Clippers may have won against the Lakers but Paul George's shooting was off, making zero of seven from three-point range, finishing the game with 19 points.

The NBA season is heating up nicely.

The Phoenix Suns are on fire, the Golden State Warriors are hanging on their coattails, while defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks are fighting back after a slow start to their season.

Meanwhile, the Detroit Pistons and Oklahoma City Thunder cannot buy a win.

Those are the teams, but which players have been impressing, and which are struggling to make an impact? Stats Perform delves into the numbers with the latest edition of NBA Heat Check.

RUNNING HOT...

Luguentz Dort

It is a team game, which Luguentz Dort knows only too well as his increasingly impressive individual numbers are doing little to turn around the fortunes of the Thunder.

The shooting guard failed to score more than 17 points in any of October's games, but came back from missing the defeat to the LA Clippers on the first day of November determined to do something about his team's form.

Dort set about trying to help the Thunder recover from a slow start and managed seven games of over 20 points, including 34 in the win against the Houston Rockets. Unfortunately for him and his teammates, there have been no wins in seven since then, despite the Canadian's best efforts.

His increased total points per game of 11.7 in October to 19.2 in November is the most in the league, while he was fourth for increase in three-pointers made per game (1.2 to 2.8).

Without that leap in form from the 22-year-old, you wonder how much worse Oklahoma City's record would be right now.

Jarrett Allen

The Cleveland Cavaliers have been a streaky team so far this season, but in Allen they have someone who is showing himself to be a real difference maker.

Allen's numbers have increased almost identically to Dort's, with an average of points scored per game going up from 11.7 to 19.0 from October to November.

The 23-year-old also tops the charts for largest increase in total rebounds per game, going from 9.0 in October to 12.8 in November.

The Cavs won six of their first seven games in November, only to then lose their next five, the first three of which against the Celtics, the Nets and the Warriors they were without Allen through illness.

His return has eventually seen form turn back around, with wins against the Magic and the Mavericks followed up by another at the Heat to kick off December.

Jordan Poole

Three-pointers are an increasingly important part of the modern game, and there is little more satisfying than seeing the ball sunk all the way from downtown.

Golden State Warriors fans may be the only ones getting a little bored of them given how many they see these days, with Steph Curry still the king of three-points, but Poole has been more than holding his own with his 51 total this season seeing him only behind Curry (77), Buddy Hield (61) and Lonzo Ball (52) in the standings.

It is Poole's improvement that gets him onto this list, though, having averaged just 1.5 successful three-point attempts per game in October, he upped that to 3.4 in November, the joint-highest league increase with Luka Doncic.

He was also fifth most improved for points scored, going from 14.0 per game in October to 20.3 in November.

This has helped the Warriors to a strong 18-3 record so far, but he even managed to stand out in the recent defeat to the Phoenix Suns, sinking six three-point attempts in a total contribution of 28 points on the night.

GOING COLD...

Kemba Walker

It was all set up to be a feel-good story before the season began as Walker, born in the Bronx, returned to New York to play for the Knicks after years of success with the Charlotte Hornets and Boston Celtics.

The four-time All-Star got off to a promising start, with eight defensive rebounds against his former Celtics in a debut win, and scoring double figures in all six of his October games.

However, November was not so kind to the 31-year-old, with his average of 3.7 three-pointers per game going down to just 1.3, the largest decrease in the league, and only managing double figures in four of his 12 outings.

Walker has never averaged less than his current 11.7 points per game across a season, with a career average of 19.7.

Such has been the drop in form for Walker, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau took the difficult decision to remove him from rotation ahead of the game at the Nets at the end of the month. 

Spencer Dinwiddie

The Washington Wizards point guard started the season with some impressive outings after his arrival from the Brooklyn Nets, including contributing 34 points in his second game against the Indiana Pacers, and scoring 20 or more in three of his five games in October. 

During November, Dinwiddie managed to score 20 or more just twice in 13 games, including failing to add anything to the scoreboard in defeat at the Charlotte Hornets.

His has been the largest decrease in points scored per game across the two months, going from an average of 19.8 in October to 12.8 in November.

The Wizards have not been too inconvenienced by this downturn in form from Dinwiddie, sitting second in the Eastern Conference on 14-8, but coach Wes Unseld Jr would surely love to see the 28-year-old return to his early season showings before too long.

Bam Adebayo

The Miami Heat center is averaging a career-best 18.7 points, along with 10.2 rebounds per game.

However, that number of rebounds has decreased from an average of 14.0 per game in October to 8.7 in November. Still respectable but the second-highest decrease of the month in the league behind only Gorgui Dieng (7.2 to 1.8). 

After registering double figures for rebounds in four of his five October performances, Adebayo only managed to do so in five of his 13 games in November, and unfortunately for him is set to miss the entirety of December after picking up a thumb injury.

The Heat won six of their first seven games, and Adebayo's electric form was a large part of that strong start, but having taken just two victories from their last six outings, will be hoping that when the Olympic gold medallist returns in the New Year, he can rediscover those elite levels.

Defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks outlasted the Charlotte Hornets 127-125 thanks to superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo in the NBA on Wednesday.

Antetokounmpo's monster double-double and late driving layup with 2.0 seconds remaining lifted the in-form Bucks (14-8) to their eighth consecutive victory midweek.

Milwaukee's Antetokounmpo had 40 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists in a near triple-double performance at home to the Hornets.

The Bucks withstood LaMelo Ball, who posted 36 points, nine assists and five rebounds on the road for the Hornets (13-11).

 

Doncic flexes his muscles

Luka Doncic fuelled the Dallas Mavericks' 139-107 victory at the New Orleans Pelicans. He put up 28 points and 14 assists in just 27 minutes. According to Stats Perform, Doncic is the first player to reach those numbers while playing 27 minutes or less since Hall of Famer Magic Johnson in 1987.

Jae'Sean Tate's career-high 32 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and five blocks helped the Houston Rockets rally past the Oklahoma City Thunder 114-110. The Rockets are the first team in NBA history with four straight wins immediately after a 15-game losing streak, per Stats Perform. As for Tate, he joined Hakeem Olajuwon as the only Rockets players to record 30-plus points, 10-plus rebounds, five-plus assists and five-plus blocks in a game.

 

Embiid struggles as Philly's offensive woes continue

In the absence of wantaway All-Star Ben Simmons, the Philadelphia 76ers continue to endure a topsy-turvy campaign following their 88-87 defeat to the Boston Celtics. MVP runner-up Joel Embiid had a double-double of 13 points and 18 rebounds, but he was just three-of-17 shooting. Tobias Harris was four-of-11 shooting – missing all four of his three-point attempts – for only eight points.

Duncan Robinson had a game to forget as the shorthanded Miami Heat went down 111-85 to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Robinson went scoreless in 20 minutes on 0-of-seven shooting from the floor, having failed to make any of his six efforts from beyond the arc.

The Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls lost draft picks for early free-agent discussions that led to recruiting Kyle Lowry and Lonzo Ball respectively, the NBA announced on Wednesday.

Lowry swapped the Toronto Raptors for the Heat, who acquired the NBA champion in a sign-and-trade three-year, $85million deal that sent Goran Dragic and Precious Achiuwa the other way.

Ball – a restricted free agent – was traded to the Bulls by the New Orleans Pelicans on a four-year, $80m contract for Garrett Temple and Toms Satoransky.

The NBA investigated the moves and punished the Heat and Bulls with the loss of second-round drafts picks because of premature discussions.

Miami and Chicago were found to have violated league rules governing the timing of this season's free-agency discussions.

"While we disagree, we accept the league's decision," the Heat said in a statement.

The Bulls added: "We are glad this process has concluded and look forward to the rest of our season."

In his first season with the Heat (13-8), six-time All-Star Lowry has been averaging 12.5 points, 7.7 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game, while shooting at 42.6 per cent and 31.0 from the three-point range.

Ball has starred for the new-look Bulls (14-8) in 2021-22, averaging 12.5 points, 4.8 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game – he has been shooting a career-high 42.6 per cent from the floor and a career-best 44.4 per cent from beyond the arc.

Nikola Jokic bounced back to Denver Nuggets duty as though he had never been away as the win at Miami Heat was described by coach Michael Malone as "a great pain reliever".

The superstar Serbian, MVP in the NBA last season, had missed four successive games because of a wrist injury amid Denver's six-game slide.

That was their worst such stretch since 2014-15 and saw them fall away after making a 9-4 start to the season, but prospects for Malone's men are looking up now that Jokic is fit.

After sinking the Heat 120-111 in Miami, there was a warm mix of emotion and relief in the Nuggets' locker room.

Jokic posted 24 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists, and seemingly that effort had changed everything.

Bones Hyland, the 21-year-old Nuggets point guard, shot a career-high 19 points including five three-pointers, and said: "It felt good going back into the locker room.

"I felt as though the guys were trying to win so bad just because Nikola was out. We know what he provides, and we were trying to fill his shoes and those are big shoes to fill.

"Him being back, everybody's a team now, playing through him, and it felt good for sure."

Malone had to search for the correct terminology to describe the post-game emotion.

"I don't know if relief is the right word, but there was definitely some joy, some smiles, some hugs," said the coach.

"As corny as that sounds, man, winning is a great pain reliever. We've all been down in the dumps and to get this win tonight kind of just stops all of that and allows us to get back to feeling good about ourselves."

He said playing without Jokic had been "a little bit different" to losing any other player.

Quoted on NBA.com, Malone struck an upbeat tone, saying: "I love the guys in the locker room. I'll go to war with them. Obviously, tonight was just one win. But after losing six in a row, by no means have we said, 'We're gonna change our goals now'. There's 62 games left, so much basketball to be played. So, you move on and play another day."

Jokic was not given an easy ride by the Miami crowd, facing boos every time he touched the ball due to the dust-up he and the Heat's Markieff Morris had in a November 8 game. Morris has missed 11 consecutive games since the incident.

He is big enough to handle such hostility though, saying afterwards: "I played in Serbia, so I wish you guys could feel that."

The 26-year-old Jokic is averaging 26.2 points, 13.7 rebounds and 6.4 assists this season, so ostensibly this was a par performance. How the Nuggets had missed him at his most routine though.

Jokic felt there was a collective improvement in the team, adding: "Everybody played well. We had seven players in double figures. So, everybody shared the ball. Everybody touched it."

Nikola Jokic's return proved the perfect tonic for the slumping Denver Nuggets after the reigning MVP helped snap a six-game slide in a 120-111 victory over the Miami Heat.

All eyes were on Jokic, who had missed four straight games because of a wrist injury amid Denver's worst six-game stretch since the 2014-15 season.

There was also plenty of interest as the Nuggets and Heat renewed hostilities for the first time since Jokic and Miami's Markieff Morris were involved in a dustup on November 8.

Jokic received a one-game ban after shoving Morris in the back as tempers flared – the Nuggets star reacting angrily after the Heat veteran came in with a hard foul, catching his opponent with a left elbow to the chest.

While the Heat were shorthanded in the absence of Morris – who has missed 11 consecutive games since the incident, Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro, Miami fans let their feelings known, booing Jokic every time he touched the ball.

Jokic, with his two brothers behind the Denver bench, was not fussed as he posted 24 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists.

Double-doubles from Bam Adebayo (24 points and 13 rebounds) and Kyle Lowry (17 points and 14 assists) were not enough for the Heat.

 

Doncic matches Robertson

Luka Doncic had 25 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds in the Dallas Mavericks' 114-96 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He tied Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson for the most triple-doubles (38) before turning 23. Mavericks star Doncic celebrates his 23rd birthday in February.

Lonzo Ball earned family bragging rights after the Chicago Bulls outlasted the Charlotte Hornets 133-119. Up against brother LaMelo and the Hornets, Lonzo's Balls prevailed thanks to Nikola Vucevic (30 points and 14 rebounds), DeMar DeRozan (28 points) and Zach LaVine (25 points). According to Stats Perform, Chicago are the first team to have a starting guard (LaVine), starting forward (DeRozan) and starting center (Vucevic) have 25-plus points, five-plus rebounds and five-plus assists in the same game since the Orlando Magic in January 1994. LaMelo Ball's 18 points and 13 assists were not enough for the Hornets.

Seth Curry put up 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting as the Philadelphia 76ers held on to beat the Magic 101-96 at home. The 76ers are riding a five-game winning streak against the Magic – their longest such streak against Orlando.

Jonas Valanciunas nailed seven of his three-point attempts as he torched the Los Angeles Clippers in a 39-point and 15-rebound performance, the New Orleans Pelicans triumphing 123-104.

 

Lillard struggles in Blazers loss

Much was said about All-Star Damian Lillard heading into the season amid question marks over his future with the Portland Trail Blazers. Had he outgrown the smalltown market? Well, his topsy-turvy campaign continued after scoring just 11 points on four-of-12 shooting from the floor in the 129-107 defeat at the Utah Jazz.

Rookie of the Year candidate Josh Giddey had a game to forget as fellow strugglers the Houston Rockets eased past the Oklahoma City Thunder 102-89. In 25 minutes, Giddey made only one of his nine shots from the field, missing his five three-point attempts for two points in total.

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.

The Los Angeles Lakers were without suspended superstar LeBron James and not even a Russell Westbrook triple-double could fuel the title hopefuls as they were beaten 106-100 by the New York Knicks.

James was not on the court because of a ban handed down – the first of his illustrious career – for his ejection against the Detroit Pistons, the four-time NBA champion struck Isaiah Stewart in the face and drew blood, sparking a melee.

Since James joined the Lakers in 2018, the team had been averaging 113.0 points and with a winning percentage of 64.6 when he plays heading into the matchup, while averaging 107.4 points with a 39.7 winning percentage when he does not.

In his absence, former MVP Westbrook had 31 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists but the Lakers still lost on the road against the Knicks on Tuesday.

Westbrook posted 18 points in the third quarter to tie the game after the Lakers (9-10) had fallen in a 25-point hole, however, the Knicks recovered to beat the storied franchise for the ninth time in 11 games.

Anthony Davis put a pre-game illness aside to battle for 20 points, six rebounds and three assists in 34 minutes.

Julius Randle inspired the Knicks (10-8) with 20 points, 16 rebounds and five assists, while Evan Fournier contributed a team-high 26 points.

 

 

Porzingis achieves career first as Mavs win

For the first time in his career, Kristaps Porzingis (30 points) scored 20 or more points in seven straight games after helping the Dallas Mavericks trump the Los Angeles Clippers 112-104 in over-time.

 

Denver's slide continues as Jokic sits out again

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic missed his third straight game due to a right wrist sprain and the Denver Nuggets went down 119-100 to the Portland Trail Blazers. The Nuggets have lost five consecutive games – their worst run since a five-game skid in January 2017.

The number one pick in the NBA Draft, it is safe to say Cade Cunningham's rookie season has been a baptism of fire. The first-year Pistons teenager has been criticised for his performances. In a 100-92 loss to the Miami Heat, he was just two-of-10 shooting – making one of seven three-pointers – for six points in 29 minutes, while he had four turnovers.

Jimmy Butler criticised the Miami Heat's complacency after they blew a 16-point lead in Saturday's defeat to the Washington Wizards.

The Heat had won four straight games coming into Saturday's trip to the capital, but that run has now been bookended by collapses.

Against both the Los Angeles Clippers (17 points) and the Wizards, Miami have led by double digits only to lose. Earlier this season, the Heat let leads of 12 and 11 slip to the Utah Jazz and the Brooklyn Nets respectively, although they rallied again to win on both occasions.

Of those four games, only the Utah victory was at home.

This latest setback was particularly painful due to the late nature of the collapse; the Heat had a 10-point lead with just over four minutes remaining but went down 103-100.

Miami were the victim of three fourth-quarter double-digit comebacks last season, and Butler is concerned the Heat – now 11-6 and behind the 11-5 Wizards in their division – are not dealing well with praise following a strong start.

"[The collapses are] probably because we stopped doing what we were doing to get those leads," he said.

"We tend to get comfortable, and that's a bad thing when you're comfortable. You get complacent and you just think the games going to keep going that way.

"For us, at least, it doesn't."

Butler, who led Miami with 29 points, added: "When everybody's giving you this praise all the time, you think you deserve it. You think you're supposed to be talked about like that – and that's not the case.

"This league is very humbling. It's fragile, and just as soon as you think you're good and you're high on yourself, you get hit like this.

"I don't think we should have lost this game. We did. You can say we'll learn from it, we'll go back to the drawing board. I'm hoping this is the last time that this happens, but I can't guarantee that."

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