Kyrie Irving scored 22 points upon his return to the Brooklyn Nets side for the first time this season as they came from behind to beat the Indiana Pacers 129-121 and snap a three-game skid on Wednesday.

Irving had been ruled out of the entire regular season by the Nets due to his vaccination status but the franchise changed their stance a fortnight ago, permitting him to play road games.

The 29-year-old point guard played 32 minutes, making nine-of-17 from the field along with three rebounds, four assists and three steals.

Irving's return reunited the 'big three' alongside Kevin Durant (39 points, eight rebounds and seven assists) and James Harden (18 points, five rebounds and six assists).

The Pacers had led 73-60 at half-time with a biggest lead of 19 points before Brooklyn rallied with an 8-0 run to end the third quarter, before Patty Mills put them ahead with a fourth-quarter three-pointer.

Domantas Sabonis recorded a triple-double for the Pacers with 32 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.

 

Popovich brings up 2,000th in style

Gregg Popovich coached the San Antonio Spurs for the 2,000th time, recording his 1,325th win in charge as they beat the Boston Celtics 97-95 with Jaylen Brown's lay-up buzzer beater rimming out. Brown scored 30 points with six rebounds, while Dejounte Murray had 22 points, nine rebounds and 12 assists for the Spurs.

Bojan Bogdanovic (36 points, 13 rebounds and four assists) won the battle of the Balkan stars against Nikola Jokic as the Utah Jazz edged the Denver Nuggets 115-109. The reigning MVP was exceptional for the Nugs with 26 points, 21 rebounds and 11 assists.

Joel Embiid scored 31 points as the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Orlando Magic 116-106, while Giannis Antetokounmpo was absent with a non-COVID-related illness as the Milwaukee Bucks lost 117-111 to the Toronto Raptors with Pascal Siakam netting 33 points.

 

Curry goes cold for Warriors

Stephen Curry had an ordinary shooting night, going five-of-24 from the field and one-of-nine from beyond the arc as the Golden State Warriors lost 99-82 to the Dallas Mavericks. Curry finished with 14 points with nine rebounds while Mavs All-Star Luka Doncic had 26 points with seven rebounds and eight assists.

The Brooklyn Nets suffered a third straight defeat as Ja Morant inspired the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday, while the Milwaukee Bucks also slipped up.

Morant scored a game-leading 36 points to lead the Grizzlies to a 118-104 victory – Memphis' fifth successive win.

He was ably supported by Desmond Bane (29 points), Brandon Clarke (16), Jarret Culver and Tyus Jones (both 12), with Kevin Durant and James Harden unable to prevent the Nets' recent slump continuing.

Memphis' victory at the Barclays Center was taken in by Antonio Brown, the NFL wide receiver who was dismissed as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer after his remarkable walk-out against the New York Jets on Sunday.

While the Grizzlies travel to Cleveland to face the Cavaliers on Tuesday, Brooklyn must lick their wounds after relinquishing top spot in the Eastern Conference to the Chicago Bulls, who edged out the Orlando Magic 102-98 to win an eighth straight game.

Pistons stun Bucks

The Pistons had the worst record in the league heading into their clash with reigning champions Milwaukee, but Saddiq Bey's career-high 34 points saw Detroit overcome the odds.

Milwaukee's six-game winning streak was snapped by a 115-106 reverse, with a 31-point turn from talisman Giannis Antetokounmpo not enough.

It was a stunning result for the Pistons, who had lost 12 straight regular-season games to the Bucks by an average of 16.7 points heading into the game – while Milwaukee had also downed Detroit four times in the 2019 playoffs.

Detroit are now 7-28 for the season, meaning it is the Magic who have the league's worst winning percentage. The Bucks must now bounce back against the Toronto Raptors, who beat them in December, on Wednesday.

Jazz get back on the horse

The Utah Jazz responded to their defeat to Western Conference leaders the Golden State Warriors with a 115-104 triumph over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Donovan Mitchell was the standout performer, topping up his game-high 29 points with three rebounds and five assists. It is now nine road wins in a row for the Jazz, who sit third in the West behind the Warriors and the Phoenix Suns.

While the Suns are at New Orleans on Tuesday, Golden State kept themselves secure at the top by collecting a fifth win in six games with a 115-108 victory at home to the Miami Heat.

Doncic and Embiid lift Mavs, Sixers

Luka Doncic claimed another double-double with 21 points and a joint season-high 15 assists to propel the Dallas Mavericks to a convincing 103-89 triumph over the Denver Nuggets.

Doncic's team may have come out on top, but fellow Balkan star Nikola Jokic led the game with 27 points, adding 16 rebounds, albeit last season's MVP could not stop Denver having a three-game winning run ended.

The Mavs are sixth in the West, one place behind Denver but having won a game more.

Joel Embiid, meanwhile, is a player well in the running to take Jokic's regular-season MVP crown, and he turned in a brilliant display in the Philadelphia 76ers 133-113 rout of the Houston Rockets.

Embiid turned in a fourth straight 30-point game with a triple-double of 31 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists.

Giannis Antetokounmpo declared his place in history will take care of itself as he closes in on matching Michael Jordan's NBA triple-double haul.

The Milwaukee Bucks star nudged ahead of Lakers great Elgin Baylor and up to 19th on the NBA all-time list as he tallied 35 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists in a 136-113 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Jordan Nwora weighed in with 23 points in 19 minutes, while Jrue Holiday grabbed 21 as the Bucks delivered a 400th career win for coach Mike Budenholzer.

Greek maestro Antetokounmpo takes pride in his achievements but says there is little time to stand still and appreciate where his career has taken him – because there is always another game around the corner.

He now has 27 triple-doubles, one shy of all-time great Jordan, who sits 18th on the list.

It was some way to start 2022 for the 27-year-old, who posted on Twitter: "New year, same me."

“To be honest with you, obviously we're so locked in and so focused on what we gotta do, that those moments go, not unnoticed – obviously it’s a great compliment to be with those guys – but you kind of brush it off and just focus on the next game which is Detroit," he said in a post-game news conference.

"But as I get older I gotta take a moment and live in the moment and enjoy this moment. Having 27 triple-doubles, it's insane. I remember getting my first one.

"It's been a long journey, and I've got a long way to go. I'll just keep enjoying every moment, and if you keep playing the right way, good things happen.

"I believe that as long as I am enjoying the game and live in the moment, I keep creating special moments. You've got to appreciate the moments but continue moving forward. That's what I've done my whole life and that's what I'm going to continue doing. It's been working."

He spoke of how his approach had brought rich reward, stating: "I'm just trying to stay aggressive. I feel I'm at my best when I'm aggressive.

"My mindset through the whole game is to be aggressive, make the right decisions, put my team in the right spot."

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.

Joel Embiid bossed the Eastern Conference-leading Brooklyn Nets despite the return of Kevin Durant as the Philadelphia 76ers center scored 34 points in a 110-102 win on Thursday.

Embiid finished with 34 points, including three triples, six rebounds, three steals and one block as tension boiled over between him and Durant who exchanged words late in the game and gestured demonstrably after the final buzzer based on their history.

Durant returned from protocols with 33 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while James Harden recorded a triple-double with 33 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists.

The 76ers got home in a tight encounter with a 26-20 final quarter helping them to their third straight win and fourth in a row on the road.

Brooklyn's record moves to 23-10 while the 76ers improve to 19-16 as the east heats up.

 

Champions clinch fifth win in a row

Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks were in the mood with a 136-118 victory over the Orlando Magic. The 2021 NBA Finals MVP scored 33 points with 12 rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks for the reigning champions.

Jrue Holiday (25 points, five rebounds, seven assists) and Khris Middleton (22 points, three triples, six assists) made valuable contributions as the Bucks claimed their fifth consecutive win to improve to 24-13.

Bradley Beal returned from protocols with 29 points, six rebounds and 10 assists while Kyle Kuzma had 25 points with 10 rebounds as the Washington Wizards won 110-93 over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Kevin Love top scored for the Cavs, who were without Darius Garland in protocols, with 24 points and 11 rebounds.

 

Mills errant from range

Australian guard Patty Mills had an unhappy time in the Nets' loss to the 76ers, shooting one of eight from beyond the arc and 20 percent from the field for five points.

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic led the Denver Nuggets with a double-double as they withstood the Golden State Warriors' second-half charge to win 89-86 on Tuesday.

MVP contender Stephen Curry only managed two first-half points as the Warriors produced arguably their worst half of the season before storming back in the second half to tie the game in the fourth quarter.

Jokic, who had 22 points, 18 rebounds and five assists, made a key defensive stop on rookie Jonathan Kuminga after his own turnover at 88-86 before Andre Igoudala missed a three-point attempt on the buzzer to force over-time.

Curry's output increased dramatically in the second half to finish with 23 points including five triples, as the Warriors reeled in the Nuggets after trailing by 24 points. The Warriors' two-time MVP had six turnovers for the game.

However, Curry also reached another milestone with his 3,000 career three-point attempt made, marking 157 straight games with a triple.

Andrew Wiggins scored 21 points with eight rebounds with the Warriors without Draymond Green who entered COVID-19 protocols this week. The result means the ladder-leading Warriors fall to 27-7 while the Nuggets improve above .500 to 17-16.

 

LeBron and Russ end Lakers' skid

LeBron James and Russell Westbrook both recorded triple-doubles as the Los Angeles Lakers ended their five-game skid with a 132-123 victory over the Houston Rockets. James had 32 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists while Westbrook added 24 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 28 points with six rebounds and six assists in his second game since returning from COVID-19 protocols while Bobby Portis nailed five three-pointers in his 19-point haul as the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Orlando Magic 127-110.

Joel Embiid had 36 points with 11 rebounds while Tobias Harris (19 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists) recorded a rare triple-double as the Philadelphia 76ers knocked off the Toronto Raptors 114-109.

 

Randle loses handle in offense

Last season's Most Improved Player Julius Randle continues to struggle to re-discover his offensive games, shooting five of 20 from the field and having only two assists in the New York Knicks' 96-88 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

James Harden marked his return to action with a telling triple-double as the Brooklyn Nets snatched a dramatic 122-115 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

For the Lakers, LeBron James scored 39 points and became the NBA's highest scorer all-time in Christmas Day games, reaching 422 points on December 25 across his career to surpass Kobe Bryant's 395 haul.

However, Russell Westbrook shot only 4-of-20 from the field, meaning his own triple-double of 13 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists was tinged with disappointment.

It allowed Harden and Patty Mills to guide the Nets to a hard-earned win over a Lakers side who have lost five successive games to slide to 16-18 for the season.

Mills matched a career-best with 34 points, and his eight three-pointers established a new NBA record for Christmas Day.

 

Harden's haul of 36 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists came in his first game out of COVID-19 protocols and boosted the shorthanded Nets to 22-9, with Brooklyn rallying despite being without Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and LaMarcus Aldridge, among others.

The Lakers trailed 102-82 entering the final quarter but got back to 115-115 with 45 seconds remaining, yet Nic Claxton restored Brooklyn's lead, and Harden's accuracy from the free-throw line saw them pull clear in the closing moments.

This was the first Christmas Day game with multiple triple-doubles, the NBA said.


Antetokounmpo rebounds with stellar show

Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo joined Harden in making a stellar return to action, after also serving time in isolation due to the health and safety protocols.

After missing five games, Antetokounmpo scored 36 points and had 12 rebounds in a 117-113 win for the Bucks over the Boston Celtics.

That improved the Bucks, who sit third in the Eastern Conference, to 22-13 for the season. It was the fifth time this season that Antetokounmpo has topped 35 points in a game.

Christmas Curry proves a rare treat

Heading into the Golden State Warriors' game with the Phoenix Suns, Stephen Curry was averaging a meagre 13.1 points in his eight career games on Christmas. That ranked as his worst average points haul on any date he has played on more than twice.

This time Curry came good though, bagging a game-high 33 points in a 116-107 win for the Warriors.

There was cause for Christmas cheer for the New York Knicks' Kemba Walker too. The Knicks landed a 101-87 win over the Atlanta Hawks, led by Julius Randle's 25 points and 12 rebounds, with Walker weighing in with the team's first triple-double on Christmas Day. He finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists, and on the right side of the scoreboard.

Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo has reportedly been cleared from the NBA's health and safety protocols.

Finals MVP Antetokounmpo entered the league's COVID-19 protocols on December 15 and has missed five games. 

According to ESPN, he will decide on Friday whether he is fit enough to feature in the Bucks' clash with the Boston Celtics on Christmas Day.

Antetokounmpo has been averaging 27.0 points, 11.6 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game for the defending champions this season.

He is shooting 53.0 per cent from the field – his lowest number since the 2017-18 season, and 28.0 per cent from three-point range.

The Bucks (21-13) are third in the Eastern Conference, behind the Brooklyn Nets (21-9) and Chicago Bulls (19-10).

In what had been a foregone conclusion for years, the Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry officially affirmed himself as the greatest 3-point shooter in NBA history just 11 days before Christmas.

Receiving a pass from Andrew Wiggins at the right wing at Madison Square Garden on December 14, Curry quickly put up a shot from 28 feet out that swished through the net for his 2,974th career 3-pointer, surpassing Ray Allen’s mark.

Curry has revolutionised the game of basketball, and while he didn't invent the 3-point shot, he is credited with being the first one to truly exploit its value.

He broke Allen's tally in 511 fewer games – that's more than six seasons – and when the three-time NBA champion and two-time league MVP finally decides to retire, it's conceivable he could have well over 5,000 made 3s.

While Curry is the best 3-pointer shooter to ever pick up a basketball, you would never guess it by his performances on Christmas.

This will be Curry's ninth game on Christmas, and the NBA's all-time 3-point king has never made more than two 3-pointers in a game on December 25.

That's right, the man who averages 3.8 made 3-pointers a game – the best in league history – and has an NBA-best 517 games with at least three 3-pointers made, is averaging 1.3 made 3s on Christmas.

This season alone, Curry is averaging 5.4 made 3-pointers a game, which beats out the 5.3 he averaged per game last season and the 5.1 he averaged in 2015-16 and again 2018-19 for the best in a single season in NBA history. No other player has averaged more than 4.8 made 3s in a season.

He also enters this Christmas having made at least three 3-pointers in each of his last 14 games, which is tied for the eighth-longest streak in NBA history (Curry is responsible for four of the seven longer streaks). But now he takes the court on a day when all those shots that routinely go through the hoop for him clank off the rim.

In his eight prior Christmas games, Curry has made 0, 0, 2, 1, 1, 2, 2 and 2 3-pointers giving him just 10 made 3s. He's made at least 10 3-pointers in a single game 22 times in his career – 17 more than Klay Thompson, who ranks second on the list.

Just how incomprehensible is it that Curry has never hit at least three 3-pointers on Christmas? There have been 292 times in his career where he's drained at least three 3-pointers in a quarter. Since Curry's 2009-10 rookie season, the only other player with more than 150 quarters with at least three 3-pointers made is Damian Lillard with 166.

Well, perhaps he's not attempting as many 3-pointers on December 25. Nope, that's not the case, he's simply missing badly, shooting 20.4 per cent on his 49 shots from beyond the arc. Just for the sake of comparison, of the 174 players with at least 80 3-point attempts this season, Curry's 20.4 per cent would finish dead last.

His 20.4 per cent shooting from 3-point range on December 25 is his second worst for a date he's played at least three games, beating out only the 17.6 per cent he's shot in three games on December 16.

Curry is typically deadly from the wing, knocking down 43.2 per cent of his shots from there to trail only Joe Harris' 43.3 per cent shooting for the best by any player who started his career in 2003 or later with at least 500 attempts from the wing. However, on Christmas, Curry is abysmal from the wing, misfiring on 28 of his 32 attempts to connect just 12.5 per cent of the time.

Overall, on Christmas he's shooting 30.2 per cent from the floor, which is his worst for a single day with a minimum of three games played. And not only is Curry's shooting on December 25 his worst for any single day, but it's also the worst for anyone who's played on Christmas since 1983 with a minimum of 50 attempts.

Not surprising given his shooting struggles, Curry is averaging 13.1 points on Christmas – 11.2 fewer than his career average – which, again, marks his lowest scoring average for any day in which he's played in at least three games.

It's just about unfathomable for someone with a 24.3-scoring average and 540 career 20-point games, but he has never scored more than 19 points on his eight Christmas Day games. There is only one other date Curry has played more than one game and failed to score 20 points and that is February 16 – and he's had six fewer opportunities, playing just twice on that day.

Part of Curry's Christmas shooting woes could stem from the competition he's facing. The NBA constructs a doozy of a schedule on Christmas Day, pitting the best teams up against one another with one marquee matchup followed by another. So, Curry's Warriors often find themselves in a playoff rematch or a date with another formidable foe.

And while he's struggled mightily on his Christmas Day matchups, Curry has often faced those same teams at other points in the same season and not had the same problems, averaging 20.3 points, on 48.9 per cent shooting from the field and 47.4 per cent from 3-point range.

Just last Christmas, Curry finished with 19 points on 6-of-17 shooting – including 2-of-10 on 3-pointers – in Golden State's 138-99 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. He got a measure of revenge in a rematch with the eventual champion Bucks later in April, exploding for 41 points while shooting 66.7 per cent and making half of his 10 3-point attempts in a one-point victory.

This Christmas, Curry and the Warriors face another huge challenge with a visit to the Phoenix Suns in a showdown between the teams with the league's best two records.

But if his last trip to the desert was any indication, Curry could be in for another long night. Just over three weeks ago on November 30, Curry had his worst shooting performance of the season, going 4-of-21 from the floor (19.0 per cent) and 3-of-14 (21.4 per cent) from beyond the arc for 12 points in a 104-96 loss at Phoenix.

Three days later against the same Suns team, Curry was a bit better, shooting 40 per cent on 20 field goal attempts and going 6-of-11 from the perimeter with 23 points in a 22-point win.

This time, though, he certainly seems poised to exorcise the ghost of Christmas past. He arrives back in Arizona coming off a 46-point performance while draining eight 3s in Thursday's win over the Memphis Grizzlies for his third straight game scoring at least 30 points – the first time this season he's accomplished that.

For the greatest 3-point shooter of all time, it seems that Curry can't possibly have another clunker on Christmas. He's too good to have been in such a funk and it doesn't seem to make sense he would struggle so much on one particular day – unless of course, he doesn't believe in Santa Claus.

Stephen Curry scored 46 points including eight three-pointers as the Golden State Warriors defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 113-104 on Thursday.

Curry fell four points shy of his season-high 50-point haul but dominated throughout for the Warriors, shooting eight-of-14 from beyond the arc with four rebounds and four assists. The two-time MVP brought up his third return of 45 points or more this season.

Gary Payton II played a key role in the starting rotation with 22 points with four triples including a clutch three-pointer in the fourth quarter.

Curry's haul marked a return to form as Golden State improved to 26-6, remain one-half game behind the Phoenix Suns (26-5) for the best record in the NBA ahead of their Christmas Day match-up.

 

LeBron, Kemba and Jokic heroics fall short

LeBron James scored 36 points with nine rebounds, six assists and two blocks but it was not enough to prevent the Los Angeles Lakers from going down 138-110 to the San Antonio Spurs. The result leaves the Lakers with a record below .500 at 16-17 after four straight defeats.

Kemba Walker produced a vintage display with a season-high 44 points with nine rebounds and eight assists as the New York Knicks went down 124-117 to the Washington Wizards.

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic's heroics were also in vain as the Denver Nuggets lost 115-107 to the Charlotte Hornets despite the Serbian's 29 points, 21 rebounds and five assists.

Devin Booker (30 points, seven rebounds, seven assists) and Deandre Ayton (19 points, 12 rebounds) led the way as the Suns stayed top and claimed their fifth straight win in a 113-101 triumph over the Oklahoma City Thunder, while Khris Middleton (26 points, five rebounds, seven assists) and Jrue Holiday (24 points, seven rebounds, seven assists) delivered again in Giannis Antetokounmpo's absence as the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Dallas Mavericks 102-95.

 

Embiid loses his radar

Joel Embiid shot six-of-17 from the field as the Philadelphia 76ers lost 98-96 to the depleted Atlanta Hawks. Embiid finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds and two assists.

Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer praised Khris Middleton after returning from injury with 23 points and six assists in Wednesday's 126-106 win over the Houston Rockets.

Middleton had missed the Bucks' past three games after a knee hyperextension but helped the reigning champions snap a two-game skid.

The Bucks had been missing Middleton along with reigning NBA Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo over their past three games, with the Greek star entering the league's health and safety protocols last week.

"I thought [Middleton] had a good bounce in practice yesterday," Budenholzer told reporters. "I think he's excited to be back and playing and healthy.

"I thought he gives us some confidence. I thought he had a good pop tonight."

The Bucks had beaten the Indiana Pacers 114-99 without the pair before losses to the New Orleans Pelicans and Cleveland Cavaliers.

Jrue Holiday played a key role alongside Middleton in ending their run of defeats with 24 points, 10 assists and four rebounds.

Eight of Middleton's 23 points came from the stripe, as he showed intent to get into the paint in Antetokounmpo's absence.

"I think he felt good and he thought that's where he could be most effective," Budenholzer said. "We need some guys to get to the paint. I thought he did that.

"The free throws are indicative of that. It's not his norm but we need a little bit of that. It's good for him to get to the line and get those easy ones."

The Bucks will need to front up again on Thursday with a back-to-back against the Dallas Mavericks with Budenholzer stating he expects Middleton to play after only being used for 28 minutes against the Rockets.

"We're expecting him to be able to play," the Bucks head coach said. "We'll see how he responds tonight. We probably had a bit more in the bank tonight if we needed it."

Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton rose in the absence of Giannis Antetokounmpo as the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Houston Rockets 126-106 on Wednesday.

The reigning champions were without Antetokounmpo for the fourth straight game after he entered the NBA's health and safety protocols last week.

The Bucks had lost their last two without their Greek star but Holiday finished with 24 points, 10 assists and four rebounds, while Middleton added 23 points and six assists on his return from a knee injury.

Young small forward Jordan Nwora hit four triples in his 18-point haul, while center Christian Wood had a double-double for the Rockets with 20 points and 11 rebounds.

The win improves the Bucks to a 20-13 record and third spot in the Eastern Conference.

 

Brown shines for Celtics

Jaylen Brown scored 16 first-quarter points to finish with 34 for the game including five three-pointers as the Boston Celtics got past the Cleveland Cavaliers 111-101. Darius Garland had 28 points and six assists for the Cavs.

Paul George recorded five steals along with 17 points and six assists as the Los Angeles Clippers finished strong to beat the Sacramento Kings 105-89.

The depleted Atlanta Hawks went down 104-98 to the Orlando Magic, despite Cam Reddish's season-high 34 points.

 

Jokic silenced by the Thunder

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic had a rare quiet night with only 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists as well as three turnovers as the Denver Nuggets went down 108-94 to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (27 points, 11 rebounds, 12 assists) had a second career triple-double for OKC.

Mike Budenholzer explained he was just managing the minutes of absent duo Jrue Holiday and Grayson Allen as the short-handed Milwaukee Bucks went down to the in-form Cleveland Cavaliers.

Milwaukee were without regular starters Giannis Antetokounmpo, Donte DiVincenzo, Wesley Matthews and Bobby Portis as they have entered the NBA's Health and Safety protocols, while Khris Middleton is still out with a hyperextended left knee.

Both Holiday and Allen were available for selection but were not included as the defending NBA champions were routed 119-90.

However, head coach Budenholzer said that decision was simply because of the amount of minutes the duo played against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday.

"I mean it's just those guys have played a lot," he said

"Those guys have given us so much including last night, they really, really laid it out – the whole group did. 

"I was just trying to be big picture, Grayson's a little under the weather. I'm really proud of the guys who played, they really competed."

Jordan Nwora impressed for the Bucks, leading the team's scoring with 28 points. Budenholzer says the task now is to improve other areas of his game.

"He's got that unique kind of scorers mentality, he can make or take tough shots, gets just enough separation, he's getting to the basket a little more, attacking a little more," he said.

"He's a very good scorer so it's just kind of trying to work on other parts of the game too. He's making progress there too so it's invaluable opportunities for him."

Defeat for the Bucks (19-13) leaves them fifth in the East, while a sixth straight win sees the Cavaliers up to third with a 19-12 record.

Two seasons ago, the Cavs only won 19 games in total while it took until April 8 to reach that point in 2020-21 – a campaign in which they finished 22-50.

Commenting on the Cavs' position, Darius Garland –  who had 22 points – said: "It's early. We don't get too far ahead of ourselves.

"It's been super fun. It's not just hero ball, everybody is contributing."

Fred VanVleet starred as the Toronto Raptors won 119-100 over the Golden State Warriors who rested star guard Stephen Curry on Saturday.

VanVleet finished with 27 points, seven rebounds and 12 assists as the Raptors blew the Warriors away in the first half, leading 63-42.

Curry (rest), Draymond Green (right hip), Andre Iguodala (right knee), Otto Porter Jr. (left foot) and Andrew Wiggins (left knee) were all absent for Golden State and returned to California to avoid potential COVID-19 exposure and quarantine in Canada.

The Raptors made their absence count, shooting 45 of 90 from the field, becoming the first side the Warriors have allowed this season to shoot at 50 percent or better.

The Warriors' sixth defeat of the season leaves them second in the Western Conference with a 24-6 record.

 

Wizards end Jazz run

Bradley Beal scored a season-high 37 points and had seven assists and five rebounds as the Washington Wizards ended the Utah Jazz's eight-game winning streak 109-103. Donovan Mitchell scored 32 points for the Jazz, while Rudy Gobert had 19 rebounds with 11 points.

Cedi Osman came off the bench to top score for the Cleveland Cavaliers with 23 points as they won 119-90 over the Milwaukee Bucks, who were missing Giannis Antetokounmpo due to COVID protocols.

Luke Kennard's (27 points, seven rebounds) heroics could not lift the Los Angeles Clippers to victory, going down 104-103 to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who were led by rookie Josh Giddey (eight points, 18 rebounds, 10 assists).

 

Weakened Nets lose to struggling Magic

The depleted Brooklyn Nets, missing star trio Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden due to COVID protocols, were beaten 100-93 by the lowly Orlando Magic for their sixth win of the season. The loss was the Nets' ninth.

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