The Los Angeles Lakers slumped to their sixth loss in seven games with LeBron James finishing their 121-114 defeat to the Toronto Raptors injured in the locker room on Sunday.

James left the court in the fourth quarter due to a sore right ankle, the same ankle which sidelined the Lakers superstar for 20 games until his return against the Sacramento Kings on Friday.

The four-time MVP played 28 minutes, scoring 19 points with seven rebounds and six assists but he could not inspire reigning NBA champions the Lakers to reverse their worrying form ahead of the playoffs.

Toronto forward Pascal Siakam was exceptional with a season-high 39 points, 13 rebounds and four assists, while veteran guard Kyle Lowry also had a double-double with 37 points, including three three-pointers, and 11 assists.

The result means the Lakers slip to 36-28 and sixth spot in the Western Conference, while the Raptors are 27-38.

 

Giannis comes out on top against KD

Giannis Antetokounmpo posted 49 points as the Milwaukee Bucks overcame the star-studded Brooklyn Nets 117-114 in their heavyweight Eastern Conference meeting. Making his return after a minor ankle issue, two-time reigning MVP Antetokounmpo also had eight rebounds and four assists, while Khris Middleton contributed 26 points and 11 rebounds in a key supporting role. Durant did his best to lift the Nets with 42 points and 10 rebounds.

Joel Embiid had his 14th game with 30 or more points and 10 rebounds, with only Antetokounmpo having more this season, as the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers won 113-111 in overtime against the San Antonio Spurs. MVP hopeful Embiid finished with 34 points and 12 rebounds after OT, with Seth Curry adding 22 points.

Devin Booker had 32 points to lead the high-flying Phoenix Suns to a 123-120 victory over the lowly Oklahoma City Thunder.

The New York Knicks kept up their hot run with 122-97 win against the Houston Rockets, fuelled by All-Star Julius Randle's 31 points in three quarters.

C.J. McCollum (33 points), Damian Lillard (26 points and 13 assists) and Jusuf Nurkic (14 points and 11 rebounds) combined to lead the Portland Trail Blazers past the Boston Celtics 129-119. Jayson Tatum's 33 points were not enough for the Celtics. Per Stats Perform, the Trail Blazers are the first team in NBA history to have four consecutive home losses immediately followed by four straight road victories.

 

From hero to zero

Dorian Finney-Smith nailed the game-winner for the Dallas Mavericks against the Washington Wizards on Saturday. But he was struggled in the 111-99 loss to the Sacramento Kings. Finney-Smith was one-for-seven shooting in 35 minutes, missing all five of his three-point attempts for just three points.

 

Timely tip from Simmons

Ben Simmons tipped home in the nick of time after Embiid's attempted buzzer-beating shot missed in the 76ers' win over the Spurs.

 

Sunday's results

Milwaukee Bucks 117-114 Brooklyn Nets
Portland Trail Blazers 129-119 Boston Celtics
New York Knicks 122-97 Houston Rockets
Philadelphia 76ers 113-111 San Antonio Spurs (OT)
Phoenix Suns 123-120 Oklahoma City Thunder
Sacramento Kings 111-99 Dallas Mavericks
Miami Heat 121-111 Charlotte Hornets
Toronto Raptors 121-114 Los Angeles Lakers

 

Nuggets at Lakers

The Lakers (36-28) have a big test to get back on track in the Western Conference against Nikola Jokic's Denver Nuggets (43-21) with playoffs seedings up for grabs.

Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant said he and his team-mates are focused in pursuit of the Eastern Conference top seed as head coach Steve Nash awaits the return of former MVP James Harden.

Durant posted 42 points and 10 rebounds while matching a career high with seven three-pointers, but the star-studded Nets still lost on Sunday, upstaged 117-114 by Eastern Conference rivals the Milwaukee Bucks, who were fuelled by Giannis Antetokounmpo's 49 points.

The Nets – eyeing their maiden NBA championship – dropped down to second in the east, behind the Philadelphia 76ers but the two title contenders are set to continue going head-to-head for the number one seed ahead of the playoffs.

After falling short against two-time reigning MVP Antetokounmpo and the Bucks in Milwaukee, two-time champion Durant – who scored 42 points in back-to-back games – told reporters: "Every day you wake up, it should be about your craft. I think that's how everybody approaches this thing.

"We try to take it a day at a time, a possession at a time. We can't control what's going to happen at the end of the season or what other teams are going to do.

"I think we've just got to take advantage of each one and that's what we're doing. Guys are locked in. We're talking the game when we're at practice, on the bus, we talk about it on the plane.

"So I think that helps as well. We're staying locked in mentally too when we do it."

The Nets were once again without superstar Harden, who remains sidelined due to a hamstring injury.

Harden has not played since leaving the matchup against the New York Knicks on April 5, missing 16 of the Nets' last 17 games.

This season, Harden – who arrived in a blockbuster trade from the Houston Rockets in January – is averaging 25.2 points, 10.9 assists and 8.0 rebounds per game.

The Nets and Bucks will clash again on Tuesday, and coach Nash said: "I'm not so much worried about what they know. For us, we have the luxury of talent. We have great players. We don't have the luxury of time. That's OK. We understand that and we'll work around that.

"James will give us a totally different dimension, but we don't sit here and say, 'well, wait 'til James gets back'. We try to solve the puzzle now. James will give us obviously something great to build on, but we can look at all the things that we did wrong today and there were a lot of things where I thought we just weren't sharp tonight. We clean some of those things up, I think we give ourselves a better chance."

Giannis Antetokounmpo lavished his admiration and praise on Kevin Durant, labelling the Brooklyn Nets superstar a "once in a generation talent".

The pair squared off in the Milwaukee Bucks' 117-114 win over the Nets on Sunday, with two-time reigning NBA MVP Antetokounmpo posting 49 points, with eight rebounds and four assists.

Durant – a former MVP – returned fire with 42 points of his own for the Nets, along with 10 rebounds as Antetokounmpo hailed the two-time champion.

"You have to appreciate players like that, because you don't see them often," said Antetokounmpo, who is six years younger than Durant.

"It's one of a generation talent, and, personally, I try to steal as much as I can from his game and as much as I'm capable of doing, because there’s some stuff that only he can do.

"But he's a great player to watch and growing up I always looked up to him."

Antetokounmpo continued: "What he does is unbelievable. Being 6'11, being able to shoot over everybody and the way he can handle the ball and get to his spot to rise up is unbelievable."

Antetokounmpo and Durant both may have scored in the 40s on Sunday, but the former insisted the game plan was not to go head-to-head against a player he calls "one of the game's greatest scorers".

"I was not going back and forth with KD," Antetokounmpo said. "There's nobody in this world who can go back and forth with KD.

"He's one of the greatest scorers to ever play this game. That's not the game plan you want to go against. You've got to do it as a unit."

The game also marked Antetokounmpo's return from a minor ankle injury picked up against the Houston Rockets on Thursday, although he said he played through pain.

"It felt good," he said. "Obviously I stepped on Kelly Olynyk's foot and in the moment I was in a lot of pain.

"My personality and how I am, you've got to grow your toughness and play through pain. I could still play the game and keep going, even though I couldn't step on it at all the first time.

"The team wanted me to take a break and get healthy and not have something keep lingering and lingering.

"Today I felt good. I couldn't speed up as much as I wanted to. I had dominance and I was able to get to my spots. I didn't feel as much pain."

Eastern Conference rivals the Nets (43-22) and Bucks (40-24), who are likely to face off in the playoffs, will meet again on Tuesday.

Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo is listed as probable to face the Eastern Conference-leading Brooklyn Nets on Sunday.

Antetokounmpo sat out Friday's win over the Chicago Bulls due to an ankle injury, which forced the two-time reigning NBA MVP to exit in the opening minute of the Bucks' loss to the Houston Rockets on Thursday.

The 26-year-old rolled his ankle during the 143-136 defeat against the lowly Rockets, but Antetokounmpo could return to face Eastern Conference rivals the Nets.

Antetokounmpo ranks fifth this season for points per game (28.3), while he is eighth for average rebounds (11.2) this season.

The Greek has tallied the ninth-most double-doubles (37) in 2020-21 and fifth-most triple-doubles (seven).

Milwaukee (39-24) are third in the Eastern Conference, behind the Nets (43-21) and Philadelphia 76ers (42-21).

Jayson Tatum tied Larry Bird's Boston Celtics' all-time single game scoring record with a 60-point haul in their 143-140 over-time win over the San Antonio Spurs on Friday.            

Tatum posted 31 points in the fourth quarter and over-time in an incredible individual display, also collecting eight rebounds and five assists.

The Celtics forward led Boston's comeback after trailing by 32 points with a career-high personal total.

He received good support as the Celtics turned around the Spurs' dominant first half, with Tristan Thompson having 15 rebounds, while guard Marcus Smart had 12 assists.

The win keeps the Celtics in the top six in the East with a 34-30 record, while the Spurs are 31-31 and set for the play-in tournament.

 

LeBron returns in defeat

LeBron James made his return from an ankle injury for the first time in 20 matches, but could not inspire the Los Angeles Lakers to victory as they surprisingly went down 110-106 to the Sacramento Kings.

James played 32 minutes, scoring 16 points, with eight rebounds and seven assists, while Anthony Davis made 22 points for LA too.

The 36-year-old looked mobile but speaking after the game, he made the revelation: "I don't think i'll ever get back to 100 per cent in my career."

Devin Booker scored a game-high 31 points as the Phoenix Suns toppled leaders Utah Jazz 121-100 in the top two clash in the West.

The Suns opened up a 16-point deficit at quarter-time and kept the Jazz at arm's length, with Rudy Gobert having a tough game defensively and offensively, with only eight points.

Kevin Durant was rested as the Brooklyn Nets lost 128-109 to the Portland Trail Blazers with Damian Lillard scoring 32 points with seven rebounds and nine assists.

Joel Embiid had 18 points as the Philadelphia 76ers won 126-104 over the Atlanta Hawks.

 

Wayward Nets

The Trail Blazers shot 16-from-36 beyond the arc, going at 44.4 per cent led by Damian Lillard's eight-from-13 but the Nets were far less productive from range. Brooklyn hit 13-from-41 beyond the arc, going at 31.7 per cent with Kyrie Irving only hitting two-from-eight.

 

Record-hunting Russell

Russell Westbrook moved within five triple-doubles of Oscar Robertson's all-time record as the Washington Wizards won 122-93 over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Westbrook had 15 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists.

 

Friday's results

Philadelphia 76ers 126-104 Atlanta Hawks
Boston Celtics 143-140 San Antonio Spurs 
Washington Wizards 122-93 Cleveland Cavaliers
Memphis Grizzlies 92-75 Orlando Magic
Portland Trail Blazers 128-109 Brooklyn Nets
Chicago Bulls - Milwaukee Bucks
Phoenix Suns - Utah Jazz
Los Angeles Lakers - Sacramento Kings

 

Nuggets at Clippers

Nikola Jokic's Denver Nuggets (42-21) make the trip to California to take on one of the West's best, the Los Angeles Clippers (43-21).

A wild game saw Giannis Antetokounmpo leave after less than one minute of play and Kevin Porter Jr. drop 50 points as the Houston Rockets won 143-136 over the Milwaukee Bucks. 

Milwaukee's Greek star left the game after just 46 seconds with a sprained right ankle suffered when he stepped on Kelly Olynyk's foot on a drive to the basket. 

Though Khris Middleton scored 33, Bryn Forbes a career-high 30 off the bench, and Jrue Holiday 29 for Milwaukee, it was not enough to overcome the loss of Antetokounmpo amid an unexpected scoring onslaught from the Rockets (16-47), who rallied after trailing by 17 in the first half.

The 20-year-old Porter poured in a career-high 50 and added 11 assists, becoming the fourth-youngest player in NBA history to score 50 in a game. Brandon Jennings, Devin Booker and LeBron James (twice) are the only younger players to do it. 

Porter's previous career high was 30 points, set last year as a rookie. 

Porter was not alone in his heroics, either, as Christian Wood added 31 points and Olynyk contributed 24 along with 13 rebounds. 

Despite the loss, the Bucks remain comfortably in the third slot in the Eastern Conference at 38-24 with 10 games to play.

 

Warriors fall to streaking Timberwolves

The Golden State Warriors watched their hopes of avoiding the play-in tournament continue to fade with a 126-114 loss at the suddenly hot Minnesota Timberwolves.

Ricky Rubio (26 points), Anthony Edwards (25) and Karl-Anthony Towns (22) combined to help Minnesota with their fourth successive game despite 37 points from Stephen Curry, who made only 11 of 27 from the field (six of 17 three-pointers). 

Golden State (31-32) are three games up on the New Orleans Pelicans for the 10th and final play-in spot but have little chance of finishing in the top six in the west. 

Kevin Durant scored 30 of his 42 points in the second half and added 10 assists as the Brooklyn Nets won their fourth game in a row, 130-113 over the Indiana Pacers. 

The Denver Nuggets also won their fourth in succession, beating the Toronto Raptors 121-111 behind 23 points from Michael Porter Jr. 

Tim Hardaway Jr. had a career-best 42 points in the Dallas Mavericks' 115-105 win over the Detroit Pistons.

 

Love struggles

The Oklahoma City Thunder went right back to their losing ways after snapping a 14-game skid on Tuesday, falling 109-95 to the New Orleans Pelicans while shooting just 38.2 per cent from the field as a team. Luguentz Dort was OKC's top scorer with 17 points. 

 

KAT to the hole

Karl-Anthony Towns brushed aside the Warriors defense to drive the lane for a jam in Minnesota's big win.

 

Thursday's results

Dallas Mavericks 115-105 Detroit Pistons
Brooklyn Nets 130-113 Indiana Pacers
Houston Rockets 143-136 Milwaukee Bucks
Minnesota Timberwolves 126-114 Golden State Warriors
New Orleans Pelicans 109-95 Oklahoma City Thunder
Denver Nuggets 121-111 Toronto Raptors

 

Jazz at Suns

With playoff berths already clinched, the top two teams in the Western Conference will jockey for the top seed as the Utah Jazz (45-17) visit the Phoenix Suns (44-18).

The Milwaukee Bucks are 'hopeful' that the ankle injury which forced Giannis Antetokounmpo out of Thursday's loss to the Houston Rockets early is not serious.

Antetokounmpo lasted less than one minute of the 143-136 loss to the Rockets after planting his right foot on Kelly Olynyk's foot as he drove forward, appearing to sprain his ankle.

The 26-year-old Greek forward knocked down one of two free-throws and tried to play on but quickly left the court and did not return in a worrying sign for the 38-24 Bucks ahead of the NBA playoffs.

Antetokounmpo already had a right ankle worry sustained in the Bucks' previous game against the Charlotte Hornets.

"I think we’re hopeful that it’s not serious," Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said.

"We’ll see how he responds to treatment tonight, treatment tomorrow, get an update at some point tomorrow.

"But I think we’re hopeful that it’s; well obviously he couldn’t play or finish, it’s not something significant or serious."

Giannis has missed nine games all season with knee and back injuries, with the Bucks going 5-4 without him.

The star-studded Brooklyn Nets clinched a place in the NBA playoffs after rallying past the lowly Toronto Raptors 116-103.

Nets superstar Kevin Durant posted 17 points – including seven in the fourth quarter – and 10 rebounds, while team-mate Jeff Green had 22 points as Brooklyn became the first team in the Eastern Conference to secure a postseason berth on Tuesday.

The Nets trailed 90-84 early in the final period but used a 16-2 run to seize control, with Durant sealing the result with a three-pointer less than two minutes from the end in Tampa, Florida.

Brooklyn (42-20) – riding a three-game winning streak – are one and a half games clear of the Philadelphia 76ers (40-21) in the east.

Damian Lillard reached a career milestone and Anfernee Simons made his first nine three-point attempts as the Portland Trail Blazers snapped a five-game losing streak with a 133-112 rout of the Indiana Pacers.

Simons became the first NBA player to open with nine in a row from beyond the arc since Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors hit 10 straight to start a January 2019 game. 

Portland's Simons did miss his final three-point attempt but still led the Trail Blazers (33-28) with 27 points off the bench as the team made 20 three-pointers overall. 

Lillard (23 points) hit only six of 14 from the field, but one of those shots was significant. His third of four three-pointers gave him 2,000 for his career, making him the 10th player in history to hit that mark. 

The All-Star achieved the feat in his 670th career game, second only to Stephen Curry's 597 among that group.

 

Doncic, Mavericks run away from Warriors

A meeting of NBA superstars fizzled as Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks roared past Curry and the Warriors in the first half on the way to a 133-103 blowout. Doncic had 39 points in only 28 minutes, adding eight assists and six rebounds to outplay Curry (27 points, two assists). Golden State led 12-11 early in the game, but Dallas scored the next 28 points to put it out of reach early. The Mavericks' 28-0 run was the longest since the New York Knicks did the same to the Raptors in November 2017. 

Two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo did it all for the Milwaukee Bucks, posting 29 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists in a 114-104 win against the Charlotte Hornets.

The Oklahoma City Thunder avoided unwanted history, snapping a 14-game skid by upstaging the Boston Celtics 119-115. A 15th consecutive loss would have set a franchise record for the Thunder, who were led by Luguentz Dort (24 points) and Darius Bazley (21 points and 10 rebounds). Jaylen Brown had 39 points and 11 rebounds for the Celtics.

 

Celtics crumble again

The Celtics fell to their third successive defeat as they try to avoid the Eastern Conference play-in tournament. Boston made only 19 of 55 shots from the field (34.5 per cent). The home loss dropped the Celtics (32-30) into a tie with the Miami Heat for sixth place. While Boston hold the tie-breaker advantage for now, the teams will face each other twice in the final five games of the season.

While the Nets clinched, Kyrie Irving struggled. The All-Star was just three-for-13 shooting, making just one of five three-pointers for nine points in 35 minutes.

 

Towns gets style points for Timberwolves

Karl-Anthony Towns led the Minnesota Timberwolves to their third win in a row with 31 points in a 114-107 victory over the Houston Rockets highlighted by a breakaway jam.

 

Tuesday's results

Oklahoma City Thunder 119-115 Boston Celtics
Milwaukee Bucks 114-104 Charlotte Hornets
Portland Trail Blazers 133-112 Indiana Pacers
Brooklyn Nets 116-103 Toronto Raptors
Minnesota Timberwolves 114-107 Houston Rockets
Dallas Mavericks 133-103 Golden State Warriors

 

Clippers at Suns

Two of the top three teams in the Western Conference meet on Wednesday as Paul George and the Los Angeles Clippers (43-20) face Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns (43-18).

Kevin Durant returned from injury and the Eastern Conference-leading Brooklyn Nets beat the Phoenix Suns 128-119.

Durant made his comeback on Sunday following a three-game absence due to a thigh contusion, the former NBA MVP posting 33 points off the bench.

Nets superstar Durant was 12-for-21 shooting, including two-for-three from three-point range, while tallying six rebounds, four assists and two steals in 28 minutes.

Kyrie Irving had 34 points (10-of-19 shooting) and 12 assists as the star-studded Nets – still without James Harden (hamstring) – improved to 41-20.

Devin Booker's 36 points and a Deandre Ayton double-double of 20 points and 13 rebounds were not enough for the high-flying Suns (42-18) in Brooklyn.

 

Wizards extend streak

The Washington Wizards claimed their eighth successive victory after topping the Cleveland Cavaliers 119-110. Bradley Beal scored 33 points, while Russell Westbrook added 14 points, 11 assists and five rebounds as the former MVP's triple-double run ended at four games. Washington are in the midst of their longest streak since December 2001, during Hall of Famer Michael Jordan's time with the franchise.

Two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 31 points and 14 rebounds, but the Milwaukee Bucks still lost 111-104 to the Atlanta Hawks. Bogdan Bogdanovic led the Hawks with 32 points, however, Lou Williams fuelled Atlanta down the stretch by scoring four three-pointers in the final seven minutes.

Double-doubles from Terry Rozier (21 points and 11 assists), P.J. Washington (22 points and 12 rebounds) and Cody Martin (13 points and 10 rebounds) inspired the Charlotte Hornets to a 125-104 victory at home to the Boston Celtics.

Stephen Curry's 37 points, seven rebounds and four assists helped the Golden State Warriors hold off the Sacramento Kings 117-113. Curry has scored at least 30 points for the 13th time in 14 games, his 30th 30-point display of the season.

 

Magic's season goes from bad to worse

Rookie Devin Cannady suffered a gruesome ankle injury as the short-handed and struggling Orlando Magic tasted a fifth consecutive defeat – beaten 131-112 by the Indiana Pacers. Cannady sustained an open fracture of his right ankle in the opening quarter after landing awkwardly.

Robert Covington was far from his best in the Portland Trail Blazers' 120-113 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. In 38 minutes, Covington missed all seven of his field goals, including 0-for-four from three-point range, as he finished with two points.

 

Curry goes deep

Another game, another long-range three. Curry nailed a three-point from just inside half court against the Kings in the opening quarter.

 

Sunday's results

Charlotte Hornets 125-104 Boston Celtics
Brooklyn Nets 128-119 Phoenix Suns
Memphis Grizzlies 120-113 Portland Trail Blazers
Washington Wizards 119-110 Cleveland Cavaliers
Atlanta Hawks 111-104 Milwaukee Bucks
Indiana Pacers 131-112 Orlando Magic
Golden State Warriors 117-113 Sacramento Kings

 

Thunder at 76ers

The Philadelphia 76ers (39-21) – second in the east – will look to arrest a four-game slump when they host the lowly Oklahoma City Thunder (20-40) on Monday.

DeMar DeRozan out-dueled Zion Williamson down the stretch to give the San Antonio Spurs a 110-108 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans. 

DeRozan scored nine of his 32 points in the final three minutes, bringing the visitors back from a late five-point deficit on Saturday. 

The Spurs star made all 12 of his free-throw attempts as San Antonio collectively went 27 of 32 (84.4 per cent) from the line. New Orleans, meanwhile, made only 17 of 32 (53.1 per cent). 

Williamson's ninth point of the 33 he would score gave him 2,000 for his career in just 79 games, which is 10th-fastest in NBA history. That marks the fewest games a player has needed to reach 2,000 points since Michael Jordan did it in his 73rd NBA game in 1985.

Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram added 24 points each for the Pelicans, but they could not overcome all of the missed free throws. 

  

Randle, Knicks win ninth in a row

Julius Randle had 31 points as the New York Knicks rolled past the Toronto Raptors 120-103 for their ninth consecutive win -- the longest streak for New York since they won 13 in a row in 2013. 

Bam Adebayo scored 20 points and added 10 assists as the Miami Heat defeated the Chicago Bulls to move within a half game of the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference. 

Rookie Anthony Edwards' 23 points and nine rebounds helped the Minnesota Timberwolves hand the Utah Jazz a rare loss in Salt Lake City, 101-96. Utah are now 26-4 at home this season. 

 

Sixers struggle to score

Playing without Joel Embiid, who missed the game with right shoulder soreness, the Philadelphia 76ers had only one starter score in double figures in a 132-94 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. Philadelphia made just 31 of 82 from the field (37.8 per cent) as Shake Milton and Tyrese Maxey led the scoring off the bench with 15 points each. Seth Curry paced the starters with 13 points. 

 

Luka gets the roll

The Dallas Mavericks trailed the Los Angeles Lakers by as many as 17 points on Saturday but stormed back in the fourth quarter thanks in part to Luka Doncic doing what Luka Doncic does.

 

Saturday's results

Milwaukee Bucks 132-94 Philadelphia 76ers
New York Knicks 120-103 Toronto Raptors
Indiana Pacers 115-109 Detroit Pistons
Miami Heat 106-101 Chicago Bulls
San Antonio Spurs 110-108 New Orleans Pelicans
Dallas Mavericks 108-93 Los Angeles Lakers
Minnesota Timberwolves 101-96 Utah Jazz
Denver Nuggets 129-116 Houston Rockets

 

Suns at Nets

An appealing match-up of guards is on tap Sunday as Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns (42-17) visit Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets (40-20). 

The Milwaukee Bucks have been the regular season pacesetters in the NBA's Eastern Conference in recent seasons, but they sit third heading into the closing stages of the 2020-21 campaign.

It is the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets who instead lead the way, tied with 39-20 records - 2.5 games clear of Milwaukee.

Yet the Sixers had first place outright prior to Thursday's game against the Bucks in which they failed to recover from a tough first quarter.

Philly do not have to wait long for revenge, though, with the two teams meeting once more at Fiserv Forum on Saturday.

MVP challenges are on the line as well as seedings in the East as two potential title contenders get prepared to go again.

TOP PERFORMERS

Joel Embiid - Philadelphia 76ers

Embiid was the MVP favourite until a knee injury at the start of March that forced him to miss almost a month of action.

He was averaging 29.9 points and 11.5 rebounds per game and the 76ers had a 24-7 record with him on the floor. They were 2-5 in the seven games Embiid missed prior to his extended lay-off.

The center returned earlier this month, seemingly with enough time to wrestle the top individual award back from Nikola Jokic, and he has since averaged 30.1 points, missing only a single game.

But the Sixers have now lost three in a row and Embiid's hopes appear to be fading after he was outshone by the reigning MVP.

Giannis Antetokounmpo - Milwaukee Bucks

It does not appear there will be a third MVP win in a row for Antetokounmpo after his momentum was checked by sitting six straight games.

But the 'Greek Freak' was back to his best against the 76ers, scoring a game-high 27 points, and can focus instead on a first title triumph in the postseason.

And Antetokounmpo feels playing a fellow challenger again on Saturday "prepares you for the playoffs".

"Playing teams back to back is awesome," he said.

"On Saturday, they're going to come out and they're going to play harder, they're going to try to execute. We've got to do the same. We've got to do exactly the same."

KEY BATTLE - SLOW START CAN SINK SIXERS

For the 76ers, "playing harder" will have to start from the tip-off. Their 14-point first-quarter deficit proved too significant against such a talented team.

As the Sixers missed one of the best defensive players in the league in Ben Simmons due to illness, Milwaukee firmly had the upper hand early on.

Philadelphia had no answer as they allowed 40 points, their second-worst mark in a first quarter this year. This came as the Bucks shot at 73.7 per cent from the field through 12 minutes, the best rate among the Sixers' 2020-21 opponents.

Jrue Holiday, a star on both ends, had seven of his 12 points in the first three minutes alone.

"That first quarter, they get every shot they wanted," Doc Rivers said. "We didn't offer any resistance."

HEAD TO HEAD

Thursday's game was the teams' second this season and the second Milwaukee victory after they won in overtime in March, again led by Antetokounmpo (32 points, 15 rebounds).

Antetokounmpo has averaged 20.8 points for his career but 22.6 against the 76ers, against whom he boasts a 19-5 record and posted a career-high 52 in 2019.

The Bucks have a 113-102 lead over Philadelphia all-time in the regular season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo felt the Milwaukee Bucks were "locked in" from the start after recording a fourth successive win over the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Bucks scored 77 points in the first half before holding off a 76ers fightback to triumph 124-117 in a battle between two of the leading contenders in the Eastern Conference.

Antetokounmpo led the way with 27 points, though the two-time NBA MVP had plenty of help from his colleagues. Khris Middleton had 24 points while Bobby Portis contributed 23 off the bench.

Milwaukee landed 20 of their 40 three-point attempts as a team, though Antetokounmpo was just as impressed with their efforts when not in possession of the ball.

"Guys were finding open guys, getting downhill, knocking down shots. Everybody set the tone from the start," Antetokounmpo told the media.

"From the start, you could see that everyone was locked in. Defensively also, we really seemed locked in.

"Offensively, we found one another and knocked down shots."

Joel Embiid had 24 points for the 76ers, though he landed just nine of his 21 shot attempts - including going 0-for-4 from three-point range.

Antetokounmpo praised the work done by Milwaukee center Brook Lopez when going up against Embiid, with the Bucks happy to let the MVP candidate take jump shots rather than work closer to the basket.

"Embiid is a great player, he's been playing well all season long," Antetokounmpo said.

"You've got to live with that jump shot. You don't want to send him to the free-throw line and you don't want him to get downhill, with his right hook, and get an easy lay-up.

"The gameplan was good - he was going to shoot his jump shot all night. If he makes it all night? Great. But if you don't make it, it's good for us.

"Brook did a great job on him, but he [Embiid] is a great player too."

Philadelphia head coach Doc Rivers felt his team - still without Ben Simmons due to an unspecified illness - paid the price for a slow start, insisting his team were "soft" defensively to allow Milwaukee to open up a commanding lead.

The 76ers hit back as they held their opponents to just 16 points in the fourth quarter, though in the end the gap proved just too big.

"Everybody seemed fatigued, not just Joel, I would love to say Joel played better than most of our guys tonight," Rivers said.

"I just felt like we were late on everything. We were soft tonight defensively. That first quarter, they get every shot they wanted. We didn't offer any resistance."

Los Angeles Lakers superstar Anthony Davis made his long-awaited return but the reigning NBA champions lost 115-110 to the Dallas Mavericks.

Davis had been sidelined since February 14 due to tendinosis and a calf strain in his right leg – the eight-time All-Star missed 30 games, the longest injury absence of his nine-year career.

But Davis stepped back onto the court on Thursday, finishing with four points on just two-for-10 shooting, four rebounds, one assist, one block and one steal in 17 minutes.

The Lakers – still without superstar LeBron James (ankle) – were led by Dennis Schroder (25 points and 13 assists), Andre Drummond (14 points and 19 rebounds) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (29 points) but fell short in Dallas.

Luka Doncic fuelled the Mavericks with 30 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.

 

Giannis tops Embiid and 76ers

Two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo put up 27 points on eight-for-15 shooting, 16 rebounds and six assists as the Milwaukee Bucks took down the slumping Philadelphia 76ers 124-117. It was his 41st 25/15/5 game, the most by a Bucks player since the three-point era (1980). No other Buck has more than four in that span. Milwaukee used a 40-26 opening quarter to hand the Eastern Conference-leading 76ers a third consecutive defeat. Joel Embiid had 24 points for the visiting 76ers.

The Boston Celtics upstaged the high-flying Phoenix Suns 99-86. Kemba Walker was inspirational, shooting 11-for-17 from the field for a game-high 32 points. Boston have won seven of their last eight games, beating Phoenix, the Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers, New York Knicks and Lakers.

Zion Williamson showcased his efficiency in the New Orleans Pelicans' 135-100 victory against the lowly Orlando Magic. The former number one pick had 23 points in 23 minutes on nine-for-12 shooting, while he made all five of his free-throw attempts.

 

Oh no, Okeke

It was a forgettable outing for Chuma Okeke and the Magic, who dropped their fourth straight game as they lost for the 23rd time in 28 appearances. In 29 minutes, Okeke made just one of his 12 field-goal attempts. He was 0-for-four from three-point range in a four-point performance.

Jalen McDaniels was just as bad for the Charlotte Hornets, tallying a mere three points on one-for-eight shooting as his team suffered a 106-91 defeat to the Chicago Bulls.

 

Satoransky slam!

There was no stopping Chicago's Tomas Satoransky as he powered his way to the rim emphatically in the fourth quarter.

 

Thursday's results:

Boston Celtics 99-86 Phoenix Suns
New Orleans Pelicans 135-110 Orlando Magic
Milwaukee Bucks 124-117 Philadelphia 76ers
San Antonio Spurs 106-91 Detroit Pistons
Chicago Bulls 106-91 Charlotte Hornets
Dallas Mavericks 115-110 Los Angeles Lakers

 

Celtics at Nets

The Celtics (32-27) will make the trip to face the Brooklyn Nets (39-20) on Friday. Brooklyn have the chance to reclaim the top seed in the Eastern Conference after Philadelphia's loss.

Stephen Curry lit up the Philadelphia 76ers with 49 points as the Golden State Warriors upstaged the Eastern Conference leaders 107-96.

Curry maintained his red-hot form in a red-breaking display in Philadelphia, where the two-time NBA MVP nailed 10 three-pointers to sink the 76ers on Monday.

The Warriors superstar became the first player to make 70-plus threes in a 10-game span on a memorable outing on the road.

Curry has more games with 40-plus points and 10-plus threes over the last eight days (four) than any other NBA player has had over their entire career, per Stats Perform.

Curry became the first player in NBA history aged 33 or older with 11 consecutive 30-plus point games, surpassing Kobe Bryant (10 straight in 2012).

After scoring 47 and 49 points, Curry is also the first player aged 33 or older with back-to-back 45-plus games since Hall of Famer Michael Jordan (51 and 45 in 2001).

Joel Embiid put up 28 points and 13 rebounds in the absence of fellow All-Star Ben Simmons, but the 76ers still had their four-game winning streak snapped.

 

Nuggets prevail in double OT thanks to Jokic

MVP favourite Nikola Jokic put on a show. He had 47 points – including the go-ahead three-pointer late in the second period of overtime – 15 rebounds and eight assists as the Denver Nuggets survived to beat the Memphis Grizzlies 139-137 after double OT.

Two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 33 points but the Milwaukee Bucks suffered an agonising 128-127 overtime loss to the in-form Phoenix Suns. Suns starters Devin Booker (24 points), Deandre Ayton (20 points and 13 rebounds) and Mikal Bridges (21 points) all impressed.

The NBA-leading Utah Jazz defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 111-97 behind Joe Ingles' 21 points on eight-of-11 shooting, while All-Star duo Mike Conley (14 points and 10 assists) and Rudy Gobert (14 points and 10 rebounds) contributed double-doubles.

Russell Westbrook had his 26th triple-double of the season – 13 points, 17 assists and 11 rebounds – as the Washington Wizards celebrated their fifth consecutive victory by downing the Oklahoma City Thunder 119-107.

A season-high 30 points from Kendrick Nunn fuelled the Miami Heat's 113-91 win over the Houston Rockets.

 

Bradley struggles

Avery Bradley has found it tough since arriving in Houston as part of the deal that sent Victor Oladipo to the Heat. He missed all three of his field-goal attempts – including two from beyond the arc – as he finished scoreless after 22 minutes.

George Hill made his debut for the 76ers. Acquired in a trade last month, Hill was one-for-five shooting for two points in 18 minutes. Philadelphia team-mate Shake Milton, usually a reliable scorer, finished with just five points on one-for-seven shooting off the bench.

The Thunder extended their season-worst losing streak to 11 games after going down to the Wizards in Washington.

 

CP3 – the playmaker!

Chris Paul was at his brilliant best again as the high-flying Suns edged the Bucks. Paul posted 22 points and 13 assists as the Suns star passed Magic Johnson for fifth on the all-time assists list.

 

Monday's results

Utah Jazz 111-97 Los Angeles Lakers
Detroit Pistons 109-105 Cleveland Cavaliers
Chicago Bulls 102-96 Boston Celtics
Golden State Warriors 107-96 Philadelphia 76ers
San Antonio Spurs 109-94 Indiana Pacers
Miami Heat 113-91 Houston Rockets
Washington Wizards 119-107 Oklahoma City Thunder
Phoenix Suns 129-127 Milwaukee Bucks (OT)
Denver Nuggets 139-137 Memphis Grizzlies (Double OT)

 

Nets at Pelicans

The Brooklyn Nets (38-19) will be without superstar pair Kevin Durant (thigh) and James Harden (hamstring) for Tuesday's trip to the New Orleans Pelicans (25-32).

The NBA ladder leading-Utah Jazz felt the absence of Donovan Mitchell as they lost 127-115 in over-time to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.

Mitchell hurt his ankle during the week and was unavailable for the clash against the Lakers who were missing injured pair LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Lakers center Andre Drummond dominated with 27 points, eight rebounds and three assists, while Dennis Schroder had 25 points, six rebounds and eight assists too.

The Jazz could have won the match in normal time when Jordan Clarkson's buzzer beater missed with scores locked at 110-110.

The Lakers ran away with it in over-time, but had a late injury scare with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who also had 25 points, clutching his right ankle.

The result improves the Lakers to 35-22, while the Jazz remain top of the West with a 42-15 record.

Giannis Antetokounmpo's Milwaukee Bucks stumbled to a 128-115 home loss to the surging Memphis Grizzlies.

The Grizzlies kept the Bucks at arm's length the whole match led by Grayson Allen who shot 26 points including seven-from-10 beyond the arc.

A fired-up Dillon Brooks had 21 points, six rebounds and four assists for Memphis, while Giannis had 28 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in a losing side.

 

Celtics edge shootout with Curry

Jayson Tatum won an All-Star shootout against Stephen Curry as the Boston Celtics edged the in-form Golden State Warriors 119-114.

Boston forward Tatum had 44 points and 10 rebounds, while Curry played a leading role for GSW with 47 points, including 11 three-pointers as well as seven rebounds and three assists.

Tatum had outstanding assistance from Kemba Walker, particularly in a tight final quarter, with 26 points and eight rebounds as the Celtics won their sixth straight.

Russell Westbrook had another triple-double with 15 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists while Bradley Beal made 37 points in the Washington Wizards' 121-100 win over the Detroit Pistons.

The Phoenix Suns were well beaten by the San Antonio Spurs 111-85, while Nikola Vucevic had 25 points in the Chicago Bulls' 106-96 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

 

Scary sideline spell

There was a scary incident late in the Warriors' loss to Boston when youngster Juan Toscano-Anderson threw himself at a loose ball, with his momentum seeing him bundling over the scorers' fence across tables and monitors. He lay injured for several minutes before eventually walking to the locker room aided, with a towel on his head.

 

Russell makes triple-double history

In-form Wizards guard Westbrook's triple-double made history as he became the first player in NBA history to have 15 in a 20-game span. 

 

Saturday's results

Los Angeles Lakers 127-115 Utah Jazz
Washington Wizards 121-100 Detroit Pistons
Chicago Bulls 106-96 Cleveland Cavaliers
Boston Celtics 119-114 Golden State Warriors
Memphis Grizzlies 128-115 Milwaukee Bucks
San Antonio Spurs 111-85 Phoenix Suns 

 

Nets in Miami

With Kevin Durant back, the Brooklyn Nets (38-18) make the trip to face the Miami Heat (28-28), although they will likely still be without the injured James Harden.

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