Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies and Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey both were forced to leave their respective games early on Friday after rolling their left ankles.

Morant's injury came late in the fourth quarter of a 121-110 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, immediately needing to be helped off the floor. He finished the game with 19 points on five-of-20 shooting and 11 assists.

After the game, Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins said his star point guard "tweaked his ankle" and that there will be no update until scans on Saturday. It is the same ankle he rolled last week that forced him to miss one game, while co-star Desmond Bane remains out for multiple weeks with a toe sprain.

Earlier in the day, Maxey hurt himself late in what was arguably the best half of his young career.

The third-year guard played nearly the entire first half as starters Tobias Harris and James Harden both were absent with their own injuries, putting up 24 points (nine-of-12 shooting), five assists and four rebounds with only one turnover.

He did not return in the second half as his team went on to lose to the Milwaukee Bucks 110-102. The initial X-ray was negative, meaning there will be an MRI scheduled for Saturday to determine the damage.

Ben Simmons says people underestimate how hard it is to return from back surgery following his first double-double in almost 18 months in the Brooklyn Nets' 109-107 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday.

Simmons, who was traded from the Philadelphia 76ers to the Nets in February, enjoyed his best scoring game since his switch, with 15 points along with 13 rebounds and seven assists in 32 minutes.

The double-double was the Australian's first in the NBA since June 14, 2021, having not played at all last season before undergoing back surgery in May.

The much-maligned Simmons has struggled for impact upon his return to playing this season, averaging 5.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.6 assists, but Thursday was a breakthrough.

"People make it seem like I had a sprained ankle or something," Simmons told reporters. "I had back surgery, that’s not easy to come back from.

"I take it day by day, I stay locked in, I stay focused and continue to build, myself, my body and my game."

Simmons has missed games this season due to injury and soreness, but he is building some momentum after making 11-of-13 from the field in his past two games, where he has posted double-digit scores.

"I'm coming," Simmons said with a grin. "I'm getting there, it's taking a little bit of time. My team-mates have got my back, my coaches."

Kevin Durant, who top scored for the Nets with 35 points, hailed the impact made by his team-mate Simmons.

"He was incredible tonight," Durant said. "I thought he did a good job of commanding the offense, commanding the team on the defensive side of the ball. He controlled the game and was able to get us back into it."

Simmons has been criticised for his free-throw shooting in the past but made three-of-four from the stripe, all coming in the final four minutes of the fourth quarter with the game up for grabs.

"We had no doubts when he walked up there," Durant said. "I felt like we all were confident, just how he was playing. I felt super confident when he went up there, so three-from-four, crunch time like that. That was key for us. We needed those.

"He shot them like he was confident. He ran back down the court like he knew they were going in. When he's playing aggressive like that, when he's downhill, he did it all for us tonight. I'm excited for him because this is the type of the game that we all needed to see.

"I think everybody else on the outside, basketball fans in general, was loving it and couldn’t wait to see this type of performance from him. We expect that from him every night."

Kawhi Leonard had a limited statistical impact in his latest return from a knee injury, but Los Angeles Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue was delighted with his movement and defensive output.

Leonard returned after 12 games out with stiffness in his surgically-repaired right knee as the Clippers beat the Detroit Pistons 96-91 on Thursday, scoring six points on two-of-eight field shooting with five rebounds and four assists.

The two-time NBA Finals MVP missed all of last season after rupturing his ACL in the 2021 playoffs, when the Clippers reached the Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history.

Leonard started and played 25 minutes against the Pistons, having only managed 21 minutes in both of his two games off the bench earlier this season before his 12-game absence.

"He looked pretty good as far as his movement," Lue told reporters, with the win improving the Clippers to 9-7. "His impact defensively is huge for us.

"With him on the floor, we're a different team. It gives us a sense of calmness when he has the ball in his hand."

Leonard's availability going forward will be determined day to day by how he is feeling, but the small forward was content to be back for now.

"It was good to be back," he said. "I felt good.

"It's going to be a long journey. ACL recovery isn't just one year. It's a two-year process."

Reggie Jackson, who top scored for the Clippers with 23 points, said Leonard's presence was a major boost for the side.

"It is going to take a second to figure it out," Jackson told ESPN. "We know his spots, we know the shots he wants to get. He got great looks tonight. The only thing he didn’t have tonight was rhythm.

"His ability to get to his spots, his ability to be great, he did amazing, he drew a lot of defense for us and made it easier for us to get some easy shots.

"He didn’t have it necessarily going the way that we're all accustomed to, but he was still very special for us tonight. Happy to have him back. Hopefully we can keep everybody healthy and get this rolling."

Royce O'Neale tipped in the game-winner with 0.7 seconds left as the Brooklyn Nets edged the Portland Trail Blazers 109-107 to improve their overall record to 7-9 on Thursday.

Kevin Durant, who finished with a game-high 35 points, missed his turn-around jumper but O'Neale was on hand with a tip-in to help the Nets snap their two-game skid.

Durant went 13-of-22 from the field with eight rebounds, three assists and a block, clocking up his 26,000th career NBA point along the way, becoming the 19th player to achieve that feat.

The Nets got strong contributions off the bench as Yuta Watanabe added 20 points with seven rebounds, while Ben Simmons had a double-double with 15 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists.

Game-winner O'Neale, who was in the starting line-up, had 11 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists for the game.

The victory comes after Durant's stinging public criticism of the Nets' starting quality in the continued absence of the suspended Kyrie Irving, who may return for Sunday's game with the Memphis Grizzlies.

Damian Lillard top scored for Portland, who fall to 10-5, with 25 points along with 11 assists. Anfernee Simons added 24 points and Jusuf Nurkic had 17, including a three-point play to tie the game up with 6.5 seconds to go.

Kawhi returns as Clippers shoot down Pistons

Kawhi Leonard had minimal impact on his return after 12 games out as the Los Angeles Clippers rallied from a 12-point deficit to win 96-91 over the Detroit Pistons.

Leonard scored six points with five rebounds and four assists after not playing since October 24 due to knee stiffness. The two-time NBA Finals MVP, who was in the starting lineup, shot two-of-eight from the field.

Reggie Jackson scored a team-high 23 points in a low-scoring game, while Ivica Zubac pulled down 18 rebounds with nine points.

Kings remain hot as Fox fires

The Sacramento Kings improved to 8-6 with their fifth straight victory, winning 130-112 over the San Antonio Spurs.

De'Aaron Fox scored a team-high 28 points on 11-of-15 shooting along with eight assists, while Malik Monk added 26 points off the bench. Spurs guard Devin Vassell top scored with 29 points, including four triples.

The Kings' five-game win streak is their first since the 2020-21 season, while it comes after they started the season 0-4, winning eight of their past 10 games.

Kevin Durant says the probable return of Kyrie Irving for the Brooklyn Nets' game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday will provide a "much-needed spark".

Irving will miss an eighth straight game because of a team-imposed suspension when the Nets take on the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday, in the final leg of their four-game road trip.

The seven-time All-Star guard was handed an indefinite team-imposed suspension without pay by the Nets, for at least five games, after he shared an allegedly anti-semitic film and book on social media last month.

The Nets, the NBA and the NBPA have worked together with Irving to remediate the situation, after Brooklyn initially laid out six prerequisites for the player. According to reports, a resolution is close, potentially in time for Sunday's game.

"It's exciting for everybody," Durant told reporters prior to Thursday's game. "I mean we miss 'Ky'. We miss his presence on the floor.

"I haven't talked to him since we've been on the road trip about it the last couple of days. But we're looking forward to his return to the team. Definitely gonna give us a much-needed spark."

The Nets, who are 6-9 overall, have gone 4-3 in Irving's absence, although they were blown out 153-121 by the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday, which was a franchise record for most points conceded.

Durant added that he was hopeful Irving's return would be soon but said he had not been briefed on where the process is at.

"I don't know the details about everything that's going on to be honest," Durant said. "I should know, I guess, because I'm part of the team.

"But I've been totally focused on the road trip. Once we get back home, I'm sure that stuff will figure itself out. Hopefully it's soon, that's all that I can say."

Kawhi Leonard is on the brink of a Los Angeles Clippers return, having been listed as questionable for Thursday's game against the Detroit Pistons.

Leonard had previously been listed as out, having not played since October 24, dating back 12 games due to stiffness in his surgically-repaired right knee. 

The 31-year-old small forward missed all of last season after rupturing his ACL during the 2021 playoffs.

Leonard played 21 minutes in each of his two games this season, averaging 12.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists.

The Clippers, who are 8-7, have also listed All-Star Paul George (left-hand contusion) as questionable for the Pistons game.

Kevin Durant lamented the weakness of the Brooklyn Nets' roster after their struggles continued against the Sacramento Kings, saying the team's poor form should surprise no one. 

The Nets sit adrift of the Eastern Conference's Playoff and Play-In Tournament spots with a 6-9 record for the season, having slipped to a demoralising 153-121 defeat against the Kings on Tuesday.

The team have also been plagued by off-court concerns this campaign, with guard Kyrie Irving having been suspended after sharing offensive material on social media.

Durant requested a trade ahead of the campaign, and he remains concerned about the Nets' lack of forward momentum, adding that expectations must be tempered with their current roster.

"I had some complaints in the summer, and my complaints were not about just me; it was about how we are moving as a unit," he told Bleacher Report.

"I want us to be respected out here in the basketball world. I don't want players to look at us and say, 'Oh man, they are full of s***. That's not the type of team I want to be on.

"So when we're all playing like s***, you know the one person they're going to look at. That's why I requested a trade.

"Look at our starting lineup. Edmond Sumner, Royce O'Neale, Joe Harris, [Nic] Claxton and me. It's not disrespect, but what are you expecting from that group?

"You expect us to win because I'm out there. So if you're watching from that lens, you're expecting us to play well because number seven is out there."

The Nets next travel cross-country to face the Portland Trail Blazers, before returning home to host the Memphis Grizzlies.

 

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr says the defending champions are playing "scattered" basketball after slumping to their eighth straight road loss to open the 2022-23 season.

The Warriors were brushed aside by the Phoenix Suns 130-119 on Wednesday, leaving Golden State with a 6-9 record, and their first 0-8 road record to start since the 1989-90 season.

Golden State's road start is the worst ever by a defending champion in NBA history. The eight-game losing run is also a tie for third for longest road streak by a defending champion in their title-defense season.

"What we have to do is stay with it and find it," Kerr told reporters. "In order to find it, we've got to get everybody on board, on the same page in terms of just worrying about winning and that's it.

"Right now, we're just scattered. It's a pick-up game. It's a pick-up game out there. There's no execution at either end. There's no commitment to the group to get three stops in a row to execute on offense.

"It obviously starts with me. I'm the coach of the team. I have to figure out a way to get that production, that sort of commitment to the team and each other and to winning.

"There's no collective grit. We lack grit right now. When you don't have grit, the game is really easy for the other team... It’s a Drew League game. We’re playing a Drew League game right now.”

The Warriors continue to struggle defensively, having allowed 124.3 points per game on the road this season, which is the worst in the NBA.

Phoenix were the sixth Golden State opponent to score 120 or more points in their 15 games this season.

"I think we're feeling sorry for ourselves and no one is going to feel sorry for us," Kerr added. "Everyone can't wait to play us and kick our a***. We've had a lot of success and a lot of fun and joy beating people over the years and teams don’t forget that."

Stephen Curry was a lone hand on offense, scoring 50 points including making seven-of-11 from beyond the arc, but the Warriors' bench only added 17 points collectively.

"It's not about stats. Steph could probably go and score 75 if he wanted," Kerr said. "I think it's not about numbers. Steph played well, and nobody else did. It's about the team, it's about the commitment. That's what makes basketball special and this team special over the years."

Stephen Curry scored 50 points but could not prevent the Golden State Warriors' winless road run from extending to eight games after a 130-119 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday.

The defeat means the Warriors are 0-8 on the road this season, and slump to 6-9 in the 2022-23 campaign, which is a tie for fourth worst 15-game start to a season by an NBA champion.

Golden State's 0-8 road start is the worst ever by a defending champion in NBA history. The eight-defeat run is also a tie for third for longest road losing streak by a defending champion in their title-defense season.

The Warriors' defense was an issue once again, having allowed 124.3 points per game on the road this season which is the worst in the NBA. The Warriors' opponents have scored 120 or more points six times in 15 games this season.

The Suns improved to 9-5, with point guard Cameron Payne top scoring with 29 points including six three-pointers alongside Devin Booker with 27 points. Mikal Bridges added 23 points with five triples along with eight rebounds and nine assists.

Phoenix, who were without Cameron Johnson (knee), Chris Paul (heel) and Jae Crowder, knocked down a season-high 21 three-pointers, which is the most allowed by the Warriors this season, shooting at 52.5 per cent from beyond the arc.

Curry posted 50 points on 17-of-28 field shooting with seven-of-11 from three-point range with nine rebounds and six assists. Klay Thompson added 19 points but the Warriors' bench combined for only 17 points.

Celtics extend winning run to eight games

The short-handed Boston Celtics secured their eighth straight win with a 126-101 victory over the Atlanta Hawks where seven players scored double digits for the winners.

Jayson Tatum had a career-high six assists in the first quarter and finished the game with 19 points, with seven rebounds and eight assists, while Jaylen Brown top scored for Boston with 22 points. Derrick White dished off 10 assists and Al Horford hauled down 11 rebounds.

During the Celtics' eight-game win streak, they have the NBA's best offensive efficiency (123.2), three-point field goals made (16.4) and assists-turnovers ratio (2.3).

SGA comes up clutch again for OKC

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored an equal career-high 42 points, including draining a last-gasp three-pointer to lift the Oklahoma City Thunder past the Washington Wizards 121-120.

Bradley Beal had hit a two-pointer to put the Wizards up 120-118 with 6.1 seconds left, but Gilgeous-Alexander, who scored 19 points in the third quarter, had time to hit a step-back triple with 1.1 seconds remaining.

Over the last two seasons, Gilgeous-Alexander has scored four go-ahead or game-tying field goals in the final five seconds, which is more than any other player in the NBA. Nine players have two.

All-Star guard Luka Doncic will miss a game for the first time this season with the Dallas Mavericks resting him for Wednesday's clash with the 2-12 Houston Rockets.

Doncic opened the season with nine-straight 30-point games for the Mavs, second only to Wilt Chamberlain's 23-game all-time record from 1962-63.

The Slovenian played 40 minutes and scored 35 points in Tuesday's narrow 103-101 win over the Los Angeles Clippers where they had blown a 25-point lead.

Doncic is the NBA's scoring leader this season, averaging 34.4 points per game on 49.7 per cent field shooting, with 30 points or more in all but two of the 8-5 Mavericks' 13 games.

The 23-year-old's previous season-best average was 28.8 points per game in the 2019-20 season, his second year in the NBA.

Doncic is also averaging 8.8 rebounds, 7.8 assists and 2.1 steals per game this season.

Dallas' upcoming opponents, Houston, have the NBA's worst record and enter on a three-game losing run.

The Portland Trail Blazers pulled out a 117-110 home win against the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday to bring their record to 9-4, having finally constructed a winning formula around centrepiece Damian Lillard.

While their defense was nothing special against the Spurs – winning despite allowing the visitors to shoot 51.8 per cent from the field – they are currently rated as the seventh-best defense in the league.

Having ranked 29th out of 30 teams in defensive rating last season, giving up an average of 116.3 points per 100 possessions, it was the continuation of a three-year stretch as one of the league's worst defenses. They were also 29th in the 2020-21 season (115.3) and 27th in the 2019-20 campaign (114.3).

Across those three seasons, the Trail Blazers put together a combined record of 104-124 and were floundering, despite the presence of arguably the franchise's greatest ever player, Lillard, still in his prime.

Lillard has career averages of 24.7 points and 6.6 assists per game, and at that pace he will pass Clyde Drexler as the franchise's all-time leading scorer in 12 games, as he trails by 279 points.

This season, with the addition of big wing Jerami Grant – who has averaged at least 19.2 in each of his past two seasons with the Detroit Pistons – as well as last season's arrival of jack-of-all-trades Josh Hart from the New Orleans Pelicans, and all of a sudden the Blazers may have surrounded Lillard with the best defensive cast of his career.

They now boast a 109.9 defensive rating in a year when scoring is up league-wide. 

The last time they managed a defensive rating below 110 was the 2018-19 season, where their mark of 109.5 had them 16th, but they were solid enough to give Lillard and his brilliance a chance to win them games.

That 2018-19 season was Lillard's deepest playoff run, making it to the Western Conference Finals. They had C.J. McCollum as their second scorer back then, but now have a two-pronged punch behind Lillard with Grant and 23-year-old Anfernee Simons.

Simons was the 24th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft after choosing a non-traditional route to the league, opting against playing any college or professional basketball, instead training at the famed IMG Academy.

After only playing sparingly in his first three seasons, Simons raised his average from 7.8 points per game in the 2020-21 season to 17.3 last campaign, starting 30 games as Lillard missed extended time through injuries.

He has again taken a leap this year, posting career-highs in points (22.3), assists (4.1) and made three-pointers (3.8).

As much as anything, this is a Trail Blazers team that finally makes sense when building around a star player and second-scorer who are both small guards. They have flanked them with two strong wing defenders in the starting line-up, and have committed to using a physically imposing bench brigade.

Against the Spurs, the four players to come off the bench were Nassir Little, who is a stocky six-foot-five, as well as long-armed six-foot-six rookie Shaedon Sharpe, six-foot-eight Trendon Watford and six-foot-nine Drew Eubanks.

They all have one thing in common – they know their job is to defend, and make Lillard's life as easy as possible on that end of the floor.

Lillard is still undoubtedly at a level required to lead a team deep into the playoffs, and now, in his 11th season, after years of calls for him to leave Portland and head to a powerhouse where he could be more widely seen and appreciated, he may finally have a team capable of coming along for the ride.

Dallas Mavericks MVP hopeful Luka Doncic has always given the Los Angeles Clippers nightmares, and Tuesday was more of the same in a 103-101 home win.

Of the 30 NBA teams, only the Detroit Pistons have felt Doncic's wrath more than the Clippers, averaging 32.4 points in five games against Detroit, and 31.7 per game in a healthier 13-game sample size against Los Angeles.

That number went up again after the 23-year-old Slovenian sensation dropped a game-high 35 points on 11-of-22 shooting, adding 11 rebounds, five assists, three steals and the game-sealing three-pointer.

Leading 99-98 with 30 seconds remaining, Doncic gathered a loose-ball and drilled a deep three to jump ahead by four, putting the game to bed.

While Doncic was clearly the best player on the floor for the Mavericks – scoring over 30 points for the 11th time in 13 games this season – starting wing Dorian Finney-Smith was just as important to the final result, drilling a red-hot seven-of-13 threes to chip in 21 points.

For the Clippers, Paul George was not bad on the surface, posting 23 points (seven-of-13 shooting), seven rebounds and six assists, but he committed a career-high 10 turnovers after never having more than eight in his previous 859 games.

Brunson, Reddish get it done for the Knicks

After a scorching 10-3 start to the season, the Utah Jazz have now lost their past three games after going down 118-111 at home against the New York Knicks.

Knicks starting point guard Jalen Brunson was game's most valuable player, scoring 25 points on 10-of-20 shooting with eight assists and three steals, and it was another terrific showcase from Cam Reddish.

Fresh off his season-high 26 points during the Knicks' last time out, Reddish was awarded his fifth start of the campaign after starting no games last season. 

He repaid the faith with another efficient showing, scoring 19 points on seven-of-13 shooting as he begins to fulfill the potential that saw him rated as one of the best prospects in the world heading into his draft year.

Kings score 153 points in regulation

The Sacramento Kings put up the biggest score in the league this season with a 153-121 drubbing of the Brooklyn Nets, scoring at least 36 points in every quarter.

It is eight points more than Oklahoma City in second place, after their 145-135 victory against the New York Knicks on Sunday.

They shot 60.2 per cent from the field (56-of-93), 48.8 per cent from long range (20-of-41) and had seven players in double-figures, led by Terence Davis off the bench with 31 (12-of-16 shooting).

It was the first time this season Ben Simmons has scored at least 10 points, finishing with 11, five rebounds, three assists and a steal in 20 minutes off the Nets bench.

The New Orleans Pelicans were missing offensive force Zion Williamson, but head coach Willie Green was ecstatic with the contributions he got from up-and-down his roster in their 113-102 home win against the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday.

C.J. McCollum assumed primary scorer responsibilities, dropping a team-high 30 points on 11-of-23 shooting while adding nine assists, and he was not alone in having a strong game.

Brandon Ingram was his usual efficient self with 19 points on seven-of-14 shooting, while second-year wing Trey Murphy III made the most of his starting opportunity by showcasing his deep range, hitting three-of-six three-pointers and finishing a big contested dunk.

NBA All-Defensive team shoo-in Herbert Jones scored more than half of his shots and defended all five positions, and their bench was also excellent.

Larry Nance Jr showcased his skills with 19 points (eight-of-10), seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks, backup point guard Jose Alvarado had 12 points (five-of-11) and six assists, and rookie Dyson Daniels continued to impress.

The 19-year-old, who was selected eighth overall, grabbed a team-high nine rebounds with a steal and a block in 17 minutes, earning praise from his head coach.

"[Daniels] and Herb [Jones] give you a comfort level when they're out on the floor," Green said. "He's only 19, but he doesn't play like it.

"He's been working. He stays in the gym working on his shot, he understands the game at a high level.

"We all feel comfortable putting him on the floor. I'm super excited about what he did tonight, and what he'll continue to do in the future."

Despite Williamson missing the game, Green opted to play starting centre Jonas Valanciunas only 13 minutes, telling reporters that he feels general manager David Griffin has assembled the weapons to give him the luxury to sit such an important piece based on matchups.

"It was a tough matchup game for 'JV'," he said. "Steven Adams played 13 minutes, JV played 13 minutes, so we had those guys matched up against each other.

"This was more of a smaller game, smaller fours and fives who are moving around, cutting, playing with force and pace. We tried to match their team in that way – it's something we've been working on.

"That's what the game is coming down to, guys who can play multiple positions, can handle the ball, can defend, can shoot the three-ball at a high clip,

"We put guys on the floor that can do all of those things – I'm thankful I get to coach this team. [Our front office] has done an amazing job of continuing to build our roster.

"Sky's the limit, we'll continue to build from here, but definitely grateful."

The Denver Nuggets' reigning back-to-back league MVP Nikola Jokic has entered the league's health and safety protocols, ruling him out of Wednesday's game against the New York Knicks.

Jokic, 27, is averaging a career-high 8.9 assists per game to go with his 20.8 points and 9.5 rebounds, helping the Nuggets to a 9-4 record through their first 13 games.

Having won five of their past six games, the Nuggets will be without Jokic and second-year talent Bones Hyland, who is also in health and safety protocols.

They will have to clear the league's guidelines before being able to return to the floor, with a maximum of 10 days before they are automatically cleared.

The Nuggets head away from home to take on the Dallas Mavericks on both Friday and Sunday, before returning home to face the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday.

Memphis Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane will be out for up to three weeks with a toe injury.

Bane did the damage to his right big toe during a 114-103 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves at FedExForum last Friday.

The Grizzlies on Tuesday revealed Bane will be sidelined for at least a fortnight.

A statement released by the franchise said: "After further evaluation, it was determined that Memphis Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane suffered a Grade 2 sprain of his right big toe during the November 11 game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Bane will be re-evaluated in 2-3 weeks."

Bane is averaging a career-high 24.7 points, 4.8 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game for Memphis in an impressive season to date.

The Grizzlies are fourth in the Western Conference at 9-5 ahead of a meeting with the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday.

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