James Harden believes "being aggressive the entire game" was key for his starring role as the Brooklyn Nets held off the New York Knicks on Tuesday.

The Nets went down 107-113 to the Phoenix Suns on Saturday but bounced back with a tight 112-110 victory over the Knicks at the Barclays Center.

Harden struggled in the defeat to the Suns, converting just four of 16 attempted field goals, while registering seven turnovers and going none-for-six from three-point range.

However, the 2018 MVP recovered by delivering his third 30-point game of the season – finishing with 34 – as he recorded a double-double with 10 rebounds, eight assists and three steals.

The 32-year-old, who has had to deal with lingering hamstring strains since last season, credited a pre-game talk with Hall of Famer Reggie Miller for his dominant performance.

"Reggie's the one that got me going," Harden told reporters at the post-game news conference. "Ultimate confidence, ultimate 'best player in the league'-type vibe. 

"That mindset. He just hit me with some good motivation before the game – something I needed."

Brooklyn coach Steve Nash called for Harden to adopt an attacking mindset all the time prior to the meeting with the Knicks and was subsequently granted his wish.

Asked what had changed for Harden to dominate, the shooting guard responded: "Yeah, just being aggressive. Being aggressive. That's the only thing every night is my aggressiveness. I've just got to continue that.

"Just not thinking about anything but being aggressive the entire game. The second half was a little different, but we had guys get going. 

"Patty [Mills] started that second half off hot, Kevin [Durant] got going a little bit, so I was just aggressive. That's the mindset for four quarters."

Durant also chipped in with 27 points, 21 of those coming in the second half, and nine assists while crucially finding an open lane for James Johnson, whose last-gasp free throws secured the decisive two-point lead.

Durant's late show rallied the Nets to victory and the 33-year-old insisted he wants to play every available minute for Nash's side.

"I want to play for 48 minutes," Durant said. "That's just what it is. And I know a lot of people — I don't even know if they're concerned or not. 

"It's just a conversation to have. I'm playing more minutes and I'm coming off an injury and all this other stuff, but I like to play, and if I can convince coach to play me the whole second half sometimes and put me in earlier in quarters, I'm going to do it. 

"It doesn't matter. My basketball life is not that long, so I'm going to get the most out of it."

The Phoenix Suns have tied their franchise record 17 consecutive wins and moved level with the Golden State Warriors at the top of the table by beating them in a 104-96 win on Tuesday.

The Suns' record-equalling win came without Devin Booker who suffered a left hamstring injury in the second quarter and did not return.

Deandre Ayton top scored with 24 points along with 11 rebounds while veteran guard Chris Paul had 15 points and 11 assists, but Phoenix's defense was critical to the win.

The Warriors only managed 61 points after quarter-time, with Stephen Curry and Draymond Green finishing the game with only 12 and eight points respectively.

Golden State had a season-high 22 turnovers, with Paul having five steals and Mikal Bridges also registering four steals.

The result means the Suns and Warriors both have 18-3 records across the season and will meet again on Friday.

 

Harden finds his groove

James Harden had his third 30-point game for the season, finishing with 34 points as the Brooklyn Nets won 112-110 over the New York Knicks. Harden had a double-double with 10 rebounds, eight assists and three steals, while Kevin Durant contributed 27 points and nine assists.

Top draft pick Cade Cunningham registered a career-high 26 points including five three-pointers as the Detroit Pistons lost to the Portland Trail Blazers 110-92.

In the absence of Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr and Desmond Bane scored 25 and 23 points respectively  to lead the Memphis Grizzlies past the Toronto Raptors 98-91.

 

Kings struggle from range

The Sacramento Kings only managed six triples for the entire game as they were beaten by the Los Angeles Lakers, without LeBron James, 117-92. Shooting guard Terence Davis went zero-for-four from beyond the arc. Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook had 25 and 23 points respectively in James' absence, after he entered the NBA's health and safety protocols prior to tip-off.

The Phoenix Suns have tied their franchise record 17 consecutive wins and moved level with the Golden State Warriors at the top of the table by beating them in a 104-96 win on Tuesday.

The Suns' record-equalling win came without Devin Booker who suffered a left hamstring injury in the second quarter and did not return.

Deandre Ayton top scored with 24 points along with 11 rebounds while veteran guard Chris Paul had 15 points and 11 assists, but Phoenix's defense was critical to the win.

The Warriors only managed 61 points after quarter-time, with Stephen Curry and Draymond Green finishing the game with only 12 and eight points respectively.

Golden State had a season-high 22 turnovers, with Paul having five steals and Mikal Bridges also registering four steals.

The result means the Suns and Warriors both have 18-3 records across the season and will meet again on Friday.

 

Harden finds his groove

James Harden had his third 30-point game for the season, finishing with 34 points as the Brooklyn Nets won 112-110 over the New York Knicks. Harden had a double-double with 10 rebounds, eight assists and three steals, while Kevin Durant contributed 27 points and nine assists.

Top draft pick Cade Cunningham registered a career-high 26 points including five three-pointers as the Detroit Pistons lost to the Portland Trail Blazers 110-92.

In the absence of Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr and Desmond Bane scored 25 and 23 points respectively  to lead the Memphis Grizzlies past the Toronto Raptors 98-91.

 

Kings struggle from range

The Sacramento Kings only managed six triples for the entire game as they were beaten by the Los Angeles Lakers, without LeBron James, 117-92. Shooting guard Terence Davis went zero-for-four from beyond the arc. Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook had 25 and 23 points respectively in James' absence, after he entered the NBA's health and safety protocols prior to tip-off.

The New York Knicks have removed struggling star Kemba Walker from the rotation, head coach Tom Thibodeau announced on Monday.

Walker joined the Knicks on a two-year, $20million contract at the start of the season after being bought out by the Oklahoma City Thunder following a trade from the Boston Celtics.

The four-time All-Star, who struggled to reach his lofty heights with the Celtics, has been averaging career lows in points (11.7), assists (3.1), rebounds (2.6), field-goal attempts per game (9.8) and minutes per game (24.5).

Not only has Walker been removed from the starting line-up, but the 31-year-old guard is also not part of the rotation heading into Tuesday's clash with crosstown rivals the Brooklyn Nets.

"It's a tough decision to make, but you always have to do what you think is best for the team," Thibodeau told reporters, with the Knicks turning to Alec Burks.

"I view Kemba as a starter, and so it'd be tough to play three small guards together. I gave it consideration, and I've got great respect for who Kemba is as a person and all he's accomplished in this league.

"But I have to do what I think is best for the team."

The Knicks have struggled for form since ending their playoff drought last season, 11-9 in 2021-22 – three games behind the Eastern Conference-leading Nets and one ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers in 11th position.

The Phoenix Suns extended their winning streak to 16 games on Saturday with a 113-107 victory over the Brooklyn Nets, who gave up 20 turnovers for the game.

The Nets coughed up 15 turnovers in the first half alone as the Suns claimed an early lead and were never headed, led by Devin Booker (30 points and four assists) and Chris Paul (22 points, eight rebounds and five assists).

James Harden managed a triple-double but it was far from his best game with seven turnovers while only scoring 12 points, going zero-of-four from beyond the arc. Harden also had 13 rebounds and 14 assists.

Kevin Durant top scored for the Nets with 39 points along with nine rebounds, seven assists and four steals but also had five turnovers.

The Suns can equal their franchise record winning streak when they face the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday. Phoenix's 17-3 mark for the season is their best record through 20 games since 2004-05.

 

Embiid returns with a bang

Joel Embiid scored 42 points and had 14 rebounds on his return after nine games out due to COVID-19 protocols but could not lift the sliding Philadelphia 76ers to victory, going down 121-120 to the Minnesota Timberwolves in double over-time. Embiid had a shot to win the game but was blocked by Anthony Edwards on the buzzer.

Luka Doncic scored 33 points with 10 assists as the Dallas Mavericks were beaten 120-114 by the Washington Wizards with Bradley Beal hitting 26 points. The Wizards improve to 13-7.

Houston Rockets center Christian Wood had a huge game with 33 points and 16 rebounds as his side defeated the Charlotte Hornets 146-143 in over-time.

 

Randle loses his handle

Julius Randle only managed eight points, shooting three-of-14 from the field as the New York Knicks beat the Atlanta Hawks 99-90.

The Phoenix Suns are closing in on a franchise record after celebrating a 15th successive win with a 118-97 victory against the New York Knicks in the NBA.

Last season's Finals runners-up, the Suns are two victories away from equalling their all-time consecutive win streak of 17 games thanks to Friday's triumph – Phoenix won 17 straight games in 2006-07.

Devin Booker fuelled the red-hot Suns with 32 points at Madison Square Garden, Chris Paul (14 points and 10 assists) and Deandre Ayton (14 points and 13 rebounds) contributed double-doubles on the road.

Reigning Western Conference champions the Suns boast a 16-3 record this season, a mark only bettered by rivals the Golden State Warriors (17-2).

 

 

Warriors win again

The Warriors extended their winning streak to six games by topping the Portland Trail Blazers 118-103. Stephen Curry led Golden State with 32 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, while the two-time MVP surpassed Scottie Pippen for 62nd place on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Draymond Green put up 12 points and 12 assists.

The Los Angeles Lakers lost a wild game against the Sacramento Kings, outlasted 141-137 following triple overtime. Not even Russell Westbrook's triple-double (29 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds) or LeBron James' 30 points and 11 assists could lift the Lakers in LA.

Defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Nikola Jokic-less Denver Nuggets 120-109 behind Giannis Antetokounmpo's 24 points and 13 rebounds. By topping the depleted Nuggets, the Bucks made it six straight victories.

 

Jazz stunned in Salt Lake City

The lowly New Orleans Pelicans shocked the Utah Jazz 98-97 courtesy of Devonte' Graham's go-ahead three-pointer with 1.9 seconds remaining on the road.

The Los Angeles Clippers defeated the struggling Detroit Pistons 107-96, but it was a rough outing for star Paul George, who was just five-for-19 shooting in a 12-point display. Number one draft pick Cade Cunningham, meanwhile, finished with 10 points having made only three of his 13 shots from the field.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Porzingis achieves career first as Mavs win

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

 

Denver's slide continues as Jokic sits out again

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

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

Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis said he was surprised by the NBA's decision to ban superstar team-mate LeBron James for the elbow that sparked wild scenes against the Detroit Pistons on Sunday.

James jostled with Pistons center Isaiah Stewart at a free throw, with the four-time MVP's left elbow connecting with the latter's face, leaving him bleeding from his right eye and incensed.

Stewart initially appeared calm but lost control, repeatedly charging at James for retribution on court, having to be restrained by team-mates and coaches in Detroit's 121-116 defeat.

The Pistons big man was handed a two-game suspension for his actions, but James was also slapped with a one-game ban for the first time in his illustrious 19-year NBA career after "recklessly hitting Stewart in the face and initiating an on-court altercation".

"I was surprised," Davis told reporters after the Lakers went down 106-100 to the New York Knicks without James on Tuesday.

"I didn't think he was gonna get suspended. I don't think anyone thought he was gonna be suspended to be honest.

"It was an accident. He accidentally hit him in the face. The report came out and said his hit to the face caused an incident. He can't control how a guy is going to react.

"Guys get hit in the face all the time, we're saying that caused the incident? I get hit in my face, I probably won't hit anyone. If I go off and do all that, does the other guy get suspended? It was strange but nothing we can do about it."

Davis had his own drama on Tuesday, making a mad dash to arrive at Madison Square Garden less than an hour before tip-off due to illness, playing 34 minutes for 20 points, six rebounds and three assists.

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said Davis seemed a "little bit drained" although the NBA champion refused to blame that for the defeat which left the franchise 9-10.

"I don't use my illness as an excuse," Davis said. "I go out there and give it my all. I think we were tied in the fourth. we missed some shots."

After the Lakers fell short despite Russell Westbrook's triple-double, Davis added: "I just woke up not feeling well. Headache, flu symptoms, coughing, fever, body aching, everything. I was in my hotel waiting for my fever to break.

"It was a low-grade fever. I couldn't leave until my fever broke. My fever broke, got in the car and shot straight here. [I arrived] 46-48 minutes from the game clock. I got in and did as much as I can treatment wise, got dressed, went out to play."

The Los Angeles Lakers overturned a 17-point deficit and a chaotic third-quarter brawl which led to LeBron James' ejection to trump the lowly Detroit Pistons 121-116.

James was ejected after an elbow to the eye of Pistons center Isaiah Jackson, who reacted angrily, leading to a wild melee in Detroit on Sunday.

Jackson repeatedly charged at James and had to be restrained by team-mates and coaches. Both players were ejected, with the latter's elbow deemed a flagrant 2 foul.

The Lakers were trailing by 12 points at the time of the incident early in the third quarter, before Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis led a rally on the road.

Westbrook (26 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds) had 15 points, six assists and five rebounds in a final period dominated by the visiting Lakers 37-17.

Davis had 30 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, five blocks and four steals – the star becoming the first Laker with a 30/10/5/3/5 game since Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal in 2001.

James, in his second game back after an abdominal injury laid him off for two and a half weeks, played 21 minutes for 10 points and five assists before his ejection as the Lakers improved to 9-0 for the season.

Number one draft pick Cade Cunningham registered his first career triple-double for the Pistons with 13 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.

 

Suns maintain hot streak

The Phoenix Suns recorded their 12th straight win as Cam Johnson had a career-high and game-high 22 points off the bench, including four triples in a 126-97 rout of the Denver Nuggets, who were without MVP Nikola Jokic (shoulder) for the second successive game. Chris Paul (nine points and 10 assists) has had 47 games with 10-plus assists and 0 turnovers since entering the league in 2006. He has the most such games since 1985.

Paul George hauled the Los Angeles Clippers past the Luka Doncic-less Dallas Mavericks 97-91 with 29 points and six assists. The Mavs were still without Luka Doncic (knee/ankle).

DeMar DeRozan scored 31 points in the Chicago Bulls' 109-103 victory over the New York Knicks. Julius Randle posted 34 points for the beaten Knicks, who led entering the final quarter.

 

Mild Curry returns

Stephen Curry returned from a minor hip issue but was well down on his usual output with only 12 points, making two of 10 field-goal attempts and one of six beyond the arc in the Golden State Warriors' 119-104 triumph over the Toronto Raptors.

Giannis Antetokounmpo's monster performance helped the Milwaukee Bucks top the Orlando Magic 117-108 in the NBA on Saturday.

Antetokounmpo posted 32 points and collected 20 rebounds to fuel the NBA champions at home to the lowly Magic in Milwaukee.

The Finals MVP became the fifth player to reach 32 points, 20 rebounds, five assists, two steals and three blocks in a game over the past 40 season, following in the footsteps of DeMarcus Cousins, Tim Duncan, David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon.

Bobby Portis added a season-high 24 points along with 15 rebounds as the streaking Bucks (9-8) celebrated their third consecutive victory.

 

 

Lillard leads Blazers

Damian Lillard had a season-high 39 points as the Portland Trail Blazers outlasted the Philadelphia 76ers 118-111. Portland improved to 8-1 at home to his season. The 76ers, who continue to be without MVP runner-up Joel Embiid (COVID protocol), were led by 28 points apiece from Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey.

All-Star pair Rudy Gobert (21 points and 14 rebounds) and Donovan Mitchell (26 points) inspired the Utah Jazz to a 123-105 victory away to the Sacramento Kings.

 

Lowry struggles from the floor

The Miami Heat's prized recruit, Kyle Lowry had an off night in the team's 103-100 loss at Eastern conference rivals the Washington Wizards. The NBA champion was just three-of-12 shooting – making one of only seven three-pointers in a seven-point display.

The Charlotte Hornets had their five-game winning streak snapped by the Atlanta Hawks, who prevailed 115-105. Charlotte tasted defeat, despite big performances from Miles Bridges (35 points and 10 rebounds) and LaMelo Ball (15 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds).

Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo erupted for a season-high 47 points as the NBA champions took down the Los Angeles Lakers 109-102.

Antetokounmpo dominated the Lakers, making 18 of his 23 field goals, while collecting nine rebounds and three assists for the Bucks (7-8) on Wednesday.

The reigning NBA Finals MVP became the fifth player in the last 20 seasons to score 45-plus points on 75 per cent shooting from the field and 75 per cent shooting from three-point range.

Antetokounmpo is the first player to post at least 45 points on 75-plus per cent field-goal percentage against the Lakers since Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal in 1995.

 

All-Star Bucks team-mate Khris Middleton made his return after eight games out due to COVID-19 and tied Milwaukee's franchise record for career three-pointers.

Middleton – who finished with 16 points, six assists and five rebounds – matched Ray Allen for first place with his 1,051st career three.

The Lakers (8-8), again without superstar LeBron James, were led by double-doubles from Talen Horton-Tucker (25 points and 12 rebounds) and Russell Westbrook (19 points and 15 assists).

 

Suns stay hot

The Phoenix Suns celebrated their 10th straight victory after outlasting the Dallas Mavericks 105-98. Devin Booker (24 points) and Deandre Ayton (19 points and 13 rebounds) fuelled the Suns, who are in the midst of their longest winning streak since 2010. Chris Paul had 14 assists without a turnover – his 46th career game with 10-plus assists and 0 turnovers, tying Muggsy Bogues for most by any player since 1985.

Damian Lillard's 22 points and 10 assists helped the Portland Trail Blazers upstage the Chicago Bulls 112-107. Zach LaVine (30 points), DeMar DeRozan (22 points) and Alex Caruso (12 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists) starred but the Bulls still lost on the road.

The Miami Heat defeated the New Orleans Pelicans behind Jimmy Butler's triple-double of 31 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds.

Kevin Durant nailed two three-pointers to move 26th on the all-time NBA list for threes made with 1,687, breaking a tie with Hall of Famer and Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash. The Nets beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 109-99.

 

Knicks continue to struggle for form

After returning to the playoffs last season, the New York Knicks have made a rocky start to the 2021-22 campaign amid plenty of hype. They were sensationally upstaged by the lowly Orlando Magic 104-98 – their fourth defeat in six games.

DeMar DeRozan was at his brilliant best again as the Chicago Bulls routed the Los Angeles Lakers 121-103 in the NBA on Monday.

DeRozan is the face of the new-look Bulls and the four-time All-Star maintained his MVP-calibre start to the season with a game-high 38 points at Staples Center.

The 32-year-old, who joined the Bulls ahead of the 2021-22 campaign, had his fourth 35-plus point game of the month – tying a career high.

Chicago have won four of their past five games, having also trumped the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday, on the back of Lonzo Ball's seven three-pointers in his 27-point display against former team the Lakers.

Zach LaVine added 26 points for the Bulls, who improved to 10-4 in the Eastern Conference after beating the Lakers for the first time since 2016, snapping an eight-game drought.

Without superstar LeBron James, Talen Horton-Tucker (28 points), Russell Westbrook (25 points) and Anthony Davis (20 points) led the stuttering Lakers (8-7).

 

 

Streaking Suns sizzle

Last season's NBA Finals runners-up the Phoenix Suns celebrated their ninth successive victory after outlasting the Minnesota Timberwolves 99-96. Devin Booker (29 points), Deandre Ayton (22 points and 12 rebounds) and Chris Paul (21 points) all starred on the road. Ayton is the only player this season to be averaging 15-plus points and 10-plus rebounds while shooting at least 60 per cent from the field.

Cade Cunningham joined Stephen Curry (twice), Trae Young and Jason Kidd as the only rookies in NBA history with 25 points, five three-pointers, eight rebounds and eight assists in a game. The number one draft pick, however, was unable to prevent the lowly Detroit Pistons falling 129-107 to the Sacramento Kings.

 

Doncic limps off court

The Dallas Mavericks took down reigning MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets 111-101, but it appeared to have come at a cost. Mavericks star Luka Doncic limped off the court after rolling his ankle in the final minute of the game. Doncic had posted 23 points and 11 assists to help fuel the Mavericks. Jokic's 35-point and 16-rebound double-double was not enough for Denver.

Stephen Curry reached 40 points or more for the third time this season as the Golden State Warriors' electric start to the season continued with a 119-93 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Friday.

Curry finished with 40 points, including nine-for-17 three-pointers, along with five assists and four rebounds as the Warriors improved to 11-1.

The two-time MVP starred with 15 points in the third quarter alone, almost outscoring the Bulls as the Warriors piled on 35-17 points. Curry also passed Ray Allen's 3,358 all-time NBA mark for the most three-pointers made in regular season and playoffs games.

The result marks the Warriors' second-best ever start in franchise history, with their only loss coming in overtime against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Golden State are one of nine teams in NBA history to start the season without a regulation-time loss in their first 12 games, the best being the 2015-16 Warriors with 24 games.

 

Harden hits season high

James Harden backed up Wednesday's triple-double with a season-high 39 points including six three-pointers for the Brooklyn Nets in a 120-112 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans. Harden got a double-double, with 12 assists along with five rebounds, while Kevin Durant added 28 points. Joe Harris shot six-for-six from three-point range in the first half, becoming the first player this season to achieve the feat.

Nikola Jokic returned from his one-game ban with a triple-double as the Denver Nuggets got past the Atlanta Hawks 105-96, with 22 points, 10 assists and 19 rebounds. Luka Doncic also registered a triple-double with 32 points, 12 rebounds and 15 assists as the Dallas Mavericks defeated the San Antonio Spurs 123-109.

Denis Schroder had a season-high 38 points as the Boston Celtics won 122-113 in overtime over the Milwaukee Bucks, who were without Giannis Antetokounmpo (ankle) and Khris Middleton (COVID-19).

 

LeBron-less Lakers floored

Carmelo Anthony scored one-for-12 from the field while starter Kent Bazemore finished with zero points as the Los Angeles Lakers, missing LeBron James, lost 107-83 to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Emerging point guard Ja Morant had five turnovers and shot 10-for-19 from the field as the Memphis Grizzlies were beaten by the Phoenix Suns 119-94.

The recent history of the New York Knicks is littered with abysmal play, a never-ending coaching carousel and a general lack of excitement for a fanbase starved for a winner.

But all that can be forgotten now that Madison Square Garden is rocking again in support of a team on the rise with a chance to make noise in the NBA playoffs.

After ending a seven-year playoff drought in a surprising first season under head coach Tom Thibodeau in 2020-21, New York is eager for more and might have enough to warrant the newfound optimism surrounding the franchise.

While the Knicks' first postseason appearance since 2012-13 was a short one – a first-round loss to the Atlanta Hawks – it signalled a rebirth for a franchise that had a league-worst .330 winning percentage (184-374) during a run of seven consecutive seasons without playoffs from 2013-14 to 2019-20.

A 41-31 record last season was New York's best since they went 54-28 in 2012-13 and those 41 wins surpassed their total from the two previous campaigns combined (38-110). Maybe that record can be at least partly attributed to a fluky, COVID-19 riddled campaign where the Knicks caught opponents by surprise, but a 25-11 home record and a 25-17 mark against the Eastern Conference shouldn't be overlooked.

Thibodeau was clearly the main catalyst for the reversal, bringing his trademark defence to a team that ranked 17th in opponent scoring (106.1) the previous seven seasons before his arrival. In Thibodeau's first term at the helm, the Knicks led the NBA in that category (104.7) as well as opponent field goal percentage (44.0) and opponent three-point percentage (33.7). He was named NBA Coach of the Year for the second time (Chicago Bulls, 2011).

Besides the obvious difference in the on-court product, Thibodeau brought instant credibility to a franchise that employed six different coaches since the 2012-13 playoff appearance. His .587 career winning percentage (400-282) ranks seventh among active coaches (minimum 100 games).

While team defence and the superb play of Julius Randle carried the Knicks last season, an offensive injection was needed to take the next step.

Bringing in the starting backcourt of Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier has made the Knicks a more dangerous perimeter shooting team after Atlanta exposed New York's glaring lack of scoring depth in the playoffs.

In the five-game loss to the Hawks, the Knicks failed to break 100 points in the final three games and shot just 39.8 percent from the field overall. That wasn't a surprise considering New York ranked 26th last season in scoring (107.0), 21st in field-goal percentage (45.6) and 21st in field goals made (847).

Walker is a four-time All-Star who has been one of the NBA's most consistent point producers over the past decade. The Charlotte Hornets' all-time leading scorer, Walker averaged at least 20 points in five straight seasons from 2015-16 to 2019-20 before slipping to 19.3 last season with Boston.

Fournier was acquired in a sign-and-trade with the Celtics after spending the bulk of his career with the Orlando Magic. He has shot at least 40 percent from three-point range in three separate seasons, including knocking down 41.3 percent last season with Orlando and Boston.

Fournier is averaging 13.8 points this season while connecting on 36.1 percent from downtown, starting all 12 games in the backcourt with Walker.

The three-point shot has become a much bigger part of the Knicks' arsenal compared to last season. After taking 30 three-point attempts per game last season, the Knicks have put up 38 threes per contest so far in 2021-22. That plus-eight increase is by far the biggest of any team this year with the Minnesota Timberwolves (6.8) coming next.

The volume of three-pointers has led to an offense that is averaging 110.8 points through 12 games this season, which is the seventh highest in the league. The last time New York averaged more than 110 points per game for a full season was the Patrick Ewing-led 1988-89 team (116.7).

Randle remains the leader and focal point for New York, emerging last season as an All-Star for the first time and winning the NBAs Most Improved Player award in a runaway. Randle set career highs last season in scoring (24.1), rebounding (10.2) and assists (6.0) and while his scoring has dipped to 21.9 this term, that is to be expected with more offensive options on the roster.

Still, Randle is one of five players this season leading their teams in points per game, rebounds per game and assists per game, along with Luka Doncic, Paul George, Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Randle could become the first player in franchise history to lead the Knicks in points, rebounds and assists in two different seasons.

In just his third season with the Knicks, he already has 15 games with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds. Only Ewing (148) and Carmelo Anthony (29) have more such games for the franchise since Ewing joined New York in 1985.

Randle's value to the Knicks was on display in last Friday's stunning comeback win at defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks. Randle outplayed two-time NBA MVP Antetokounmpo in the second half and finished with 32 points and 12 rebounds as New York overcame a 21-point deficit for a 113-98 win.

That marked the first time in franchise history that the Knicks overcame a 20-point deficit to record a double-digit victory since the NBA began tracking play-by-play in boxscores during the 1997-98 season.

Another key to that win was the stellar play of veteran guard Derrick Rose, who matched a season high with 23 points to go with eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and zero turnovers. He finished with a plus-31 for one of the best marks in the league this season and not far behind his league best-tying plus-34, accomplished in a 121-96 victory over Orlando on October 22.

Rose has played the role of super substitute this season, averaging 13.3 points while shooting 48.9 percent (22 for 45) on three-pointers while amassing a plus-95 rating that is tied for ninth in the NBA.

The Knicks nearly did it to Milwaukee again on Wednesday, erasing a 24-point deficit before falling short in a 112-100 loss. Walker and Fournier combined for just four points, but Rose and Immanuel Quickley totalled 40 off the bench to spark the comeback.

Bench scoring has been another key to New York's early season rise on offense. The Knicks rank sixth in the NBA in scoring from reserves (39.6), with Rose, Alec Burks and Obi Toppin the main contributors.

Quickley has come alive recently, looking more like the player he was last season. The second-year guard has averaged 12.3 points on 48.5 shooting in his past four games after scoring 5.3 in his first eight contests.

Getting the best version of Quickley would help ease the pressure on Walker and Rose and would go a long way toward keeping the veteran duo fresh for the second half of the season.

RJ Barrett has been limited to 30 points in his last three games after he reeled off five consecutive games of at least 20 points, matching the longest streak of his young career. During that stretch, the 21-year-old averaged 25 points on 51.7 percent shooting (45 for 87) and 5.8 rebounds while knocking down half his three-point attempts (16 for 32).

Barrett's continued evolution as a scorer and complement to Randle's power game will be key for the Knicks and the early returns are promising. After shooting 49.1 and 51.1 percent at the rim in his first two seasons, Barrett has raised that number to 57.6 this season as he learns how to finish at the hoop and maximise his considerable physical tools.

As necessary as the improved offense was, it has come at a cost on the opposite end.

New York ranks 22nd in scoring defence (109.6) and that doesn't sit well with Thibodeau, judging by his recent postgame comments. That needs to be cleaned up if the Knicks are to compete against the best teams in the east for the long run.

The Eastern Conference appears to be much improved this season, with top contenders Milwaukee, Brooklyn, Philadelphia and Miami leading the way. Cleveland, Chicago and Washington seem to have made huge strides and the Knicks are also in that mix of potential playoff teams.

Only the most diehard Knicks fan would dare dream of a championship this season but it's not a joke anymore to suggest that just maybe there could be one on the horizon.

The Los Angeles Lakers survived to outlast the high-flying Miami Heat 120-117 in overtime as Russell Westbrook led the way in the NBA.

Westbrook posted a triple-double of 25 points, 12 rebounds and 14 assists, while team-mate Anthony Davis scored 24 points and collected 13 rebounds to fuel the Lakers (7-5) in the continued absence of LeBron James on Wednesday.

The Lakers had trailed 102-93 with less than seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter before rallying to force OT.

Malik Monk, who had a team-high 27 points, scored five of the Lakers' eight points in overtime to secure victory at Staples Center.

Double-doubles from Bam Adebayo (28 points, 10 rebounds, six steals and four assists) and Kyle Lowry (18 points and 11 assists) were not enough for the Heat (7-4), who lost Jimmy Butler to injury.

 

 

Durant reaches MJ levels, Wiggins' Warriors win 10th game

The Brooklyn Nets (8-4) crushed the Orlando Magic (3-9) 123-90 behind Kevin Durant's 30 points on 11-of-12 shooting. In his 12 games this season, Durant has been averaging 29.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game, while shooting 58.5 per cent from the field and 82.9 per cent from the free-throw line. According to Stats Perform, the last player to reach all those numbers over any 12-game span was Hall of Famer Michael Jordan in 1988. James Harden had his 59th career triple-double of 17 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.

Andrew Wiggins flexed his muscles against former team the Minnesota Timberwolves, putting up 35 points to inspire the NBA-leading Golden State Warriors (10-1) to a 123-110 victory. Anthony Edwards' career-high 48 points were not enough for the Timberwolves (3-7).

Defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks (6-6) blew a 24-point lead before overcoming the New York Knicks (7-5) 112-100. Giannis Antetokounmpo (15 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists) fell short of a triple-double.

 

Reeling Pelicans lose eighth straight

The New Orleans Pelicans' season went from bad to worse on Wednesday following a 108-100 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder (4-6). New Orleans – without star pair Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram – have lost eight games in a row to be a league-worst 1-11.

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