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

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

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

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

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

 

Red-hot Rockets win again

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

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

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

 

Giannis struggles as champs fall

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Curry up to his old tricks

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

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

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

 

Portland's skid continues

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

De'Anthony Melton and the Memphis Grizzlies could not hide their delight after embarrassing the Oklahoma City Thunder by 73 points to set an NBA record.

The merciless Grizzlies broke the record for the largest margin of victory in league history thanks to Thursday's devastating 152-79 triumph.

Oklahoma City were without star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Rookie of the Year contender Josh Giddey away to the Grizzlies in Memphis.

The Grizzlies, who were without a star of their own in Ja Morant, took full advantage as they eclipsed the 1991 Cleveland Cavaliers (68 points) for the largest winning margin.

"Man, it feels great. It feels great to be in the history books, especially in front of our home crowd,'' said Melton, who put up 19 points for the Grizzlies.

"And we did it one through 15. Everybody contributed, everybody played hard and we all got to get in the game. So, it's always a blessing.

"We knew with [Morant] going down what we had to do. We had to step up.''

 

According to Stats Perform, 152 is the most points in NBA history by a team missing a player who was leading the team in total points and assists entering the game following Morant's absence.

Jaren Jackson Jr. picked up the slack with Morant sidelined, pouring in 27 points for the Grizzlies – who shot 62.5 per cent from the field.

Melton, Santi Aldama (18), John Konchar (17), Dillon Brooks (11), Jarrett Culver (11), Xavier Tillman (11), Brandon Clarke (11) and Tyus Jones (10) all had double-digit points for the Grizzlies.

Memphis, who have beaten the Thunder in four straight games for their best winning streak against the franchise since 2013-16, were also 52.8 per cent from three-point range as Jackson made six of his seven attempts from beyond the arc.

"Franchise records are obviously great. Obviously proud of our guys that they don't think about that,'' Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins said.

"We're just motivated by what are our standards every single night. Tonight was on pretty full display both offensively and defensively.''

Lu Dort was the pick of the Thunder players with 15 points on three-of-eight shooting in 25 minutes – Oklahoma City are now amid an eight-game losing streak.

The Thunder (6-16) – in the process of a rebuild – were just 32.9 per cent from the floor in a forgettable display.

"Tonight is not necessarily who we are,'' Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault said. "I think we've definitely shown that from a competitive standpoint. This isn't indicative of who our team is.''

"Obviously, it was a combination of things,'' Daigneault said. "They played with great force and pace. They made some shots. We didn't shoot it well early and just really couldn't get a grip on the game. Any part of the game.''

Daigneault added: "When you compete, you have exposure to the highs and lows of competition. And competition comes with great joy, and it also comes with grief and frustration and anger. And when you step in that ring, that's what you expose yourself to is all of those things.

"It's why the joy feels so good, because when you get punched and you taste your own blood, it doesn't feel right.''

The Phoenix Suns celebrated a franchise-record 18th consecutive win after taking down the lowly Detroit Pistons 114-103 in the NBA on Thursday.

Phoenix – who reached last season's NBA Finals – eclipsed the 17-game record set during the 2006-07 campaign, despite the absence of All-Star Devin Booker.

Leading scorer Booker sat out for the first time this season after suffering a hamstring injury in Tuesday's win over the Golden State Warriors, however, the Suns were still too good for the Pistons.

The NBA-leading Suns – who improved to 19-3 – were fuelled by 19 points apiece from Cam Johnson and Cameron Payne, while Deandre Ayton had 17 points and 12 rebounds, and Chris Paul added 12 points and 12 assists.

Phoenix also celebrated back-to-back wins over Detroit for the first time since 2014.

Jerami Grant put up a game-high 34 points for the Pistons, who have lost eight straight games for their worst skid since 2017-18.

 

Grizzlies in historic humbling

The Memphis Grizzlies broke the record for the largest victory in NBA history after humiliating the shorthanded Oklahoma City Thunder 152-79. Memphis surpassed the 1991 Cleveland Cavaliers (68 points) for the largest winning margin thanks to their 73-point demolition. The Grizzlies were without star Ja Morant. According to Stats Perform, 152 is the most points in NBA history by a team missing a player who was leading the team in total points and assists entering the game.

 

DeMar DeRozan (34 points), Zach LaVine (27 points) and Nikola Vucevic (27 points) combined to lead the Chicago Bulls past the New York Knicks 119-115. Julius Randle's double-double of 30 points and 12 rebounds was not enough for the Knicks.

 

Milwaukee's streak over as Giannis sits out

Giannis Antetokounmpo was held out by the Milwaukee Bucks due to a calf problem. In his absence, the defending champions lost 97-93 at the Toronto Raptors as their eight-game winning run was halted. Milwaukee shot just 37.6 per cent from the field.

The Memphis Grizzlies broke the record for the largest victory in NBA history after humiliating the shorthanded Oklahoma City Thunder 152-79.

Oklahoma City – in the process of a rebuild – were without star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Rookie of the Year contender Josh Giddey away to the Grizzlies in Memphis on Thursday.

The Grizzlies, who were without a star of their own in Ja Morant, showed no mercy as they eclipsed the 1991 Cleveland Cavaliers (68 points) for the largest margin of victory in the league.

Cleveland trounced the Miami Heat 148-80 – the Cavaliers went on to reach the Eastern Conference Finals before falling to Michael Jordan and eventual champions the Chicago Bulls.

 

The Grizzlies, who shot 62.5 per cent from the field while the Thunder managed just 32.9 per cent, were led by Jaren Jackson Jr. and his game-high 27 points.

De'anthony Melton (19), Santi Aldama (18), John Konchar (17), Dillon Brooks (11), Jarrett Culver (11), Xavier Tillman (11), Brandon Clarke (11) and Tyus Jones (10) all had double-digit points for the Grizzlies.

Memphis, who have beaten the Thunder in four straight games for their best winning streak against the franchise since 2013-16, were also 52.8 per cent from three-point range as Jackson made six of his seven attempts from beyond the arc.

Lu Dort was the pick of the Thunder players with 15 points on three-of-eight shooting in 25 minutes – Oklahoma City are now amid an eight-game losing streak.

The NBA season is heating up nicely.

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

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

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

RUNNING HOT...

Luguentz Dort

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

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

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

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

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

Jarrett Allen

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

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

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

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

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

Jordan Poole

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

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

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

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

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

GOING COLD...

Kemba Walker

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

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

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

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

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

Spencer Dinwiddie

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

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

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

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

Bam Adebayo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Doncic flexes his muscles

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

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

 

Embiid struggles as Philly's offensive woes continue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Doncic matches Robertson

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

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

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

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

 

Lillard struggles in Blazers loss

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

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

The Phoenix Suns 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 NBA Rookie of the Year award won't be handed out for quite a while but if the first month of the season is any indication, voters are going to have plenty of options to choose from.

With teams having played roughly the first quarter of the season, this seems a good time to look at how some of the top draft picks are faring as they navigate their first campaign at the highest level of basketball.

 

Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons

After a dreadful start, including missing the first four games due to a sprained ankle, Cunningham has looked more like a player worthy of being a top overall draft pick. In his first three games, Cunningham averaged just 8.7 points on seven-of-39 shooting (17.9 per cent) while misfiring on 20 of 21 from three-point range. He's been far more effective the past six games, scoring 14.7 per contest on 36.3 percent from the field (33 of 91). It's highly unlikely that someone with Cunningham's ability will only shoot the 33.9 percent he's at now. This is, after all, a player who shot 40 percent on three-pointers in his one college season.

His shot selection will improve as he becomes more familiar with the pro game and learns defender's tendencies. Getting to the free throw line would also help improve his offensive efficiency since he's only averaging 1.9 free throws per game, though he is shooting 88 percent (22 of 25). There is inherent pressure with being the first player selected and Cunningham will have to carry that weight throughout his career. But because the former Oklahoma State star has a high basketball IQ and can rebound and distribute at a high level, he doesn't need to pile up points to affect a game's outcome.

The Pistons also are clearly in rebuild mode now, so wins are secondary, giving the well-rounded Cunningham plenty of minutes and opportunities to learn on the job.

Jalen Green, Houston Rockets

Much like Cunningham, Green has the advantage of playing for a 2-16 Rockets team that have absolutely no expectations and are in a full-on rebuild for the foreseeable future. Green ranks third in minutes (555) among rookies and leads all first-year players in field goal attempts (228) and three-point attempts (115), so he's clearly not lacking for opportunities or touches.

Like many rookie score-first guards, the super athletic Green has faced his share of struggles and mostly from an efficiency standpoint. He's only shooting 38.2 from the field and 27.8 from behind the arc while dishing out 2.3 assists per game. While his overall numbers aren't eye-popping, Green has shown flashes of what he can and likely will become. Chief among them is a 30-point, 11-for-18 performance – eight for 10 from three-point range – in a loss to the Celtics on October 24.

He also had 24 points on nine-for-15 shooting with five three-pointers, five rebounds and five assists in a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on November 2. A case can be made that Green is right where he should be after his first 18 games when compared to other rookie guards who have gone onto All-Star status.

Zach LaVine, for example, averaged 8.1 points on 42.2 percent shooting in his first 18 games, while Bradley Beal averaged 11.9 points on 35.9 percent from the field during that same span. Green still has three quarters of the season left to improve and there's no reason to think someone with his skill and athleticism won't as he becomes accustomed to the pro game.

Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers

Off to the best one-month start of any 2021-22 rookie, Mobley suffered a sprained right elbow in a loss to the Boston Celtics on November 15 and is expected to miss multiple weeks. While his momentum was stalled, the seven-footer shouldn't have a problem picking up where he left off upon his return to Cleveland's line-up.

If the Rookie of the Year award was being handed out in November, Mobley might have the best chance to take home the hardware as he's been equally impressive at both ends of the court. His offense has been better than expected with 14.6 points on 49.4 percent shooting and 8.0 rebounds and has even made eight of 26 from three-point range. He was tied for fourth in the NBA with 32 dunks through November 16 and has shown rare positional versatility.

There were questions about his offensive ability coming out of college but those have been answered and there's little doubt that Mobley is on his way to becoming a scoring force for years to come. A stellar defensive player at USC, Mobley has continued that path in his NBA career, flashing outstanding timing and discipline in rim protection. He leads all rookies with 1.60 blocks per game and his 24 total blocks were the second most by any Cavaliers player through the first 15 games of a career (Hot Rod Williams, 30 in 1986).

Mobley's injury has clearly left a huge void and the Cavs have been unable to compensate. They rank 26th in the league since November 17 in scoring defence (112.5) and have lost all four games without him following a surprising 9-6 start to the season.

Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors

Mobley's biggest challenger for the coveted one-month rookie award would be Barnes, who leads this rookie class in scoring (14.8), rebounding (8.4) and minutes per game (35.1) while ranking second in field goal percentage (48.6).

The Raptors' small forward is something of a Swiss Army knife with a well-rounded game and a tantalising set of tools. Barnes adjusted to the NBA very quickly, becoming just the second player (Shaquille O'Neal) since 1985-86 to accumulate at least 170 points and 85 rebounds while shooting 50 percent or better in his first 10 career games. Barnes' 212 points through 13 games were the most by any player in Raptors history and that's a franchise that drafted Vince Carter, Damon Stoudamire and Chris Bosh.

Besides Barnes' ability to score, rebound and pass, he's also excelling on the defensive end, often tasked with guarding the best player on the opposing team regardless of size. He's already been matched up against seven-foot Mo Bamba, Jayson Tatum, Kevin Durant, James Harden and even some point guards. Barnes also has proven to be an adept ballhandler, which is a huge advantage when going up against other bigs.

Perhaps the only aspect of Barnes' game that is lacking is his three-point shooting, as he's only attempted 19 from long range and made five. The ability to stretch the court with deeper shots would make every other part of his offensive arsenal even more effective.

Josh Giddey, Oklahoma City Thunder

By most accounts, the best pure passer in this draft class was point guard Giddey. A little more than a month into his NBA career and nobody would debate that. Giddey seems like a good bet to lead all rookies in assists, as he's totalled 105 thus far with the Sacramento Kings' Davion Mitchell ranking second with 68. But it's the Australian's all-around game that has the rebuilding Thunder looking very smart for nabbing him with the sixth overall pick.

Besides scoring 10.8 points per game, the six-foot-seven playmaker is third among first-year players with 7.3 rebounds and leads all rookies with 101 defensive boards. Giddey's performance in the first month has him among some elite company. With 105 assists and 131 rebounds in his first 18 games, he joins LeBron James and LaMelo Ball as the only teenagers to reach 100 in both in their first 20 NBA games. Giddey, who turned 19 last month, seems likely to record a triple-double soon after coming close on several occasions already.

After averaging 9.0 points on 37.1 percent shooting in his first 13 games, Giddey has heated up with 15.4 per game on 47.8 percent from the field in his last five games. Scoring is a bonus when it comes to Giddey, who has run the offense with the calm of a veteran and helped the Thunder be far more competitive than most expected.

LeBron James returned from injury but could not prevent the Los Angeles Lakers from suffering their third straight defeat going down 130-108 to the Boston Celtics.

Jayson Tatum starred for the Celtics with 37 points, 11 rebounds and two assists, while Marcus Smart was excellent with 22 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

James had 23 points, six rebounds and two assists on his return from an abdominal strain, while Anthony Davis top scored for the Lakers with 31 points.

The four-time MVP showed no signs of injury in the first quarter, helping the Lakers to a strong start, combining with Davis for 22 points, which was their second most in an opening period in the past two seasons.

The Lakers held the lead at half-time but the Celtics hit back in the third quarter with an 8-0 run, opening up an 11-point lead at the final change after a 33-21 period.

The defeat means the 2020 NBA champions have lost seven of their past 10 games and slip to an 8-9 record, while the Celtics improve to 8-8.

 

Suns' hot streak continues

Chris Paul had 18 points and 14 assists as the Phoenix Suns secured their 11th straight win, triumphing 112-104 over the Dallas Mavericks, who were without Luka Doncic due to knee and ankle injuries.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 21 points and 19 rebounds in the Milwaukee Bucks' 96-89 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, as Khris Middleton passed Ray Allen for most three-pointers made in franchise history (1,052), hitting three triples in his 16 points.

The Golden State Warriors won without Stephen Curry (bruised hip) and Draymond Green (bruised thigh), with Jordan Poole stepping up with 32 points including four three-pointers in a 105-102 win over the Detroit Pistons.

James Harden shot seven of 25 from the field and had six turnovers but finished with 36 points,10 rebounds and eight assists in Kevin Durant's absence ot lead the Brooklyn Nets past the Orlando Magic 115-113.

Zach LaVine scored 36 points in the Chicago Bulls 114-108 win over the Denver Nuggets who were missing Nikola Jokic, while LaMelo Ball starred with 32 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in the Charlotte Hornets' 121-118 victory against the Indiana Pacers.

 

Pelicans clip wayward George 

Paul George shot eight of 26 from the field as the Los Angeles Clippers went down to the New Orleans Pelicans 94-81.

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.

Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant continues to shine in the NBA, but he is playing through a "little tweak" to his shoulder.

Durant maintained his MVP-calibre start to the season in Sunday's 120-96 rout of former team the Oklahoma City Thunder, scoring 33 points.

Despite the issue, two-time NBA champion Durant has scored at least 20 points in all 14 of his games in 2021-22 – one short of Karl Malone's record (15) set in 1997-98.

After making nine of his 17 shots from the field while collecting eight rebounds and dishing out four assists, Durant said of his shoulder: "It's solid.

"A little sore here and there, but I played, didn't get in the way too much. Keep getting treatment and take it a day at a time."

Nets head coach Steve Nash allayed concerns of Durant's shoulder post-game in Oklahoma.

"He's got a little tweak. But the ball still goes in the hole so I think he's hanging in there," Nash said.

"I don't think it's the type of thing that we expect to get worse so he's kind of playing through it, so it's not terrible."

It was a reunion for Durant, who spent eight seasons in Oklahoma City and was crowned NBA MVP before joining the Warriors in 2016.

Durant – who is 9-4 in games against his former teams – was booed by the crowd throughout the contest.

"You think about the foundation and how you built yourself up as a pro, and this is definitely the spot for me," he said. "It taught me all about what it means to be a pro.

"The people here and the organisation really guided me as a young player. That set the foundation for where I am today. There are a lot of great memories coming back, seeing a lot of people. It's good to see folks here and play in front of the crowd … I had a good time."

It was also a reunion for Nets team-mate James Harden, who started his career with the Thunder prior to moving to the Houston Rockets.

Harden – who finished with 16 points and 13 assists – and Durant were part of the Thunder team that progressed to the 2012 NBA Finals.

"It's crazy how stuff happens," Durant said. "You never thought when James got traded — I didn't know what the future would hold.

"For us to come back around on the same team as we got older is pretty sweet. ... We helped build this thing. It's good to come in here and see what it is today."

The Golden State Warriors had their seven-game winning streak ended by the Charlotte Hornets, who prevailed 106-102 in the NBA on Sunday.

Boasting the league's best record, Golden State (11-2) were upstaged in Charlotte, where Miles Bridges and Terry Rozier helped take down the high-flying Warriors.

Rozier made two key free throws down the stretch while outleaping Draymond Green on a late jump ball as he finished with 20 points – all in the second half – and Bridges had 22 of his own for the Hornets (8-7).

In his annual homecoming to Charlotte, Warriors superstar Stephen Curry put up 24 points and 10 assists, while team-mate Andrew Wiggins scored 28.

 

The Los Angeles Clippers also had their seven-game streak snapped after falling 100-90 the rampaging Chicago Bulls.

DeMar DeRozan maintained his MVP-calibre play with 35 points and Zach LaVine added 29 to top the Clippers on the road, where Paul George's double-double (27 points and 11 rebounds) was not enough.

 

Hawks soar thanks to Trae

Trae Young's season-best 42 points fuelled the Atlanta Hawks to a 120-100 win over reigning champions the Milwaukee Bucks. Young also had 10 assists, eight three-pointers and eight rebounds as Atlanta ended their six-game skid. In NBA history, only James Harden (three times), George, Russell Westbrook and Young have managed a performance of 40-plus points, 10-plus assists, eight-plus rebounds and eight-plus threes. Giannis Antetokounmpo returned for the stuttering Bucks, registering 26 points, six assists and five rebounds.

Patty Mills was red hot as the Brooklyn Nets routed the Oklahoma City Thunder 120-96. Mills made nine of his 12 three-pointers for 29 points. He broke the record for the most threes off the bench in franchise history. Kevin Durant top-scored with 33 points as Harden had 16 points and 13 assists.

The Los Angeles Lakers outlasted the San Antonio Spurs 114-106 behind double-doubles from Anthony Davis (34 points and 15 rebounds) and Westbrook (14 points and 11 rebounds).

 

Blazers routed in Denver

Playing without star Damian Lillard, the Portland Trail Blazers were put to the sword by Nikola Jokic's Denver Nuggets 124-95. Portland had no answer for Jokic, who narrowly fell short of a triple-double after posting 28 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.

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