Anthony Davis led the way as defending NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers continued their fine form with a 120-102 win over James Harden's Houston Rockets.

Davis, who sat out on Friday due to a groin strain, returned to score 27 points in Sunday's victory against the Rockets in Houston.

LeBron James posted 18 points, seven assists and seven rebounds as the Lakers won for the sixth time in seven games.

"[Tonight] was just A.D. being A.D. and just having him back in the line-up gives us a whole other dynamic both offensively and defensively," James said after the Lakers led by as many as 27 points.

Former MVP Harden finished with 20 points, while Rockets team-mate Christian Wood had 23 of his own.

It was a feisty game in Houston, where the Lakers' Markieff Morris and Rockets big man DeMarcus Cousins were both ejected in the opening half, while there were also five technical fouls and two flagrant fouls.

Kawhi Leonard reached a milestone after the Los Angeles Clippers held on to beat the Chicago Bulls 130-127.

Clippers star Leonard put up a season-high 35 points, including seven three-pointers, four assists and three steals to reach 10,000 career points.

Paul George contributed 28 points, seven rebounds and nine assists for the Clippers, who snapped a run of back-to-back losses.

The Bulls were led by Zach LaVine's season-high 45 points away to the Clippers in Los Angeles.

 

Durant stars on return

Back on the court following a three-game absence, Kevin Durant scored 36 points and collected 11 rebounds, but the slumping Brooklyn Nets still lost 129-116 at home to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander inspired the Thunder with 31 points.

Julius Randle's double-double of 29 points and 10 rebounds was not enough to lift the New York Knicks, who went down 114-89 to the Denver Nuggets. Nikola Jokic (22 points and 10 rebounds) propelled the Nuggets with a double-double of his own.

 

Curry struggles

While the Golden State Warriors trumped the struggling Toronto Raptors 106-105, Stephen Curry was uncharacteristically poor. Curry was just two-of-16 from the field, while he made only one of his 10 three-point attempts for 11 points in 38 minutes.

 

LeBron, the sniper!

James produced a moment of magic to unleash Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with a stunning left-handed pass from deep.

Sunday's results

Utah Jazz 96-86 Detroit Pistons
Los Angeles Clippers 130-127 Chicago Bulls
Oklahoma City Thunder 129-116 Brooklyn Nets
Denver Nuggets 114-89 New York Knicks
Los Angeles Lakers 120-102 Houston Rockets
Minnesota Timberwolves 96-88 San Antonio Spurs
Golden State Warriors 106-105 Toronto Raptors
Miami Heat-Boston Celtics (postponed)

 

76ers at Hawks

The high-flying Philadelphia 76ers (7-3) visit the Atlanta Hawks (4-5) on Monday. Doc Rivers and the 76ers are set to welcome back All-Star Joel Embiid, but Ben Simmons is expected to miss out after a depleted Philadelphia side – ravaged by coronavirus and injuries – lost to the Nuggets.

LaMelo Ball created history in the Charlotte Hornets’ 113-105 win against the Atlanta Hawks by becoming the youngster player of all time to score a triple-double.

The first round rookie announced his arrival in the NBA after coming off the bench to post 22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in a dazzling 31 minutes on court.

Terry Rozier added 23 points and PJ Washington posted 22 points to help Charlotte improve to 5-5 as the Hawks rallied with De'Andre Hunter scoring 20 points but fall to to 4-5.

Mikal Bridges starred and six players hit double figures as the Phoenix Suns advanced to 7-3 in the Western Conference with a 125-117 win over the Indiana Pacers.

Bridges led the scoring with a career-high 34 points as the Pacers fell to 6-3 in the Eastern Conference despite Domantas Sabonis' 28 points and 22 rebounds.

Earlier in the day, a threadbare Philadelphia 76ers fell to 7-3 after losing 115-113 to the Denver Nuggets as coach Doc Rivers had only seven players available due injury and COVID-19 protocols.

Stephen Curry led the Golden State Warriors past the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday, while the Los Angeles Lakers bounced back.

Curry's fine start to the NBA season continued in the Warriors' 115-105 win over the Clippers.

The guard had a double-double of 38 points and 11 assists as the Warriors (5-4) responded to their loss to the Clippers on Wednesday.

Curry was 13-of-24 from the field and nine-of-14 from three-point range in the win.

Paul George (25) and Kawhi Leonard (24) combined for 49 points for the Clippers, but they slipped to 6-4.

The Lakers bounced back from their loss to the San Antonio Spurs by overcoming the Chicago Bulls 117-115.

LeBron James' 28 points, seven rebounds and seven assists led the Lakers, who were without Anthony Davis (strained adductor).

Zach LaVine finished with 38 points for the Bulls.

 

Bucks fall despite Giannis' display, Celtics win

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 35 points, eight rebounds and four assists, but the Milwaukee Bucks went down to the Utah Jazz 131-118.

Donovan Mitchell led the Jazz, posting 32 points, seven assists and five rebounds.

Jaylen Brown continued his good form with a double-double of 27 points and 13 rebounds in the Boston Celtics' 116-107 win over the Washington Wizards. Brown and Jayson Tatum (32 points) became the third pair of team-mates in the past 20 seasons to each record 250-plus points in their team's first 10 games, joining Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant (2001-02) and Curry and Kevin Durant (three times).

The Wizards slumped to 2-7 despite Bradley Beal's 41 points.

Caris LeVert exploded for 43 points, but the Brooklyn Nets – without Durant and Kyrie Irving – were edged by the Memphis Grizzlies 115-110.

 

Magic misery

The Orlando Magic have made a good start to the season, but they shot at just 38.2 per cent in a 132-90 loss to the Houston Rockets. Orlando are now 6-3.

 

Brotherly battle

LaMelo and Lonzo Ball did battle on Friday. LaMelo had 12 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in the Charlotte Hornets' 118-110 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Friday's results

Detroit Pistons 110-105 Phoenix Suns
Boston Celtics 116-107 Washington Wizards
Charlotte Hornets 118-110 New Orleans Pelicans
Oklahoma City Thunder 101-89 New York Knicks
Houston Rockets 132-90 Orlando Magic
Memphis Grizzlies 115-110 Brooklyn Nets
Utah Jazz 131-118 Milwaukee Bucks
Toronto Raptors 144-123 Sacramento Kings
Golden State Warriors 115-105 Los Angeles Clippers
Los Angeles Lakers 117-115 Chicago Bulls

 

Cavaliers at Bucks

The Bucks (5-4) will look to bounce back when they take on the Cleveland Cavaliers (5-4) on Saturday.

The Boston Celtics edged the Miami Heat in the NBA on Wednesday, while the Milwaukee Bucks claimed their third straight win.

In a rematch of last season's Eastern Conference finals, the Celtics overcame the Heat 107-105 in Miami.

Jayson Tatum (27 points) and Jaylen Brown (21 points and 12 rebounds) led the Celtics (6-3) to their win.

But Payton Pritchard (six points) made the decisive lay-up with 0.2 seconds remaining to secure the win.

The teams kneeled in protest ahead of the clash, in response to a riot on Capitol Hill and after no charges were brought against the police officer who shot and seriously injured Jacob Blake, a black man, in Kenosha in August last year.

Meanwhile, the Bucks made it three straight wins by easing past the Detroit Pistons 130-115.

Giannis Antetokounmpo guided Milwaukee into a 5-3 record with 25 points, eight rebounds and four assists.

 

Hayward heroic, Beal brilliance not enough for Wizards

Gordon Hayward scored a career-high 44 points to see the Charlotte Hornets past the Atlanta Hawks 102-94.

Bradley Beal equalled a Washington Wizards record, but it was not enough. Beal tied the franchise record with 60 points in a 141-136 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Joel Embiid once again inspired the 76ers, scoring 38 points to go with eight rebounds and five assists as they improved to 7-1.

A 35-point haul from Malcolm Brogdon helped the Indiana Pacers beat the Houston Rockets 114-107.

 

Curry cools off

After 92 points in the previous two games, Stephen Curry cooled off. He went five-of-17 from the field for 13 points in 35 minutes as the Golden State Warriors fell to the Los Angeles Clippers 108-101.

 

Beal ties record

Beal was in spectacular form for the Wizards. He equalled Gilbert Arenas' record of 60 points for the Wizards against the Los Angeles Lakers in 2006.

Wednesday's results

Indiana Pacers 114-107 Houston Rockets
Orlando Magic 105-94 Cleveland Cavaliers
Philadelphia 76ers 141-136 Washington Wizards
Charlotte Hornets 102-94 Atlanta Hawks
Boston Celtics 107-105 Miami Heat
New York Knicks 112-100 Utah Jazz
Milwaukee Bucks 130-115 Detroit Pistons
Oklahoma City Thunder 111-110 New Orleans Pelicans
Phoenix Suns 123-115 Toronto Raptors
Los Angeles Clippers 108-101 Golden State Warriors
Sacramento Kings 128-124 Chicago Bulls

 

76ers at Nets

The 76ers will look to continue their good start to the season when they take on the Brooklyn Nets (4-4). The Nets will again be without star Kevin Durant, who is in quarantine.

Seven players hit double figures as the Philadelphia 76ers surged to 6-1 while Malcolm Brogdon landed an overtime winner as the Indiana Pacers take up chase in the East.

Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia remain ahead of the pack after a second-quarter flurry helped to sink the Charlotte Hornets, 118-101, with Tobias Harris leading the scoring on 22 points.

Joel Embiid (14 points and 11 rebounds) and Ben Simmons (12 points and 10 rebounds) played key supporting roles with double-doubles as the 76ers continue to fly high.

Indiana improved to 5-2 in a 118-116 thriller against the New Orleans Pelicans after Brogdon capped his double-double with the clutch OT winner, while Victor Oladipo top scored for the Pacers with 25 points.

In-form Pelicans duo Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson combined for 55 points in the loss, as Ingram scored 31 and Williamson recorded a double-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds.

Orlando also stayed in the hunt for top spot as Aaron Gordon (24 points, 11 rebounds) and Nikola Vucevic (23 points) inspired the Magic to move to 5-3 with a 103-83 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Malcolm Brogdon hits the game-winning floater in OT as the @Pacers pick up their 5th W of the season!

Brogdon: 21 PTS, 7 REB, 11 AST
Victor Oladipo: 25 PTS, 6 AST
Brandon Ingram: 31 PTS, 8 AST
Zion Williamson: 24 PTS, 10 REB pic.twitter.com/XfWbcMXemJ

— NBA (@NBA) January 5, 2021


Doncic, Giannis go off as Mavs and Bucks win

Luka Doncic dominated with 33 points and a triple-double as the Dallas Mavericks ended the Houston Rockets’ winning streak with a 113-100 win.

Doncic added 16 rebounds and 11 assists, while Tim Hardaway Jr shot for 30 points to boost the Mavs. Houston's Christian Wood, Eric Gordon and a returning James Harden all put up more than 20 points.

The NBA is back! A shortened schedule, a new play-in tournament and increased roster sizes have created plenty of interest in a new season.

A December start seems to have caught a few of the potential title hopefuls a little cold, though it is still early days. The key is not about starting fast, but finishing strong.

Still, some have hit the ground running. Each week, Stats Perform will take a look at the players who are impressing, as well as those seemingly stuck in a bit of a slump.

For this opening edition, however, all statistical comparisons are made to performances on average across the entire 2019-20 season.
 

RUNNING HOT... 

Stephen Curry (32.3ppg versus 20.8ppg) 

Scoring 62 points in a game sure helps to boost the average. Curry actually started out a little slowly – hardly a surprise considering injury meant he played just five games in the previous campaign – as he made only 13 of his combined 48 field goal attempts in defeats to the Nets and Bucks. However, Curry was certainly cooking against the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday, hitting eight three-pointers as he posted a new career-high points total. So far in this season, he is making 4.3 three-pointers per outing. 

Christian Wood (23.8ppg versus 13.1ppg) 

These are uncertain times in Houston, where James Harden seemingly no longer wants to be. While his future remains the headline story for the franchise, Christian Wood has quickly shown why he was such an astute signing. Having gone undrafted out of college, the 25-year-old flashed potential with the Detroit Pistons in 2019-20, tempting the Rockets to sign him to a three-year, $41million deal. Their reward? Wood has averaged 23.8 points while playing 36.5 minutes for a team that boasts a 2-2 record through four games. 

Kyle Anderson (16.7ppg versus 5.8ppg) 

Opportunity knocks for Anderson in Memphis due to the absence of Jaren Jackson Jr with a knee issue. The forward's minutes on court have risen as a result – and so, too, has his production. Having never averaged in double digits for points for his previous six seasons in the NBA, Anderson is now up at 16.7 per game for the Grizzlies. Ja Morant was, less surprisingly, on the rise in terms of his scoring output as well, up at 26.3 points per game before suffering an ankle injury. 

Luguentz Dort (14.6ppg versus 6.8ppg) 

Someone has to score points for Oklahoma, right? GM Sam Presti is clearly in it for the long haul in terms of a rebuild, considering the number of moves made in the offseason and draft picks now owned by the team. Still, Dort remains on the roster and has stepped up to accept greater responsibility. The Canadian has raised his successful three-point attempts from an average of 0.8 to 2.4 a game, shooting an impressive 44.4 per cent from deep. Team-mate Isaiah Roby is another to catch the eye for the Thunder, averaging 13 points and 6.5 total rebounds.


GOING COLD...

Devonte' Graham (9.0ppg versus 18.2ppg)

The moment Charlotte selected fellow point guard LaMelo Ball with the third pick in the draft, Graham was under pressure. He retained his starting job in the Hornets' backcourt but the pressure is mounting now, considering the form of both players. While Ball seems to be a quick learner after some preseason concerns, his teammate has struggled. Graham is at just nine points per game - half his average from the previous season. His three-point shooting has dipped to 2.0 made per outing from 3.5. He forced himself off the bench and into the rotation for the Hornets last year, yet could soon find himself moving in the opposite direction.

Jimmy Butler (8.3ppg versus 19.9ppg)

There are reasons behind the five-time NBA All-Star's sluggish start. Butler has featured in just three games so far - and one of those he only played in the first half, with an ankle issue keeping him off the court for the remainder of the clash with the Pelicans. He averaged 19.9 per game for a Heat team that made it all the way to the Finals last term. The early going has seen an 11.6-point decrease in his scoring output, though expect that to rise as the weeks progress.

Kelly Oubre Jr. (9.7ppg versus 18.7ppg)

Oubre was on the merry-go-round headlined by Chris Paul going from Oklahoma to Phoenix. His form last season with the Suns was not enough for the Thunder to keep him around, though, as they dealt him to Golden State. It has not been plain sailing with the Warriors; while not required to contribute quite so much on offense for his new team, the concern is his three-point shooting. Having made 1.9 on average per game last season, Oubre's been successful with two of his 30 attempts so far. The early report card for him reads as such: Must do better.

Ben Simmons led the way with his 29th career triple-double as the Philadelphia 76ers claimed top spot in the NBA Eastern Conference with a 127-122 win over the Charlotte Hornets.

Simmons dropped 15 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists as Philly opened up a 15-point first quarter lead and never looked back to go 5-1.

Joel Embiid contributed with a double-double of 19 points and 14 rebounds, while Tobias Harris top scored with 24 points as the 76ers claimed a third straight victory.

Ben Simmons (15 PTS, 12 REB, 11 AST) puts up a triple-double as the @sixers move to 5-1!

Tobias Harris: 24 PTS, 9 REB, 6 AST, 4 STL, 3 BLK
Seth Curry: 21 PTS (8-11 FGM), 6 AST
Joel Embiid: 19 PTS, 14 REB
Terry Rozier: 35 PTS, 7 3PM pic.twitter.com/ZgvqSUC9kp

— NBA (@NBA) January 3, 2021

The Atlanta Hawks (4-2) fell off the pace in the East following a 96-91 loss against the Cleveland Cavaliers as Colin Sexton scored 13 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter to snatch the win. 

John Wall led the scoring with 28 points as the Houston Rockets made it back-to-back triumphs against the Sacramento Kings, 102-98, in Texas.

Christian Wood posted a double-double with 15 rebounds and 20 points as the Rockets improved from 0-2 to 2-2 since Wall’s arrival, while James Harden was sidelined with an ankle injury.

Big scorers come up short for Magic, Pacers

Nikola Vucevic dazzled, putting up 30 points and 13 rebounds, but it was not enough to prevent the Orlando Magic slipping to 4-2 after a 108-99 loss against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Six OKC players hit double-figures in an all-round team effort as Darius Bazley top scored with 19 points and 12 rebounds.

John Wall impressed on his Houston Rockets debut, while the Philadelphia 76ers' fine start to the NBA season continued.

In his first regular-season appearance since December 2018, Wall helped the Rockets to their first win of the season with a 122-119 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Thursday.

Wall posted 22 points, nine assists and six rebounds on his Rockets debut after being traded from the Washington Wizards at the start of December.

James Harden again starred, finishing with 33 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

The 76ers improved to 4-1 and handed Orlando their first loss of the season, beating the Magic 116-92.

Joel Embiid was seven-of-11 from the field for 21 points, while he also pulled down nine rebounds.

 

Westbrook's Wizards fall again as Booker shines

Russell Westbrook posted another triple-double with 22 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, but the Washington Wizards dropped to 0-5 after a 133-130 loss to the Chicago Bulls. Westbrook joined Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history to open a season with four triple-doubles in their first four games.

Thomas Bryant had 28 points for the Wizards after going 10-of-11 from the field.

Devin Booker's game-high 25 points helped the Phoenix Suns past the Utah Jazz 106-95. The Suns are 4-1.

Domantas Sabonis had a double-double of 25 points and 11 rebounds in the Indiana Pacers' 119-99 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Sabonis has posted at least a double-double in all five of his games this season.

 

Terrible Thunder

The Oklahoma City Thunder shot at just 37.5 per cent from the field in a 113-80 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.

 

Harden, Wall power Rockets

Harden and Wall finished with 55 points and 17 assists between them against the Kings.

Thursday's results

Indiana Pacers 119-99 Cleveland Cavaliers
Chicago Bulls 133-130 Washington Wizards
Philadelphia 76ers 116-92 Orlando Magic
Houston Rockets 122-119 Sacramento Kings
Toronto Raptors 100-83 New York Knicks
New Orleans Pelicans 113-80 Oklahoma City Thunder
Phoenix Suns 106-95 Utah Jazz

 

Lakers at Spurs

The Los Angeles Lakers (3-2) and San Antonio Spurs (2-2) will meet again on Friday. LeBron James powered the Lakers to a win over San Antonio on Wednesday.

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