Patrick Beverley has been suspended for the Los Angeles Lakers' next three games after shoving Deandre Ayton in their 115-105 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday.

With just under four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Beverley pushed an oblivious Ayton while the Suns' center was stood over a grounded Austin Reaves, following a flagrant foul by Devin Booker.

Beverley received a technical foul and was then ejected, but the Lakers guard has now received further punishment in the form of a three-game suspension without pay.

The sanction will see Beverley miss out on a reported $268,965 in salary and will rule him out of the Lakers' back-to-back road games at the San Antonio Spurs on Friday and Saturday, as well as Monday's home showdown with the Indiana Pacers.

An NBA statement read: "Los Angeles Lakers guard Patrick Beverley has been suspended three games without pay for forcefully shoving Suns center Deandre Ayton from behind and knocking him to the court.

"The suspension was based in part on Beverley's history of unsportsmanlike acts."

Over his 14 starts this season, Beverley has averaged 4.1 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists a game.

The NBA is back, which means excitement for most fanbases – but anxiety for others.

The new season should ensure a clean slate for everyone, but some situations have been allowed to fester in recent months without the distraction of on-court action.

Now, even with basketball returning, developments around Kevin Durant's future might prove every bit as intriguing to the neutral as anything that happens in the regular season.

And Durant and the Brooklyn Nets are not the only player-team combo in a tricky spot heading into the year...

Everyone at the Lakers

Before considering the wide-ranging implications of Durant's trade request, let's check in on last year's team in crisis.

Plenty of outsiders could have forecast difficulties for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2021-22, with LeBron James and Anthony Davis joined in a 'big three' by Russell Westbrook – at this stage in his career, consistent only in using up a huge number of possessions.

Westbrook had averaged a usage rate above 30 per cent in every season between 2014-15 and 2020-21, with his average over the seven seasons (34.6 per cent) only narrowly trailing James Harden's league-leading 34.7 per cent (minimum 500 possessions). A ball-dominant player on often mediocre teams, Westbrook's winning percentage of 59.2 ranked 109th over this period among those to play 100 or more games. Harden (66.2) was a far more respectable 29th.

Although his usage dipped to 27.5 per cent around better players in LA, Westbrook remained every bit as erratic as expected and, unfortunately for the Lakers, played more than 500 more minutes than any team-mate – comfortably ahead of an ageing James and bulkier Davis.

The three superstars started just 21 games together and even then only scraped a winning record at 11-10.

Having missed the playoffs – and even the play-in – in 11th in the West, the Lakers fired coach Frank Vogel, perhaps optimistically hoping he alone was the problem, and brought back each of James, Davis and Westbrook.

Seemingly determined to further upset a team who won the title just two years ago, the Lakers were also linked with a move for Kyrie Irving before settling instead on Patrick Beverley, who might prove only marginally less disruptive.

Westbrook and Beverley have repeatedly clashed in the past, although the new Lakers signing has described his team-mate as "someone I always wanted to play with", praising his "competitive spirit, that fire, that will, that dog, that nastiness, that grit".

New coach Darvin Ham thinks the pair can work together, but the potential for fireworks is considerable even before taking into account James' own "competitive spirit".

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving at the Nets

The 2019 free agency moves for Durant and Irving certainly made the Nets relevant. But they haven't yet made them successful. And right now, Brooklyn might be the most explosive environment in the NBA.

Durant missed their first year together with an Achilles injury sustained playing for the Golden State Warriors, yet the Nets have still only won seven playoff games in the past three postseasons – all seven of those wins coming in a short-lived 2020-21 run.

Last season, as they had been in their first season with Durant and Irving, Brooklyn were swept in the first round. It concluded a miserable campaign that was not about to get better in the offseason.

With Irving unvaccinated and so unable to play in New York City until March, he and Durant started only 17 games together in the regular season. The Nets had started the season with their own 'big three', but Harden – much to his frustration – appeared just twice alongside the star pairing before he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. Ben Simmons came in the other direction and did not play once.

Far from a happy camp, when Irving then opted in to the final year of his contract in late June, the Nets were vulnerable to a trade request from Durant, which quickly followed.

However, with four years remaining on his own deal and Brooklyn asking for a huge price in trade talks, it was reported Durant had returned to the Nets and promised to stay if head coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks were replaced.

Ultimately, Durant "agreed to move forward with our partnership" – as Marks phrased it – regardless, with Nash saying in September his relationship with the superstar was "good".

"I love the guy," added Nash, who understood Durant being "seething" at the end of the season. "Families have issues. We had a moment, and it's behind us. That's what happens."

In theory – especially if Simmons can return to his two-time All-Defensive First Team best – the Nets could have a great team in 2022-23.

Yet based on how this project has gone so far, it is not difficult to imagine a scenario in which Brooklyn endure another desperately disappointing season and are again left attempting to convince Durant to stay.

James Harden at the 76ers

The 76ers moved one miserable superstar in Simmons for another in Harden, which was only enough to take them as far as the Eastern Conference Semifinals last year.

And en route to that unsatisfactory conclusion, team-mate Joel Embiid was not shy in criticising Harden, repeatedly calling on him to be more aggressive while recognising he is no longer "the Houston James Harden".

It was an understandable complaint; Harden attempted only 13.6 field goals per game for the Sixers in the regular season – little more than half the number of shots he was taking in 2018-19 for the Houston Rockets (24.5), when he scored a career-high 36.1 points per game. He was also only making 40.2 per cent of his field goal attempts in Philly, down on every other season in his career.

So far, it is fair to say this has not worked. Doc Rivers, in a training camp clip published by the NBA, told Harden he and Embiid needed to "listen to each other" and acknowledged the partnership needed work as it was "unnatural".

Echoing some of Embiid's complaints, coach Rivers said: "You can't just say you're a facilitator. I need you to be a scorer and a facilitator."

Rivers for now believes it can still be fixed. "When it clicks, James, we're going to be unbeatable," he told a player who, for his part, agreed to a restructured contract that allowed Philly to bolster their roster in the offseason.

But this team – and certainly Embiid – might argue more help would not be required if Harden played in the manner he is capable.

"We've got to establish Joel and you – it's a pecking order," added Rivers. "This ain't a democracy."

Embiid may not believe this is "the Houston James Harden", but the team and Harden himself seemingly do, with the former Rocket announcing: "If my conditioning can be level with my skill set and my IQ and the work that I put in, it's MVP – and I feel like my conditioning is where it needs to be."

Harden needs to start showing that, or this time his team might tire of him, rather than the other way around.

Jaylen Brown at the Celtics

Little has gone to plan for the Boston Celtics since winning Game 3 of the 2022 NBA Finals, as they lost the next three to the Warriors and then saw preparations for a bounce-back season in 2022-23 rocked by a number of key absences.

Boston will begin the year without new signing Danilo Gallinari, who tore his ACL playing for Italy, Robert Williams, who has also undergone knee surgery, and, crucially, coach Ime Udoka.

Udoka had turned around his first season as a head coach spectacularly, with the Celtics tied for ninth in the East at the turn of the year after a 17-19 start before leading the conference the rest of the way (34-12) to take the second seed.

But a year-long suspension for Udoka "for violations of team policies" was announced by the team last month.

And even between the ultimately disappointing postseason and repeatedly disrupted preseason, not everything was rosy, with Boston also impacted by the Durant saga.

When Durant looked to be on the move, reports claimed the Celtics had offered the Nets a package that included Jaylen Brown. That trade did not materialise, of course, but it is difficult to imagine Brown was too impressed.

In recent seasons, Brown has been hugely valuable to the Celtics – not least because he is being paid below his value.

Brown is one of only 11 players who has scored at least 1,400 points at an average of at least 23.5 per game in each of the past two seasons. Of the other 10, four have current or future contracts with an average annual value of more than $50m, another four are being paid over $40m per year, and the final two are bringing in a salary in excess of $30m a season.

Brown's deal, which ranks outside the top 50 contracts in the NBA in both total value and average annual value, earns him $26.6m each year.

And the rules around NBA extensions will prevent Brown being paid on par with his contemporaries unless he makes All-NBA in one of the two seasons remaining on his contract.

In theory, that carrot should encourage Brown to enjoy another big season, but at a franchise as fractured as the Celtics have suddenly become, focus could understandably drift instead towards free agency in 2024.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at the Thunder

Unlike the other teams on this list, the Oklahoma City Thunder do not have the pressure of needing to win now – but that is part of the problem.

OKC moved on their ageing stars, loaded up on draft picks and put together a young core that includes Chet Holmgren, Josh Giddey and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. That is all very exciting... or at least it will be.

Rookie Holmgren is down for the year, seemingly making this another season in which the Thunder will lose games and then see what they can do in the draft.

That is no great issue for 20-year-old Holmgren or 19-year-old Giddey, but it does not suit Gilgeous-Alexander, now 24 and entering his fifth year, quite so much – even if he also starts the year injured.

Among the 63 players to score 2,000 or more points across the past two seasons combined, Gilgeous-Alexander ranked 18th for points per game (24.2). He ranked 61st for wins (32).

This is not a case of an average player stat-padding on a bad team; he is simply too good to be in this situation.

And having agreed a five-year extension in August ahead of Holmgren's injury, it appeared Gilgeous-Alexander had unknowingly signed up for more of the same.

He disagrees, insisting: "I know what I signed up for when I signed a five-year extension. I don't think we're going to be losing for much longer. It's not like I signed up to lose."

But lose they will, if they have any sense – and past experience suggests they do.

Without Holmgren, the Thunder are not going to be in any position to seriously compete, which opens up the possibility to pick high in a draft that includes a potentially generational talent in Victor Wembanyama.

At some stage, OKC will be ready, but that is not now, and Gilgeous-Alexander could be forgiven for finding his patience waning.

The Los Angeles Lakers have acquired veteran guard Patrick Beverley in a trade that sees guard Talen Horton-Tucker and journeyman forward Stanley Johnson head to the Utah Jazz.

The move, confirmed by the teams on Thursday, gives the Lakers an experienced ballhandler and defensive pest as they try to bounce back from a dire 33-49 season.

Beverley played a key role last season with the emerging Minnesota Timberwolves, averaging 9.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists as the franchise made just its second postseason appearance since 2004.

Beverley, 34, is on the move for the second time this offseason after being part of the blockbuster trade that sent Rudy Gobert from Utah to Minnesota in July.

The rebuilding Jazz, on the other hand, acquire a promising young guard in Horton-Tucker, who better fits their timeline.

A second-round pick in 2019, the 21-year-old has seen a steadily increasing dose of minutes over his three NBA seasons, averaging 9.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists.

With Utah trading away another veteran player, the organisation's sights seem decidedly set on the future.

Trade speculation is likely to continue to swirl around three-time All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell, as well as other experienced players like Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic.

The Los Angeles Lakers are finalising a trade to acquire Patrick Beverley from the Utah Jazz, according to reports.

Beverley previously spent four years in Los Angeles when representing the Clippers between 2017 and 2021, before impressing with the Minnesota Timberwolves last campaign.

The 34-year-old was influential in the Timberwolves' run to the Western Conference playoffs, where they were beaten by the Memphis Grizzlies, before heading to Utah as part of their trade for three-time all-star Rudy Gobert in July.

However, according to a report from ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Beverley is on the move again as the Lakers look to improve a team whose defence ranked 21st in the NBA last season.

Beverley, who was a second-round pick for the Lakers in the 2009 draft before being traded, averaged 6.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists throughout the 2021-22 campaign.

Guard Talen Horton-Tucker and forward Stanley Johnson are reportedly set to head to Utah as part of the deal, with the Lakers attempting to bounce back after missing out on the playoffs last term.

The Lakers also agreed a two-year contract extension worth $97.1million with LeBron James last week, ending speculation over the 37-year-old's future.

Patrick Beverley has been hit with a $30,000 fine for "inappropriate statements" and "egregious use of profanity" after the Minnesota Timberwolves guard aimed salty shots at the Clippers.

The comments from Beverley came after Tuesday's 109-104 win for the T-Wolves in the seven-eight play-in game in the West.

Anthony Edwards played a starring role with 30 points for Minnesota and was interviewed alongside Beverley after the game.

Beverley was excitable after beating his former team. He spent four years on the Clippers before joining Minnesota last August.

"I wanted this so bad," Beverley said. "I wanted this one so bad."

He said his message to the Clippers was: "Take their a** home. Long flight to LA, take y'all a** home.

"It's deeper than that for me. I gave my blood and sweat and tears to that organisation. You guys know the story. Blood, sweat and tears, to just be written off like that, 'oh, he's injury prone, he's old', this, this, that, that.

"To be able to come here, play them in a play-in, beat their a**, there's no other feeling, man, no other feeling."

Beverley also used social media to express similar emotion, with added profanities. NBA chiefs considered he overstepped the line of acceptability.

A league statement on Thursday read: "Minnesota Timberwolves guard Patrick Beverley has been fined $30,000 for inappropriate statements during a media interview and on social media, including the egregious use of profanity, it was announced today by Byron Spruell, president, league operations."

It was a second fine inside a week for Beverley, who had a $25,000 punishment imposed for improper conduct to a game official after being ejected from the Timberwolves' April 10 loss to the Chicago Bulls.

Anthony Edwards ensured the Minnesota Timberwolves did not pay the price for Karl-Anthony Towns' night to forget against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Three-time All-Star Towns fouled out of the seven-eight play-in game in the West on Tuesday.

Having made just three field goals and given up four turnovers along with his six fouls, Towns had a miserable plus/minus of -14 as he exited the fourth quarter.

But the seven-point lead the Clippers held at that point was subsequently overturned – in no small part due to the performance of former first overall pick Edwards.

The second-year wing finished with 30 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, in a 109-104 T-Wolves win.

Edwards faced the media alongside Patrick Beverley afterwards, and his team-mate interrupted when the 20-year-old was asked about his work on offense.

"No one can guard him. I've been telling him that all year," Beverley said. "I don't care who plays him. I've seen the best defensive guys. I'm one of the best defensive guys on Earth.

"No one can guard him, and I just keep preaching that, preaching that to him, and he's been doing it all season, so credit to him, credit to his hard work, credit to his patience.

"Obviously we have Karl-Anthony Towns, who we feature a lot, so credit to his patience at a young age, understanding the game, being patient, understanding when to attack.

"KAT fouled out, him and D'Lo [D'Angelo Russell] took over the game. Our young core, man, those three guys, man, we're going to be here for a while.

"So, I'm very excited. I didn't mean to interrupt his questions, but I see the boy, he puts in a lot of work, fellas... ladies, too. He puts in a lot of work.

"One of the first guys in the beginning of the year in the gym. It's time to go home, he's the last one in, he comes at night. He brings his dog in there, he's in there.

"So, you've got to give a lot of credit. This is our star and this is his moment. He deserves all of it. This is his moment. My bad."

Beverley could be forgiven for being a little excited, having beaten his former team. He spent four years on the Clippers before joining the T-Wolves this season.

"I wanted this so bad," he said. "I wanted this one so bad."

His message to the Clippers now? "Take their a** home. Long flight to LA, take y'all a** home.

"It's deeper than that for me. I gave my blood and sweat and tears to that organisation. You guys know the story. Blood, sweat and tears, to just be written off like that, 'oh, he's injury prone, he's old', this, this, that, that.

"To be able to come here, play them in a play-in, beat their a**, there's no other feeling, man, no other feeling."

Despite Beverley's apparent ill feeling towards the Clippers, former team-mate Paul George said he "loves" and "misses" his "contagious" antics.

"You need energy guys like that," George said, although Clippers coach Ty Lue was disappointed with the way Beverley was able to get under his team's skin.

"He did a good job, especially in that second half, of just defending, getting into guys, irritating guys like he always does," Lue said.

"He's a big reason why this team is successful this year. I just think the mentality he brought over here has changed the team.

"[You've] just got to be able to keep composure, you can't let it get to you. I thought at times he did. That's what he does.

"He's been with us here forever. We knew that coming into the game. We didn't handle it well, but whatever."

The Brooklyn Nets defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 115-108 in the first game of the NBA Play-In Tournament on Tuesday.

The Nets are now the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, confirming a playoff matchup with the second seed Boston Celtics.

Kyrie Irving made 10 straight attempts on the way to 34 points and 12 assists, but Kevin Durant took over in the second half with 25 points and 11 assists, as well as two steals and three blocks.

The Nets led by as much as 22 points at one stage, but it was on the back of Durant and Irving starting off hot. The Cavs managed to hang in there and cut it down to single digits with Darius Garland's free-throws and triple following Goran Dragic's flagrant foul.

Garland finished with 34 points on 13-of-24 shooting, but Caris LeVert and Lauri Markkanen experienced a poor shooting night, combining for 25 points but on nine-of-26 attempts from the floor.

The Cavs will play the winner of Wednesday's matchup between the Charlotte Hornets and the Atlanta Hawks, for a chance to take on the Miami Heat in a seven-game series.

Timberwolves win through to face Grizzlies

The Minnesota Timberwolves reached the playoffs for the second time since 2004 with a 109-104 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Timberwolves, who lost All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns who fouled out early in the fourth quarter, finished with a 26-11 run to secure victory, which means they will face the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs.

Anthony Edwards (30 points with five three-pointers and five rebounds) and D'Angelo Russell (29 points and six assists) starred offensively, while the relentless Patrick Beverley was excellent against his former side with 11 rebounds.

Paul George kept the Clippers in the contest with 34 points including six three-pointers with seven rebounds and five assists.

The Clippers will next face the winner of the New Orleans Pelicans and San Antonio Spurs' play-in game for a shot at the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

Russell Westbrook responded to on-court trash talk during the Los Angeles Lakers' 124-104 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves claiming none of his opponents have "done anything in this league".

Westbrook managed 15 points on five-of-12 shooting along with four rebounds and five assists in the defeat, while LeBron James was kept to 19 points shooting at 38 percent from the field.

The Lakers point guard appeared to be on the wrong end of trash talk from Timberwolves opponent Patrick Beverley. The pair have a chequered history dating back to the 2013 Playoffs, where the then-Oklahoma City guard accused Beverley of a dirty play resulting in Westbrook tearing his meniscus and missing the rest of the postseason.

The beef was reignited in 2019 when Westbrook made light of the Beverley's defense after a Houston Rockets game where James Harden scored 47 points when guarded by him.

Beverley clearly had not forgotten, as he was seen calling Westbrook "trash" and plugging his nose to gesture a bad smell during Wednesday's game.

"I honestly don’t pay no mind to it, maybe other guys do," Westbrook told reporters after the game. "The trash talking doesn’t bother me.

"Nobody out there has done anything in this league that would make we cock my eyes up and think 'oh they're talking mess', nope.

"That's fine, they're good, they won a game. Happy for them. We move on to the next one."

The result leaves the Lakers with a 29-40 record and in peril of missing the playoffs. Westbrook was asked whether the on-court tension could have been used to inspire the Lakers to respond.

"You've got to ask each individual," he said. "Everybody is wired differently. I can't speak for everybody else and if it gives them a rise or not."

On the trash talk, James added: "It's part of the game."

The Lakers trailed 67-46 at half-time but narrowed the gap in the fourth quarter, before the Timberwolves went on a decisive 17-4 run.

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel bemoaned bad luck but also "terrible calls" by the referees during that stretch.

"They made three threes, one bounced up to the ceiling and bounced right through. We can't get a bounce," Vogel said.

"We had two questionable calls in the fourth quarter of a close game, with Bron's travel and Bron's illegal screen. Terrible calls. If you're going to call that, call it throughout the whole game. Very frustrating."

Veteran Patrick Beverley has been traded for the second time in two days with the Memphis Grizzlies sending the point guard to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The 33-year-old played a key part in the Los Angeles Clippers' 2021 playoffs campaign, marking Devin Booker closely in their Western Conference finals against the Phoenix Suns.

Beverley was also ejected from Game 6 of the series following a forceful push on Chris Paul during a stoppage.

The Grizzlies had acquired Beverley from the Clippers in a trade that sent Eric Bledsoe to Los Angeles on Sunday but Memphis made another move on Tuesday.

Beverley has been traded to the Timberwolves in exchange for guard Jarrett Culver and forward Juancho Hernangomez.

Chicago-born Beverley had been with the Clippers since 2017 but lost his starting spot in the 2021 playoffs to Reggie Jackson.

Beverley averaged 7.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game in the 2020-21 NBA season but was more known for his defensive hustle.

The Phoenix Suns are waiting.

A series sweep over the Denver Nuggets means Monty Williams' team are through to the Western Conference Finals, where they will meet either the Utah Jazz or the Los Angeles Clippers.

In the East, meanwhile, the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks are serving up a prime example of how a seven-game series can ebb and flow throughout. At 2-2 and with injuries taking a toll, it is tough to predict who will progress.

With the Philadelphia 76ers and Atlanta Hawks also locked in a battle in the East, it is time to take a look at those players who have seized the chance to shine across the past week in the NBA playoffs, as well as those struggling in the shade.

RUNNING HOT...

Chris Paul

Paul set an unusual record as the Suns completed a 4-0 sweep of the Nuggets on Sunday. In contributing 37 points, the 36-year-old became the oldest guard in NBA history to outscore his age in a playoff game.

It capped a memorable week for the 11-time All-Star, who averaged 25.5 points per game in the series. Since the playoffs expanded to 16 teams in 1984, Phoenix are the only team to knock out both the previous year's conference finalists in the first two rounds, having also accounted for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Donovan Mitchell

Through three games against the Clippers, Mitchell has been an offensive juggernaut for the Jazz. He has scored a combined total of 112 points to average out for the week at 37.33 per outing.

His output has been aided by getting hot from long range, the guard landing 5.67 three-point attempts per game. Yes, that is correct: Per. Game. An ankle issue could slow him down in the remainder of the series, having already missed the end of the regular season and Utah's first game in the playoffs.

Bruce Brown

With James Harden out due to a hamstring injury, Brown has taken on a greater offensive role for the ailing Nets. In three games across the past week, the 24-year-old has taken 22 shots – he had tallied 31 in the previous six playoff outings – and made his first three-pointer in the playoffs as Brooklyn won Game 2.

His production could be set to further increase if Kyrie Irving joins Harden on the sidelines, the point guard having twisted his right ankle as his team lost Game 4 in Milwaukee on Sunday.

GOING COLD...

Joe Harris

Having been pivotal at the start of the Nets-Bucks series, Harris has cooled off since the teams travelled to Milwaukee. His opening two outings saw him manage 19 and 13 points, but since then just 11 combined in back-to-back defeats.

Harris landed only one of his 11 field goal attempts in Game 3 before fouling out, while Sunday’s Game 4 performance was only marginally better. Perhaps a return to Brooklyn for Game 5 will help him find his scoring touch again.

Bobby Portis

Just like Harris on the opposing roster, Portis is in a slump. The 29-year-old has averaged just 2.0 points per game across the past week, a major drop from his regular-season average of 11.42. He is also contributing less in terms of rebounding too, dipping down to 3.0 per outing.

Fellow big Brook Lopez is another role player to see the points dry up (6.33ppg), leaving Milwaukee to lean heavily on All-Star duo Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton as they bid to make the Eastern Conference Finals.

Marcus Morris Sr and Patrick Beverley

For the second successive series, the Clippers are having to dig themselves out of an early hole. An emphatic Game 3 victory over the Jazz halved the deficit, thanks mainly to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George managing a combined total of 65 points.

The role players will need to help out too if they are to set up a clash with the Suns. Morris Sr has averaged 7.67 points across the past week, not aided by landing just one of his 16 attempts from deep. Team-mate Beverley is also struggling from long range while managing just 10 points in total in his past three games.

The high-flying Los Angeles Clippers will try to keep their winning streak alive in the NBA with much of their star power on the bench. 

Amid a six-game winning streak, the Clippers will be missing Paul George (rest) and Serge Ibaka (back tightness) for Wednesday's game against the lowly Detroit Pistons.

Kawhi Leonard (sore foot) and Patrick Beverley (hand) will also continue to sit out as their injuries heal.

Clippers star Leonard has missed the last two games, while Beverley has been absent for three consecutive outings.

Despite their injury woes, the Clippers (38-18) enter the game with the longest active winning streak in the league. 

George, who is continuing to work his way back from a toe injury, contributed 36 points, seven rebounds and eight assists in Tuesday's victory over the Indiana Pacers. 

Stephen Curry and his Golden State Warriors team-mates have been playing with extra spice over the past week.

Questionable puns aside, the sight of a fit and firing Curry is certainly no laughing matter for defences across the NBA.

A golden era for the Warriors saw Steve Kerr's team reach the NBA Finals in five seasons running from 2015 to 2019, with Curry and the rest of a star-studded roster winning the title three times.

But a 2019-2020 season disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic was one of injury woe and transition for a Warriors side that finished bottom of the Western Conference (15-50), while they were a world away from playing in the NBA bubble in Orlando where the end of the regular season and the entire postseason was played.

The departures of Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala hit the Warriors after Klay Thompson had sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament, and Curry managed just five games in an injury-hit campaign.

However, after losing their opening two games this season, the Warriors have won four of the past five and welcome the Los Angeles Clippers to Chase Center on Wednesday with a 4-3 record – with Curry starring in wins against the Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings.

Five of the Warriors' next seven games come against teams with a .500 record or better, including a double-header versus the Clippers, and there is much intrigue as to whether Kerr's men can be a sustained threat this season.

TOP PERFORMERS

Golden State Warriors - Stephen Curry

Curry and the Warriors were certainly not firing on all cylinders in defeats to the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks to start the season – although his 20 and 19 points respectively were a team high.

Only one defeat has followed since then, though, and 32-year-old Curry has provided a timely reminder of his enduring quality including a barnstorming showing in defeating the Portland Trail Blazers 137-122 on Monday.

Curry sank a career-high 62 points in that game, as well as offering five rebounds and four assists, before following up with 30 against the Kings (nine rebounds, eight assists).

Consequently, the outlook for the Warriors and Curry himself looks a lot healthier. In the early throes of this season, he has averaged 32.0 points - second-most in the league - while his player efficiency rating (PER) ranks third.

His 32.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game for 2020-21 are outperforming his career averages for the regular season (23.6 and 4.5), while his 6.4 for assists is only slightly lower (6.6).

A 36.9 per cent success rate from three-point range is way down on the 43.4 overall in his career, yet he was at 50.0 and 41.7 per cent in this metric over the Warriors' past two wins.

Golden State may need to find more assistance for Curry, though. The return to action of Draymond Green has allowed his superstar team-mate more space on the floor, but Andrew Wiggins (17.6) and rookie James Wiseman (11.4) are the side's next-highest average scorers. Without Thompson, the Warriors need a little more from their supporting cast.

TOP PERFORMERS

Los Angeles Clippers - Kawhi Leonard

Much was expected of a Clippers side that combined star-studded duo Kawhi Leonard and Paul George for the 2019-20 season.

But the Clippers surrendered a 3-1 lead to lose their Western Conference semifinal series to the Denver Nuggets last season and it has been a mixed bag thus far.

Defeat to the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday left the Clippers at 5-3, and the Warriors might have to beware the wounded animal if they are to make a statement of their intent.

George missed that game due to ankle soreness, with Leonard putting up 30 points and 10 assists in the losing effort.

George leads the way for average points (25.1) for the Clippers this season, but Leonard (23.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists) is typically impressing across the board.

The efforts of Leonard are going to be particularly crucial if George, whose injury status is day-to-day, fails to make it against the Warriors.

KEY BATTLE: CAN BEVERLEY CONTAIN CURRY?

The best offensive point guard in Curry comes up against one of the league's best defensive point guards in Patrick Beverley. 

Beverley was on it against Spurs, contributing 20 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, along with two blocks, and it will be his job to be a nuisance against Curry.

If Beverley, a man with a penchant for trash talking, can keep Curry quiet then it is hard to imagine the Warriors will have the scoring power to take down the Clippers.

That being said, if Curry gains the upper hand in this battle of the guards then the Warriors can make a huge statement about their credentials this season.

HEAD TO HEAD

It was a clean sweep for the Clippers in the three games they played against the Warriors in 2019-20.

The most recent of those matchups was way back on March 10, though – a game in which Leonard put up 23 points in a 131-107 rout of the Warriors.

History is with the Warriors overall, with Golden State triumphing in 131 games to the Clippers' 90 from the 221 occasions on which the teams have faced off in the NBA's regular season.

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