A barnstorming first half from the Golden State Warriors' Klay Thompson set up a decisive 122-109 home victory against the reigning champions Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday.

Thompson started on fire, scoring 21 points (8-12 from the field, 5-8 from three), with three rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block as the Warriors went into the half-time leading 67-58.

In an interesting strategic decision, Milwaukee decided to face-guard Steph Curry all the way up to the half-court line when he did not have the ball.

It forced Curry into a decision, where he could either scratch and claw to try and play his usual game, or he could drag his defender out to near half-court, allowing his team-mates to play four-on-four with plenty of extra space.

Curry finished with only seven field goal attempts – his first game this season with less than 10 – but had eight assists, and opened up the game for Thompson and Jordan Poole to dominate.

Thompson finished with a season-high 38 points (15-24 from the field, 8-14 from three), while Poole collected an efficient 30 (9-16 from the field, 5-10 from three, 7-7 from the line).

It was also yet another glimpse of what the seventh overall pick of the 2021 NBA Draft, Jonathan Kuminga, could look like when he is fully formed as the 19-year-old scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, spending long periods of the game holding up defensively against Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Antetokounmpo was the sole bright spot for Milwaukee, scoring 31 points (9-17 from the field, 12-18 from the line) to go with his eight rebounds. 

 

The Phoenix Suns became the first team to secure a playoff spot with an impressive 111-90 defeat of the Miami Heat on Wednesday.

Devin Booker returned from a four-game absence to put up 23 points, nine assists and eight rebounds as the leaders of the West toppled the top side in the East.

The Suns, who are 53-13 for the season, have now beaten all other 29 teams in the same season for the first time since 2006-07.

"I told the guys it was one of the best defensive performances I've ever seen," said Suns coach Monty Williams after watching his team concede just 35 points in the second half. "I've been around for a little bit."

Duncan Robinson was top scorer for Miami with 22, who led by 11 in the early stages before falling to just their third defeat in 15 games.

"They were first to the ball a lot," said Robinson. "They were the aggressor. Unacceptable."

 

The Milwaukee Bucks are now two games behind the Heat at the top of the Eastern Conference after beating the Atlanta Hawks 124-115, with Giannis Antetokounmpo's double-double of 43 points and 12 rebounds firing them to a sixth-straight win.

Antetokounmpo finished 15-of-22 from the field to take his tally to 82 points in the space of 24 hours after his 39 in Tuesday's victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

"The things he does are not normal," said team-mate Bobby Portis. "It's fun to be his team-mate and fun to play alongside him."

Rockets stun Lakers in overtime

The Los Angeles Lakers lost for the ninth time in a row on the road, going down 139-130 in overtime against the Houston Rockets.

A triple-double from LeBron James and 30 points from Russell Westbrook were not enough as rookie Jalen Green hit a career-high 32 points for the Rockets.

"We have a really small margin of error this season and teams are making us pay," said James, whose run of consecutive 25-point games ended at 23. "I missed a lot of shots that I know I'm capable of making, have made throughout the course of the season and my career."

The Los Angeles Clippers snapped their two-game losing streak, beating the Washington Wizards 115-109, while the Utah Jazz improved to 41-24 with a comfortable 123-85 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

Bulls back on track, Beasley sets record

The Chicago Bulls ended a run of five consecutive losses, DeMar DeRozan scoring 36 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter, in a 114-108 win over the Detroit Pistons.

It was a day to remember for Malik Beasley, who set a franchise record for three-pointers in the Minnesota Timberwolves' win at home over the Thunder.

Beasley landed 11 of his 17 attempts from beyond the arc as Minnesota, seventh in the West, made it six wins in a row.

The Boston Celtics continued their recent good form with a 115-101 win at the Charlotte Hornets, while the New York Knicks pulled off a fifth-straight road win over the Dallas Mavericks, Julius Randle scoring 26 points in a 107-77 blowout.

Gregg Popovich will have to wait for his NBA record 1,336th regular-season win as coach, the San Antonio Spurs falling 119-104 at home to the Toronto Raptors.

There were also wins for the Orlando Magic, who topped the New Orleans Pelicans 108-102, and the Denver Nuggets, who beat the Sacramento Kings 106-100 thanks to a 38-point double-double from Nikola Jokic.

Jayson Tatum produced a dominant display with 54 points as the Boston Celtics won 126-120 over the Brooklyn Nets who had the rare partnership of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on Sunday.

Durant and Irving teamed up for only the fourth time this season but their presence would not deny Tatum's brilliance, shooting 16-of-30 from the field and eight-of-15 from beyond the arc.

Tatum, who scored 34 points in the second half, led the Celtics' late charge as they won after trailing by one point at the final change.

Durant scored 37 points in his second game back from an MCL sprain which kept him out since mid-January, becoming the 23rd player to reach 25,000 career NBA points.

Irving only managed 19 points with four rebounds and six rebounds for the Nets who slip to 32-33, while the Celtics have won 21 of their past 27 games to improve to 39-27.

 

Middleton scores season-high

Khris Middleton scored a season-high 44 points as Giannis Antetokounmpo took a back seat in the Milwaukee Bucks' 132-122 win over the Phoenix Suns, who were missing both Chris Paul (thumb) and Devin Booker (protocols). The Bucks, who have won four straight, stormed home with a 12-1 run over the last three minutes as Antetokounmpo got into foul trouble.

The Houston Rockets snapped their 12-game losing run with a shock 123-112 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, for whom Ja Morant scored 22 points with six assists. The Utah Jazz closed on Memphis in the west with a 116-103 win at the Oklahoma City Thunder as Bojan Bogdanovic hit a franchise-record 11 three-pointers for his 35 points.

Nikola Jokic scored 46 points, including 30 in the fourth quarter, as the Denver Nuggets won 138-130 over the New Orleans Pelicans in over-time. Jokic had 46 points plus 12 rebounds and 11 assists as the Nugs rallied after squandering a 21-point lead.

 

Allen injury sours Cavs win

The Cleveland Cavaliers won 104-96 over the Toronto Raptors but lost Jarrett Allen indefinitely to a suspected fractured finger. Rookie Evan Mobley had 20 points with 17 rebounds for the Cavs who are 37-27.

Kevin Durant returned from injury with 31 points but the Brooklyn Nets' struggles continued with a 113-107 defeat to the Miami Heat.

Durant had missed the past 21 games due to an MCL sprain sustained on January 16, with the Nets going 5-16 in his absence, and they led by 16 points in the first half upon his return, but could not sustain it.

The 2014 NBA MVP had a three-point attempt with 57 seconds left which would have put the Nets in the lead but he missed and the Heat scored from the ensuing possession via Bam Adebayo.

Adebayo finished the game with 30 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, while Tyler Herro came off the bench to contribute 27 points, four rebounds and eight assists.

Durant shot 10-of-21 from the field for his 31 points, including two three-pointers, with four rebounds and four assists.

The result leaves the Nets at 32-32 with a .500 record, while the Heat are top of the Eastern Conference with a 42-22 record.

 

Tatum leads Celtics final-quarter charge

The Boston Celtics continued their strong form as Jayson Tatum scored 21 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter in a 120-107 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. Ja Morant maintained his own hot streak, with 38 points, four rebounds and seven assists.

Luka Doncic produced a dominant display with 41 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists as the Dallas Mavericks beat the Golden State Warriors for the second time in five days, 122-113. Stephen Curry managed 21 points with nine assists for the Warriors who have lost seven of their past 10 games.

The Chicago Bulls suffered their third straight defeat with Trae Young scored 39 points with 13 assists as the Atlanta Hawks won 130-124.

 

Struggling Lakers beaten by Clippers

The Los Angeles Lakers slumped to their fourth consecutive loss going down to the Los Angeles Clippers 132-111 after being blown apart in a 40-18 third quarter. LeBron James shot eight-of-18 from the field for his 26 points with four turnovers, while Reggie Jackson scored 36 points for the Clippers.

Luka Doncic stepped up to help the Dallas Mavericks recover and overcome the Los Angeles Lakers 109-104 in Tuesday's topsy-turvy encounter.

The Mavericks blew a 21-point lead in the space of 12 minutes spanning half-time at Crypto.com Arena and trailed 100-94 with seven minutes to play.

But 11 consecutive points ensured Jason Kidd's side claimed an eighth win in 10 outings, while the out-of-form Lakers slid to a season-worst seven games below .500.

While not at his best, Doncic led the scoring for the Mavericks with 25 points – seven of those in the final quarter – as he went 9 of 21.

LeBron James scored 26 points for the Lakers and Carmelo Anthony had 20, but it was not enough to prevent the hosts from tasting a sixth loss in seven outings.

 


Timberwolves inflict another defeat on Warriors

The Golden State Warriors (43-19) have the second-best record in NBA, but they lost for a sixth time in eight games with a 129-114 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Karl-Anthony Towns had 39 points and nine rebounds, while going 14 for 22 from the floor, as the Timberwolves made it back-to-back victories.

"We're going to be fine long-term. I'm excited about our team and excited about where we can go, but we've just got to weather this storm," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.


Clippers' run goes on, Nets downed by Raptors

The Los Angeles Clippers beat the Houston Rockets 113-100 thanks to Ivica Zubac's 22 points and 12 rebounds for their fourth win in a row as they went 33-31 for the season.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, the struggling Brooklyn Nets lost to the Toronto Raptors for a second time in two days, going down 109-108 in a tight contest at Scotiabank Arena.

Jayson Tatum's 33 points, eight rebounds and seven assists inspired the Boston Celtics to a 107-98 win against the Atlanta Hawks, while the Washington Wizards beat the Detroit Pistons 116-113.

All-Star Ja Morant scored a career-high 52 points including a massive dunk and a buzzer-beater as the Memphis Grizzlies won 118-105 over the San Antonio Spurs on Monday.

Morant's 52-point haul was the second highest of the NBA season, behind only Trae Young who scored 56 points for the Atlanta Hawks against the Portland Trail Blazers on January 3.

The 22-year-old guard went 22-of-30 from the field including four-of-four from beyond the arc. Morant also hit a ridiculous half-time buzzer-bester after Steve Adams' full-court pass, catching and shooting in one motion.

Earlier in the second quarter, Morant produced a monster one-handed dunk over Spurs center Jakob Poeltl.

Morant's half-century follows up his career-best 46 points against the Chicago Bulls on Saturday. It was also the first 50-point game in Grizzlies franchise history.

 

Bucks bounce back with Giannis starring

Reigning champions, the Milwaukee Bucks, had dropped four of their past five games but Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way as they bounced back with a 130-106 win over the Charlotte Hornets. Antetokounmpo scored 26 points with 16 rebounds, four blocks, two steals and six assists, with Bobby Portis adding 20 points and 10 rebounds.

The Miami Heat took some ground in the race for top seed in the Eastern Conference with a 112-99 victory over the Chicago Bulls, with Tyler Herro contributing 20 points, six rebounds and five assists off the bench. DeMar DeRozan's 10-game run of 30-point games was halted, managing only 18 for the Bulls.

D'Angelo Russell's good run of scoring continued with 25 points as the Minnesota Timberwolves boosted their playoffs hopes by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-22, with Karl-Anthony Towns () draining a key late three-pointer.

 

Short-handed Nets blown away

The Brooklyn Nets slumped to their 14th loss from their past 17 games, going down miserably 133-97 to the Toronto Raptors at home. Scottie Barnes dominated with 28 points, 16 rebounds and five steals for Toronto while the Nets, missing Kyrie Irving who is ineligible to play home games and head coach Steve Nash in protocols, had few winners

Kyrie Irving was cool under pressure as he scored a season-high 38 points in the Brooklyn Nets' impressive 126-123 road win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, who finished with 29 points, 14 rebounds and six assists, missed a three-point attempt to send the game to over-time.

The Nets were missing key players Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons but produced a win that showcased their potential having lost 13 of their past 15 games.

New additions Seth Curry (19 points with four three-pointers) and Andre Drummond (17 points, 12 rebounds and five assists) supported Irving well, with the point guard crucial down the stretch from the stripe.

Bobby Portis scored a career-high eight three-pointers in his 30-point haul along with 12 rebounds, while Khris Middleton added 25 points for the Bucks who have lost four of their past five.

 

Ja records career-high haul

All-Star Ja Morant scored a career-high 46 points, while Steven Adams had 12 points with a season-high 21 rebounds as the Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Chicago Bulls 116-110. DeMar DeRozan extended his 30-point streak to 10 games with a 31-point haul as the Bulls' six-game win streak was halted.

Nikola Jokic closed to within five of Wilt Chamberlain's all-time triple-doubles record as the Denver Nuggets won 115-110 over the Sacramento Kings. Jokic had 18 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists for his 73rd career triple-double.

The Boston Celtics claimed their 11th win from their past 12 games with a 113-104 victory over the Detroit Pistons, while Trae Young dropped 41 points as the Atlanta Hawks won 127-100 against the Toronto Raptors.

 

Pop's record on hold

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich will have to wait a few more days before he can tie the NBA record for regular-season victories after a 133-129 loss to the Miami Heat, with Bam Adebayo scoring a season-high 36 points. Popovich has 1,334 regular-season wins as Spurs coach, putting him one behind Don Nelson.

James Harden scored 27 points with 13 assists on his Philadelphia 76ers debut and formed a strong partnership with Joel Embiid in a 133-102 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday.

Harden, who crossed from the Brooklyn Nets in an NBA Trade Deadline move earlier this month, almost registered a debut triple-double, with eight rebounds.

Embiid has been in irrepressible form this season, although there had been some concern Harden's arrival may blunt some of his offensive impact, but the center contributed 34 points, 10 rebounds and three assists.

The new-look 76ers had immediate cohesion, scoring 65 points in the first half, before a 41-point final quarter with Tyrese Maxey finishing with 28 points while Harden also drained five three-pointers, shooting seven-of-12 from the field.

The 76ers recorded a season-high 19 three-pointers for the game, with head coach Doc Rivers admitting "that was pretty good" when asked post-game if Harden's debut could have gone any better.

 

Lakers fall to Clippers again

Terance Mann led the way with 19 points and 10 rebounds as the Los Angeles Clippers won a tight game with the Los Angeles Lakers 105-102, the sixth time in a row they have beaten their local rivals.

LeBron James top scored with 21 but was unable to stop the Clippers from taking charge in the closing moments, with Amir Coffey adding 12 of his 14 points for the night in the fourth quarter.

The San Antonio Spurs edged the Washington Wizards 157-153 in double over-time, with both teams setting season-highs in scoring. Spurs guard Dejounte Murray recorded a triple-double, although he missed potential winning shots in both regulation and the first over-time.

RJ Barrett scored 46 points including six three-pointers but the New York Knicks went down 115-110 to the Miami Heat, while Donovan Mitchell scored 33 points and Rudy Gobert had a double-double (14 points and 17 rebounds) as the Utah Jazz beat Luka Doncic's Dallas Mavericks 114-109.

 

Suns streak halted

The table-topping Phoenix Suns' eight-game winning streak came to an end, going down 117-102 to the lowly New Orleans Pelicans. Devin Booker top scored with 30 points for the Suns, who were without injured veteran guard Chris Paul. CJ McCollum scored 32 points for the Pels as he continues to thrive following his trade.

Seth Curry's 23-point arrival helped the Brooklyn Nets snap their 11-game skid in a 109-85 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Monday.

Curry landed four three-pointers with seven rebounds and five assists while fellow debutant Andre Drummond added 11 points, with Ben Simmons still out despite being present for the pre-game shootaround.

The Nets led from start to finish but were propelled by a 54-37 second half with LaMarcus Aldridge scoring 19 points with eight rebounds off the bench.

Bruce Brown had season-high returns with 19 points, six assists and five steals for the new-look Nets who improved to 30-27.

De'Andre Fox had a game-high 26 points for the Kings who were limited to 34.4 per cent shooting (31-of-90) overall.

 

Steph stars but Warriors lose

Stephen Curry made eight three-pointers in a 33-point haul but it was not enough to get the Golden State Warriors past the Los Angeles Clippers who won 119-104. Terance Mann scored 25 points with seven rebounds and six assists for the triumphant Clippers.

Julius Randle had a triple-double with 30 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists but he was overshadowed by Rookie of the Year contender Josh Giddey as the Oklahoma City Thunder won 127-123 in overtime. Giddey also had a triple-double with 28 points including three triples along with 11 rebounds and 12 assists.

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic starred with 26 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists as the Denver Nuggets brushed aside the Orlando Magic 121-111, while Donovan Mitchell had 30 points with six rebounds and seven assists in the Utah Jazz's 135-101 victory over the Houston Rockets.

 

Middleton loses radar as Bucks go down

Khris Middleton almost had a triple-double but shot poorly, going three-of-15 from the field and one-of-eight from beyond the arc as the Milwaukee Bucks went down 122-107 to the Portland Trail Blazers. Anfernee Simons scored 31 points for the Blazers, while Middleton had 16 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists as the Bucks lost in Giannis Antetokounmpo's absence due to a sore ankle.

The Philadelphia 76ers made a statement as Joel Embiid piled on a 40-point triple-double as they won 103-93 over the Cleveland Cavaliers without new acquisition James Harden on Saturday.

Embiid scored 40 points with 14 rebounds and 10 assists for the Sixers, who improve to 34-22. It was only Embiid's fourth career triple-double.

The Cameroonian center's points haul included a highlight-reel dunk, a one-handed throw-down over Jarrett Allen late in the first half.

Embiid also made four of five three-pointers, going at 50 per cent from the field, while he added three steals in an outstanding game as they wait on Harden to be cleared medically to debut.

 

Klay hits season-high

Klay Thompson scored a season-high 33 points, marking a major milestone in his recovery from long-term injury, as the Golden State Warriors won 117-115 over the Los Angeles Lakers. Thompson shot five-of-nine from beyond the arc, with Stephen Curry (24 points, five rebounds, eight assists) taking a backseat. LeBron James had 26 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists for the Lakers.

The Chicago Bulls, sitting second in the Eastern Conference, overcame a sluggish start as DeMar DeRozan scored 38 points with six rebounds and five assists, while Nikola Vucevic added 31 points and 15 rebounds in a 106-101 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Luka Doncic scored 45 points with 15 rebounds and eight rebounds in a losing cause as the Dallas Mavericks went down 99-97 to the Los Angeles Clippers, while the table-topping Phoenix Suns won their fourth straight with a 132-105 win over the Orlando Magic led by Devin Booker's 26 points and Chris Paul's 15 assists.

 

Nets slump to 11th straight loss

Kyrie Irving led a late Brooklyn Nets charge that fell short as they went down 115-111 to the Miami Heat. Irving scored 29 points, including 20 in the final quarter, with five rebounds and five assists as the Nets slumped to their 11th straight defeat. Bam Adebayo had 19 points and 14 rebounds for the Heat who have won five in a row.

The Phoenix Suns outclassed defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday to win 131-107 and stretch their NBA-best record to 45-10.

In a rematch of last season's Finals, won by the Bucks, Phoenix pulled clear in the second half after a competitive opening two quarters in Arizona.

Deandre Ayton top-scored for the Suns with 27 points, finishing on 12-of-14 shooting from the field, while Chris Paul enjoyed a special game: his 17 points and 19 assists brought about his 500th career double-double, a tally only previously reached by three guards in the league's history.

"I'm grateful that I still get a chance to play," he said. "Not just play, but I feel like I play at a high level every night. It's cool."

It was a 15th win from 16 games for the Suns and reinforced their championship credentials against the team who came from 2-0 down to win last year's Finals series 4-2.

"They're the defending champs. We still hurt," said coach Monty Williams. "But from a confidence standpoint, for sure, it was a big game for us. I can admit it now."

The Golden State Warriors, second to the Suns in the West, fell to a second straight defeat for only the third time this season despite a double-double from Stephen Curry.

Julius Randle's 28 points and 16 rebounds, the latter an equal-high for the season, saw the New York Knicks win for the first time in four games in their West Coast trip, Klay Thompson's missed buzzer-beater meaning it finished 116-114.

The Miami Heat remain top of the Eastern Conference, their dominant second-half display seeing them to a 112-97 defeat of the New Orleans Pelicans. Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo each scored 29 points for Miami, while Kyle Lowry got his first triple-double of the season.

Doncic hits 50 for first time

The latest star turn in the incredible early career of Luka Doncic helped the Dallas Mavericks beat the Los Angeles Clippers 112-105 in Texas.

The 22-year-old scored a career-best 51 points, 28 of which came in an astonishing first quarter in which he hit seven of his attempted nine three-pointers.

Marcus Morris Sr. top-scored for the Clippers with 21, while Reggie Jackson posted 18, but there was simply no way back from the damage dealt by Doncic.

"Tonight was just Luka," said Clippers coach Tyronn Lue. "That little step-back three, I'll live with that. That's his shot, but if he misses a couple or few of those, then the game is different. But he made them, and that's why he's a great player."

Kuzma triple-double settles clash of busy traders

In a battle of teams at the heart of the trade deadline drama, the Washington Wizards beat the Brooklyn Nets 113-112.

A first career triple-double of 15 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists for Kyle Kuzma proved pivotal for the Wizards, who added Kristaps Porzingis on a busy Thursday in the week they lost Bradley Beal for the rest of the season to a wrist injury.

The Nets, who sent James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers in a blockbuster trade involving Ben Simmons, Seth Curry and Andre Drummond, slipped to a 10th loss on the spin despite Kyrie Irving's 31 points.

Elsewhere, Kevin Porter Jr. put up 30 points as the Toronto Raptors beat the Houston Rockets 139-120, while the Memphis Grizzlies took their winning streak to four, Ja Morant scoring 23 points in a 132-107 rout of the struggling Detroit Pistons.

 

The Philadelphia 76ers solved their Ben Simmons conundrum with a blockbuster trade for James Harden of the Brooklyn Nets before the NBA trade deadline passed on Thursday. 

Simmons has refused to play for the Sixers this season after coach Doc Rivers and center Joel Embiid were critical of his performances in the Eastern Conference semifinals loss to the Atlanta Hawks last season. 

Philadelphia had been trying to trade the fifth-year guard/forward ever since, but the former Rookie of the Year's value plummeted after he came up short against the Hawks. 

However, according to multiple reports a deal was finally struck to send Simmons to Brooklyn in exchange for the 2018 NBA MVP Harden. Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, an unprotected 2022 first-round pick and a protected 2027 first-round pick were also sent to the Nets, with Paul Millsap going in the opposite direction. 

Harden can become a free agent in the offseason, while Simmons is under contract until 2025 after signing a five-year, $177.2million deal in 2019.

While the 76ers seemingly boosted their chances of contending by adding Harden, the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors remained idle. However, there were still plenty of other deals reported on Thursday.

 

Mavericks move on from Porzingis

The Luka Doncic-Kristaps Porzingis era is over in Dallas.

The Mavs sent Porzingis and a second-round pick to the Washington Wizards in exchange for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans.

Injuries have continued to trouble the 7ft 3in center, who averaged 20 points and 8.8 rebounds per game in two and a half seasons in Dallas.

Kings trade Bagley, Bucks get Ibaka 

The Sacramento Kings made Marvin Bagley III the second overall pick in the 2018 draft but brought an end to his time in California as part of a seven-player, four-team trade. 

Bagley was sent to the Detroit Pistons, with Josh Jackson and Trey Lyles going to Sacramento. The Kings also received Donte DiVincenzo from the Milwaukee Bucks, who swapped Serge Ibaka for Semi Ojeleye and Rodney Hood. The reigning NBA champions also received two future second-round picks and cash considerations. 

Bagley has started just 17 games for Sacramento this season, averaging 9.3 points and 7.2 rebounds in 21.9 minutes per game.

Celtics bring Theis back, send Schroder to Houston

Daniel Theis is back for a second spell with the Boston Celtics.

Less than a year after he was traded to the Chicago Bulls by the Celtics, Theis was brought back from the Houston Rockets in exchange for Dennis Schroder, Enes Freedom and Bruno Fernando. Freedom is expected to be waived by the Rockets, though.

Boston also sent Bol Bol and PJ Dozier, who are both out for the season, to the Orlando Magic and offloaded Josh Richardson and Romeo Langford to the San Antonio Spurs. The Celtics' brought in Derrick White.

Elsewhere...

Goran Dragic's time with the Toronto Raptors is up after he was traded to the Spurs for Thaddeus Young, Drew Eubanks – whom they were set to waive – and a 2022 lottery-protected first-round pick. Dragic is expected to be bought out, with the Chicago Bulls, Mavs, Bucks, Warriors, Nets and Clippers all credited with an interest.

The Charlotte Hornets added Montrezl Harrel from the Wizards. Ish Smith and Vernon Carey Jr went the other way. 

Torrey Craig is back with the Phoenix Suns following a deal that saw Jalen Smith land with the Indiana Pacers. Aaron Holiday was also acquired from the Wizards.

Russell Westbrook played no part as the Los Angeles Lakers fell to a 107-105 defeat against the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday.

A day after hinting at his unhappiness at coach Frank Vogel, and with lingering doubts over his future ahead of Thursday's trade deadline, Westbrook watched from the bench.

It is the first game the nine-time All-Star has missed all season, though Vogel could at least still call upon the likes of LeBron James and Anthony Davis from the beginning.

James scored 30 points for the Lakers, who led 54-47 at half-time, only for the depleted Trail Blazers to slowly turn things around before rallying in the fourth quarter.

Anfernee Simons led the scoring for Portland with 29 points, while Jusuf Nurkic added 19 points and 12 rebounds as the hosts held on to snap a six-game losing streak.

 


Bogdanovic and Mitchell inspire Jazz to victory

The Golden State Warriors' nine-game winning streak was ended in emphatic style as they fell to a 111-85 defeat to the Utah Jazz.

Without the injured Rudy Gobert for an eighth game, the Jazz were inspired to victory by 23-point Bojan Bogdanovic and Donovan Mitchell, who had 14 points and 10 rebounds.

The Warriors, without Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and James Wiseman, finished with a shooting percentage of 36 per cent in what was their heaviest defeat of the season.

DeRozan stars again

Five-time NBA All-Star DeMar DeRozan was serenaded by "MVP!" chants after scoring 36 points in the Chicago Bulls' 121-109 victory over the out-of-form Charlotte Hornets.

DeRozan hit 30 points for a fourth game running, during which time he has averaged 37.5 points, while Nikola Vucevic finished with 18 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, Darius Garland's 27 points on his return from a back injury helped the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 105-92 win against the San Antonio Spurs.

The Toronto Raptors beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 117-98 for their seventh straight win and the Sacramento Kings were 132-119 victors against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Injuries, playing games on back-to-back nights and COVID protocols are part of the landscape of the NBA all teams are forced to navigate through in today’s world.

The Toronto Raptors were dealt significant blows to their roster over the season’s first two months, but now close to full strength, they’re climbing the Eastern Conference standings and will likely be looking to make a move before Thursday’s trade deadline.

Through the end of November, only four teams used more starting lineups than Toronto’s eight, as Nick Nurse was forced to constantly shuffle his rotation. The low point came Boxing Day, when the Raptors had 10 players in the NBA’s health and safety protocols and found out just hours before their scheduled tip-off against the Cleveland Cavaliers they would in fact play. With a patchwork eight-player roster featuring four hardship signees, they were promptly obliterated by 45 points.

Undermanned again two nights later, they suffered another defeat at hands of the Philadelphia 76ers. But as the regulars returned to the Raptors’ roster, the wins have been piling up.

With Monday’s 116-101 victory over the Charlotte Hornets, Toronto extended their winning streak to six games and improved to 15-6 since New Year’s Eve – only the 76ers have a better record at 13-5 among East clubs. This surge has vaulted the Raptors into sixth place in the conference after sitting in 11th on December 30.

Much of the recent success is because Nurse can count on writing in Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Gart Trent Jr. and Scottie Barnes into his starting lineup.

The Raptors are 11-4 when starting VanVleet, Siakam, Anunoby, Trent and Barnes, averaging 114.3 points while shooting 45.9 per cent and making an average of 13.9 3-pointers in those games. When those five don’t start together, Toronto is 18-19, averaging 106 points on 43.4 per cent shooting with an average of 11.9 made 3s per game.

It shouldn't come as a huge surprise that Toronto’s success is tied to the starting combination of VanVleet, Siakam, Anunoby, Trent and Barnes given how heavily the Raptors rely on their starting five.

Toronto’s starters account for 79.2 per cent of their scoring – the largest percentage in the NBA – with an average of 85.8 points per game – also a league best. The Raptors’ bench, meanwhile, is averaging a mere 22.6 points – the fewest by any group of reserves since the 2012-13 Portland Trail Blazers bench averaged 18.5 points. The difference of 63.2 points between Toronto’s starting five and reserves is the largest by a team in a season since 2004-05, when the Phoenix Suns had a difference of 73.2 points (91.8 starting average, 18.6 bench average).

Over the last few seasons, Nurse regularly asked VanVleet and Siakam to play serious minutes, but with a lack of a bench, Anunoby, Barnes and Trent are also spending more time on the court.

VanVleet averages a league-leading 38.6 minutes, followed by Siakam at 37.9 and Anunoby at 37.2. No team has ever had players finish a season 1-2-3 in minutes played per game since minutes began being tracked in 1951-52.

Barnes then checks in at No. 6 in the NBA with an average of 36.1 minutes. That’s right, four of the top six players in average minutes all play for the Raptors. Trent is no slouch, either, averaging 34.8 minutes – good for 16th in the NBA.

With depth being a considerable issue, Goran Dragic is likely to be shipped out. Acquired as part of the sign-and-trade that sent Kyle Lowry to the Miami Heat, Dragic has appeared in just five games for the Raptors – and none since November 13 – as he’s been away from the team due to a personal issue. A handful of teams have reportedly shown interest in Dragic, and the Raptors would love to move the veteran point guard so they could shed his hefty salary and fill his roster spot with someone who will actually play.

Following the offseason departure of Lowry, the 27-year-old VanVleet has emerged as the team leader, averaging career highs in points (21.6), assists (7.1) rebounds (4.7) and made 3s (3.9). In 19 games since clearing the league’s health and safety protocols, the recently named first-time All-Star leads the NBA with 90 made 3-pointers since New Year’s Eve.

VanVleet, who is slated to participate in the 3-point contest during All-Star weekend, has been putting up eye-popping numbers over his last 21 games, averaging 24.3 points, 8 assists and 4.9 3-pointers. Only two other players have ever averaged 24+ points, 8+ assists and 4.5+ 3-pointers over a 21-game span in a single season and that’s James Harden and Damian Lillard.

During this incredible run, VanVleet has regularly been feeding Siakam, who has found his shooting touch on jumpers close to the basket.

Since December 14, VanVleet’s 46 assists to Siakam are tied for sixth most from one player to a teammate. His assists to Siakam are nearly double those of his next-closest teammate with 28 going to Anunoby, and 26 going to each Barnes and Trent.

Siakam is averaging 24 points, 11 rebounds and 5.5 assists during Toronto’s winning streak – and no other Raptor has ever averaged those numbers over a six-game span in a single season. He had 24 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists Monday – the second time he’s reached those numbers in a game in his career. There have been only four other instances a Toronto player reached those numbers in a game in franchise history.

In 23 games since December 14, Siakam is averaging 23.3 points after averaging 18.8 points in his first 16 games, and part of the reason for that scoring boost stems from his 55.6 per cent shooting on jump shots attempted within 8 feet of the rim – fourth-highest rate in the league among those with at least 35 attempts. Prior to this stretch, he was shooting just 38.5 per cent on jump shots up to 8 feet from the hoop.

Trent, meanwhile, is shooting 56.7 per cent from the baseline – eighth in the NBA among those with at least 20 attempts – but it's the perimeter where he's suddenly gotten hot.

Since returning from a six-game absence with an injured left ankle, Trent is shooting 48 per cent from 3-point range – the best mark in the league among the 49 players with at least 50 3-point attempts since January 21. Most impressive about this stretch is he’s also attempted more 3-pointers than anyone else since January 21 with 100. So, in these last 10 contests he’s averaging 14.4 points off 3-pointers after previously averaging 8.1 points off 3-pointers while shooting 36.8 per cent from deep.

While he’s suddenly emerged as a dangerous 3-point threat, Trent has spurred Toronto’s swarming defence, which is forcing a turnover on 14.7 per cent of its opponents’ possessions – the highest rate in the NBA.

Trent's average of 1.84 steals per game is the fourth-highest rate in the league, while Anunoby ranks seventh at 1.68 per game and VanVleet is eighth at 1.66. Since steals first began being tracked in 1973-74, only one team has had at least three players finish in the top 10 in steals per game and that was the 2009-10 Golden State Warriors with Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry and Stephen Jackson.

Barnes has also made an immediate impact on the defensive end. Selected fourth overall in the 2021 draft, Barnes was projected to be a disrupter on defence and he’s excelling, ranking fourth among rookies with 1.8 defensive stops per game.

His average of 2.6 offensive rebounds per game is the best among first-year players and has fuelled Toronto’s offensive attack. The Raptors’ average of 16.2 second-chance points per game trails only the Memphis Grizzlies’ average of 18.0 for the best in the league, and they’re an NBA-best 15-3 when scoring 18 or more second-chance points in a game.

With 15 points and eight rebounds on Monday, Barnes notched his fourth straight game with at least eight boards – the first Toronto rookie to accomplish that since Jonas Valanciunas in 2012-13. No Raptor first-year player has had a longer streak of consecutive games with eight or more rebounds since Jamario Moon had six in a row in 2007-08.

Barnes has been selected to participate in the 2022 Rising Stars event during All-Star weekend, along with second-year teammate Precious Achiuwa, who is averaging 7.8 points on 52.8 per cent shooting and 5.3 rebounds during Toronto’s winning streak.

The Raptors are one victory away from notching their first seven-game winning streak since the 2019-20 season, and have a couple of favourable matchups next on their schedule with games Wednesday and Thursday against a pair of last-place teams in the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets. (The schedule over the next three weeks actually looks quite advantageous, as the Raptors’ opponent winning percentage of .417 from Wednesday-March 4 is the third lowest among all teams.)

While playing on consecutive nights would seem to present greater problems for the Raptors, given how many minutes their starters play, it hasn’t been much of an issue for Nurse’s club. Toronto is 7-3 on games on zero days’ rest – tied with the Boston Celtics for the league’s second-best mark.

Toronto, though, may have a different look when it takes the court Thursday, or Wednesday for that matter, if the front office decides to make a move before the trade deadline to bolster the lineup.

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