Reigning back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic joined elite company on Monday as he put together another spectacular performance in the Denver Nuggets' 116-111 home win against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Jokic put up a team-high 25 points on eight-of-11 shooting, while adding 17 rebounds and 12 assists. In the process, he joined Hall-of-Famers Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history to produce 10 games of at least 20 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists in the same season.

The contest was meant to be a battle of the two top MVP candidates, but 76ers center and award favourite Joel Embiid was ruled out with calf soreness after suiting up for all 13 games this month.

With James Harden also out, Tyrese Maxey led the 76ers with 29 points on 12-of-21 shooting, five assists, four rebounds and three steals, while Paul Reed excelled off the bench with 16 points (seven-of-seven), nine rebounds, two steals and a block in just 17 minutes.

The win extends the Nuggets' lead atop the Western Conference to 3.5 games, while their 51-24 record trails only the Milwaukee Bucks (54-21) and the Boston Celtics (52-23) for the league's best. Their 32-6 record at home is the second-best in the league, behind the 32-5 Memphis Grizzlies.

Timberwolves win fourth straight in potential first-round preview

The Minnesota Timberwolves are getting hot at the right time, collecting their fourth win in a row by defeating the Sacramento Kings 119-115 away from home.

Karl-Anthony Towns was sitting out the second leg of the back-to-back after returning from a long-term injury on Sunday against the Golden State Warriors, but the Wolves had seven players score at least 14 points each in a well-rounded effort.

Elite young defender Jaden McDaniels led Minnesota in scoring with 20 points (eight-of-15 shooting), Kyle Anderson dished a game-high 11 assists and Rudy Gobert controlled the paint with 16 points (five-of-nine), 16 rebounds and two blocks.

The win means the Timberwolves leapfrogged the Warriors into the Western Conference's sixth seed, and if the season ended today, they would have a first-round series against the Kings.

Mavericks keep postseason hopes alive

With the Dallas Mavericks' season hanging on by a thread, they took advantage of Luka Doncic's rescinded technical and rode him to a 127-104 away win against the Indiana Pacers.

Doncic was given his 16th technical of the season in Sunday's surprise loss to the Hornets, which would have resulted in a one-game suspension if the league did not overturn it.

But it did, and Doncic went on to lead the Mavericks with 25 points (eight-of-17), seven rebounds and six assists, while Kyrie Irving chipped in 16 points (seven-of-11), six assists, three blocks and two steals.

The result leaves Dallas (37-39) a half-game behind the Los Angeles Lakers (37-38) and Oklahoma City Thunder (37-38) as they battle it out for the last play-in spots.

Walker Kessler produced a game-winning block to deny Grant Williams' after Lauri Markkanen's 27th double-double of the season as the Utah Jazz edged the Boston Celtics 118-117 on Saturday.

The Jazz, fighting for a playoff spot in the tight Western Conference, had re-taken the lead with 35.3 seconds remaining from Talen Horton-Tucker's lay-up before Kessler blocked Williams' game-winning two-point attempt on a drive to the basket on the buzzer.

Utah rallied back from a 19-point deficit but the Celtics went on a 14-3 run to re-claim the lead before the late drama.

All-Star Markkanen was brilliant with 28 points including four three-pointers with 10 rebounds and three assists for Utah, while Horton-Tucker added 19 points. Among Markkanen's triples was one with 1:19 to play in the fourth to cut the margin to one point at 117-116.

Williams had produced a career-high seven three-pointers in his 23-point haul, while Jayson Tatum was kept to 15 points on four-of-12 shooting with six assists in a quiet second half.

Boston guard Jaylen Brown scored a team-high 25 points, making four-of-nine from beyond the arc, with six assists.

The Celtics shot 22 three-pointers at 43.1 per cent, but the Jazz hauled down 56-40 rebounds and scored 17-of-22 from the free-throw line.

Boston, playing their third game in four nights, clinched their playoff spot despite the defeat, by virtue of the Miami Heat's 113-99 loss to the Chicago Bulls.

Despite his cold night, Tatum (two) became the fourth Celtics' player to reach multiple 2,000-point seasons, alongside Larry Bird (four), Paul Pierce (four) and John Havlicek (two)

Embiid exceeds Iverson & Wilt franchise record

Joel Embiid became the first Philadelphia 76ers player to record nine straight 30-point games as they downed the Indiana Pacers 141-121.

Embiid scored 31 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the field along with 10-of-13 from the free-throw line, plus seven rebounds, seven assists and two blocks.

The center has averaged 36.1 points per game during his nine-game 30-point run, exceeding Allen Iverson and Wilt Chamberlain's previous joint record of eight.

Tyrese Maxey added 31 points with five triples while Tobias Harris contributed 24 points for the 76ers, who move into second in the Eastern Conference following Boston's loss.

Brunson leads Knicks past slumping Nuggets

Jalen Brunson made an impressive return from a foot injury with 24 points, including 16 in the first quarter, as the New York Knicks got past the Denver Nuggets 116-110.

The Knicks (42-30) rallied from a 13-point third-quarter deficit, with Brunson making two free throws with 43 seconds remaining, before lobbing to Mitchell Robinson to seal the win with 24 seconds left.

Nikola Jokic scored 24 points with 10 rebounds and eight assists for the Western Conference-leading Nuggets, who have lost five of their past six games to fall to a 47-24 record.

The West's second-ranked Memphis Grizzlies closed the gap on the Nuggets with a 133-119 win over the Golden State Warriors, led by Jaren Jackson Jr's 31 points, seven rebounds and four blocks.

Debates around the greatest of all time in sport can often be as polarising as any other.

Now that LeBron James has surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to stand at the top of the NBA's all-time leading scoring chart though, it seems appropriate to review the case for the 38-year-old to be considered the greatest basketball player of all time.

In what has without question been at least one of the best careers ever seen, James has four NBA championships to his name, as well as four Finals MVPs, four NBA MVPs, 19 All-Star selections and three All-Star MVPs. His 13 All-NBA First Team selections are two more than anybody else.

Enough to make any doubter's eyes water.

Added to that, after overtaking Kareem on Tuesday, he not only stands alone atop the all-time scoring list, but has a real opportunity to pull away and perhaps even go past 40,000 before hanging up his sneakers. He has long been the playoff scoring king, with his 7,631 playoff points already 1,644 clear of second-placed Michael Jordan.

It isn't just racking up the points, he has also passed on his fair share of assists, recently pushing past Steve Nash on that all-time leaderboard, with James now fourth for NBA assists.

As the first pick of the 2003 NBA Draft, it was hardly surprising that James impressed from the start with the Cleveland Cavaliers, averaging 20.9 points per game (PPG) in his debut season from 79 games.

It was the 2005-06 season where he really exploded, though, averaging 31.4 PPG in the regular season, which remains his highest ever for a campaign, before recording 30.8 PPG in the playoffs, where the Cavs were eliminated in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals by the Detroit Pistons.

James took Cleveland to the postseason for five straight campaigns, agonisingly losing the 2007 Finals to the San Antonio Spurs, before taking the mantel again in 2009 as he put up 35.3 PPG in 14 playoff outings before more Conference final heartbreak against the Orlando Magic.

The television event titled 'The Decision' was controversial, though undoubtedly captivating as James dramatically revealed he was leaving the Cavs for the Miami Heat in 2010.

However, it turned out to be the catalyst for him to reach the next step as he was immediately surrounded by more talent in Miami, and before long, much-deserved silverware.

Linking up superbly with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, James reached the Finals every year in Florida, winning his first championship in 2012, before following it up in 2013 with another.

His numbers were slightly lower at the Heat than they had been in Cleveland, though that perhaps owed to the fact that when deciding to join Miami, he was joining forces with arguably the league's second-best player at the time in Wade.

James' first title win in 2012 saw him average 30.3 PPG during the postseason, and led the way as he got some revenge on the Spurs in 2013, excelling in Game 7 to win his second championship.

In 2014, James came back to Cleveland with the Ohio-born star's desire to take his team to the promised land for the first time, and he did just that.

Just as he had in Miami, James went to the Finals every year of his second spell with the Cavaliers – resulting in eight consecutive Finals appearances – and every year they played against the dominant Golden State Warriors.

After losing 4-2 in 2015, they returned to get revenge in 2016 as James starred on their way to an almost Hollywood-ending win against the Warriors, securing their first NBA championship after coming back from a 3-1 deficit against a team that set the record for the best regular season ever at 73-9.

They were unable to repeat the trick as the Warriors, with the addition of Kevin Durant, beat them in both the 2017 and 2018 Finals, but reaching four Finals in a row was still more than Cavs fans could have realistically expected.

Unfortunately for them, James was getting itchy feet again.

James had a solid enough start to life in Los Angeles, posting 27.4 PPG for the Lakers in 2018-19, though injury issues sustained by him and several of his new team-mates led to a wobbly season, and therefore, no postseason for the first time for James since 2005.

Inevitably, he came roaring back the following year and in spite of the chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, James and the Lakers returned to win the "bubble championship", the fourth title of his career with a third different team. In doing so, he became the only player in NBA history to win Finals MVP with three franchises.

However, the 2020-21 campaign was one to forget as James recorded his lowest PPG for a season (25.0) since his rookie year, before the Lakers were dumped out of the playoffs in the first round by the Phoenix Suns.

Was it all over for LeBron? Not likely. He responded to that setback by scoring 1,695 points in just 56 games last season at an average of 30.3 PPG, his best regular season return since 2005-06.

James also reached a notable landmark last March, becoming the first player in NBA history to record 10,000 assists and 10,000 rebounds in a career.

Unfortunately for him, his team-mates were unable to match those efforts and the Lakers again failed to even make the playoffs, which could be why they were so desperate to find the funds to tie James' immediate future down as he was given a bumper contract to make him the highest-paid player in the league.

LeBron has thrived again this season, averaging 30.0 PPG from 43 appearances as he tries to drag the Lakers back to the playoffs.

Arguments can of course be made for the player with the most NBA titles Bill Russell, or the man whose name is synonymous with so many NBA records Wilt Chamberlain, while Lakers legends Abdul-Jabbar and Kobe Bryant have to be in the conversation also.

However, ask most people who they believe to be the greatest of all time and you wil have to go a long way to find someone who doesn't immediately blurt out the name of Michael Jordan.

The Chicago Bulls icon was a five-time NBA MVP, six-time NBA champion, six-time NBA Finals MVP, 10-time All-NBA First Teamer, 14-time NBA All-Star; won 10 scoring titles and retired with the NBA's highest scoring average of 30.1 PPG.

 

Jordan was a force of nature who always seemed to raise his game beyond others exactly when his team needed it, while James has experienced more disappointment in clutch scenarios.

He has also taken his team with him to ultimate success more than once, and arguably teams that had more limitations than Jordan's best times at the Bulls.

When you consider that Jordan is also in the argument for the greatest sportsman of all time, it is testament to James that he's even in the conversation.

"It's not heavy. I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to be in this league for at least a few more years," James recently said as he closed in on Kareem's record.

Which is ominous for the rest of the league, quite frankly.

Is he the greatest of all time? As with most discussions on the topic, it probably doesn't matter.

James has scored more points than anyone else to ever compete in the NBA, and that is undisputed.

Joel Embiid downplayed the enormity of his historic 53-point performance for the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday, insisting that his teammates simply fed the hot hand.

Embiid reached 50 points for the second time this season, both occurring in the past nine games as the Sixers won 131-113 over the Charlotte Hornets.

The center also joined Allen Iverson and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in 76ers franchise history to have two 50-point games over a nine-game stretch.

Embiid also joined Chamberlain as the only Sixers in franchise history with at least 30 games of 40 points and 10 rebounds.

"We won," Embiid told reporters. "It's good to do that when you win. It would suck to have those type of scoring nights if you lose.

"I'm just happy it's contributing to winning. Whether I'm scoring a lot, but especially if I'm scoring a lot, at the end of the day, what matters is if it brings us the win."

He added: "We have a saying that you gotta feed the hot hand. My teammates, if I just scored once, it doesn't matter.

"If anybody on the team, if they just score once, you gotta keep feeding them until the defense stops them once or twice or three times. In that situation, I just kept scoring, and they just kept giving me the ball."

Embiid's dominance was underlined by a second-quarter stretch where he scored 15 points in a row. He shot 20-for-32 from the field, making 11-of-11 free-throws with 12 rebounds.

"Every single time, it seems to bring us the win so just gotta keep trying to be efficient and try to play with my teammates," Embiid said.

"Good things happen when you’re worried about the right things and that’s moving the ball and the ball just finds me."

Teammate James Harden, who laid off 16 assists with 19 points, praised the MVP contender.

"He was in attack mode for the entire game," Harden said. "He made scoring look easy tonight, you know what I mean? He was just in attack mode, getting to the basket, his jumper was falling, he had an aggressive night tonight."

Joel Embiid downplayed the enormity of his historic 53-point performance for the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday, insisting that his teammates simply fed the hot hand.

Embiid reached 50 points for the second time this season, both occurring in the past nine games as the Sixers won 131-113 over the Charlotte Hornets.

The center also joined Allen Iverson and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in 76ers franchise history to have two 50-point games over a nine-game stretch.

Embiid also joined Chamberlain as the only Sixers in franchise history with at least 30 games of 40 points and 10 rebounds.

"We won," Embiid told reporters. "It's good to do that when you win. It would suck to have those type of scoring nights if you lose.

"I'm just happy it's contributing to winning. Whether I'm scoring a lot, but especially if I'm scoring a lot, at the end of the day, what matters is if it brings us the win."

He added: "We have a saying that you gotta feed the hot hand. My teammates, if I just scored once, it doesn't matter.

"If anybody on the team, if they just score once, you gotta keep feeding them until the defense stops them once or twice or three times. In that situation, I just kept scoring, and they just kept giving me the ball."

Embiid's dominance was underlined by a second-quarter stretch where he scored 15 points in a row. He shot 20-for-32 from the field, making 11-of-11 free-throws with 12 rebounds.

"Every single time, it seems to bring us the win so just gotta keep trying to be efficient and try to play with my teammates," Embiid said.

"Good things happen when you’re worried about the right things and that’s moving the ball and the ball just finds me."

Teammate James Harden, who laid off 16 assists with 19 points, praised the MVP contender.

"He was in attack mode for the entire game," Harden said. "He made scoring look easy tonight, you know what I mean? He was just in attack mode, getting to the basket, his jumper was falling, he had an aggressive night tonight."

DeMar DeRozan vowed to remain grounded after breaking a 60-year NBA record held by Wilt Chamberlain in the Chicago Bulls' win against the Sacramento Kings.

The five-time All-Star scored a game-high 38 points in Wednesday's 125-118 victory at United Center as the Bulls won for a fifth game running to go 38-21 for the season.

In doing so, DeRozan became the first player to score 35 points or more and shoot 50 per cent or better in seven straight games.

That is a record previously held by legendary figure Chamberlain, who achieved the feat on separate occasions in 1960-61 and in 1962-63.

After writing his name in the NBA record books, DeRozan struggled to sum up his feelings.

"I can't. I'll be honest with you, I can't. I can't describe it," he said. "It's one of those things where I'm completely locked in as soon as I come to work."

DeRozan's run of at least 30 points in eight straight games is also the longest streak by a Bulls player since Michael Jordan in 1996.

"As a kid, as a fan of the history of the game, being in the league as long as I've been in this league – things like that continue to make me even more humble," he said. 

"Being an NBA player and being able to have the privilege to be able to play this long and have these opportunities, it's something I never take for granted. 

"And the crazy thing is I felt like I missed eight easy shots [against Sacramento] I normally would have made."

 

DeRozan is level with the Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid for the longest streak of 30 or more points by a player this season.

He leads the Bulls this season with 1,547 points at an average of 28.1 through 55 games, which is the fourth-best tally of any player in NBA behind LeBron James (29.1), Embiid (29.3) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (29.4).

The Bulls are now guaranteed at least a share of first place in the Eastern Conference heading into the All-Star break, with the Miami Heat able to draw level when they face the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday.

While DeRozan has played a vital role in what has been an impressive campaign to date, head coach Billy Donovan has been pleased with the input from every player.

"I'm just really appreciative of this group of guys from top to bottom," Donovan said. 

"The way they come to work every day, how professional they are, how they try to keep themselves ready, how it's all about the team, all about winning and what each individual can do to impact and help in winning."

Stephen Curry broke Wilt Chamberlain's franchise points record in the Golden State Warriors' 116-107 win over the Denver Nuggets on Monday, with coach Steve Kerr convinced he is setting a new standard.

Curry finished with 53 points for the Warriors, surpassing Chamberlain's franchise landmark of 17,783 in the first quarter when he reached 19 points for the match.

The 33-year-old may have played 745 games for the Warriors compared to Chamberlain's 429, but he was visibly overjoyed with the achievement.

Curry, whose 53 was the ninth 50-plus score of his career, was also later drenched during a post-game interview by team-mate Kent Bazemore with ice cold water.

But while the record itself and Curry's longevity will attract much of the focus, Kerr was keen to emphasise just how well his star man is playing at the moment.

"I mentioned his work ethic, focus, passion for the game, he sets the tone for us every day," Kerr said of Curry after the win.

"What he's doing is ridiculous. No one has ever shot the ball like this. The fact he does it off the catch or dribble, most guys are one or the other. 

"He can shoot anywhere, anytime, any situation, any defender on him. It's kind of crazy what he does out there. It's hard to fathom sometimes watching him make those shots.

"It was kind of surprising to see him break that record in the first quarter. We all figured he'd find a way to get 19 points tonight, but maybe not in the first quarter!

"He was extra special tonight, obviously. You can feel it when he's really got it going, and we could feel it early tonight."

Kerr also spoke extensively on the subject just before the game and took the opportunity to laud Curry for his legacy, which stretches far beyond a specific points total.

"Passing Wilt in anything statistically is sort of remarkable because his name is all over the record books," he said.

"So, the fact that Steph is about to break that record is just incredible and obviously a testament to what he's done here in his 12 years and impact he's made.

"I don't know if breaking that record even tells the story because what Steph brings goes so far beyond points. It's the impact on his teammates, the community, the organisation, the style of play, just how unique he is.

"As an individual, he has changed the game, inspired all the young NBA point guards who have come up to be much better shooters. He has changed the game, so as awesome as this accomplishment is, passing Wilt, it's just one of many for Steph."

Curry was unsurprisingly swamped post-game, with Kerr suggesting he gave as many as 17 interviews before being able to join up with his team-mates in the locker room again.

Among the soundbites, Curry suggested he has found it quite intimidating being mentioned in the same breath as Chamberlain and his record.

"Anytime you hear [Chamberlain's] name, it's kind of daunting because some of his records are so hard to eclipse," Curry added.

"To be anywhere near him on any record book, or now be on top, it's surreal and it's wild. If you grow up in the game of basketball and you hear his name, you know it's something extremely special, no matter what it is."

Steph Curry broke Wilt Chamberlain's franchise points record as he produced his ninth career 50-plus score in the Golden State Warriors' 116-107 win over the Denver Nuggets on Monday night.

Curry finished with 53 points for the Warriors, surpassing Chamberlain's franchise all-time scoring record with 19 points in the first quarter.

The 33-year-old may have played 745 games for the Warriors compared to Chamberlain's 429, but he was visibly overjoyed with the achievement.

Curry was also later drenched during a post-game interview by teammate Kent Bazemore with an ice cold water.

MVP candidate Nikola Jogic had 27 points and 12 assists for the Nuggets.

Joel Embiid won the battle against Luka Doncic as the Philadelphia 76ers stayed top in the East with a 113-95 triumph over the Dallas Mavericks.

Embiid only played 26 minutes but finished with 36 points, including 23 by half-time, and seven rebounds.

Doncic scored 32 points, reaching 30-plus for the 19th time this season for the Mavs, who were without Kristaps Porzingis due to a knee complaint.

 

Beal silences Jazz, Zion dominates again

Ladder leaders Utah Jazz were beaten by the Washington Wizards 125-121 with Bradley Beal returning from his latest niggle to score 34 points.

Beal was well supported by guard Russell Westbrook who had his ninth triple-double in 10 games with 25 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists.

The Jazz move to 40-14 despite Donovan Mitchell's 42 points and center Rudy Gobert's double-double.

Red hot Zion Williamson continued his form surge with 30 points in the New Orleans Pelicans' 117-110 victory over the Sacramento Kings.

Williamson had scored 37 and 38 points in his past two games and delivered again, while Brandon Ingram had 34. The improved De'Aaron Fox scored 43 points for the Kings.

The Los Angeles Lakers lost again without LeBron James as Julius Randle hit 34 points and had 10 rebounds to lead the New York Knicks to a 111-96 victory.

The Phoenix Suns edged past the fast-finishing Houston Rockets 126-120 after equaling the NBA record for 18 three-pointers in the first half, while the Memphis Grizzlies scored 31-16 in the fourth to win 101-90 over the Chicago Bulls.

 

Jamal injury concerns

Emerging Nuggets guard Jamal Murray was left writhing in pain after going down with a left knee injury which had fellow players visibly concerned. Fingers crossed.

 

Morant's monster alley oop

Grizzlies guard Ja Morant's alley-oop finish was a sight to behold with teammate Grayson Allen's assist leaving him with plenty to do, but he did that emphatically.

 

Monday's results

New York Knicks 111-96 Los Angeles Lakers
Philadelphia 76ers 113-95 Dallas Mavericks
San Antonio Spurs 120-97 Orlando Magic
Washington Wizards 125-121 Utah Jazz
Memphis Grizzlies 101-90 Chicago Bulls
New Orleans Pelicans 117-110 Sacramento Kings
Golden State Warriors 116-107 Denver Nuggets 
Phoenix Suns 126-120 Houston Rockets

 

Lakers in Charlotte

The Los Angeles Lakers (33-21) have been sliding without LeBron James and Anthony Davis and they face a tough assignment at the Charlotte Hornets (27-25) on Tuesday.

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