The Golden State Warriors (11-11) have a golden opportunity to climb back above .500 when they host the 9-12 Chicago Bulls on Thursday.

Both teams entered the season with lofty expectations, but have sputtered out of the gates, struggling in areas they are meant to excel in.

With four championships since 2015, the Warriors have been widely regarded as the greatest shooting team the game has ever seen, but the underlying factor of their greatest years has always been their defense.

Boasting the league's best defensive efficiency in their 2014-15 championship season, second-best for their 2016-17 title, and 11th for their 2017-18 crown – the Warriors rediscovered their dominance on that end of the floor this past season to finish as the second-best defense en route to another ring.

That has cratered this campaign, with Golden State currently allowing 113.4 points per 100 possessions for the 21st-ranked defense.

What that means is that some of the Warriors' point totals from their eighth-ranked offense are going to waste, having scored over 110 points in seven of their 11 losses so far.

Meanwhile, the Bulls have committed to offensively-minded scorers DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic and Zach Lavine as their core trio, but currently own the 22nd-best offense.

In a clash between two sides struggling to establish an identity, the result could simply come down to which side's X-factor shows up – or more specifically, which one shoots the lights out.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Golden State Warriors - Klay Thompson

Klay Thompson is a Warriors legend, a future Hall-of-Famer and one of the greatest shooters in the history of the NBA – but he has never been less efficient than he is right now.

However, when Thompson is feeling it this season, the Warriors win. Shooting 35.5 per cent from the field and 32.5 per cent from deep in losses, Thompson's numbers skyrocket to 43.7 per cent from the field and 44.7 per cent on three-pointers in the 10 wins he has played in.

Only the Boston Celtics score a higher percentage of their points from three-pointers (41.7 per cent) than the Warriors (41.2 per cent), so it makes sense that when their secondary sharpshooter catches fire, good things happen.

Chicago Bulls - Zach Lavine

While the Warriors rely on a heavy dose of three-pointers to put up their points, the Bulls are the opposite, leading the league in their percentage of points that come from the mid-range (14.6 per cent).

This is primarily due to DeRozan's affinity for the mid-range, and in turn, it leaves them 28th in the percentage of points that come from the three-point line (27.4 per cent).

To outgun the Warriors, you need to score big, and the Bulls' best bet to get hot from deep is Zach Lavine.

Making 2.8 threes per game, he is the only Bulls player averaging more than Coby White's 1.5, and his win/loss splits are eerily similar to Thompson's.

He is hitting 3.6 threes at 43.9 per cent in wins, and 2.1 threes at 26.4 per cent in losses, indicating his outsized importance and responsibility for the interior-heavy Bulls offense.

KEY BATTLE - Can the Bulls slow down the Warriors' ball movement?

While the Bulls' offense has been disappointing, their defense has actually been a pleasant surprise, climbing from the 23rd-ranked unit last season up to the 11th-best this time around.

Golden State's porous defense and second-highest pace in the league could provide a perfect environment for the Bulls to put up a big score, so it may come down to if they can force Stephen Curry to beat them by himself.

While Curry has been spectacular, averaging 31.4 points, the Warriors lead the league in assists per game at 29.7, so if the Bulls can figure out how to force the Warriors into isolations and restrict their quick passing, they can force the reigning champions to play the game out of their comfort zone.

 

HEAD-TO-HEAD

This will be the first meeting between the Warriors and Bulls this campaign after two fixtures in the 2021-22 season – resulting in two convincing Golden State wins.

The champions-in-waiting hammered the Bulls 119-93 last November, before following it up with a 138-96 thrashing in January, making it 10 consecutive victories against Chicago dating back to 2017.

Devin Booker continued his hot scoring run with a season-high 51 points in only 31 minutes as the Phoenix Suns won 132-113 over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday.

Booker, who scored 44 points against the Sacramento Kings on Monday, added 26 of his 51 points in the third quarter, including making five-of-five from three-point range.

It was the fourth 25-point quarter in Booker's career, tied with Kobe Bryant for second most in the past 25 years.

Booker shot at 80 per cent from the field, making six-of-seven from three-point range, while he also added four rebounds and six assists before sitting out most of the final quarter.

It marked Booker's fourth career 50-point game, which is the most in franchise history.

Suns center Deandre Ayton contributed 30 points with 14 rebounds and two blocks as Phoenix improved to 15-6.

The Bulls fall to 9-12, with DeMar DeRozan top scoring with 29 points with seven rebounds.

Tatum stars in front of royals with 49-point haul

Jayson Tatum scored a season-high 49 points as the Boston Celtics maintained their perfect home record in November with a 134-121 victory over the Miami Heat.

The Celtics small forward scored 28 of his points in the first half, which is the most in any half this season, while he also had 11 rebounds, three assists and two assists. Jaylen Brown added 26 points with seven rebounds in a game attended by the Prince and Princess of Wales, who sat courtside.

Tatum brought up his fifth 45-point game, which is second behind Larry Bird (19) in Celtics history, having moved ahead of Paul Pierce (four).

Hot Nets above .500 for first time this season

The Brooklyn Nets claimed their fifth straight home win as Kevin Durant scored 39 points in a 113-107 victory over the Washington Wizards.

Durant managed a game-high 39 points on 13-of-20 shooting with five rebounds and five assists, while Kyrie Irving added 15 of his 27 points in the final quarter.

The win improved the Nets to 12-11, moving above .500 for the first time this season on the back of three straight wins.

Jayson Tatum shook off injury to get the better of Luka Doncic as the Boston Celtics blew out the Dallas Mavericks in a 125-112 victory, having led by as many as 27 points on Wednesday.

Tatum, who had been listed as questionable with a sprained ankle, scored 37 points with 13 rebounds and five assists, while Jaylen Brown contributed 31 points on 13-of-18 field shooting.

Doncic scored a game-high 42 points with eight rebounds and nine assists but gave up five turnovers, and was blocked by Tatum in the fourth quarter.

Tatum and Doncic went head to head in the final quarter after the Mavs closed to 117-107. The Celtics forward first dunked, then made two free-throws after being fouled by the Slovenian, before blocking Doncic's driving lay-up.

Brown drained a three-point attempt after Marcus Smart's assist and suddenly it was 124-107 and game over.

Smart had 13 points with nine assists, while center Al Horford hit four-of-four from three-point range in his 14 points.

The Celtics moved to an NBA-best 14-4 record with the victory, while the Mavs suffered their fifth loss in six road games to fall to 9-8.

Wiggins stars as Warriors get back to winning ways

All-Star Andrew Wiggins enjoyed a season-high game with 31 points including six three-pointers as the Golden State Warriors won 124-107 over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Stephen Curry scored 22 points, making four-of-10 from beyond the arc, with six rebounds and nine assists as the Warriors improved to 9-10.

The result ended the three-game winning run of the Clippers, who were without All-Stars Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. Marcus Morris Sr top scored for the Clippers with 19 points.

Bulls topple Bucks to claim another big scalp

The Chicago Bulls claimed another big scalp only a few days after ending the Celtics' nine-game winning run, with a 118-113 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.

DeMar DeRozan starred for the Bulls with 36 points and eight assists, while Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo had 36 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.

Chicago trailed 109-106 with 1:15 remaining before Coby White sunk two three-pointers to sink the Bucks, who gave up 19 turnovers for the game.

The Milwaukee Bucks own the second-best record in the NBA after their 119-111 home win against the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday gave them 12 wins from their first 16 games.

With six-time All-Star Damian Lillard ruled out for the Blazers due to a calf injury, the Bucks were strong favourites, and they used a dominant third quarter to pull away.

On the back of a big game from Anfernee Simons, scoring 29 points on 12-of-23 shooting, Portland trailed by only two at halftime – before Giannis Antetokounmpo took over.

The former Defensive Player of the Year and two-time league MVP controlled the third quarter at both ends, helping to hold the Blazers to 18 points, while scoring 19 himself on his way to a game-high 37 on 16-of-24 shooting. 

While Antetokounmpo is once again a Defensive Player of the Year candidate – having made four consecutive All-Defensive First Teams – perhaps his biggest competition is his own teammate, Brook Lopez.

In his 15th season, the seven-foot Lopez is averaging a career-high and league-leading 2.6 blocks per game, and he improved upon that figure with five blocks and a steal against Portland.

Having played in 15 games this season, it is the fourth time he has tallied at least five blocks, and the Bucks are undefeated in those contests.

Milwaukee have made Fiserv Forum a fortress this season, now 9-1 at home and 3-3 on the road.

Brunson out-duels Gilgeous-Alexander

Jalen Brunson continues to make a case as the most impactful free agent signing from the offseason, scoring a season-high 34 points in a 129-119 victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

After leaving the Dallas Mavericks, Brunson is averaging career-highs in points per game (20.0), assists (6.5), steals (1.2) and minutes (32.5). His 34 points against the Thunder tied his most ever in a regular season game, although he had 41 in a playoff win against the Utah Jazz in April.

He shot 14-of-20 from the field, and in an encouraging sign, backcourt partner R.J. Barrett also had an efficient outing, scoring 25 on 10-of-16 shooting.

Fourth in the NBA in scoring at 31.1 points per game, Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had another 30 on nine-of-22 shooting, adding seven assists and five rebounds.

Bulls snap nine-game Celtics winning streak

The Boston Celtics had their winning streak cut short one game shy of double-figures, going down 121-107 to the Chicago Bulls.

Chicago's shooting was the story of the game, hitting 14-of-29 three-pointers (48.3 per cent), including their starters combining to shoot 11-of-19. 

Traditionally a mid-range scorer, DeMar DeRozan led the Bulls with 28 points on 11-of-24 shooting, hitting all three of his long-range attempts, while Zach Lavine was five-of-10 on three-pointers for his 22 points.

Zach LaVine conceded he had a poor night against the Orlando Magic but questioned the decision to leave him off the court in the closing stages as the Chicago Bulls lost 108-107 on Friday.

DeMar DeRozan top scored with 41 as the Bulls fought back in the second half after trailing by 14 at half-time, but the hosts ended up throwing away a four-point advantage with 20 seconds left.

Two-time All-Star LaVine had a night to forget, scoring four points from over 25 minutes on the court as he made just one from 14 field goal attempts, leading to him being left out in the last few minutes by coach Billy Donovan.

"I got to do a better job at the beginning of the game to make my shots, but you play a guy like me down the stretch," LaVine after the game. "That's what I do.

"Do I like the decision? No. Do I have to live with it? Yeah. Be ready to put my shoes on and play the next game.

"Just ask [Donovan] what his decision was, what made him think that way. 

"Obviously, he wanted to go with some other guys out there, I wasn't having the best night shooting, but it's a tough one."

Donovan also cut a frustrated figure after the home defeat, and insisted it was a specific call for the situation in-game.

"I feel like my job, my responsibility in those moments is to try to make the best decisions for the team," Donovan said. "And I thought that was the best decision at the time.

"To me, I don't look at it as anything else but the one-off game where this is what was going on. I know he wanted to be out there.

"There's probably not very many games in his career where [LaVine] hasn't been out there in those moments, but that group was playing well and it gave us a chance."

The Miami Heat only had seven available players on Friday, and eventually ran out of steam in a gutsy 107-106 road loss against the Washington Wizards despite a heroic performance from Kyle Lowry.

Miami's top two players, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, were both absent along with a cast of their teammates after a quick succession of injuries, forcing their available players into extended minutes.

Lowry played 46 of a possible 48 minutes in regulation, but a late Kyle Kuzma three-pointer tied the game at 104-104 with 15 seconds left, forcing overtime.

With four of their five starters reaching the 40-minute mark in overtime, fatigue caught up with the visitors as they failed to hit a single field goal in the extra period.

Their only two points came from two Lowry free throws, capping his 24-point, 15-assist, 10-rebound triple double in 51 minutes of play.

Kristaps Porzingis scored the only basket of overtime, giving him 20 points and 17 rebounds, while Bradley Beal top-scored for the Wizards with 27 on nine-of-18 shooting.

The win for the Wizards moves them to 9-7, while the Heat fall to 7-9 as they desperately await healthy reinforcements.

Suggs delivers dagger in Magic win

Second-year point guard Jalen Suggs is beginning to fulfill the potential that saw him as a top-five pick in the 2021 draft, hitting the game-winning three-pointer in a 108-107 win against the Chicago Bulls.

The Bulls received polarizing performances from their two star wings, with Zach Lavine struggling mightily on his way to one-of-14 shooting, while DeMar DeRozan stepped up with 41 points on 16-of-30 shooting.

DeRozan's big game had the Bulls up 103-107 with under 30 seconds remaining, but two made free throws for Suggs were followed by two misses by Bulls center Nikola Vucevic, giving the Magic a chance to steal it.

Suggs was determined to be the one taking the last shot, stepping back confidently for a three-pointer and nailing it to finish with 20 points (seven-of-16 shooting) and eight assists. It is the first time this season Suggs has posted back-to-back 20-point games, and he has at least six assists and five rebounds in each.

Embiid finishes Maxey's strong start against the Bucks

The Philadelphia 76ers had a different star in each half of their 110-102 home win against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Tyrese Maxey was the focal point early, putting up 24 points on nine-of-12 shooting, with five assists and four rebounds, before rolling his ankle in the shadows of halftime.

He did not return after the break, and Joel Embiid stepped up in his absence, scoring a game-high 32 points (12-of-26 shooting) with 11 rebounds, eight assists and three blocks. It is the third game in a row Embiid has had at least 32 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.

Jayson Tatum's 36 points ended up being just enough for the Boston Celtics to overcome the Chicago Bulls 123-119 on Friday.

In front of Boston's home fans, the Celtics used a 37-26 second quarter to fight back from a sluggish start and take a 63-57 lead into the halftime break.

Chicago's DeMar DeRozan would try to will his side back into the contest in the third period, putting up 16 points in the quarter to trim the lead to 88-85 and set up a thrilling final term.

DeRozan added another 11 points in the fourth, going on to finish with a game-high 46 as he lived at the free throw line. He hit 13 of his 23 field goal attempts, and added another 20 points from his 22 free throw attempts.

Tatum put together his big game in a similar fashion, although he was less efficient from the field. He finished eight-of-23, but hit 17-of-20 from the free throw line, and had 11 points of his own in the final quarter to repel the Bulls' late charge.

Tatum's running-mate Jaylen Brown had a quieter game, scoring 16 points on six-of-14 shooting, but Malcolm Brogdon rose to the occasion off the Celtics' bench. 

Brogdon was clearly Boston's second-best player, shooting a hyper-efficient nine-of-10 from the field to put up 25 points and four assists in 29 minutes.

Luka magic leads to eighth straight 30-point performance

Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks is now one of two players to ever score at least 30 points in the first eight games of an NBA season, putting up 35 in a 111-110 win against the Toronto Raptors.

Doncic joins the great Wilt Chamberlain in that honour, with the 'Big Dipper' accomplishing it on two occasions. Chamberlain started the 1959-60 season with eight consecutive 30-point games, before hitting that benchmark in the first 23 games of the 1962-63 season for a record that will likely never be broken.

The 23-year-old Slovenian was 10-of-15 from the field for his 35 points, and he added eight rebounds, six assists, three steals and a block.

O.G. Anunoby was the shining light for the Raptors, putting up 27 points (11-of-21 shooting) with seven rebounds and five steals.

Mathurin shows star potential for the Pacers

Indiana Pacers rookie Bennedict Mathurin flashed some intriguing upside as he scored 23 points off the bench in a 101-99 upset win against the Miami Heat.

Mathurin, the sixth overall pick from this year's NBA Draft, has now scored at least 23 points in four of his nine NBA games, and has only scored fewer than 15 points on one occasion.

The six-foot-six scoring wing was five-of-11 from the field, three-for-seven from long range and 10-of-12 from the free throw line in a well-rounded performance, finishing with a plus/minus of plus four in his 37 minutes.

Bucks win again, remain undefeated

The Milwaukee Bucks, who are still missing All-Star Khris Middleton, continue to look like the best team in the league after moving to 8-0 with a convincing 115-102 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

In a game where two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo was not scoring the ball efficiently, finishing with 26 points on seven-of-17 shooting and a poor 10-of-20 from the free throw line, Jrue Holiday picked up the slack.

To Antetokounmpo's credit, he also added 13 rebounds and 11 assists for a strong triple-double, but Holiday was the star of the show, shooting 50 per cent from the field (12-of-24) for his 29 points, while grabbing eight rebounds, dishing six assists and snatching two steals to round out a terrific performance.

It is the first time in the Bucks' franchise history they have started a season 8-0.

The Brooklyn Nets started life after Steve Nash with a 108-99 defeat to the Miami Heat as under-fire Kyrie Irving struggled with four points on two-of-12 shooting on Tuesday.

The Nets announced earlier on Tuesday that Nash had been fired following their 2-5 start to the season, with assistant coach Jacque Vaughn taking charge in his absence.

Kevin Durant scored 32 points with nine rebounds for the Nets who led 58-52 at half-time before the Bulls charged home in the fourth quarter, led by Zach LaVine who had 20 of his 29 points in the final period.

LaVine top scored for the Bulls, including five-of-11 three-point shooting with four rebounds and five assists, while DeMar DeRozan added 20 points and center Nikola Vucevic hauled down 15 rebounds.

Irving, who has faced widespread backlash for sharing a film on social media with alleged anti-Semitic connotations, battled throughout with three turnovers while making none of his six three-point attempts.

The win improved the Bulls to 4-4, while the Nets fall to 2-6, with a 2-4 record at Barclays Center this season.

Golden State's road struggles continue

Reigning champions, the Golden State Warriors, slumped to their third straight defeat as Jimmy Butler fired late to lift the Miami Heat to a 116-109 win.

Butler, who finished with 23 points with six rebounds and eight assists, scored five straight points down the stretch to give the Heat the lead which they never surrendered.

Kyle Lowry moved past Jason Kidd into 12th on the all-time NBA three-pointers made list, scoring three triples in his 13 points.

Stephen Curry recorded his 10th regular-season triple-double with 23 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists, but he could not prevent the Warriors' road woes (0-4) continuing, dropped to 3-5 overall.

Johnson shines as Suns burn

Cam Johnson drained seven three-pointers as the Phoenix Suns maintained their perfect home record this season and moved to 6-1 overall with a 116-107 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Johnson finished with 29 points, 21 coming from beyond the arc on seven-of-11 three-point shooting, while Devin Booker took a back seat with 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

Chris Paul had 14 points, 12 assists and a team-high eight rebounds for the Suns who clinched their fifth straight win. Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards both had 24 points for the Timberwolves.

It was a dominant showing by the reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday, closing out their series with a 116-100 win against the Chicago Bulls, taking the series 4-1.

The Bulls had their backs up against the wall, and their plight was made even tougher when star Zach LaVine and defensive ace Alex Caruso were ruled out due to health and safety protocols.

By the end of the first quarter, Milwaukee led 34-18, and they went on to also win the second and third quarters to hold a lead of at least 20 points throughou

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way for the Bucks, scoring 33 points on 11-of-15 shooting, also going 11-of-14 from the free throw line.

Jrue Holiday was solid in his point guard duties, dishing nine assists to go with his 10 points and five rebounds, while Bobby Portis was a force inside, scoring 14 points and snatching down 17 rebounds.

For the Bulls, DeMar DeRozan was disappointing in a must-win clash, finishing with just 10 points and seven assists, while only attempting 10 field goal attempts in 42 minutes.

Intriguing second-year forward Patrick Williams led Chicago in scoring with 23 points on nine-of-13 shooting, going four-of-seven from long range, while Nikola Vucevic had 19 points, 16 rebounds and six assists.

The Bucks will now take on the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semi-finals, with Game 1 set to take place this weekend.

Warriors roll past Nuggets with new starting-five

The Golden State Warriors had to fight back against the Denver Nuggets, closing out the series 4-1 with a 102-98 win while sporting a new-look starting five.

Stephen Curry made his first start since he was eased back from a foot injury, joined by both Jordan Poole and Klay Thompson.

The Dubs left it late though, cutting away at an eight-point deficit from the last change, before a Gary Payton II triple gave them the eventual lead with seven minutes remaining

Golden State will now take on the winner between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Minnesota Timberwolves, where the Grizzlies lead 3-2.

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo says being without Khris Middleton for any length of time would be a "tremendous loss" for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Middleton sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee during the fourth quarter of the Bucks' 114-110 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday.

Head coach Mike Budenholzer confirmed Middleton will undergo an MRI scan on Thursday to determine his status for the rest of the first-round playoff series, which is level at 1-1.

At the very least, the 30-year-old faces a race against time to be ready for Game 3 on Friday, and Antetokounmpo acknowledged that would be a huge blow for his side.

"We need this guy. When he asks for a sub, you know that it's bothering him because he doesn't leave the game," Antetokounmpo said.

"You expect him to get up and walk it off and get back to the game, but you see he was limping and limping and you're thinking like, 'Oh, I hope it's not bad, I hope it's not bad."

Middleton had scored 18 points and provided eight assists before leaving the game and has averaged 20.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists this season.

He averaged at least 21.5 points in the past four playoff series and had 24 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game in the NBA Finals.

"We have a job to do here," Antetokounmpo added. "Khris is one of the best players on the team, if he's not able to be with us, it's going to be a tremendous loss for us."

Antetokounmpo led the scoring for the Bucks with 33 points, but that was not enough as the Bulls – inspired by 41-point DeMar DeRozan – levelled up the series.

The Bucks also lost Bobby Portis in the first quarter after being caught in the face by an elbow from Tristan Thompson, but Budenholzer is optimistic he can make a swift return.

"We anticipate he should be fine with some time and that he should be good," Budenholzer said.

DeRozan's career playoff-high scoring return ensured the Bulls beat the third-seeded Bucks for just a second time in 19 meetings.

"No matter what you did in the regular season, this is a brand new start and new mindset," DeRozan said. 

"You could see it in all the guys. It doesn't matter if we'd lost 20 times to those guys. This is an opportunity for us to compete. We've got to take advantage of it."

The Boston Celtics overturned a 17-point deficit to go 2-0 up over the Brooklyn Nets in their playoff series, winning 114-107 on Wednesday.

The Nets' lack of off-ball movement eventually told against the NBA's best defensive team, as Kevin Durant scored 12 points in the second half but went zero-of-10 from the open floor and the Nets went 11-of-36 collectively.

Kyrie Irving shot one-of-seven after the main break and the Nets' iso-ball provided such a net loss, the second-half collapse came despite the Nets holding advantages in team rebounding, fast-break points and points off turnovers for the game.

Derrick White was the only Celtic not to score in double digits as Ime Udoka went with the eight-man rotation. Even with the relatively low 27 assists for the team, the Celtics still had a +11 margin over the Nets in that category.

Jayson Tatum was the only player on the floor with a double-double, putting up 19 points, 10 assists and six rebounds as the Celtics protected home court.

Sixers inch closer to series sweep

The Philadelphia 76ers took a commanding 3-0 lead in their series with the Toronto Raptors, claiming a 104-101 win in overtime on the road.

After protecting home court, the Sixers also fought their way back from a 17-point deficit to take a huge step towards claiming the first-round series.

With the game tied at 101, Joel Embiid scored the game-winning basket with 0.8 seconds remaining, evading Precious Achiuwa and receiving the inbound to bury a turnaround three-pointer off the catch.

The MVP candidate finished with 33 points on 12-of-20 shooting and 12 rebounds, while James Harden and Tyrese Maxey contributed 19 points each.

It was yet another poor shooting night for Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr, combining for 36 points but off 12-of-32 shooting from the floor, with VanVleet's two-of-10 from beyond the arc particularly damaging.

Bulls split series in Milwaukee

The Chicago Bulls have managed to split the opening two games and can potentially gain home-court advantage in the series after their 114-109 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

There was a sense the Bulls could take at least one game from Milwaukee after the opener, which saw them almost claim the win despite a horrible shooting night from Nikola Vucevic, DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine.

After a combined 21-of-71 in Game 1, the three Bulls bounced back with a combined 33-of-62 from the floor, while Alex Caruso gave them a reference point with primary ball-handling duties.

The Bucks just could not stop DeRozan getting to his mid-range spots and the five-time All-Star finished with 41 points. Caruso did a bit of everything on both ends with nine points and 10 assists as well as two blocks and two steals.

While Giannis Antetokounmpo put up 33 points, Milwaukee ultimately could not work their way back from a poor first half that opened up an 18-point deficit.

After a hard-fought seven-game series in last year's NBA playoffs, the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets added another chapter to their recent rivalry with an overtime thriller.

The Bucks ended up coming out on top 120-119 thanks to a mammoth performance from two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, finishing with 44 points on 14-of-21 shooting to go with 14 rebounds and six assists.

It was not just the raw numbers for Antetokounmpo, but the situations where he delivered, hitting a crucial step-back three to tie the game at 110-110 with less than 20 seconds remaining in regulation.

Down 118-119 with three seconds left in overtime, Antetokounmpo was fouled, and connected on both free throws to give the Bucks the lead and the win.

Jrue Holiday was crucial for the reigning champions, claiming six steals to go with his 19 points (six-of-18 shooting), eight rebounds and four assists.

Kevin Durant was terrific for the Nets, scoring 26 points on 10-of-21 from the field (three-of-six from long range) and also dishing out 11 assists, while Kyrie Irving chipped in with 25 points (nine-of-22 from the field) with five assists.


DeRozan's 50-piece leads comeback

The Chicago Bulls came back from an 11-point deficit with 4:58 remaining in regulation to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 135-130 in overtime.

After DeMar DeRozan hit three free throws in the final five seconds to tie the game and force overtime, the Clippers were forced to contest the extra period without star Paul George, who had hit his minutes restriction as he returns from a long-term elbow injury.

DeRozan went on to score 50 points on 17-of-26 shooting, while highly-regarded second-year forward Patrick Williams caught the eye coming off the bench, scoring 10 points without missing a shot while adding 12 rebounds and two blocks.

Cunningham shows class

Number one pick from this year's rookie class, Cade Cunningham, showed why he is viewed as a future star in this league as he led his Detroit Pistons to a 102-94 upset against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Cunningham was Detroit's best player, finishing with 27 points (12-of-20 shooting) to go with six assists and four steals and the Pistons out-scored the 76ers 29-15 in the final frame.

Joel Embiid was not to blame for the 76ers struggles, scoring 37 points on 11-of-19 shooting with 15 rebounds.

Giannis Antetokounmpo came up with a game-winning block on Joel Embiid after scoring 40 points in the Milwaukee Bucks' crucial 118-116 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday.

Antetokounmpo rose to block Embiid's attempt to level the scores with less than two seconds left on the clock, with head coach Mike Budenholzer labelling it "special".

The Greek superstar finished with 40 points on 66 per cent shooting with 14 rebounds, six assists and three blocks.

The Bucks win is significant in the race for Eastern Conference seeds, moving Milwaukee (47-28) into second behind the Miami Heat (48-28), while the 76ers (46-29) slip to fourth.

Khris Middleton added 22 points, nine rebounds and seven assists and Jrue Holiday contributed 18 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists.

Embiid finished with 29 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists, while James Harden had 32 points making four-of-10 from beyond the arc, with five rebounds and nine assists.

 

George returns in Clippers comeback win

Paul George marked his first game since December 22 with 34 points including six three-pointers as the Los Angeles Clippers fought back from 25 points down to win 121-115 over the Utah Jazz who have lost five in a row. The Clippers finished the game on a 34-12 run.

Kevin Durant scored 41 points with 11 rebounds, five assists and three blocks while Kyrie Irving managed 24 points in his second home appearance as the Brooklyn Nets won 130-123 over the Detroit Pistons.

The Chicago Bulls found some form after winning only four of their past 15 games with an important 107-94 win over the Washington Wizards led by DeMar DeRozan with 32 points, seven rebounds and two steals.

 

Lakers slide continues

The Los Angeles Lakers' struggles continued with a heavy 128-110 loss to the Dallas Mavericks as Luka Doncic recorded a triple-double with 34 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists. The Mavs led by as much as 37 points. The Lakers, who were without LeBron James and Anthony Davis, are 31-44 and slip to 11th out of the west's play-in spots.

DeMar DeRozan sat out the Chicago Bulls' 126-109 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday due to a groin strain which they feared may turn into "something bigger".

The loss meant the Bulls have suffered their fifth loss from their past six games, sliding to a 42-31 record and hanging on to fifth spot in the Eastern Conference.

DeRozan had been feeling some tightness in his groin recently, with a modest return of 21 points, four rebounds and two assists in Tuesday's 126-98 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks before sitting out against the Pelicans.

"DeMar knows his body better than anybody else," Bulls head coach Billy Donovan told reporters before Thursday's game.

"I think he felt like, 'Okay, this could get into something else a little bit more significant if I don't take care of this.'

"We just don't want it to turn into something bigger."

Donovan said the Bulls would know more on DeRozan's status on Friday ahead of their next game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday.

Devin Booker put on a show with 49 points as Chris Paul returned from a broken wrist as the Phoenix Suns clinched top spot in the Western Conference with a 140-130 win over the Denver Nuggets.

Booker's 49 points was a season-high, while 36-year-old Paul returned for the first time since February 20 with 17 points, including 15 in the first half, and 13 assists as the Suns secured their sixth straight win.

Three-time All-Star Booker shot 16-of-25 from the field and also had 10 assists, with Mikal Bridges contributing 22 points from eight-of-nine shooting.

The win means the Suns have secured the NBA's best record for the third time in franchise history, following on from 1992-93 and 2004-05.

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic had 28 points with six rebounds and six assists for the Nuggets, who are 43-31 and holding on to sixth spot in the Western Conference.

 

Grizzlies and Bucks win without stars

The Memphis Grizzlies won again without Ja Morant with a 133-103 victory over the Indiana Pacers. Desmond Bane scored 30 points with five assists and five rebounds as the Grizzlies improved to 16-2 without Morant.

The Milwaukee Bucks triumphed without Khris Middleton (wrist) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (knee) with Jrue Holiday starring with 24 points and 10 assists in a 114-102 win over the Washington Wizards.

Pascal Siakam equalled his season-high 35 points as the Toronto Raptors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 117-104 in a crucial game in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

 

DeRozan out as Bulls slide continues

The Chicago Bulls slipped to their fifth defeat from their past six games, going down 126-109 to the New Orleans Pelicans. The Bulls are fifth in the east with a 42-31 record, just ahead of the Cavs and Raptors (both 41-32).

The Bulls, who were without DeMar DeRozan due to a left groin issue, were dominated 40-24 by the Pels in the fourth quarter, led by Devonte' Graham (30 points including five three-pointers) and Jonas Valanciunas (16 points and 19 rebounds).

Zach LaVine was Chicago's best with 39 points in DeRozan's absence, going 12-of-23 from the field, while Coby White added 23 points off the bench including five triples.

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