Khris Middleton suffered a hyperextended left knee in Monday's 117-103 loss to the Boston Celtics which the Milwaukee Bucks are praying is not a serious injury.

Middleton landed awkwardly upon contact with team-mate Rodney Hood attempting to rebound late in the third quarter, before limping off the court moments later after trying to play on.

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said they would wait until Tuesday to make a determination on the severity of the injury to the 2020-21 NBA champion.

"I think we're terming it a left knee hyper-extension," Budenholzer said at the post-game news conference.

"We'll know more tomorrow but I think there's some hope it's not serious, but you've got to wait and give it time."

Middleton had four points with eight rebounds and three assists on the night, succumbing to injury after 24 minutes on court.

The 30-year-old small forward is averaging 18.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game this season. Middleton averaged 20.4 points in the Bucks' title-winning season.

The defeat to the Celtics leaves the reigning champions with an 18-11 record and third spot in the Eastern Conference.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 41 points on Friday and had a triple-double on Sunday but managed only 20 points with eight rebounds and three assists.

"I think we've got to space around him a little bit better," Budenholzer said. "Move him a little bit more. It was a tough night for us, sometimes that happens."

Budenholzer also refused to blame the Bucks' recent heavy schedule with three games in four days.

"Credit to Boston, they played well tonight," he said. "I think we weren’t at our best. Whatever the reasons are, we've got to be better."

Kevin Durant edged Stephen Curry's season-best mark with 51 points as the Brooklyn Nets defeated the Detroit Pistons 116-104 in the NBA on Sunday.

Durant was dominant after the Nets opted to rest fellow superstar James Harden for the first time this season, with the former MVP shooting 16 of 31 from the field, including five three-pointers.

The two-time champion and Finals MVP also had seven rebounds, nine assists, two block and one steal in a remarkable all-round display for the Eastern Conference-leading Nets.

The haul was Durant's eighth 50-point game of his NBA career, while it bettered Stephen Curry's season-best 50 points against the Atlanta Hawks on November 8.

Struggling Detroit challenged the Nets, leading by five points at the final change before a 30-13 fourth quarter for the Nets.

Number one draft pick Cade Cunningham had 26 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals for the Pistons.

 

Triple-doubles for Giannis and LeBron

Giannis Antetokounmpo recorded his first triple-double for the season with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists in the Milwaukee Bucks' 112-97 victory over the New York Knicks. Khris Middleton added 24 points with four triples, while Bobby Portis grabbed a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds for the defending champions.

LeBron James also had a triple-double, the 101st of his illustrious NBA career. James scored 30 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for the Los Angeles Lakers as they trumped the Orlando Magic 106-94. The Lakers enjoyed a 23-0 third-quarter run on their way to victory.

The Dallas Mavericks won for the first time this season without star Luka Doncic, easing past the Oklahoma City Thunder 103-84, while Karl-Anthony Towns had 23 points with 10 rebounds as the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Portland Trail Blazers 116-111.

 

Randle silenced as Knicks beaten

Julius Randle's struggles this season continued against the Bucks, managing only eight points with seven turnovers. Randle shot two of nine from the field.

Giannis Antetokounmpo remains driven to keep improving for the Milwaukee Bucks after chalking up a new franchise record in the 123-114 win over the Houston Rockets.

Antetokounmpo had 41 points, 17 rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks as he became Milwaukee's all-time leader in the latter category, surpassing Alton Lister (804).

The defending NBA champions halted Houston's seven-game winning streak behind a monster performance from their star man.

Khris Middleton and Bobby Portis weighed in with 21 points apiece for the Bucks, who improved to 17-10 this season.

Asked afterwards about his new landmark achievement, Antetokounmpo said in a news conference: "It's big-time. Great compliment to my career. But I've gotta keep getting better, gotta keep defending better.

"I feel like sometimes I'm a step behind. I've gotta be there early for my team-mates, gotta make sure they know that I'm behind them and I'm ready to help them in any scenario.

"But it's great. It's great to have something like that in my career, but I gotta keep on moving forward, keep on getting better, keep on helping my team-mates win games."

His showing against Houston represented a major gear shift following a lacklustre display in the midweek defeat to the Miami Heat, in which Antetokounmpo managed just 15 points and six rebounds. Only once this season has he ended a game with fewer points.

He is averaging 27.6 points and 11.8 rebounds this season, with his shooting accuracy from the field dipping slightly from 56.9 per cent last term to 53.4 per cent, his lowest since the 2017-18 campaign.

Antetokounmpo seems to have a firm grip on how he can take steps forward and enacted his plan against Houston.

"I just tried to be aggressive, tried to get downhill," he said. "In the last game I wasn't as aggressive as I wanted. I wanted to be aggressive, the team wanted me to be aggressive and it kind of worked out in our favour tonight."

The 27-year-old Greek star was the Finals MVP last season and will have aspirations to take the Bucks deep into the play-offs again this time.

He spoke after this latest tussle of his admiration for the Rockets, who rebounded from a 15-game losing streak to put seven consecutive wins together before this setback.

"They're playing great. We knew coming in today they're going to play extremely hard against us and try to prove themselves," said Antetokounmpo.

"They don't have a big star, a superstar that takes all the possessions. They have to play together, they have to shoot the ball real well, they have to put themselves in position to be successful. They defend really well and if they keep playing like this they're going to keep getting better each year."

The Bucks have had five 40/15/5 games since the three-point era (1980) – Antetokounmpo has all five.

Giannis Antetokounmpo flexed his muscles with 41 points and 17 rebounds as defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks took down the Houston Rockets 123-114 in the NBA.

The Bucks snapped Houston's seven-game winning streak behind a monster performance from Finals MVP Antetokounmpo on Friday.

Antetokounmpo also had five assists, three steals and two blocks as he became Milwaukee's all-time blocks leader, surpassing Alton Lister (804).

The Bucks have had five 40/15/5 games since the three-point era (1980) – Antetokounmpo has all five.

Khris Middleton and Bobby Portis had 21 points apiece for the Bucks, who improved to 17-10 this season.

Christian Wood (21 points and 13 rebounds) had a double-double, but it was not enough for the Rockets (8-17), while Garrison Matthews (23 points) and Armoni Brooks (21 points) also impressed.

Houston had been 6-0 with Matthews in the starting line-up but his bid to join Chris Paul (first 15) and Jason Terry (first nine) as the only players in the last 30 years to have the Rockets win their first seven starts with the team fell short.

 

Durant grounds Hawks, LeBron leads Lakers

Kevin Durant led the way again for the Brooklyn Nets, who outlasted the Atlanta Hawks 113-105. Durant scored 31 points. James Harden added 20 points and 11 assists for the Eastern Conference-leading Nets. Trae Young had 31 points and 10 assists for the Hawks. He joined Russell Westbrook and Michael Jordan as the only players with at least 25 points and 10 assists in five consecutive games since the NBA merger in 1977.

With Anthony Davis (knee soreness) absent, LeBron James inspired the Los Angeles Lakers to a 116-95 victory over the lowly Oklahoma City Thunder. James was 13-of-20 shooting for 33 points. In 15 games this season, James has scored 30 or more points in seven of them.

 

Burks has game to forget

The New York Knicks opted for Alec Burks over star recruit Kemba Walker in their rotation, but he endured a horror outing in the 90-87 defeat at the Toronto Raptors. Burks missed all seven of his shots from the floor, finishing with just a point in 37 minutes.

The Boston Celtics went down 111-90 to the high-flying Phoenix Suns as Marcus Smart went one-of-13 from the floor – missing all five of his three-point attempts – in a four-point performance.

Joel Embiid produced a monster double-double to lift the Philadelphia 76ers past the Charlotte Hornets 127-124 in overtime.

Embiid carried the 76ers (13-11) to victory away to the Hornets on Monday, posting a season-high 43 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists.

Last season's MVP runner-up, Embiid – scorer of six of Philadelphia's eight points in OT – was 15-of-20 shooting as he recorded his 10th career 40-point, 15-rebound game for the 76ers – only Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain (30) has more in franchise history.

Tobias Harris added 21 points and 11 rebounds for the 76ers, who claimed back-to-back victories while extending their winning streak against the Hornets to 15 games, dating back to 2017.

Kelly Oubre Jr.'s 35 points, which included six three-pointers, was not enough for the Hornets (14-12).

 

Curry up to his old tricks

Stephen Curry nailed a stunning half-court buzzer-beater at the end of the first quarter in the Golden State Warriors' 126-95 rout of the lowly Orlando Magic. Curry finished with 31 points and eight assists, while Andrew Wiggins (28 points) nailed a career-high eight three-pointers.

Birthday boy Giannis Antetokounmpo had 27 and 12 rebounds to inspire defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks to a 112-104 victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Milwaukee won for the 10th time in 11 games on Antetokounmpo's 27th birthday.

Despite a triple-double from reigning MVP Nikola Jokic (17 points, 12 rebounds and a season-high 15 assists), the Denver Nuggets were beaten 109-97 by the high-flying Chicago Bulls.

 

Portland's skid continues

The Portland Trail Blazers tasted defeat for the third consecutive game after going down 102-90 to the Los Angeles Clippers. The shorthanded Blazers – playing without All-Star Damian Lillard – have lost six of their last seven games and have the worst defence this season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo sat out the Milwaukee Bucks' NBA clash with the Miami Heat due to right calf soreness on Saturday.

Antetokounmpo was absent for the second consecutive game after missing Thursday's loss to the Toronto Raptors because of the same problem.

The Finals MVP was a late withdrawal for the defending champions' 97-83 defeat against the Raptors, with Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer initially hopeful it was only a "short-term" issue.

On Saturday, Budenholzer said: "We'll just take it day by day. See how it goes."

Antetokounmpo is averaging 27.6 points – only behind Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant entering Saturday's play, 11.8 rebounds and a career-high 6.0 assists per game this season.

Before facing Eastern Conference rivals the Heat, the Bucks boasted a 14-9 record to be fifth – three and a half games behind the Nets.

Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer remains hopeful the calf issue that kept Giannis Antetokounmpo out of Thursday's 97-93 loss to the Toronto Raptors is only a "short-term" issue.

Antetokounmpo was a surprise late withdrawal for the Bucks due to right calf soreness and the reigning NBA champions tasted defeat in his absence.

Milwaukee's eight-game winning streak was snapped by the Raptors, who were fuelled by Fred VanVleet's 29 points.

Following the warm-ups, the Bucks opted to bench NBA Finals MVP Antetokounmpo, with Pat Connaughton starting in his place.

"Hopefully it's something very short term," Budenholzer told reporters after the defeat. "A day or two and hopefully he'll be ready to go.

"We'll just see how the next 24-48 hours go."

Budenholzer added: "I think it's important but we're hopeful it's short term."

Antetokounmpo had scored 40 points with 12 rebounds and nine assists in Wednesday's 127-125 win over the Charlotte Hornets.

Greek superstar Antetokounmpo is averaging 27.6 points – only behind Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry entering Thursday's play, 11.8 rebounds and a career-high 6.0 assists per game this season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo took a "sneaky" route to the winning shot as the Milwaukee Bucks pinched a 127-125 win over the Charlotte Hornets – then expressed frustration at being denied a post-game jersey swap.

The Bucks superstar powered in for a late driving layup with 2.0 seconds remaining as the in-form Bucks (14-8) landed their eighth consecutive victory.

It capped a game that saw him rack up 40 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists, and the finesse Antetokounmpo showed from close range at the death reflected his mastery of the craft.

He said: "I knew in the position that I was, there were two different routes: throw a floater up or try to sneak it in. And when you try to sneak it in, you've got to put spin.

"If you just go normal, most likely you're going to get blocked. So you've got to be sneaky with it."

Antetokounmpo scored 40 or more points in a game for the third time this season, and he said of his late heroics: "You've got to take them. You've got to be in the situation and learn from them.

"If you play a long time you're going to be in this situation at least 100, 200, 300 times. Sometimes you're going to miss, sometimes you're going to make some shots.

"You've got to be able to have the guts and the edge to be able to be in the situation, because you only learn from them."

He made a beeline for LaMelo Ball's jersey at the end of the game. Antetokounmpo had admired the Hornets star throughout the game as the 20-year-old, in his second year with the Hornets, scored an NBA career-high 36 points.

But asked after the game about that moment, Antetokounmpo revealed the jersey was not in his possession for long.

"They took the jersey from me," Antetokounmpo said. "I think the NBA wanted the jersey back, somebody wanted the jersey back.

"It's okay, I'll get another one next time. I was excited for it too, he had a great game."

The game saw DeMarcus Cousins make his Bucks debut, having arrived as a free agent. The former All-Star played just under 15 minutes and scored seven points, in his season debut, having spent last year with the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers.

"I was very excited for DeMarcus Cousins," Antetokounmpo said. "Obviously he was trying to feel more comfortable out there. He hasn't played in a long time.

"I think it was kind of weird for him that people didn't double-team him. He was just basically playing one on one down there. He played good, and we're going to need him a lot moving forward.

"He's so big out there in the paint, and he's a threat out there when he's with us."

Defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks outlasted the Charlotte Hornets 127-125 thanks to superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo in the NBA on Wednesday.

Antetokounmpo's monster double-double and late driving layup with 2.0 seconds remaining lifted the in-form Bucks (14-8) to their eighth consecutive victory midweek.

Milwaukee's Antetokounmpo had 40 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists in a near triple-double performance at home to the Hornets.

The Bucks withstood LaMelo Ball, who posted 36 points, nine assists and five rebounds on the road for the Hornets (13-11).

 

Doncic flexes his muscles

Luka Doncic fuelled the Dallas Mavericks' 139-107 victory at the New Orleans Pelicans. He put up 28 points and 14 assists in just 27 minutes. According to Stats Perform, Doncic is the first player to reach those numbers while playing 27 minutes or less since Hall of Famer Magic Johnson in 1987.

Jae'Sean Tate's career-high 32 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and five blocks helped the Houston Rockets rally past the Oklahoma City Thunder 114-110. The Rockets are the first team in NBA history with four straight wins immediately after a 15-game losing streak, per Stats Perform. As for Tate, he joined Hakeem Olajuwon as the only Rockets players to record 30-plus points, 10-plus rebounds, five-plus assists and five-plus blocks in a game.

 

Embiid struggles as Philly's offensive woes continue

In the absence of wantaway All-Star Ben Simmons, the Philadelphia 76ers continue to endure a topsy-turvy campaign following their 88-87 defeat to the Boston Celtics. MVP runner-up Joel Embiid had a double-double of 13 points and 18 rebounds, but he was just three-of-17 shooting. Tobias Harris was four-of-11 shooting – missing all four of his three-point attempts – for only eight points.

Duncan Robinson had a game to forget as the shorthanded Miami Heat went down 111-85 to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Robinson went scoreless in 20 minutes on 0-of-seven shooting from the floor, having failed to make any of his six efforts from beyond the arc.

The Milwaukee Bucks looked out of sorts as they limped into November having lost three in a row with two of the defending champions' top scorers sidelined.

Thirty days later at the season's quarter-mark, they are healthier and look capable of repeating as champs as they enter December riding an impressive seven-game winning streak.

A mere 91 days after winning the franchise's first NBA title since 1971, Milwaukee raised its championship banner and then emphatically beat a Brooklyn Nets team expected to contend for this season's title by 23 points. In that convincing win, the starting five of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, Grayson Allen and Brook Lopez combined for 82 points.

That has still been the only game this season coach Mike Budenholzer has been able to use that starting five, as Holiday, Middleton and Lopez have all missed significant time.

With Lopez still sidelined since the season opener with a sore back, the Bucks signed veteran big man DeMarcus Cousins on Tuesday to provide frontcourt depth.

A four-time All-Star, Cousins isn't the same player he was in 2015 and 2016 when he earned second-team all-NBA honours, but the 31-year-old should be able to step in and provide size off the bench.

Milwaukee got Holiday back in early November after he sat out one game with a right heel contusion and another five with a sprained left ankle, but by the time he returned Middleton was already out with COVID-19.

The Bucks finished up October with a 3-4 record and were 4-6 on November 7, scoring fewer than 100 points in exactly half of their 10 games – this after failing to reach triple digits in just four regular-season games all last season.

In 11 games since then, they've only dipped below the century mark once and their current win streak has coincided with the return of Middleton from his eight-game absence.

It should be noted, though, that a 12-11 Los Angeles Lakers team playing without LeBron James is the only team the Bucks beat in their last seven games currently holding a winning record and the collective .325 winning percentage by their opponents from November 17-30 was the worst in the league for any team's opponents in that time span.

With that said, they still have thoroughly annihilated some overmatched opponents, holding leads of 20, 29, 51, 24, 20 and 22 in their last six games and now stand within a half-game of the Chicago Bulls for the Central Division lead.

Antetokounmpo posted a plus-38 plus-minus rating in Milwaukee's 123-92 beatdown of the Orlando Magic last Monday, a game in which the Bucks had a 77-36 advantage at the half for the largest half-time lead in franchise history, while Holiday had a plus-37 rating – kicking off a historic stretch for the veteran point guard.

In the last four games, Holiday has compiled a plus-117 rating – the highest for any player over a single-season four-game stretch since Stats Perform began tracking plus-minus rating in 2002-03. In that time, only two other players have registered a rating of plus-115 or better and that was Stephen Curry with a plus-115 in his 2015-16 MVP season and Mike Conley with a plus-116 last season.

Holiday is averaging 19.8 points on 55.7 per cent shooting with a 61.5 eFG percentage in the last four contests following a three-game stretch in which he averaged 9.7 points on 30.6 per cent shooting with a 36.1 eFG percentage. In the four games since November 22, he's connecting on 69.2 per cent of 39 2-point tries and has made 8-of-9 jump shots from 10-15 feet.

Holiday still hasn't found his touch from the perimeter, shooting 25.5 per cent on 51 3-point attempts in the last nine games, but that hasn't been much of a deterrent for Milwaukee as the team is getting outside help from an unlikely source.

Bobby Portis has drained 19-of-32 shots from 3-point range (59.4 per cent) in the last six games, twice going 6-for-7 from beyond the arc. This is after he made 13-of-40 3-point tries (32.5 per cent) in his first 10 contests, only making more than one 3-pointer in a game on two occasions.

Since his tear began on November 19, Portis and the Charlotte Hornets' LaMelo Ball are the only players in the league with 100-plus points, 60-plus rebounds and 15-plus 3-pointers made – and Ball has played one more game and made the same number of 3-pointers on 19 more tries.

While Holiday and Portis have been putting up gaudy MVP-type number over the last week, the actual two-time league MVP continues to be his same outstanding self in the season's early going.

Antetokounmpo has recorded 12 double-doubles in 20 games played and has a pair of 40-point games – only Curry has more with four. He leads all players with 127 field goals made in the restricted area, but defences simply can’t converge on him because he's adept at kicking the ball out to a teammate to knock down a 3-ponter – his 73 assists on made 3s are the most in the NBA.

The trio of Antetokounmpo, Holiday and Middleton together on the court has always been a boon for Milwaukee but lately it's been utterly dominant. The Bucks averaged a stellar 113.9 points per 100 possessions with Antetokounmpo, Holiday and Middleton together on the court in their first 17 games before averaging 133.0 points per 100 possessions with that threesome in the last four.

No big surprise, with all the Bucks' opening-night starters back with the exception of Lopez, the offence has found its rhythm. Since its win streak begin on November 17, Milwaukee's starters are averaging a league-leading 84.9 points. The starters averaged 77.6 points in their first 14 games.

While Milwaukee's offence is rolling, the defence has keyed the team's turnaround – setting the tone from the get-go.

During their 2020-21 championship season, the Bucks jumped out on their opponents, leading by an average of 2.6 points after one quarter – the fourth-largest margin in the league. Through the first month of this season, though, they often found themselves trailing early.

Aside from leading the Nets by 12 points after 12 minutes in the opener with the starting five intact, the Bucks only had four other leads after one quarter in the first 15 games, recording a minus-0.9 scoring differential through one period in those contests. It's been a completely different story lately, as they’ve been putting away teams early, outscoring opponents by an average of 9.8 in the first quarter in the last six games.

The offence has been slightly better in the last six – averaging 31.8 first-quarter points after averaging 29.0 in the first 15 – but the biggest improvement has been on the defensive end.

Facing their opponents' starting five, Milwaukee is holding teams to 37.4 per cet shooting – including 32.8 per cent from beyond the arc – in the first quarter in the last six games after opponents shot 50.4 per cent from the field and 44.1 per cent from 3-point range in the first quarter in the first 15.

Overall since November 17, the Bucks lead the league in opponent field goal percentage at 39.1 and only the Warriors are allowing fewer points than Milwaukee’s 99.0 per game at 98.3. This comes after the Bucks allowed an average of 109.8 points on 45.1 per cent shooting in their first 14 games.

The Bucks have yet to lose this season with Antetokounmpo, Holiday and Middleton in the lineup, and while they won't have the luxury of playing teams like the Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder and Detroit Pistons every night, they will play each of those three teams again over the next four and a half weeks.

Beginning with the Hornets and running through a date with the Pistons on January 3, Milwaukee's opponents' winning percentage of .400 is the worst in the league. It's probably a lot to ask for the Bucks to continue to play at their current pace over this next stretch, but the opportunity is there for them to build a lead atop the Central come the new year.

Giannis Antetokounmpo revealed that watching tape of his struggles on the glass had provided the catalyst for his superb showing in the Milwaukee Bucks' win over the Orlando Magic.

Antetokounmpo collected 20 rebounds as the NBA champions claimed a 117-108 victory in Milwaukee, adding 32 points for good measure.

Mike Budenholzer's men have now won three in a row for the first time this season, with Antetokounmpo leading the way.

The Finals MVP became the fifth player to reach 32 points, 20 rebounds, five assists, two steals and three blocks in a game over the past 40 seasons, following in the footsteps of DeMarcus Cousins, Tim Duncan, David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon.

"I watched a lot of clips and I was losing rebounds," said Antetokounmpo. 

"That frustrates me and I wanted to do a better job, using my body, being in the right spots.

"I know if I can get the rebounds, we can get on the offense; it's faster and I can get myself going that way."

 

Bobby Portis added a season-high 24 points along with 15 rebounds, earning warm praise from Antetokounmpo.

"He creates space on the floor for everybody, not just me but for Khris [Middleton] and Jrue [Holiday], for Grayson [Allen]," said the 26-year-old.

"A lot of guys are worried about him, they know he's capable of making the open shot. He helps us find more driving lanes, he just makes the court bigger. 

"It's great that he's feeling good. When he's open, you pass him the ball and he's probably going to make it.

"We need him to keep playing like this, we need him to keep being aggressive, to keep leading – he's one of the leaders in this team – we need his energy, and we need everything he's doing moving forward."

With the Bucks now 9-8 for the season, Antetokounmpo hopes this winning streak can continue.

"It feels good, but we've got to stay humble and keep getting better," he added.

"Khris is going to keep getting more involved and getting into his spots, Jrue is going to do the same. Bobby is playing great, competing.

"We're getting better and that ends up with wins, but we've got to keep going and get more wins."

Giannis Antetokounmpo's monster performance helped the Milwaukee Bucks top the Orlando Magic 117-108 in the NBA on Saturday.

Antetokounmpo posted 32 points and collected 20 rebounds to fuel the NBA champions at home to the lowly Magic in Milwaukee.

The Finals MVP became the fifth player to reach 32 points, 20 rebounds, five assists, two steals and three blocks in a game over the past 40 season, following in the footsteps of DeMarcus Cousins, Tim Duncan, David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon.

Bobby Portis added a season-high 24 points along with 15 rebounds as the streaking Bucks (9-8) celebrated their third consecutive victory.

 

 

Lillard leads Blazers

Damian Lillard had a season-high 39 points as the Portland Trail Blazers outlasted the Philadelphia 76ers 118-111. Portland improved to 8-1 at home to his season. The 76ers, who continue to be without MVP runner-up Joel Embiid (COVID protocol), were led by 28 points apiece from Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey.

All-Star pair Rudy Gobert (21 points and 14 rebounds) and Donovan Mitchell (26 points) inspired the Utah Jazz to a 123-105 victory away to the Sacramento Kings.

 

Lowry struggles from the floor

The Miami Heat's prized recruit, Kyle Lowry had an off night in the team's 103-100 loss at Eastern conference rivals the Washington Wizards. The NBA champion was just three-of-12 shooting – making one of only seven three-pointers in a seven-point display.

The Charlotte Hornets had their five-game winning streak snapped by the Atlanta Hawks, who prevailed 115-105. Charlotte tasted defeat, despite big performances from Miles Bridges (35 points and 10 rebounds) and LaMelo Ball (15 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds).

LeBron James returned from injury but could not prevent the Los Angeles Lakers from suffering their third straight defeat going down 130-108 to the Boston Celtics.

Jayson Tatum starred for the Celtics with 37 points, 11 rebounds and two assists, while Marcus Smart was excellent with 22 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

James had 23 points, six rebounds and two assists on his return from an abdominal strain, while Anthony Davis top scored for the Lakers with 31 points.

The four-time MVP showed no signs of injury in the first quarter, helping the Lakers to a strong start, combining with Davis for 22 points, which was their second most in an opening period in the past two seasons.

The Lakers held the lead at half-time but the Celtics hit back in the third quarter with an 8-0 run, opening up an 11-point lead at the final change after a 33-21 period.

The defeat means the 2020 NBA champions have lost seven of their past 10 games and slip to an 8-9 record, while the Celtics improve to 8-8.

 

Suns' hot streak continues

Chris Paul had 18 points and 14 assists as the Phoenix Suns secured their 11th straight win, triumphing 112-104 over the Dallas Mavericks, who were without Luka Doncic due to knee and ankle injuries.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 21 points and 19 rebounds in the Milwaukee Bucks' 96-89 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, as Khris Middleton passed Ray Allen for most three-pointers made in franchise history (1,052), hitting three triples in his 16 points.

The Golden State Warriors won without Stephen Curry (bruised hip) and Draymond Green (bruised thigh), with Jordan Poole stepping up with 32 points including four three-pointers in a 105-102 win over the Detroit Pistons.

James Harden shot seven of 25 from the field and had six turnovers but finished with 36 points,10 rebounds and eight assists in Kevin Durant's absence ot lead the Brooklyn Nets past the Orlando Magic 115-113.

Zach LaVine scored 36 points in the Chicago Bulls 114-108 win over the Denver Nuggets who were missing Nikola Jokic, while LaMelo Ball starred with 32 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in the Charlotte Hornets' 121-118 victory against the Indiana Pacers.

 

Pelicans clip wayward George 

Paul George shot eight of 26 from the field as the Los Angeles Clippers went down to the New Orleans Pelicans 94-81.

Giannis Antetokounmpo insisted he is at his best when he is aggressive after the Milwaukee Bucks superstar posted 47 points in Wednesday's win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Antetokounmpo was unstoppable in Milwaukee midweek, erupting for a season high as NBA champions the Bucks took down the LeBron James-less Lakers 109-102.

The reigning NBA Finals MVP became the fifth player in the last 20 seasons to score 45-plus points on 75 per cent shooting from the field and 75 per cent shooting from three-point range.

Antetokounmpo is the first player to post at least 45 points on 75-plus per cent field-goal percentage against the Lakers since Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal in 1995.

"I feel like the past games I wasn't as aggressive as I want to be, wasn't initiating the contact, wasn't getting into the pain as much," Antetokounmpo told reporters post-game.

"At the end of the day, you try to develop your weaknesses and forget your strengths. Had two days in between, talk to the coaches, watch a lot of tape. I want to be aggressive, initiate the contact and get into the pain. Play with an edge.

"At the end of the day, I just let my instincts take over…"

 

Antetokounmpo added: "There's been so much I've been asked to do – lead, be vocal, pass the ball, rebound the ball, score the ball. I just try to compete. Moving forward, I just want to be aggressive. I'm my best when I'm aggressive."

All-Star team-mate Khris Middleton returned after an eight-game absence due to COVID-19 and tied Milwaukee's franchise record for career three-pointers.

Middleton – who finished with 16 points, six assists and five rebounds – matched Ray Allen for first place with his 1,051st career three.

"Feels good to have him back. We've missed him. Just having him out there, he draws a lot of attention. People have to guard him," said Antetokounmpo of Middleton.

"As much as I was complaining in the past, just an inside joke with him about seeing him too much, we have to get some space... I kind of missed him. Having him out there helped the team. He made great plays down the stretch."

It has been a topsy-turvy start to the season for the Bucks (7-8) in their title defence due to injuries and COVID-related absences – Milwaukee are 11th in the Eastern Conference.

"We have to start winning games. It's not the most important thing," Antetokounmpo continued. "The most important thing to get better and build good habits. Play good basketball down the stretch in May and June but at the end of the day, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth when you keep losing.

"We have to start putting teams away. When we're up 15, we can't step back, we have to attack and keep playing with that edge. Don't be satisfied. With Khris back, it's a good opportunity to get back on track. We're in a good place right now."

Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo erupted for a season-high 47 points as the NBA champions took down the Los Angeles Lakers 109-102.

Antetokounmpo dominated the Lakers, making 18 of his 23 field goals, while collecting nine rebounds and three assists for the Bucks (7-8) on Wednesday.

The reigning NBA Finals MVP became the fifth player in the last 20 seasons to score 45-plus points on 75 per cent shooting from the field and 75 per cent shooting from three-point range.

Antetokounmpo is the first player to post at least 45 points on 75-plus per cent field-goal percentage against the Lakers since Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal in 1995.

 

All-Star Bucks team-mate Khris Middleton made his return after eight games out due to COVID-19 and tied Milwaukee's franchise record for career three-pointers.

Middleton – who finished with 16 points, six assists and five rebounds – matched Ray Allen for first place with his 1,051st career three.

The Lakers (8-8), again without superstar LeBron James, were led by double-doubles from Talen Horton-Tucker (25 points and 12 rebounds) and Russell Westbrook (19 points and 15 assists).

 

Suns stay hot

The Phoenix Suns celebrated their 10th straight victory after outlasting the Dallas Mavericks 105-98. Devin Booker (24 points) and Deandre Ayton (19 points and 13 rebounds) fuelled the Suns, who are in the midst of their longest winning streak since 2010. Chris Paul had 14 assists without a turnover – his 46th career game with 10-plus assists and 0 turnovers, tying Muggsy Bogues for most by any player since 1985.

Damian Lillard's 22 points and 10 assists helped the Portland Trail Blazers upstage the Chicago Bulls 112-107. Zach LaVine (30 points), DeMar DeRozan (22 points) and Alex Caruso (12 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists) starred but the Bulls still lost on the road.

The Miami Heat defeated the New Orleans Pelicans behind Jimmy Butler's triple-double of 31 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds.

Kevin Durant nailed two three-pointers to move 26th on the all-time NBA list for threes made with 1,687, breaking a tie with Hall of Famer and Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash. The Nets beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 109-99.

 

Knicks continue to struggle for form

After returning to the playoffs last season, the New York Knicks have made a rocky start to the 2021-22 campaign amid plenty of hype. They were sensationally upstaged by the lowly Orlando Magic 104-98 – their fourth defeat in six games.

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