In a season when players are prone to missing time due to COVID-19 protocols, injury maintenance and routine rest, any single regular-season game rarely feels meaningful.

The Brooklyn Nets’ 138-112 thumping of the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, however, seemed to make a statement about the pecking order at the top of the Eastern Conference.

The Bulls maintain the best record in the East at 27-12, two games ahead of the Nets, but Brooklyn used a dominant second-half surge to display how astronomically high the team’s ceiling is.

Playing in front of a frenzied crowd, the Bulls matched the Nets shot-for-shot for a while, and the game was tied at 71 early in the third quarter. Brooklyn responded by tightening its grip on the defensive end of the floor and playing the last 8:29 of the quarter on a 30-8 run.

Chicago opened the fourth quarter by turning the ball over four times in five possessions, and the Brooklyn lead grew to as much as 38 before both teams removed their marquee players – a scary reminder to rest of the NBA that a juggernaut is looming in the East.

Irving makes the difference

With Kyrie Irving declining to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the Nets opened the season without him and played well with either Kevin Durant or James Harden running the show. Part of the luxury of having three of the league’s top 15 players is that one injury – or one bizarre soap opera centered around medical choices and municipal rules – doesn’t derail the season.

The Nets’ trio of All-Stars has still played only 16 games together, including the playoffs, but the early returns show that having Durant, Harden and Irving all on the court at the same time makes for a historically great offense.

The Nets’ change of heart to allow Irving to be a road-only, part-time player may have vaulted them to the top of the NBA title conversation.

With Durant, Harden and Irving on the court together, the Nets are scoring 125.4 points per 100 possessions. For comparison, the Utah Jazz have the NBA’s most efficient offense over the course of this entire season at 114.2 points per 100 possessions.

In all other scenarios over the past two seasons, including those when Durant and Harden play together, the Nets have operated with an offensive efficiency of 113.1 – an impressive number but one that is noticeably less than 125.4.

Nets, With/Without Kevin Durant, James Harden & Kyrie Irving On Court - Since 2020-21 (reg & post)

  With All  All Other Lineups Points/100 125.4 113.1 Opp Points/100 110.2 108.3 Point Diff/100 +15.2 +4.8 FG Pct .535 .481 Opp FG Pct .450 .449 3-Pt Pct .418 .449 Opp 3-Pt Pct .350 .347

Due to New York regulations, Irving can’t play home games for the Nets, but he is permitted to participate in most road games. After scoring 22 points in each of his first two games of the season, Irving needed just nine points in Wednesday’s blowout of the Bulls. His impact, however, is not lost on head coach Steve Nash.

“Kyrie definitely is another huge threat on the floor, whether he scores nine points or 29,” Nash told reporters. “Clearly you lose a generational talent when he’s not in the lineup.

“But there’s a level we reached (on Wednesday night) – with the purpose, the pace, the spirit, the resolve – that I thought was really important for our group to see how successful they can be when they do that.

“Even without Kyrie, can we bring that same level more often than not? If we do, we’ll get back to a top-10 defense like we were for most of the year and get back to pushing for the top spot in the East. But it’s hard work. It’s not easy, and you’ve got to do it day-in and day-out.”

Nash’s point rang true just a day later, when the Nets were beat 130-109 at home on Thursday by the Oklahoma City Thunder, albeit without Irving and Durant.

Brooklyn’s title hopes very well could come down to finding a way around the local regulations that prevent unvaccinated players like Irving from playing in New York, since the trio has already proven to be lethal.

Harden back in form

One powerful force allowing the Nets to climb toward the top of the East has been the re-emergence of Harden.

The league’s officials opened the season determined to stop rewarding offensive players for flailing and flopping in ways that aren’t natural to basketball, and some of the league’s brightest stars saw a sharp decline in free throw attempts, Harden included.

It is fair to say he has since adjusted.

Through the first 12 games of the season, Harden was averaging just 18.2 points per game and was attempting an average of just 4.7 free throws per game.

Since Nov. 12, Harden is scoring 24.8 points per game and attempting 9.8 free throws per contest.

The nine-time All-Star still isn’t shooting as efficiently as he typically does but has continued to thrive as one of the league’s best distributors. Harden’s 9.9 assists per game trail only Chris Paul’s 10.1 in the league this season. Harden is averaging 3.0 assists in both the first and third quarters, when he mostly plays with Durant and the rest of the starting unit.

His numbers will never again be as impressive as they were in Houston, where Harden was essentially a one-man offense, but he has adapted very well to playing alongside other stars and focusing a bit more on distribution – something that many critics doubted after he spent so long as the lone focal point with the Rockets.

Durant No. 1?

Durant remains the most reliable and lethal scorer in the league today, and his overall game puts him in the discussion for the best player in the world. He has played so well that it is easy to forget that he was rehabilitating from a ruptured Achilles tendon just 13 months ago.

Durant carried an incredible load in the last year’s playoffs, playing over 40 minutes per game, averaging 34.3 points and getting within a toe’s length of knocking out the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo may be the only other player with a claim to be the best in the world right now after winning two MVPs and a championship over the past three seasons.

But Durant’s ball-handling and outside shooting make him feel like a more traditional creator of offense, and his playoff resume credentials speak for themselves after he won back-to-back titles and Finals MVPs with the Golden State Warriors.

The bench brings the right blend

Lost in the excitement over Durant, Harden and Irving playing together Wednesday in Chicago was how well the supporting cast played, even with Joe Harris, LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Claxton missing the game.

Rookies Day’Ron Sharpe and Kessler Edwards were forced into starting roles and heavy minutes against the Bulls and met the challenge head-on. Sharpe was especially productive, totaling 20 points and seven rebounds in by far the best game of his young career.

The shooting of 13th-year guard Patty Mills has proven to be a crucial part of Brooklyn’s offense, and his 6-for-8 performance from behind the 3-point line against the Bulls indicates he will remain vital in the postseason.

This blend of youth and experience bodes very well for the Nets down the stretch. Sharpe, Edwards, Cameron Thomas and David Duke Jr. have all had impressive moments this season and have plenty of room to grow.

Mills, Aldridge, Harris, Blake Griffin and even Paul Millsap bring plenty of experience that will be appreciated this spring. And while at least a few of Brooklyn’s depth players will be cut from the playoff rotation, the roster appears to have the flexibility to account for unique playoff matchups.

The bottom line

While depth will play a role, the Nets will only go as far as their three stars take them this season.

The regular season will likely continue to be a roller coaster ride, full of ups and downs. Brooklyn has used 20 different starting lineups in 41 games this season, second most in the league, and that is a recipe for inconsistent results.

But this team made a statement in Wednesday’s road rout of the Bulls, showing what the whole league has feared since last season: Durant, Harden and Irving have the talent and chemistry to be one of the most potent NBA trios ever, and the Nets should be considered title favorites as long as all three can take the floor.

Giannis Antetokounmpo dropped his third triple-double of the season to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to a commanding 118-99 win over the Golden State Warriors on Thursday.

The two-time NBA MVP had 30 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in front of coach Mike Budenholzer, who was back after returning from the league's health and safety protocol.

Antetokounmpo's 28th career triple-double came in under 30 minutes played, making him the first player in NBA history to achieve that feat multiple times.

Kris Middleton added 23 points for the Bucks, who move to 27-17 for the season, while Bobby Portis and Grayson Allen registered 20 and 15 respectively.

The Warriors trailed 77-38 at half-time and have now lost four times in five matches, yet they still boast the second-best record in the Western Conference.

Grizzlies' run goes on

The Memphis Grizzlies finished strongly to overcome the Minnesota Timberwolves 116-108 and extend their franchise-record run to 11 wins in a row.

Desmond Bane scored 21 points and Jaren Jackson Jr. added 20 for the in-form Grizzlies, who were also inspired by John Konchar's 15 and career-best 17 rebounds.

The Grizzlies suffered their heaviest loss of the season when the sides met in November, but they pulled away late on in this back-and-forth encounter to go 30-14 in the West.

As for the Timberwolves, they have now let successive games slip away after also going down 128-125 against the New Orleans Pelicans with 1.3 seconds to go on Tuesday.

Nets beaten in Durant and Irving's absence

The travel-weary Brooklyn Nets were made to pay for resting NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant as they suffered a 130-109 defeat to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving combined to great effect in the previous night's win at Eastern Conference-leading Chicago Bulls, but that trident was split up.

With Irving still unable to play home games due to vaccine laws in New York and Durant and Patty Mills watching on from the side, the Thunder ran out deserved winners.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the way with 33 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists as the Thunder snapped a five-game losing run.

Elsewhere, Nikola Jokic powered the Denver Nuggets to a 140-108 win over the Portland Trail Blazers and the Pelicans were too strong for Los Angeles Clippers in a 113-89 win.

James Harden is excited by what could be as he along with team-mates Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving combined to score 61 points in the Brooklyn Nets' 138-112 victory against the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday.

Harden managed a double-double of 25 points and a season-high 16 assists, while Durant scored a game-high 27 points to lead the Nets to a comfortable victory at United Center.

Kyrie Irving, who can only play on the road due to COVID-19 vaccine laws in New York, added nine points in his third game back for the Nets.

Speaking after the victory, which took the Nets to a 26-14 record for the season, Harden was asked about his on-court relationship with Durant and Irving.

"We're that good," Harden emphasised. "We have a chance to be that good. We just haven't had enough of it. Last year I think we had 15 games maybe together, and this year only two.

"It felt good tonight on both ends of the ball, to be locked in on the same page and, offensively, sharing the basketball and making each other better."

Durant also faced the media after another stellar showing, having now scored at least 25 points in 12 straight games, and the 11-time NBA All-Star made clear that he is not concerned with what people on the outside think of his team.

"We're trying to make no statements to the league," Durant said. "I mean, who cares what they think? We know what we bring to the table, and it's all about us. But I'm sure people were watching the game tonight."

Meanwhile, the Bulls became the first team in NBA history to win by 45+ points one day and then lose by 25+ the next, having beaten the Detroit Pistons 133-87 on Tuesday.

Coach Billy Donovan praised his team for a run that has seen them reach a 27-12 record so far, acknowledging that they were second best on the day, particularly in the third quarter when the Nets scored more than twice the number of points managed by the Bulls (39-19).

"I think you own it," Donovan said. "I think our guys have worked hard up to this point to be where we are in the standings, and with that there's a greater responsibility."

James Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving combined to score 61 points as the Brooklyn Nets beat the Chicago Bulls 138-112 in a table-topping Eastern Conference clash.

Durant's game-high 27 and Harden's double-double of 25 points and a season-high 16 assists inspired the Nets to a routine victory at United Center.

Kyrie Irving, who is barred from playing home games, added nine points in his third game back for the Nets, but it was Durant who stole the show with 17 points in the third.

The 11-time NBA All-Star has now scored at least 25 points in 12 straight games and in the process denied the Bulls a first regular-season sweep of the Nets since 1997-98.

After seeing off the Detroit Pistons 133-87 on Tuesday, the Bulls become the first team in NBA history to win by 45+ points one day and then lost by 25+ the next.

Kings snap losing streak against Lakers

LeBron James' 34 points were not enough as the Los Angeles Lakers fell 125-116 to the Sacramento Kings, who snapped a five-game losing streak in the process.

On their worst run of the season, the Kings regularly found themselves trailing and were six down at half-time before taking control in the third quarter.

Russell Westbrook's missed 3-pointer paved the way for Chimezie Metu to make a clutch 3-pointer with 46.7 seconds remaining and Tyrese Haliburton rounded off the scoring.

The Lakers, who saw James score 31 or more for the 11th time in 12 games in the injury absence of Carmelo Anthony, have now lost two in a row and are 21-21 for the season.

Heat's run goes on

The Miami Heat may have six players on their inactive list, but they won for a third game running with a 115-91 victory against the Atlanta Hawks.

Tyler Herro had a game-high 21 points and added 11 assists as the Heat, now 26-15 for the season, kept within touching distance of the Eastern Conference leaders.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, the Dallas Mavericks' six-game winning streak was brought to an end with a 108-85 loss to the New York Knicks.

RJ Barrett's 32 made him the youngest player in franchise history with consecutive 30-point games as the Knicks won for a fourth time in five games.

Kyrie Irving finished with 22 points in his second game back but could not inspire the Brooklyn Nets to victory as they went down to a depleted Portland Trail Blazers 114-108 on Monday.

Anfernee Simons starred with 23 points, six rebounds and 11 assists for the Blazers who were missing Damian Lillard (abdomen).

The Nets were also without James Harden (knee), but had Kevin Durant (28 points, 10 rebounds, five assists) and Irving (22 points, eight rebounds, four assists) on court.

Durant's points return marks 19 straight games with 20 or more points, which is the second-longest streak of 20-point games in franchise history.

The defeat means the Nets are 25-14 and second in the east while the Blazers improve to 16-24.

 

Giannis cannot lift Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 26 points with 13 rebounds and eight assists but it was not enough as the Milwaukee Bucks lost their second straight game, going down 103-99 to the Charlotte Hornets. Khris Middleton had 27 points, seven rebounds and 11 assists for the Bucks.

First draft pick Cade Cunningham scored a career-high 29 points to lead the Detroit Pistons to an upset 126-116 win over the Utah Jazz, who were without Rudy Gobert again.

Joel Embiid scored 31 points with eight rebounds and six assists for the Philadelphia 76ers who beat the Houston Rockets 111-91.

 

Tatum cool as Celtics win in OT

Jayson Tatum went zero-of-seven from beyond the arc and shot at 33 percent from the field for his 24 points as the Boston Celtics edged the Indiana Pacers 101-98 in over-time. Domantas Sabonis had a triple-double for the Pacers.

Kevin Durant hopes to use the Brooklyn Nets' upcoming road games with the Portland Trail Blazers and the Chicago Bulls as a chance to "build chemistry" with Kyrie Irving.

Irving was left off the Nets' initial roster for the 2021-22 season due to electing against receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

Seven-time NBA All-Star Irving is not eligible to play in home games due to New York City's vaccine mandate, but he would have been available for most road games.

The Nets reversed course last month by including the 29-year-old as a part-time player and named him in their line-up for Wednesday's win over the Indiana Pacers.

Still unable to play in home games, Irving will have a chance to get minutes under his belt when the Nets head to Portland and Chicago on Monday and Wednesday respectively.

And Durant, who scored 28 points in Sunday's 121-119 win against the San Antonio Spurs, is glad to have the chance to reignite his partnership with Irving.

"We're definitely a better team, a way better team with Irving," Durant said. "He's definitely going to give us a lift. 

"I'm looking forward to it – a couple games on the road, an opportunity for us to build our chemistry. I'm looking forward to it."

Nets coach Steve Nash has previously said he is reluctant to overuse Irving on his return to the side, but the point guard is set to feature against Portland.

"We'll see," Nash said when asked about Irving's availability. "Typically, with a game under his belt he could play a little more [Monday], so that's definitely possible."

Irving played 32 minutes against the Pacers and scored 22 points – he averaged 26.9 from across 54 games in 2020-21.

The Nets' overtime win against San Antonio, having blown the lead late in regulation, was their first at Barclays Center in six games since December 16 and moved them to 25-13 for the season.

The Eastern Conference's second-placed side are playing catch-up owing to a run of rescheduled games, meaning a long flight from Portland to Chicago and back to New York again before Thursday.

Asked about the uniqueness of the situation, Nash said: "I can't remember all the back-to-backs I ever played in but I don't remember any six-hour flights in between.

"So it's different, but we've got to take it as an opportunity, an opportunity to succeed under adversity and this moment where we're trying to find ourselves again.

"We have a tough back-to-back, so let's embrace it. Let's see if we can win both, and if we can win both, or at least play well in both, maybe that gives us a spark."

Klay Thompson marked his return from a two and a half year absence with 17 points as the Golden State Warriors saw off the Cleveland Cavaliers 96-82 on Sunday.

The 31-year-old, who had missed 941 days rehabbing from a torn ACL and ruptured Achilles tendon, was 7 of 18 from the field and 3 of 8 from three-point range.

Thompson also added three rebounds, an assist and a steal in 20 minutes, earning a rousing reception as he left the court

"I was just happy to be out there doing what I love again and getting my rhythm back," Thompson said. "It feels really good... It was surreal. 

"The ovation to start the game, I just was so grateful for these fans. It was special. I'm never going to forget this night."

With his impressive comeback display, Thompson reached 12,000 career points and 1,800 made three-pointers.

Red-hot Grizzlies set franchise record 

The Memphis Grizzlies soared to new heights by beating the Los Angeles Lakers 127-119 as they won nine successive games for the first time in franchise history. 

The Lakers had won four in a row ahead of the contest but could not live with their opponents, who had previously won eight in a row in 2004, 2012, 2013 and 2015.

Desmond Bane had 23 points and Jaren Jackson Jr. added 21, though it was a breathtaking block from Ja Morant to deny Avery Bradley that stole the show.

While it was a disappointing occasion for the Lakers, LeBron James scored 35 points – 23 of those arriving in the first half – and added seven assists.

That saw James move to 9,888 career assists in NBA and pass Oscar Robertson (9,887) for the seventh-most in history.

Mavericks halt Bulls' winning run

The Chicago Bulls' own nine-game winning run came to an end with a 113-99 defeat to the Dallas Mavericks, with Luka Doncic starring for the home side.

Doncic had 22 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists for his third triple-double of the campaign, while Josh Green and Maxi Kleber had season highs of 18 points each.

Elsewhere on Sunday, Kevin Durant scored 28 points for Brooklyn Nets in their 121-119 win against the San Antonio Spurs.

Cam Thomas made a runner in the lane with a little over a second to go in overtime as the Nets, who led by 10 with four minutes to play, snapped a five game losing run at home.

Kevin Durant has reiterated that he will not try and force or persuade Kyrie Irving to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Irving had been left off the Brooklyn Nets' initial roster for the 2021-22 season, as he had elected against receiving a vaccine.

New York City's vaccine mandate means the seven-time All-Star cannot play home games unless he gets vaccinated.

Irving would have been available to play most road games, though the Nets elected not to include him at all.

That changed when, due to a depleted roster caused by a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases, Irving was recalled, and the point guard returned with a 22-point display in Wednesday's win over the Indiana Pacers.

Yet Irving could not feature on Friday as the Nets went down 121-109 at home to the Milwaukee Bucks. 

Durant insisted the Nets must accept Irving's decision.

"I told him how important he is, how much I want him to play, play every game," Durant told reporters.

"But I'm not about to force somebody to get a vaccine, like that's not my thing. So he can play basketball? Nah, I'm not about to do that.

"We've had conversations about wanting him to be a part of the team and conversations about him being here full-time, but that's on his time. Whatever decision he want to make, he's going to make.

"It's on us to be professionals no matter what and do our jobs. All of us, from the owner down to the equipment manager, so whenever he ready, he'll be ready."

In Irving's absence, Durant and fellow star man James Harden delivered 29 and 16 points respectively for the Nets, but Milwaukee, inspired by Giannis Antetokounmpo's 31 points, had too much.

"I haven't even asked for an explanation," Durant continued. "It ain't my place I don't think. So I'm ready for whatever, that's been my whole mentality. 

"It's a weird situation, who knows? I don't understand most of this s***. COVID, all of this stuff has been crazy."

Harden added: "It felt good honestly to have him back [on Wednesday]. It felt good. It felt like an extra life that we had. 

"But we got to live with what we're dealt with, and that's home games we've got to figure ways and even road games.

"Just because Ky's on the road with us doesn't mean it's going to be easy for us as well. So we've got to mesh, we've got to find ways to win games."

Bucks talisman Antetokounmpo was asked whether his approach would be different.

"When it comes to basketball, I feel like I can talk to them," he replied. "I've got to let them make their decision. They're grown men and every situation is different.

"I cannot pressure somebody to do something that he doesn't feel comfortable doing. I can tell you why I did it. Why I felt comfortable doing it. To protect my family, to protect my mom and stuff, stay safe, and you just hope he understands that. But if he doesn't want to do it, I can't keep pressuring him."

Clear your schedule. There's some appointment viewing in the NBA this week as the Milwaukee Bucks visit the Brooklyn Nets.

The defending NBA champion Bucks renew acquaintances at Barclays Center on Friday with the team they edged in an engrossing Eastern Conference semi-final series last year.

Both Milwaukee and Brooklyn are looking up at the Chicago Bulls, with the Eastern Conference's surprise package continuing to lead the way.

Yet the Bucks and the Nets remain favourites to contest the Conference Finals this season, and their second meeting of the campaign will provide another measuring stick as to who has the edge.

The Nets will not have the unvaccinated Kyrie Irving, who made his season debut against the Indiana Pacers but cannot play in home games due to New York's vaccine mandate.

However, in Kevin Durant they have the NBA's leader in points per game (30.0), and his tussle with Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo - himself averaging 27.9 - promises to be unmissable.

Durant, team-mate James Harden and Antetokounmpo will be the star attractions in Brooklyn, yet some supposed lesser lights could have a decisive say in this marquee matchup.

 

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Milwaukee Bucks - Jrue Holiday

Holiday has been key to the Bucks' recent surge, scoring at least 20 points in five of their last eight games, registering three double-doubles in that span.

Excelling as both a scorer and facilitator, the Bucks will likely need Holiday firing on all cylinders for the offense to perform at its best against the Nets.

Brooklyn Nets - LaMarcus Aldridge

Veteran big Aldridge recently revealed he is still suffering from coronavirus symptoms despite clearing the NBA's protocols.

The Nets could certainly use Aldridge at full strength given what he has offered on the defensive end this season. His 4.3 defensive rebounds per game trail only Durant and Harden among Nets players, and he is second on the team in blocked shots with an average of 1.11.

KEY BATTLE - Can Nets bridge three-point gap?

The Bucks were among the most prolific teams in the NBA from the three-point line last month, attempting the second most (603) shots from beyond the arc and converting the third most (217).

Their three-point field goal percentage of 36 was only good enough for 14th. However, with the Nets shooting 32 per cent from deep in December, there is something of a disparity for the home side to make up.

Steve Nash's team are not short of the talent to bridge the gap, though, with Durant, Harden and Co. more than capable of going blow for blow with the Bucks should they get hot from deep.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Having lost to the Bucks back in October, the Nets will be hoping to avoid a fourth straight regular-season defeat in games against Milwaukee.

Kyrie Irving made his return to the Brooklyn Nets side for the first time in seven months but you would not know that according to head coach Steve Nash and teammate Kevin Durant.

The pair were full of praise for 29-year-old Irving who had not played all season due to his vaccination status which meant he would be unavailable for home games in New York City, with the Nets not wanting him on a part-time basis.

The franchise changed their tune a fortnight ago, permitting him for road games, amid a COVID-19 outbreak which depleted their playing stocks. Irving had returned to practice and found his fitness before he played for the first time this season in Wednesday's 129-121 win over the Indiana Pacers.

Irving was on court for 32 minutes, scoring 22 points making nine-of-17 from the field along with three rebounds, four assists and three steals. The win also halted the Nets' three-game skid.

"He looks like himself," Nash said at the post-game news conference. "Not a big surprise watching him play in practice, he's so gifted and talented, you could see the rhythm was there.

"But it's still an adaptation. We've got to give him some space as he transitions back to playing but tonight he was big."

Durant scored 39 points with eight rebounds and seven assists as the Nets improved to 24-12 to sit second in the east behind the Chicago Bulls (25-10).

"It was amazing to have him out there," Durant told reporters. "I missed his presence around the locker room, his energy and his vibe around the team.

"On top of that, his game is just so beautiful. He makes the game so much easier for everybody out there.

"I'm sure he was a bit nervous but he got comfortable. He made some athletic plays. It looked like he'd be around for a while."

Kyrie Irving scored 22 points upon his return to the Brooklyn Nets side for the first time this season as they came from behind to beat the Indiana Pacers 129-121 and snap a three-game skid on Wednesday.

Irving had been ruled out of the entire regular season by the Nets due to his vaccination status but the franchise changed their stance a fortnight ago, permitting him to play road games.

The 29-year-old point guard played 32 minutes, making nine-of-17 from the field along with three rebounds, four assists and three steals.

Irving's return reunited the 'big three' alongside Kevin Durant (39 points, eight rebounds and seven assists) and James Harden (18 points, five rebounds and six assists).

The Pacers had led 73-60 at half-time with a biggest lead of 19 points before Brooklyn rallied with an 8-0 run to end the third quarter, before Patty Mills put them ahead with a fourth-quarter three-pointer.

Domantas Sabonis recorded a triple-double for the Pacers with 32 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.

 

Popovich brings up 2,000th in style

Gregg Popovich coached the San Antonio Spurs for the 2,000th time, recording his 1,325th win in charge as they beat the Boston Celtics 97-95 with Jaylen Brown's lay-up buzzer beater rimming out. Brown scored 30 points with six rebounds, while Dejounte Murray had 22 points, nine rebounds and 12 assists for the Spurs.

Bojan Bogdanovic (36 points, 13 rebounds and four assists) won the battle of the Balkan stars against Nikola Jokic as the Utah Jazz edged the Denver Nuggets 115-109. The reigning MVP was exceptional for the Nugs with 26 points, 21 rebounds and 11 assists.

Joel Embiid scored 31 points as the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Orlando Magic 116-106, while Giannis Antetokounmpo was absent with a non-COVID-related illness as the Milwaukee Bucks lost 117-111 to the Toronto Raptors with Pascal Siakam netting 33 points.

 

Curry goes cold for Warriors

Stephen Curry had an ordinary shooting night, going five-of-24 from the field and one-of-nine from beyond the arc as the Golden State Warriors lost 99-82 to the Dallas Mavericks. Curry finished with 14 points with nine rebounds while Mavs All-Star Luka Doncic had 26 points with seven rebounds and eight assists.

Kevin Durant questioned the intensity shown by the Brooklyn Nets after they suffered a home defeat to the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Nets lost for a third game running on Monday, with Ja Morant starring for the Grizzlies at Barclays Center.

Morant scored a game-high 36 points as the Grizzlies won 118-104, claiming a fifth consecutive victory.

While Memphis had five players in double figures for points, the Nets relied on the shooting prowess of Durant and fellow star James Harden.

Durant led the way with 26 points, three rebounds and six assists, with Harden adding a further 19 points, four rebounds and eight assists, but other than Nic Claxton (11), no other Brooklyn player had above 10 points.

Now 23-12 and behind the Chicago Bulls at the top of the Eastern Conference, the Nets have to recover before facing the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday.

Durant said Brooklyn "relaxed too much" after the defeat to a depleted Los Angeles Clippers team last time out, and the 11-time All-Star put Brooklyn's latest defeat down to a lack of urgency.

"It's about coming into the games with a sense of urgency on both ends of the floor," Durant told reporters. "Making the correct play on both ends of the floor."

 

While Durant's frustration with the Nets' performance was evident, he was full of praise for the game's star performer Morant.

The 22-year-old leads the Grizzlies for points per game (25.1), and assists per game (6.7), while his 5.7 rebounds per game ranks him second in Memphis' roster.

Morant's field goal percentage of 49.2 is up on his previous seasons (47.7 in 2019-20 and 44.9 in 2020-21), while he is well on course for a career-best points tally.

"He's just controlling the game," Durant said of Morant.

"He's always been an efficient player who can run the point guard spot, he's developed into a major scorer as well. He just plays with a great pace out there, plays with joy and enthusiasm, and you see him blossoming in front of our eyes.

"Since college, he's been on this trajectory. As a basketball fan, you can't wait to see what he's like in years going forward."

It was a sentiment echoed by Morant's team-mate Desmond Bane, who contributed 29 points to the Grizzlies' score.

"People will debate whether or not [Morant] should be an All-Star," Bane said of Morant.  "I think we should be debating whether or not he's the best point guard in the league."

For his part, Morant believes Memphis are finally getting the respect they deserve.

"Since I [came] here, I've been saying we deserve more respect," Morant said. "The stuff we're doing now, obviously that recognition and everything will come."

Kevin Durant has slammed his Brooklyn Nets teammates for "f****d-up attitude" after suffering a shock 120-116 defeat to the under-strength Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday.

The Clippers charged home in the final quarter, despite Durant's 28 points and nine rebounds, scoring 40-29 to claim the four-point win.

The defeat, with the Clippers missing star trio Kawhi Leonard (ACL), Nicolas Batum (ankle) and Paul George (elbow), left Durant furious with his side.

"We just relaxed too much," Durant said at the post-game news conference. "We get up 10 [points], miss a layup or turn the ball over, and they get a fast break, give up a three, straight-line drive - like coach [Steve Nash] said, we didn't deserve to win this game.

"We came in here with a f****d-up attitude. Thinking we were just going to walk into a W."

He added: "It's natural when a team is missing so many players. They're going through so much over there. [We] relaxed.

"You don't think you could lose an NBA game like this. They're missing how many guys? They're playing guys that are up from the G League.

"Xavier Moon came in and hit some shots for them. Keon Johnson, James Ennis - they all made an impact I felt on the game, and I think we came in too chill to start."

The Nets, who coughed up 15 turnovers, slip to a 23-11 record, while Eastern Conference contenders the Chicago Bulls (24-10) and the Milwaukee Bucks (25-13) both won on Saturday.

Nets head coach Steve Nash lamented his side's lack of "care factor", with the defeat coming two days after going down to the Philadelphia 76ers 110-102.

"I just think [conceding] 71 points in the second half is unacceptable," Nash said. "We just never really had the care factor.

"Turned it up, we had a chance up nine, 10, 11 in the third and fourth at different times and just took our foot off the gas and got what we deserved, really.

"All those guys in there, I think they know it, they're disappointed of course, but it's a disappointment for all of us - that was obviously a very winnable game that we let get away."

James Harden became the first player in Nets franchise history with back-to-back triple-doubles with 30 or more points, with 34 points, 12 rebounds and 13 assists against the Clippers.

Kevin Durant has slammed his Brooklyn Nets teammates for "f****d-up attitude" after suffering a shock 120-116 defeat to the under-strength Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday.

The Clippers charged home in the final quarter, despite Durant's 28 points and nine rebounds, scoring 40-29 to claim the four-point win.

The defeat, with the Clippers missing star trio Kawhi Leonard (ACL), Nicolas Batum (ankle) and Paul George (elbow), left Durant furious with his side.

"We just relaxed too much," Durant said at the post-game news conference. "We get up 10 [points], miss a layup or turn the ball over, and they get a fast break, give up a three, straight-line drive - like coach [Steve Nash] said, we didn't deserve to win this game.

"We came in here with a f****d-up attitude. Thinking we were just going to walk into a W."

He added: "It's natural when a team is missing so many players. They're going through so much over there. [We] relaxed.

"You don't think you could lose an NBA game like this. They're missing how many guys? They're playing guys that are up from the G League.

"Xavier Moon came in and hit some shots for them. Keon Johnson, James Ennis - they all made an impact I felt on the game, and I think we came in too chill to start."

The Nets, who coughed up 15 turnovers, slip to a 23-11 record, while Eastern Conference contenders the Chicago Bulls (24-10) and the Milwaukee Bucks (25-13) both won on Saturday.

Nets head coach Steve Nash lamented his side's lack of "care factor", with the defeat coming two days after going down to the Philadelphia 76ers 110-102.

"I just think [conceding] 71 points in the second half is unacceptable," Nash said. "We just never really had the care factor.

"Turned it up, we had a chance up nine, 10, 11 in the third and fourth at different times and just took our foot off the gas and got what we deserved, really.

"All those guys in there, I think they know it, they're disappointed of course, but it's a disappointment for all of us - that was obviously a very winnable game that we let get away."

James Harden became the first player in Nets franchise history with back-to-back triple-doubles with 30 or more points, with 34 points, 12 rebounds and 13 assists against the Clippers.

The Golden State Warriors stormed home with a strong final quarter led by Stephen Curry to halt the Utah Jazz's winning run with a 123-116 victory on Saturday.

The Warriors fought back from a 16-point deficit in the third quarter with a 37-25 final period, going 13 of 18 from the field.

Curry finished the game with 28 points including six three-pointers with six rebounds and nine assists, while Andrew Wiggins contributed with 25 points.

Donovan Mitchell scored 20 points with nine assists, Rudy Gobert had 20 points and 19 rebounds while Bojan Bogdanovic netted 20 points including four triples for the Jazz who had won six in a row.

The result improves the Warriors to 28-7 while the Jazz are 26-10 in the Western Conference.

 

DeRozan does it again

DeMar DeRozan became the first player to hit a game-winning buzzer beater in successive games since 1997-98 as the Chicago Bulls won 120-119 over the Washington Wizards. DeRozan finished with 28 points, nine rebounds and five assists, while Zach LaVine had 35 points for the Bulls. Bradley Beal had 27 points and 17 assists for the Wizards.

Giannis Antetokounmpo started the year with a triple-double as the Milwaukee Bucks claimed their sixth straight win, beating the New Orleans Pelicans 136-113. Antetokounmpo scored 35 points with 16 rebounds and 10 assists.

Nikola Jokic scored 34 points with 11 rebounds and Facundo Campazzo delivered 22 points and 12 assists as the Denver Nuggets won 124-111 over the Houston Rockets.

 

Nets beaten as stars shooting off

The Brooklyn Nets stars were back together but they were humbled by the depleted Los Angeles Clippers 120-116. Kevin Durant shot 11 of 24 from the field for his 28 points while James Harden went nine of 22 from the field. Harden did have 34 points with 12 rebounds and 13 assists.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.