Kyrie Irving stepped up with 40 points after James Harden went off injured early in the Brooklyn Nets' 114-112 victory over the New York Knicks on Monday.

In his first game back following hamstring tightness, Harden left the court after four minutes with an issue with the same hamstring and did not return.

The Nets were already without Kevin Durant, Tyler Johnson, Landry Shamet and Blake Griffin but their star point guard lifted when his side needed him, improving Brooklyn's record to 35-16 and moving them top in the East.

Irving finished with 40 points, including five three-pointers and seven assists, while Jeff Green contributed 23 points.

The Utah Jazz's nine-game winning run was halted by Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks in a 111-103 win.

Doncic went close to a triple-double, finishing with 31 points along with nine rebounds and eight assists for the Mavs.

Booker on fire, Westbrook dominates in defeat

Devin Booker dominated again with 36 points for the Phoenix Suns, who won 133-130 over the Houston Rockets to move to 35-14.

Booker has had a hot hand lately and delivered when it mattered, with 18 final-quarter points getting the Suns past the Rockets.

Chris Paul had 11 assists for Phoenix, becoming the fifth player in NBA history to reach 10 or more assists 500 times.

Russell Westbrook had another triple-double with 23 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists but the Washington Wizards lost 103-101 to the Toronto Raptors after Gary Trent Jr's buzzer-beater.

Darius Garland scored a career-high 37 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers won 125-101 over the San Antonio Spurs.

 

Harden hurt again

Brooklyn's MVP candidate Harden did not last long in his return game after hamstring tightness, failing to score before being benched and tested in the locker room for a re-injury. Nets coach Steve Nash said: "Very similar to last time. He's got an awareness that something isn't right in his hammy."

 

Trent's buzzer-beater

Trent hit a clutch three-point buzzer-beater to earn the Toronto Raptors a dramatic victory over the Washington Wizards, completing a 19-point comeback.

Monday's results

Minnesota Timberwolves 116-106 Sacramento Kings 
Detroit Pistons 132-108 Oklahoma City Thunder
Cleveland Cavaliers 125-101 San Antonio Spurs
Toronto Raptors 103-101 Washington Wizards
Dallas Mavericks 111-103 Utah Jazz
Brooklyn Nets 114-112 New York Knicks
Phoenix Suns 133-130 Houston Rockets

 

76ers at Celtics

There are a bunch of big match-ups on Tuesday but the biggest is in the East when the Boston Celtics (25-25) host the Philadelphia 76ers (34-16), who have Joel Embiid back from injury.

Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash concedes James Harden's hamstring issue which forced him out of Monday's 114-112 win over the New York Knicks may linger.

Harden only played four minutes for the Nets before being benched in his first game back after missing the previous two with right hamstring tightness.

The latest issue was to the same hamstring, with Nash clarifying that they could not yet identify the problem.

"Very similar to last time. He's got an awareness that something isn't right in his hammy," Nash said post-game.

"His scan was clean as we reported. His strength tests when he came back in the locker room were normal.

"It's something where we have to protect him. We have to trust him. It's very frustrating for James.

"We can't risk it if we can afford not to. That depends on trust between us and James and making sure he feels comfortable in the decision. I thought tonight the right decision was to not take any risk with him.

"Who knows? This may linger. It may be all behind us like we thought it was before the game.

"It's one of those things where the scan is clean, his strength tests are clean but he feels something so we're going to err on the side of caution."

Nash added that Harden underwent further strength tests in the locker room during Monday's game.

"When he went back, they tested his strength," he said. "The report was that they couldn’t declare there was anything.

"He's feeling something. We believe him. It's frustrating. We don't have any indicator that this is a long-term thing or he's done any damage.

"We just have to proceed day by day and monitor it and hopefully it's a very short-term thing."

Kyrie Irving stepped up with 40 points and seven assists, while Jeff Green had 23 in Harden's absence as the Nets improved to 35-16.

The New York Jets are officially moving on from Sam Darnold, trading the 23-year-old quarterback to the Carolina Panthers on Monday. 

The Panthers are sending the Jets three draft picks – a sixth-rounder this year, plus second and fourth round selections in 2022. 

New York has the second overall pick in the April 29 draft, and will almost certainly nab a quarterback with hopes he can be the franchise’s answer at QB and lead the team to the playoffs for the first time since 2010 after Darnold never lived up to expectations. 

The Jets moved up three spots to select Darnold with the third pick of the 2018 draft, but the former USC star struggled with consistency at the pro level. 

In 38 career starts for the Jets, he went 13-25 while throwing for 45 touchdown passes and 39 interceptions with a 59.8 completion percentage and a 78.6 quarterback rating. 

He had some encouraging performances – but not nearly enough, with only four 300-yard passing games. He threw for fewer than 200 yards in exactly half of his 38 starts, and only had 13 games with multiple TD passes. 

This past season was especially disappointing, with more interceptions (11) than touchdowns (nine) while averaging 184.0 passing yards per game with a 72.7 passer rating – the worst among the 36 QBs with a minimum of 200 pass attempts. 

While Darnold can be blamed for some of New York’s offensive struggles, he wasn’t surrounded by many star players. The Jets, who have had two head coaches and two different offensive systems in Darnold’s three years with the team, haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2015 (Chris Ivory) – the same season the franchise last had a 1,000-yard receiver (Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker). 

The offensive line has also been shaky, as Darnold was sacked on 8.8 per cent of passing plays last season, the third-worst mark in the league among QBs with at least 200 attempts. 

Darnold now joins a Panthers team that has Teddy Bridgewater, who has two years remaining on a three-year, $63 million contract he signed in 2020. 

Bridgewater had 15 TD passes and 11 interceptions in going 4-11 as a starter last season for Carolina.

Federico Delbonis eased through to the last 16 and Soonwoo Kwon held off a strong fight from Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune in Monday's Andalucia Open action.

Eighth seed Delbonis lost serve twice in the first set against Roberto Carballes Baena but recovered well to claim a 7-5 6-1 victory in Marbella.

He will take on Norbert Gombos, who recovered to beat Juan Ignacio Londero 6-7 (3-7) 6-1 6-3, for a place in the quarter-finals of the clay-court event.

Kwon was made to do things the hard way against junior tennis world number one Rune, who took the match all the way.

Despite trailing 3-1 in the third set, seventh seed Kwon held his nerve to force a tie-break and prevailed 6-3 3-6 7-6 (7-4).

Ricardas Berankis is also through thanks to a 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 7-5 victory over Lucas Pouille in just under three hours.

Meanwhile, seeded pair Tommy Paul and Guido Pella fell at the first hurdle in the Sardegna Open to Yannick Hanfmann and Egor Gerasimov respectively.

Eighth seed Paul recovered after squandering a 4-1 lead in a first-set tie-break but fell 7-6 (10-8) 5-7 6-3, while seventh seed Pella lost 6-4 6-0 in straight sets to Gerasimov.

Elsewhere in Cagliari, Aljaz Bedene rallied past teenager Giulio Zeppieri 1-6 7-5 7-6 (7-3) and Laslo Djere eliminated Italian wildcard Federico Gaio 6-4 6-2.

A berth at this year's summer Tokyo Olympic games is undoubtedly on the radar of Jamaica's top table tennis players, Simon Tomlinson and Kane Watson, who both continue to show impressive form at the international camp in Broward, Florida, where they are currently in training for the Olympic qualifiers later this month in Argentina.

Amanda Anisimova, Alize Cornet and Paula Badosa all survived scares on Monday to advance through to the second round of the Volvo Car Open in Charleston.

Number 13 seed Anisimova came from a set down to beat Magda Linette 5-7 6-2 6-3 on Monday, dropping serve only once in those last two sets.

Cornet, who reached the quarter-finals of this event in 2018, needed just under three hours to overcome Bernarda Pera 4-6 6-4 6-4.

Badosa also needed all three sets to see off Varvara Gracheva, the Spaniard hitting back to prevail 3-6 7-5 6-1.

Ajla Tomljanovic and Zarina Diyas were also among those to book a place in the next round, beating Christina McHale and Natalia Vikhlyantseva respectively in straight sets.

In the other WTA Tour event, Copa Colsanitas top seed Zheng Saisai eased past Usue Maitane Arconada 6-3 6-1 and will now face Stefanie Voegele.

Wang Yafan was another Chinese player to advance in Bogota, seeing off Emiliana Arango 6-4 5-7 7-5.

It is safe to say Jrue Holiday enjoyed himself in the NBA last week.

The former All-Star sparkled for the Milwaukee Bucks before the weekend brought news of a four-year, $160million extension.

On the evidence of his performances since last Monday, it was a well-earned reward.

Holiday leads this week's NBA Heat Check, powered by Stats Perform data, alongside a man he might have counted as a team-mate this season.
 

RUNNING HOT...

Jrue Holiday

The Bucks paid a big price to get Holiday from the New Orleans Pelicans in a bid to persuade Giannis Antetokounmpo to stay. It was a move that worked in that sense and is increasingly showing its merit on the floor, too.

Milwaukee may have tumbled to third in the East this season, but they are showing signs they might finally provide a threat in the playoffs.

Holiday will be key to that, as he was during a three-game winning run last week. After starting their road trip with defeat at the Los Angeles Clippers, in which Holiday scored 24 points, the point guard tallied 28, 22 and 33 respectively in victories over the Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings.

An average of 26.8 over those seven days lifted Holiday's seasonal mark from 15.9 to 17.0.

Bogdan Bogdanovic

As the Bucks desperately sought reinforcements to prove their ambition to Antetokounmpo, a deal for Bogdanovic from the Kings was reportedly struck. Instead, however, he signed for the Atlanta Hawks.

Milwaukee are certainly a more serious prospect than Atlanta, but the Hawks are belatedly finding some form with the help of Bogdanovic.

The forward had just two starts for the season until late March but has since been in the lineup for six successive games, including a run of three wins last week that started with his 28-point display against the San Antonio Spurs in which he shot 70.6 per cent from the field.

Gary Trent Jr.

Last week allowed teams around the NBA to get a good look at the players they traded for before the deadline, and the Toronto Raptors could only be pleased with Trent's output.

He averaged 23.3 for the week, albeit the Raptors only won once. Trent had a staggering plus/minus of 54 in that demolition of the Golden State Warriors.

Norm Powell, the man Trent was traded for, tallied 13.7 points across three Portland games, although the Blazers won two of them.
 

GOING COLD...

Victor Oladipo

While Trent has had an instant impact, the same certainly cannot be said for Oladipo.

The two-time All-Star was the Miami Heat's most notable signing as a move for Trent's new Toronto team-mate Kyle Lowry did not materialise, while LaMarcus Aldridge headed for the Brooklyn Nets after agreeing a buy out with the Spurs.

On his third team of 2021, Oladipo was averaging 20.8 points for the season prior to his Heat debut but then tallied a measly total of 14 points across his first two games as a Miami player.

Zach LaVine

Oladipo's is not the only switch yet to prove profitable, with the Chicago Bulls making a big move to bring in Nikola Vucevic to pair fellow All-Star LaVine.

But LaVine, previously scoring 27.9 points in 2020-21, averaged an underwhelming 20.0 last week.

No player in the NBA saw a greater decrease in their made shots from three-point range - 3.5 previously but just 1.3 last week - and LaVine was among three Bulls in the top five in that unwanted table (also Vucevic and Lauri Markkanen).

DeAndre Jordan

Like LaVine, Jordan was not on the move ahead of the deadline. But he was still negatively impacted.

When Aldridge chose Brooklyn over Miami, the Nets center - already struggling to hold off surprise star Nicolas Claxton - saw his opportunities decrease further.

Jordan played in only two of his team's four games last week, appearing for less than 12 minutes in each and averaging 1.5 rebounds down from 7.5 for the season.

New York has long been starved of NBA success but now has two teams making strides in 2020-21.

The Brooklyn Nets have made plenty of noise as they have claimed a share of first place in the Eastern Conference, led by the 'big three' of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden.

But the New York Knicks, the city's favourite team, are also in playoff contention with a .500 record.

On Monday, the two teams go head-to-head at Barclays Center – and Durant, Irving and Harden could all feature for just the eighth time this season.

The Knicks will have their work cut out as they try to stop their star-studded neighbours.

TOP PERFORMERS

Brooklyn Nets - Kyrie Irving

Durant is likely to be seen as the Nets' difference-maker in the biggest games, while Harden, the third man in the 'big three', has established himself as an MVP contender. He cannot afford many more nights off.

But as both players recover from hamstring injury – Durant is "an outside possibility", Harden's absence is "just caution" - it will likely again be Irving's turn to carry the team, showing their remarkable depth.

The point guard leads Brooklyn in total points, scoring 27.7 per game – the best mark of his career and one which puts him eighth in the NBA among all players.

Irving had a game-high 34 points when these teams last met in March, a 117-112 Nets win.

New York Knicks - Julius Randle

First-time All-Star Randle has led the Knicks' improvement this season and he has been talking a big game ahead of this clash.

The forward responded to talk of Brooklyn's 'big three' by suggesting New York have a "big 15", of which he is undoubtedly the star, averaging 23.0 points and 10.7 rebounds this year.

Randle will certainly not be short of motivation.

He had 33 points in the game last month, just shy of Irving's total, and had to be held back from the officials after a late three-pointer was ruled out due to an incorrect traveling call.

KEY BATTLE - BROOKLYN BIGS TO BOSS BIG APPLE?

It is not just the Nets' superstar talent the Knicks have to worry about, as there is also a mismatch at center.

Third-year big man Mitchell Robinson was set for a breakout year in New York, seemingly contributing to the team's decision not to push harder for a buyout signing as Andre Drummond went to the Los Angeles Lakers.

But Robinson, posting 8.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.1 steals, fractured his right foot, leaving the Knicks with Nerlens Noel (4.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.1 blocks) and Taj Gibson (5.0 points, 5.0 rebounds) as their primary options at the five.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn have a whole array of possibilities at the position, led by buyout signings and former All-Stars LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin but also including DeAndre Jordan, Jeff Green and surprise performer Nicolas Claxton (7.9 points, 1.3 blocks).

HEAD TO HEAD

The Nets are 2-0 in this season's series, also beating the Knicks in January, and Monday's game could see a significant power swing.

The all-time record stands at 101-100 in the Knicks' favour, giving Brooklyn the opportunity to pull ahead for the first time since the 2010-11 season.

The Washington Nationals will start their MLB campaign against the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday after last week's scheduled opening series against the New York Mets was called off due to coronavirus issues. 

The Nationals were set to host the Mets at Nationals Park on Friday, but the game - and subsequent series - was postponed after four players tested positive for COVID-19. 

In addition to those four, there are seven further players and two staff members still undertaking quarantine as part of contact tracing. 

General manager Mike Rizzo said "the majority" of the players in quarantine were on the Nationals' 26-man roster, while "several" were not. 

They plan to fill those roster vacancies from an alternate training site where more than 30 players have been participating in daily training sessions.

The planned first game against the Braves, set for Monday, also will not go ahead, but the Nationals will return to action on Tuesday.

"We want to do everything we can to nip this thing in the bud right here, right now," Rizzo told reporters.

"So, I think that's being taken very much into consideration when we're talking [about] the next couple of days.

"They [the players] really want to get back into the routine of baseball, and they want to work out and get the blood flow [going] again. I think they're very excited about getting back on the field."

The Braves were swept 3-0 in their opening series against the Philadelphia Phillies. 

Frank Vogel offered his injury-hit Los Angeles Lakers "no excuses" as they were blown out by the Los Angeles Clippers without LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

James is out with a high ankle sprain, while a calf issue continues to keep Davis sidelined.

With new signing Andre Drummond then also ruled out due to a toe injury on his Lakers debut, Vogel was short-handed heading into Sunday's meeting with the Clippers.

But the title-winning head coach still was not impressed by what he saw in a 104-86 loss.

Montrezl Harrell, a former Clipper, led the Lakers in scoring with 19 points, but only fellow center Marc Gasol, who played fewer than 18 minutes, reached double-figures among the starting five.

The reigning NBA champions shot a disappointing 40 per cent from the field, their joint-second worst mark of the season.

Vogel said the Lakers would have to "improve with our offensive execution" and did not accept the injuries to James and Davis as mitigating factors.

"There's no excuses here," he added. "The guys that are playing have what it takes to get the job done, it's that simple."

The team's 86 points were a season low, yet it was also the fifth time in eight games – going back to the meeting with the Atlanta Hawks in which James went down – they have failed to reach 100.

Forward Kyle Kuzma, who had six points on awful two-for-10 shooting, said: "Defensively, we'll be all right. We'll compete, challenge most opponents.

"But offensively, we've got to find ways to play together and put points on the board. You can't win games scoring in the 80s and 90s."

Shohei Ohtani's big night ended with a worrying collision, but he will get more chances to show his talents as a two-way star for the Los Angeles Angels.

For the first time in his MLB career, Ohtani was the starting pitcher while also batting second.

Against the Chicago White Sox on Sunday, the Japanese sensation rose to the occasion in a stunning show of his two-way abilities.

The first starting pitcher to bat second in a game since Jack Dunleavy in 1903, Ohtani produced a scoreless first inning as his fastball reached 100mph – a season high across the major leagues.

Then the 26-year-old picked up the bat and hit a crushing solo homer at the bottom of the inning, a projected 451-foot shot that reached 115.2mph. It was the hardest hit by an Angels player since 2015.

Ohtani now has three hits, four runs and two homers this season, although his sole remarkable hit on Sunday made him the first Angels pitcher to record one in an American League game since Clyde Wright in 1972.

The first four White Sox innings were scoreless as Ohtani's pitching prowess produced a three-pitch strikeout - one of seven total strikeouts - of Luis Robert with two runners stranded.

A staggering outing was dampened on his final play, however, as he was clattered into by Jose Abreu at home plate following some sloppy fielding that meant the pitcher finished with three runs, one earned.

But the felled player later assured he was "fine" and the collision "wasn't as bad as it looked", meaning the Angels could revel in his display after Jared Walsh's walk-off homer secured a 7-4 win.

"What he did tonight was pretty special and you're going to see a lot more of that," manager Joe Maddon said.

"It was fun to watch. I think everybody was entertained. That's what he signed up to do and you're going to see more of it."

The incident with Abreu in the fifth came after Ohtani was allowed to continue despite giving up a run on a hit and two walks, but Maddon did not regret that call.

"That's how a guy becomes a guy," he said. "You've got to give him that opportunity, especially this time of year.

"If he does that now and is able to fight through it, he will know what he's capable of. If you are constantly taking guys out of troubling situations, they are never going to find out.

"It's all interconnected. Everything we do is interconnected. He is a very introspective bright young man who loves to play baseball.

"Let's stay out of his way. Let him play baseball and see what happens."

Ohtani pitched and batted in his first year in the majors in 2018 but never in the same game.

"I'm glad I got this game under my belt," he said. "It will lead to more confidence.

"It's just one game. I'm going to take it one game at a time. I'm not out to prove the doubters wrong or anything."

Shohei Ohtani enjoyed an historic night as the two-way Los Angeles Angels star fuelled his team to a 7-4 walk-off win against the Chicago White Sox.

Ohtani made MLB history by starting and serving as the designated hitter, while he put on a show with bat and ball in stunning opening inning on Sunday.

The 26-year-old Japanese sensation, who became the first pitcher to bat second in a game since 1903, produced a scoreless first inning as his fastball reached 100mph (the fastest in MLB so far in 2021) three times.

After starring on the mound, Ohtani hit a crushing solo homer in the bottom of the inning – his projected 451-foot shot reaching 115.2mph – the hardest homer by an Angels player since 2015, eclipsing team-mate Mike Trout (115mph in 2018).

Hampered by injuries since entering the majors in 2018, Ohtani, who exited in the fifth inning after a collision at the plate, also became the first Angels pitcher to record a hit in an American League (AL) game since Clyde Wright in 1972.

Jared Walsh called game with the contest tied at 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth, launching a walk-off homer – his second of the night – to lift the Angels.

 

Astros blitz Athletics

The Houston Astros are 4-0 for the first time since 2001 after a 9-2 victory away to the Oakland Athletics. Kyle Tucker, Jason Castro and rookie Chas McCormick hit home runs for the Astros, who outscored the A's 35-9 across the four games. Houston are the fourth team in MLB history to tally at least eight runs in their first four games, following in the footsteps of the New York Yankees (2003), Red Sox (1995) and Milwaukee Brewers (1978).

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Randal Grichuk homered as the Toronto Blue Jays beat AL East rivals the Yankees 3-1 to claim the season-opening series. Bo Bichette became the fastest Blue Jays player to reach 100 career hits, achieving the feat with a first-inning double in his 78th game.

World Series champions the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Colorado Rockies 4-2 behind Julio Urias. He pitched a career-high seven innings to inspire the Dodgers, tallying six strikeouts while giving up three hits and one walk.

 

Red Sox make slow start

The Boston Red Sox's winless start to the season continued, swept by the Baltimore Orioles following an 11-3 defeat. Boston have now fallen to their second-ever 0-3 start at Fenway Park and first since 1948. The Red Sox are coming off a 24-36 record in last year's coronavirus-shortened season – their lowest winning percentage since 1965.

 

Baddoo homers on first career pitch

It was a memorable outing for Detroit Tigers outfielder Akil Baddoo, who homered in his opening MLB at-bat – the very first pitch. The 22-year-old Baddoo – making his first appearance above Class A – drove to left field in the bottom of the third inning. Detroit, though, lost 9-3 to the Cleveland Indians.

"I was actually waiting for the silent treatment, but everyone was just full of energy -- just so happy for me," Baddoo said. "So I loved every second of it."

 

 

Sunday's results

Philadelphia Phillies 2-1 Atlanta Braves
Toronto Blue Jays 3-1 New York Yankees
Baltimore Orioles 11-3 Boston Red Sox
Cleveland Indians 9-3 Detroit Tigers
Cincinnati Reds 12-1 St Louis Cardinals
Minnesota Twins 8-2 Milwaukee Brewers
Texas Rangers 7-3 Kansas City Royals
Chicago Bulls 4-3 Pittsburgh Pirates
Los Angeles Dodgers 4-2 Colorado Rockies
Houston Astros 9-2 Oakland Athletics
Arizona Diamondbacks 3-1 San Diego Padres
Los Angeles Angels 7-4 Chicago White Sox
New York Mets-Washington Nationals (postponed)

 

Astros at Angels

The Astros (4-0) will put their perfect record on the line in the opening game of their series with the Angels (3-1) on Monday.

The Los Angeles Clippers made light work of their short-handed neighbours, crushing defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers 104-86.

Kawhi Leonard (19 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists) fell just short of a triple-double as the Clippers snapped a two-game skid in the NBA on Sunday.

Marcus Morris posted 22 points and Paul George added 16 for the Clippers, who claimed bragging rights in Los Angeles, where superstar Lakers duo LeBron James and Anthony Davis remain sidelined.

Former Clippers star Montrezl Harrell led the Lakers with 19 points – Frank Vogel's team have dropped six of nine games.

 

Vucevic and LaVine sink Nets, Valanciunas' Grizzlies roar against 76ers

The Chicago Bulls ended a six-game losing streak after upstaging the Brooklyn Nets 115-107. Recruit Nikola Vucevic (22 points and 13 rebounds) and Zach LaVine (25 points) fuelled the Bulls, while Tomas Satoransky registered a season-high 19 points and 11 assists. The Nets – playing without James Harden and Kevin Durant – were led by Kyrie Irving's double-double of 24 points and 15 assists.

Jonas Valanciunas guided the Memphis Grizzlies to a surprise 116-100 win at the Philadelphia 76ers. Valanciunas had 16 points and 12 rebounds in a career-high tying 10th consecutive double-double – his longest streak ever within a single season. Memphis' 45 points in the third quarter marked the most in a single period in a road game in franchise history. Tobias Harris put up 21 points in the absence of star 76ers team-mate Joel Embiid, who was rested after returning from a 10-game injury lay-off on Saturday.

It was a milestone result for Atlanta Hawks head coach Nate McMillan, who moved up to 20th on the all-time coaching wins (673) list after his team topped the Golden State Warriors 117-111. Double-doubles from Clint Capela (24 points and 18 rebounds) and Danilo Gallinari (25 points and 10 rebounds) inspired the Hawks. The Warriors lost despite Stephen Curry's game-high 37 points, and double-doubles from Kelly Oubre Jr. (20 points and 11 rebounds) and Draymond Green (11 points and 11 assists).

 

Simmons and Curry headline Philly woes

It was a frustrating game for the 76ers, who were 41.6 per cent from the field and 23.5 from three-point territory. Ben Simmons endured a forgettable outing, the All-Star finishing two-of-six shooting for seven points in 26 minutes. Seth Curry was one-of-six shooting, while he made just one of five attempts from three-point range for three points. Fellow starters Danny Green (six points on two-of-seven shooting) and Mike Scott (nine points on three-of-10 shooting) all struggled.

P.J. Washington made one of six shots from the field – nailing just one of his three efforts from beyond the arc – as he finished with three points in the Charlotte Hornets' 116-86 defeat away to the Boston Celtics.

The Houston Rockets went down 122-115 to the New Orleans Pelicans, with Avery Bradley ending the game two-for-nine shooting and five points in 26 minutes.

A championship winner with the Lakers, Rajon Rondo made his Clippers debut. But the veteran did not have the greatest game. Rondo made one of three field goals and committed four turnovers in 13 minutes.

 

The Joker does it all

Nikola Jokic showcased his MVP credentials and playmaking abilities with another impressive performance. He recorded 17 points and 16 assists to lead the Denver Nuggets to a 119-109 win over the lowly Orlando Magic.

 

Sunday's results

Chicago Bulls 115-107 Brooklyn Nets
Los Angeles Clippers 104-86 Los Angeles Lakers
Boston Celtics 116-86 Charlotte Hornets
Memphis Grizzlies 116-100 Philadelphia 76ers
Atlanta Hawks 117-111 Golden State Warriors
New Orleans Pelicans 122-115 Houston Rockets
Denver Nuggets 119-109 Orlando Magic

 

Knicks at Nets

It will be another rivalry clash on Monday with bragging rights on the line between the New York Knicks (25-25) and the Nets (34-16). The Nets could welcome back both Kevin Durant and James Harden.

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash said "of course" James Harden's absence was a factor as the NBA championship hopefuls lost to the Chicago Bulls.

The Nets – already missing Kevin Durant (hamstring) – were without MVP candidate Harden due to right hamstring tightness for Sunday's 115-107 defeat against the Bulls.

Kyrie Irving led the way with 24 points and 15 assists for the short-handed Nets, who had won five consecutive games and 10 of their last 12.

Harden has been averaging 25.9 points, 11.1 assists and 8.2 rebounds per game this season and Nash told reporters: "Of course it's a factor [playing without Harden].

"I mean, you're losing an MVP candidate, you're not as potent. But we still have found a way to win a lot of games this year to win without guys in the line-up.

"So tonight I just thought we weren't quite sharp enough, we didn't move the ball enough, make quick enough decisions, get downhill and really stretch em out, so credit to them.

"They played well. We didn't play our best. I don't want to make any excuses about who wasn't here. We could have played a little bit better, a little bit sharper, a little more thrust of pace, and we'll learn from it."

The Nets used a bigger line-up against the Bulls, with former All-Stars Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge both in the starting five.

Griffin had 10 points, eight rebounds and two assists in 22 minutes, while Aldridge finished with 11 points, three rebounds and three assists.

"We'll see how they come out of this. But we experimented with a big line-up. It was very unlike us in one respect. I don't love it for us," added Nash.

"Having said that, it's hard to judge it on one performance. I think some of it we experimented with because of the availability and matchups, but going forward, that's not something I think we'll see a ton of."

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers said it was an easy decision to sit Joel Embiid for the NBA clash with the Memphis Grizzlies.

Embiid was absent from Sunday's frustrating 116-100 defeat at home to the Memphis Grizzlies after returning from a 10-game injury lay-off on Saturday.

All-Star and MVP candidate Embiid posted 24 points, eight rebounds and two assists in Philadelphia's 122-113 loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves, having been sidelined due to bone bruising to his left knee.

The 76ers did not take any risks with Embiid, however, as they prevented their star from featuring in back-to-back games.

"His first game back was yesterday [Saturday]," Rivers explained prior to the 76ers' defeat to the Grizzlies in Philadelphia.

"I would say, any player, not just Joel, any player who's been out for three weeks and plays in a game, you probably don't play on the next night. It's just smart."

Rivers added: "This one is pretty simple. I don't think this is a hard decision for any of us.

"All the other ones, we go by game by game and day by day, but this one didn't take a lot of thought."

The 76ers and Brooklyn Nets share identical 34-16 records atop the Eastern Conference.

Jordan Spieth described his Texas Open victory as "monumental" after the former world number one finally snapped a title drought lasting almost four years.

After waiting 1,351 days, Spieth celebrated a victory thanks to Sunday's triumph at the Texas Open, where the three-time major champion won for the first time since the 2017 Open Championship.

Spieth posted a six-under-par 66, which included seven birdies, for a two-stroke win ahead of Charley Hoffman and his 12th PGA Tour crown.

"This is a monumental win for me," Spieth – 2015 Augusta winner – said ahead of the Masters, which gets underway on April 8. "It's been a long road. There were a lot of times that I didn't know I would be here."

The 27-year-old and 2015 Texas Open runner-up became the 92nd player in Tour history to reach 12 wins and moved into a tie for 82nd on the all-time list.

Five players in the last 40 years have earned 12 titles before turning 28 – Phil Mickelson (27 years and 209 days), Tiger Woods (23 years and 243 days), Rory McIlroy (27 years and 124 days), Justin Thomas (26 years and 251 days) and now Spieth (27 years and 251 days).

Spieth added: "There's peaks and valleys in this sport, but I never expected to go this long.

"Back then, in between wins, maybe I took things more for granted than I should have. It's very difficult to win out here and I'll certainly enjoy this one as much as I have any other."

Spieth threatened to break through this year, having either been leader or co-leader at the Phoenix Open and Pebble Beach Pro-Am before finishing tied for fourth and third respectively.

"I've had a chance on Sundays three or four different times in the last two months, and today was by far the best that I played," Spieth said.

"Just to see those putts go in, I felt like I was doing everything right those other Sundays and I hit good putts and they wouldn't go in. Today I hit a couple that I didn't quite strike very well but they went in."

Milwaukee Bucks star Jrue Holiday has signed a lucrative four-year contract extension worth up to $160million with the NBA franchise.

The Bucks confirmed the deal on Sunday, with All-Star Holiday declining his player option for the 2021-22 season as part of the agreement.

Holiday's agent Jason Glushon told ESPN that the deal includes a player option for the fourth year in 2024-25 as the Bucks – chasing their first championship since 1971 – solidify their core of two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and the former.

The Bucks acquired guard Holiday from the New Orleans Pelicans via a four-team trade in November.

"I'm a Buck for life," Holiday said in a video via Milwaukee's Twitter account. "Just know that I'm glad to be a part of Bucks Nation. Let's do some big things, man. I'm really excited."

Holiday is averaging 17.0 points, 5.4 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.82 steals (second in the NBA) in 31.7 minutes per game this season.

In Holiday's 35 starts, the Bucks have tallied a 25-10 record. He is shooting a career-high 50.9 per cent from the field to go with 39.0 per cent from three-point range.

Holiday is one of four players in the NBA (Jimmy Butler, Nikola Jokic, Fred VanVleet) to be averaging at least 16.0 points, 5.0 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game in 2020-21.

"We are grateful for the time we've been able to spend learning about the Bucks organisation, our team and the greater Milwaukee community," said Jrue and Lauren Holiday.

"We appreciate how Jon [Horst], Coach Bud [Mike Budenholzer] and the entire staff, along with our team-mates and fans, have supported us since the trade to Milwaukee. We have a special group that wants to put in the work and compete for a championship every year.
 
"We look forward to working closely with our fans and the community, as well as continue to provide more opportunities and resources with our JLH Fund throughout Milwaukee. We're incredibly blessed to stay here, and we believe Milwaukee will be home for our family for many years to come."

Holiday holds career averages of 15.9 points, 6.3 assists, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.5 steals in 751 career games (675 starts).

"Jrue is one of the top guards in the NBA and we are thrilled to sign him to this extension," said Bucks general manager Jon Horst. "Adding him to our team has made us better on both ends of the floor.

"He's an elite defender and an impactful offensive player with the ability to score, shoot and facilitate. Beyond basketball, Jrue and his wife Lauren have already demonstrated the real impact they're willing to make in our community through the Jrue and Lauren Holiday Fund."

Hubert Hurkacz made history after trumping Jannik Sinner in the Miami Open final for his first ATP 1000 title.

Hurkacz became Poland's first ATP 1000 champion thanks to his 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 win over teenage sensation Sinner in Miami on Sunday.

Second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, fourth seed Andrey Rublev, sixth seed Denis Shapovalov and 12th seed Milos Raonic were all upstaged by Hurkacz en route to the decider.

Hurkacz – the 26th seed – capped his memorable run with an impressive win against 19-year-old Italian and occasional doubles partner Sinner following one hour, 45 minutes on court.

Set to break into the ATP Tour's top 20 for the first time in his career, moving from 37 to a career-high 16th in the world, Hurkacz became the fourth player to win his first ATP 1000 trophy via the Miami Open since 1990 – following in the footsteps of John Isner (2018), Novak Djokovic (2007) and Andre Agassi (1990).

"I played [some] of the best tennis I've ever played," Hurkacz, who converted seven of 11 break-point chances against ATP 1000 finals debutant Sinner, said.

"I was solid throughout the whole tournament, and I was able to get through each round, [and] was even more pumped for the next round. I think that's something special for me.

"My tennis is getting better. We work hard with my coach, [Craig Boynton], and I'm super happy that it happened here. We still need to improve a couple of things and just try to get better each day."

Hurkacz became the first player this ATP Tour season to win two titles, having already claimed the Delray Beach Open.

The 24-year-old added: "Last year I spent so much time in Florida. I was here like almost half of the year.

"We were working pretty hard, and I think I'm used to the conditions. I think [that's] been part of the success I had here in Florida."

Jordan Spieth returned to the winners' circle and just in time for the upcoming Masters after celebrating a drought-ending Texas Open victory.

Not since winning the 2017 Open Championship had former world number one Spieth claimed a title on the PGA Tour.

But American star Spieth – tied for the lead at the end of the third round – ended his agonising wait at TPC San Antonio on Sunday following 1,351 days.

Spieth snapped a slump that lasted almost four years, posting a six-under-par 66 and seven birdies for a two-stroke victory ahead of Charley Hoffman (66) at 18 under overall.

Three-time major champion Spieth will now return to Augusta – the scene of his 2015 triumph – on April 8 with renewed confidence after emerging from the wilderness.

Spieth – who threatened to break through this year, having either been leader or co-leader at the Phoenix Open and Pebble Beach Pro-Am before finishing tied for fourth and third respectively – earned his 12th PGA Tour title.

The 27-year-old and 2015 Texas Open runner-up became the 92nd player in Tour history to reach 12 wins and moved into a tie for 82nd on the all-time list.

Five players in the last 40 years have earned 12 titles before turning 28 – Phil Mickelson (27 years and 209 days), Tiger Woods (23 years and 243 days), Rory McIlroy (27 years and 124 days), Justin Thomas (26 years and 251 days) and now Spieth (27 years and 251 days).

Hoffman – the 2016 champion – threatened to derail Spieth's bid to end his long wait, having moved within a shot of the lead before the latter birdied the 17th hole.

Spieth made Hoffman settle for back-to-back runners-up cheques after he finished second in 2019 prior to the 2020 event being cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Matt Wallace (70) finished outright third and four shots adrift of Spieth, two strokes better off than Lucas Glover (66).

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