If the rest of the NBA hoped the Golden State Warriors' era as a contender was over, their first six games of the new season suggest they were sorely mistaken.

The Warriors are 5-1, their only loss an overtime defeat to the Memphis Grizzlies, with a deeper and more well-rounded roster looking likely to help them return to the playoffs for the first time since their Game 6 loss to the Toronto Raptors in the NBA Finals in 2019.

Thursday will provide another examination of just how good the high-flying Warriors are, with the Charlotte Hornets heading to the Bay Area hoping to improve on an encouraging 4-3 start.

It is a contest that will pit one of the greatest point guards of all time against perhaps the future of the position as Stephen Curry prepares to go head-to-head with one of the players vying to assume his mantle.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Golden State Warriors - Stephen Curry

Curry remains the engine that drives the Warriors, and games against the Hornets, for whom his father Dell spent much of his NBA career, take on a special significance for the Golden State star.

And he has typically delivered the goods against the Hornets.

Indeed, Curry has averaged 27.3 points across 17 games versus Charlotte, only three of which have seen him score fewer than 20.

Charlotte Hornets – LaMelo Ball

Ball has picked up where he left off following an outstanding rookie year that was hindered by injury, and his battle with Curry figures to be fascinating to watch.

His average of 52.1 points/assists/rebounds per 48 minutes is fourth among guards to have played at least five games this season, and he will be the man to whom the Hornets will likely turn to pull off the upset on the road.

KEY BATTLE – Who dominates in the paint?

While it is easy to put almost all the focus on Curry vs. Ball and the outside shooting of the former, the battle in the paint could well be one that has a significant influence on the outcome of this game.

The Hornets are sixth in the NBA with 49.3 points per game in the paint, but the Warriors' defense is allowing only an average of 42.3 points in the paint, the seventh-fewest in the league.

Should Golden State prevent Charlotte from enjoying their usual success in the paint, then it could prove a long evening for the underdog Hornets.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

The Warriors won the last meeting back in February, ending a run of three successive defeats to the Hornets.

Curry had a game-high 29 points, though the Warriors saw six other players post double figures in a 130-121 victory.

Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel called for the league to look into the decision to remove two points from his side's score in their win over the Houston Rockets.

After Sunday's controlled 95-85 victory at Staples Center, the Lakers were made to work harder for Tuesday's 119-117 win that moved them to 5-3 for the season.

LeBron James' second double-double of the season helped Los Angeles over the line, the four-time NBA MVP tallying 30 points and 10 assists despite continuing to struggle with an ankle issue.

Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook each put up 27 points to inspire a recovery from an 11-point deficit in the third quarter.

There was controversy in the closing minutes when officials called Vogel and Rockets coach Stephen Silas for a long discussion before it was announced the Lakers were having two points removed.

The decision was made after officials said they had incorrectly given Kent Bazemore two free throws when the Rockets were called for their fifth foul of the quarter, when it was in fact their fourth.

The Lakers' frustrations stemmed from the fact they effectively gave up a possession when the decision was made given the time that was allowed to pass.

"That's definitely something the league has got to look at," said Vogel. "I understand the mindset to get it right, but... it was their fourth foul and they gave us free throws. You're only supposed to get free throws on the fifth foul, so we shoot the free throws and play resumes, and a couple possessions later they made a mistake, so they just take the points off the board.

"Once play resumes, you can't correct that. You can't correct it. The league's got to look at that, because they can't give us that possession back. Like, if it was corrected at the time of the call, we get the ball on the side and it's our ball. Once that goes away, you just take the points away and don't give us the possession back, you can't correct that at that point.

"So, I'm very frustrated by that, the league has to look at that."

Davis, who also tallied nine rebounds and three blocks, felt the call could have cost the Lakers the win.

"So, [the officials] took the two points away. But what me, Bron and coach were explaining to the refs was we lost a possession," he said.

"We didn't take the ball out or anything. We shot free throws – take the points away, and now we just lose the possession, which could have cost the game. In a sense, nothing you can do about it, stuff like that. But good thing it didn't hurt us. Again, that's a [tough] situation."

Wednesday marks 24 years to the day since the late Kobe Bryant made his NBA debut with the Los Angeles Lakers.

While that first appearance against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the age of 18 was nothing to write home about, Bryant went on to enjoy a legendary career.

He won five NBA championships with the Lakers in the space of a decade and was selected to the All-Star Game 18 times, placing him behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (19).

Bryant tragically died in a helicopter crash last year, aged 41, but his legacy will live on for generations.

Here we look back at where it all began for one of sport's most iconic figures and pick out some other statistics from his incredible career.


STEADY IMPACT IN ROOKIE SEASON

The Charlotte Hornets drafted Bryant 13th overall in 1996 and traded him to the Lakers for Vlade Divac.

It was a move that would have a lasting impact on the sport, although it took Bryant a few seasons to really start to make his mark.

He played six minutes off the bench against the Timberwolves on his debut, failing to register a point during his short cameo; he did get a rebound, a block and a steal, though.

That appearance made him the youngest player to feature in NBA, aged 18 years and 72 days old, but he was supplanted by Jermaine O'Neal (18 years, 53 days) the following month. Andrew Bynum (18 years, six days) took the record in 2005.

 

"Rest In Peace to the late, great Kobe Bryant." pic.twitter.com/jmqQMVC2UO

— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) February 1, 2020 BEHIND ONLY LEBRON

Bryant steadily became more involved and made the All-Rookie second team at the end of his debut campaign.

The Philadelphia-born star scored a combined 613 points in the regular season and playoffs before turning 19, which only LeBron James (625) can better.

One record James could not take from Bryant, though, is for the youngest player in NBA history with at least 20 points in a postseason game.

Aged 18 years and 250 days, Bryant registered 22 points in Game 3 against the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference first-round series.

Bryant averaged 7.6 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 15.5 minutes on the floor during his rookie season.

To put that in some context, James averaged 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists, albeit with far more minutes (39.5).

That is still some way below the levels of Michael Jordan in his breakthrough season, with the Bulls great averaging 28.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists in his first year in the league.


THE SCARCELY BELIEVABLE STATS

Bryant still went on to carve out a place as one of the greatest players of all time, receiving All-NBA honours in 15 seasons, being named in the first team on 11 occasions. Only James, with 13 appearances in the first team, beats Bryant's total.

He was also named nine times to the NBA All-Defensive First Team, matching the all-time high; Kevin Garnett, Gary Payton and Jordan achieved the same total.

In the 2005-06 season, Bryant recorded his highest points-per-game average for a single campaign, with 35.4. He led the NBA in scoring in that season and in 2006-07.

In January 2006, he scored 81 points in a 122-104 victory over the Toronto Raptors – the second highest individual score in an NBA game, behind Wilt Chamberlain's 100 points for the Philadelphia Warriors against the New York Knicks in 1962.

Bryant received his lone NBA MVP award in 2008, having become the youngest player to reach 20,000 career points aged 29 years and 122 days.

In his final game, on April 13, 2016, Bryant scored 60 points for the Lakers in a 101-96 win over the Utah Jazz. A fitting farewell after a phenomenal career.

Phoenix Suns star Chris Paul was humbled to have moved up to third in the all-time NBA assists rankings on Tuesday but has no expectation of ever breaking the record.

The 36-year-old has already enjoyed a busy start to the new season, having been named among the NBA's 75 greatest players and become the first player to amass 20,000 points and 10,000 assists.

He had another reason to celebrate in the Suns' 112-100 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans, his 18 assists on the day – a season best – helping him surpass Hall of Famer Steve Nash (10,335) and Mark Jackson (10,334) for the third-most in NBA history.

Paul now has 10,346 across his entire career, a haul bettered by only Jason Kidd (12,091) and record-holder John Stockton (15,806).

But, given his age, Paul acknowledged Stockton's record is beyond him.

"I looked at that list when I first came into the league and seeing that John Stockton and I was like, 'I'm going to get it.' But that ship sailed. That ship sailed. It sailed a while ago when I started missing all them games," he said with a laugh.

"But to be third and still be playing, I'm grateful for it and I still got a ways to go.

"I'm grateful and I thank God for this opportunity. I say it all the time, not only to be on a team and still be in the league but to still be playing. You don't take that for granted."

Paul's achievements are not lost on his team-mates, either, even if they have subconsciously started to accept his feats as anything but unusual.

Suns guard Devin Booker said: "We keep acting like this is normal. We go in the locker room like, 'Oh you passed Steve Nash, Mark Jackson. Game ball.'

"It's bigger than that, man. It really is. Obviously, I know he was going to be close [to Nash's total] coming into today and he passed it by a lot. I'm just happy to be a part of it.

"I'm just inspired by it, honestly. Been a fan for a really long time. It's really fun to see, it's really fun to be a part of it. A long time from now, I'll be able to say I got to play with Chris Paul."

Paul has averaged 9.4 assists each game across his NBA career, a record only Magic Johnson (11.2), Stockton (10.5) and Oscar Robertson (9.5) can better.

"It's pretty cool to watch greatness," Suns coach Monty Williams added.

Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer hailed Giannis Antetokounmpo for his role in ending the "cold" reigning champions' three-game skid with Tuesday's win over the Detroit Pistons.

Antetokounmpo finished with 28 points, nine assists, nine rebounds and four blocks in a commanding all-round performance which improved the Bucks to 4-4.

The Bucks were again missing Jrue holiday (ankle), Donte Divincenzo (ankle), Brook Lopez (back) and Khris Middleton (COVID-19) but got the win Budenholzer said they needed.

"We needed this. I thought he [Giannis] set the tone defensively," Budenholzer said during the post-game news conference.

"He blocked a lot of shots. It felt like he was everywhere defensively. We wanted to come out and give a good defensive mindset and I thought he did that. He obviously played well, shot well, got in a good rhythm."

Budenholzer said the side "went a little cold for a few games" with their shooting during their three-game losing run.

The Bucks improved in that area, shooting at 50 per cent from the field and 45.9 per cent from three-point range.

Pat Connaughton led the way from beyond the arc with four-from-five three-pointers among his 16 points, while Jordan Nwora added 16 points off the bench.

"We needed this tonight. We needed a good game," Budenholzer said.

"I talked about setting the tone defensively and good things happen offensively when you do that."

LeBron James recorded his second double-double of the season and first since opening night as the streaking Los Angeles Lakers withstood the Houston Rockets 119-117 on Tuesday.

James, who was a game-time decision again with his niggling ankle issue, scored 30 points – including two-of-four shooting from three-point – range along with 10 assists, four rebounds and two steals. The four-time NBA MVP added 14 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter.

The Lakers had led by eight points in the final quarter but escaped with the win, improving their record to 5-3 on the back of three straight victories, as Kevin Porter Jr.'s three-point attempt to steal the game on the buzzer rimmed out.

Star trio James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook scored a collective 84 points in their most productive game together after the latter arrived from the Washington Wizards in the offseason.

Davis added 27 points, nine rebounds and three assists, while former MVP Westbrook had 27 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

 

Paul third for all-time assists

Chris Paul had 18 assists along with 14 points and seven rebounds to help the Phoenix Suns overcome a 20-point deficit in their rallying 112-100 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans. Paul moved past Mark Jackson and Steve Nash into third for all-time NBA assists. The Suns guard has 10,336 assists, behind only John Stockton (15,806) and Jason Kidd (12,091).

Giannis Antetokounmpo posted 28 points, eight rebounds and nine assists as reigning champions the Milwaukee Bucks ended their three-game skid with a 117-89 win against the struggling Detroit Pistons.

Kyle Lowry drained six three-pointers among his 22 points and nine assists as the red-hot Miami Heat beat the Dallas Mavericks 125-110. Luka Doncic scored 33 points for the Mavs.

 

Clarkson's three-point woes

Utah Jazz point guard Jordan Clarkson shot poorly, going one of 11 from beyond the arc, scoring only two points in their 119-113 victory over the Sacramento Kings.

NBA champions the Milwaukee Bucks confirmed two-time All-Star Khris Middleton has tested positive for coronavirus.

Middleton had missed Sunday's 107-95 loss to the Utah Jazz with "illness" and was again absent from the Bucks team to play the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday.

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer, who had said after the Jazz defeat that the illness was not COVID-related, confirmed prior to the Pistons clash Middleton had since entered the NBA's health and safety protocols.

"We thought he just had a head cold or some type of non-COVID illness," Budenholzer told reporters. "And then, [he] didn't feel good again the next day. Got tested and has come back positive."

The Bucks, who have lost three consecutive games to slip to a 3-4 record, are already missing Jrue Holiday (ankle), Donte Divincenzo (ankle) and Brook Lopez (back).

Under the NBA's health and safety protocols, Middleton must sit out for 10 days minimum, meaning he may miss more than seven games stretching until next Friday's battle against the Boston Celtics.

"It's a challenge to figure out who's available, to get the best groupings out there and how we can get through a game and not really wear down the guys that are healthy," Budenholzer said.

Middleton becomes the third NBA player to test positive to COVID-19 this week, following Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris and Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love.

The Tokyo Olympics gold medallist averaged 20.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.4 assists across the Bucks' title-winning 2020-21 season.

Milwaukee have failed to lead at any point in three different games this season, including their loss on Sunday per Stats Perform. Last season, the Bucks held a lead in all 72 of their games.

The Bucks have won 10 straight games against Detroit – tied for Milwaukee's longest active win streak against any opponent (also the Sacramento Kings). It is also the longest win streak by either team in the series history.

The new NBA season is two weeks in and narratives are already forming.

The Golden State Warriors are back, the Chicago Bulls' rebuild was a success, and several top teams – including defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks – are toiling.

Those themes may not hold for the entire regular season, but we have now seen enough to recognise some patterns – and the same is true on an individual level.

Which players have made flying starts to this campaign, and which are yet to find their feet? Stats Perform takes a look with the first 2021-22 edition of NBA Heat Check.

RUNNING HOT...

Miles Bridges

The Charlotte Hornets were already a fun watch last year thanks to LaMelo Ball, but the second-year point guard has help in 2021-22. Bridges has been one of the key men in lifting the Hornets to an exciting 5-3 start.

Playing alongside Ball, Gordon Hayward and surprise 2020-21 star Terry Rozier, Bridges leads Charlotte in scoring with 23.1 points per game. Now in year four, his previous best had seen 13.0 in his sophomore season.

Bridges' shooting from the field (47.2 per cent) and from three-point range (34.4 per cent) is actually down on last year, while he is only marginally more accurate from the foul line (88.2 per cent).

But the forward is thriving on having been given increased responsibility this season. He is back to being a regular starter, up to 35.5 minutes per game from 29.3, and attempting almost twice as many shots. Through Monday's games, only seven players in the NBA had attempted more shots from three (61).

With assists (3.4), rebounds (7.9), steals (1.8) and blocks (0.9) also on the rise, the Hornets could have a major asset if Bridges maintains these standards.

Ja Morant

If Bridges' development has represented a major shock, Morant's has not. The Memphis Grizzlies sensation was the Rookie of the Year two seasons ago and dumped the Warriors out in the play-in round last year.

Still, Morant's performances have been mightily impressive. His 28.3 points per game trail only Stephen Curry and Paul George. Having played more games than both, his 198 total points lead the league. Morant also tops the charts for field goals made (75).

After a 2-0 start, Morant had 40 in a losing effort against the Los Angeles Lakers and soon added 30 against the Warriors to return the Grizzlies to winning ways.

The 22-year-old is certainly not the finished article – only Russell Westbrook has had more turnovers than his 34 and a plus/minus of -6.1 suggests his scoring is not making up for shortcomings in other areas – but the rate of improvement indicates Memphis will be rewarded soon enough for sticking by their man.

Harrison Barnes

Barnes has seen what elite looks like, having been drafted by the Warriors in 2012 and started every game across the regular season and playoffs when they won the title three years later.

But Barnes was merely the fourth or fifth scoring option on that team and, through moves to the Dallas Mavericks and then the Sacramento Kings, has taken time to establish himself as a leading man.

This could well be the year, though. Barnes is the Kings' top scorer with 23.3 points per game, boosted by a career-high 36 against the Portland Trail Blazers on opening night.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the forward's scoring output has fallen with each passing performance since that stunning display, but he is bringing more to Sacramento than just scoring. Last year's 6.6 assists were a career high, only to be topped by a staggering 10.3 this time.

Although Barnes' Kings team-mates suggested after the Portland game they were always confident he could produce such displays, his progress at 29 has come as a surprise to everyone else.

GOING COLD...

Damian Lillard

Numerous players have explained away their below-par outputs by complaining about the NBA's new interpretation of the foul rule this season – a "change in the officiating of overt, abrupt or abnormal non-basketball moves by offensive players with the ball in an effort to draw fouls" essentially meaning fewer trips to the foul line for certain stars.

Trae Young, one of those prominently affected, named Lillard as another who was suffering more than usual.

Lillard is attempting only 3.9 free throws per game this year, in line with his career-low rookie year. His 18.6 points are below 19.0 he offered the Blazers in 2012-13. He had 28.8 last season.

But those foul calls are not Lillard's only issue, with his shooting from the field also hugely underwhelming through seven games.

The point guard is making only 34.9 per cent from the field and, having previously scored 4.1 three-point attempts per game, 23.1 per cent from beyond the arc. Those are also career lows and sources of major concern for Portland.

Dwight Howard

The Lakers made significant changes to their roster in the offseason and a number of the new recruits have not yet hit their stride.

It figures that Westbrook, now the third man in LA, should have seen his points (18.3), assists (8.7) and rebounds (8.7) take a hit along with his usage rate (28.5 per cent) after averaging a triple-double on the Washington Wizards, but Howard's slow early-season form was less predictable.

The three-time Defensive Player of the Year played a key bench role in the Lakers' title success in 2019-20, even starting seven playoff games, before joining the Philadelphia 76ers for a season.

Back at Staples Center, Howard is proving far less effective to this point. Both his points (4.3) and, most concerningly, rebounds (4.0) have reached career lows. His minutes are down from 17.3 last year to 15.2 this, but his averages per 48 only further display a decrease in performance – 23.3 rebounds becoming 12.7.

With Howard also involved in an altercation with Anthony Davis during a defeat to the Phoenix Suns, it is fair to say his Lakers return has not so far gone entirely to plan.

Odell Beckham Jr's father is not happy with the Cleveland Browns wide receiver's numbers this season, and a famous fan shares that sentiment.

Ohio native LeBron James took to Twitter to voice his frustration at Beckham's production, though, like the wideout's father, he appears to not blame the man himself.

The four-time NBA MVP posted on Tuesday: "OBJ will show again why he's special. WR1 #FreeOBJ."

That tweet followed an Instagram post from Odell Beckham Sr featuring an 11-minute video showing clips of Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield eschewing chances to throw to an open Beckham.

The social media posts came on the day of the NFL's trade deadline, but Beckham is not among the players expected to be moved despite his struggles.

Beckham has 17 catches for 232 yards and zero touchdowns for the Browns since returning from a torn ACL in Week 3.

Those numbers have been somewhat impacted by a shoulder injury to Mayfield, who missed the Browns' Week 7 win over a Denver Broncos because of a torn labrum but returned on Sunday for Cleveland's 15-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Paul George believes the only way is up for the Los Angeles Clippers after he turned on the style in Monday night's clash with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Clippers had lost four of their opening five games but snatched victory from the brink of defeat as they clinched a 99-94 victory.

George had topped 40 points twice early in the season, and this time his 32-point haul came in tandem with four team-mates also hitting double figures.

After making just one of nine shots from the field in the first half, George hit 10 of 15 in the second.

"It's my job to go out there and play hard," George said in a post-game news conference. "My team needed me and I just tried to step up for them."

The Clippers turned a 91-82 deficit into a 95-92 lead as Reggie Jackson landed a jump shot that clinched the game, earning an embrace from George.

After a rocky run of form, George is hoping this outcome means the Clippers might be turning a corner.

"I just told him this is the worst that the team can shoot – obviously we could shoot worse than this, but in the real picture this is the worst we can shoot," George said.

"That shot can change [Jackson's] rhythm. That shot right there was really the biggest shot of the night. That could be all the confidence he needs going into the next game to make a shot when we needed him to.

"It was a great moment for me and him. We've both been struggling tonight so to end the game on that note was a good moment."

Coach Tyronn Lue hailed the "miraculous shots" from George, while Nicolas Batum enjoyed the "ugly win".

Batum, who finished with 14 points, was relieved to see the Clippers find their stride.

"I've never seen that before, the whole team getting cold for five games," said the French forward. "The thing is, we're not playing that bad actually.

"We keep playing defense, trying to move the ball, trying to find a way, but we just don't make shots, but we kept fighting, we kept grinding.

"It was just finding a way to win a game tonight. We didn't lose confidence. PG [George] was great in the second half and took us home.

"It was an ugly win, but I'd take an ugly win compared to beautiful losses."

 

Assessing another standout display from George, Batum said: "We've got to help him out. The last game [a 111-92 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers] was unacceptable as a team.

"He got 42 and he got 50 per cent of the points. We've got four guys in double figures tonight and that's how we have to do it every night. We can't rely on him to get 30-40 points every night."

The NBA's hottest young scorer got the best of the reigning MVP on Monday as Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies defeated Nikola Jokic's Denver Nuggets 106-97. 

Morant had 26 points, eight assists and seven rebounds for the Grizzlies, who bounced back from an ugly home loss to the Miami Heat on Saturday. 

The 22-year-old Morant is averaging 28.3 points per game, second only to Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors (28.7), while shooting 52.4 per cent from the field. 

Jokic played a team-high 33 minutes and finished with 23 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and four blocked shots. 

The Nuggets superstar has shown no ill effects from the knee contusion that forced him out of a game against the Utah Jazz last week in the second quarter. 

The teams meet again in Memphis on Wednesday. 

 

Short-handed 76ers top Trail Blazers

Joel Embiid missed the game with a planned rest day and Tobias Harris sat out due to health and safety protocols, but the Philadelphia 76ers still managed to defeat the Portland Trail Blazers 113-103 behind 23 points from Seth Curry and 21 off the bench from Georges Niang. Embiid's replacement, Andre Drummond, added 14 points and 15 rebounds for the 76ers as Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum combined to make just 15 of 40 shots from the field, including five of 17 from three-point range, for Portland. 

After making just one of nine shots from the field in the first half, Paul George hit 10 of 15 in the second to finish with 32 points and lead the Los Angeles Clippers past the Oklahoma City Thunder 99-94. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 28 for OKC. 

The Chicago Bulls outscored the Boston Celtics 39-11 in the fourth quarter to rally for a 128-114 road victory. DeMar DeRozan had a spectacular shooting game, making 15 of 20 from the field to lead the Bulls with 37 points while Zach LaVine added 26. 

OG Anunoby had 36 points as the Toronto Raptors handed the New York Knicks their second loss of the season, 113-104 at Madison Square Garden. Gary Trent Jr. added 26 for Toronto, while RJ Barrett led New York with 27 points.

 

Beal, Wizards suffer second loss

Bradley Beal made only three of 11 shots from three-point range and the Washington starting lineup attempted just five free throws as the Wizards suffered their second defeat of the season, 118-111 to the Atlanta Hawks. 

New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson will miss at least two to three more weeks as he continues to recover from a right foot injury. 

Williamson had surgery during the offseason to repair a broken foot and has missed the start of the regular season for the second time in his three NBA campaigns. 

The Pelicans are 1-6 so far without him but head coach Willie Green told reporters on Monday his star is making progress. 

"He's cutting. He's doing explosive work. He's running. He's getting closer and closer," Green said.

"It's just one of those injuries where we want to be really diligent, especially with the foot, of being careful when we put him back on the floor at full go."

Williamson has not yet been cleared for contact, so he has not been able to participate in five-on-five drills during practice. 

He will accompany the team on their four-game road trip that begins in Phoenix on Tuesday against the Suns, with his next set of scans scheduled for two to three weeks from now. 

"We’ll know more after that," Green said. "But he’s progressing. It’s a good sign for us. We want to continue to keep him going in that direction."

Williamson averaged 27.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game across 61 appearances last season for the Pelicans.

 

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash laughed off any concerns about Kevin Durant after being ejected in the side's 117-91 win over the Detroit Pistons only days after another undisciplined act.

Durant was ejected in the third quarter for an elbow to Kelly Olynyk, coming after he was fined $25,000 for throwing the ball into the stands during Friday's win over the Indiana Pacers.

The 33-year-old forward was fortunate to avoid being ejected for the offence against the Pacers.

"I would say they are just two random events," Nash told reporters when asked about Durant's mindset. "I wouldn't read too much into it. He's had a laugh about both of them and held his hand up."

On the incident, Durant admitted he was at fault for the elbow on Olynyk but defended the intent.

"I tried to run through the screen," Durant told reporters. "That was just the result of me trying to blow the screen up. If we're looking at the tape, it looks like I extended [raised his elbow] a little bit. I was just trying to blow the screen up, get over it, fight through, it is what it is."

The Nets went on an 11-0 run after Durant's ejection led by James Harden with five assists during the stretch.

Harden, who has started the season slow as he recovers after rehabbing his hamstring during the off-season, posted a triple-double with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists, earning praise from Nash and Durant.

"He's improving in all areas," Nash said. "His conditioning, his explosiveness, his confidence, his feel, his rhythm, everything is moving forward in the right direction.

"You have a nice lead but momentum can swing fast. When we lost Kevin, it was important we continued to show impetus. I thought James was great. He led us in that stretch, being aggressive, making the right decisions."

Durant, who joked that his ejection ignited the team and crowd, added: "He understands the game and how to put people in good positions. It's not a surprise that he can take us on a run so fast."

Harden's triple-double comes after scoring a season-high 29 points against the Pacers, in a sign he is getting back to his best.

"I’m just playing. The confidence and just my rhythm and all that is coming back simultaneously together. It just feels much, much better," Harden said.

"I knew I was going to have a slow start because I wasn’t playing a lot. But I knew the work was going to catch up and ultimately I was going to get back to where I need to be. Game by game, I’m just feeling better. More confident, extra pep in my step. Just overall much better."

James Harden recorded his first triple-double of the season as the Brooklyn Nets claimed back-to-back wins for the first time this NBA campaign in a 117-91 victory over the lowly Detroit Pistons on Sunday.

Harden finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists after three quarters, while Nets team-mate Kevin Durant top-scored with 23 points but was ejected in the third quarter for shoving his elbow into Kelly Olynyk's face.

Former MVP Harden has had a slow start to 2021-22, however, he backed up his season-high 29 points against the Indiana Pacers on Friday with another impressive showing which will encourage the championship-chasing Nets (4-3) that he is getting back to his best after an injury-impacted offseason.

Harden hit four three-pointers as the superstar guard – already Brooklyn's all-time triple-double leader with 13 – joined Hall of Famer Larry Bird for second on the NBA's all-time list with 59.

 

Mitchell leads Jazz past struggling champs

Donovan Mitchell starred with 28 points, including a treble of first-quarters three-pointers as the Utah Jazz hit their first five attempts from range in a 107-95 win against slumping champions the Milwaukee Bucks. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 25 points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Bucks, who have lost three in a row.

Carmelo Anthony – who is shooting a career-high 50 per cent and 52.2 per cent from three this season – scored 23 points off the bench, while LeBron James had 15 points, seven rebounds and assists in the Los Angeles Lakers' 95-85 triumph over the Houston Rockets.

Luka Doncic led the way for the Dallas Mavericks with 23 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists in a 105-99 victory against the Sacramento Kings.

 

Dame cold in Blazers loss

All-Star Damian Lillard's shooting was wayward as the Portland Trail Blazers were downed 125-113 by the Charlotte Hornets, hitting two from 14 from three-point range for a below-standard 14-point return.

Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer is hopeful of getting key players Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton back soon after the NBA champions slumped to their third successive defeat.

The Bucks went down 107-95 to the Utah Jazz on Sunday, with two-time All-Star Middleton absent due to illness, which Budenholzer clarified after the game was not COVID-related.

The loss condemned Milwaukee to yet another loss, leaving the Bucks 3-4 in their title defence as they struggle without All-Star Holiday (ankle), Brook Lopez (back) and Rodney Hood (hand).

Milwaukee – who had averaged 91.5 points on Halloween since the 2000-01 season, second lowest in the NBA heading into the matchup – were again forced to come from behind against the Jazz, trailing by 17 points at the final change, with a late rally not enough.

"The group kept fighting tonight," Budenholzer said in a news conference. "The fight was good. We couldn't quite get there but the guys were working."

Giannis Antetokounmpo top-scored with 25 points, along with seven rebounds and six assists, but he lacked support with Holiday, Lopez and Middleton out.

Holiday has not played since injuring his ankle in the Bucks' opening night win against Eastern Conference rivals the Brooklyn Nets.

"Jrue, I think we'll see how he feels in the morning," Budenholzer said. "He actually got some basketball work in today and I think he's trending in a good direction."

On Lopez, he added: "There's not a new update and there never really has been a timeline. But he's doing good stuff in the weight room, doing good stuff to get better and he'll continue that."

Budenholzer also clarified the status of shooting guard Hood, who previously had a foot injury before undergoing scans on his hand.

"The X-rays the other day were inconclusive," Budenholzer said. "On examination we decided he couldn't play. We'll get another X-ray and look at it tomorrow and hope for the best."

The Bucks return to action on Tuesday against the lowly Detroit Pistons who are 1-5.

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