LeBron James returned from injury with 26 points as the Los Angeles Lakers overcame a slow first half to defeat his former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, 113-101 on Friday.

James had missed the Lakers' past two games with a sore ankle but marked his return by top scoring, adding eight assists and three rebounds.

The four-time MVP only shot 10 from 22 from the field and one from 10 from three-point range, draining a three-quarter time buzzer beater from almost halfway.

Carmelo Anthony added 24 points off the bench for the Lakers while Anthony Davis had 15 points, nine rebounds and three assists.

The Cavs, who have beaten contenders the Atlanta Hawks, Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers this season, led by as much as 11 points at one stage, including holding a one-point lead into the fourth quarter.

James played a lead role in steadying the ship for the Lakers, who scored 25-16 in the fourth quarter to win by 12 points and improve their record to 3-3.

 

Harden finds his scoring touch

James Harden re-discovered some form with a season-high 29 points, including 21 in the first half, in the Brooklyn Nets' 105-98 win over the Indiana Pacers. LaMarcus Aldridge added 21 points off the bench to reach 20,000 career NBA points, while Kevin Durant dominated with 22 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.

Jimmy Butler starred with 32 points, 10 rebounds and five assists while Bam Adebayo added 26 points and 19 rebounds as the Miami Heat downed the in-form Charlotte Hornets 114-99.

Damian Lillard hit five from seven three-pointers, finishing with 25 points as the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 111-92. Paul George finished with 42 points for the Clippers, who are 1-3.

 

Doncic wayward as Mavs routed

Luka Doncic had an off-night, with 16 points, shooting five from 18 from the field as the Dallas Mavericks were brushed aside 106-75 by the Denver Nuggets.

Hornets guard LaMelo Ball's bright start to the season has stalled, managing only six points in their loss to the Heat, shooting none from five from beyond the arc.

LeBron James will return after two games out with an ankle issue when the Los Angeles Lakers take on the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday.

Four-time NBA MVP James started the Lakers' first three games of the season, averaging 26.0 points in 38.0 minutes as his team made a rocky 1-2 start.

The 36-year-old injured his ankle in the Lakers' first win of the season against the Memphis Grizzlies and missed their subsequent games with the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, the latter which they lost by eight points after leading by 26 in the first half.

James was listed in the Lakers' starting line-up alongside Anthony Davis, who picked up a knee worry against the Spurs before playing 37 minutes and scoring 30 points against OKC.

Russell Westbrook, who had a triple-double but also 10 turnovers before being ejected against the Thunder, as well as Kurt Bazemore and DeAndre Jordan round out the Lakers' starting five.

James played just 45 games in the 2020-21 season as the Lakers failed to build on their 2020 Finals success with a first round playoffs exit to the Phoenix Suns.

The veteran forward played just 42.9 per cent of possible minutes for the Lakers in the regular season last year, the lowest rate of his career and only the second season in which he has dipped below the halfway mark – also 48.9 per cent in 2018-19, his first season as a Laker.

The Philadelphia 76ers will not have fond memories of playing the Atlanta Hawks as the two teams head into their first matchup of 2021-22 with 3-2 records.

The 76ers' playoff run last year ended against Atlanta in a Game 7 defeat at Wells Fargo Center.

That was a hugely damaging series for Philly, not only bringing their season to a close but also increasing the attention on Ben Simmons' below-par displays.

Simmons averaged just 9.9 points against the Hawks and did not attempt a single fourth-quarter field goal from Game 4 onwards. He has since pushed for a move, but the Sixers cannot find a trade partner.

The 76ers are without Simmons so far this year but will hope Atlanta's return to Philadelphia can provide the motivation required to truly kickstart their season.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Philadelphia 76ers – Tyrese Maxey

Without Simmons, second-year point guard Maxey has come into the lineup. The 76ers have played the same starting five in each game so far this season, with Maxey for Simmons the only change from last year's most-used lineup.

Maxey is not exactly a like-for-like replacement for Simmons, though. For all his faults, the wantaway three-time All-Star is an elite defensive player – averaging 1.6 steals, 0.6 blocks and 5.6 defensive rebounds last year – and a far more comfortable facilitator than Maxey, who has 2.1 assists per game for his career.

But the Sixers' 2020 first-round pick is still just 20 and acknowledges he is learning on the job.

"It's a work in progress," he said after 16 points, six assists, six rebounds and four turnovers against the Detroit Pistons on Thursday. "It's the fifth game, stuff is slowing down, you figure out which guys want the ball, try to find switches or advantages that work for us.

"It's getting a lot better. The coaching staff and my team-mates have been great. They've been helping me."

And perhaps against Atlanta, a team who have benefited from Simmons' reluctance to shoot from deep, Maxey's superior shot could prove useful. He is 45.9 per cent from the midrange and 30.0 per cent from three for his career versus Simmons' 37.6 per cent and 14.7 per cent.

 

Atlanta Hawks – Trae Young

Two years older than Maxey, the Hawks' point guard Young is far more established both at the position and in the league. He averaged 29.0 points and 10.9 assists against the 76ers in the playoffs.

That postseason run seemingly saw Young move to another level as one of the NBA's leading young players, but this season has not so far gone entirely to plan.

His 24.2 points per game ranked 17th in the league through Thursday's games, having last year finished 14th in that regard (25.3 ppg), yet the former fifth overall pick feels those numbers should have been boosted by more generous officiating.

Young became the latest player to complain about the NBA's "interpretive change in the officiating of overt, abrupt or abnormal non-basketball moves by offensive players with the ball in an effort to draw fouls" after a loss to the Washington Wizards.

He is shooting a career-best 95.5 per cent from the foul line but has attempted only 4.4 field goals per game. Having averaged 9.9 attempts per game against Philly, Saturday's opponents know how crucial it is those marginal calls continue to go against him.

KEY BATTLE – Can Collins continue to impress against Embiid?

The battle of the big men should be worth watching on Saturday, with John Collins surely meeting his match in the form of 76ers superstar Joel Embiid, one of the league's best two-way centers.

The Hawks have relied on dominating during Collins' minutes so far this season, with his plus/minus a team-leading 8.4 and his net rating an impressive 29.3.

The six-foot-nine center also has 12 dunks, but Embiid is ticking along at 1.8 blocks per game and there could be fireworks if Collins attempts to take on his direct opponent.

HEAD TO HEAD

Atlanta might have won the game that mattered most, but they and the 76ers split the series 5-5 across the regular season and postseason last year.

The Sixers have the edge in the all-time regular season record, leading 196-191, although the Hawks closed that gap considerably during 'The Process' era, having an 18-9 advantage since the start of the 2013-14 campaign.

From 2014 to 2019, the Golden State Warriors put together one of the best stretches in basketball history, playing in the NBA Finals in five straight years and lifting the Larry O'Brien Trophy three times as league champions. 

Those Warriors teams were a combined 322-88 in the regular season, giving them the most wins in a five-year stretch in NBA history. That .785 winning percentage is also an all-time NBA record over five consecutive seasons. 

While Golden State's time for dynastic dominance is likely in the past, is the team's window for winning NBA titles closed, or does the Warriors' 4-1 start to this season foreshadow a return trip to the Finals next June?

The cornerstones of last decade's title teams, head coach Steve Kerr and point guard Stephen Curry, remain in place and appear as capable as ever. 

While the Warriors' failures in last season's play-in tournament kept them from a true playoff appearance, their 16-6 finish to the regular season showed that a team can still thrive with role players around Curry when he is right, and the two-time MVP was that and more down the stretch. 

After returning from a tailbone contusion in late March, Curry averaged 36.9 points per game and shot 43.7 per cent from three-point range in his last 24 games, seemingly single-handedly boosting Golden State from below .500 into the Western Conference playoff race. 

Despite a rotating cast of team-mates – including the arrival and subsequent departure of Kevin Durant – Curry has been the engine that powers the Warriors' high-scoring offense. Over the past eight seasons, Golden State score 116.4 points per 100 possessions with Curry on the court and just 103.5 per 100 possessions when he is on the bench. 

More surprising, however, is that the Warriors are better in almost every aspect of the game when their star guard is on the court, even in areas considered some of Curry's weaknesses. Since the start of the 2014-15 season, a sample size of over 26,500 minutes, Curry's presence has also helped Golden State improve their points allowed per 100 possessions, field goal defense, three-point defense, points in the paint and rebounding rate.

Curry is averaging 30.4 points, 8.0 rebounds and 6.6 assists during the Warriors' 4-1 start and appears to be as potent as ever bombing three-pointers and pushing opposing defenses to their breaking point.

Klay's comeback, Green's regression

The uncertainty about Golden State's title hopes likely falls at the feet of the team's two remaining stars: Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

Thompson, a five-time All-Star and Curry's 'Splash Brothers' backcourt partner, could be the most pivotal player in the NBA this season. 

The 31-year-old guard last appeared in a game well over two years ago in the 2019 NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors, suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during Game 6. In November 2020, Thompson ruptured his right Achilles tendon during a workout. 

The Warriors fully expect Thompson to return to action this season, with Christmas Day's matchup against the Phoenix Suns set as an initial goal, 13 months since having surgery to repair his Achilles. 

While every injury and recovery is as unique as the players who endure them, Thompson and the Warriors can look to Durant's story as reason for hope. 

Durant made huge contributions last season for the Brooklyn Nets after missing the entire 2019-20 campaign while recovering from a ruptured Achilles. Durant's return to the court came about 18 months after surgery, but he almost immediately looked like himself, scoring 22 points in 25 minutes in his first game back. Within a month of his return, Durant had his first 40-point game and played over 50 minutes in a double-overtime road game. 

The Nets handled Durant with care last season, giving him occasional rest days and treating a strained hamstring cautiously, but he had no restrictions in the postseason, where he carried the load for Brooklyn and was inches away from defeating the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks in a Game 7. 

The Warriors will likely ease Thompson back into action as he builds endurance and re-adjusts to the speed of live games, but the team have said they expect him to make a "full recovery".

Green is a three-time All-Star and five-time All-Defensive Team selection who appears to be battling age regression while still playing a vital role. 

Never known for his scoring prowess, Green averaged 7.1 rebounds and a career-high 8.9 assists last season while providing the defensive versatility to play in almost any lineup the Warriors wanted. 

Green's problem has been the gradual decline in his offensive production, most notably his outside shooting. Through the 2017-18 season, Green shot 32.7 per cent from three-point range and averaged 11.6 points per game. Since 2018-19, his three-point shooting has dipped to 28.1 per cent and he is scoring 7.4 points per night. 

While those declines feel relatively small now, they will likely be magnified in a playoff series where opposing coaches will be hell-bent on creating defenses to get the ball out of Curry's hands at the expense of leaving Green wide open.

Green garnered a reputation as someone who steps up in the postseason and shot 34.2 per cent from deep in his first 80 career playoff games. 

Since 2018, however, Green has converted just 25.4 per cent of his postseason three-point attempts over 45 games, and he has made just 21.1 per cent over his past 35 playoff games. Teams will continue to leave Green open in crucial games, and the Warriors' title hopes may hinge on whether he hits just enough to make defenses think twice. 

Wiseman, Wiggins and depth

Golden State's trio of battle-tested stars will be the core of any potential playoff run this spring, but the Warriors have another asset this season that they have lacked in recent years: depth. 

Going 54-83 over the previous two seasons was certainly not an ideal way to follow five straight Finals appearances, but a pair of non-contending years gave the team some extra assets and helped some of the Warriors' younger players gain experience. 

The dismal 2019-20 season yielded number two overall pick James Wiseman, whose rookie year was marred by injuries, including a season-ending meniscus tear in April. The 20-year-old center has played just 42 basketball games since leaving high school and remains raw, but his talent could prove vital in a Western Conference playoff bracket that will likely include Nikola Jokic, Deandre Ayton and Rudy Gobert. 

Wiseman is still recovering from his knee injury, but the Warriors are expected to provide an update early in November with a more definitive timeline for his return. 

Rookies Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, the number seven and number 14 picks in this year's draft, will also look to compete for playing time, although Kuminga has yet to play due to a knee strain. 

The rest of Golden State's supporting cast has plenty of experience – at least in the regular season – but still has room for improvement. 

Andrew Wiggins, the maligned former number one overall pick who was acquired from the Minnesota Timberwolves, has begun a second chapter of his career in a supporting role, and the move to Golden State has revived his career. Wiggins had a career-best shooting season last year, converting 47.3 per cent from the field and 38.0 per cent from three-point range. 

After sputtering a bit early last season, Wiggins excelled down the stretch and has averaged 20.0 points over his last 35 games. 

Damion Lee and Jordan Poole have gone through growing pains the past two seasons, attempting to fill in for Thompson in the backcourt, but both have emerged as interesting contributors. 

Lee has ignited the offense off the bench, averaging 14.2 points through five games this season with 12-for-26 shooting (46.2 per cent) from three-point range.  

Poole, a 2019 draft pick, showed a lot of improvement during last year's sophomore campaign. Although he is off to a slow shooting start this season, he is averaging 18.3 in 12 games as a starter, dating back to the start of last season. 

Back is 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala to provide a veteran presence on the wing, while six-foot-10 forward Nemanja Bjelica adds both size and outside shooting to a frontcourt still in flux. 

Contenders again?

The sum of all those pieces is a team with a relatively wide range of possibilities in 2021-22. 

So much weight rests on Curry's shoulders, and any serious injury to the Warriors' top man could spell disaster, as it did in 2019-20. 

There is no guarantee that Thompson can make signature contributions after returning from an absence that spans 28 months and counting. The playoff stage may prove to be too big for Golden State's collection of young prospects, and players like Green and Iguodala might be too far past their primes to provide the requisite lift. 

But the Warriors' roster holds the potential for a championship contender once again. 

Curry remains on the short list of star players who can control a playoff series, and there is enough depth in place to ease Thompson back into NBA action. After years of filling their roster with late draft choices and minimum salary veterans, the Warriors now have three lottery picks in Wiseman, Kuminga and Moody who could blossom into key pieces. 

In a competitive but wide-open Western Conference, Golden State still have questions to answer but have the potential to make a run at a fourth NBA title in the past eight seasons.

Trae Young believes James Harden is merely one of "a couple of guys" being targeted by an NBA rule change that is seeing fewer fouls awarded.

More lax officiating early in the 2021-22 season has frustrated Brooklyn Nets superstar Harden, who has said he "for sure" feels like "the poster boy" for what the league described as "an interpretive change in the officiating of overt, abrupt or abnormal non-basketball moves by offensive players with the ball in an effort to draw fouls".

Harden has averaged 8.7 free throw attempts per game for his career. This includes more than 10.0 in seven separate seasons and six straight before last year. Only Wilt Chamberlain (11) and Shaquille O'Neal (10) have averaged double-figures for free throws in more seasons.

Since arriving in the NBA in 2009, no player comes within 1,000 of Harden's 7,674 total free throw attempts.

This year, though, following the rule change, Harden has visited the foul line just 15 times through five games – an average of 3.0 even lower than his rookie year.

"Sometimes I feel like coming into a game it's already predetermined," he said. "I already have that stigma of getting foul calls."

But Harden is not alone. Atlanta Hawks point guard Young has averaged 4.4 free throws per game this year, down from 8.7 in 2020-21 when his 546 for the year trailed only Giannis Antetokounmpo (581) and Joel Embiid (548).

And Young was keen to address the issue after taking only three shots from the foul line in Thursday's defeat to the Washington Wizards, in which he scored a season-low 15 points.

"It's not necessarily about stuff not going our way," he said. "It's simple basketball. Fouls should be fouls.

"The foul they gave me at the end of the game, I thought that was BS – they just gave it to me – but there's a lot of calls they missed.

"It's basketball. It feels like they're learning, and it's... I don't know. It's frustrating."

Young said he would have to "figure it out", but he indicated others are in the same boat as he and Harden.

Damian Lillard is down to 4.5 free throw attempts and 17.8 points per game, while Devin Booker has only had 3.5 free throw attempts and a slight slump to 21.5 points.

"I don't want to get fined too much, but this is frustrating," Young said. "I saw James said it's about him, but it's not targeted at one player. There's a couple of guys where you feel like refs are holding their whistle.

"You watch basketball. Damian Lillard's never averaged 17 points probably since his rookie year. There's a couple of guys. Book's averaging 18.

"There are a lot of things where guys are driving straight, they're getting knocked off balance, it's still a foul.

"There were a lot of things they took out that were necessary – veering back and jumping into guys – that's different. There are certain things that I agree with the rule changes, but then there's things that are still fouls.

"Guys are going to get hurt, and that's why, especially a smaller guy like me, who's going up against bigger and stronger defenders, they're using their body and they're using their legs and their hands to stop me.

"I know they're looking for a guy getting knocked off balance. So, if I'm going straight and I get my balance knocked off, that's a foul. If they slow down my speed, that's a foul.

"I know the rules, so the ref can't come to me and tell me what happened and what didn't if I know exactly what they're looking for."

The Golden State Warriors lost for the first time this NBA season, Stephen Curry and his team-mates outlasted 104-101 by the rallying Memphis Grizzlies after overtime.

Golden State were riding a 4-0 record – their sixth such start to a campaign in franchise history – but the Warriors came unstuck at home to the Grizzlies on Thursday.

Having forced overtime with a 25-19 fourth quarter, Ja Morant's Grizzlies outscored the Warriors 6-3 in OT to inflict a first loss of the season on Golden State.

Morant – leading the league with 30.4 points per game this season – fuelled the Grizzlies with 30 points on the road after overturning a 19-point deficit.

 

Curry, who did not score in the fourth quarter or OT, had a game-high 36 points as the Warriors ended the game with 22 turnovers.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Bulls – enjoying their first 4-0 start to a season since 1996-97 – also lost for the first time in 2021-22, edged 104-103 by the New York Knicks.

 

Embiid leads the way, Jazz stay undefeated

Despite a sore right knee, last season's MVP runner-up Joel Embiid inspired the Philadelphia 76ers to a 110-102 victory over the winless Detroit Pistons. Embiid had 30 points and 18 rebounds. The 76ers star put up 19 points and 12 boards in the opening half – the sixth time since the start of last season he has posted a point-rebound double-double in a half, tied for seventh in the NBA during that span.

The Utah Jazz – last season's Western Conference top seeds – are the lone unbeaten team in the league after routing the Houston Rockets 122-91. All-Star Rudy Gobert (16 points and 14 rebounds) recorded another double-double. According to Stats Perform, it is the first time ever the Jazz are the last remaining undefeated side in the NBA.

 

Slumping Spurs lose again

The San Antonio Spurs lost their fourth consecutive game, this time falling to rivals the Dallas Mavericks 104-99.

Kevin Huerter was one of the surprising stars of the Atlanta Hawks' run to the Eastern Conference Finals last season, but he struggled in the 122-111 loss at the Washington Wizards. He was scoreless in 14 minutes, having missed all four of his shots from the field.

Russell Westbrook has vowed to make amends after accepting the blame for the Los Angeles Lakers' surprise defeat to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Lakers, without LeBron James for a second game running due to an ankle injury, failed to protect a 26-point first-half lead as they fell 123-115 against a previously winless Thunder team.

Westbrook got his first triple-double for the Lakers in Wednesday's contest, but he also had 10 turnovers and was ejected late on for a second technical foul.

Nine-time NBA All-Star Westbrook took issue with Darius Bazley for scoring on a breakaway dunk, rather than dribble out the clock, with 1.5 seconds left in a feisty conclusion.

But while standing by his actions that led to that dismissal, the 32-year-old concedes that he could have done more to prevent his side from falling to a third defeat in five games.

"How I play the game, I'm more old-school," he said when asked about his confrontation with Bazley. "When s*** like that happens, I don't let it slide. 

"In the game of basketball, there's certain things you just don't do. Like in baseball, you don't flip the bat. 

"There's certain things you don't do in sports when the game's already over. And I didn't like it. Simple as that."

Westbrook, who ended the contest with 20 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists, added: "I got to take care of the ball. There were too many mishaps allowed. 

"It's my fault. It's on me. But I'm going to take care of it. I know that. And keep the game simple. We need those possessions, especially in games like this."

Westbrook reached 7,000 career rebounds in the game, joining Oscar Robertson, Jason Kidd and James as the only players with at least 7,000 rebounds and 7,000 assists.

But it was not enough to prevent his side avoiding defeat as the Lakers allowed 115 points or more for the fifth game running this season – their longest ever such streak.

The Lakers may be going through a transitional phase with a number of new players on top of injuries to contend with, but Anthony Davis is not interested in excuses.

"This ain't no adjustment period at all," he said. "Not this game. That's just straight on us. 

"This isn't an adjustment game where I feel like it's, 'Oh, we're still learning each other'... Nah. Not this game."

The Lakers are ninth in the Western Conference ahead of their return to action on Friday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Kevin Durant has admitted the Brooklyn Nets are missing absent star Kyrie Irving following their third defeat in the new NBA season but is bullish they can turn around their stuttering form.

The Nets were beaten 106-93 by the Miami Heat on Wednesday, their third double-digit defeat leaving them with a 2-3 record.

Durant top scored for the Nets with 25 points along with 11 rebounds, while James Harden continues to work into the season, with 14 points.

Irving's absence, due to his vaccination status, has been a major talking point for the Nets and with limited contributions from guards Joe Harris (15 points and three reounds) and Patty Mills (four points, three rebounds and five assists) on Wednesday, Durant conceded he was being missed.

"I know what you want me to say," Durant told reporters after the game. "Yeah, we do miss Kyrie. We do. He's a part of our team.

"For the most part we've been generating great shots. We've been getting into the paint. It's a matter of knocking it down. I think it'll come."

Harden's form is another concern for the Nets as he re-discovers his touch after rehabbing from a hamstring injury.

The 2018 NBA MVP, who joined the Nets from the Houston Rockets in January, is averaging 16.6 points, 7.0 rebounds and 8.0 assists per game this season.

Harden has scored 15 or fewer points for the past three games, the first time that has happened since the 2011-12 season.

"I had no opportunities to play pickup or nothing this summer," Harden told reporters. "Everything was rehab for three months, from a Grade 2 injury that happened three times in one season.

"This is my fifth game of trying to just play with competition against somebody else and as much as I want to rush the process and be back to hooping and killing, [you need to] take your time."

Harden shot four-for-12 from the field and hit three-for-eight from beyond the arc against the Heat.

"[I'm] Just getting more confident, being aggressive," Harden said. "It's getting better every single game.

"As much as I want to get back to just [scoring] 30s and 40 points, I can't do that. As much as I want to, obviously I would love to."

The Brooklyn Nets' stuttering start to the season continued with their third defeat in five games as they went down 106-93 at home to the Miami Heat.

Jimmy Butler starred for the Heat with a double-double with 17 points and 14 rebounds as well as seven assists and four steals as Miami improved their record to 3-1.

Bam Adebayo stole the show in the final quarter as the Nets threatened to overtake them, landing three big dunks to finish with 24 points and nine rebounds.

James Harden had some bright moments but only managed 14 points with seven rebounds and seven assists, while Kevin Durant had 25 points and 11 rebounds.

All three Nets defeats this season have been by double-digit margins as they continue to miss Kyrie Irving who is absent due to his vaccination status.

 

Giannis hits 40 in Bucks defeat

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 40 points but it was not enough as the Milwaukee Bucks suffered their second loss in their title defence 113-108 to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Antetokounmpo had 40 along with 16 rebounds and seven assists, while all five Timberwolves starters contributed strongly led by D'Angelo Russell (29 points, five rebounds and six assists) and Anthony Edwards (25 points, seven rebounds and three assists).

Harrison Barnes (22 points, nine rebounds and four assists) drained a turnaround triple on the buzzer to clinch the Sacramento Kings a 110-107 win over last season's the Phoenix Suns who had closed a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit late in the game, led by Devin Booker (31 points, six rebounds and eight assists).

The Cleveland Cavaliers added another impressive scalp to their list this season as they downed the Los Angeles Clippers 92-79 with Collin Sexton scoring 26 points.

 

Westbrook turnovers as Lakers lose

Russell Westbrook got his first Los Angeles Lakers triple-double but he also had 10 turnovers in their 123-115 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, with LeBron James absent due to an ankle injury.

LaMelo Ball struggled with only seven points, shooting three-from-14 from the field and only one-from-five beyond the arc as the Charlotte Hornets won 120-111 over the Orlando Magic.

Khris Middleton's three-point radar was off in the Bucks loss to the Timberwolves, shooting one-from-eight and contributing only 16 points, leaving Antetokounmpo with too much to do.

LeBron James will be missing again for the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday as he nurses a sore right ankle.

Four-time NBA MVP James started the Lakers' first three games of the season, averaging 26.0 points in 38.0 minutes as his team made a rocky 1-2 start.

But the 36-year-old suffered the injury in a first win of the year against the Memphis Grizzlies and was absent for Tuesday's overtime win over the San Antonio Spurs.

Malik Monk made his first Lakers start in James' place and scored 17 points.

The former Hornets guard, who only started one game in four years in Charlotte, is now set to be included in the line-up again versus the Oklahoma City Thunder with James officially ruled out.

The Lakers could also be without Anthony Davis, listed as questionable against the Thunder after hurting his knee against the Spurs.

These early injuries will concern LA, given James and Davis played just 45 and 36 games respectively in 2020-21 as the Lakers failed to build on their 2020 Finals success.

James played just 42.9 per cent of possible minutes for the Lakers in the regular season last year, the lowest rate of his career and only the second season in which he has dipped below the halfway mark – also 48.9 per cent in 2018-19, his first season as a Laker.

It was a high ankle sprain that caused James the most trouble, but coach Frank Vogel assured reporters this latest issue is not related.

"Same ankle, different spot, different injury," he said.

The Lakers will at least hope to be able to cope without their key men against the Thunder, who are facing a third 0-5 start in franchise history (also 2007-08, 1969-70).

OKC are 2-27 in their past 29 games dating back to last season, when they were swept by the Lakers.

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic missed the second half of the Denver Nuggets' 122-110 loss to the Utah Jazz on Tuesday with a knee injury but the team does not believe it will be a serious problem. 

Jokic was off to a torrid start when he banged knees with Jazz big man Rudy Gobert with about two minutes to play in the first half and left the game. 

Denver head coach Michael Malone said he decided to keep Jokic on the bench after a brief half-time discussion with the 26-year-old. 

The official diagnosis was a knee contusion and Malone said he was not sure if Jokic would need further testing. 

"I don't think it's anything too serious," Malone told reporters. "I went up to Nikola as he was warming up at half-time and said how do you feel and he said 'It feels a little weak' and I just shut him down.

"Nikola's a tough kid, we've seen him time and time again play through injuries, never sit out. Second night of a back-to-back, he's far too important for this team for us to risk him being out there if he's not feeling confident about it."

Though he played only 15 minutes Tuesday, Jokic ended up leading the Nuggets with 24 points and six assists, and he also added six rebounds before departing. 

Jokic made eight of nine shots from the field including all three of his three-point tries. 

After suffering 12-point losses to the Jazz and Cleveland Cavaliers on successive nights, the Nuggets (2-2) are off until hosting the Dallas Mavericks on Friday. 

Playing without the injured LeBron James, the Los Angeles Lakers saw their other two superstars step up in a 125-121 overtime defeat of the San Antonio Spurs. 

Anthony Davis had 35 points and 17 rebounds and Russell Westbrook contributed 33 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists to carry the Lakers on the road. 

James injured his right ankle Sunday against the Memphis Grizzlies but remained in the game. Though he entered the day listed as "probable" against the Spurs, coach Frank Vogel ruled him out before the game. 

Malik Monk got the start in James' place and finished with 17 points but the Lakers needed their big names to pull this one out. 

Los Angeles trailed by 12 in the fourth quarter before rallying to take the lead, but that momentum was halted when Davis went down late in the period with an apparent leg injury. 

Westbrook took control in overtime, though, and the Lakers will have to hope for good news on the injury front. 

Vogel said after the game that Davis banged knees with another player and his status for Wednesday's game at the Oklahoma City Thunder is unclear. 

 

Curry, Warriors rally to stay perfect 

The Golden State Warriors staged a second-half comeback to defeat Oklahoma City 106-98 and remain unbeaten while their opponents continue to search for their first victory of the season. The Thunder (0-4) led 74-64 with 4:15 remaining in the third quarter before Golden State (4-0) went on a 21-2 run to take control. Stephen Curry scored 23 points to lead the Warriors, while Andrew Wiggins had 21 and Damion Lee chipped in 20 off the bench. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 30 for Oklahoma City, who shot just 41.9 per cent from the field (36 of 86).

The Utah Jazz improved to 3-0 with a 122-110 home win over the Denver Nuggets, who lost reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic to a knee contusion late in the first half. Jokic led the Nuggets with 24 points despite playing only 15 minutes, while Rudy Gobert had 23 points and 16 rebounds for Utah. 

Luka Doncic had 26 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists to lead the Dallas Mavericks past the Houston Rockets 116-106. 

 

Curry disappears as Sixers fall to Knicks

Two days after scoring 28 points in a Philadelphia victory, Seth Curry was held to just four as the 76ers fell 112-99 to the New York Knicks. Curry missed all four of his three-point attempts and attempted only six shots overall in 30 minutes. Joel Embiid also struggled, making only two of seven shots from the field on a 14-point night. 

Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer says Giannis Antetokounmpo had the "extra gear" required to get the reigning champions over the line in Monday's 119-109 win over the Indiana Pacers.

Antetokounmpo came close to his first triple-double of the new season, finishing with 30 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.

Budenholzer said the two-time NBA MVP was in "attack mode" as the Bucks improved to a 3-1 record.

"I think it was a really aggressive Giannis tonight but at the same time he's still making great passes, great reads, great decisions," Budenholzer told reporters after the game.

"When he's attacking and scoring and finding three-point shooters, that's when we're at our best. He had that extra gear tonight and we needed it."

He added: "Tonight he was special getting into the paint and creating some foul situations for them."

The Bucks were without guard Jrue Holiday (ankle) and center Brook Lopez (back) along with Bobby Portis, employing a shorter starting line-up.

Antetokounmpo admitted he was still getting used to handling Lopez's absence on court.

"At the end of the day, sometimes I feel like not having Brook out there is hard for me," he told reporters. "Should I go screen, should I get out of the way, should I go for the dunk? It makes me second guess sometimes."

Antetokounmpo was also full of praise for 23-year-old Bucks forward Jordan Nwora (nine points, four rebounds and three assists) who he said was "playing great" this season.

DeMar DeRozan insisted the Chicago Bulls "want to win now" after opening the season 4-0 for the first time since 1996-97.

The red-hot Bulls preserved their perfect record with a 111-108 victory against the Toronto Raptors in the NBA on Monday.

Chicago – the last remaining unbeaten team in the Eastern Conference – were busy in the offseason, having recruited four-time All-Star DeRozan, former second pick Lonzo Ball and 2020 NBA champion Alex Caruso.

It came after the Bulls traded for two-time All-Star Nikola Vucevic last season.

The last time the Bulls opened with a 4-0 record, Hall of Famer and six-time champion Michael Jordan was on the team in Chicago.

"Part of the reason why I even chose to come to Chicago was everyone was eager to be successful, to want to win," DeRozan said after scoring 26 points against his former team.

"Everybody had that chip on their shoulder, from the city to the organisation to the players that I spoke to.

"That was everybody's mindset, it's all about winning now. We're not in a development stage, we want to win now."

DeRozan added: "We've got a long way to go. We've got a lot more to clean up, to learn. It's a long season, man. [The 4-0 start] is great, but we've got a lot more basketball to go.

"We can't carry this record like it's some kind of badge of honour; we've got to understand that the next game is going to be even harder."

The previous two times the Bulls started 4-0 (1995-96 and 1996-97), they went on to win the NBA championship.

"I think we have a lot of high-character guys, we all want to win and we want to win together," Ball added. "I think when you have a bunch of guys on the same team with the same common goal and the same mindset it makes it easier for the chemistry to click. That's what's going on."

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