Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo relishes going up against the best in the world, saying it feels like "greatness" after taking down Kawhi Leonard's Los Angeles Clippers in a rallying display.

Antetokounmpo posted 36 points, including 17 in the final quarter, and 14 rebounds as the Bucks outlasted the Clippers 105-100 in NBA action on Sunday.

Two-time reigning MVP Antetokounmpo fuelled a game-closing 9-0 run to help extend Milwaukee's winning streak to five games.

Antetokounmpo became the first Bucks player with 35-plus points in four consecutive games since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1973 as Leonard and fellow All-Star Paul George struggled during the closing stages.

Leonard (25 points and nine rebounds) and George (16 points) went cold in the final quarter for the Clippers, combining to shoot three-for-15 and scoring just six points as the visitors were scoreless over the last four minutes of the game.

"It was individual pride," Antetokounmpo said of taking on the All-Star duo. "It is pride. It is an ego thing. Personally, I love that going down the stretch.

"I feel like it's greatness. When you go against the best in the world down the stretch and you are trying to get a stop and they are trying to score on you to win the game, it's greatness developing at that moment."

After dropping five straight games, the Bucks are now riding a winning streak in the Eastern Conference.

The Bucks (21-13) are one game adrift of leaders the Philadelphia 76ers (22-12) in the east.

"When we lost five, a lot of people were panicking," Antetokounmpo said. "Now, we win five and no one is talking about it. That is how it goes.

"Being able to get out of it, snap out of it ... that is what matters. This is important ... it's not over. We are not done yet. We might go again on a seven-game losing streak, 10. Hopefully not. I don't want to put it out in the universe. [But] there is no panic."

Tyronn Lue relished seeing Kawhi Leonard and Paul George return from injury as the Los Angeles Clippers impressively beat the Utah Jazz.

The Jazz had won nine straight games and 20 of their last 21 NBA contests coming into Friday's game.

However, their streak came to an end as the Clippers emerged triumphant 116-112 in a battle between two championship contenders.

Leonard led the way for the home Clippers with 29 points as they improved to 22-9.

Donovan Mitchell had a game-high 35 points, but the Western Conference leading Jazz fell to 24-6.

Leonard had missed the previous three games with a lower leg contusion, while George was back after seven games out with a swollen toe.

The win came two days after the Clippers had lost by 18 to the Jazz playing without Leonard, George and Nicolas Batum.

"They are the best team in the NBA right now, record-wise, we knew that they won 20 of 21 coming into it – we understood that," Lue said after the win. 

"We got our guys back and we wanted to win this game and the guys went out and did a hell of a job.

"Our defense was pretty good until the heroics of Donovan Mitchell down the stretch.

"Pat Beverley and PG, we did a decent job on that first half and second half, he [Mitchell] got going, that's what great players do. 

"Overall, defensively, I thought we were pretty good like I said until the last 40 seconds or whatever it was of the game."

George had 15 points, six rebounds and five assists in 27 minutes.

"I wasn't ready to play 30-plus," he said. "Got to get back to that basketball conditioning.

"I probably would have hurt the team if I'd been on the floor past the minutes I was."

The Jazz were outrebounded 45-38, leaving Mitchell and Rudy Gobert clear where the game was lost.

"We lost the game on the boards," said Mitchell. "It was second-chance points that really hurt us. 

"If you look at the overall game, we played solid defense throughout, but they just came out there and got the extra boards and rebounds and we just got to do a better job of that.

"This is a bump in the road and a good one."

Gobert feels the loss will ultimately benefit the Jazz.

He said: "If we get those rebounds, we win this game. [The Clippers are] a very good team.

"They came out rested, they came out ready and it felt like a playoff game – the intensity, the tough shots that they were making all night. 

"It was a good opportunity for us to just keep getting better."

LeBron James became third player in NBA history to clock up 35,000 points but could not prevent the Los Angeles Lakers falling 109-98 against the in-form Brooklyn Nets.

James needed 15 points to join esteemed company in Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone, and it took him until just before half-time to achieve the feat at Staples Center.

Hours before tip off, the 36-year-old was named a team captain in the 2021 All-Star game, becoming first player to be selected 17 straight times, and he went on to put up 32 points on Thursday.

But it was not enough for the NBA’s number one defense, as the Nets extended their winning run to five games, with Kyrie Irving returning from back tightness to boost the NBA’s number one offense.

James Harden powered up the Nets with his 18th double-double (23 points, 11 assists) of the season, while Joe Harris showed his three-point prowess, dropping six of seven attempts, to clock up 21 total points.

Brooklyn rallied midway through the first half, sinking seven from 11 shots from downtown to open up an 11-point lead. It was one they never relinquished to move to 19-12, while the Lakers fall to 22-8.
 

Red-hot Butler does it again

Jimmy Butler recorded his third straight triple-double (13 points, 13 assists, 10 rebounds) in the Miami Heat's 118-110 win against the Sacramento Kings, while Bam Adebayo also got in on the act with 16 points, 10 assist and 12 rebounds. They are the only teammates to ever record same-game triple-doubles in multiple games.

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James and Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant have been named as team captains for the 70th NBA All-Star game on March 7.

Serving as a team captain for the fourth straight year, James received the most votes to earn his 17th All-Star appearance, and is joined in the Western Conference starters pool by Golden State Warriors’ three-point specialist Stephen Curry, who is selected as an All-Star for the seventh time.

Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers is named an All-Star for the fifth time, while Denver Nuggets centre Nikola Jokic makes a third appearance, and the Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic is called up for a second time to round off the starters pool from the west.

Zach LaVine and Coby White proved unstoppable from downtown as the Chicago Bulls delivered a record-breaking display, while Luka Doncic's superb triple-double powered the Dallas Mavericks.

The Bulls exploded to post an all-time franchise best total of 25 three-pointers as Chicago halted the New Orleans Pelicans' four-match winning streak, 129-116, at the United Center.

LaVine delivered 20 points in the first quarter before going on to drop 46 in total, draining nine of his 14 three-point shots, while White added 30 points including eight of 17 buckets from distance.

The duo became the first team-mates in NBA history to each hit eight three-pointers in the same game as the Bulls came back from eight points down at the half to blow away the Pelicans.

The scorching-hot LaVine also became the first Chicago player to post 120 points in a three-game stretch since Michael Jordan in 1997 as the Bulls improved to 10-14.

Doncic posted his 32nd career triple-double as the Mavericks edged a nail-biting 118-117 triumph over the Atlanta Hawks to extend their winning streak to three.

The Slovenian star dropped 28 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists as Dallas trailed by nine at the start of the fourth quarter but finished strongly to close out the win and take their record to 12-14.

Atlanta's John Collins was the game's top scorer with 33 points, while Trae Young notched 25 points and 15 assists, but the Hawks could not find the decisive play in a wild final 90 seconds.


Giannis produces fireworks but Suns claim comeback win

The Phoenix Suns kept their momentum rolling, claiming a fourth straight win by edging Milwaukee 125-124 after coming back from 16 points down, but Giannis Antetokounmpo exploded for the Bucks.

The two-time NBA MVP carried his team on his shoulders, scoring a season-high 47 points and claiming 11 rebounds and five assists. Antetokounmpo almost snatched a remarkable victory but his buzzer-beater bounced back off the rim.

Indiana off the pace against Brooklyn

Malcolm Brogdon had a day to forget as the Indiana Pacers were held under 100 points, falling to their fourth straight defeat, in a 104-94 reverse against the Brooklyn Nets.

The Indiana guard had a 29.4 per cent field-goal success rate, scoring five of his 17 attempts, as the 12-13 Pacers could not match Kyrie Irving and James Harden's high-power offense.

LeBron sets up Matthews for key bucket 

With less than a minute remaining in overtime and the Los Angeles Lakers level against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Wesley Matthews came up clutch.

LeBron James drove towards the paint in heavy traffic, before flipping the ball out right for Matthews to sink the key three-pointer.

The Lakers clinched a 114-113 overtime victory to improve to 20-6.

Wednesday's results

Toronto Raptors 137-115 Washington Wizards
Dallas Mavericks 118-117 Atlanta Hawks
Los Angeles Clippers 119-112 Minnesota Timberwolves
Memphis Grizzlies 130-114 Charlotte Hornets
Brooklyn Nets 104-94 Indiana Pacers
Chicago Bulls 129-116 New Orleans Pelicans
Denver Nuggets 133-95 Cleveland Cavaliers
Los Angeles Lakers 114-113 Oklahoma City Thunder 
Phoenix Suns 125-124 Milwaukee Bucks

 

76ers at Trail Blazers

Led by the in-form Joel Embiid, the 18-7 Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers go on the road to face another team with a winning record, the 13-10 Portland Trail Blazers, on Thursday.

Jayson Tatum savoured a "big team win" as the Boston Celtics condemned the Los Angeles Clippers to a second loss in three games.

His 34-point haul drove the injury-hit Celtics to their 119-115 success at Staples Center, with Kemba Walker adding 24 points.

In response, Kawhi Leonard led the Clippers with 28 points, five assists and 11 rebounds. That meant he exceeded 20 points for an eighth straight game, but he failed to make a three-pointer for just the third time this season, missing with his five attempts.

Tatum's points haul was his second highest of the season and included five three-pointers from 10 attempts.

The 2017 draft third overall pick was satisfied to see the team make up for their previous defeat, a loss to the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday.

"I think this is a good win, coming off a loss, down a few guys," Tatum said in a post-game news conference.

"But I think from my time being here, regardless of who we have playing, we always feel like we want to give ourselves a chance to win."

The Celtics improved to 12-9 for the season as the Clippers slipped to 17-7, having also lost narrowly to the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday.

Tatum pointed to Boston delving into their squad, with Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart both ruled out of the game.

"We've got a lot of talented guys on this team that work extremely hard. When you get your number called it's about being ready," he said.

"It was a big team win in that aspect and I'm proud of those guys."

Asked about taking on Leonard, Tatum responded: "I enjoy those matchups obviously. He's one of the best players, he's accomplished so much."

Paul George was "super relieved" that both he and Kawhi Leonard were healthy after entering the NBA's contact tracing protocols – and the duo showed the Los Angeles Clippers exactly what they had been missing on Friday.

Having sat out two games due to guidelines put in place amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the superstars were cleared to return to action for the Clippers at the Orlando Magic.

George had 26 points, nine rebounds and five assists in the convincing 116-90 victory on the road, while Leonard contributed 24 points.

They combined for 35 points in the first half as the Clippers improved to 15-5 for the season, meaning they sit behind only the in-form Utah Jazz – who have won 10 in a row – in the Western Conference standings.

"I was super relieved that we were both healthy, first and foremost," George told the media. "We had been playing so well that it was unfortunate that we had to take the hiatus, but safety is first."

Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue was able to rest both George and Leonard in the fourth quarter with the Clippers in complete control.

Speaking after the win, Lue said having the pair back was "huge", considering they make life so much easier for the rest of the roster.

"I think on a night when guys were a little tired, just having their presence was big for us," Lue said.

"It was huge. Just making plays for everybody else, making the game easy.

"When teams double-team Kawhi or PG on the post-ups or pick-and-roll, it just makes it easier because our guys are getting open shots, so we needed those guys."

The Clippers went 1-1 without George and Leonard at the start of a six-game road trip; they are back in action on Sunday, taking on the New York Knicks.

Los Angeles Clippers stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have been cleared to return against the Orlando Magic on Friday.

Leonard and George missed the opening two games of a six-game road swing after reportedly entering the NBA's health and safety protocols.

The Clippers went 1-1 in the pair's absence against the Atlanta Hawks (lost 108-99) and Miami Heat (won 109-105).

But Leonard and George are set to take to the court when the Clippers (14-5) visit the Magic (8-11).

Leonard has been averaging 25.9 points, 5.7 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game in 2020-21, while Clippers team-mate George is averaging 23.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.4 assists.

The Clippers have gone 8-1 in their last nine games and have outscored opponents by an average of 12.8 points per game, second in the NBA in that span (Utah Jazz, plus-15.6), per Stats Perform. This stretch has come after the Clippers began the season 6-4, outscoring opponents by 0.8 points per game in that period.

Meanwhile, the Clippers have won 13 successive games against the Magic – dating back to January 2014. It is tied for the longest active winning streak by any current NBA franchise against any opponent (the Philadelphia 76ers versus New York Knicks and the 76ers against Charlotte Hornets – both 13).

Tyronn Lue hailed Kawhi Leonard's performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder, acknowledging the Los Angeles Clippers had to "ride him pretty hard" to get the win.

Leonard stepped up with 34 points, nine rebounds and eight assists to drag the Clippers to a 108-100 triumph in Sunday's contest.

He became the fifth player in the franchise's history to register those numbers and the first since Ron Harper against the Golden State Warriors in March 1994.

The Clippers have now won seven straight games and hold the joint-best record in the NBA at 13-4.

With Paul George sitting out the closing minutes due to hamstring tightness, head coach Lue praised Leonard for stepping up.

"He's been phenomenal for us, tonight we had to ride him," he said.

"Kawhi had it going so we played through him a lot, especially in the second half. He created points for himself and for the team as well.

"We had to ride him pretty hard just so we could continue to keep the lead and play through him a lot, I think he did a good job with that."

George had 11 points from 33 minutes and Lue explained why he was not involved in the final stages.

"I benched him…I benched him!" Lue joked, before adding: "No, I'm just joking. He had some tightness going into the game tonight.

"He got loose when he played but had tightness, that last four and a half minutes he tightened up again so it was just a precaution. Just his hamstring."

The Clippers are flying in the NBA and Leonard offered his thoughts on why the team are firing.

"I think our three-point percentage, not allowing threes, making sure the other team isn't getting good looks from three-point line is helping us," he said.

"We're playing team basketball, sharing the ball, staying level-headed, staying positive, making shots right now. We're trying to get better."

Paul George believes the Los Angeles Clippers have found the right formula for success after stretching their winning run to four games with victory over the Indiana Pacers. 

Despite being without Lou Williams and Serge Ibaka on Sunday, the Clippers eased to a 129-96 triumph that improves their record to 10-4 this season. 

George was one of seven players to reach double figures for points, Marcus Morris Sr and Luke Kennard also matching the six-time NBA All-Star's tally of 20. 

The Clippers sit behind Los Angeles rivals the Lakers in the Western Conference standings and, after a difficult 2019-20 season that ended with a playoff collapse to the Denver Nuggets, they are "locked in" for this campaign, according to George.  

"The chemistry is amazing," he said after the win over the Pacers, according to quotes on ESPN. 

"It's a real bond. It's fun, with this team, it's locked in, we are together; it is one of the best locker rooms I have been around and been in. 

"Hopefully, you guys see it, just how well we are meshing. 

"We are going to continue to build off of that. We like where we are at and like where we are heading, we want to see this thing play all the way through."

Following the signings of George and fellow superstar Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers were considered among the title favourites last year. 

An all-Los Angeles Western Conference Finals appeared on the cards when the Clippers led the Nuggets 3-1 in their series in the Orlando bubble, only to then lose three games on the spin and crash out of the postseason.

Morris was part of that roster but sees differences now, insisting all those on the team are working in the same direction. 

"I feel like our energy is way better this season," Morris said. "Guys are buying in and enjoying playing the game." 

The Clippers appeared in danger of letting slip a big lead against the Pacers, who pulled within two points of their opponents early in the third quarter. 

However, the home team responded with a 37-14 run, moving clear as they coasted to victory. They are back in action on Wednesday, taking on the Sacramento Kings.

Anthony Davis led the way as defending NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers continued their fine form with a 120-102 win over James Harden's Houston Rockets.

Davis, who sat out on Friday due to a groin strain, returned to score 27 points in Sunday's victory against the Rockets in Houston.

LeBron James posted 18 points, seven assists and seven rebounds as the Lakers won for the sixth time in seven games.

"[Tonight] was just A.D. being A.D. and just having him back in the line-up gives us a whole other dynamic both offensively and defensively," James said after the Lakers led by as many as 27 points.

Former MVP Harden finished with 20 points, while Rockets team-mate Christian Wood had 23 of his own.

It was a feisty game in Houston, where the Lakers' Markieff Morris and Rockets big man DeMarcus Cousins were both ejected in the opening half, while there were also five technical fouls and two flagrant fouls.

Kawhi Leonard reached a milestone after the Los Angeles Clippers held on to beat the Chicago Bulls 130-127.

Clippers star Leonard put up a season-high 35 points, including seven three-pointers, four assists and three steals to reach 10,000 career points.

Paul George contributed 28 points, seven rebounds and nine assists for the Clippers, who snapped a run of back-to-back losses.

The Bulls were led by Zach LaVine's season-high 45 points away to the Clippers in Los Angeles.

 

Durant stars on return

Back on the court following a three-game absence, Kevin Durant scored 36 points and collected 11 rebounds, but the slumping Brooklyn Nets still lost 129-116 at home to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander inspired the Thunder with 31 points.

Julius Randle's double-double of 29 points and 10 rebounds was not enough to lift the New York Knicks, who went down 114-89 to the Denver Nuggets. Nikola Jokic (22 points and 10 rebounds) propelled the Nuggets with a double-double of his own.

 

Curry struggles

While the Golden State Warriors trumped the struggling Toronto Raptors 106-105, Stephen Curry was uncharacteristically poor. Curry was just two-of-16 from the field, while he made only one of his 10 three-point attempts for 11 points in 38 minutes.

 

LeBron, the sniper!

James produced a moment of magic to unleash Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with a stunning left-handed pass from deep.

Sunday's results

Utah Jazz 96-86 Detroit Pistons
Los Angeles Clippers 130-127 Chicago Bulls
Oklahoma City Thunder 129-116 Brooklyn Nets
Denver Nuggets 114-89 New York Knicks
Los Angeles Lakers 120-102 Houston Rockets
Minnesota Timberwolves 96-88 San Antonio Spurs
Golden State Warriors 106-105 Toronto Raptors
Miami Heat-Boston Celtics (postponed)

 

76ers at Hawks

The high-flying Philadelphia 76ers (7-3) visit the Atlanta Hawks (4-5) on Monday. Doc Rivers and the 76ers are set to welcome back All-Star Joel Embiid, but Ben Simmons is expected to miss out after a depleted Philadelphia side – ravaged by coronavirus and injuries – lost to the Nuggets.

Kawhi Leonard warned the Los Angeles Clippers "have to change" after they were made to pay by the Golden State Warriors for another second-half capitulation on Friday.

The Clippers held a commanding 85-63 lead with just over three minutes of the third quarter remaining at Chase Center, but slumped to a 115-105 defeat.

Steph Curry was their chief tormentor, scoring half of his 38 points in the third quarter to leave the Clippers 6-4 in the NBA Western Conference.

The Clippers have lost eight games when leading by at least 15 points since the start of last season, according to ESPN, letting more advantages by such a margin slip than any other team in that period.

Four-time NBA All-Star Leonard, who scored 24 points, said such collapses are unacceptable and must be addressed.

The small forward declared: "We just have to change, pretty much. We've got to change it. We've got to get better."

He added: "I'm not about to tell you what we're doing in the locker room. It's locker room talk."

Leonard felt the Clippers made it far too easy for the Warriors (5-4) to storm back and secure what appeared to be such an unlikely victory when they were so far behind.

"Our third quarter was terrible as far as defense. Them able to get easy looks, coming down just laying up the ball with no one there. Steph Curry did a few times." said Leonard.

"In that third quarter, just guys coming down and getting either open looks or just walking to the basket and laying up the ball."

Paul George, the Clippers' highest scorer with 25 points as well as laying on seven assists, echoed Leonard's sentiments.

He said: "We want to just be great as a unit, just demand greatness out of everybody. We've got to be better. All of us included. This was a team loss, more than anything. We've just got to get better. We'll work on it."

George added: "I think this is good that something like this happened for this team so early. Because fact of the matter is, we have to be a better closing-out team."

Russell Westbrook, Doc Rivers and Billie Jean King reacted with revulsion to the assault on the US Capitol by supporters of outgoing president Donald Trump, united in the view there would have been a deadlier outcome had the rioters been black people.

On a dark day for the United States, thousands of Trump backers descended on Washington for a protest rally, refusing to accept the result of November's election that saw Joe Biden sweep to power.

Two weeks out from Biden's inauguration, many violent protesters breached security and accessed the Capitol, causing carnage and destruction as they appeared to go largely unchallenged.

There were a number of casualties, with four dead including a woman who was shot, while reports said a number of explosive devices were discovered.

Washington Wizards star Westbrook said: "It's very unfortunate to see. If those roles were reversed, if those were African-Americans, black people, it would be totally different."

He said the chaos was "just crazy, almost like a movie", and team-mate Bradley Beal agreed it was hard to stomach the scenes, given his view that police took a far less lenient approach to protesters during last year's Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

"It's very disheartening in a lot of ways - a lack of sense of urgency to respond to what was going on, versus protesters at Black Lives Matter over the summer," Beal said.

"The people who were invading our Capitol, that's unheard of and it's disheartening this is where we're at as a country."

Veteran Philadelphia 76ers coach Rivers called the insurgency "pretty disturbing" but vowed that "democracy will prevail".

"It shows a lot, though," Rivers said. "When you saw the [Black Lives Matter] protests in the summer, you saw the riots or more the police and the national guard and the army. And then you see this and you saw nothing.

"It basically proves the point about a privileged life in a lot of ways. I'll say it because I don’t think a lot of people want to: could you imagine today if those were all black people storming the Capitol and what would have happened?

"So that to me is a picture that’s worth a thousand words for all of us to see and probably something for us to reckon with again."

Tennis great King, a long-time activist for equality in sport and society, added on Twitter: "If the rioters storming the Capitol building today were Black and Brown people, the police response would be much different."

Footballer Megan Rapinoe became embroiled in a war of words with Trump during USA's triumph at the 2019 Women's World Cup.

Looking at footage of how seemingly easily the protesters were able to break into the Capitol, Rapinoe offered her opinion, writing: "This is crazy, how did they even get through the..... ohhhhh it was opened for them."

Trump had addressed the crowds earlier in the day, forcefully standing by his view that he was fraudulently robbed of an election win.

In the hours after the Capitol was cleared, Congress confirmed Biden's victory.

Richard Sherman, the San Francisco 49ers cornerback, described the rioters as "terrorists".

He wrote on Twitter: "Never thought Americans would let terrorists into the capital without a fight....sad day. There are certain things my brain could never imagine.... and one of them is black ppl storming a government building and taking things without deadly consequences. But that’s just my brain."

It was not just Sherman's brain thinking along those lines, though. Far from it.

Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard took the same stance, saying: "You just see the privilege, the privilege in America. "It's sad to see, because if any of us was out there, I think we would've been tear-gassed, Maced, probably gunshots, you know?"

And American track and field legend Michael Johnson said the scenes were only to be expected, given the nature of the Trump presidency.

"The alarms were sounded for four years. Republicans ignored them. Many in the media ignored them and normalized dangerous behavior," Johnson wrote on Twitter.

"Sadly, today it all came to be. Shameful! This president and his supporters. Shame on you! And take responsibility!

"People on Twitter (of course) literally equating BLM protesters fighting for justice and equality to White Supremacist Trump supporters (supposed Patriots) gleefully and violently desecrating America's oldest and greatest institutions of democracy. Sadly, this is typical America."

Stephen Curry and his Golden State Warriors team-mates have been playing with extra spice over the past week.

Questionable puns aside, the sight of a fit and firing Curry is certainly no laughing matter for defences across the NBA.

A golden era for the Warriors saw Steve Kerr's team reach the NBA Finals in five seasons running from 2015 to 2019, with Curry and the rest of a star-studded roster winning the title three times.

But a 2019-2020 season disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic was one of injury woe and transition for a Warriors side that finished bottom of the Western Conference (15-50), while they were a world away from playing in the NBA bubble in Orlando where the end of the regular season and the entire postseason was played.

The departures of Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala hit the Warriors after Klay Thompson had sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament, and Curry managed just five games in an injury-hit campaign.

However, after losing their opening two games this season, the Warriors have won four of the past five and welcome the Los Angeles Clippers to Chase Center on Wednesday with a 4-3 record – with Curry starring in wins against the Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings.

Five of the Warriors' next seven games come against teams with a .500 record or better, including a double-header versus the Clippers, and there is much intrigue as to whether Kerr's men can be a sustained threat this season.

TOP PERFORMERS

Golden State Warriors - Stephen Curry

Curry and the Warriors were certainly not firing on all cylinders in defeats to the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks to start the season – although his 20 and 19 points respectively were a team high.

Only one defeat has followed since then, though, and 32-year-old Curry has provided a timely reminder of his enduring quality including a barnstorming showing in defeating the Portland Trail Blazers 137-122 on Monday.

Curry sank a career-high 62 points in that game, as well as offering five rebounds and four assists, before following up with 30 against the Kings (nine rebounds, eight assists).

Consequently, the outlook for the Warriors and Curry himself looks a lot healthier. In the early throes of this season, he has averaged 32.0 points - second-most in the league - while his player efficiency rating (PER) ranks third.

His 32.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game for 2020-21 are outperforming his career averages for the regular season (23.6 and 4.5), while his 6.4 for assists is only slightly lower (6.6).

A 36.9 per cent success rate from three-point range is way down on the 43.4 overall in his career, yet he was at 50.0 and 41.7 per cent in this metric over the Warriors' past two wins.

Golden State may need to find more assistance for Curry, though. The return to action of Draymond Green has allowed his superstar team-mate more space on the floor, but Andrew Wiggins (17.6) and rookie James Wiseman (11.4) are the side's next-highest average scorers. Without Thompson, the Warriors need a little more from their supporting cast.

TOP PERFORMERS

Los Angeles Clippers - Kawhi Leonard

Much was expected of a Clippers side that combined star-studded duo Kawhi Leonard and Paul George for the 2019-20 season.

But the Clippers surrendered a 3-1 lead to lose their Western Conference semifinal series to the Denver Nuggets last season and it has been a mixed bag thus far.

Defeat to the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday left the Clippers at 5-3, and the Warriors might have to beware the wounded animal if they are to make a statement of their intent.

George missed that game due to ankle soreness, with Leonard putting up 30 points and 10 assists in the losing effort.

George leads the way for average points (25.1) for the Clippers this season, but Leonard (23.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists) is typically impressing across the board.

The efforts of Leonard are going to be particularly crucial if George, whose injury status is day-to-day, fails to make it against the Warriors.

KEY BATTLE: CAN BEVERLEY CONTAIN CURRY?

The best offensive point guard in Curry comes up against one of the league's best defensive point guards in Patrick Beverley. 

Beverley was on it against Spurs, contributing 20 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, along with two blocks, and it will be his job to be a nuisance against Curry.

If Beverley, a man with a penchant for trash talking, can keep Curry quiet then it is hard to imagine the Warriors will have the scoring power to take down the Clippers.

That being said, if Curry gains the upper hand in this battle of the guards then the Warriors can make a huge statement about their credentials this season.

HEAD TO HEAD

It was a clean sweep for the Clippers in the three games they played against the Warriors in 2019-20.

The most recent of those matchups was way back on March 10, though – a game in which Leonard put up 23 points in a 131-107 rout of the Warriors.

History is with the Warriors overall, with Golden State triumphing in 131 games to the Clippers' 90 from the 221 occasions on which the teams have faced off in the NBA's regular season.

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