Khris Middleton said the Milwaukee Bucks are having to learn how to win in different ways after impressing in the absence of Giannis Antetokounmpo against the Sacramento Kings.

Having needed to rely on an impressive defensive showing against the Chicago Bulls, it was the turn of the offense to turn it on in a 133-127 triumph against the Kings.

Middleton had 34 points, while Jrue Holiday put up 26 as the Bucks chalked up another tick in the win column despite Antetokounmpo missing out with soreness in his right knee.

"We just need to be able to win different type of ballgames," Middleton said after the defending champions moved to 29-19 on the season. 

''Every game is not going to be perfect, every game is not going to be pretty. To get defensive stops, to get 50-50 balls like we did [against the Bulls], it helps. 

"When you hit shots like we did tonight, it also helps."

Middleton made a key three-pointer with one minute and nine seconds remaining on the clock, with the Kings having fought back to within three points.

Holiday felt Middleton's effort was key in helping the Bucks get over the line.

"I feel like this is what he has been doing," Holiday said. ''He makes timely threes. He makes big shots, especially in that moment when they had momentum. He just came down and laced them, took advantage."

Donte DiVincenzo (20 points), George Hill (17) and Pat Connaughton (15) all made valuable contributions for Milwaukee to earn praise from Middleton.

"I think they were great," he added. 

"Pat got hot for us. George did a great job at the point guard position, just controlling the team. Defensively he was all over the place, coming down for rebounds and helping box out. 

"Pat has played so many different positions. It's weird to see him playing the center. He's a selfless guy doing anything that can help."

Khris Middleton wants the Milwaukee Bucks to "own it and learn from it" after another painful defeat again highlighted their struggles without Jrue Holiday.

Going down 121-114 to the Atlanta Hawks on Monday meant the Bucks have lost four of their last five games.

Middleton's 34 points, and 27 points from Giannis Antetokounmpo, could not propel Milwaukee to victory as they conceded 38 points in the fourth quarter.

The team's ball handling in Holiday's six-game absence has often not been clever, and the sooner the starting point guard returns, the better for the Bucks.

The Bucks have a 4-9 record when Holiday has been absent from the team this season, and his latest absence has been them slide to 27-19 for fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

Sidelined by ankle soreness and COVID-19 protocols, Holiday also missed the win over the Brooklyn Nets that preceded the slide. Before that, he was showing exemplary form, averaging 23.9 points and 7.9 assists in his most recent 10 games, way above his season averages which now stand at 18.4 points and 6.7 assists.

"I've been playing with Giannis for years, so I know his spots where he wants the ball, how to get it to him, but Jrue adds another layer of that, where he's able to attack and get other guys going, including Giannis," Middleton said.

"I don't think it's on me to get Giannis going. I feel like Giannis gets himself going for the most part. Every now and then, I feel like I'm able to get him an easy one, but same thing with Jrue.

"We're just missing an extra playmaker, extra scorer, extra defender, an extra player out there."

Antetokounmpo had eight-of-20 shooting from the field in Monday's setback, and managed just six rebounds. Only once this season has he had fewer rebounds.

The Greek superstar leads the team with averages of 28.5 points, 11.2 rebounds and a field-goal percentage of 53.5 per cent, but there are nights when he cannot make a match-winning difference.

Middleton said the Hawks game "was a tough one to drop", and now the Bucks must regroup for a tussle with the 31-15 Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday.

"We need to find a way to be smarter, be better," Middleton said. "Just gotta own it, learn from it, try to be better."

Coach Mike Budenholzer struck a similar tone, saying the reigning NBA champions have "a lot of areas where we need to be significantly better", adding: "We need more from everybody."

Thursday's clash between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Golden State Warriors was already an enticing one, but will arguably now be even more intriguing with two of the NBA's best heading into it on the back of defeats.

Reigning champions Milwaukee sit fourth in the Eastern Conference on 26-17 after back-to-back defeats on the road to the Charlotte Hornets, while the 30-10 Warriors were beaten at the Memphis Grizzlies last time out.

The star duo of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Stephen Curry will be the main attraction, as both usually are wherever they go, sitting fourth (966 points) and second (993 points) respectively in the league for points scored this season.

Golden State, currently second in the Western Conference, will be the favourites on Thursday, and despite their setback in Tennessee on Tuesday, Steve Kerr's men have been boosted by the timely return to action of Klay Thompson.

The 31-year-old tore an anterior cruciate ligament in 2019 before tearing his Achilles tendon during his recovery, but came back in style as he played his first game in over 940 days in style as he shot 17 points from just 20 minutes in the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, before managing another 14 in similar court time in Memphis.

Curry will, as ever, be the Warriors go-to man. He managed a triple-double of 27 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in the defeat to the Grizzlies, though surprisingly, hit just two of his nine three-point attempts at FedExForum.

He recently broke the all-time three-point record in the NBA and still leads the league by a distance in successful shots from downtown, with 186 to his name this season, well clear of Buddy Hield (154) and Fred VanVleet (134), having even played six fewer games than Hield.

The Warriors are expected to be without Draymond Green, who played just seven seconds of Sunday's win against the Cavaliers before withdrawing with a calf issue he apparently sustained in the warm-up and then missing the defeat in Memphis.

Green has the highest number of defensive rebounds for the Warriors this season (219) and is 22nd in the league overall.

The Bucks could also still be missing a key player in Jrue Holiday, who was sidelined from Monday's loss to the Hornets with an ankle injury.

Holiday has missed the last three games, but when he has been able to take to the court this season has often shone, averaging 18.4 points per game, including shooting 40 in the December defeat at the New Orleans Pelicans.

Despite Curry so often catching the eye with threes, where Golden State often win games is in the paint and in the restricted area, currently leading the league for highest team field goal percentage in both (60.1 and 64.4). The Bucks are eighth and seventh in the league in the respective areas, with percentages of 56.8 and 61.0.

However, in Antetokounmpo, the Bucks boast a player who leads the league in field goals made in the paint (266) and in the restricted area (228), so if they can get it to the Greek often and in space, he could just beat the Warriors at their own game.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Milwaukee Bucks – Khris Middleton

Middleton is in a solid run of form, which is a good thing for a player who has clustered his best work throughout this season. The 30-year-old began the season by scoring 20 or more points in three of his first four games, before a period out through illness.

He returned and took eight games to manage over 20 points again, before doing so for seven in a row. After missing three more games with a knee issue, Middleton has come back to score 20 or more in eight of his last 10 outings, and will back himself to do so again here.

Middleton got the most points and assists for his team last time out (27 and 11), and is third in the league for most field goals made from the baseline (37) behind only Kevin Durant (64) and DeMar DeRozan (45).

Golden State Warriors – Klay Thompson

Although it was technically a work event, there was a party atmosphere as the Warriors welcomed Thompson back to the court on Sunday against the Cavaliers, and while his numbers were impressive enough for someone who has spent the best part of three years sidelined, it is the less tangible positive vibes his return has brought that could be the difference-maker for Golden State.

Prior to his comeback on Sunday, Thompson boasted a career average of 19.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game, while shooting at 45.9 per cent from the field and 41.9 from three-point range.

He may only get 20 minutes, as he has done in his two games back so far, but his sheer presence on the court could be enough to inspire his team-mates, such is the obvious delight among his fellow Warriors that he is finally fit and playing again.

 

KEY BATTLE – Rebounds to give Bucks an edge?

Milwaukee leads the Eastern Conference in rebounding, averaging 47.1, while Antetokounmpo boasts the third-highest number of defensive rebounds in the East this season with 325.

Golden State are fourth in the Western Conference for rebounds at 46.1, but as mentioned, look set to be without their stats leader in defensive rebounds in Green. The best offensive rebounders in both teams are Bobby Portis and Kevon Looney, who both have 97 to their name this season.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

This is their first meeting since April 2021, which the Warriors won 122-121, but the Bucks have won four of the previous six games between the two dating back to March 2018.

Khris Middleton said he was "definitely concerned" and stand-in head coach Darvin Ham bemoaned another defeat as the Milwaukee Bucks tripped up once more against the Charlotte Hornets.

The Bucks have followed a run of six consecutive wins with four defeats in five games, the latest being a 103-99 setback to the Hornets at Spectrum Center.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 26 points with 13 rebounds and eight assists, while Middleton had 27 points, seven rebounds and 11 assists, yet the Bucks delivered an incomplete performance.

The Hornets improved to 22-19, while the sliding Bucks are now 26-17 for the season, following up their championship campaign in 2021 with something not quite so persuasive.

It was a second loss to the Hornets in three days for the Bucks, who, like so many other teams, are feeling the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

Jrue Holiday has joined the ranks of Bucks stars sidelined and isolating due to the NBA's health and safety protocols, and inevitably his absence was felt. Holiday averages 18.4 per game this season and leads the team for assists (6.7)

Acting head coach Darvin Ham, leading the Bucks with Mike Budenholzer in health and safety protocols, could not coax out of the team a match-winning display, as James Borrego's Hornets extending their winning streak to three.

"My hat's off to Charlotte," Ham said. "JB has a great young group, it's a hell of an offensive team. And we just didn't make enough plays tonight.

"We just try to get to the game and as a staff, put our brains together and put together the best package possible. It's not going to be perfect, circumstances are what they are.

"I feel we're still in a position to win a game and we came up short."

From 99-99 with under half a minute remaining, LaMelo Ball sank the decisive shot and Miles Bridges made sure with two late free throws.

The Bucks looked to Middleton and Antetokounmpo in those late stages, which Ham said was the sensible play.

"Down the stretch you want the ball in the hands of your two best players and that was definitely deliberate," Ham said.

"Time and time again ... they've won a championship playing that way. There's not a better option in my opinion."

It gets no easier for the Bucks, who must tackle the Western Conference-leading Golden State Warriors on Thursday, albeit this time with home advantage.

Middleton, who had a fourth consecutive 20-plus point game, wants to see this slide halted as soon as possible.

He said: "I think you're definitely concerned – you never want to lose four out of five, you never want to lose two in a row."

Quoted in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Middleton said: "We understand the circumstances. We're not using that as an excuse. Everybody's going through it.

"So we still have to find a way to… compete and give ourselves a chance to win, which we have these last two nights, we just couldn't pull it out."

Giannis Antetokounmpo extended his run of 30-point games to eight in a row but it was not enough as the Milwaukee Bucks lost 114-106 to the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday.

The reigning NBA Finals MVP piled on 21 points in the final quarter to finish with 43 for the game as the Hornets held off the Bucks' charge, with Charlotte guard LaMelo Ball scoring 19 points, with nine rebounds and eight assists.

Antetokounmpo also recorded 12 rebounds and two blocks in a final all-round game for the Bucks, who were missing Jrue Holiday and head coach Mike Budenholzer due to the league's health and safety protocols.

Khris Middleton had a near triple-double with 27 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, including shooting four triples.

The result means the reigning champions hold a 26-16 record having lost three of their past four games, while the Hornets are 21-19.

Sabonis silences Jazz, Brown triple-double

Domantas Sabonis piled on 42 points, making his first 10 shots of the game, as the Indiana Pacers won 125-113 over the Utah Jazz minus Rudy Gobert.

Jaylen Brown recorded his first career triple-double with 22 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists as the Boston Celtics defeated the New York Knicks 99-75.

Jaren Jackson Jr scored 26 points with eight rebounds and five blocks as the Memphis Grizzlies, without Ja Morant, improved to a 27-14 record with a 123-108 win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Leaders cooled by Heat

Chris Paul was quiet with nine points, seven assists and four turnovers as the table-topping Phoenix Suns lost 123-100 to the Miami Heat. Devin Booker had 26 points but shot five of 15 from the field, while Tyler Herro scored 33 points off the bench for the Heat.

Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer praised Khris Middleton after returning from injury with 23 points and six assists in Wednesday's 126-106 win over the Houston Rockets.

Middleton had missed the Bucks' past three games after a knee hyperextension but helped the reigning champions snap a two-game skid.

The Bucks had been missing Middleton along with reigning NBA Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo over their past three games, with the Greek star entering the league's health and safety protocols last week.

"I thought [Middleton] had a good bounce in practice yesterday," Budenholzer told reporters. "I think he's excited to be back and playing and healthy.

"I thought he gives us some confidence. I thought he had a good pop tonight."

The Bucks had beaten the Indiana Pacers 114-99 without the pair before losses to the New Orleans Pelicans and Cleveland Cavaliers.

Jrue Holiday played a key role alongside Middleton in ending their run of defeats with 24 points, 10 assists and four rebounds.

Eight of Middleton's 23 points came from the stripe, as he showed intent to get into the paint in Antetokounmpo's absence.

"I think he felt good and he thought that's where he could be most effective," Budenholzer said. "We need some guys to get to the paint. I thought he did that.

"The free throws are indicative of that. It's not his norm but we need a little bit of that. It's good for him to get to the line and get those easy ones."

The Bucks will need to front up again on Thursday with a back-to-back against the Dallas Mavericks with Budenholzer stating he expects Middleton to play after only being used for 28 minutes against the Rockets.

"We're expecting him to be able to play," the Bucks head coach said. "We'll see how he responds tonight. We probably had a bit more in the bank tonight if we needed it."

Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton rose in the absence of Giannis Antetokounmpo as the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Houston Rockets 126-106 on Wednesday.

The reigning champions were without Antetokounmpo for the fourth straight game after he entered the NBA's health and safety protocols last week.

The Bucks had lost their last two without their Greek star but Holiday finished with 24 points, 10 assists and four rebounds, while Middleton added 23 points and six assists on his return from a knee injury.

Young small forward Jordan Nwora hit four triples in his 18-point haul, while center Christian Wood had a double-double for the Rockets with 20 points and 11 rebounds.

The win improves the Bucks to a 20-13 record and third spot in the Eastern Conference.

 

Brown shines for Celtics

Jaylen Brown scored 16 first-quarter points to finish with 34 for the game including five three-pointers as the Boston Celtics got past the Cleveland Cavaliers 111-101. Darius Garland had 28 points and six assists for the Cavs.

Paul George recorded five steals along with 17 points and six assists as the Los Angeles Clippers finished strong to beat the Sacramento Kings 105-89.

The depleted Atlanta Hawks went down 104-98 to the Orlando Magic, despite Cam Reddish's season-high 34 points.

 

Jokic silenced by the Thunder

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic had a rare quiet night with only 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists as well as three turnovers as the Denver Nuggets went down 108-94 to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (27 points, 11 rebounds, 12 assists) had a second career triple-double for OKC.

Milwaukee Bucks star Khris Middleton missed Wednesday's win over the Indiana Pacers, however the reigning NBA champions are hopeful his knee injury is a short-term problem after positive MRI results.

Middleton had warmed up prior to the 114-99 victory, but did not take his place in the side missing seven players, including superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo – who entered COVID-19 protocols on Tuesday.

Bucks small forward Middleton had hyperextended his left knee in Monday's 117-103 loss to the Boston Celtics and was forced out of the contest.

Milwaukee head coach Mike Budenholzer confirmed Middleton had undergone an MRI which offered reason for encouragement.

"I think we consider everything very fortunate," Budenholzer told reporters. "This should be very minimal and short. We'll see how he feels [Thursday] and going into the game Friday, I think we'll be hopeful."

Antetokounmpo joined Wes Matthews and Donte DiVincenzo in being unavailable due to entering league protocols.

To clear protocols, a player must be out for a minimum of 10 days or return two negative PCR tests at least 24 hours apart.

"We'll follow all the guidelines that the league has laid out," Budenholzer said. "Hope he's just healthy and taking care of himself."

Stephen Curry moved within two three-pointers of breaking Ray Allen's all-time NBA record as the Golden State Warriors edged the Indiana Pacers 102-100 on Monday.

Curry finished the game with 26 points including five triples to close in on Allen's record of 2,973 three-point attempts made. The two-time MVP will look to break the mark on Tuesday against the New York Knicks.

Domantas Sabonis scored 30 points with 11 rebounds for the Pacers, who led late before Curry, who shot at 33 percent from beyond the arc, hit his fifth three-point attempt to narrow the margin.

Curry had another attempt from beyond the arc rim out, with Kevin Looney's putback giving Golden State the lead with 13.4 seconds left.

Gary Payton II's defense on Caris LeVert forced a late turnover to seal the win for the Warriors who improve to 22-5, ahead of Curry's next attempt at breaking the record in New York.

 

Tatum downs depleted Bucks

Jayson Tatum hit seven three-pointers as he finished with 42 points in the Boston Celtics' 117-103 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks. The reigning champions lost Khris Middleton to a left knee hyper-extension in the third quarter, while Giannis Antetokounmpo was kept relatively quiet with 20 points, eight rebounds and three assists.

The Philadelphia 76ers missed Joel Embiid who was out with rib soreness, going down 126-91 to the Memphis Grizzlies, while reigning MVP Nikola Jokic led the Denver Nuggets past the Washington Wizards 113-107 with 28 points, 19 rebounds and nine assists.

Trae Young scored 41 points with nine assists but it could not prevent the Atlanta Hawks from losing 132-126 to the resurgent Houston Rockets. Eric Gordon netted 32 points for Houston who came from 19 points down with a 38-21 fourth quarter.

 

CP3 struggles as Suns stumble

Chris Paul could not find his stride against his former franchise, struggling for nine points shooting at under 30 percent with eight assists in the Phoenix Suns' 111-95 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. The Suns, who are 21-5, were without Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker.

Khris Middleton suffered a hyperextended left knee in Monday's 117-103 loss to the Boston Celtics which the Milwaukee Bucks are praying is not a serious injury.

Middleton landed awkwardly upon contact with team-mate Rodney Hood attempting to rebound late in the third quarter, before limping off the court moments later after trying to play on.

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said they would wait until Tuesday to make a determination on the severity of the injury to the 2020-21 NBA champion.

"I think we're terming it a left knee hyper-extension," Budenholzer said at the post-game news conference.

"We'll know more tomorrow but I think there's some hope it's not serious, but you've got to wait and give it time."

Middleton had four points with eight rebounds and three assists on the night, succumbing to injury after 24 minutes on court.

The 30-year-old small forward is averaging 18.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game this season. Middleton averaged 20.4 points in the Bucks' title-winning season.

The defeat to the Celtics leaves the reigning champions with an 18-11 record and third spot in the Eastern Conference.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 41 points on Friday and had a triple-double on Sunday but managed only 20 points with eight rebounds and three assists.

"I think we've got to space around him a little bit better," Budenholzer said. "Move him a little bit more. It was a tough night for us, sometimes that happens."

Budenholzer also refused to blame the Bucks' recent heavy schedule with three games in four days.

"Credit to Boston, they played well tonight," he said. "I think we weren’t at our best. Whatever the reasons are, we've got to be better."

Kevin Durant edged Stephen Curry's season-best mark with 51 points as the Brooklyn Nets defeated the Detroit Pistons 116-104 in the NBA on Sunday.

Durant was dominant after the Nets opted to rest fellow superstar James Harden for the first time this season, with the former MVP shooting 16 of 31 from the field, including five three-pointers.

The two-time champion and Finals MVP also had seven rebounds, nine assists, two block and one steal in a remarkable all-round display for the Eastern Conference-leading Nets.

The haul was Durant's eighth 50-point game of his NBA career, while it bettered Stephen Curry's season-best 50 points against the Atlanta Hawks on November 8.

Struggling Detroit challenged the Nets, leading by five points at the final change before a 30-13 fourth quarter for the Nets.

Number one draft pick Cade Cunningham had 26 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals for the Pistons.

 

Triple-doubles for Giannis and LeBron

Giannis Antetokounmpo recorded his first triple-double for the season with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists in the Milwaukee Bucks' 112-97 victory over the New York Knicks. Khris Middleton added 24 points with four triples, while Bobby Portis grabbed a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds for the defending champions.

LeBron James also had a triple-double, the 101st of his illustrious NBA career. James scored 30 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for the Los Angeles Lakers as they trumped the Orlando Magic 106-94. The Lakers enjoyed a 23-0 third-quarter run on their way to victory.

The Dallas Mavericks won for the first time this season without star Luka Doncic, easing past the Oklahoma City Thunder 103-84, while Karl-Anthony Towns had 23 points with 10 rebounds as the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Portland Trail Blazers 116-111.

 

Randle silenced as Knicks beaten

Julius Randle's struggles this season continued against the Bucks, managing only eight points with seven turnovers. Randle shot two of nine from the field.

Giannis Antetokounmpo insisted he is at his best when he is aggressive after the Milwaukee Bucks superstar posted 47 points in Wednesday's win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Antetokounmpo was unstoppable in Milwaukee midweek, erupting for a season high as NBA champions the Bucks took down the LeBron James-less Lakers 109-102.

The reigning NBA Finals MVP became the fifth player in the last 20 seasons to score 45-plus points on 75 per cent shooting from the field and 75 per cent shooting from three-point range.

Antetokounmpo is the first player to post at least 45 points on 75-plus per cent field-goal percentage against the Lakers since Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal in 1995.

"I feel like the past games I wasn't as aggressive as I want to be, wasn't initiating the contact, wasn't getting into the pain as much," Antetokounmpo told reporters post-game.

"At the end of the day, you try to develop your weaknesses and forget your strengths. Had two days in between, talk to the coaches, watch a lot of tape. I want to be aggressive, initiate the contact and get into the pain. Play with an edge.

"At the end of the day, I just let my instincts take over…"

 

Antetokounmpo added: "There's been so much I've been asked to do – lead, be vocal, pass the ball, rebound the ball, score the ball. I just try to compete. Moving forward, I just want to be aggressive. I'm my best when I'm aggressive."

All-Star team-mate Khris Middleton returned after an eight-game absence due to COVID-19 and tied Milwaukee's franchise record for career three-pointers.

Middleton – who finished with 16 points, six assists and five rebounds – matched Ray Allen for first place with his 1,051st career three.

"Feels good to have him back. We've missed him. Just having him out there, he draws a lot of attention. People have to guard him," said Antetokounmpo of Middleton.

"As much as I was complaining in the past, just an inside joke with him about seeing him too much, we have to get some space... I kind of missed him. Having him out there helped the team. He made great plays down the stretch."

It has been a topsy-turvy start to the season for the Bucks (7-8) in their title defence due to injuries and COVID-related absences – Milwaukee are 11th in the Eastern Conference.

"We have to start winning games. It's not the most important thing," Antetokounmpo continued. "The most important thing to get better and build good habits. Play good basketball down the stretch in May and June but at the end of the day, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth when you keep losing.

"We have to start putting teams away. When we're up 15, we can't step back, we have to attack and keep playing with that edge. Don't be satisfied. With Khris back, it's a good opportunity to get back on track. We're in a good place right now."

Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo erupted for a season-high 47 points as the NBA champions took down the Los Angeles Lakers 109-102.

Antetokounmpo dominated the Lakers, making 18 of his 23 field goals, while collecting nine rebounds and three assists for the Bucks (7-8) on Wednesday.

The reigning NBA Finals MVP became the fifth player in the last 20 seasons to score 45-plus points on 75 per cent shooting from the field and 75 per cent shooting from three-point range.

Antetokounmpo is the first player to post at least 45 points on 75-plus per cent field-goal percentage against the Lakers since Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal in 1995.

 

All-Star Bucks team-mate Khris Middleton made his return after eight games out due to COVID-19 and tied Milwaukee's franchise record for career three-pointers.

Middleton – who finished with 16 points, six assists and five rebounds – matched Ray Allen for first place with his 1,051st career three.

The Lakers (8-8), again without superstar LeBron James, were led by double-doubles from Talen Horton-Tucker (25 points and 12 rebounds) and Russell Westbrook (19 points and 15 assists).

 

Suns stay hot

The Phoenix Suns celebrated their 10th straight victory after outlasting the Dallas Mavericks 105-98. Devin Booker (24 points) and Deandre Ayton (19 points and 13 rebounds) fuelled the Suns, who are in the midst of their longest winning streak since 2010. Chris Paul had 14 assists without a turnover – his 46th career game with 10-plus assists and 0 turnovers, tying Muggsy Bogues for most by any player since 1985.

Damian Lillard's 22 points and 10 assists helped the Portland Trail Blazers upstage the Chicago Bulls 112-107. Zach LaVine (30 points), DeMar DeRozan (22 points) and Alex Caruso (12 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists) starred but the Bulls still lost on the road.

The Miami Heat defeated the New Orleans Pelicans behind Jimmy Butler's triple-double of 31 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds.

Kevin Durant nailed two three-pointers to move 26th on the all-time NBA list for threes made with 1,687, breaking a tie with Hall of Famer and Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash. The Nets beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 109-99.

 

Knicks continue to struggle for form

After returning to the playoffs last season, the New York Knicks have made a rocky start to the 2021-22 campaign amid plenty of hype. They were sensationally upstaged by the lowly Orlando Magic 104-98 – their fourth defeat in six games.

Khris Middleton is poised to return when NBA champions the Milwaukee Bucks face the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday after missing eight games following a positive COVID-19 test.

Middleton has not played for the Bucks since the October 31 defeat to the San Antonio Spurs due to coronavirus.

The Bucks have a 3-5 record in Middleton's absence, but the two-time All-Star has returned to practice and expects to play midweek.

"I've been working out the last couple of days here while guys were on the road," Middleton – a champion with Milwaukee last season – told reporters after Tuesday's practice.

"In practice, I felt good. But everybody knows game shape is a totally different ballgame. I can't wait to see how I feel tomorrow."

Milwaukee have opened their championship defence 6-8 and will hope Middleton's return can help lift them ahead of five straight home games.

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said: "I think it's underrated what he does for us defensively, underrated what he does for us on the boards, his communication, his leadership.

"Everybody's going to talk about the scoring and the shooting and all those things. I don't want to undervalue or underestimate those, but I think he really is a complete player and he's a great leader."

Middleton averaged 20.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.4 assists across the Bucks' title-winning 2020-21 season.

He has started the new season averaging 20.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game.

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.

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