The NBA is nearing the end of its regular season.

Soon the fight for playoff positioning will give way to the drama of the play-in round and the subsequent seven-game series that will decide the destination of the title.

In other words, it is time for the league's elite to find their best.

While several of those stars are hitting form at exactly the right time, there are others enduring worrying declines ahead of the postseason.

Here we examine the performances of those excelling going into the playoffs, and those who need to turn it around in this week's edition of Heat Check.

RUNNING HOT

Kyrie Irving - Brooklyn Nets

Irving went into last week having failed to score 30 points in three straight appearances, but he was back to his best over the past seven days.

Having previously averaged 26.7 points for the season, Irving put up 38 points per game across three outings last week, with a 45-point display against the Dallas Mavericks sandwiched by a 38-point effort in defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks and a 31-point showing versus the Denver Nuggets.

Only the game with the Nuggets ended in victory, but the Nets will be encouraged by Irving's form with the playoffs approaching. He was excellent from beyond the arc, hitting 5.67 threes per game having entered the week averaging 2.63.

Irving converted 17 of his 32 three-point attempts last week, a percentage of 53.1 that ranks 10th among players to have attempted at least 20 last week.

Russell Westbrook - Washington Wizards

Westbrook made history on Saturday as he tied Oscar Robertson's record for triple-doubles with the 181st of his career against the Indiana Pacers on Saturday.

The way in which his athleticism has translated to success on the boards has been key to Westbrook's successful pursuit of Hall of Famer Robertson.

And his rebounding was nothing short of incredible over the past seven days. Having entered the week averaging 11.16 rebounds, Westbrook racked up 17.25 per game across his last three games, culminating with 19 in his record-equalling display in an overtime win over Indiana.

He'll hope for more success on the glass against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday to take him past Robertson.

Stephen Curry - Golden State Warriors

The best shooter in the game had another stunning week from beyond the arc as he continues to fuel the Warriors' push towards the playoffs.

Curry's 5.2 made threes per game was already the gold standard in the NBA this season but he was even more devastating from deep in four games last week.

Indeed, Curry averaged 8.25 threes per game, with that jump fuelled largely by him hitting 11 on Saturday as he scored 49 points in 29 minutes against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

As long as he continues his excellent form, the Warriors should have a great chance of coming through the play-in round and making it to the postseason.

GOING COLD...

Andre Drummond - Los Angeles Lakers

It was a rough week for Lakers big Drummond, who endured the largest drop-off in the NBA in both points and rebounds per game.

Drummond entered last week putting up 15.89 points per game but saw his average over four games dip to 5.75.

He failed to score double-digit points in any of those outings and was similarly ineffective on the boards.

His rebounds per game dipped from 12.37 to 6.25, Drummond having started the week by failing to record a single rebound in a game for only the third time in his career in a win over the Nuggets.

Luka Doncic - Dallas Mavericks

It is pleasing for the Mavs that they can win without Doncic delivering his best every night, as they did not get it last week.

Doncic was far from terrible, as he topped 20 points in three of his four outings, but he saw his points per game average drop from 28.64 entering the week to 21.50 in those appearances.

The Mavs won each of those contests, with Doncic contributing double-doubles in two, though he had an underwhelming 15-point game to end the week against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

So, while he may be 'going cold' relative to his usual standard in scoring, Doncic is finding ways to help Dallas build momentum ahead of the playoffs.

Kawhi Leonard - Los Angeles Clippers

Leonard has been bothered by injury issues in recent weeks, with his best form eluding the two-time NBA Finals MVP.

For the season, Leonard was averaging 25.51 points per game going into the last week, but could only manage to put up 19 over the course of three games in the past seven days.

And that average was inflated by a 29-point effort in the Clippers' loss to the New York Knicks on Sunday.

Prior to that return to something like normal service, Leonard had failed to score 20 points in each of his last four games.

Even his effort against the Knicks came on an inefficient shooting performance where he went nine for 26, indicating Leonard is some way off the standard he will need for the Clippers to contend in the playoffs.

Anthony Davis went off for a dominant double-double as embattled NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers upstaged the high-flying Phoenix Suns 123-110.

Eyeing back-to-back titles this season, the Lakers have instead been left battling to reach the playoffs due to injuries, which have derailed their campaign – superstar LeBron James (ankle) is sidelined while Davis already missed a large portion of the campaign.

But the Lakers issued a reminder of their quality as Davis posted 42 points and 12 rebounds to stun Western Conference rivals the Suns in Los Angeles on Sunday.

Davis also had five assists, three steals and three blocks to help the Lakers – currently seventh and in the play-in position – move back within a game of the sixth seed in the west, which guarantees a postseason berth.

It marked the seventh time in Davis' career that he had 40 points, three blocks and three steals in a game. According to Stats Perform, in the last 35 years, the only player to have more such games is Hall of Famer Michael Jordan (14).

Cameron Payne (24 points), Devin Booker (21 points) and Chris Paul (13 points and 10 assists) led the beaten Suns.

 

Rozier not enough as Lonzo wins Ball battle, Knicks snap Staples skid

A career-high 43 points from Terry Rozier was not enough as the Charlotte Hornets went down 112-110 to the New Orleans Pelicans. Eric Bledsoe's 24 points and 11 assists fuelled the shorthanded Pelicans, who kept their play-in hopes alive in the absence of Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. In a battle between the Ball brothers, Hornets rookie sensation LaMelo had 22 points and five assists, while New Orleans' Lonzo finished with 12 points and six assists.

The New York Knicks ended a run of eight consecutive losses at Staples Center, where they upstaged the Los Angeles Clippers 106-100. Derrick Rose scored 25 points off the bench for the Knicks.

Jimmy Butler's 26 points and 11 assists inspired the Miami Heat's 130-124 victory at the Boston Celtics. Fellow starters Duncan Robinson (22 points), Bam Adebayo (20 points), Trevor Ariza (19 points) and Kendrick Nunn (12 points) also contributed. Evan Fournier (30 points) and Jayson Tatum (29 points) starred for the Celtics.

 

Doncic ejected in Mavs win

Luka Doncic's outing did not go according to plan. While the Dallas Mavericks went on to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 124-97, Doncic (15 points) was ejected early in the third period. The Mavericks star received a flagrant-two foul for striking Collin Sexton in the groin area. Mavericks team-mate Dorian Finney-Smith, meanwhile, was two-for-10 shooting – missing all six of his three-point attempts – for four points in 22 minutes.

The Orlando Magic were humbled 128-96 by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Orlando struggled from three-point range, making just nine of their 36 attempts (25 per cent).

Paul George put up 18 points for the Clippers but he was far from efficient. In 41 minutes of action, the Clippers star was eight-for-20 shooting, while he nailed just two of his nine efforts from beyond the arc. Team-mate Marcus Morris Sr. (seven points) was two-for-nine shooting, having missed all three of his three-pointers.

 

Green with authority!

Javonte Green went flying against the Detroit Pistons. In the second quarter of the Chicago Bulls' 108-96 victory, Green knocked down a thunderous slam.

 

 

Sunday's results

Miami Heat 130-124 Boston Celtics
New York Knicks 106-100 Los Angeles Clippers
New Orleans Pelicans 112-110 Charlotte Hornets
Dallas Mavericks 124-97 Cleveland Cavaliers
Minnesota Timberwolves 128-96 Orlando Magic
Chicago Bulls 108-96 Detroit Pistons
Sacramento Kings 126-98 Oklahoma City Thunder
Los Angeles Lakers 123-110 Phoenix Suns

 

Jazz at Warriors

The NBA-leading Utah Jazz (50-18) – riding a five-game winning streak – face Stephen Curry's Golden State Warriors (35-33) on the road on Monday. The Jazz top the west, while the Warriors are eighth and set to feature in the play-in tournament ahead of the playoffs.

Anthony Davis left the Los Angeles Lakers' defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers with back spasms but expects to return to the lineup Friday. 

Davis played only nine minutes before departing in the 118-94 loss to the Clippers in the first quarter on Thursday. 

While he appeared to have twisted his ankle before heading to the locker room, Davis told reporters afterward the ankle was fine and his back improved quickly after getting treatment. 

"It feels better now that I got some work done and I should be able to go tomorrow," he said. 

The Lakers will need him in Friday's showdown with the Portland Trail Blazers as the two teams share identical 37-29 records with the sixth seed in the Western Conference in the balance. 

"Tomorrow's probably the biggest game left of these games," Davis told reporters.

Head coach Frank Vogel already has ruled LeBron James out for the Blazers match-up as he continues to recover from a high ankle sprain. 

Davis missed more than two months with a calf strain and Achilles tendinosis in his right leg and has made eight appearances since returning. 

He scored four points on two-for-nine shooting in his limited action Thursday. 

Russell Westbrook took another giant step towards an NBA record after teaming up with Bradley Beal to help the Washington Wizards push the Toronto Raptors to the verge of elimination from a spot the NBA play-in tournament with a 131-129 win in overtime. 

Westbrook posted 13 points, 17 rebounds and 17 assists for his 180th career triple-double, leaving him one shy of equalling Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson's all-time record on Thursday.

Former MVP Westbrook because the first player with three consecutive 17-plus assist games since Steve Nash in 2007.

Wizards star Beal scored half of his 28 points in the fourth quarter and overtime as Washington outlasted Toronto.

Raul Neto added a career-high 25 points and Robin Lopez had a season-best 24 for the Wizards (31-36), who hold a four-game lead over the Raptors (27-40) for the final play-in spot with five games remaining for both teams. 

Pascal Siakam matched his career best with 44 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists but missed a three-point attempt at the buzzer in overtime that would have won it for Toronto. 

Siakam joined Kawhi Leonard and Vince Carter as the only players with a 40-point, 10-rebound and five-assist game in franchise history.

Fred VanVleet sent the game to OT by hitting a shot from beyond the arc with 1.3 seconds to go in the fourth quarter. He finished with 22 and Gary Trent Jr. contributed 25 for Toronto.

 

Mavs withstand big night from Kyrie

Luka Doncic finished with 24 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. had 23 of his own as the Dallas Mavericks downed the slumping Brooklyn Nets 113-109, despite 45 points from Kyrie Irving. 

The Indiana Pacers inched closer to securing a spot in the play-in tournament with a 133-126 win over the Atlanta Hawks as Caris LeVert led the way with 31 points and Domantas Sabonis added 30 on 12-for-14 shooting from the field. Trae Young's double-double of 30 points and 10 assists was not enough for the Hawks. 

Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors rolled to a 118-87 victory at home to the Oklahoma City Thunder (21-46). Curry scored 34 points. The two-time MVP has now scored at least 30 points 18 times in his last 20 games (35th time this season).

Paul George had 24 points as the Los Angeles Clippers (45-22) beat cross-town rivals and defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers 118-94. 

 

LaMelo off target against Bulls

A day after his primary competitor for NBA Rookie of the Year, Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves, dropped 42 points, LaMelo Ball made only one of 10 shots from the field and scored just four points in the Charlotte Hornets' 120-99 loss to the Chicago Bulls. Ball had reached double digits in his previous three games after returning from a wrist injury. 

 

Caldwell-Pope strong to the hoop

Lakers fans did not have much to celebrate in Thursday's blowout loss to the Clippers, but Kentavious Caldwell-Pope did provide one highlight with this slam in Ivica Zubac's face.

 

Thursday's results

Chicago Bulls 120-99 Charlotte Hornets
Dallas Mavericks 113-109 Brooklyn Nets
Washington Wizards 131-129 Toronto Raptors (OT)
Detroit Pistons 111-97 Memphis Grizzlies 
Indiana Pacers 133-126 Atlanta Hawks
Golden State Warriors 118-97 Oklahoma City Thunder
Los Angeles Clippers 118-94 Los Angeles Lakers

 

Pelicans at 76ers

Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans (30-36) are just outside the cut for the play-in tournament and will face imposing opposition on Friday as they attempt to gain ground in the form of the Philadelphia 76ers (45-21), winners of six in a row. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 36 points with 12 rebounds to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to a 124-118 win over the Brooklyn Nets and secure their NBA playoff spot on Tuesday.

Milwaukee's victory moved the Bucks to 41-24, narrowing in on the Nets (43-23), who are second behind the Philadelphia 76ers (44-21) in the Eastern Conference, with the postseason fast approaching.

The triumph was also a tie-breaker win for the Bucks, who also beat the star-studded Nets 117-114 on Sunday too, in a boost in the race for seedings.

Two-time reigning MVP Antetokounmpo was crucial but Khris Middleton came up big in the final quarter, finishing with 23 points and Jrue Holiday (23 points and 10 assists) made a key stop late in the contest.

Nets star Kyrie Irving had a game-high 38 points, while Kevin Durant added 32 along with nine rebounds and six assists.

 

Clippers finish fast, Suns rise in overtime

The Los Angeles Clippers stormed home after a sluggish start to secure a 105-100 overtime win against the Toronto Raptors. Paul George finished with 22 points, nine rebounds and four assists.

The high-flying Phoenix Suns produced a 20-4 overtime run to outlast the Cleveland Cavaliers 134-118, helping them return to the top spot in the Western Conference. Devin Booker (31 points), Chris Paul (23 points and 16 assists) and Mikal Bridges (22 points) led the Suns in Cleveland.

Lonzo Ball equalled his career high with 33 points, including a crucial late jumper to keep the New Orleans Pelicans and their postseason hopes alive via a 108-103 win over the Golden State Warriors.

Hamidou Diallo had 35 points but the Detroit Pistons still lost 102-99 to the Charlotte Hornets, who were led by rookie LaMelo Ball and his 23 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals.

Stephen Curry scored 37 points, including eight from beyond the arc to create history, joining Ray Allen as the only players in NBA history to make 2,800 career three-pointers. The two-time MVP also became the fastest player to reach 300 three-pointers in one season, needing only 58 games.

 

Landry's radar off

Nets shooting guard Landry Shamet normally makes an impact off the bench with his three-point shooting but he struggled against the Bucks. Shamet made one-of-six beyond the arc and one-of-eight overall in his 23 minutes on court, finishing with only three points.

 

Hardaway finds his range

Tim Hardaway Jr. was feeling it in the Dallas Mavericks' 127-113 win over the Chicago Bulls, shooting down an incredible 10 three-pointers in his 36-point display. Luka Doncic contributed 23 points and 12 rebounds in a double-double performance to help the Mavs move back above defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers into fifth in the west.

 

Tuesday's results

Charlotte Hornets 102-99 Detroit Pistons
Phoenix Suns 134-118 Cleveland Cavaliers (OT)
Milwaukee Bucks 124-118 Brooklyn Nets 
New Orleans Pelicans 108-103 Golden State Warriors
Dallas Mavericks 127-113 Miami Heat 
Sacramento Kings 103-99 Oklahoma City Thunder
Los Angeles Clippers 105-100 Toronto Raptors

 

Knicks at Nuggets

The in-form New York Knicks (37-28) make the trip to face Nikola Jokic's Denver Nuggets (43-22) with both sides jostling for playoffs seedings.

The Indiana Pacers made history after humbling the lowly Oklahoma City Thunder 152-95 in the NBA on Saturday.

Domantas Sabonis posted a first-half triple-double as the Pacers recorded the largest regular-season road win in league history, according to Stats Perform.

Sabonis finished with 26 points, 19 rebounds and 14 assists for the Pacers, who scored their most points in a game since joining the NBA in 1976.

The Pacers led by 67 points inside the final five minutes, flirting with the record for the largest victory margin (68 points set by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1991).

Doug McDermott added a game-high 31 points, while Oshae Brissett (16 points and 13 rebounds) and Caris Levert (25 points) made solid contributions on the road against the Thunder.

Kawhi Leonard returned from a five-game absence but the Los Angeles Clippers went down 110-104 to the visiting Denver Nuggets.

Back on the court following a foot problem, two-time champion Leonard put up 16 points, six assists and five rebounds as the Clippers were upstaged by Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets.

MVP frontrunner and Nuggets star Jokic scored 30 points and collected 14 rebounds to go with seven assists.

LaMelo Ball also made a return after a 21-game injury lay-off, resuming his Rookie of the Year push with 11 points, eight assists, seven rebounds, two blocks and a steal in the Charlotte Hornets' 107-94 win against the Detroit Pistons.

 

Williamson and Ball star as Pelicans soar, Jazz prevail

Zion Williamson had 37 points on 14-for-17 shooting while tallying nine rebounds and eight assists in the New Orleans Pelicans' 140-136 overtime success against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Lonzo Ball chipped in with a career-high 33 points as the Pelicans overcame a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter. Karl-Anthony Towns' double-double of 28 points and 14 rebounds was not enough for the Pelicans.

The Utah Jazz reclaimed top spot in the Western Conference and the best record in the NBA thanks to a 106-102 win against the Toronto Raptors. Bojan Bogdanovic's 34 points fuelled the Jazz, who moved half a game clear of the Phoenix Suns atop the west. Fred VanVleet's 30 points were not enough for the visiting Raptors.

Trae Young registered 33 points and Clint Capela (20 points and 11 rebounds) and John Collins (13 points and 10 rebounds) had double-doubles for the Atlanta Hawks, who defeated the Chicago Bulls 108-97.

The Golden State Warriors topped the Houston Rockets 113-87 behind Stephen Curry's 30 points. Curry had his 32nd career 20-point quarter (sixth this season, the 18th time he has scored at least 20 points in the third quarter. The two-time MVP has 32 30-point games this season – 15 in his last 17 appearances.

 

Roby and Maledon headline Thunder woes

On a humiliating day for the Thunder, Isaiah Roby and Theo Maledon were particularly disappointing. Roby was one-for-eight shooting, missing all three of his attempts from beyond the arc for two points. Thunder team-mate Maledon made two of 14 shots from the field, including one of his eight three-points efforts as he finished with eight points.

 

Mavs call game

Trailing 124-122, Luka Doncic provided the assist for Dorian Finney-Smith, who nailed the game-winning three-pointer with 9.2 seconds remaining. The Dallas Mavericks beat the Washington Wizards 125-124. Doncic posted 31 points, a career-high 20 assists and 12 rebounds for his fourth game in NBA history with 30-plus points, 10-plus rebounds and 20-plus assists to join Magic Johnson, Russell Westbrook and Oscar Robertson as the only players to do so. Westbrook (42 points and 10 rebounds) and Bradley Beal (29 points) were not enough to lift the Wizards.

 

Saturday's results

Charlotte Hornets 107-94 Detroit Pistons
Golden State Warriors 113-87 Houston Rockets
Atlanta Hawks 108-97 Chicago Bulls
Miami Heat 124-107 Cleveland Cavaliers
Orlando Magic 112-111 Memphis Grizzlies
New Orleans Pelicans 140-136 Minnesota Timberwolves (OT)
Indiana Pacers 152-95 Oklahoma City Thunder
Denver Nuggets 110-104 Los Angeles Clippers
Utah Jazz 106-102 Toronto Raptors
Dallas Mavericks 125-124 Washington Wizards

 

Nets at Bucks

The Milwaukee Bucks (39-24) could welcome back two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (ankle) for Sunday's visit of Eastern Conference leaders the Brooklyn Nets (43-21).

Kawhi Leonard will make his comeback for the Los Angeles Clippers against the Denver Nuggets.

Clippers star Leonard has missed five consecutive games due to right foot soreness, sitting out nine of the team's previous 10 games.

But two-time NBA champion Leonard is back in the line-up as the Clippers face the Nuggets on Saturday.

Leonard has been averaging 25.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and a career-high 5.1 assists per game for the Clippers this season.

The two-time Finals MVP and five-time All-Star also boasts a career-high field-goal percentage (51.6) in 2020-21.

Following back-to-back defeats, the Clippers (43-21) are third in the Western Conference, behind the Phoenix Suns (45-18) and Utah Jazz (45-18).

Chris Paul scored 28 points as the Phoenix Suns ended their decade-long NBA playoff drought with a 109-101 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.

Paul posted 25 points in the second half, finishing with three rebounds and 10 assists as the Suns (44-18) returned to the postseason for the first time since 2009-10.

Phoenix's playoff drought was the second longest active in the NBA, with only the Sacramento Kings waiting longer.

All-Star Paul, who joined Western Conference hopefuls the Suns from the Oklahoma City Thunder last year, said: "It means a lot. It's a special team. To be reconnected with a coach [Monty Williams] who coached me 10 years ago.

"He trusted me as a 35-year-old who a couple of years ago they said was done."

The Philadelphia 76ers – second to the Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Conference – also secured their playoff berth courtesy of a 127-83 rout of the Atlanta Hawks thanks to a team-high 20 points from Seth Curry.

The 76ers have now made the postseason for four consecutive seasons, which is their longest streak since they made five straight playoff appearances from 1999 to 2003.

 

Records fall as Jazz hit franchise best

NBA leaders the Utah Jazz scored a franchise-record 154 points as they humbled the Kings without All-Stars Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley. The Jazz won 154-105, blowing their opponents apart with a 46-17 second period, which tied as a franchise-record quarter differential.

Former MVP Russell Westbrook (18 points, 18 rebounds and 14 assists) led the Washington Wizards to their 11th triumph from their past 13 games, while condemning defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers to their fourth defeat from their past five in a 116-107 win. It was Westbrook's third season with 30-plus triple-doubles, no other player in NBA history has had more than one season with 30-plus triple-doubles.

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra reached a rare feat on Wednesday as last season's NBA Finals runners-up topped the San Antonio Spurs 116-111. Spoelstra recorded his 600th career win – the 27th coach in league history to reach that amount. Dejounte Murray also became the third player in Spurs history to record four-plus triple-doubles in a season, following in the footsteps of David Robinson and Johnny Moore.

Jaylen Brown (38 points) and Jayson Tatum (35 points) became the first Boston Celtics team-mates to each record 35-plus points in a game since 2006 as the franchise defeated the Charlotte Hornets 120-111.

 

Love struggles

Kevin Love was held scoreless until the fourth quarter. While he collected 10 rebounds and tallied six assists, 2016 NBA champion Love was just two-for-11 shooting in 35 minutes, making just two of 10 of his three-point attempts.

 

You be the judge?

Zion Williamson was denied a game-tying lay-up in the dying seconds of the New Orleans Pelicans' 114-112 loss to the Denver Nuggets, although the block from MVP candidate Nikola Jokic appeared to be a missed foul.

 

Wednesday's results

Orlando Magic 109-104 Cleveland Cavaliers
Philadelphia 76ers 127-83 Atlanta Hawks
New York Knicks 113-94 Chicago Bulls
Boston Celtics 120-111 Charlotte Hornets
Washington Wizards 116-107 Los Angeles Lakers
Miami Heat 116-111 San Antonio Spurs
Portland Trail Blazers 130-109 Memphis Grizzlies
Denver Nuggets 114-112 New Orleans Pelicans
Phoenix Suns 109-101 Los Angeles Clippers
Utah Jazz 154-105 Sacramento Kings

 

Nets at Pacers

The star-studded Nets (42-20) are getting their troops back and they make the trip to face the Indiana Pacers (29-32) on Thursday.

The NBA-leading Utah Jazz were upstaged by the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves for the second time in three nights, beaten 105-104 on Monday.

Utah, who lost 101-96 to the Timberwolves on Saturday, led 104-103 with 6.4 seconds remaining on the road in Minneapolis.

But the Timberwolves rallied, Ricky Rubio finding D'Angelo Russell for the layup before Jazz All-Star Mike Conley (26 points) lost the ball in a scramble on the final possession as time expired.

With the win, the Timberwolves claimed a series sweep of the Jazz – going 3-0 this season. It is the first time in NBA history a team with a win percentage below .300 swept a series of at least three games against a team with a win percentage of at least .700.

Russell posted 27 points behind a season-high seven three-pointers, star team-mate Karl-Anthony Towns finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds, while Anthony Edwards added 14 points for the Timberwolves (18-44) – who have the joint-second fewest victories this season.

The Jazz (44-17) are now only one game clear of the red-hot Phoenix Suns (43-18) in the Western Conference.

Phoenix closed in on Utah after snapping the New York Knicks' nine-game winning streak via a 118-110 victory.

Devin Booker fuelled the Suns by scoring 33 points, while Chris Paul (20) and Mikal Bridges (21) contributed on the road.

 

Spurs survive shoot-out as Westbrook closes in on record

DeMar DeRozan's 37 points and 10 assists helped the San Antonio Spurs to a 146-143 overtime win at the Washington Wizards, who lost for the first time in eight games. Not even Bradley Beal's game-high 45 points nor Russell Westbrook's league-leading 29th triple-double (22 points, 13 rebounds and 14 assists) could extend Washington's streak. Westbrook now has 175 career triple-doubles, seven away from breaking Oscar Robertson's record for the most in history.

Zion Williamson showcased his efficiency as the New Orleans Pelicans upset the Los Angeles Clippers 120-103. Williamson had 23 points on eight-of-11 shooting, including a three-pointer and five assists.

The Philadelphia 76ers snapped a four-game skid thanks to their 121-90 rout of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Philadelphia had an NBA-season high 22 steals at home to the struggling Thunder, who suffered a franchise-worst tying 14th consecutive defeat. The 76ers went 0-4 in Ben Simmons' absence but the All-Star returned to have 12 points on six-of-eight shooting, four assists, three rebounds, three steals and two blocks.

Double-doubles from Dennis Schroder (21 points and 10 assists) and Andre Drummond (3 points and 11 rebounds) guided defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers past the Orlando Magic 114-103. Anthony Davis had 18 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two blocks for the Lakers.

Michael Porter Jr. put up 31 points as the short-handed Denver Nuggets defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 120-96. MVP candidate Nikola Jokic tallied his league-leading 53rd double-double of 24 points and 15 rebounds.

 

Hawks struggle from beyond the arc

It was a forgettable outing for the Atlanta Hawks, who were beaten 100-86 by the lowly Detroit Pistons. Atlanta were particularly awful from three-point range, where they shot just 14.8 per cent after making only four of their 27 attempts.

The Toronto Raptors topped the Cleveland Cavaliers 112-96, but it was not the best of games from star Fred VanVleet. In 32 minutes, VanVleet was just three-of-10 shooting, making only one of five three-point attempts for eight points.

On a miserable night for the Clippers, Paul George headlined their woes. The All-Star was three-for-11 shooting, while making just one of his six three-point attempts for nine points.

 

Bol Bol with authority!

One of the tallest players in the NBA, Nuggets big man Bol Bol showcased his quick hands and feet en route to the basket as he finished emphatically against the Grizzlies.

 

Monday's results

Detroit Pistons 100-86 Atlanta Hawks
Los Angeles Lakers 114-103 Orlando Magic
Philadelphia 76ers 121-90 Oklahoma City Thunder
San Antonio Spurs 146-143 Washington Wizards (OT)
Phoenix Suns 118-110 New York Knicks
Toronto Raptors 112-96 Cleveland Cavaliers
Chicago Bulls 110-102 Miami Heat
Minnesota Timberwolves 105-104 Utah Jazz
New Orleans Pelicans 120-103 Los Angeles Clippers
Denver Nuggets 120-96 Memphis Grizzlies
Sacramento Kings 113-106 Dallas Mavericks

 

Nets at Raptors

Kevin Durant and the Eastern Conference-leading Brooklyn Nets (41-20) are on the road against the Raptors (26-35) on Tuesday.

There is light at the end of the NBA tunnel. A difficult regular season played out amid the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic is drawing towards a conclusion.

However, there is still plenty to play for in the closing weeks. For some teams it is about jostling for position as a play-off seed, while others are just frantically trying to make it into the postseason.

For those who have found the pace too tough, there comes the chance to give players opportunities to prove their worth. A strong finish can make all the difference to your career prospects.

Following a busy week that has seen some big names return to action, Stats Perform highlights those who have starred – as well as a few who have struggled – between April 19-25.


RUNNING HOT...

Paul George 

With team-mate Kawhi Leonard sidelined due to a foot injury, George has picked up the slack. The seven-time All-Star sat out a win for the Los Angeles Clippers over the Memphis Grizzlies, but scored 33 points against both the Portland Trail Blazers and the Houston Rockets last week.

He also recorded double-digit rebound totals in those outings, helping the Clippers remain firmly in the hunt to finish as the top seeds in the Western Conference. For the season, George is averaging career highs in points per game (24.0), rebounds (6.5) and assists (5.4). He is also shooting 89.1 per cent from the free-throw line.

OG Anunoby

A see-saw season for the Toronto Raptors still may yet wind up with a postseason appearance, though the 2019 champions have some work to do if they are to get inside the top 10 in the East.

Anunoby looks to be set for a strong finish to his campaign, having scored 52 points in his previous two outings following a short spell out of action - the London-born forward had averaged 14.78ppg going into the week. His six three-pointers made against the New York Knicks was a career high, though the landmark came in a losing cause.

Oshae Brissett

Brissett has seized the opportunity to impress for the Indiana Pacers while making four consecutive starts. He reached double figures for points in all of them, including posting a career-high 23 against the Oklahoma City Thunder to celebrate signing a long-term deal with the franchise.

The second-year prospect out of Syracuse played a total of 135 minutes in his rookie season with the Raptors, but nearly matched that number in a week that saw the Pacers win three out of four. Brissett also contributed when it came to rebounds, averaging 9.25 per outing.

GOING COLD...

Anthony Davis

Davis admitted it felt like the Lakers were "starting from zero" after the second outing on his return from an Achilles issue. Prior to his two-month absence, he was averaging 22.5 points per game, 8.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in the season.

However, unsurprisingly considering the amount of time spent off the court, the eight-time All-Star has struggled upon his return (albeit on a minutes restriction). Having shot 2-for-10 from the floor in the first of back-to-back meetings with the Dallas Mavericks, Davis followed up by going 5-for-19 in the second game between the teams.

Gary Trent Jr.

After a ridiculously hot start to life with Toronto following his involvement in a deadline-day trade, Trent Jr. has cooled off in recent outings. That is in part due to a drop in his minutes following the return of some of the regular starters for the Raptors, including back-court duo Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet.

The former Portland Trail Blazer still had 23 points against Oklahoma, but then dipped to a combined total of nine in limited action against the Brooklyn Nets and the Knicks. The three-point shooting is also a reason for a dip in points, as he made just one of his nine attempts from the beyond the arc during the past week.

Tobias Harris

Harris' drop in production in recent times has had less to do with him going cold and more to do with injury management. A bothersome right knee kept him out of games against the Golden State Warriors and the Phoenix Suns, both of which the Philadelphia 76ers lost.

His return in a double-header against the Milwaukee Bucks - one of Philadelphia's major rivals in the East - failed to help his team get back to winning ways. Harris had 18 points in the opening game but then just nine in the second, the first time he had recorded a single-digit outing in a game since February 25.

Golden State Warriors fans were on hand to witness another stellar Stephen Curry performance as the two-time NBA MVP helped take down Nikola Jokic's Denver Nuggets 118-97.

The Warriors welcomed fans back to Chase Center for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began – 1,935 supporters in attendance 409 days later.

Those fortunate to be in the building on Friday saw Curry post 32 points on 11-for-18 shooting, with four three-pointers and eight rebounds.

Warriors superstar Curry finished with his 29th 30-point game of the season, his 12th 30-point effort in the last 13 games.

Draymond Green tied his career high with 19 assists and 12 rebounds, his 12th double-double of the season as Kelly Oubre Jr. added 23 points off the bench.

The visiting Nuggets were led by Michael Porter Jr. (26 points), while MVP candidate Jokic managed just 19 points, six rebounds and six assists.

 

Another Westbrook triple-double, another Wizards win

Russell Westbrook put up his fourth consecutive triple-double as the streaking Washington Wizards topped the Oklahoma City Thunder 129-109. In his return to Oklahoma City, former MVP Westbrook had 37 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists to guide the Wizards to a seventh straight victory. Westbrook has nine triple-doubles in his last 10 games and 20 in his past 30. Wizards team-mate Bradley Beal contributed 33 points.

Paul George's 33 points and 14 rebounds guided the Los Angeles Clippers past the lowly Houston Rockets 109-104. John Wall posted 27 points and 13 assists for the Rockets in Houston.

Ja Morant became the third player in NBA history to score 33-plus points while shooting 60-plus per cent from the field and 13-plus assists without committing a turnover, joining Baron Davis (2008) and John Stockton (1989). Morant's 33 points and 13 assists – the first player in franchise history to reach those numbers in the same game – helped the Memphis Grizzlies edge the Portland Trail Blazers 130-128. Jusuf Nurkic's double-double of 26 points and 17 rebounds was not enough for the Trail Blazers.

Jayson Tatum tallied 38 points and 10 rebounds, but the Boston Celtics still lost 109-104 to the injury-hit Brooklyn Nets, who moved top of the Eastern Conference.

 

Scoreless Iguodala

A three-time NBA champion, Andre Iguodala was scoreless in the Miami Heat's 118-103 defeat at the Atlanta Hawks. In 23 minutes, he was 0-for-four shooting, while missing all three of his attempts from beyond the arc.

The Clippers won but not before a woeful third quarter – scoring a season-low 11 points. The Clippers were five of 22 from the field and 0-for-six three-point shooting in the penultimate period against the Rockets.

 

Mike making plays

Mike James signed a 10-day contract with the Nets, having starred in Europe. The 30-year-old, who spent some time playing for the Phoenix Suns and New Orleans Pelicans previously, impressed against the Celtics with the pass-fake and sky-hook shot.

 

Friday's results

Atlanta Hawks 118-103 Miami Heat
Brooklyn Nets 109-104 Boston Celtics
Charlotte Hornets 108-102 Cleveland Cavaliers
Los Angeles Clippers 109-104 Houston Rockets
Washington Wizards 129-109 Oklahoma City Thunder
Golden State Warriors 118-97 Denver Nuggets
Memphis Grizzlies 130-128 Portland Trail Blazers

 

76ers at Bucks

The Philadelphia 76ers (39-20) will look to arrest a three-game losing streak and reclaim top spot in the east when they face Giannis Antetokounmpo (36-22) and the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday.

Joel Embiid almost pulled off a miracle on the buzzer as the Philadelphia 76ers went down 116-113 to the Phoenix Suns in the NBA on Wednesday night.

The 76ers, top of the East, hosted the Suns, second in the West, and Phoenix appeared home when up by six points with 13 seconds to play.

But Philadelphia stayed alive after Furkan Korkmaz's three-pointer, before Chris Paul missed a free-throw, with Embiid grabbing rebound and firing off a long-range shot immediately which came remarkably close only to rim out.

Earlier, Embiid had scored 38 points and collected 17 rebounds for the 76ers, while Suns guard Paul had 28 points and eight assists.

The Suns improve to 41-16 while the 76ers are 39-18 but remain top in the Eastern Conference after the Brooklyn Nets lost 114-103 to the Toronto Raptors.

Still missing their star pair Kevin Durant and James Harden, the Nets relied on Kyrie Irving with 28 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.

However, the Raptors all contributed led by Pascal Siakam with 27 points, nine rebounds and six assists, as they reeled in a 36-23 quarter-time deficit to win by 11.

 

Curry streak ends, Knicks streak extends

Stephen Curry's 11-game streak of 30-plus points came to an end at the hands of the Washington Wizards who won over the Golden State Warriors 118-114.

Russell Westbrook produced another triple-double with 14 points, 10 assists and an outstanding 20 rebounds, while Bradley Beal had 29 points. Curry could only manage 18 points for GSW.

On the topic of streaks, the New York Knicks extended their winning run to seven games with a 137-127 triumph over the Atlanta Hawks after Bogdan Bogdanovic forced over-time with a clutch three.

Julius Randle was exceptional with 40 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, including six three-pointers, while the Hawks lost Trae Young to a sprained left ankle.

The Utah Jazz reinforced top spot in the Western Conference with a comfortable 112-89 win over the Houston Rockets with Rudy Gobert having 19 points and 18 rebounds.

The Los Angeles Clippers kept up the pressure with a 117-105 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, with shooting guard Luke Kennard adding 28 points and seven rebounds.

 

 

Curry covered at every turn

Curry was not afforded any time or space against the Washington Wizards and subsequently shot two-from-14 beyond the arc.

 

OMG from OG

Up by two in the third, OG Anunoby made a big statement for the Toronto Raptors with a block down one end and then a monster right-hand dunk over Joe Harris after Fred VanVleet's assist down the other in the same play.

 

Wednesday's results:

Toronto Raptors 114-103 Brooklyn Nets
Indiana Pacers 122-116 Oklahoma City Thunder
Washington Wizards 118-114 Golden State Warriors
Phoenix Suns 116-113 Philadelphia 76ers
Cleveland Cavaliers 121-105 Chicago Bulls
Utah Jazz 112-89 Houston Rockets
New York Knicks 137-127 Atlanta Hawks
Miami Heat 107-87 San Antonio Spurs
Dallas Mavericks 127-107 Detroit Pistons
Denver Nuggets 106-105 Portland Trail Blazers
Sacramento Kings 128-125 Minnesota Timberwolves
Los Angeles Clippers 117-105 Memphis Grizzlies

 

76ers at Bucks

Joel Embiid's Philadelphia 76ers (39-18) will look to bounce back from Wednesday's loss to the Phoenix Suns when they travel to Giannis Antetokounmpo's Milwaukee Bucks (35-22) in a bumper East clash.

Ty Lue lauded a "complete game" from Paul George after the seven-time NBA All-Star inspired the Los Angeles Clippers to a 113-112 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.

George scored a game-high 33 points, claimed 11 rebounds and provided three assists in the Clippers' win at Moda Center on Tuesday.

Clippers coach Lue was full of praise for shooting guard George, who sparkled in the absence of the injured Kawhi Leonard.

"He's been carrying us," Lue said. "He's really stepped up by making his team-mates better but also scoring the basketball.

"He's just doing everything. It was a complete game tonight and we needed every bit of it."

George was on target with two free throws with 4.8 seconds to play, moving the third-placed Clippers to 41-19 in the Western Conference.

Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts took the positives out of a narrow defeat.

"I liked the way we played tonight," Stotts said. "I liked the way we played in some of these other games.

"We came up short, but I thought tonight we competed really well against a really good team. We had some opportunities in the last minute that we weren't able to capitalise on."

Leonard will be out until next week due to a foot injury.

Lue said of the two-time NBA champion: "He wants to get out there. But right now, it's not the smartest thing to do with him feeling it and trying to manage it for the most part for a while now.

"We just got to be smart about it. Sometimes you got to protect the player from themselves, and right now that is what we are doing."

With each team down a superstar, Paul George lifted the Los Angeles Clippers to a 113-112 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday after a last-minute rally. 

The Clippers trailed by five entering the final minute of the game, but George hit two field goals and followed with two free throws to give the visiting side the lead with 4.8 seconds left. 

George finished with 33 points and 11 rebounds as Kawhi Leonard missed the game after returning from a sore foot two days earlier. 

The Blazers played without Damian Lillard, who missed his third consecutive game with a hamstring problem.

His absence left CJ McCollum to carry the load with 28 points, but he made only 11 of 26 shots from the floor and missed what would have been the game-winning shot at the buzzer. 

 

Irving lifts Nets past Pelicans

The Nets also continue to miss key players, but they too have enough stars on hand to get by. Tuesday it was Kyrie Irving stepping up for injury-wracked Brooklyn in a 134-129 win over the Pelicans in New Orleans. 

Irving scored 32 points and had eight assists and Joe Harris contributed 24 points as seven Brooklyn players scored in double figures. 

The Nets needed plenty of scoring to overcome a big night by Zion Williamson, who made 14 of 19 from the field to finish with 33 points and added seven rebounds. 

 

Fox's shooting touch disappears

After averaging 30.5 points in Sacramento's previous eight games, De'Aaron Fox managed only 14 in 28 minutes in the Kings' 134-120 home loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. The point guard made just five of 17 shots from the field, a 29.4 per cent shooting effort. It was his worst offensive showing since he scored 12 points on five of 20 shooting in a loss to the Lakers on April 2.  

 

The Ant Man soars

Fans of the Timberwolves (16-43) haven't had much to cheer about this season, but at least top draft pick and Rookie of the Year contender Anthony Edwards can fill up a highlight reel on his own. The 19-year-old had a game-high 28 points in the rare Minnesota win.

 

Tuesday's results

New York Knicks 109-97 Charlotte Hornets
Atlanta Hawks 112-96 Orlando Magic
Brooklyn Nets 134-129 New Orleans Pelicans
Los Angeles Clippers 113-112 Portland Trail Blazers
Minnesota Timberwolves 134-120 Sacramento Kings 

 

Suns at 76ers

The Phoenx Suns (41-16), second in the Western Conference, travel to face the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers (39-18) in a meeting of top NBA title contenders Wednesday.

Julius Randle produced another inspiring performance as the streaking New York Knicks topped the New Orleans Pelicans 122-112 in overtime.

Knicks All-Star Randle posted 33 points and 10 assists to lead the New York franchise to their sixth successive NBA win on Sunday.

Randle recorded his fourth consecutive game with at least 30 points, becoming the first Knicks player since Carmelo Anthony in 2014 to accomplish the feat.

Reggie Bullock nailed a three-pointer for the Knicks with 2.3 seconds remaining in regulation before the home team outscored Zion Williamson's Pelicans 19-9 in OT at Madison Square Garden.

Derrick Rose scored a season-high 23 points for the Knicks, who are in the midst of their longest winning streak since 2013-14 as they eye their first playoff appearance since 2013.

Williamson's 34 points, nine rebounds, five assists and two steals were not enough for the visiting Pelicans.

Meanwhile, Kevin Durant suffered a left thigh contusion in the Brooklyn Nets' 109-107 loss away to the Miami Heat.

Durant – who only returned from a 23-game injury absence this month – left the game in the opening quarter, having gone three-for-three shooting to finish with eight points in four minutes.

Bam Adebayo (21 points and 15 rebounds) lifted the Heat with his buzzer-beating jump shot.

 

Hawks soar past Pacers

Clint Capela (25 points and 24 rebounds) and Trae Young (34 points and 11 assists) helped the Atlanta Hawks power to a 129-117 victory against the Indiana Pacers. Bogdan Bogdanovic and Kevin Huerter contributed 23 points each for the Hawks, who have won eight of 10 games and are 17-6 under interim head coach Nate McMillan.

Kawhi Leonard returned from a four-game absence, tallying 15 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in the Los Angeles Clippers' 124-105 success at home to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Chris Boucher put up 31 points and 11 rebounds for the Toronto Raptors, who downed the lowly Oklahoma City Thunder 112-106 for a third consecutive win. Oklahoma City's Aleksej Pokusevski (six) became the first Thunder rookie with five-plus blocks in a game since Serge Ibaka in 2010.

The Charlotte Hornets snapped a four-game skid behind Terry Rozier as his 34 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds saw off the Portland Trail Blazers 109-101.

De'Aaron Fox's 30 points and 12 assists guided the Sacramento Kings to a 121-107 win over the Dallas Mavericks. Dallas All-Star Luka Doncic finished with a game-high 37 points.

 

Thunder continue to be silenced

The Thunder are now in the midst of a season-worst losing streak of 10 games after losing to the Raptors.

Josh Richardson struggled again for the Mavericks. He was just three-for-nine shooting, while making only one of his five three-point attempts for seven pints. Mavericks team-mate Tim Hardaway Jr. (eight points) finishing two-for-10 shooting.

 

Bridges goes bang!

Miles Bridges is becoming known for his slam dunks. The Hornets star produced another memorable dunk in the second quarter.

 

Sunday's results

Atlanta Hawks 129-117 Indiana Pacers
New York Knicks 122-112 New Orleans Pelicans (OT)
Miami Heat 109-107 Brooklyn Nets
Charlotte Hornets 109-101 Portland Trail Blazers
Houston Rockets 114-110 Orlando Magic
Toronto Raptors 112-106 Oklahoma City Thunder
Los Angeles Clippers 124-105 Minnesota Timberwolves
Sacramento Kings 121-107 Dallas Mavericks

 

Warriors at 76ers

Red-hot Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors (28-29) visit the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers (39-17) on Monday. The 76ers have won four straight games.

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