Defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks outlasted the Charlotte Hornets 127-125 thanks to superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo in the NBA on Wednesday.

Antetokounmpo's monster double-double and late driving layup with 2.0 seconds remaining lifted the in-form Bucks (14-8) to their eighth consecutive victory midweek.

Milwaukee's Antetokounmpo had 40 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists in a near triple-double performance at home to the Hornets.

The Bucks withstood LaMelo Ball, who posted 36 points, nine assists and five rebounds on the road for the Hornets (13-11).

 

Doncic flexes his muscles

Luka Doncic fuelled the Dallas Mavericks' 139-107 victory at the New Orleans Pelicans. He put up 28 points and 14 assists in just 27 minutes. According to Stats Perform, Doncic is the first player to reach those numbers while playing 27 minutes or less since Hall of Famer Magic Johnson in 1987.

Jae'Sean Tate's career-high 32 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and five blocks helped the Houston Rockets rally past the Oklahoma City Thunder 114-110. The Rockets are the first team in NBA history with four straight wins immediately after a 15-game losing streak, per Stats Perform. As for Tate, he joined Hakeem Olajuwon as the only Rockets players to record 30-plus points, 10-plus rebounds, five-plus assists and five-plus blocks in a game.

 

Embiid struggles as Philly's offensive woes continue

In the absence of wantaway All-Star Ben Simmons, the Philadelphia 76ers continue to endure a topsy-turvy campaign following their 88-87 defeat to the Boston Celtics. MVP runner-up Joel Embiid had a double-double of 13 points and 18 rebounds, but he was just three-of-17 shooting. Tobias Harris was four-of-11 shooting – missing all four of his three-point attempts – for only eight points.

Duncan Robinson had a game to forget as the shorthanded Miami Heat went down 111-85 to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Robinson went scoreless in 20 minutes on 0-of-seven shooting from the floor, having failed to make any of his six efforts from beyond the arc.

The Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls lost draft picks for early free-agent discussions that led to recruiting Kyle Lowry and Lonzo Ball respectively, the NBA announced on Wednesday.

Lowry swapped the Toronto Raptors for the Heat, who acquired the NBA champion in a sign-and-trade three-year, $85million deal that sent Goran Dragic and Precious Achiuwa the other way.

Ball – a restricted free agent – was traded to the Bulls by the New Orleans Pelicans on a four-year, $80m contract for Garrett Temple and Toms Satoransky.

The NBA investigated the moves and punished the Heat and Bulls with the loss of second-round drafts picks because of premature discussions.

Miami and Chicago were found to have violated league rules governing the timing of this season's free-agency discussions.

"While we disagree, we accept the league's decision," the Heat said in a statement.

The Bulls added: "We are glad this process has concluded and look forward to the rest of our season."

In his first season with the Heat (13-8), six-time All-Star Lowry has been averaging 12.5 points, 7.7 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game, while shooting at 42.6 per cent and 31.0 from the three-point range.

Ball has starred for the new-look Bulls (14-8) in 2021-22, averaging 12.5 points, 4.8 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game – he has been shooting a career-high 42.6 per cent from the floor and a career-best 44.4 per cent from beyond the arc.

Nikola Jokic bounced back to Denver Nuggets duty as though he had never been away as the win at Miami Heat was described by coach Michael Malone as "a great pain reliever".

The superstar Serbian, MVP in the NBA last season, had missed four successive games because of a wrist injury amid Denver's six-game slide.

That was their worst such stretch since 2014-15 and saw them fall away after making a 9-4 start to the season, but prospects for Malone's men are looking up now that Jokic is fit.

After sinking the Heat 120-111 in Miami, there was a warm mix of emotion and relief in the Nuggets' locker room.

Jokic posted 24 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists, and seemingly that effort had changed everything.

Bones Hyland, the 21-year-old Nuggets point guard, shot a career-high 19 points including five three-pointers, and said: "It felt good going back into the locker room.

"I felt as though the guys were trying to win so bad just because Nikola was out. We know what he provides, and we were trying to fill his shoes and those are big shoes to fill.

"Him being back, everybody's a team now, playing through him, and it felt good for sure."

Malone had to search for the correct terminology to describe the post-game emotion.

"I don't know if relief is the right word, but there was definitely some joy, some smiles, some hugs," said the coach.

"As corny as that sounds, man, winning is a great pain reliever. We've all been down in the dumps and to get this win tonight kind of just stops all of that and allows us to get back to feeling good about ourselves."

He said playing without Jokic had been "a little bit different" to losing any other player.

Quoted on NBA.com, Malone struck an upbeat tone, saying: "I love the guys in the locker room. I'll go to war with them. Obviously, tonight was just one win. But after losing six in a row, by no means have we said, 'We're gonna change our goals now'. There's 62 games left, so much basketball to be played. So, you move on and play another day."

Jokic was not given an easy ride by the Miami crowd, facing boos every time he touched the ball due to the dust-up he and the Heat's Markieff Morris had in a November 8 game. Morris has missed 11 consecutive games since the incident.

He is big enough to handle such hostility though, saying afterwards: "I played in Serbia, so I wish you guys could feel that."

The 26-year-old Jokic is averaging 26.2 points, 13.7 rebounds and 6.4 assists this season, so ostensibly this was a par performance. How the Nuggets had missed him at his most routine though.

Jokic felt there was a collective improvement in the team, adding: "Everybody played well. We had seven players in double figures. So, everybody shared the ball. Everybody touched it."

Nikola Jokic's return proved the perfect tonic for the slumping Denver Nuggets after the reigning MVP helped snap a six-game slide in a 120-111 victory over the Miami Heat.

All eyes were on Jokic, who had missed four straight games because of a wrist injury amid Denver's worst six-game stretch since the 2014-15 season.

There was also plenty of interest as the Nuggets and Heat renewed hostilities for the first time since Jokic and Miami's Markieff Morris were involved in a dustup on November 8.

Jokic received a one-game ban after shoving Morris in the back as tempers flared – the Nuggets star reacting angrily after the Heat veteran came in with a hard foul, catching his opponent with a left elbow to the chest.

While the Heat were shorthanded in the absence of Morris – who has missed 11 consecutive games since the incident, Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro, Miami fans let their feelings known, booing Jokic every time he touched the ball.

Jokic, with his two brothers behind the Denver bench, was not fussed as he posted 24 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists.

Double-doubles from Bam Adebayo (24 points and 13 rebounds) and Kyle Lowry (17 points and 14 assists) were not enough for the Heat.

 

Doncic matches Robertson

Luka Doncic had 25 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds in the Dallas Mavericks' 114-96 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He tied Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson for the most triple-doubles (38) before turning 23. Mavericks star Doncic celebrates his 23rd birthday in February.

Lonzo Ball earned family bragging rights after the Chicago Bulls outlasted the Charlotte Hornets 133-119. Up against brother LaMelo and the Hornets, Lonzo's Balls prevailed thanks to Nikola Vucevic (30 points and 14 rebounds), DeMar DeRozan (28 points) and Zach LaVine (25 points). According to Stats Perform, Chicago are the first team to have a starting guard (LaVine), starting forward (DeRozan) and starting center (Vucevic) have 25-plus points, five-plus rebounds and five-plus assists in the same game since the Orlando Magic in January 1994. LaMelo Ball's 18 points and 13 assists were not enough for the Hornets.

Seth Curry put up 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting as the Philadelphia 76ers held on to beat the Magic 101-96 at home. The 76ers are riding a five-game winning streak against the Magic – their longest such streak against Orlando.

Jonas Valanciunas nailed seven of his three-point attempts as he torched the Los Angeles Clippers in a 39-point and 15-rebound performance, the New Orleans Pelicans triumphing 123-104.

 

Lillard struggles in Blazers loss

Much was said about All-Star Damian Lillard heading into the season amid question marks over his future with the Portland Trail Blazers. Had he outgrown the smalltown market? Well, his topsy-turvy campaign continued after scoring just 11 points on four-of-12 shooting from the floor in the 129-107 defeat at the Utah Jazz.

Rookie of the Year candidate Josh Giddey had a game to forget as fellow strugglers the Houston Rockets eased past the Oklahoma City Thunder 102-89. In 25 minutes, Giddey made only one of his nine shots from the field, missing his five three-point attempts for two points in total.

The Phoenix Suns extended their winning streak to 16 games on Saturday with a 113-107 victory over the Brooklyn Nets, who gave up 20 turnovers for the game.

The Nets coughed up 15 turnovers in the first half alone as the Suns claimed an early lead and were never headed, led by Devin Booker (30 points and four assists) and Chris Paul (22 points, eight rebounds and five assists).

James Harden managed a triple-double but it was far from his best game with seven turnovers while only scoring 12 points, going zero-of-four from beyond the arc. Harden also had 13 rebounds and 14 assists.

Kevin Durant top scored for the Nets with 39 points along with nine rebounds, seven assists and four steals but also had five turnovers.

The Suns can equal their franchise record winning streak when they face the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday. Phoenix's 17-3 mark for the season is their best record through 20 games since 2004-05.

 

Embiid returns with a bang

Joel Embiid scored 42 points and had 14 rebounds on his return after nine games out due to COVID-19 protocols but could not lift the sliding Philadelphia 76ers to victory, going down 121-120 to the Minnesota Timberwolves in double over-time. Embiid had a shot to win the game but was blocked by Anthony Edwards on the buzzer.

Luka Doncic scored 33 points with 10 assists as the Dallas Mavericks were beaten 120-114 by the Washington Wizards with Bradley Beal hitting 26 points. The Wizards improve to 13-7.

Houston Rockets center Christian Wood had a huge game with 33 points and 16 rebounds as his side defeated the Charlotte Hornets 146-143 in over-time.

 

Randle loses his handle

Julius Randle only managed eight points, shooting three-of-14 from the field as the New York Knicks beat the Atlanta Hawks 99-90.

The Los Angeles Lakers were without suspended superstar LeBron James and not even a Russell Westbrook triple-double could fuel the title hopefuls as they were beaten 106-100 by the New York Knicks.

James was not on the court because of a ban handed down – the first of his illustrious career – for his ejection against the Detroit Pistons, the four-time NBA champion struck Isaiah Stewart in the face and drew blood, sparking a melee.

Since James joined the Lakers in 2018, the team had been averaging 113.0 points and with a winning percentage of 64.6 when he plays heading into the matchup, while averaging 107.4 points with a 39.7 winning percentage when he does not.

In his absence, former MVP Westbrook had 31 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists but the Lakers still lost on the road against the Knicks on Tuesday.

Westbrook posted 18 points in the third quarter to tie the game after the Lakers (9-10) had fallen in a 25-point hole, however, the Knicks recovered to beat the storied franchise for the ninth time in 11 games.

Anthony Davis put a pre-game illness aside to battle for 20 points, six rebounds and three assists in 34 minutes.

Julius Randle inspired the Knicks (10-8) with 20 points, 16 rebounds and five assists, while Evan Fournier contributed a team-high 26 points.

 

 

Porzingis achieves career first as Mavs win

For the first time in his career, Kristaps Porzingis (30 points) scored 20 or more points in seven straight games after helping the Dallas Mavericks trump the Los Angeles Clippers 112-104 in over-time.

 

Denver's slide continues as Jokic sits out again

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic missed his third straight game due to a right wrist sprain and the Denver Nuggets went down 119-100 to the Portland Trail Blazers. The Nuggets have lost five consecutive games – their worst run since a five-game skid in January 2017.

The number one pick in the NBA Draft, it is safe to say Cade Cunningham's rookie season has been a baptism of fire. The first-year Pistons teenager has been criticised for his performances. In a 100-92 loss to the Miami Heat, he was just two-of-10 shooting – making one of seven three-pointers – for six points in 29 minutes, while he had four turnovers.

Jimmy Butler criticised the Miami Heat's complacency after they blew a 16-point lead in Saturday's defeat to the Washington Wizards.

The Heat had won four straight games coming into Saturday's trip to the capital, but that run has now been bookended by collapses.

Against both the Los Angeles Clippers (17 points) and the Wizards, Miami have led by double digits only to lose. Earlier this season, the Heat let leads of 12 and 11 slip to the Utah Jazz and the Brooklyn Nets respectively, although they rallied again to win on both occasions.

Of those four games, only the Utah victory was at home.

This latest setback was particularly painful due to the late nature of the collapse; the Heat had a 10-point lead with just over four minutes remaining but went down 103-100.

Miami were the victim of three fourth-quarter double-digit comebacks last season, and Butler is concerned the Heat – now 11-6 and behind the 11-5 Wizards in their division – are not dealing well with praise following a strong start.

"[The collapses are] probably because we stopped doing what we were doing to get those leads," he said.

"We tend to get comfortable, and that's a bad thing when you're comfortable. You get complacent and you just think the games going to keep going that way.

"For us, at least, it doesn't."

Butler, who led Miami with 29 points, added: "When everybody's giving you this praise all the time, you think you deserve it. You think you're supposed to be talked about like that – and that's not the case.

"This league is very humbling. It's fragile, and just as soon as you think you're good and you're high on yourself, you get hit like this.

"I don't think we should have lost this game. We did. You can say we'll learn from it, we'll go back to the drawing board. I'm hoping this is the last time that this happens, but I can't guarantee that."

Giannis Antetokounmpo's monster performance helped the Milwaukee Bucks top the Orlando Magic 117-108 in the NBA on Saturday.

Antetokounmpo posted 32 points and collected 20 rebounds to fuel the NBA champions at home to the lowly Magic in Milwaukee.

The Finals MVP became the fifth player to reach 32 points, 20 rebounds, five assists, two steals and three blocks in a game over the past 40 season, following in the footsteps of DeMarcus Cousins, Tim Duncan, David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon.

Bobby Portis added a season-high 24 points along with 15 rebounds as the streaking Bucks (9-8) celebrated their third consecutive victory.

 

 

Lillard leads Blazers

Damian Lillard had a season-high 39 points as the Portland Trail Blazers outlasted the Philadelphia 76ers 118-111. Portland improved to 8-1 at home to his season. The 76ers, who continue to be without MVP runner-up Joel Embiid (COVID protocol), were led by 28 points apiece from Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey.

All-Star pair Rudy Gobert (21 points and 14 rebounds) and Donovan Mitchell (26 points) inspired the Utah Jazz to a 123-105 victory away to the Sacramento Kings.

 

Lowry struggles from the floor

The Miami Heat's prized recruit, Kyle Lowry had an off night in the team's 103-100 loss at Eastern conference rivals the Washington Wizards. The NBA champion was just three-of-12 shooting – making one of only seven three-pointers in a seven-point display.

The Charlotte Hornets had their five-game winning streak snapped by the Atlanta Hawks, who prevailed 115-105. Charlotte tasted defeat, despite big performances from Miles Bridges (35 points and 10 rebounds) and LaMelo Ball (15 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds).

Stephen Curry led the Golden State Warriors' fourth-quarter charge and registered his fourth 40-point game of the season in a 104-89 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.

Curry had been listed as "questionable" for the game due to a hip complaint but overcame that to post 40 points including nine three-pointers for the Warriors who improve to 13-2.

Golden State had trailed by 13 points early in the final quarter, before going on a 17-0 initiated by three consecutive Curry triples.

Curry had 13 points during the 17-0 run and 20 for the final quarter, as the Warriors flicked the switch with a 36-8 last period.

Draymond Green played a strong deputy hand with 14 assists for the Warriors, while Darius Garland had 25 points for the Cavs.

Curry also broke his own record for the most triples made by a player in the first 15 games of season, overtaking his 2018-19 haul of 80 and moving his 2021-22 tally to 85.

 

Sixers snap five-game skid

Guards Seth Curry (20 points, six rebounds and five assists) and Tyrese Maxey (22 points, five rebounds and four assists) helped the Philadelphia 76ers end their five-game skid with a 103-89 win over the Denver Nuggets. Nikola Jokic had 22 points in the first half but finished with 30 for the game, along with 10 rebounds and seven assists.

Jimmy Butler had 32 points, five assists and four steals while Kyle Lowry dished off 12 assists as the Miami Heat downed the Washington Wizards 112-97, despite Bradley Beal's 30 points.

Ja Morant starred with 28 points, five rebounds and five assists for the Memphis Grizzlies in a 120-108 win over the Los Angeles Clippers, with Paul George managing 23 points, including five from beyond the arc.

 

Murray loses his radar

Dejounte Murray only managed seven points, shooting at 17 percent from the field, missing all four three-point attempts in the San Antonio Spurs' 115-90 defeat to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

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.

DeMar DeRozan was at his brilliant best again as the Chicago Bulls routed the Los Angeles Lakers 121-103 in the NBA on Monday.

DeRozan is the face of the new-look Bulls and the four-time All-Star maintained his MVP-calibre start to the season with a game-high 38 points at Staples Center.

The 32-year-old, who joined the Bulls ahead of the 2021-22 campaign, had his fourth 35-plus point game of the month – tying a career high.

Chicago have won four of their past five games, having also trumped the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday, on the back of Lonzo Ball's seven three-pointers in his 27-point display against former team the Lakers.

Zach LaVine added 26 points for the Bulls, who improved to 10-4 in the Eastern Conference after beating the Lakers for the first time since 2016, snapping an eight-game drought.

Without superstar LeBron James, Talen Horton-Tucker (28 points), Russell Westbrook (25 points) and Anthony Davis (20 points) led the stuttering Lakers (8-7).

 

 

Streaking Suns sizzle

Last season's NBA Finals runners-up the Phoenix Suns celebrated their ninth successive victory after outlasting the Minnesota Timberwolves 99-96. Devin Booker (29 points), Deandre Ayton (22 points and 12 rebounds) and Chris Paul (21 points) all starred on the road. Ayton is the only player this season to be averaging 15-plus points and 10-plus rebounds while shooting at least 60 per cent from the field.

Cade Cunningham joined Stephen Curry (twice), Trae Young and Jason Kidd as the only rookies in NBA history with 25 points, five three-pointers, eight rebounds and eight assists in a game. The number one draft pick, however, was unable to prevent the lowly Detroit Pistons falling 129-107 to the Sacramento Kings.

 

Doncic limps off court

The Dallas Mavericks took down reigning MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets 111-101, but it appeared to have come at a cost. Mavericks star Luka Doncic limped off the court after rolling his ankle in the final minute of the game. Doncic had posted 23 points and 11 assists to help fuel the Mavericks. Jokic's 35-point and 16-rebound double-double was not enough for Denver.

The Cleveland Cavaliers scored just nine points in the first half and trailed much of the game before rallying to stun the Boston Celtics 91-89 on Saturday. 

Cleveland (9-5) trailed by as many as 19 with 3:05 left in the third quarter before roaring back with a 24-4 run to set up a frenzied finish that featured seven ties and five lead changes in the last seven minutes of the game. 

Darius Garland led the Cavaliers with 22 points, including two critical free throws with 9.4 seconds left that provided the final margin. He had kept the home team in the game single-handedly earlier in the evening, making 10 of Cleveland's 12 first-half field goals. 

One night after dropping 38 points in a home win against the Milwaukee Bucks, Dennis Schroder had a game-high 28 for on Saturday, but he missed a potential game-tying shot at the buzzer. 

The Celtics (6-7) were foiled in their attempt to get over .500 for the first time this season but will have a chance to get back to even with a rematch Monday in Cleveland. 

The Cavaliers have won six of their last seven games. 

 

Clippers win seventh straight

After a 1-4 start to the season, the Los Angeles Clippers picked up their seventh straight win with a 129-102 defeat of the Minnesota Timberwolves (4-8). The Clippers (8-4) put the game away by half-time, building a 70-43 lead as Reggie Jackson scored 18 of his 21 points before the break. Paul George led all scorers with 23 and Anthony Edwards topped the Timberwolves with 21. 

The Washington Wizards (9-3) continued their hot start even without star Bradley Beal, rolling to a 104-92 victory over the Orlando Magic (3-10) behind 23 points, 11 rebounds and six assists from Spencer Dinwiddie and 20 points, six rebounds and seven assists off the bench by Montrezl Harrell. Beal missed the game to mourn the death of his grandmother. 

The New Orleans Pelicans opened up a lead of as many as 22 points in the first half and held on for a 112-101 defeat of the Memphis Grizzlies (6-7). The victory snapped a nine-game losing streak for the Pelicans (2-14) as they continue to play without Zion Williamson. 

 

Jazz continue to struggle

The Utah Jazz (8-5) lost for the fourth time in five games, falling 111-105 at home against the Miami Heat (8-5). The visitors built a 95-69 lead after three quarters and cruised the rest of the way as Tyler Herro led all scorers with 27 points. Utah made just 35 of 85 shots from the field (41.2 per cent), including 17 of 53 from three-point range (32.1 per cent).

Los Angeles Clippers coach Ty Lue welcomed the contributions of his supporting players as they helped Paul George lead the team to a sixth straight win.

The Clippers beat the Miami Heat 112-109 on Thursday to continue their streak. They have also now won six in a row against the Heat, their longest such sequence in this matchup since the teams' first meeting in 1988.

With Kawhi Leonard still on the sidelines, fellow All-Star George has been the Clippers' main man this season, with his usage rate up to 34.3 per cent.

He is averaging 26.7 points and 7.9 rebounds per game – his best marks outside of his All-NBA First Team season in 2018-19. His 5.4 assists per game are a new high.

George had 27 points against Miami, again leading the team, but he also had a negative plus/minus (-1) for the first time in this winning run.

While the forward's 38 minutes ensured he remains the Clippers' most used player this year (388 mins), there were signs of fatigue and Lue called his man back to the bench in the third quarter.

Crucially, however, the Clippers had a positive point differential of four in the 10 minutes George sat in this game, prompting the coach to laud a team effort.

George was one of five players to score double-figures and one of three to pass 20 – also Reggie Jackson (22) and Eric Bledsoe (21).

"In that third quarter, PG was a little tired, so we had to get him out early," Lue said.

"That group we had on the floor increased the lead, so it bought him more time. It was just a total team win. We did a lot of great things."

Leonard's absence with an ACL tear represents a big blow to the Clippers, but they are now 7-4 this year as George excels.

However, when Leonard went down halfway through last season's playoff campaign, George improved from averaging 24.9 points per game to 29.6.

Indeed, since the pair joined the team together in 2019, George has 26.8 points across the regular season and postseason when Leonard is missing, versus 21.7 when his team-mate is also in the lineup.

This responsibility may suit George this year then, and asked how he was coping with the strain, he simply replied: "I'm still going, still going."

The Philadelphia 76ers suffered a third consecutive defeat in the NBA, this time upstaged 115-109 by the visiting Toronto Raptors.

While 2020-21 MVP runner-up Joel Embiid and Matisse Thybulle remain sidelined due to the league's health and safety protocol, last season's Eastern Conference top seeds the 76ers welcomed back star Tobias Harris and Seth Curry.

Tyrese Maxey also scored 33 points in back-to-back 30-point games, but it was not enough for the 76ers (8-5) at home to the Raptors in Philadelphia on Thursday.

Maxey became the first 76er in either his first or second season with consecutive 30-plus point games since Embiid in 2017.

 

But Eastern Conference rivals the Raptors (7-6) silenced Wells Fargo Center thanks to Fred VanVleet (32 points), Gary Trent Jr. (20 points) and Og Anunoby (20 points).

VanVleet and Trent hit back-to-back three-pointers over the final 1:10 to lift the Raptors, who had lost three games in a row.

 

Streaking Clippers cool Heat

The Los Angeles Clippers (7-4) posted their sixth successive victory after outlasting the Miami Heat 112-109. Paul George scored 27 points and Reggie Jackson registered all his 22 points in the second half as the Clippers overturned a 17-point deficit. Bam Adebayo's season-high 30 points and 11 rebounds were not enough for the Heat (7-5), who dropped their third straight game and fourth of five.

 

Jazz beaten at home

For the first time this season, the Utah Jazz (8-4) lost at home following a surprise 111-100 defeat against the Indiana Pacers. All-Star pair Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell were ejected in the fourth quarter, along with team-mate Joe Ingles and Indiana's Myles Turner. The Pacers (5-8) were led by Malcolm Brogdon's season-high 30 points.

Anthony Davis says the injury-hit Los Angeles Lakers are "starting to realise how good of a team we are" after they beat the Miami Heat 120-117 in overtime on Wednesday.

Russell Westbrook posted a second consecutive triple-double of 25 points, 12 rebounds and 14 assists, while Davis scored 24 points and claimed 13 rebounds at Staples Center.

Malik Monk also played a big hand, finishing with a team-high 27 points - including five of the Lakers' eight points in overtime as they moved to 7-5.

Justin Reaves and Rajon Rondo (both hamstring) joined LeBron James (abdominal strain) on a lengthy Lakers injury list, but Davis says confidence is building in adversity following a second straight overtime win.

"Trying to find ways to get wins while everyone is getting back healthy," Davis said.

"The last two games have definitely been fun. Guys are having fun. Guys are starting to realise how good of a team we are."

 

Monk relished the opportunity to make a big impact after starting on the bench.

"I had this role a couple of times last year in Charlotte, the year before that when a lot of guys get hurt and I had to come in and play big minutes and facilitate and do other things that I normally don't do," he said.

"But I work on my game a lot, so I was really prepared for this moment."

Lakers coach Frank Vogel revealed that Reaves and Rondo had only suffered minor injuries and are both day-to-day.

Double-doubles from Bam Adebayo (28 points, 10 rebounds, six steals and four assists) and Kyle Lowry (18 points and 11 assists) were in vain for the Heat (7-4), who lost Jimmy Butler due to a sprained ankle.

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