Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis said he felt "completely fine" before aggravating an Achilles injury in the NBA champions' defeat to the Denver Nuggets as he awaits the results of an MRI scan.

Davis, who posted 15 points in 14 minutes, suffered an Achilles strain in the Lakers' 122-105 loss to the Nuggets on Sunday.

The seven-time All-Star was held out of the second half as the Lakers saw their seven-game winning streak snapped.

Davis, who returned from a two-game absence caused by Achilles tendonitis on Friday, will undergo a scan on Monday.

"Just driving, I think that last step kind of re-aggravated the injury I already had," he said. "Now, it feels like an Achilles sprain. 

"Got an MRI tomorrow and try to figure out the next steps to get on the floor."

Davis – who insisted he and the Lakers followed all the right steps for his initial return – added: "Today was the first day that it felt completely fine. I didn't feel it at all this morning, afternoon, pre-game. I felt like I was heading in the right direction. 

"The treatment and rehab side. Another setback but it's part of the game. More so frustrated that I couldn't go out there and play, but you don't want to mess around with this type of injury. Trying to figure out the best steps.

"I felt great coming back the first time against Memphis [Grizzlies]. I'll do the same thing, the same steps to get it back right. Be smarter with it, I was smart the first time, but even smarter this time. Up the treatment more to get it back where it used to be to help the team."

Superstar Lakers team-mate LeBron James, who led the Lakers with 22 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, added: "Just want him to be healthy and get back to full strength. All I care is about his health.

"It's definitely deflating anytime you lose a big player – a big guy on your team.

"We have a lot of things that's built in around AD and a lot of other players. When he goes down, you have to switch up. That hurt us."

Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant will miss at least two games due to a mild left hamstring strain.

The Nets confirmed the injury on Sunday, a day after Durant returned from the NBA's health and safety protocols amid the coronavirus pandemic to help Brooklyn past the Golden State Warriors 134-117.

Durant, who posted 20 points against former team the Warriors in his first game back in the Bay Area, will sit out Monday's clash with the Sacramento Kings and Tuesday's game against the Phoenix Suns.

Former NBA MVP and two-time champion Durant is averaging 29.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game for the Nets this season.

Durant, who sat out his first season in Brooklyn due to an Achilles injury sustained in the 2019 NBA Finals during his time with the Warriors, has missed nine of 28 games in 2020-21.

The star-studded Nets (16-12) are third in the Eastern Conference following back-to-back wins.

The Denver Nuggets ended the Los Angeles Lakers' winning streak in the NBA, while the Milwaukee Bucks slipped to another loss.

Inspired by a Nikola Jokic triple-double of 23 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists, the Nuggets snapped the Lakers' seven-game winning streak with a 122-105 victory on Sunday.

Jamal Murray had a game-high 25 points for the Nuggets (15-11).

LeBron James managed 22 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists for the Lakers, who saw Anthony Davis (15 points in 14 minutes) suffer an Achilles strain.

The Bucks' losing run continued with a 114-109 defeat to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with a triple-double of 24 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists, but the Bucks were beaten.

Antetokounmpo has 100 points, 43 rebounds and 21 assists over the past three games, yet Milwaukee have lost all three.

He joined Russell Westbrook (November 2016) as the only players in the past 30 years to have 100-40-20 over a three-game span but lose all three.

 

Lillard lifts Trail Blazers, Towns shines

Damian Lillard scored 34 points and had 11 assists to see the Portland Trail Blazers end the Dallas Mavericks' four-game winning streak with a 121-118 success.

Luka Doncic led the Mavs with 44 points and nine assists, but he missed a jump shot that would have brough Dallas level with five seconds remaining.

Karl-Anthony Towns' double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds helped the Minnesota Timberwolves overcome the Toronto Raptors 116-112.

The Washington Wizards upset the Boston Celtics 104-91 on the back of 35 points from Bradley Beal.

Lou Williams posted 30 points and 10 assists in the Los Angeles Clippers' 128-111 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

 

Celtics' slump continues

The loss marked Boston's 10th in their past 15 games. Star Jayson Tatum in particular struggled, going three-of-14 from the field for six points in 23 minutes.

 

Dynamic Doncic

Doncic hit an incredible three-pointer in the Mavericks' loss. He was five-of-eight from three-point range.

Sunday's results

Washington Wizards 104-91 Boston Celtics
Detroit Pistons 123-112 New Orleans Pelicans
Minnesota Timberwolves 116-112 Toronto Raptors
San Antonio Spurs 122-110 Charlotte Hornets
Portland Trail Blazers 121-118 Dallas Mavericks
Oklahoma City Thunder 114-109 Milwaukee Bucks
Phoenix Suns 109-90 Orlando Magic
Memphis Grizzlies 124-110 Sacramento Kings
Los Angeles Clippers 128-111 Cleveland Cavaliers
Denver Nuggets 122-105 Los Angeles Lakers

 

76ers at Jazz

The teams leading their respective conferences meet on Monday. The Utah Jazz (22-5) are on a seven-game winning streak ahead of hosting the Philadelphia 76ers (18-9).

Kemba Walker is confident the Boston Celtics will overcome their form slump after falling to another loss on Sunday.

The Celtics suffered their 10th loss in their past 15 games with a 104-91 defeat to the Washington Wizards.

Walker, who posted 25 points in the loss, was upbeat about the Celtics' chances of turning their season around.

"We've got to change some things, and we will. We will," Walker said.

"I'm very confident that we will change things and we will continue to get better. It'll change because it's not a great feeling the way we're playing. It can't get no worse than this. We're going to fix it."

Jaylen Brown also posted 25 points, but Jayson Tatum struggled, going three-of-14 from the field for just six points in 23 minutes.

Walker said the Celtics, who are now 13-13, would work together, with their next outing coming against the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday.

"Teams go through adversity every single year at some point in the season," he said.

"It's all about how you overcome it. The only way you can overcome adversity is by doing it as a whole, doing it together. And that we will do."

Kevin Durant was grateful for the warm reception and tribute video upon his first return to the Golden State Warriors as he led the Brooklyn Nets to a 134-117 win on Saturday.

Durant spent three seasons with the Warriors, winning two NBA Championships and was named Finals MVP twice.

He was absent last season after undergoing surgery on a torn Achilles tendon in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals, and then opted to leave as a free agent in July that year.

Saturday's contest was his first return to face the Warriors after sitting out 2019-20, and he went on to play an important role with 20 points, second only to Kyrie Irving (23) on the Nets' side.

Durant was impressed with the focus the Nets displayed, but he went on to revel in the tribute and reception afforded to him by his former team.

"We came out and played a great game," Durant said afterwards. "We were focused from this morning in shootaround, and it was a good vibe all day.

"The tribute video was cool. I think about those moments daily. Every single moment that I have had in this league, I think about it and try to analyse it and get better.

"My time here in Golden State was so much fun. It was such a big learning experience, especially learning basketball in a different philosophy. I'm going take to that with me for the rest of my life."

Warriors coach Steve Kerr was in charge throughout Durant's three-year spell in the Bay Area and felt the tribute video was the least they could do, and a similar acknowledgement will take place once fans are allowed back in attendance.

"This is something that is such a no-brainer," Kerr said. "When Kevin came here and gave us three years of just incredible basketball, the least we could do is welcome him back with open arms.

"He's a guy that gave everything to us for three years then left with a devastating injury. There should be a lot of love, he did so much for us.''

Victory leaves the Nets third in the Eastern Conference.

The NBA-leading Utah Jazz flexed their muscles with a 112-94 win over the Miami Heat on Saturday.

Utah (22-5) extended their winning streak to seven games after Donovan Mitchell fuelled the Jazz at home to last season's NBA Finals participants the Heat.

Jazz star Mitchell posted 26 points and Rudy Gobert added 16 points and 12 rebounds for Utah, who have won 18 of their last 19 games.

Kendrick Nunn had a team-high 23 points as the Heat had their four-game winning streak snapped.

Meanwhile, Kevin Durant returned from coronavirus protocol to lead the way for the Brooklyn Nets in his reunion with the Golden State Warriors.

Durant, who won two championships over three years with the Warriors before joining the Nets in 2019, scored 20 points in Brooklyn's 134-117 victory.

"My time here at Golden State was so much fun," Durant, who watched a tribute video during the opening quarter, said after his return to Bay Area for the first time since leaving.

"It was such a big learning experience, especially learning the game of basketball, a different philosophy. I'm going to take that with me for the rest of my life."

Kyrie Irving posted 23 points and fellow Nets star James Harden finished with 19 points and 16 assists.

Stephen Curry had a game-high 27 points for the Warriors.

 

Booker stars as Suns sizzle

Devin Booker put up 36 points to inspire the Phoenix Suns to a 120-111 win over Eastern Conference leaders the Philadelphia 76ers. Joel Embiid's 35 points were not enough for the 76ers in Phoenix.

 

Tucker scoreless again

It was another scoreless display from P.J. Tucker in the Houston Rockets' 121-99 rout at the hands of the New York Knicks. In 31 minutes, Tucker missed all four of his field goals, going 0-of-four from three-point range.

 

Jazz dazzle

There is just no stopping the Jazz at the moment. Playing with confidence, Utah put on a show as they highlighted their elite ball movement against the helpless Heat.

 

Saturday's results

Phoenix Suns 120-111 Philadelphia 76ers
New York Knicks 121-99 Houston Rockets
Brooklyn Nets 134-117 Golden State Warriors
Utah Jazz 112-94 Miami Heat
Indiana Pacers 125-113 Atlanta Hawks

 

Lakers at Nuggets

The in-form Los Angeles Lakers (21-6) travel to the Denver Nuggets (14-11) on Sunday. Defending champions the Lakers are riding a seven-game winning streak, while the Nuggets have won back-to-back games.

James Harden has apologised for the "drama" surrounding his exit from the Houston Rockets and wishes his trade to the Brookyln Nets could have been a smoother process.

Former NBA MVP Harden was moved to the Nets one month ago after playing more than eight seasons with Houston.

He joined Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in a star-studded roster, having played eight games early in the season with the Rockets.

Harden's desire to seek a trade had been public knowledge since the offseason but a drawn-out process followed until the 31-year-old was traded after a 17-point loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

After that game Harden called the situation "crazy" and "something that I don't think can be fixed".

Harden was happy the Rockets ultimately granted his wish to move to Brooklyn, but regrets the acrimonious nature of his departure.

"Apologise for how it went down, but I guess I had to do what I had to do in order to get to where I wanted to go," Harden said to ESPN.

"And credit to Houston, they didn't necessarily have to trade me to Brooklyn. They could have traded me anywhere, but those are some stand-up guys over there. 

"And it ended up the right way, but just didn't like how that month or two played out."

Harden insists the circumstances of the weeks leading up to his Rockets exit did not provide a fair reflection of his character.

He added: "I don't like it at all because that's not who I am. The drama, the extra whatever you want to call it, the negativity for me. 

"I don't really like negative energy. That's draining. So I don't like how it necessarily happened.

"The front office knew where I stood and what I wanted. I feel like it could have happened a lot smoother, a lot easier, but it is what it is."

The Nets are 15-12, third in the Eastern Conference, ahead of Saturday's big game at the Golden State Warriors (14-12).

Harden leads the league with 11.0 assists per game in 2020-21, though his scoring average sits at 23.9 points, lower than what he recorded in any of his full seasons with the Rockets.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was full of admiration for the Utah Jazz after his Milwaukee Bucks were on the end of a 129-115 loss to the Western Conference leaders. 

The Jazz improved to 21-5 as four players racked up 25 points or more for the first time in franchise history, with Rudy Gobert (27 points), Joe Ingles (27), Donovan Mitchell (26) and Jordan Clarkson (25) all hitting the mark. 

It represents a sixth win on the bounce for the impressive Jazz, whose 26-game record is the best in their history. 

For his part, Antetokounmpo contributed 29 points and 15 rebounds, but Milwaukee (16-10) slipped to back-to-back defeats. 

However, the 26-year-old insisted there was no shame in losing to the best team in the Western Conference, showering his opponents with praise in the process.

"It's okay, it's nothing to be upset about. It will be hard, especially when you play the best team in the West," Antetokounmpo said. 

"They're moving the ball, they're fighting, they play for one another, they know their role. 

"Whatever they do, they are doing it hard. 

"It just looks fun. Like when I watch them play, it looks fun, it looks easy, it looks simple. 

"For sure, they look like us last year, and man, when you're at that point and you're playing with that confidence, you're hard to beat for sure."

Kevin Durant will make a long-awaited return to the Bay Area on Saturday as the Brooklyn Nets visit the Golden State Warriors in a mouth-watering NBA clash at Chase Center.

It is a game that pits the league's newest 'big three' (Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden) against a Warriors team led by Stephen Curry, whose incredible performances this season merit MVP votes.

But more significantly it is Durant's first road game against the Warriors since leaving them to join the Nets after the 2018-19 season that ended with Golden State losing the NBA Finals to the Toronto Raptors in a series that saw the 2014 MVP suffer an Achilles injury.

Having missed the last three games because of coronavirus contact tracing protocols, Durant has been cleared and will face the team with whom he won two NBA titles and two Finals MVPs, though Curry does not expect his former team-mate to treat the contest any differently.

Reflecting on Durant's time with the Warriors, Curry told a media conference: "Two championships, an unfortunate ending with injuries and not getting it done in the 2019 Finals, but it was some of the best basketball the world has ever seen.

"The ability to put that much talent and experience together and make it work, there was no guarantee it was going to work, and we figured it out and it was an amazing run."

Asked about the emotions of his return, Curry added: "Honestly, I don't know how special it'll be because it's not at Oracle [Arena] and there's no fans, so it's kind of weird that whole vibe.

"We've got a tribute video which he deserves, and hopefully it'll be a moment that he'll appreciate. But outside of that it is kind of weird to be honest, in terms of all the things that have changed since 18-19.

"If you ask him how he feels he'll probably say it's another game and I'm sure that's how it will be once the ball drops on Saturday."

TOP PERFORMERS

Stephen Curry - Golden State Warriors

Curry has bounced back from a 2019-20 season lost to injury in utterly remarkable form.

He is averaging 30 points a game, the only other season in which he has done so was in 2015-16, when he was named the league MVP in a unanimous vote.

Curry is shooting 43.5 per cent from beyond the arc, having made 10 threes in Thursday's win over the Orlando Magic, which he finished with 40 points.

That his tally against the Magic was not close to his season-high is indicative of the level at which he is playing.

The six-time All-Star has a 62-point game and a 57-point game this season, and has topped 30 points on 10 other occasions. Curry is back, and he's back to his best.

James Harden - Brooklyn Nets

Harden may not be scoring at the same level as Curry but his impact this season is undoubted.

The former Houston Rockets star is sixth in the NBA in PAR (Points + Assists + Rebounds) per game with 41.8, so far justifying the Nets' blockbuster trade for his services.

He started the month with his fourth triple-double of the season against the Los Angeles Clippers and has four successive double-doubles since.

Whether it's as a scorer, facilitator or rebounder, the Warriors will have to do all they can to limit Harden's influence.

KEY BATTLE: CAN DRAYMOND STOP DURANT?

With the Warriors still without rookie center James Wiseman because of a wrist injury and DeAndre Jordan out for the Nets, Durant may have to matchup with Draymond Green at center.

In the absence of Wiseman, the Warriors have had to turn to small ball and play Green at the five, and his clash with Durant promises to be a feisty one, given they weren't afraid to get in each other's faces as team-mates.

One of Green's tasks will be to stop Durant from getting into the paint consistently. That is no easy feat, but the Warriors have had success stopping teams in that regard this season.

Their 43.5 points in the paint allowed per game are the sixth-fewest in the NBA. If Green and the Warriors can limit Durant's opportunities to get to the hoop, they will have a much better shot of pulling off the upset.

HEAD TO HEAD

Durant and Irving inspired the Nets to a blowout win over the Warriors to start the new season.

The Nets emerged 125-99 victors, Durant scoring 22 points and leading Brooklyn with a plus-minus rating of plus 26.

That game was illustrative of the massive changes both teams have undergone. It was Brooklyn's second successive win over the Warriors but they had lost their previous eight meetings with one of most dominant teams in NBA history.

The Utah Jazz continued their impressive NBA run with a win over the Milwaukee Bucks, while the Los Angeles Lakers extended their own streak.

The Western Conference-leading Jazz improved to 21-5 courtesy of a 129-115 victory over the Bucks on Friday.

Rudy Gobert (27 points), Joe Ingles (27), Donovan Mitchell (26) and Jordan Clarkson (25) all had 25-plus points for Utah, who have won six straight games.

Gobert also pulled down 12 rebounds in his double-double, while Ingles went seven-of-nine from three-point range, with the Jazz's 21-5 start their best 26-game record in franchise history.

Giannis Antetokounmpo starred for the Bucks with 29 points and 15 rebounds, but Milwaukee (16-10) slipped to back-to-back defeats.

The Lakers extended their winning streak to seven with a 115-105 win over the Memphis Grizzlies.

Anthony Davis (35 points and nine rebounds) and LeBron James (28 points, nine rebounds and eight assists) again led the way for the Lakers (21-6).

 

Mavs win fourth straight as Rozier shines for Hornets

The Dallas Mavericks won a fourth straight game with a 143-130 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans. Luka Doncic had a double-double of 46 points and 12 assists, while Kristaps Porzingis poured in 36 points. It marked the first time in NBA history a pair of foreign-born team-mates each had 35-plus points in a game, as per Stats Perform. Zion Williamson had 36 points for the Pelicans.

Terry Rozier's 41 points lifted the Charlotte Hornets past the Minnesota Timberwolves 120-114.

Kawhi Leonard posted 33 points as the Los Angeles Clippers improved to 19-8 with a 125-106 success over the Chicago Bulls.

Saddiq Bey had a double-double of 30 points and 12 rebounds in the Detroit Pistons' surprise 108-102 win against the Boston Celtics. He was the first Pistons rookie with 30-plus points and 10-plus rebounds since Grant Hill in 1995.

 

Misery for Wizards

The Washington Wizards dropped a second straight game, beaten by the New York Knicks 109-91. The Wizards shot at just 38.2 per cent from the field.

 

Porzingis in form

Porzingis went eight-of-13 from three-point range in the Mavericks' win, including hitting one from the logo.

Friday's results

Charlotte Hornets 120-114 Minnesota Timberwolves
New York Knicks 109-91 Washington Wizards
San Antonio Spurs 125-114 Atlanta Hawks
Dallas Mavericks 143-130 New Orleans Pelicans
Los Angeles Clippers 125-106 Chicago Bulls
Detroit Pistons 108-102 Boston Celtics
Denver Nuggets 97-95 Oklahoma City Thunder
Utah Jazz 129-115 Milwaukee Bucks
Los Angeles Lakers 115-105 Memphis Grizzlies
Portland Trail Blazers 129-110 Cleveland Cavaliers
Orlando Magic 123-112 Sacramento Kings

 

76ers at Suns

The Philadelphia 76ers (18-8) take on a Phoenix Suns (15-9) team riding a four-game winning streak on Saturday.

Rick Carlisle praised Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis' "tremendous" chemistry after the Dallas Mavericks won a fourth straight game.

Doncic (46 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds) and Porzingis (36 points and seven rebounds) led the Mavericks past the New Orleans Pelicans 143-130 on Friday.

It marked the first time in NBA history a pair of foreign-born team-mates each had 35-plus points in a game, as per Stats Perform.

Carlisle hailed the pair after the Mavericks improved to 13-14 to sit 11th in the Western Conference.

"They're both great offensive players, they're both very unique, they fit together extremely well, their games complement one another extremely well," the Mavericks head coach told a news conference.

"The chemistry was tremendous. Balls were being delivered on time, on target, people stepping into shots in rhythm. It was great stuff to watch."

Despite their win, the Mavericks gave up 130 points to Zion Williamson (36) and the Pelicans.

While Carlisle knows what his offense is capable of, he is eager to see the defense improve.

"This is why I keep talking about defense and I know some of our guys are talking about defense. This kind of shot-making is great, is it always sustainable? Of course not. Not every team can keep up this kind of pace, but we'll certainly try.

"This is the reason you've got to have a defense that'll hold up on nights maybe when you don't have it going quite like this. With the way we can space the floor, the way we can penetrate the ball, the way we can shoot the ball, all those kinds of things, we're going to create our share of problems for teams with our offense.

"We've just got to keep working on the basics – transition, protecting the rim, closing out, contesting and rebounding, those are the main things."

Stephen Curry believes he is experiencing one of the best moments in his career and plans to let his game do the talking as the MVP conversation heats up.

The Golden State Warriors improved to 14-12 thanks to a 111-105 victory over the Orlando Magic, with Curry contributing 10 three-pointers in a 40-point haul. He also had eight rebounds, five assists and four steals.

It extended Curry's career-best streak of making at least four three-pointers to 13 games and was the 17th time he has reached double digits for makes from beyond the arc – no player in NBA history has more than five such games.

Curry acknowledged that the Warriors' win-loss record could have a negative impact on his chances of being named MVP, but he wants to solely remain focused on prolonging his impressive form.

"The game speaks for itself – 15-16, 14-15, those two years is the exact same kind of conversation," said Curry.

"Obviously, that's an amazing accomplishment, and being in that conversation with all that we've been through in the last two or three years, that means something.

"Those narratives make themselves as you go through the season and my job is to be at the level I expect to be and usually that means you're at the top of the end of the season.

"I really try not to get distracted by that because it kind of taints the moment. If I do my job, I'll be there at the end of the season."

Asked if Curry should be in the MVP conversation, Warriors coach Steve Kerr replied: "How could he not be? He's other-worldly."

He added on Curry's latest display: "It is routine, which is the crazy part of it. You just come to expect it.

"These threes that he hits when there's nothing there offensively and he just uses his dribble to free himself up, not exactly with a ton of space just a few inches of space, then he rises up and you expect every single one of them to go in, it's kind of crazy. He's in a really good groove."

Two-time MVP Curry has scored at least 30 points in four straight games and will match the best run of his career if he extends that streak to five against the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday.

While not looking to compare parts of his career, Curry acknowledged he is experiencing one of his best stretches in the NBA.

"One hundred per cent, but it's all about what's happening now. I don't compare it to what's happened in the past," said Curry.

"I obviously know the levels I've been at and our team's been at and where we're trying to go as a team, but definitely in terms of how I'm playing – I've been saying it for a while – I feel confident and strong and in rhythm. It's a good feeling and I want to keep getting better, that's the goal."

Stephen Curry delivered another dazzling display of three-point shooting as the Golden State Warriors overpowered the Orlando Magic 111-105 in the NBA.

Curry went into the contest on a career-best streak of 12 consecutive games scoring at least four three-pointers, and the two-time MVP wasted no time extending that run to 13 inside the first quarter at Chase Center on Thursday.

James Harden is the only other player in NBA history to nail four threes in 13 straight games, after putting up 40 points, draining 10 of 19 from beyond the arc.

Curry has posted at least 25 points while shooting at least 50.0 per cent from the field in each of his last eight games. According to Stats Perform, it is the longest streak by any guard since Michael Jordan did so in 11 successive games in 1995-96.

Warriors team-mate Andrew Wiggins scored 21 points in support, while Magic star Nikola Vucevic hit a 25-point, 13-rebound double-double in reply.

Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis admitted he is not prepared to take any risks with an Achilles problem that has ruled him out of the NBA champions' last two games.

The injury was revealed on Sunday after Davis produced a 30-point haul against the Detroit Pistons, and the seven-time All-Star subsequently missed a pair of midweek wins against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Davis featured in 83 of 92 games to help the Lakers end their 10-year championship drought last season - his first in Los Angeles following a blockbuster trade from the New Orleans Pelicans.

And although Davis insisted he can play through the pain barrier, the thought of rushing back and aggravating the issue in the lead up to the NBA playoffs is something the 27-year-old is not willing to entertain.

"I think every other game... I've wanted to play in. This is just a different circumstance with it being an Achilles," Davis said, after suffering tendonosis in his right heel.

"If it was a quad or finger, anything like that, I wouldn't mind playing. But I just don't really want to play around with an Achilles.

"Today was the first day we were able to practice, get some run-in with some guys to really test it out.

"I just don't want to play a game where I still feel it and then get hurt and now I'm out for the playoffs or whatever or for multiple weeks."

The Lakers extended their winning streak to six games with Wednesday’s 114-113 overtime victory against the Thunder and sit second in the Eastern Conference at 20-6.

The defending champions host the Memphis Grizzlies at Staples Center on Friday and Davis was back on court during a specially-arranged Thursday practice session.

Although Davis was also dealing with soreness in his right calf, head coach Frank Vogel seemed upbeat about his chances of returning sooner rather than later.

"We just did some drill work, no-contact drill work, which he did all of. He seemed fine," Vogel said.

"We'll see how he feels tomorrow before making any decisions on the game."

Three weeks ago, it appeared this season was shaping up to be like each of the previous 14 for the Sacramento Kings.

A 115-96 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on January 20 marked the sixth defeat in seven games for the Kings and dropped their record to 5-10 – third worst in the Western Conference.

A month into the season and it was already looking like Sacramento would match the Clippers' dubious record of 15 consecutive seasons without a playoff berth from 1976-77 to 1990-91 for the longest playoff drought in NBA history.

Now one-third of the way into their season, however, the Kings have pulled within a half-game of the eighth-placed Golden State Warriors in the West on the heels of a 7-2 stretch. on Friday night, they take on the Orlando Magic.

The turnaround began two nights after the blowout loss to the Clippers with a 103-94 victory over the New York Knicks. The Kings' performance that night was emblematic of how they've managed to climb back into the playoff picture, but is their formula for winning sustainable?

Against the Knicks, the Kings found themselves up 89-87 with just under four minutes remaining after New York went on an 8-0 run. Sacramento then went on a 7-0 run of their own, punctuated by a Tyrese Haliburton three-pointer with 2:35 to play to put the game away.

The Kings ended up scoring 14 of the game's final 21 points, and over the next few weeks displayed a proficiency for closing out tight games.

Prior to January 22, the Kings had the NBA's third-worst fourth-quarter point differential at minus-2.8 while ranking 23rd in fourth-quarter scoring with an average of 25.5 points. Since then, they are averaging 28.1 points over the final 12 minutes of games.

It's been in the game's final moments, however, that the Kings have really excelled. Their 10.0-scoring average in the final three minutes since January 22 is the best in the NBA.

The Kings are finding ways to grind out victories and have a league-high eight wins this season by five points or less, but this typically is not a blueprint for success in the NBA.

The Kings' 5.9-point differential in their wins is the lowest in the NBA, and no team have finished a season with a point differential of less than 6.0 in their victories since 2005-06, when the Portland Trail Blazers were at 5.6 and the Atlanta Hawks were at 5.8. Sacramento, however, do not want to be too closely linked to those teams, as Portland were a league-worst 21-61 while Atlanta were not much better at 26-56.

Winning close games rarely leads to long-term success, seeing as only one team in the last 30 years have reached the playoffs while having a point differential of less than 8.0 in their wins – the 2007-08 Cleveland Cavaliers at 7.8.

In fact, in NBA history only two teams have reached the playoffs while outscoring their opponents by fewer than 7.0 points in their wins and those instances came well before man even walked on the Moon – the 1954-55 Rochester Royals at 6.6 and the 1948-49 St Louis Bombers at 6.8.

Grinding out wins over the long haul of a full season takes its toll and it may have caught up with the Kings in their last time on the court.

In Tuesday's 119-111 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, the Kings seemed to tire down the stretch, missing seven straight shots over a three-minute stretch in the fourth quarter as the Sixers went on a 10-0 run to turn a two-point deficit into an eight-point lead with just over four and a half minutes to play.

Sacramento were playing for the third time in four days, so they were playing on tired legs, but it's also possible fatigue was setting in because each of their previous three games went down to the wire and the minutes are piling up for their stars.

De'Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield each played the entire fourth quarter on Tuesday and have regularly been playing in crunch time.

Since January 22, the Kings have four players ranking in the top 20 in fourth-quarter minutes – Haliburton (1st, 10.7), Fox (11th, 9.9), Hield (12th, 9.7) and Harrison Barnes (18th, 9.4).

The Nets are the only other team to have more than two players ranking in the top 20 in fourth-quarter minutes in that period.

Sacramento have counted on Fox down the stretch, as his 11 field-goal attempts in late and close situations since January 22 trails only the Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James (15) and the Phoenix Suns' Chris Paul (13) for the most in the NBA. Late and close situations here are defined as the last two minutes of the final quarter when the game is within four points.

Fox's shots, however, weren't falling on Tuesday.

Over a five-game stretch from January 30 to February 7, Fox led the league with an average of 13.2 fourth-quarter points (minimum three games) while shooting 57.8 per cent. He misfired on 10 of 13 shots, though, while scoring seven points in Tuesday’s fourth quarter.

Haliburton's fourth quarter – as well as his third quarter for that matter – was even more forgettable. His final points on Tuesday came on a three-pointer with 2:00 remaining before halftime.

It was a sub-par showing for someone who is shooting at a staggering clip when the game moves to the fourth quarter.

The 20-year-old rookie is making 60.6 per cent (40-of-66) on all fourth-quarter shots – tied for fourth in the NBA with the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo among the 109 players with at least 50 shot attempts in the fourth – and has been connecting at an even higher percentage from beyond the arc.

Shooting an absurd 61.5 per cent on three-pointers (24-of-39) in the fourth quarter, Haliburton is on track to become the only player seeing regular minutes to shoot at least 60 per cent from deep in the final quarter in the last 15 seasons. Since 2005-06, Kyle Korver for the 2014-15 Atlanta Hawks has the highest fourth-quarter shooting percentage on three-pointers at 57.4, among players with at least 50 3-point attempts.

Haliburton has also made seven clutch three-pointers this season to trail only James (11), the Charlotte Hornets' Devonte’ Graham (eight) and the Brooklyn Nets' Kyrie Irving (eight) for most in the league. Here, clutch is defined as the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime when a game is within six points.

Considering Haliburton is knocking down 44.1 per cent of his shots in the game's first three quarters, his fourth-quarter shooting has been especially baffling. His increase in shooting of 16.5 per cent from the first three quarters to the fourth is the biggest in the NBA this season (minimum 125 field goal attempts in first three quarters and 50 in fourth).

His shooting has been exceptional but hitting a rookie wall could be a concern. Tuesday marked the 22nd game of the season for Haliburton – the exact same number of games he played all of last season collegiately at Iowa State.

The fourth-quarter exploits of Haliburton and Fox have played a big role in Sacramento's climb in the standings, but the climb is just beginning. The season is only a little more than seven weeks old and time will tell if the Kings have the strength to continue their playoff push.

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