Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis has been cleared to resume full on-court activities and could return for the upcoming series against the NBA-leading Utah Jazz.

Davis has been sidelined since exiting the NBA champions' game against the Denver Nuggets on February 14 as he recovers from tendinosis and a calf strain in his right leg.

The Lakers have also been without superstar LeBron James due to an ankle injury, but head coach Frank Vogel said the team are close to welcoming back Davis.

Davis missed Thursday's clash with the Boston Celtics, but Vogel did not rule out the eight-time All-Star from potentially returning in the Utah series across April 17 and April 19.

The Lakers are more hopeful Davis will be ready to face the Dallas Mavericks on April 22.

"Good news. He was evaluated again upon the return of this trip," Vogel told reporters on Thursday.

"He has been cleared for full on-court activity. Full practice, anything we want to do with him to begin his real ramp-up to begin his return to play.

"All the court work he's been doing until this point has been to get him to be fully cleared to participate in full practice.

"Obviously he's not playing tonight [Thursday]. It's unlikely he plays in the two Utah games, but not out of the question. Hopefully he is available after that."

Davis, who will return on a minutes restriction, was averaging 22.5 points per game this season before the injury – his lowest since his second year in the league with the New Orleans Pelicans (20.8).

The 28-year-old's average of 8.4 rebounds in 2020-21 is the lowest since his rookie season (8.2) in 2012-13.

Vogel's Lakers (34-21) are fifth in the Western Conference, seven games adrift of the high-flying Jazz (41-14).

James Wiseman's rookie season in the NBA has come to a premature end after the Golden State Warriors center underwent knee surgery on Thursday. 

Wiseman had a procedure in Los Angeles to repair a right meniscal tear, the NBA team announced. 

The 20-year-old is expected to be healthy for the start of the 2021-22 season.

Wiseman was the second overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft but had trouble staying in the line-up in his first season with Golden State, starting 27 of his 39 games and averaging 21.4 minutes along with 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. 

He ranks third among rookies in rebounding, fifth in scoring, fourth in field-goal percentage and fifth in blocks (0.92 per game).

Golden State's Wiseman missed much of February with a wrist injury before returning in a bench role for several weeks. 

Wiseman re-joined the starting line-up on March 23 and his play was inconsistent before a strong showing in what turned out to be his final full game of the season. 

He made nine of 11 field goals and scored 18 points against the Washington Wizards on April 9, but left the following day's game against the Houston Rockets in the second quarter after landing awkwardly on a dunk attempt. 

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr told reporters earlier in the week that Wiseman was taking the injury news as well as he could. 

"He's just been through an awful lot this season," Kerr said. "And he has a really good way about him and he's at minimum putting up a good front, but I know he's really crushed, but he's hanging in there."

Perhaps no team in the NBA is on as interesting and open-ended of a course as the New Orleans Pelicans.

In a league where most teams fear the purgatory of mediocrity, New Orleans have seemingly set up a permanent home there.

The Pelicans are 279-340 since establishing their new nickname in 2013-14, including a 25-30 mark this season that would leave them out of the playoff picture if they remained the Western Conference's number 11 team.

Less than two years ago, the Crescent City had a franchise cornerstone and consensus top-10 player in Anthony Davis, who would soon force the Pelicans into trading him to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Last offseason, New Orleans shipped two-way guard Jrue Holiday to the Milwaukee Bucks in a four-team deal.

Along the way, New Orleans also let Christian Wood and Julius Randle slip through their fingers.

Despite the exodus of top-level talent in exchange for draft selections and pick swaps, the Pelicans' situation is far from a full rebuild. The Davis trade netted them Brandon Ingram, who made his first All-Star team last season and continues to improve.

Winning the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery despite having just a six per cent chance has been a franchise-altering moment that resulted in the addition of Zion Williamson.

While most teams in their position would prioritise the future over all else, building around Williamson, Ingram and whatever young talent comes from a sizeable pile of future draft picks, the Pelicans have given significant playing time to veterans Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe and JJ Redick, before the latter was traded at last month's deadline.

But can the Pelicans defy the odds by attempting to win both now and in the future? Perhaps more importantly, are Williamson and Ingram the right cornerstones around which to build a team?

Williamson appears to be the unquestioned future of the Pelicans, utilising a unique combination of physique, athleticism and skillset to dominate inside despite being only as tall as many guards in the league.

The former one-and-done star at Duke is shooting 61.8 per cent from the floor this season, on pace to set an NBA record for a player listed at six-foot-six or shorter. Charles Barkley currently holds the record, shooting 60.0 per cent in the 1989-90 season for the Philadelphia 76ers.

While Williamson's shooting has improved from last season to this term, he has shown even greater growth in other areas. His free-throw shooting has jumped from 64.0 per cent to 70.1 per cent, and his assist-to-turnover ratio has improved from 0.85 to 1.45 season.

Williamson's performance has proven that his abbreviated, 24-game rookie season was no fluke and has only missed five games in his sophomore campaign to relieve concerns that he is an injury-prone player.

But as good as he has been, Williamson's size allows him to only match up against opposing power forwards, standing too short to defend most centers and unable to move his 285-pound frame quickly enough to stay with most wings. This would be a limitation that is easily managed if Ingram were not also best suited to play power forward, placing the pair's long-term compatibility into question.

The Pelicans have typically started Adams at center, with Williamson and Ingram starting at the forward spots, and Adams and Williamson have a tough time switching onto other players while playing defense. While talent has led to New Orleans having the league's ninth most efficient offense this season at 112.1 points per 100 possessions, this rigid alignment has resulted in the NBA's third worst defense, allowing 113.0 points per 100 possessions.

Williamson appears to be more valuable than Ingram, although the Pelicans are far from being forced to choose between their 20- and 23-year-old stars. New Orlean's net rating is plus-0.5 this season with Williamson on the court and minus-3.2 with him on the bench. The team have a minus-0.8 net rating with Ingram playing and a minus-1.1 net rating with Ingram sitting.

Perhaps more concerning is that fact that the Pelicans apparently have yet to realise that Williamson has surpassed Ingram as the team's best player. Ingram shoots 18.1 times per game, compared to Williamson's 16.6. Ingram also has 65 field-goal attempts in the last three minutes of fourth quarters, compared to Williamson's 50.

With that being said, the Pelicans are 21-13 when Ingram scores 22 points or more and are 4-17 when he scores fewer than 22 points or does not play.

Offense appears to come easily to both Williamson and Ingram, but can the pair evolve enough to ever play even league-average defense?

The problem is the reverse of another pair publicly deemed incompatible – the 76ers' Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons – two elite defensive players who do not mesh perfectly on offense.

Despite their warts, Embiid and Simmons are in their fourth season together and have Philadelphia sitting atop the Eastern Conference at 38-17, with the former averaging nearly 30 points per game and the latter making a bid for Defensive Player of the Year.

Perhaps in two or three years – and with a better supporting cast – Ingram and Williamson can help the Pelicans grow into contenders in the west.

But when the Pelicans' stars are at their peaks, players like Adams, Bledsoe and James Johnson will have moved on. New Orleans better hope they have enough assets and supporting players in place after investing in a seemingly short-sighted run at the 2021 playoffs.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was listed as available for the Milwaukee Bucks' matchup with the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday after missing the previous six games.

The two-time NBA MVP has not played since matching his season high with 47 points against the Portland Trail Blazers on April 2.

Antetokounmpo's absence due to knee soreness appears to have ended his hopes of claiming the MVP award for a third straight year, with Nikola Jokic meanwhile continuing to impress and Joel Embiid returning from injury.

But the Bucks will be delighted to have their talisman back out on the floor when they face the in-form Hawks.

The 'Greek Freak', who had never previously missed more than two consecutive games in his NBA career, leads Milwaukee with 28.8 points, 11.4 rebounds and 6.2 assists this season.

While Antetokounmpo was out, the Bucks went 3-3, although they remain third in the Eastern Conference with a 34-20 record.

Thursday's opponents Atlanta are now fourth after a run of seven wins in eight games.

The Chicago Bulls' fading playoff hopes have taken another blow as All-Star Zach LaVine is set to miss some time. 

LaVine is in the NBA's health and safety protocol amid the coronavirus pandemic, the team confirmed on Thursday.

He will miss at least Friday's game against the Memphis Grizzlies. 

The Bulls had been scheduled to practice on Thursday, but it was called off because of health and safety protocols, a team spokesperson told reporters. 

Entering Thursday's action, the Bulls (22-32) were in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, holding a one-game lead over the Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards for the final spot in the play-in tournament.   

LaVine is averaging a career-best 27.5 points per game. He scored 30 points and added seven assists in a loss to the Orlando Magic on Wednesday.

Chicago have dropped four games in a row and 12 of their last 16.

 

Kobe Bryant once called Michael Jordan the ideal candidate to present him into the Basketball Hall of Fame. The late, great Los Angeles Lakers legend will get his wish.

The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame announced its list of presenters for the 2020 class on Thursday, with Jordan named to present Bryant in a fitting posthumous tribute.

The induction ceremony, delayed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, will take place on May 15 in Uncasville, Connecticut. Bryant was selected for induction as a first-year eligible in November, 10 months after he and his daughter, Gianna, died in a helicopter crash in California.

Bryant called Jordan among his biggest influences during his 20-year playing career in which he compiled the fourth-highest points total in NBA history and led the Lakers to five championships, one less than his idol won with the Chicago Bulls. When asked by Complex magazine in a 2017 interview who he would want to enshrine him into the Hall of Fame, the 18-time All-Star quickly mentioned both Jordan and his former Lakers coach, Phil Jackson.

Though their playing careers only overlapped by four years, Jordan and Bryant developed a lasting friendship that was evident when Jordan gave an emotional speech during Bryant's memorial service in February 2020.

Jordan will also be presenting Baylor women's coach Kim Mulkey during next month's ceremonies, while several other of his Hall of Fame contemporaries will be part of the festivities.

Some of the other notable presenters include David Robinson, who will induct former San Antonio Spurs team-mate Tim Duncan. Isiah Thomas will present Kevin Garnett, while Hakeem Olajuwon will be the co-presenter for his former Houston Rockets coach, Rudy Tomjanovich, along with Rockets great Calvin Murphy.

The full class of 2020 inductees consists of Bryant, Mulkey, Duncan, Garnett, Tomjanovich, long-time FIBA executive Patrick Baumann, former WNBA star Tamika Catchings, former Division II national champion coach Barbara Stevens and ex-college coach Eddie Sutton.

LaMarcus Aldridge has announced his immediate retirement after experiencing a health scare in what turned out to be his final NBA game.

Aldridge revealed that he played against the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday while dealing with an irregular heartbeat – an issue that became worse following the 126-101 defeat for the Brooklyn Nets.

The seven-time All-Star was listed as out due to a non-COVID-related illness for the Nets' next two outings in the regular season, against the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Philadelphia 76ers.

Now the full extent of the issue has been revealed by the 35-year-old in a statement posted on social media, during which he made clear the time has come to put his health – and also his family – first.

"Today, I write this letter with a heavy heart. My last game, I played while dealing with an irregular heartbeat. Later on that night, my rhythm got even worse, which really worried me even more," Aldridge explained.

"The next morning, I told the team what was going on and they were great getting me to the hospital and getting me checked out. Though I’m better now, what I felt with my heart that night was still one of the scariest things I’ve experienced.

"With that being said, I've made the difficult decision to retire from the NBA. For 15 years, I've put basketball first, and now it is time to put my health and family first."

Aldridge had only joined the Nets at the end of March as a free agent, averaging 12.8 points in five games after agreeing a contract buyout with the San Antonio Spurs.

However, the second overall pick by the Chicago Bulls in the 2006 draft spent the majority of his career with the Portland Trail Blazers, scoring 12,562 points to sit third on the franchise's all-time list.

Signed by the Spurs ahead of the 2015-16 season, Aldridge helped San Antonio reach the Western Conference Finals in 2017, though they were swept by the Golden State Warriors in that series.

"I'm thankful for everything this game has given me: the great memories, including all the ups and downs, and the friendships I've made and will keep with me forever," Aldridge continued.

"I thank Portland for drafting a skinny Texas kid and giving him a chance. The city of Portland has given me some unforgettable years.

"They will always remain in my heart. I want to thank the Spurs for letting me into the family and giving me five fun years.

"Last but not least, I want to thank Brooklyn. You wanted me for me. In a game that's changing so much, you asked me to come and just do what I do, which was good to hear. I’m sorry it didn't get to last long, but I've definitely had fun being a part of this special group.

"You never know when something will come to an end, so make sure you enjoy it every day. I can truly say I did just that."

Aldridge played in 1,029 NBA games and finishes up averaging 19.4 points and 8.2 rebounds. 

Luka Doncic sunk a buzzer-beating three-pointer for the Dallas Mavericks against the Memphis Grizzlies and declared: "Those are the best feelings ever."

The Slovenian took centre stage in Memphis as he posted 29 points, sealing a 114-113 victory with just 1.8 seconds left on the clock to earn the nickname 'Houdini' from his coach Rick Carlisle.

Grayson Allen had only just missed two free throws for the Grizzlies, making the triumph even sweeter for the Mavs.

"I was really surprised when it went in," said Doncic, whose exploits earned praise on Twitter from LeBron James. "Those are the best feelings ever.

"Sometimes you're going to make it, but sometimes you're going to miss it, too.

"You've got to take that, too. I think that's the most important part. If my team trusts me in that moment, I'll keep working on it."

Coach Carlisle compared the Mavs' talisman to the legendary Harry Houdini, conceding his team had pulled off a miraculous escape.

"In those situations, you pull off a win in a game like that once in a blue moon," he said.

"It just doesn't happen very often. Luka made one of the signature, special shots that you're going to see for a long time.

"This is one of those joyous nights where we escaped. We had Houdini. He got us out of here alive.

"He's just a very, very special and unique guy when it comes to these kinds of things. He sees angles and possibilities and has a belief system that very few of us can fathom. Pretty amazing stuff."

The Mavs are now 30-24, sitting seventh in the Western Conference.

The Philadelphia 76ers held off a late charge from the short-handed Brooklyn Nets 123-117 to take over top spot in the Eastern Conference on Wednesday. 

Joel Embiid had 39 points and 13 rebounds to lead the 76ers (38-17) past the visiting Nets, while Tobias Harris added 26 points and Ben Simmons 17 on home court midweek.

In the second game of a back-to-back, Brooklyn (37-18) played without Kevin Durant, James Harden, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge, though Kyrie Irving returned and scored 37 points after missing Tuesday's game for personal reasons. 

Irving (23) and Embiid (21) both cleared 20 points in the first half, with the latter achieving the feat for the NBA-best 14th time this season.

Philadelphia led by 22 points in the fourth quarter before the Brooklyn reserves rallied to cut the deficit to three, but the 76ers held on to win after putting All-Star pair Embiid and Simmons back in the game. 

In Memphis, Luka Doncic helped the Dallas Mavericks expand their seeding advantage against the Grizzlies by hitting a buzzer-beating three-pointer for a dramatic 114-113 victory. 

Doncic posted 29 points and Kristaps Porzingis added 21 of his own for the Mavericks (30-24), who are seventh in the Western Conference with the Grizzlies (27-26) just behind. 

Grayson Allen scored 23 points for Memphis but missed two free throws with 2.2 seconds remaining to open the door for Doncic to win it. 

 

Curry maintains hot shooting hand

Stephen Curry scored 42 points, highlighted by a 25-point third quarter in which he did not miss a shot from the field, as the Golden State Warriors routed the Oklahoma City Thunder 147-109. Coming off a 53-point game on Monday, Curry made all eight of his shots from the floor, six of them three-pointers, as the Warriors blew open the game with a 50-point third quarter. In all, he made 11 three-pointers, the second time in his career with successive games of at least 10 three-pointers. The two-time MVP has hit 10-plus threes in back-to-back games for the second time in his career – he is the only player to do so multiple times.

MVP candidate Nikola Jokic's 15th triple-double of the season – 17 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds – guided the Denver Nuggets past the Miami Heat 123-106.

Despite the absence of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Serge Ibaka and Patrick Beverley, the Los Angeles Clippers recorded their seventh consecutive victory by topping the Detroit Pistons 100-98.

 

Jackson makes it hurt for Pistons

The Pistons fell to 16-39, the worst record in the Eastern Conference, when their former star Reggie Jackson hit a game-winning jumper with 2.3 seconds remaining. Detroit had led by five points inside the final minute before collapsing in the closing seconds. 

 

Westbrook does it all once again

Russell Westbrook continues to do it all for the Washington Wizards, posting his sixth triple double in succession with 25 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists in a 123-111 victory over the Sacramento Kings. It is the fourth six-game streak of his career. The rest of NBA history has three combined.

 

Wednesday's results

Brooklyn Nets 123-117 Philadelphia 76ers
Milwaukee Bucks 130-105 Minnesota Timberwolves
Cleveland Cavaliers 103-90 Charlotte Hornets
Toronto Raptors 117-112 San Antonio Spurs
Los Angeles Clippers 100-98 Detroit Pistons
Orlando Magic 115-106 Chicago Bulls
New York Knicks 116-106 New Orleans Pelicans
Indiana Pacers 132-124 Houston Rockets
Golden State Warriors 147-109 Oklahoma City Thunder
Dallas Mavericks 114-113 Memphis Grizzlies
Denver Nuggets 123-106 Miami Heat
Washington Wizards 123-111 Sacramento Kings

 

Celtics at Lakers

A classic NBA rivalry is renewed as the Boston Celtics (29-26) visit defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers (34-21) on Thursday. Jayson Tatum will be looking to lead the Celtics to a fifth successive win.

The Philadelphia 76ers are back on top in the Eastern Conference and All-Star Ben Simmons said the NBA championship hopefuls intend to stay there.

Simmons scored 17 points to complement MVP candidate Joel Embiid, who led the way with 39 points and 13 rebounds in Wednesday's 123-117 victory over short-handed rivals the Brooklyn Nets.

The 76ers almost surrendered a 22-point lead before holding to improve to 38-17 at the top of the east, ahead of the star-studded Nets (37-18), who were without Kevin Durant, James Harden, LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin.

"We want that one seed," Simmons told reporters post-game.

"We have a pretty tough schedule coming up with Milwaukee and the Clippers, but I believe we're more than capable of it."

76ers head coach Doc Rivers attempted to rest his two stars in the fourth quarter against a depleted Brooklyn team, but All-Star duo Simmons and Embiid had to return late and close out the win. 

"They should not have had to come back in," Rivers said. 

Philadelphia were not about to risk letting the game slip away considering the stakes.

The 76ers are now 21-5 at home and remaining on top in the east would keep them there throughout the early rounds of the playoffs. 

Embiid had his 11th game this season with 30-plus points and 10-plus rebounds. It is tied with Denver Nuggets star and fellow MVP contender Nikola Jokic for the second most in the NBA, only behind Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.

"That fourth quarter, that come back, it was just weird," Embiid said. "I will say, I felt like I sat too long and I kinda lost my rhythm. Them fronting and trapping had nothing to do with how our play in that stretch when I came back.

"We just didn't have the same physicality that we had for the first three quarters."

Should the 76ers meet the Nets in the playoffs, Philadelphia know they will see a far different team than they did Wednesday, but he is not concerned. 

"We know exactly who they are and they know exactly who we are," Rivers told reporters.

"When the playoffs start, it's a whole new beast. We'll be ready for them and I'm sure they'll be ready for us."

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash said securing the Eastern Conference's number one seed would be "valuable" but not at the expense of losing players to injury as his short-handed team lost the top spot to rivals the Philadelphia 76ers.

The star-studded Nets (37-18) were without Kevin Durant, James Harden, LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin for Wednesday's 123-117 defeat away to fellow NBA championship hopefuls the 76ers (38-17).

After posting 31 points in 27 minutes against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday – just his third appearance since a 23-game injury absence – the Nets opted to sit former MVP Durant and avoid back-to-back outings.

Despite missing most of their stars, though Kyrie Irving (37 points) returned, the Nets almost upstaged the 76ers in the highly anticipated showdown, rallying from 22 points down to close within 118-115 with just over one minute remaining.

"It'd be great to have the number one seed. I think it means a lot, it's valuable," Nash said afterwards. "But not at the expense of losing players or prolonging our injury situation.

"So I think we have to be very careful and make sure that our guys get to the finish line as whole as possible."

Durant has been averaging 28.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game this season.

He is also shooting a career-high 44.8 per cent from three-point range, while the two-time NBA champion (53.5) only boasted a better field-goal percentage in 2016-17 (53.7).

On Durant's absence, Nash responded to suggestions the two-time NBA champion was held out to keep Philadelphia guessing to how Brooklyn – eyeing a maiden title – might operate as a full and healthy unit in the playoffs.

"I think when you start to really try to be cute, it backfires most of the time," Nash said. "It wasn't strategic. It was, this is what this is the availability we have."

Irving – who returned from a personal issue after sitting out the Timberwolves matchup – starred for the Nets, but he watched from the sidelines as Brooklyn's reserves rallied down the stretch.

"Just played their hearts out," Irving said. "That's all you can ask coming out here to play the game that we all love. Just to go out there and compete. You know I'm sure they were chomping at the bit.

"Especially to get that win down the stretch for us and I feel like they grew as a group, we grew as a team and they learned some things out there playing against a high level playoff team that we can potentially see down the line. So it was a fun game overall."

The high-flying Los Angeles Clippers will try to keep their winning streak alive in the NBA with much of their star power on the bench. 

Amid a six-game winning streak, the Clippers will be missing Paul George (rest) and Serge Ibaka (back tightness) for Wednesday's game against the lowly Detroit Pistons.

Kawhi Leonard (sore foot) and Patrick Beverley (hand) will also continue to sit out as their injuries heal.

Clippers star Leonard has missed the last two games, while Beverley has been absent for three consecutive outings.

Despite their injury woes, the Clippers (38-18) enter the game with the longest active winning streak in the league. 

George, who is continuing to work his way back from a toe injury, contributed 36 points, seven rebounds and eight assists in Tuesday's victory over the Indiana Pacers. 

The Brooklyn Nets will be undermanned for Wednesday's blockbuster NBA matchup with Eastern Conference rivals the Philadelphia 76ers after Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin were ruled out.

Brooklyn and Philadelphia are set to do battle in a first-place showdown midweek – the two championship hopefuls share 37-17 win-loss records atop the east.

But the Nets will be without superstar Durant (hamstring – injury management) and former All-Stars Aldridge (illness – non-covid related) and Griffin (knee – injury management) as the trio join James Harden (hamstring) on the sidelines.

The star-studded Nets, however, do welcome back Kyrie Irving after he missed Tuesday's 127-97 rout of the Minnesota Timberwolves due to personal reasons.

Former MVP Durant was in doubt for the 76ers clash after playing 27 minutes against the Timberwolves.

Durant posted 31 points on 11-for-15 shooting in his third appearance following a 23-game injury absence.

The Nets-Timberwolves matchup was initially scheduled for Monday, but it was pushed back in the aftermath of Daunte Wright being shot and killed by a police officer in Minneapolis.

It meant Durant faced the prospect of back-to-back games, which the Nets opted to avoid as they eye their maiden NBA title.

Durant is averaging 28.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists for the star-studded Nets this season.

He is also shooting a career-high 44.8 per cent from three-point range, while the two-time NBA champion (53.5) only boasted a better field-goal percentage in 2016-17 (53.7).

The top two teams in the Eastern Conference do battle in Philadelphia on Wednesday as the 76ers host the Brooklyn Nets.

Philadelphia and Brooklyn are tied atop the conference going into a mouth-watering clash.

Yet the Nets will again be without their full complement of stars at Wells Fargo Center, with James Harden struggling due to a hamstring issue and Kyrie Irving having missed Tuesday's game in Minnesota for personal reasons.

But they do have Kevin Durant at their disposal for a contest in which the Nets must try to contain an MVP candidate.


TOP PERFORMERS

Joel Embiid - Philadelphia 76ers

Embiid is expected to miss out on the NBA's top individual honour, with Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets the firm favourite, but he has continued to present a strong case.

He is averaging a career-high 29.6 points per game and has been key to each of the 76ers' past four wins, scoring 24, 35, 27 and 36 points in those contests.

Kevin Durant - Brooklyn Nets

Durant has had his fair share of injury issues this season, but the Nets' sole healthy superstar carried them in a rearranged meeting with the Timberwolves on Tuesday.

The two-time NBA Finals MVP shot 11 of 15, including four of six from three-point range, to rack up 31 points. He will need similar production if the Nets are to see off the Sixers on this unanticipated back to back.

KEY BATTLE - A DUEL BEHIND THE ARC

Durant's performance was indicative of how the Nets have thrived this season. Their three-point field goal percentage of 39.0 is the third-best in the NBA.

In the Sixers, however, they are coming up against a team that has done an impressive job of stopping teams getting hot from deep. Only six teams have allowed fewer three-point makes per game than Philadelphia (11.8).

HEAD TO HEAD

The Sixers came out on top in February's meeting with the Nets, prevailing 124-108 and they have dominated this matchup in recent times.

Philadelphia have won three of the previous four meetings between the two and have not lost a home game to the Nets since December 2018.

Paul George has a had a "breakthrough" after putting his toe injury into perspective and rediscovering his best form.

The star guard helped the Los Angeles Clippers extend their winning streak to six matches with a 126-115 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday.

That result came in the absence of Kawhi Leonard, with George stepping up to contribute 36 points, seven rebounds and eight assists.

It is the fourth game running in which George has hit 30 points, underlining how well he is now coping with a persistent toe problem.

According to George, it has been a shift in his mindset that has allowed the 30-year-old to produce such outstanding performances.

"The injury allowed me to kind of make an excuse for myself," he said.

"But then I put it in perspective – if I'm going to play, then don't let it limit me.

"I feel like I've had a breakthrough because of that mindset.

"It hasn't been flaring up, so that's been working and hopefully, at some point, it just goes away and it's an afterthought, nothing I'm worried about going forward."

Team-mate Marcus Morris Sr lauded George's display and his willingness to take centre stage for his side.

"He's definitely in a groove," the forward said. "He's playing with a chip on his shoulder.

"He is making an emphasis of really taking over and being the best version of himself."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.