It was far from business as usual in the NBA again last week.

A total of 11 games were postponed due to stringent COVID-19 protocols, making it tough for some players and teams to find their rhythm early in the season.

Others have taken full advantage of opportunities presented to them by teams having to go deep into their rosters in order to fulfil fixtures.

We take a look at the players who had the biggest increases and decreases in production over the previous week.

 

RUNNING HOT…

Shake Milton

The Philadelphie 76ers have seen their roster badly affected by COVID-19 protocols and results over the past week have been a little patchy as a result – a pair of wins over the Miami Heat ended a run of three straight defeats but were followed by a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. One who man stepped up, though, was Milton, who was averaging 14.1 points per game up to January 10. Last week he averaged 29.5 – a difference of 15.4, the highest in the league. 

Duncan Robinson

Last season's beaten finalists the Heat are in somewhat of a rut having lost four of their past five to slip to 4-7 for the season. Robinson has done his best to help reverse the fortunes, though, having averaged 23.3 points last week – his improvement of 12.1 from his average at January 10 was second only to Milton. Part of the improvement can be attributed to his prowess from three-point range over with Robinson averaging five per game, compared to 3.1 for the season prior to the week. Team-mate Tyler Herro has also impressed – averaging 25.5 points per game for the week, a +9.9 difference to his average leading into it.

Bruce Brown

With the Brooklyn Nets trading away Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince, Caris LeVert and Rodions Kurucs – as well as a ton of picks – to acquire James Harden, Brown received greater minutes in Steve Nash's rotation. He shot 8-of-11 from the field for 16 points in a win over the Denver Nuggets and had a double-double of 15 points and 14 rebounds against the New York Knicks the following day. However, when Kyrie Irving returns, Brown can expect to see a significant reduction in his time on the floor.

Luka Doncic

The Dallas Mavericks star started to find his range from three over the past week, going 5-of-9 from beyond the arc against the Charlotte Hornets and 6-of-11 versus the Chicago Bulls. He averaged four three-point makes per game last week, a significant improvement on his figure of 1.63 on the season he went in with. Doncic also had 16 rebounds and 15 assists against the Bulls to record his 29th triple-double, surpassing the legendary Michael Jordan on the all-time list. However, he ended up on the losing side against Chicago and blamed himself: "That's on me, that game. I was being selfish a little bit because I had 30 points in the first half. That wasn't me in the second half."

GOING COLD...

Fred VanVleet

Four years after going undrafted, VanVleet was rewarded for his role in the Raptors' recent success as he signed a four-year, $85million deal to stay with Toronto ahead of this season. His performances have not yet justified that outlay, however, and the past week was a particularly disappointing one. The struggling Raptors actually enjoyed a minor upturn in form, winning back-to-back games against the Hornets to improve to 4-8, but VanVleet scored just 14 points per game, 8.1 down on his prior season average of 22.1. There was at least some solace in a first double-double of the season as he stacked up 10 assists in the second Hornets game.

Kevin Huerter and De'Andre Hunter

It was not a good week for the Atlanta Hawks, their shock 3-0 start long since forgotten. Three Atlanta players were at least 6.0 points down on their prior scoring average for the year, yet it was the decline in three-point shooting that really stood out. Huerter and Hunter had each impressed from beyond the arc in the early weeks of the campaign, making 2.4 and 2.1 threes per game respectively. But a remarkable drop-off saw both make just two across three games - two of which were defeats - to each average 0.7. It meant the team as a whole made just five threes in the loss to the Utah Jazz and six as they went down to the Portland Trail Blazers.

George Hill

The Oklahoma City Thunder again traded assets for picks ahead of this season but have still managed to operate at .500 so far, beating the Bulls after defeats to the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers. However, Hill's outstanding early form is showing signs of tailing off. A new arrival this year, the 34-year-old point guard was outperforming his career average of 1.2 threes made per game heading into the week (1.9) but did not make a single one of his seven attempts from beyond the arc against the Spurs, Lakers or Bulls.

Terrence Ross

After a strong start to the season with the Orlando Magic, Ross went into last week averaging 17.9 points and 2.44 three-pointers made per game. However, in meetings with the Nets, Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks, he shot 3-of-15 from beyond the arc – an average of just one make per game. It's therefore unsurprising he also suffered one of the biggest decreases in points per game to 11, with 23 of his 33 total points coming against Brooklyn.

Paul George believes the Los Angeles Clippers have found the right formula for success after stretching their winning run to four games with victory over the Indiana Pacers. 

Despite being without Lou Williams and Serge Ibaka on Sunday, the Clippers eased to a 129-96 triumph that improves their record to 10-4 this season. 

George was one of seven players to reach double figures for points, Marcus Morris Sr and Luke Kennard also matching the six-time NBA All-Star's tally of 20. 

The Clippers sit behind Los Angeles rivals the Lakers in the Western Conference standings and, after a difficult 2019-20 season that ended with a playoff collapse to the Denver Nuggets, they are "locked in" for this campaign, according to George.  

"The chemistry is amazing," he said after the win over the Pacers, according to quotes on ESPN. 

"It's a real bond. It's fun, with this team, it's locked in, we are together; it is one of the best locker rooms I have been around and been in. 

"Hopefully, you guys see it, just how well we are meshing. 

"We are going to continue to build off of that. We like where we are at and like where we are heading, we want to see this thing play all the way through."

Following the signings of George and fellow superstar Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers were considered among the title favourites last year. 

An all-Los Angeles Western Conference Finals appeared on the cards when the Clippers led the Nuggets 3-1 in their series in the Orlando bubble, only to then lose three games on the spin and crash out of the postseason.

Morris was part of that roster but sees differences now, insisting all those on the team are working in the same direction. 

"I feel like our energy is way better this season," Morris said. "Guys are buying in and enjoying playing the game." 

The Clippers appeared in danger of letting slip a big lead against the Pacers, who pulled within two points of their opponents early in the third quarter. 

However, the home team responded with a 37-14 run, moving clear as they coasted to victory. They are back in action on Wednesday, taking on the Sacramento Kings.

The New York Knicks routed the Boston Celtics 105-75 in a stunning upset in the NBA on Sunday.

Julius Randle (20 points and 12 rebounds) and RJ Barrett (19 points and 11 rebounds) came up big to help the Knicks snap a five-game losing streak.

The Celtics had the best record in the Eastern Conference following five successive wins, but the hosts suffered their biggest loss of the season and had their lowest scoring output in 2020-21.

Luka Doncic posted his 29th career triple-double in the Dallas Mavericks' 117-101 defeat against the Chicago Bulls.

The All-Star moved above Bulls and NBA great Michael Jordan and into 15th position on the all-time triple-double list after finishing with 36 points, 16 rebounds and 15 assists.

Doncic put up the fourth 35-plus point, 15-plus rebound and 15-plus assist game in NBA history, while he joined Oscar Robertson (five times), Wilt Chamberlain (1968) and James Harden (2016) as the only players with that stat line.

 

Career-high night for Fox

The Sacramento Kings lost 128-123 at home to the New Orleans Pelicans, but De'Aaron Fox posted a career-high 43 points and 13 assists. Sacramento team-mate Marvin Bagley III also had a double-double of 26 points and 10 rebounds.

Nikola Jokic (35 points and 14 rebounds) and Jamal Murray (30 points) combined for 65 points, but the Denver Nuggets still went down 109-105 to the Utah Jazz.

 

Walker returns but struggles

Kemba Walker made his season debut after missing the opening 11 games of the 2020-21 campaign due to injury. But the Celtics star was just three of 13 from the field and one of eight from three-point range for nine points in 20 minutes before exiting in the third quarter with a rib problem. Boston team-mate Semi Ojeleye attempted six shots from beyond the arc, however, he missed all of them.

 

Zion flexes his muscles

Former number one draft pick Zion Williamson put on a show. The Pelicans star had 31 points on 13-of-15 shooting from the field, including a couple of monster dunks.

Sunday's results

New York Knicks 105-75 Boston Celtics
Chicago Bulls 117-101 Dallas Mavericks
Utah Jazz 109-105 Denver Nuggets
New Orleans Pelicans 128-123 Sacramento Kings
Los Angeles Clippers 129-96 Indiana Pacers
Cleveland Cavaliers-Washington Wizards (postponed)
Philadelphia 76ers-Oklahoma City Thunder (postponed)

 

Bucks at Nets

James Harden will look to follow up his historic debut when the Brooklyn Nets (8-6) host reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks (9-4) on Monday.

 

Luka Doncic surpassed Michael Jordan in the NBA history books with a triple-double but he took the blame for the Dallas Mavericks' loss to the Chicago Bulls.

Doncic posted his 29th career triple-double, however, the Mavericks still went down 117-101 against the Bulls on Sunday.

All-Star Doncic moved above Bulls and NBA great Jordan and into 15th position on the all-time triple-double list after finishing with 36 points, 16 rebounds and 15 assists.

Doncic put up the fourth 35-plus point, 15-plus rebound and 15-plus assist game in NBA history, while he joined Oscar Robertson (five times), Wilt Chamberlain (1968) and James Harden (2016) as the only players with that stat line.

However, Dallas star Doncic was not happy after the Mavericks suffered back-to-back defeats.

"The second half, I played terrible… I was being selfish a bit I think, because I had 30 points in the first half," Doncic told reporters.

"That wasn't me in the second half. I've got to do way better than that. That's just on me. I shouldn't be doing this."

Doncic added: "I was just taking some shots I shouldn't be taking. Just have to do way better than this. As a team, we have to step up, especially defensively and bring the energy."

Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said: "The stats are spectacular. It's phenomenal.

"But without a win, he won't be happy with it either."

Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving could make his long-awaited return after being listed as questionable for Monday's game against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Irving has missed the Nets' past six games due to personal reasons, while he sat out Saturday's win over the Orlando Magic due to the NBA's health and safety protocols amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It came after the NBA fined Irving $50,000 and docked the six-time All-Star over $800,000 in salary for the two games missed while in quarantine after video footage emerged of him appearing to attend a family birthday party without a mask.

The 2016 NBA champion, though, is now nearing a Nets return as he prepares to link up with superstar team-mates Kevin Durant and James Harden.

"Hopefully, we're close," Nets head coach Nash said after beating the Magic. "I can't really give you a firm update on that. We have to assess that as we go. We do want to make sure he ramps accordingly so that he's not susceptible to unnecessary injury and protect him the best we can.

"But hopefully, it will be a short period of time. That is to be determined, though."

Harden – acquired from the Houston Rockets in a blockbuster trade on Thursday – became the first player in NBA history to post a 30-point triple-double in his debut for a new team after title contenders the Nets outlasted the Magic 122-115.

Former MVP Harden finished with 32 points, a franchise-record 14 assists, 12 rebounds and four steals.

Reuniting with ex-Oklahoma City Thunder team-mate Harden, Durant led the way with a game-high 42 points as the Nets improved to 8-6 following a third consecutive win.

Durant also made franchise history for most consecutive 25-plus point games with nine.

The Philadelphia 76ers-Oklahoma City Thunder matchup has been postponed due to ongoing coronavirus contact tracing, the NBA announced.

Philadelphia (9-5) and Oklahoma City (6-6) were scheduled to meet at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Sunday, but the 76ers did not have the required eight players available because of contact tracing with the team.

It comes after Memphis Grizzlies star Jonas Valanciunas entered the NBA's health and safety protocols ahead of Monday's game against the Phoenix Suns, having upstaged the 76ers on Saturday.

The 76ers and their depth have been tested since Seth Curry contracted COVID-19 on January 7.

Philadelphia were still forced to face the Denver Nuggets with eight players on January 9, though Mike Scott did not take to the floor due to injury.

Doc Rivers and the 76ers – who are scheduled to play Eastern Conference rivals the Boston Celtics on Wednesday and Friday – used just nine players in the 106-104 defeat at the Grizzlies.

Rafael Stone insisted James Harden's comments after two losses to the Los Angeles Lakers did not impact the Houston Rockets' trade plans.

Harden was traded to the Brooklyn Nets days after saying he had done everything he could in Houston.

After back-to-back losses to the Lakers, the eight-time All-Star also said: "This situation is crazy. It's something that I don't think can be fixed."

But Stone said Harden's comments, which drew criticism from team-mates John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, were irrelevant to the Rockets' plans.

"They did not affect me at all. In a trade there are multiple parties so I have no idea if it affected other teams," Stone told a news conference on Sunday.

"But I can guarantee you it did not affect us."

The Rockets acquired Victor Oladipo from the Pacers, sending former Nets guard Caris LeVert to Indiana.

As part of the Nets trade that involved the Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston also brought in Rodions Kurucs and Dante Exum, plus four first-round picks, to go with four first-round pick swaps.

Stone is happy with the deal the Rockets ended up with as he lauded two-time All-Star Oladipo.

"I don't think it's appropriate to talk about the other deals," Stone said.

"I would say what is super exciting about this deal is it gives us flexibility and in the NBA, picks, especially high picks, are the best currency. Everybody likes them, everybody values them, so that was great organisationally, it gave us flexibility to do different types of deals as they come up this year, next year, whatever.

"We were able to get Victor Oladipo as part of it along with Rodi and Dante, but Victor is a guy we're really excited about. I think he's excited to be here and we think he's very talented so that was not insignificant from our perspective."

The Rockets hold a 4-7 record this season and are 14th in the Western Conference.

On many a Sunday, I realize that people have looked at the stories they've seen throughout the week with different lenses. I have my own personal take on some of these trending issues and I will share them with you. Welcome to #INCASEYOUMISSEDIT the 2021 edition with Mariah.

  1. Windies men- Nothing to lose so much to gain!

It is no secret that as the West Indies get set to face Bangladesh on January 20, in their first One-Day International, the home side is the overwhelming favourite, especially because of their track record of winning at home. The Windies enter against a backdrop comprising of several senior players opting out, Hayden Walsh Jr getting Covid-19 mere days before the first ODI, eight players making their ODI debut and the captain, Jason Mohammed, who last played for the Windies in 2018. Despite all these factors, they walk into this series with nothing to lose and so much to gain.

It is easy to point out the lack of experience in the Windies team. Simply put, as I mentioned before, eight of the players suiting up will be making their debuts. In the ODI setup, Rovman Powell is the most experienced having played 34 matches with the skipper Jason Mohammed ranked second with 28. While this is enough to say the Windies team is inexperienced we must also note that Bangladesh also has three uncapped players - off-spinner Mahadi Hasan and pacers Shorful Islam and Hasan Mahmud.

Similarly, it is natural to feel uneasy that ODI skipper Jason Mohammed has been out of Windies cricket since 2018. However, we cannot forget that Mohammed previously captained the Windies in an ODI against England in 2017 and in three T20Is during their 2018 Pakistan tour.

It was during a similar situation when key players refused to play and CWI thrust Mohammed to the helm.

All things considered, it is not always a disadvantage to be the underdogs if the team is physically and mentally ready. In World-Cup-winning captain Clive Lloyd’s open letter to the team, he highlighted that he made his debut on short notice against India 1966. He got his call up just hours before the game and went on to score 82 and 78. 

And, in that is the bigger picture. A ticket to the World Cup awaits any player who seizes this moment. Wicketkeeper/batsman Joshua Da Silva impressed on his Test debut in New Zealand where he scored an impressive half-century.

Batsman Kjorn Ottley is another player who could force his way into the first team. In 2019, he played for Barbados in the 50-over competition and scored 325 runs in the nine innings at an average of 54.16.  All-rounder Akeal Hosein will be eager to transfer his CPL form into this format of the game.

The 27-year-old was the leading wicket-taker in T&T’s 2020 first-class season with a total of 36 wickets at an average of 20.61. 

 

  1. Brooklyn Nets Success: One Word- Sacrifice.

News of James Harden leaving the Houston Rockets and joining the Brooklyn Nets did not sit very well with me as a Rockets supporter. It took me a few days to process his exit. However, as Harden’s biggest supporter and critic I understand the reason for the move. The three-time NBA scoring champion is desperate to win a Championship and he is not getting younger. However, if the Nets are to be successful it comes down to a key factor - sacrifice.

 The “Big Three” of James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant can only work well if they share the ball. Over the last 10 seasons, all three players have ranked in the top 10 in the highest usage rate in clutch time. Harden described it best while addressing the media. 

“When it comes to facilitating it depends on the flow of the game. Some nights I’ll be a facilitator. Some nights I might get it going and score the ball at a high clip. That is the beauty of being versatile and being able to do more than one thing. Same with Kevin and same with Kyrie. Every night is going to be different.”

 Each of the three players will be required to sacrifice whatever is going on behind the scenes of their lives if they are to win a championship. Irving was fined USD$50,000 for breaching the NBA Covid-19 protocols after a video surfaced on social media that showed him at a birthday party with no mask.

He also made an appearance at a Zoom fundraiser for a progressive political candidate half-hour before the tipoff of a Nets game.  He needs to show up mentally and physically.  Harden is out of shape and will have to avoid getting into Covid-19 trouble again. Additionally, it will be in the team’s best interest if KD stays injury free and avoids getting the virus again.

 In order for the Nets to get the best of the Harden trade all egos have to be put aside and the players need to allow rookie head coach Steve Nash and assistant coach Michael  D'Antoni to do their jobs without interference.

A positive to draw from this is Harden has worked well with D’Antoni at the Rockets and even cited his move had a lot to do with the influence of the assistant coach.

Kevin Durant, without a doubt, is a selfless player. He sacrificed his Achilles when he returned to the 2019 NBA finals too soon.  His value to the team goes without saying, however, a key element of the Nets success this season will be his acceptance of the leadership role. 

The Brooklyn Nets are championship contenders for 2021. The big question is then “Who is selfless enough to step back?” 

  

  1. Widespread vaccination and speedy rollout can ensure the Tokyo Olympics proceed.

Japanese government officials say they are committed to hosting the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo despite a recent rise in Covid-19 cases.  Reports indicate that the international Olympic Committee is working on ways to ensure that athletes are vaccinated so the event can proceed safely in July.

As of Friday, 15 January, Tokyo confirmed 2001 new infections. The number of new infections and the shortage of hospital beds are making it difficult to hospitalize coronavirus patients.  Deputy head of the Tokyo Medical Association Masataka Inakuchi has warned that the number of hospitalized coronavirus patients could rise to approximately 4600 in a week and 7000 in two weeks.

One can only hope that there will be widespread vaccination rollouts and speedy distribution in Tokyo so the Olympic Games can proceed without any further delay. 

 

 

Kemba Walker is available to play for the first time this season and could feature for up to 20 minutes for the Boston Celtics against the New York Knicks.

Walker has not appeared since the Celtics' Eastern Conference Finals defeat to the Miami Heat in Orlando last year.

The former Charlotte Hornets point guard has been working on strengthening his left knee in an attempt to avoid any further lay-offs in the remainder of the campaign.

Knee soreness contributed to Walker missing 16 of Boston's 72 regular season games in 2019-20, his first year after leaving Charlotte, so the team are hoping to avoid a repeat.

Walker was listed as questionable this week for the first time all season and was then upgraded to available on Sunday ahead of the game at TD Garden at 1300 ET.

Coach Brad Stevens subsequently confirmed Walker would have a restriction of around 20 minutes.

The 8-3 Celtics are still without Jayson Tatum, among others, due to NBA health and safety protocols in the aftermath of the team's coronavirus crisis.

Boston had three consecutive games postponed and their practices cancelled - contributing to Walker's delayed return - before beating the Orlando Magic 124-97 on Friday.

Walker averaged 20.4 points per game last season, trailing only Tatum (23.4) for the Celtics, while also contributing 4.8 assists, behind just Marcus Smart (4.9).

The 30-year-old's scoring dropped slightly to 19.6 in the postseason - putting Tatum (25.7) and Jaylen Brown (21.8) ahead of him - but he led the team in playoff assists with 5.1 per game.

James Harden made NBA history on his Brooklyn Nets debut after dazzling with a triple-double in the 122-115 win against the Orlando Magic.

Harden became the first player in NBA history to post a 30-point triple-double in his bow for a new team after the Nets outlasted the Magic on Saturday.

Former MVP Harden – who swapped the Houston Rockets for the Nets in a blockbuster trade on Thursday – finished with 32 points, a franchise-record 14 assists, 12 rebounds and four steals.

The eight-time All-Star also became the seventh player in NBA history with a triple-double in their team debut, joining Russell Westbrook, Elfrid Payton, Lewis Lloyd, John Shumate, Nate Thurmond and Oscar Robertson.

Reuniting with former Oklahoma City Thunder team-mate Harden, Durant led the way with a game-high 42 points as the Nets improved to 8-6 following a third consecutive win.

Durant also made franchise history for most consecutive 25-plus point games with nine.

 

Lillard inspires Blazers

Damian Lillard had a game-high 36 points as the Portland Trail Blazers topped the Atlanta Hawks 112-106. Double-doubles from Trae Young (26 points and 11 assists) and Clint Capela (25 points and 15 rebounds) were not enough for the visiting Hawks.

Shake Milton put up 28 points off the bench in the Joel Embiid-less Philadelphia 76ers' narrow 106-104 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. Ben Simmons fell just short of a triple-double after recording 11 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists.

Christian Wood scored 24 points and collected 18 rebounds as the shorthanded Rockets went down 103-91 to the San Antonio Spurs.

Derrick Rose was efficient in the Detroit Pistons' 120-100 upset of the Miami Heat. He was eight-of-12 shooting from the field, while making three of his five three-point attempts for 23 points in 21 minutes.

 

Covington struggles

While the Trail Blazers won, Robert Covington failed to get going shooting-wise after collecting 10 rebounds. He was one-of-13 from the field and just one-of-seven from beyond the arc for three points in 28 minutes.

A championship winner with the Los Angeles Lakers last season, veteran Rajon Rondo was scoreless for the Hawks. Rondo missed all three of his field-goal attempts in nine minutes of action.

 

Morant returns in style

Ja Morant sprained his ankle on December 28 but the Grizzlies star made his comeback following an eight-game absence. Morant had 17 points, including this alley-oop.

 

Saturday's results

San Antonio Spurs 103-91 Houston Rockets
Brooklyn Nets 122-115 Orlando Magic
Toronto Raptors 116-113 Charlotte Hornets
Detroit Pistons 120-100 Miami Heat
Memphis Grizzlies 106-104 Philadelphia 76ers
Portland Trail Blazers 112-106 Atlanta Hawks
Indiana Pacers-Phoenix Suns (postponed)

 

Pacers at Clippers

The Indiana Pacers (8-4) will visit the in-form Los Angeles Clippers (9-4) – who have won three straight games – on Sunday.

Brooklyn Nets superstar James Harden revelled in his record-setting debut, while head coach Steve Nash heaped praise on the former NBA MVP.

Harden became the first player in NBA history to post a 30-point triple-double in his bow for a new team after the Nets outlasted the Orlando Magic 122-115 on Saturday.

Eight-time All-Star Harden swapped the Houston Rockets for the Nets in a blockbuster trade on Thursday, and his first game in a Brooklyn jersey resulted in 32 points, a franchise-record 14 assists, 12 rebounds and four steals.

Afterwards, Harden said: "It felt really good [to get the win]. The guys got after it.

"Individually, I've got to stop turning the basketball over, but that comes with chemistry, that comes with practice, that comes with watching film.

"So, first game I'm glad to get a win and we've just got to keep going."

On the record, Harden was asked what it meant, and he told YES: "Nothing, I'm just happy we came away with the win. Those stats don't mean anything."

"When you're paying with really, really good players, it's pretty easy," Harden said. "For me, I just gotta learn reads, learn where guys like the ball, just learn our personnel individually so once I get that, the turnovers will cut down, I can be more efficient."

Disgruntled in Houston as he eyed an exit from the Rockets, Harden arrived in Brooklyn out of form, but the sharpshooter showed what the Nets are getting in a super team that also consists of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

Harden was eight-of-18 from the field and three-of-10 shooting from three-point range in 40 minutes, while he also had nine turnovers.

First-year coach Nash, who now leads a genuine championship contender, hailed Harden post-game.

"I can't say I'm surprised," Nash said. "We had a pretty big simple size of him doing that [for] however many years in he's been in the league. But it's still not easy. He's still not in his best condition yet, he's joined a new group.

"Basically no practice time, and figured it out on the fly. He had a bunch of turnovers just because he's new to the team and the group and you’re thrown out there in an NBA where the other team is an excellent coached-basketball team....But all the things he did on the floor were incredible for his first game."

Reuniting with former Oklahoma City Thunder team-mate Harden, Durant led the way with a game-high 42 points as the Nets improved to 8-6 following a third consecutive win.

Durant also made franchise history for most consecutive 25-plus point games with nine.

"James, he played the same way he always played, to be honest," Durant said. "He played the same way he was playing in Houston, being a pass-first guard, trying to get guys good looks. He played the same way.

"Coach put him at the point, I think that's his natural position, is point and combo guard. For him to get 14 assists, 12 rebounds for us at the point guard was key."

James Harden made NBA history in his first game for the Brooklyn Nets, who held on beat to the Orlando Magic 122-115.

Harden landed in Brooklyn on Thursday to join fellow All-Stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving following a blockbuster trade with the Houston Rockets.

Former MVP Harden did not disappoint on debut for the Nets on Saturday after becoming the first player in NBA history to post a 30-point triple-double in his bow for a new team.

Harden – an eight-time All-Star – finished with 32 points, a franchise-record 14 assists, 12 rebounds and four steals for championship contenders the Nets.

Durant, who has reunited with former Oklahoma City Thunder team-mate Harden, led the way with a game-high 42 points as the Nets improved to 8-6 following a third consecutive win.

Two-time NBA champion and Finals MVP Durant also made franchise history for most consecutive 25-plus point games with nine.

LeBron James says he is shooting with confidence after the Los Angeles Lakers won a fifth straight game.

The Lakers moved to 11-3 on the season with a 112-95 home win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday.

James had 21 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds in 31 minutes on court for the NBA champions, with Anthony Davis adding 17 points against his former team.

Four three-pointers from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope helped him to 16 points, the same total as Montrezl Harrell as the Lakers stormed back from an early 15-point deficit.

"We just settled in," James said, per ESPN, as the Lakers returned to Staples Center after three games on the road.
 
"That first game after a road trip is always kind of difficult, but we got some stops and got back to playing our kind of basketball." 

The Lakers went 15-for-37 from deep as they continue to impress with their three-point shooting, which was third-best in the league coming into the game.

While James was 2-for-6 against the Pelicans, he is currently on pace for the second-best three-point shooting rate (38.2 per cent) of his long career.

Lakers coach Frank Vogel said this week he would probably rate James as the best shooter on the team, a status Davis would give to Caldwell-Pope.

"I mean, we got a lot of great shooters on the team, man," James said when asked for his verdict on the debate.

"KCP [Caldwell-Pope], a great shooter. Wes Matthews, great shooter. Kuz [Kyle Kuzma] can shoot the heck out of the ball. Dennis the Menace [Dennis Schroder] can shoot the ball. 

"AD [Davis] can shoot the ball. So we got a lot of great knock-down shooters.

"Obviously, if someone says, 'Bet,' then obviously you guys know, I'm going to take myself. That's just the competitive nature in me and the work ethic that I put into my shot. 

"But I feel real good with my shot right now, both from the free throw line and also from the three-point line, and I want to continue that."

The Pelicans slumped to 4-7 despite 21 points from Zion Williamson and 20 from Brandon Ingram. 

Next up for James and the Lakers is a home game against the 6-6 Golden State Warriors on Monday.

Steve Nash is eyeing a championship with the Brooklyn Nets after the arrival of James Harden, but the head coach warned his team they needed to improve.

Harden, an eight-time All-Star, was traded to the Nets from the Houston Rockets on Thursday, joining Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn.

The Nets (7-6) are set to contend for a first NBA championship and Nash said there was a huge opportunity ahead.

"We want to win a championship, for sure. That's why we made the deal, that's what we're setting out to do," he told a news conference.

"Having said that, we're so far from that right now so our expectations are to grow every day, to get better, to figure out who we are and what we are and how we fit together and where we can improve. It's a process.

"You have to earn the right to play for a championship through the regular season and playoffs so those steps are still in front of us before we can say we're a championship team.

"We're not a team that's running it back that's been to the Finals or Conference Finals even, we're a brand new entity that has to figure it out but that is the end goal and if we take the necessary steps and continue to improve and work towards that and commit to that process, why not? We have a great opportunity here with the players we have."

With Durant and Harden, the Nets now have two players who have won seven of the past 11 NBA scoring titles. No Brooklyn qualifier has ever finished higher than fifth.

Irving, Harden and Durant all rank in the top 10 in the NBA in scoring average (minimum 500 games) since the former's rookie season in 2011-12.

Harden could make his Nets debut against the Orlando Magic on Saturday.

The Los Angeles Lakers cruised to a victory in the NBA, while the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics also extended their winning streaks.

LeBron James had a double-double of 21 points and 11 assists as the Lakers recorded a comfortable 112-95 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday.

Kyle Kuzma contributed 11 points and 13 rebounds off the bench, while Anthony Davis struggled from the field, shooting five-of-16 for his 17 points.

Pelicans star Zion Williamson finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds, but the Lakers extended their winning streak to five.

Giannis Antetokounmpo's 31 points and nine rebounds helped the Bucks overcome the Dallas Mavericks 112-109.

Luka Doncic fell just short of a triple-double, contributing 28 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds in the Mavericks' loss.

The Bucks (9-4) have won four straight to sit behind the Celtics (8-3) in the Eastern Conference.

Brown leads returning Celtics, Drummond stars

Jaylen Brown had 21 points and eight assists in the Celtics' 124-97 win over the Orlando Magic. It was Boston's first game in a week.

A huge double-double of 33 points and 23 rebounds from Andre Drummond saw the Cleveland Cavaliers edge the New York Knicks 106-103.

The Los Angeles Clippers thrashed the Sacramento Kings 138-100 thanks to 27 points, six assists and four rebounds from Kawhi Leonard.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander posted 33 points and 10 assists in the Oklahoma City Thunder's 127-125 victory over the Chicago Bulls.

Bulls' narrow losses continue

The Bulls are on a four-game losing streak, with those defeats coming by four, two, three and two points. It is the first time in team history they have lost four in a row with each loss by four points or fewer, as per Stats Perform. The last team with a streak that long was the Washington Wizards in 2009 (six straight).

 

Drummond dynamite

Drummond produced a huge performance for the Cavs. He was 10-of-18 from the field and 16 of his 23 rebounds were on the defensive end.

Friday's results

Boston Celtics 124-97 Orlando Magic
Cleveland Cavaliers 106-103 New York Knicks
Milwaukee Bucks 112-109 Dallas Mavericks
Oklahoma City Thunder 127-125 Chicago Bulls
Utah Jazz 116-92 Atlanta Hawks
Los Angeles Lakers 112-95 New Orleans Pelicans
Los Angeles Clippers 138-100 Sacramento Kings

 

Magic at Nets

James Harden is set to make his debut for the Brooklyn Nets (7-6) against the Orlando Magic (6-6) on Saturday. Harden's trade from the Houston Rockets to the Nets was confirmed on Thursday.

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