Crowds came flocking back in force, we had the full complement of golf majors and tennis grand slams, and sport almost ran smoothly over the past 12 months.

To boot, there were sensational moments, featuring both the biggest names in sport and some that few had heard of at this time last year.

Here, Stats Perform looks back at some of the biggest stories of the year, and the numbers that made them so remarkable.

Jacobs, the shock Tokyo Olympics sprint king

Entering 2021, Italy's Lamont Marcell Jacobs had a career-best of 10.03 seconds for the 100 metres. By most standards that is staggeringly quick, but at the very elite level of sprinting it ranks as only middling. To put it into some context, 34 men ran quicker than 10.03 seconds in 2021. Jacobs finished only 19th at the 2019 World Championship and few outside of athletics circles knew the name. The former long-jumper grabbed a little attention when he produced a world-leading 6.47 seconds to win the 60 metres at the European Indoor Championships in March, then he ran 9.95 for the 100m in Savona in May, but he still headed to the Tokyo Olympics as a big outsider, not expected to be a factor. Jacobs made a mockery of his lowly billing, as he powered to personal bests in the heats and semi-finals before doing so again in the final, dashing home first in 9.80 seconds to grab gold and leaving rivals gasping in astonishment. He led Italy to sprint relay gold too, a glorious double in that country's remarkable year of success.

Emma Raducan-who? From A level exams to US Open top marks

Twelve months ago – no, make that barely six – London-based Raducanu was simply not a factor in grand slam discussions. Fresh out of school, she had to fight to earn a wildcard for Wimbledon when organisers initially baulked at the idea, but they were persuaded and Raducanu went on to reach the fourth round. The teenager who was born in Canada and has a Romanian father and Chinese mother had arrived, but it was at the US Open that she roared into the history books. There was no wildcard in New York for the British youngster, but Raducanu won three qualifying matches and then raced through the main draw, defeating 19-year-old Canadian Leylah Fernandez in the title match. She did not drop a set in 10 matches and became the first women in the Open era to win 10 main-draw matches in her first two grand slams. It made her the first qualifier to win a slam and the first US Open women's singles winner since Serena Williams in 2014 to triumph at the tournament without dropping a set along the way. The $2.5million in prize money was followed by endorsement offers from across the world as Raducanu became an instant superstar. The tennis world waits to see what comes next.

No country for old men as US win Ryder Cup

The youngest Ryder Cup team ever assembled by the United States torched European hopes at Whistling Straits in September, scoring a 19-9 victory. That was the widest margin of victory by either side since Europe, rather than Great Britain and Ireland, became the USA's opposition in 1979. Dustin Johnson bounced back from losing four of his five matches in the 2018 edition to finish with a 5-0 record, just the third player in US v Europe battles to finish with a perfect record (after Larry Nelson in 1979 and Francesco Molinari in 2018). Johnson, at 37, was the oldest player on the team. European veteran Lee Westwood matched Nick Faldo's record of 11 appearances in the match, while Sergio Garcia stretched his points record from 25.5 to 28.5 as he and Jon Rahm combined well, but it was emphatically an event that belonged to the host Americans.

Veteran Mickelson still had his day 

He might have been absent for the US team's Ryder Cup triumph, but Phil Mickelson's name was up in lights again as he became the oldest winner of a men's golf major, landing the US PGA Championship title in May. At the age of 50, Mickelson caused a huge upset at Kiawah Island, scooping his sixth career major when he held off Brooks Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen on the final day. It was his only top-10 finish of the year on the PGA Tour.

Federer bagelled, Djokovic denied Golden Slam

Strange things happened in men's tennis in 2021, not least the sight of Roger Federer suffering a 6-0 'bagel' at the end of a straight-sets Wimbledon quarter-final defeat. That happened against Hubert Hurkacz in July, and it was the last match Federer played in the year. He wants to play again, and the 40-year-old believes he can, but knee surgery will keep him out of action until mid-2022 at the earliest, by his own reckoning, and that Centre Court defeat to Hurkacz could turn out to be how his eight-title Wimbledon career ends. Novak Djokovic joined Federer and Nadal on a joint-record 20 grand slam titles by cleaning up at the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon, and he has now spent a record 353 weeks at number one, passing Federer this year. But Djokovic could not make it a Golden Slam, losing to eventual champion Alexander Zverev in the Olympic Games semi-finals, and a Grand Slam was just beyond him too, Daniil Medvedev winning his first major when he swept the Serbian in straight sets in the US Open final.

Another year, more records for Brady

At the age of 43, Tom Brady was MVP in the Super Bowl as he led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to their 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in February. He now has seven Super Bowl wins behind him, another outright record, and has been MVP in the game on an unmatched five occasions. Brady, having turned 44 in August, is in the hunt for another Super Bowl ring and perhaps outright NFL MVP honours this season, although Aaron Rodgers will likely deny him the latter accolade. Still, the records keep coming for Brady. He has moved in front of Drew Brees to have the most pass completions in league history (7,200 and counting), become the first ever 15-time Pro Bowler, and in December became the first quarterback to throw 700 career touchdowns.

England's Ashes surrender calls for Root and branch review

Joe Root became the first England captain – or player, indeed – to suffer nine defeats in Tests starting in a single calendar year, in a strange 12 months for the Yorkshireman. His form with the bat has been up there with the best of his career, the 31-year-old scoring 1,708 Test runs to go third on the all-time single-year list, with only Mohammad Yousuf and Viv Richards ahead of him. Even in the Tests that England have lost, Root has made a number of handy contributions with the bat, scoring 648 runs at an average of 38.11. Overall he has scored 26 per cent of England's Test runs across the year, the highest proportion of any player for their respective team in 2021. Yet the Ashes were lost by lunch on day three of the third Test, an outrageously dismal result. Root top-scored in England's two innings in Melbourne, typically, but he cannot get a tune out of many of his team-mates, so ends the year with his future as skipper in doubt.

Curry still hot as NBA records fall

In January, LaMelo Ball became the youngest player to post a triple-double in the NBA, as the 19-year-old Charlotte Hornets prospect grabbed 22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in a win over the Atlanta Hawks. Come December, the Memphis Grizzlies set two records in the same game, scoring a franchise-high number of points and winning by the biggest margin in NBA history, as they handed out a 152-79 thrashing to the Oklahoma City Thunder. December was also the month when Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors set a new three-pointer record, becoming the first man to make 3,000 threes in a career after going past Ray Allen's previous NBA record of 2,973.

Joel Embiid bossed the Eastern Conference-leading Brooklyn Nets despite the return of Kevin Durant as the Philadelphia 76ers center scored 34 points in a 110-102 win on Thursday.

Embiid finished with 34 points, including three triples, six rebounds, three steals and one block as tension boiled over between him and Durant who exchanged words late in the game and gestured demonstrably after the final buzzer based on their history.

Durant returned from protocols with 33 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while James Harden recorded a triple-double with 33 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists.

The 76ers got home in a tight encounter with a 26-20 final quarter helping them to their third straight win and fourth in a row on the road.

Brooklyn's record moves to 23-10 while the 76ers improve to 19-16 as the east heats up.

 

Champions clinch fifth win in a row

Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks were in the mood with a 136-118 victory over the Orlando Magic. The 2021 NBA Finals MVP scored 33 points with 12 rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks for the reigning champions.

Jrue Holiday (25 points, five rebounds, seven assists) and Khris Middleton (22 points, three triples, six assists) made valuable contributions as the Bucks claimed their fifth consecutive win to improve to 24-13.

Bradley Beal returned from protocols with 29 points, six rebounds and 10 assists while Kyle Kuzma had 25 points with 10 rebounds as the Washington Wizards won 110-93 over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Kevin Love top scored for the Cavs, who were without Darius Garland in protocols, with 24 points and 11 rebounds.

 

Mills errant from range

Australian guard Patty Mills had an unhappy time in the Nets' loss to the 76ers, shooting one of eight from beyond the arc and 20 percent from the field for five points.

Title-winning NBA head coach Doc Rivers is "feeling good" despite entering the league's health and safety protocols on Thursday.

Dan Burke, who will step in as the Philadelphia 76ers acting coach in Rivers' absence, said the 60-year-old was in good health and spirits while isolating.

Rivers is one of seven NBA head coaches who has entered protocols, amid the rising COVID-19 surge around the league.

"He says he feels good. He's not the least bit worried," Burke told reporters about Rivers.

"If there's anybody who just takes things in stride and keeps it real and keeps it relative, it's Doc. That's the lead we've got to follow."

On Thursday, the 76ers are due to play the Eastern Conference-leading Brooklyn Nets who will be bolstered by the return of Kevin Durant after clearing protocols.

Rivers, who guided the Boston Celtics to the 2008 NBA title, has helped the 76ers to an 18-16 record this season.

Draymond Green has questioned the NBA as he felt the Denver Nuggets will gain an advantage after the cancellation of their clash with the Golden State Warriors.

The Warriors were set to face Denver in the second of a two-game showdown on Friday, but a coronavirus outbreak within Michael Malone's camp has forced the game to be called off.

The Nuggets were left without the necessary eight players for the clash to go ahead, while coach Malone entered the league's health and safety protocols on Thursday along with other staff members, including two assistant coaches, according to reports.

On the same day, forwards Jeff Green and Zeke Nnaji and guard Bones Hyland had also entered protocols, with injuries to several Nuggets players leaving them short-handed.

But Warriors forward Green, who was absent due to protocols for Tuesday's 89-86 loss to the Nuggets, was left frustrated by the postponement as he thinks his side will be disadvantaged by the decision.

"How do you continue to cancel games when you've implemented rules to prevent this from happening?" Green posted to Twitter. "Is that not a competitive advantage for other teams?

"The guys we didn't have due to the protocol list played no role in Tuesday's loss? Pick a side but don't straddle the fence.

"So when the game is rescheduled (which will probably take a day away from our "break"), we will play them at full strength... But they got to sneak a win when we weren't at full strength, only two days ago??? Let's make it make some sense here."

It is the 11th game to be postponed this season for coronavirus-related issues, though Green is worried about the scheduling issues it may cause.

The Golden State star added: "Not to mention, this will more than likely add a back to back to our schedule, which is also advantage Denver."

In Malone's absence, assistant coach David Adelman will reportedly serve as acting head coach for the Nuggets.

Malone is the seventh NBA coach to enter the protocols, joining Doc Rivers (Philadelphia), Frank Vogel (Lakers), Monty Williams (Phoenix), Billy Donovan (Chicago), Chauncey Billups (Portland) and Mark Daigneault (Oklahoma City).

The Warriors are next due to be in action against the Utah Jazz on Sunday when Denver face the Houston Rockets.

LeBron James applauded Ja Morant's performance as he led the Memphis Grizzlies to a 104-99 home win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Lakers were ahead in the third quarter, but a dazzling display from Morant – including a late flourish – saw the Grizzlies come back from behind to claim victory.

The 22-year-old scored 41 points in total, the second time he has broken the 40-point barrier in two games against the Lakers this season.

James, who managed to equal a career-high record of eight three-pointers in the defeat, claimed the quality of Morant's shooting made him nearly unstoppable, with the Grizzlies star recording six for seven from beyond the arc.

"When you shoot the ball as well as he did tonight from the perimeter, with his speed and his athleticism, it's going be hard to contain a guy like that because he's doing the whole three levels of scoring," James said after the game.

"You can't, there's nothing you can do. He has you at his beck [and call]."

Lakers guard Malik Monk agreed with his team-mate, adding that the free throws his side gave away helped Morant find his range.

"We started fouling, man, and he went to the free throw line and started seeing the ball go in, and he got his rhythm that way," Monk said.

"And when a guy gets it going like that, there's not much you can do."

Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins credited Morant with leading by example and spurring the side on to victory from a losing position late on.

"What an unbelievable night by [Morant], the tone he was setting throughout the game," Jenkins said.

"When he got going, it just kind of fuelled everyone else, and we kind of just broke loose there in that third quarter."

Kyrie Irving admitted it has been tough to watch the Brooklyn Nets from the sidelines as he marked his return to the practice court on Wednesday.

Irving returned to Nets' practice for the first time since preseason after the franchise decided in October to make him unavailable due to New York City's vaccine mandate and his unvaccinated status.

The Nets reversed that decision a fortnight ago when they announced the 29-year-old would return on a part-time basis for away games, despite remaining unvaccinated, with the side short on numbers following a surge of players in the NBA's health and safety protocols.

Irving's return to the practice court was delayed by him entering protocols a day after the Nets' announcement earlier this month, but he has now been cleared.

"I'm incredibly grateful just to be back in the building," Irving told reporters speaking for the first time publicly since mid-October. "Welcomed back with open arms [from] my teammates, the whole organisation.

"I'm not going to lie, it has been relatively tough to watch from the sidelines with everything going on in the world. I know everybody is feeling it. Just praying for everybody to be healthy during these times."

Irving will only be permitted to play away games and head coach Steve Nash said he would need a couple of weeks to get into NBA-ready condition.

"If I get the opportunity to get on the court and play with my teammates, even if it is just on the road for away games, I am grateful for the opportunity," Irving said.

"I've missed so much time. It's my first day back around the block with the guys and it felt like it's been a long time.

"It's only been, what, three months or so, but it has felt like the days have been slowly crossed off the calendar while I am sitting at home. When I thought about [returning to practice] last night, I could barely sleep.

"I understood their [the Nets'] decision and respected it. I really had to sit back and think and try not to become too emotionally attached to what they were deciding to do. I had to really evaluate things and see it from their perspective, meaning the organisation, my teammates.

"I really empathised, and I understood their choice to say if you are not going to be fully vaccinated, then you can't be a full [participant]."

The Nets are currently top of the Eastern Conference with a 23-9 record and play the Philadelphia 76ers at the Barclays Center on Thursday, which Irving will be unavailable for.

Five of the Nets' next six games are at home.

Ja Morant's 41 points overshadowed LeBron James as the Memphis Grizzlies won 104-99 to inflict a sixth defeat in seven games for the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.

Morant was excellent for the Grizzlies, draining six of seven three-pointers in his 41-point haul along with 10 rebounds and two assists.

James, who turns 38 on Friday, tried his best for the slumping Lakers with 37 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists, while Russell Westbrook had another triple-double with 16 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists.

But the four-time MVP came up short in the final 30 seconds, missing a three-point attempt to tie the game before an aimless pass turned the ball over.

Morant skilfully tipped in two to make it 102-97 with 1:15 to go and scored 25 of his 41 points in the second half.

Booker stars as Suns silence Thunder

Devin Booker landed six triples in his 38-point haul as the Phoenix Suns defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 115-97 to improve to a 27-7, putting them joint-top with the Golden State Warriors. Along with his 38 points, Booker also had seven rebounds and five assists.

The Chicago Bulls had a full team performance in their 131-117 victory over the Atlanta Hawks, with contributions from Zach LaVine (25 points), Coby White (17 points, 12 assists), Nikola Vucevic (16 points, 20 rebounds) and DeMar DeRozan (20 points, eight assists).

Rudy Gobert starred with 22 points and 14 rebounds as the Utah Jazz recorded their eighth straight road win, beating the depleted Portland Trail Blazers 120-105 despite Damian Lillard's 32 points.

Brown struggles from beyond the arc

Jaylen Brown has been in top form lately but hit one of 13 from beyond the arc as the Boston Celtics went down 91-82 to the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have been dealt a major blow after it was confirmed Ricky Rubio will miss the rest of the 2021-22 season.

Rubio buckled as he planted in the lane during the fourth quarter of Tuesday's road game at the New Orleans Pelicans.

The 31-year-old, who has played a big role in the Cavaliers' strong start to the season in his first year with the team, clutched his left knee and was in clear distress. He had to be helped to his feet and to the locker room for further assessment.

Rubio was unable to put any weight on his left leg and further tests on Wednesday revealed the guard had torn his anterior cruciate ligament, ending his campaign early. 

With Darius Garland having entered the NBA's Health and Safety Protocols, Rubio started at point against the Pelicans and had 27 points while adding 13 rebounds and nine assists in what was a 104-108 defeat for Cleveland.

Rubio had enjoyed a fine start to life with the Cavs, having averaged a joint career-high 13.1 points per game through 34 appearances since his arrival from the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Cavs sit fifth in the Eastern Conference, with a 20-14 record.

Stephen Curry has not quite got to grips with the fact every three he hits will be a new record, having reached 3,000 triples on a night where the Golden State Warriors failed to handle the Denver Nuggets.

Curry broke Ray Allen's all-time record this month and on Tuesday became the first man to 3,000, though he could not inspire the Warriors to victory.

Minus Draymond Green, the Warriors' best defender and Curry's chief facilitator, Golden State slumped to a 60-36 half-time deficit.

They clawed that back to trail by just three points in the closing stages of the fourth quarter, Curry getting to the 3,000 mark with a three-pointer in the third quarter.

But they could not avoid an 89-86 loss, falling to only their seventh defeat of the season.

Asked about his latest slice of NBA history, Curry told a post-game media conference: "It was cool to reach that milestone, it's a pretty awesome accomplishment in terms of it hadn't been done in NBA history.

"It's kind of a weird thought to think that in the rest of my career I'm pretty sure every three I make will be a new record. I'm just going to enjoy it."

Curry is not setting a target number he would like to reach at the end of his remarkable career.

"You don't really put limits on what can happen," he added. "You just hoop and enjoy yourself and see what happens when it's all said and done."

The Warriors still lead the Western Conference despite the defeat, with Curry encouraged by their second-half resilience.

"It all kind of went wrong during the first half, but I love the way we fought," he said.

"Pretty sure we're not a moral victory team but 29 other teams probably would have laid down and died with that type of first-half performance, but we gave ourselves a chance to tie the game with a minute and a half left. Pretty impressive."

Four-time NBA MVP LeBron James has brushed off retirement talk after recording a triple-double to help end the Los Angeles Lakers' five-game skid on Wednesday.

The Lakers overcame the Houston Rockets 132-123 with James finishing with 32 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists with one steal and two blocks while Russell Westbrook added 24 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.

The Lakers have struggled without center Anthony Davis who succumbed to an MCL sprain in the first of their five straight defeats, when they went down 110-92 to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

James, who turns 37 on Thursday, had been unable to arrest the Lakers' slide in Davis' absence but would not be draw on retirement plans.

"I know I'm on the other side of the hill compared to the hill I was on before," James said at the post-game news conference.

"I've thought about it, where I'm at and whether I'm still playing at such a high level. I've done 19 [seasons] and I'm not gonna do another 19.

"We'll see where my body takes me and my mind takes me. As long as my mind is fresh and my body stays with that, I can play the game.

"I've put in enough hours and punched enough clocks to know when that time comes I'll be OK with it."

The Lakers had endured a frustrating stretch falling below .500, having not won since December 15 when they got past the Dallas Mavericks 107-104 in over-time until breaking that against the Rockets.

"This is the pros," James told reporters after the win over the Rockets. "The hardest thing in this league is to win.

"At any level, any pro, NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB, WNBA, the hardest thing to do is to win. It doesn’t matter who you're playing against or who's on the floor, everyone was drafted or signed to this level for a reason.

"Any time you can get a win in this league you don’t take it for granted."

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic led the Denver Nuggets with a double-double as they withstood the Golden State Warriors' second-half charge to win 89-86 on Tuesday.

MVP contender Stephen Curry only managed two first-half points as the Warriors produced arguably their worst half of the season before storming back in the second half to tie the game in the fourth quarter.

Jokic, who had 22 points, 18 rebounds and five assists, made a key defensive stop on rookie Jonathan Kuminga after his own turnover at 88-86 before Andre Igoudala missed a three-point attempt on the buzzer to force over-time.

Curry's output increased dramatically in the second half to finish with 23 points including five triples, as the Warriors reeled in the Nuggets after trailing by 24 points. The Warriors' two-time MVP had six turnovers for the game.

However, Curry also reached another milestone with his 3,000 career three-point attempt made, marking 157 straight games with a triple.

Andrew Wiggins scored 21 points with eight rebounds with the Warriors without Draymond Green who entered COVID-19 protocols this week. The result means the ladder-leading Warriors fall to 27-7 while the Nuggets improve above .500 to 17-16.

 

LeBron and Russ end Lakers' skid

LeBron James and Russell Westbrook both recorded triple-doubles as the Los Angeles Lakers ended their five-game skid with a 132-123 victory over the Houston Rockets. James had 32 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists while Westbrook added 24 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 28 points with six rebounds and six assists in his second game since returning from COVID-19 protocols while Bobby Portis nailed five three-pointers in his 19-point haul as the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Orlando Magic 127-110.

Joel Embiid had 36 points with 11 rebounds while Tobias Harris (19 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists) recorded a rare triple-double as the Philadelphia 76ers knocked off the Toronto Raptors 114-109.

 

Randle loses handle in offense

Last season's Most Improved Player Julius Randle continues to struggle to re-discover his offensive games, shooting five of 20 from the field and having only two assists in the New York Knicks' 96-88 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Brooklyn Nets can count on Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge again after they were cleared to return from NBA health and safety protocols.

Durant, who was in a rich vein of form, has sat out the Nets' previous three games, while Aldridge has not featured in the past five.

They could be back on court for Thursday's game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Barclays Center, the first of a run of three at home for the Nets.

Kyrie Irving has also been released from the shackles of the same COVID-19 protocols, the NBA said on its official website.

Because Irving is unvaccinated and cannot play home games due to local restrictions in New York City, his return to action must wait.

Irving has not played all season but could be in the frame to be involved in the trip to the Indiana Pacers on January 5 or at the Chicago Bulls a week later.

The Nets lead the way in the Eastern Conference with a 23-9 record, after following up a Christmas Day win over the Los Angeles Lakers by beating the Clippers on Monday.

 

James Harden, freshly out of protocols, played lead roles in both those wins with hauls of 36 and 39 points, and now he is set to have elite support.

Durant leads the Nets in scoring this season with an average of 29.7 points per game, alongside 7.9 rebounds and 5.9 assists. 

The Nets have had three recent games postponed due to their roster being hard hit by absentees.

Steve Nash praised a "historically great" James Harden after he joined an exclusive club with his instrumental performance for the Brooklyn Nets against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Harden, having racked up 36 points in his first game since exiting the NBA's health and safety protocols in the Nets' Christmas Day win over the Los Angeles Lakers, backed that effort up with a 39-point display versus the Clippers, which also saw him register 15 assists and eight rebounds.

His showing in the 124-108 triumph saw Harden become the 10th player in NBA history with 20,000 points, 6,000 assists and 5,000 rebounds. 

Also in that club are Kobe Bryant, Clyde Drexler, John Havlicek, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Gary Payton, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West and Russell Westbrook.

And Nash said of the 2018 MVP: "He's historically great. The numbers he's put up are incredible.

"He's one of the best players of his generation and it's mind-boggling to think of all the numbers he's put up and all the success he's had.

"He's one of those very, very special players not only of his generation but historically. The numbers back it up."

On his spectacular return following his time in the protocol, Nash added: "You're expecting guys to feel their way back into it. But from the jump against the Lakers, again [v the Clippers], he's just been clinical.

"Just such a great head of the snake for us. When he plays like that we are very difficult to beat."

Asked if he felt he benefited from his two-week lay-off, Harden replied: "Probably. I was starting to feel good right before then…That break, Covid, or protocol, or rest, whatever you want to call it, it could've went two ways.

"I just locked in on my body, my eating, and when I was able to start working out, my workouts. I felt good. My body felt good.

"I'm trying to make sure my body feels great so I can continue to keep going up in the regular season and preparing for the playoffs. 

"Individually I have to make sure I'm in the best shape and I'm the best James that I can be for my team-mates.

"If I'm in that form, good things will happen for my team."

James Harden scored 39 points in his second game since coming out of the NBA's COVID-19 protocols to inspire the Brooklyn Nets past the Los Angeles Clippers 124-108.

Harden returned with 36 points and a triple-double in the Nets' 122-155 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas Day and backed that up against the depleted Clippers, who were without star duo Paul George (elbow) and Kawhi Leonard (ACL).

The 2018 NBA MVP was in a dominant mood, with Kevin Durant absent in protocols, shooting 15 of 25 from the field and providing 15 assists, as well as having eight rebounds and two steals.

Patty Mills and Nicolas Claxton both contributed 18 points for the Nets, while the latter had three blocks. Marcus Morris Sr was the Clippers' best with 24 points, five rebounds and six assists.

 

Bulls duo combine for Hawks defeat

Trae Young returned from COVID protocols with 29 points and nine assists but it was not enough as the Atlanta Hawks lost 130-118 to the Chicago Bulls who had Zach LaVine (30 points, four rebounds, nine assists) and DeMar DeRozan (35 points, five rebounds, 10 assists) impress. LaVine and DeRozan became the first team-mates each with 20 points and five assists in a half over the last 25 seasons.

Ja Morant drained a last-gasp clutch shot to earn the Memphis Grizzlies a thrilling 114-113 win over the Phoenix Suns, who were missing center Deandre Ayton and head coach Monty Williams after entering protocols. Desmond Bane had a career-high 32 points and Morant finished with 33, grabbing the win after Devin Booker (30 points) had put the Suns ahead with five seconds left with a three-pointer.

The Utah Jazz extended their win streak to four games, even without injured Donovan Mitchell, as they defeated the San Antonio Spurs 110-104 with Jordan Clarkson (23 points, eight rebounds, five assists) starring off the bench.

 

In-form Celtic misses the mark

Jaylen Brown has been in hot point-scoring form lately but his shooting was down at 33.3 percent as the Boston Celtics – without Jayson Tatum who has entered COVID protocols - lost 108-103 to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Brown scored 26 points but made only two of eight from beyond the arc.

Los Angeles Lakers recruit Russell Westbrook says he is sick and tired of the constant commentary on his performances for his new franchise this season.

Westbrook joined the Lakers in a major off-season move from the Washington Wizards, linking up with four-time MVP LeBron James and All-Star Anthony Davis as the 2020 NBA champions bid for another title tilt.

But the Lakers have struggled with a 16-18 record this season, including five straight defeats with Westbrook often copping the blame.

"Everybody wants me to do this but then they don't want me to do this," Westbrook said on a virtual news conference on Monday. "Honestly, I'm over the whole situation with what everyone else wants me to do and what they think I should be doing."

Westbrook has averaged 19.6 points per game this season, which is his lowest return since his second season in the NBA back in 2009-10.

The 33-year-old point guard has also averaged 7.9 rebounds and 8.1 assists per game this season, down on last season's career-best 11.5 rebounds and league-high 11.7 assists with the Wizards.

Westbrook also last season broke Oscar Robertson's record for the most triple-doubles in NBA history but has only managed six this season in 34 games.

"Honestly, I think I've been fine," Westbrook said. "The conversation has been heavily on how I'm playing and what I'm doing, but I think people are expecting me to have f---ing 25, 15 and 15, which, that is not normal.

"Everybody has to understand, like, that's not a normal thing that people do consistently."

He added: "People are saying 'let Russ be Russ,' I think nobody understands what that means. "I think people just say it - 'let Russ be Russ' - but nobody actually knows what that means but myself.

"I'm gonna lean on that and make sure I do what I'm supposed to do. And let everything else outside the locker room, whatever that may be, take care of itself."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.