Devin Booker put on a show with 49 points as Chris Paul returned from a broken wrist as the Phoenix Suns clinched top spot in the Western Conference with a 140-130 win over the Denver Nuggets.

Booker's 49 points was a season-high, while 36-year-old Paul returned for the first time since February 20 with 17 points, including 15 in the first half, and 13 assists as the Suns secured their sixth straight win.

Three-time All-Star Booker shot 16-of-25 from the field and also had 10 assists, with Mikal Bridges contributing 22 points from eight-of-nine shooting.

The win means the Suns have secured the NBA's best record for the third time in franchise history, following on from 1992-93 and 2004-05.

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic had 28 points with six rebounds and six assists for the Nuggets, who are 43-31 and holding on to sixth spot in the Western Conference.

 

Grizzlies and Bucks win without stars

The Memphis Grizzlies won again without Ja Morant with a 133-103 victory over the Indiana Pacers. Desmond Bane scored 30 points with five assists and five rebounds as the Grizzlies improved to 16-2 without Morant.

The Milwaukee Bucks triumphed without Khris Middleton (wrist) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (knee) with Jrue Holiday starring with 24 points and 10 assists in a 114-102 win over the Washington Wizards.

Pascal Siakam equalled his season-high 35 points as the Toronto Raptors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 117-104 in a crucial game in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

 

DeRozan out as Bulls slide continues

The Chicago Bulls slipped to their fifth defeat from their past six games, going down 126-109 to the New Orleans Pelicans. The Bulls are fifth in the east with a 42-31 record, just ahead of the Cavs and Raptors (both 41-32).

The Bulls, who were without DeMar DeRozan due to a left groin issue, were dominated 40-24 by the Pels in the fourth quarter, led by Devonte' Graham (30 points including five three-pointers) and Jonas Valanciunas (16 points and 19 rebounds).

Zach LaVine was Chicago's best with 39 points in DeRozan's absence, going 12-of-23 from the field, while Coby White added 23 points off the bench including five triples.

Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone has slammed his side claiming that they "gave in and quit" in Sunday's 124-104 loss to the Boston Celtics.

The Nuggets trailed 68-43 at half-time after a 46-21 run to the Celtics, leading to Malone benching several starters for the third quarter, including MVP Nikola Jokic who shot eight-of-23 from the field for his 23 points.

Malone was livid with his side, who slipped to a 42-30 record and seventh spot in the Western Conference.

"To me, it appeared we just kind of gave in and quit. I didn't want to reward that behaviour," Malone told reporters after the game.

"I thought the bench unit was at least going out there and competing and fighting."

Malone added: "If somebody’s kicking our ass and we’re fighting and competing, and they’re better than us, so be it,"

"They’re a very good team, but if we’re getting our butts kicked, and we’re just taking it, possession after possession, heads are dropped, body language giving in, I’m not going to reward that behaviour.

"There’s principles in life, and that goes against every principle inside my body."

Jokic was well down on his usual output with eight rebounds and four assists along with his 23 points, while starters Aaron Gordon (13 points, four rebounds), Monte Morris (seven points, four rebounds and four assists), Will Barton (eight points and five rebounds) and Jeff Green (six points and one rebound) struggled for impact.

"Tonight I can't point to one thing we did well," Malone said.

Jokic added: "Overall, they had a really good defensive game and I had a really bad offensive game."

Jayson Tatum, who was serenaded with "MVP" chants from the Celtics crowd, was joint top scorer with 30 points along with Jaylen Brown.

Boston's win improves their record to 44-28 and fourth in the east, having won three in a row and 10 of their past 12 games.

The ascending Boston Celtics added another scalp to their resume, holding reigning MVP Nikola Jokic to his season-worst shooting percentage in a 124-104 win over the Denver Nuggets on Sunday.

In a stunning year-on-year improvement, the Celtics have been the best defence in the NBA this season after finishing 17th in that department this past season.

With new coach Ime Udoka going all-in on a switching defensive system, it was theoretically going to be tested against the best passing big man in league history, and arguably the league's most dominant offensive force.

However, Jokic was bottled up similarly to everyone else the Celtics have played in 2022, going 8-of-23 (34.7 per cent) from the field in the blowout loss.

Jokic, who is shooting 57 per cent from the field for the season, had previously had his worst shooting performance when he went 6-of-17 (35.3 per cent) in an early-December loss against the Chicago Bulls.

Boston's two superstar wings combined for 60 points, as Jayson Tatum posted 30 points (11-of-17 shooting, 6-of-10 from three) with seven assists, while Jaylen Brown had 30 points (12-of-19 shooting, 3-of-6 from three) with six rebounds.

The ascending Boston Celtics added another scalp to their resume, holding reigning MVP Nikola Jokic to his season-worst shooting percentage in a 124-104 win over the Denver Nuggets on Sunday.

In a stunning year-on-year improvement, the Celtics have been the best defence in the NBA this season after finishing 17th in that department this past season.

With new coach Ime Udoka going all-in on a switching defensive system, it was theoretically going to be tested against the best passing big man in league history, and arguably the league's most dominant offensive force.

However, Jokic was bottled up similarly to everyone else the Celtics have played in 2022, going 8-of-23 (34.7 per cent) from the field in the blowout loss.

Jokic, who is shooting 57 per cent from the field for the season, had previously had his worst shooting performance when he went 6-of-17 (35.3 per cent) in an early-December loss against the Chicago Bulls.

Boston's two superstar wings combined for 60 points, as Jayson Tatum posted 30 points (11-of-17 shooting, 6-of-10 from three) with seven assists, while Jaylen Brown had 30 points (12-of-19 shooting, 3-of-6 from three) with six rebounds.

Spencer Dinwiddie delivered the buzzer-beating dagger in the Dallas Mavericks' 113-111 win on the road against the Brooklyn Nets.

In a game with First Team All-NBA stars Luka Doncic and Kevin Durant going head-to-head, Dinwiddie hit the most important shot of the night as defenders rushed to trap Doncic with just seconds remaining as the Mavericks trailed 110-111.

The game only required Dinwiddie's heroics after a string of late-game shot-making saw the lead seesaw.

After a Dirk Nowitzki-esque mid-range fadeaway from Doncic to grab a 110-108 lead, Durant took matters into his own hands.

Facing a defence that was game-planned to get the ball out of Durant's hands by sending two defenders to him whenever he had the ball, the seven-foot star was unselfish throughout the game as he moved the ball to the open outlet pass and racked up 10 assists to go with his 23 points (8/20 shooting).

But with everything on the line, Durant was determined to live and die by his own shot-making, pulling up and draining a ridiculous long-three with two defenders closing in on him to nab a one-point lead, before Dindwiddie answered.

On a day that saw MVP favourites Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic go head-to-head, it was fellow center Karl-Anthony Towns who stole the headlines.

Towns scored a career-high 60 points in the Minnesota Timberwolves' 149-139 win over the San Antonio Spurs.

It is the most points scored by any player in a single game this season, ahead of Trae Young and LeBron James, who both scored 56.

After reaching half-time with 24 points, Towns exploded into life after the break, scoring 32 of his side's 46 third-quarter points on his way to final shooting figures of 19-31 from the field, 7-11 from three and 15-16 from the line.

Towns, who is the first center to hit 60 points in a single NBA game since Shaquille O'Neal in March 2000, also grabbed a personal season-high of 17 rebounds, while on the other side Dejounte Murray was no slouch with 30 points and 12 assists, though it was not enough for the Spurs.

The Brooklyn Nets silenced the Philadelphia crowd that came to jeer Ben Simmons on his return to the Wells Fargo Center in a surprise blowout 129-100 win over the 76ers on Thursday.

Kevin Durant top scored with 25 points along with 14 rebounds and seven assists, while Seth Curry – who was also involved in last month's trade which saw Simmons and James Harden swapped sides – added 24 points with five steals.

Kyrie Irving landed five three-pointers for his 22 points along with five assists, while Harden endured a difficult night against his former teammates.

Harden only managed 11 points, shooting three-of-17 from the field, with six rebounds and five assists. Joel Embiid had 27 points with 12 rebounds for the 76ers.

Simmons did not play, sitting on the Nets bench and enduring boos, but his teammates did their best to silence the home crowd by opening up a 21-point half-time lead.

The win boosted the Nets' playoffs hopes, improving their record to 34-33, while the 76ers are third in the east with a 40-25 record.

 

Curry reaches milestone in GSW win

Stephen Curry reached 20,000 career NBA points as the Golden State Warriors reaffirmed their top three status in the west with a 113-102 win over the Denver Nuggets.

The Nuggets, playing their fourth game in five days, led by 14 points in third quarter but fell away, with Nikola Jokic (23 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists) entering foul trouble.

Curry finished with a game-high 34 points including three three-pointers, shooting 11-of-21 from the field, while Jordan Poole drained two clutch triples in the final minute as the Warriors went on a late 13-0 run. 

The win makes it back-to-back victories for Golden State who improve to 45-22 after recent wobbly form, while the Nuggets are 40-27 with their four-game winning run ended. 

Sacramento Kings interim head coach Alvin Gentry admitted it is "hard to believe" Nikola Jokic will not be named NBA MVP again this season.

The comments came after the Serbian scored 38 points in a 106-100 win for the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, helping Michael Malone's men to their fourth consecutive victory.

The reigning MVP posted 32 points against the Golden State Warriors and 46 against the New Orleans Pelicans in the Nuggets' previous two outings. He is the first NBA player to average 35 or more points, 15 or more rebounds and 10 or more assists over a three-game run since Wilt Chamberlain did so between March 16-19, 1968.

After seeing Sacramento dominated by the 27-year-old, Gentry said he deserved a second consecutive MVP prize.

"That guy is just a different beast," he said post-game.

"He doesn't get shaken, he just does what he needs to do to win the game.

"He's just playing at such a high level, 46 points, 32 points, 38 tonight, he's just a different guy.

"Watching him play, it's hard to believe he won't be the MVP. 

"He's playing at such a high level and does so many things on the court, I think he's one of those guys you could take and put on any team, and that team's going to be pretty successful."

Denver have now won 12 of their past 14 games, while Jokic fell just three assists short of registering a third consecutive triple-double. 

His average of 25.9 points per game, meanwhile, is the ninth-strongest record among NBA players this season.

Jokic himself was pleased after recording another dominating performance in Sacramento but was keen to look ahead, with the Nuggets facing a rematch with the Warriors next on Thursday.

"Lately, we're playing really good, we're winning games," said the 27-year-old. 

"Hopefully, it's going to continue."

Steve Kerr believes Nikola Jokic should win a second consecutive NBA MVP award after seeing the superstar center take apart his Golden State Warriors team.

Jokic finished with 32 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists in the Denver Nuggets' 131-124 defeat of the Warriors.

It was a second straight triple-double and league-leading 18th of the season for the Serbian, who also tops the charts for double-doubles (52).

The Nuggets are missing Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. due to injury, but Jokic's 25.9 points, 13.8 rebounds and 8.1 assists per game have them sixth in the West – now just four games back on the Warriors, who have lost five straight.

Golden State have allowed 122.6 points per game across that losing run – the third-most in the league in that time – and Kerr was not surprised to see them punished by Jokic. The Warriors had rested Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins.

"You score 124, you shoot 51 per cent, you make 17 threes, you're usually going to win," Kerr said.

"But we're playing against the reigning MVP, who probably should win it again. I don't have a vote, but Jokic is just an unbelievable player. He was spectacular tonight.

"He makes all of his team-mates better, he makes defense so difficult, because no matter what you do he's got a counter for it, and he's playing the game at such an easy pace. Things look so smooth for him out there.

"With our defense coming into this game already struggling, he's a tough guy to face when you're not already well connected at that end of the floor."

The Philadelphia 76ers maintained their perfect record with James Harden in the side with a 121-106 win over the slumping Chicago Bulls on Monday.

Joel Embiid scored 43 points with 14 rebounds while Harden had 16 points, eight rebounds and 14 assists as the 76ers made it six wins from their past seven games.

The 76ers are also 5-0 with Harden in the side, while the Bulls have lost their past five games.

Embiid recorded his 10th 40-plus point game this season, along with his 10th game this season with 40 or more points and 10 or more rebounds. The 76ers center also had his fourth quarter for the season with at least 15 points and five rebounds, which is an NBA high.

For the Bulls, All-Star DeMar DeRozan had 23 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, while Zach LaVine added 24 points.

 

Jokic records 18th triple-double

Nikola Jokic backed up Sunday's 46-point haul with another triple-double as the Denver Nuggets defeated the short-handed Golden State Warriors 131-124. Jokic had his 18th triple-double of the season by three-quarter time and finished with 32 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists. The Warriors, who rested Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins in the catch-up game, have lost nine of their past 11 games.

Luka Doncic scored 35 points, with 16 rebounds and seven assists in a tense game, where the All-Star received a technical foul, as the Dallas Mavericks won 111-103 over the Utah Jazz. Doncic's game marked his third this season where he has scored 35 or more points and 15 or more rebounds, with Oscar Robertson the only other guard to achieve the feat in a single season.

Victor Oladipo returned for the first time since April last year for the Miami Heat scoring 11 points in 15 minutes as they beat the Houston Rockets 123-106, while top draft pick Cade Cunningham (28 points and 10 assists) lifted the Detroit Pistons to an over-time win over the Atlanta Hawks 113-110.

 

Spurs equals record as Lakers slump

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich tied Don Nelson's all-time NBA record for most coaching wins (1,335) as they won 117-110 over the Los Angeles Lakers without LeBron James. Russell Westbrook struggled in James' absence, with 17 points shooting five-of-14 from the field with five turnovers.

Nikola Jokic's Denver Nuggets team-mates have no doubt the reigning MVP is the best player in the NBA again this season.

The Nuggets have been hampered by injuries to Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. this season but remain a competitive sixth in the West thanks to Jokic's outstanding displays.

The center's latest heroics guided Denver to a 138-130 overtime win against the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday.

Jokic finished with 46 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists, four blocks and three steals – the first example of a player achieving those statistics in the NBA since blocks and steals were first tracked in 1973-74.

This sensational triple-double included 23 fourth-quarter points – matching Jokic's career high – and seven more in overtime.

Team-mate Aaron Gordon said: "[He is] phenomenal, different, he's just different. That's just not something that you see often.

"He took over, 30 points in the fourth quarter and overtime; that's just sick. That was just an amazing game. He's an amazing ballplayer.

"This dude is incredible. I don't say that about a lot of people. I only say that about a handful of people. This dude is incredible.

"He's the MVP. I believe that. He's coming out night in and night out putting up ridiculous numbers, and we're winning. I don't know everybody that votes on it, but this guy has got to be at the top of the list."

Jokic ranks 11th for points per game (25.8), second for rebounds (13.8) and seventh for assists (8.0) this season, with his combined 47.6 just clear of MVP rival Giannis Antetokounmpo (46.9) in first place.

For Nuggets coach Michael Malone then, it was a "luxury" to be able to turn to such a player late in the game against the Pelicans.

"What a luxury to have the MVP in an overtime game knowing you can just play through him," Malone said.

"They double-teamed him, Monte Morris makes a big three. It's just such a confidence that you have because you know in a close game he's just going to make the play again and again.

"For him to step up the way he did just speaks to his greatness."

Kyrie Irving was cool under pressure as he scored a season-high 38 points in the Brooklyn Nets' impressive 126-123 road win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, who finished with 29 points, 14 rebounds and six assists, missed a three-point attempt to send the game to over-time.

The Nets were missing key players Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons but produced a win that showcased their potential having lost 13 of their past 15 games.

New additions Seth Curry (19 points with four three-pointers) and Andre Drummond (17 points, 12 rebounds and five assists) supported Irving well, with the point guard crucial down the stretch from the stripe.

Bobby Portis scored a career-high eight three-pointers in his 30-point haul along with 12 rebounds, while Khris Middleton added 25 points for the Bucks who have lost four of their past five.

 

Ja records career-high haul

All-Star Ja Morant scored a career-high 46 points, while Steven Adams had 12 points with a season-high 21 rebounds as the Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Chicago Bulls 116-110. DeMar DeRozan extended his 30-point streak to 10 games with a 31-point haul as the Bulls' six-game win streak was halted.

Nikola Jokic closed to within five of Wilt Chamberlain's all-time triple-doubles record as the Denver Nuggets won 115-110 over the Sacramento Kings. Jokic had 18 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists for his 73rd career triple-double.

The Boston Celtics claimed their 11th win from their past 12 games with a 113-104 victory over the Detroit Pistons, while Trae Young dropped 41 points as the Atlanta Hawks won 127-100 against the Toronto Raptors.

 

Pop's record on hold

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich will have to wait a few more days before he can tie the NBA record for regular-season victories after a 133-129 loss to the Miami Heat, with Bam Adebayo scoring a season-high 36 points. Popovich has 1,334 regular-season wins as Spurs coach, putting him one behind Don Nelson.

Seth Curry's 23-point arrival helped the Brooklyn Nets snap their 11-game skid in a 109-85 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Monday.

Curry landed four three-pointers with seven rebounds and five assists while fellow debutant Andre Drummond added 11 points, with Ben Simmons still out despite being present for the pre-game shootaround.

The Nets led from start to finish but were propelled by a 54-37 second half with LaMarcus Aldridge scoring 19 points with eight rebounds off the bench.

Bruce Brown had season-high returns with 19 points, six assists and five steals for the new-look Nets who improved to 30-27.

De'Andre Fox had a game-high 26 points for the Kings who were limited to 34.4 per cent shooting (31-of-90) overall.

 

Steph stars but Warriors lose

Stephen Curry made eight three-pointers in a 33-point haul but it was not enough to get the Golden State Warriors past the Los Angeles Clippers who won 119-104. Terance Mann scored 25 points with seven rebounds and six assists for the triumphant Clippers.

Julius Randle had a triple-double with 30 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists but he was overshadowed by Rookie of the Year contender Josh Giddey as the Oklahoma City Thunder won 127-123 in overtime. Giddey also had a triple-double with 28 points including three triples along with 11 rebounds and 12 assists.

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic starred with 26 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists as the Denver Nuggets brushed aside the Orlando Magic 121-111, while Donovan Mitchell had 30 points with six rebounds and seven assists in the Utah Jazz's 135-101 victory over the Houston Rockets.

 

Middleton loses radar as Bucks go down

Khris Middleton almost had a triple-double but shot poorly, going three-of-15 from the field and one-of-eight from beyond the arc as the Milwaukee Bucks went down 122-107 to the Portland Trail Blazers. Anfernee Simons scored 31 points for the Blazers, while Middleton had 16 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists as the Bucks lost in Giannis Antetokounmpo's absence due to a sore ankle.

As the NBA All-Star break approaches, three players look to have established themselves as this season's MVP frontrunners – and they all happen to be big men born outside the United States.

That is surprising with the league trending towards teams hoisting up insane amounts of three-pointers and the idea of the big man in the middle becoming almost obsolete.

While this race will undoubtedly come down to the 11th hour, these three players have clearly separated themselves from the pack by playing some otherworldly basketball this season. 

JOEL EMBIID, Philadelphia 76ers

Embiid is the only one of the top three who has never won an MVP and that could end up working in his favour. The Philadelphia center was the runner-up to winner Nikola Jokic last season, and some wondered whether that was his best chance to win the award, but he has been better in nearly every area of the game while single-handedly carrying the 76ers to the upper reaches of the Eastern Conference.

Embiid's points (29.1), rebounds (10.8) and assists (4.4) have all ticked up slightly this season, though his field goal percentage has dropped. Maybe the most important stat that puts a fine point on just how valuable Embiid has been is Philadelphia's 27-12 record when he plays and 4-8 mark when he doesn't.

Embiid has had issues with durability throughout his career, never playing more than 64 games in any season. He has mostly put those issues to rest this season and played in 21 straight games before he had a scheduled maintenance day and missed Monday's win over Memphis. 

Because he hasn't had Ben Simmons playing alongside him this season, Embiid has taken on an even bigger role in the team's offense. He's maintained his scoring rate and his assists have jumped from 2.8 to 4.4 as he has assumed greater playmaking responsibility in both the half-court and transition, all while lowering his turnovers. 

Embiid's defence hasn't suffered even with his increased burden on the opposite end. His blocks have increased (1.35 to 1.44) and he is the biggest reason the 76ers have improved their scoring defence from last season (108.1 to 105.5).

Since Christmas, Embiid leads the league in scoring (33.8) while pulling down 10.9 rebounds per game. His stretch of eight consecutive games with at least 30 points from December 26 to January 12 is the longest in the NBA this season and is tied for the longest by any 76ers player (Allen Iverson, Wilt Chamberlain) since at least 1963-64. 

Philadelphia have won 15 of 19 during that span for a .789 winning percentage that ranks behind only the Grizzlies, moving the Sixers up to third in the Eastern Conference.

With 50.8 points, 16.1 rebounds and 7.6 assists per 48 minutes in January, Embiid became the first player in league history to average 50-15-5 per 48 in a calendar month. 

Embiid also isn't shrinking in the big moments, topping the league in points (127), field goals (40) and blocks (nine) in clutch situations.

All the ingredients necessary for an MVP are in place for Embiid, who has the production, the team success and even the narrative that he has put the team on his back in the absence of a fellow star player. Winning the top seed in the conference would certainly help Embiid's cause, and his play has that well within reach for the 76ers.

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO, Milwaukee Bucks

In the same that way that Embiid could be helped by having never won an MVP, Antetokounmpo could be hindered by having won back-to-back awards before Jokic took home the hardware last season. Only eight players have won three or more MVPs, with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar leading the way with six and LeBron James the only active player with more than two (four). 

The Greek Freak has overcome a slow start following a short offseason and is putting up remarkably similar numbers to his last few campaigns, so there is no denying that he is having another MVP-worthy season. As impressive as Antetokounmpo's numbers are, he may not be getting the attention he deserves because this level of production has become the norm for a player who is arguably an all-time great at just 27 years old. 

Antetokounmpo is the only player who had almost as good a January as Embiid, averaging 31.7 points, 10.9 points and 6.3 assists. His nine 30-point games in the month trailed only Embiid (12).

Milwaukee are jockeying with Cleveland and Chicago for the Central Division lead despite dealing with a revolving door of availability from their roster all season. Just like Embiid's chances at the MVP are boosted with a top seed, team success can only help Antetokounmpo's case. The Bucks were the number one seed in the East in both of his MVP seasons. 

Antetokounmpo's ability to affect a game in a myriad of ways was on display in a win over Golden State on January 13, when he had 30 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists and three blocks. All that production came in under 30 minutes of play and made him the first player with multiple 30-point triple-doubles in 30 minutes or less in the last 40 seasons. His other such outing came October 24, 2019, at Houston.

The Bucks superstar is one of only two players (also Jokic) currently averaging at least 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. 

If Milwaukee finish with the best record in the East and Antetokounmpo averages near 30 points per game, 11 rebounds and six assists, it might be difficult to deny him a third MVP award. 

NIKOLA JOKIC, Denver Nuggets

After winning the MVP last season, Jokic has replicated his numbers in 2021-22, if not exceeded many of them. He's done all that while leading the Nuggets to a 28-23 record despite the long-term absences of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., Denver's second and third-leading scorers last season. 

His performance this season has only reinforced his place among the league's elite and proven for the last time that he is not dependent on any player for his success, instead driving it for himself and his team-mates.

Jokic's scoring is basically equal to last season (25.9 to 26.4 in 2020-21), but his rebounds have jumped from 10.8 to 13.8 to put him second in the league behind Utah's Rudy Gobert as he has picked up the slack with Porter sidelined since early November. 

Jokic's assists (7.8), blocks (0.73), steals (1.42) and shooting percentage (57.2) are similar to last season, and he's again racking up the triple-doubles with a league-best 13 in 45 games after he had 16 in 72 last season. In only his seventh season, he is already fourth all-time in triple-doubles (70).

While Jokic's scoring in January (26.6) wasn't as robust as Embiid and Antetokounmpo, he did lead the league in total rebounds (212), ranked second in assists (144) and third in field goals made (158). He had a stretch of four consecutive triple-doubles from January 15 to 21 where he averaged 29.3 points, 13.0 rebounds and 12.3 assists, astonishing totals from any player, let alone a seven-footer. 

With 49 points in a win over the Clippers on January 19, Jokic became just the third center (also Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975 and Alvan Adams in 1977) since 1970-71 to record a triple-double with 45 points or more. 

While each player faces a separate set of circumstances from year to year, Jokic has been as good or better than his MVP season and has done so with much less around him. That itself won't guarantee him another MVP, but he's right there with the other candidates and has the rest of the season to prove himself worthy of becoming a back-to-back winner. 

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic triumphed against Giannis Antetokounmpo as the Denver Nuggets routed the reigning champions Milwaukee Bucks 136-100 on Sunday.

Jokic almost recorded his 13th triple-double of the season, while he matched his season-high for assists with 13.

The Serbian had 18 points, nine rebounds and 15 assists for the Nuggets, while Aaron Gordon contributed a team-high 24 points including four triples as Denver dominated the second half 71-43 after leading by eight points at the long break.

Antetokounmpo, who won the 2019 and 2020 MVP awards, finished with 29 points but only managed seven in the second half. The Greek forward also had nine rebounds and two assists.

Khris Middleton was kept quiet offensively with nine points, five rebounds and seven assists while Jrue Holiday added 14 points, five rebounds and eight assists.

The Nuggets improve to 28-21 overall aided by a five-game win streak, including four on the road, while the Bucks slip to 31-21.

 

Suns fight back for 10 straight

The table topping-Phoenix Suns overturned a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit to clinch their 10th straight win, beating the San Antonio Spurs 115-110. Devin Booker top scored with 28 points including four three-pointers, while Chris Paul was exceptional with 20 points, eight rebounds and a season-high 19 assists.

Trae Young starred with 36 points and 12 assists as the Atlanta Hawks extended their winning streak to seven games with a 129-121 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, who were without LeBron James for the third straight game with a knee soreness. Malik Monk scored 33 points for the Lakers.

Luka Doncic recorded a triple-double with 34 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists but the Dallas Mavericks lost 110-108 to the Orlando Magic, while 2021 top draft pick Cade Cunningham claimed a second career triple-double in the Detroit Pistons' 115-105 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

 

Jazz starter suffers worrying injury

Utah Jazz swingman Joe Ingles went down with an apparent knee injury in the second quarter of their 126-106 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Jazz confirmed Ingles will undergo an MRI in Salt Lake City on Monday.

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