After scoring 11 points in the first quarter of the Los Angeles Lakers' 116-108 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, LeBron James suffered an ankle injury early in the second term that he called "horrible".

James ended up staying in the game, and went on to score 39 points on 14-of-27 shooting, but he admitted after the game that it was more serious than he hoped.

After scoring 69 points in the first half, the Lakers were a different side after the break, scoring just 39 points over the final two quarters while the Pelicans scored 41 in the third quarter alone.

Speaking to post-game media, James said he would have "probably not" finished the game if he did not feel it was a crucial fixture for his side.

"I have no idea how I finished the game after watching the replay, it was pretty nasty," he said.

"I lost all explosiveness… a lot of my game was on the perimeter after that. It's horrible right now.

"From the time that I turned my ankle I felt a sharp pain run up my leg and get hot, and I've been there with ankle sprains before, but I didn't want to come out of the game.

"I understood how big of a game it was for us."

James was blunt when describing how it felt to come up short in a game that was built up as a near must-win internally.

"It feels like sh** – excuse my language, but that's what it feels like," he said.

"I came in with the mindset understanding that it was a playoff-type atmosphere with playoff implications.

"We also have a lot of guys in our ball club who haven't played in playoff games as well… [New Orleans] have guys who have been in the postseason.

"It feels like a wasted opportunity."

Also speaking with post-game media, head coach Frank Vogel preached urgency as the playoffs rapidly approach.

"Time's running out on us – we came out with the proper urgency for this game, but weren't able to close it," he said.

"It's over, this game is over, and we have to turn the page to the next one.

"It's not good – it hurts, this was a big game – but we have to regroup and find a way to beat Dallas and get some wins down the stretch here."

On James' injury, Vogel said it was a brave effort to stick it out until the end.

"It's tough – it has been that kind of season, and [James] was in an incredible groove when it happened," he said.

"Credit to him for toughing it out – you could see that he was limited on it somewhat the rest of the way, but he battled through it."

After some results fell their way, the new Eastern Conference one seed Philadelphia 76ers went head-to-head with the Western Conference one seed Phoenix Suns in a potential NBA Finals preview.

Unfortunately for the 76ers, their time on top was short-lived as the Suns' 114-104 home win sent the away side toppling down to fourth in the Eastern Conference standings.

MVP favourite Joel Embiid was enormous for the 76ers, scoring 37 points on 14-of-27 shooting to go with 15 rebounds, three steals and two blocks, but it was not enough to beat a Phoenix team that has now won 61 games this season – one short of their franchise record of 62 set in 1992-93 and 2004-05.

For the Suns, Devin Booker was the star, scoring an efficient 35 points on 13-of-22 shooting (three-of-five from long range), while Chris Paul dished out 14 assists to go with his 19 points.

As a team, Phoenix shot over 51 per cent from the field, and 48 per cent from three-point range.

 

Boston takes the one seed – for now

As Philadelphia fell from the top spot, the Boston Celtics took the opportunity to assume the position atop the Eastern Conference musical chairs, beating the Minnesota Timberwolves 134-112.

Boston's two centrepieces were both at the top of their game, with Jayson Tatum scoring 34 points on 12-of-21 shooting and dishing six assists, while Jaylen Brown had 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting with his 10 rebounds.

Boston, Philadelphia, the Miami Heat and the Milwaukee Bucks are all separated by just a half-game in a four-way race for the one seed and home-court advantage throughout the Eastern playoffs.

 

Lakers lose again despite LeBron heroics

As has become a theme this season, a terrific LeBron James performance was not enough to carry the Los Angeles Lakers to victory, going down 116-108 to the New Orleans Pelicans.

James had 39 points on 14-of-27 shooting, including seven-of-13 from long range, to go with nine rebounds and five assists in the loss.

In his first game back from a 10-match absence due to injury, Brandon Ingram was the man for the Pelicans, scoring 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting with seven rebounds and five assists, while rookie sensation Herb Jones claimed six steals.

DeMar DeRozan sat out the Chicago Bulls' 126-109 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday due to a groin strain which they feared may turn into "something bigger".

The loss meant the Bulls have suffered their fifth loss from their past six games, sliding to a 42-31 record and hanging on to fifth spot in the Eastern Conference.

DeRozan had been feeling some tightness in his groin recently, with a modest return of 21 points, four rebounds and two assists in Tuesday's 126-98 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks before sitting out against the Pelicans.

"DeMar knows his body better than anybody else," Bulls head coach Billy Donovan told reporters before Thursday's game.

"I think he felt like, 'Okay, this could get into something else a little bit more significant if I don't take care of this.'

"We just don't want it to turn into something bigger."

Donovan said the Bulls would know more on DeRozan's status on Friday ahead of their next game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday.

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.

Another road game, and another virtuoso performance from Kyrie Irving in the Brooklyn Nets' 150-108 win over the Orlando Magic.

Unable to play in home games due to New York's vaccine mandate, Irving made the most of Brooklyn's trip to Orlando, scoring a ridiculous 41 points (14-19 from the field) in just the first half.

In an explosive team performance, the Nets scored 48 points in the first quarter, while Irving and Kevin Durant combined for 26. Irving went on to score another 25 of his side's 38 in the second period.

Irving eventually sat with more than eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter, with his team up by 37 and his personal tally at a career-best 60 points on 20-31 shooting, 8-12 from the perimeter and 12-13 from the free-throw line.

It also sets a new franchise record for the Nets, beating Deron Williams' 57 back in 2012.

Irving's previous high-scores were 57 points and 55 points, which he scored within two months of each other in the 2014-15 season with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The massive total ties the most points scored in an NBA game this season, matching Karl-Anthony Towns' mark which he set just yesterday.

The Phoenix Suns became the first team to secure a playoff spot with an impressive 111-90 defeat of the Miami Heat on Wednesday.

Devin Booker returned from a four-game absence to put up 23 points, nine assists and eight rebounds as the leaders of the West toppled the top side in the East.

The Suns, who are 53-13 for the season, have now beaten all other 29 teams in the same season for the first time since 2006-07.

"I told the guys it was one of the best defensive performances I've ever seen," said Suns coach Monty Williams after watching his team concede just 35 points in the second half. "I've been around for a little bit."

Duncan Robinson was top scorer for Miami with 22, who led by 11 in the early stages before falling to just their third defeat in 15 games.

"They were first to the ball a lot," said Robinson. "They were the aggressor. Unacceptable."

 

The Milwaukee Bucks are now two games behind the Heat at the top of the Eastern Conference after beating the Atlanta Hawks 124-115, with Giannis Antetokounmpo's double-double of 43 points and 12 rebounds firing them to a sixth-straight win.

Antetokounmpo finished 15-of-22 from the field to take his tally to 82 points in the space of 24 hours after his 39 in Tuesday's victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

"The things he does are not normal," said team-mate Bobby Portis. "It's fun to be his team-mate and fun to play alongside him."

Rockets stun Lakers in overtime

The Los Angeles Lakers lost for the ninth time in a row on the road, going down 139-130 in overtime against the Houston Rockets.

A triple-double from LeBron James and 30 points from Russell Westbrook were not enough as rookie Jalen Green hit a career-high 32 points for the Rockets.

"We have a really small margin of error this season and teams are making us pay," said James, whose run of consecutive 25-point games ended at 23. "I missed a lot of shots that I know I'm capable of making, have made throughout the course of the season and my career."

The Los Angeles Clippers snapped their two-game losing streak, beating the Washington Wizards 115-109, while the Utah Jazz improved to 41-24 with a comfortable 123-85 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

Bulls back on track, Beasley sets record

The Chicago Bulls ended a run of five consecutive losses, DeMar DeRozan scoring 36 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter, in a 114-108 win over the Detroit Pistons.

It was a day to remember for Malik Beasley, who set a franchise record for three-pointers in the Minnesota Timberwolves' win at home over the Thunder.

Beasley landed 11 of his 17 attempts from beyond the arc as Minnesota, seventh in the West, made it six wins in a row.

The Boston Celtics continued their recent good form with a 115-101 win at the Charlotte Hornets, while the New York Knicks pulled off a fifth-straight road win over the Dallas Mavericks, Julius Randle scoring 26 points in a 107-77 blowout.

Gregg Popovich will have to wait for his NBA record 1,336th regular-season win as coach, the San Antonio Spurs falling 119-104 at home to the Toronto Raptors.

There were also wins for the Orlando Magic, who topped the New Orleans Pelicans 108-102, and the Denver Nuggets, who beat the Sacramento Kings 106-100 thanks to a 38-point double-double from Nikola Jokic.

Kyrie Irving scored a season-high 50 points to help snap the Brooklyn Nets' four-game losing run with a 132-121 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday.

Kevin Durant took a backseat to Irving's "master class", as the Nets point guard hit nine three-pointers, shooting at 79 percent from the floor, making 15-of-19.

Irving scored 30 points in the second half, with his Nets teammates contributing 33, helping them claim their fourth win from their past 21 games.

The 29-year-old became one of 22 players in NBA history with five 50-point games, along with becoming the second guard – behind Michal Jordan - in NBA history to have multiple 50-point games while shooting 75 percent or better from the floor.

Durant added 14 points with three rebounds and seven assists while Andre Drummond had 20 points with 14 rebounds.

 

Giannis stars as champions win fifth straight

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 39 points, shooting 13-of-19 including four-of-four from beyond the arc, as the Milwaukee Bucks crushed the Oklahoma City Thunder 142-115 for their fifth straight win. Khris Middleton added 25 points while Bobby Portis had 18 points with 14 rebounds.

Devin Booker was still out but the Phoenix Suns triumphed after a late Mikal Bridges block in a 102-99 win over the Orlando Magic. Deandre Ayton had 21 points with 19 rebounds for the Suns.

Ja Morant scored 24 points with eight rebounds and eight assists as the Memphis Grizzlies downed the New Orleans Pelicans 132-111, while Darius Garland became the fourth player in Cleveland Cavaliers history with 40 points and 10 assists in a game (41 and 13) as they won 127-124 over the Indiana Pacers.

 

Splash brothers shooting off

The Golden State Warriors' splash brothers, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson only managed a combined three-of-15 from beyond the arc but they snapped their five-game skid with a 112-97 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. Curry and Thompson finished with 15 and 20 points respectively, while Reggie Jackson struggled with two-of-14 shooting for the Clippers.

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."

Jayson Tatum produced a dominant display with 54 points as the Boston Celtics won 126-120 over the Brooklyn Nets who had the rare partnership of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on Sunday.

Durant and Irving teamed up for only the fourth time this season but their presence would not deny Tatum's brilliance, shooting 16-of-30 from the field and eight-of-15 from beyond the arc.

Tatum, who scored 34 points in the second half, led the Celtics' late charge as they won after trailing by one point at the final change.

Durant scored 37 points in his second game back from an MCL sprain which kept him out since mid-January, becoming the 23rd player to reach 25,000 career NBA points.

Irving only managed 19 points with four rebounds and six rebounds for the Nets who slip to 32-33, while the Celtics have won 21 of their past 27 games to improve to 39-27.

 

Middleton scores season-high

Khris Middleton scored a season-high 44 points as Giannis Antetokounmpo took a back seat in the Milwaukee Bucks' 132-122 win over the Phoenix Suns, who were missing both Chris Paul (thumb) and Devin Booker (protocols). The Bucks, who have won four straight, stormed home with a 12-1 run over the last three minutes as Antetokounmpo got into foul trouble.

The Houston Rockets snapped their 12-game losing run with a shock 123-112 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, for whom Ja Morant scored 22 points with six assists. The Utah Jazz closed on Memphis in the west with a 116-103 win at the Oklahoma City Thunder as Bojan Bogdanovic hit a franchise-record 11 three-pointers for his 35 points.

Nikola Jokic scored 46 points, including 30 in the fourth quarter, as the Denver Nuggets won 138-130 over the New Orleans Pelicans in over-time. Jokic had 46 points plus 12 rebounds and 11 assists as the Nugs rallied after squandering a 21-point lead.

 

Allen injury sours Cavs win

The Cleveland Cavaliers won 104-96 over the Toronto Raptors but lost Jarrett Allen indefinitely to a suspected fractured finger. Rookie Evan Mobley had 20 points with 17 rebounds for the Cavs who are 37-27.

James Harden continued his impressive start to life with the Philadelphia 76ers by dazzling in Wednesday's 123-108 victory against the New York Knicks on his home debut.

The 10-time NBA All-Star starred with 26 points, nine assists and nine rebounds to make it three wins from three since arriving from the Brooklyn Nets last month.

Joel Embiid led the scoring with 27 points, while Tyrese Maxey added 25 as the 76ers won for a fourth game in a row and improved to 38-23 for the season.

Doc Rivers' side now sit two games back of the Miami Heat for the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings after the latter lost 120-119 to the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Heat led by 14 points with six minutes to play but could not see out a fifth victory in a row, with Jrue Holiday's driving layup with 1.9 seconds to go completing the comeback.

Defending NBA champions Milwaukee had Giannis Antetokounmpo to thank for the much-needed win, the two-time MVP registering 28 points, 17 rebounds and five assists.

 


Suns reach milestone mark

The Phoenix Suns became the first team to reach 50 wins this season by easing to a 120-90 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers at Footprint Center.

Cam Johnson scored 20 points and Deandre Ayton added 18 as the Suns made light work of being without Chris Paul and Devin Booker, the latter entering the league's health and safety protocols.

Portland briefly put up a fight and were ahead early in the second quarter, but the hosts rallied to lead 63-48 at half-time and pulled further ahead to keep a two-game lead over the Chicago Bulls atop the Eastern Conference.


Pelicans show unity with Ukraine

The New Orleans Pelicans wore yellow socks for their 125-95 win over the Sacramento Kings in a show of solidarity with Ukraine after the country was invaded by Russia.

"It's a big mess," said Lithuanian center Jonas Valanciunas, who had 17 points and 14 rebounds. "We're just trying to bring more attention. The enemy is still out there. Innocent people are still dying. 

"The whole world is talking about sanctions, support, prayers – but something else has to be done because the war is still going on. It's been a tough seven days."
 
Elsewhere on Wednesday, injury-depleted Oklahoma City Thunder pulled off a surprise 119-107 win over the Denver Nuggets, while Donovan Mitchell scored 37 points as the Utah Jazz held off the Houston Rockets 132-127.

The Cleveland Cavaliers lost for a fifth time in six games with a 119-98 loss to the Charlotte Hornets, despite the return of Darius Garland from injury, and the Indiana Pacers beat the Orlando Magic 122-114 thanks to Malcolm Brogdon's 31 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.

LeBron James conceded this season is "definitely different" after the Los Angeles Lakers slumped to another defeat on Sunday.

The Lakers were humiliated 123-95 by the New Orleans Pelicans at home, giving up 23 turnovers for the game, which was the team's most this season.

James and Russell Westbrook combined for 14 turnovers, which was their worst return as team-mates.

The only positive was James scored 32 points, marking his 500th career game with 30 points or more.

But that was not enough to prevent a fifth defeat in six matches for the Lakers, with James recognising the need for a win to provide the catalyst for a turnaround.

"It all starts with a win. You learn from that win, the things you did well and what you didn't do well," he said.

"It always starts with that and how you can implement it into a game and a game situation.

"Obviously the last two losses have been... the Clippers game was right there [to win] and obviously we couldn't finish the game.

"And tonight against the Pelicans, who have been playing some good ball of late... this season is definitely different."

Next up for the 27-33 Lakers is a showdown with the Dallas Mavericks, who came from behind to stun the Golden State Warriors on Monday.

 

 

 

James Harden recorded his first triple-double for the Philadelphia 76ers who flexed their muscle with a dominant 125-109 win over the New York Knicks on Sunday.

Harden had 29 points, 10 rebounds and 16 assists, while Joel Embiid top scored with 37 points along with nine rebounds and four blocks.

Embiid made a season-high 23 free-throws, heading to the line 27 times across the game as the 76ers relentlessly attacked the rim.

The 76ers made 39 free-throws for the game, which was the most of any team this season.

Philadelphia had contributions from beyond their star pair, though, with Tyrese Maxey scoring 21 points with seven rebounds

 

Doncic leads Mavs comeback win

Luka Doncic helped the Dallas Mavericks overcome a 21-point third-quarter deficit to win 107-101 over the Golden State Warriors. The Slovenian had 34 points and 11 rebounds for the Mavs, while Stephen Curry finished with 27 points and 10 assists.

The Utah Jazz claimed their eighth win from their past nine games and condemned the Chris Paul-less Phoenix Suns to their second straight defeat in a 118-114 defeat, with Rudy Gobert scoring 16 points with 14 rebounds.

Kelly Olynyk scored a match-winning buzzer beater in overtime as the Detroit Pistons beat the Charlotte Hornets 127-126, while the in-form Boston Celtics were shocked 128-107 by the Indiana Pacers.

 

Lakers demolished on home court

The Los Angeles Lakers were humiliated 123-95 by the New Orleans Pelicans at home, giving up 23 turnovers for the game, which was the team's most this season. LeBron James and Russell Westbrook combined for 14 turnovers which was their worst return as teammates. The only positive was James scored 32 points, marking his 500th career game with 30 points or more.

James Harden scored 27 points with 13 assists on his Philadelphia 76ers debut and formed a strong partnership with Joel Embiid in a 133-102 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday.

Harden, who crossed from the Brooklyn Nets in an NBA Trade Deadline move earlier this month, almost registered a debut triple-double, with eight rebounds.

Embiid has been in irrepressible form this season, although there had been some concern Harden's arrival may blunt some of his offensive impact, but the center contributed 34 points, 10 rebounds and three assists.

The new-look 76ers had immediate cohesion, scoring 65 points in the first half, before a 41-point final quarter with Tyrese Maxey finishing with 28 points while Harden also drained five three-pointers, shooting seven-of-12 from the field.

The 76ers recorded a season-high 19 three-pointers for the game, with head coach Doc Rivers admitting "that was pretty good" when asked post-game if Harden's debut could have gone any better.

 

Lakers fall to Clippers again

Terance Mann led the way with 19 points and 10 rebounds as the Los Angeles Clippers won a tight game with the Los Angeles Lakers 105-102, the sixth time in a row they have beaten their local rivals.

LeBron James top scored with 21 but was unable to stop the Clippers from taking charge in the closing moments, with Amir Coffey adding 12 of his 14 points for the night in the fourth quarter.

The San Antonio Spurs edged the Washington Wizards 157-153 in double over-time, with both teams setting season-highs in scoring. Spurs guard Dejounte Murray recorded a triple-double, although he missed potential winning shots in both regulation and the first over-time.

RJ Barrett scored 46 points including six three-pointers but the New York Knicks went down 115-110 to the Miami Heat, while Donovan Mitchell scored 33 points and Rudy Gobert had a double-double (14 points and 17 rebounds) as the Utah Jazz beat Luka Doncic's Dallas Mavericks 114-109.

 

Suns streak halted

The table-topping Phoenix Suns' eight-game winning streak came to an end, going down 117-102 to the lowly New Orleans Pelicans. Devin Booker top scored with 30 points for the Suns, who were without injured veteran guard Chris Paul. CJ McCollum scored 32 points for the Pels as he continues to thrive following his trade.

Zion Williamson's failure to welcome CJ McCollum to the New Orleans Pelicans added to a "pattern of behaviour" that shows the former first overall pick to be "a detached team-mate".

That is the view of JJ Redick, a former Pelicans team-mate.

Injuries have limited Williamson to just 85 games in the NBA since he was drafted in 2019, meaning the discussion around the forward has instead centred on his commitment to the Pelicans.

The team have made moves to try to build a competitive team in the absence of a potential superstar, who averages 25.7 points for his career.

But McCollum, the latest recruit from the Portland Trail Blazers, said at the weekend he was yet to speak with Williamson directly.

And Redick, speaking on Tuesday, was able to offer an insight into life alongside the 21-year-old, whose status remains unclear as he waits to play his first game this season following a foot injury.

"This just shows a complete lack of investment in your team, in the organisation, in the city," Redick told First Take.

"I get that he's hurt and away from the team, but you just traded for one of the 50 best players in the league – a guy that's supposed to be paired with you. Reach out and say, 'hello'.

"This is a pattern of behaviour with Zion that we are seeing again and again. I was his team-mate; I can describe him as a detached team-mate – that is an accurate statement."

Redick, who joined the Pelicans at the same time as Williamson and left in March 2021, said: "Yes, he's been amazing when he's been on the court – 100 per cent.

"He's amazing to watch. There's no one that can do what he does on a basketball court.

"But as a team-mate, there is a pattern of behaviour; as a fully invested individual in New Orleans, there's a pattern of behaviour. This is worrisome."

Joel Embiid had 42 points as he inspired the Philadelphia 76ers to a 123-120 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.

With James Harden having arrived to bolster the 76ers' championship bid, but still missing due to a hamstring injury, Embiid served up a reminder of just how crucial he is with another supreme display on Thursday.

This time, it was reigning NBA champions the Bucks who were on the receiving end of a masterful showing from the 27-year-old, who also tallied up 14 rebounds and five assists.

The Bucks came close, though, and had their own MVP to thank for that – Giannis Antetokounmpo helping himself to a double-double of 32 points and 11 rebounds, while also contributing nine assists.

Embiid, fittingly, put Philadelphia ahead for good with a 10-foot shot in the final quarter. 

It marked a valuable return to form for the 76ers, who can enter the All-Star break on a high despite Tuesday's dismal 135-87 defeat to the Boston Celtics. They are third in the Eastern Conference with a 35-23 record, while the Bucks sit fifth (36-24).

Doncic downs Pelicans

Anything Embiid or Antetokounmpo can do, Luka Doncic is out to do it better.

The Dallas Mavericks star had 49 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists in a 125-118 defeat of the New Orleans Pelicans.

Doncic has now had 45 points or more in three of his last four games for Dallas, who enter the break in fifth place in the West.

Nets back to losing ways

After snapping an 11-game losing streak with victories over the Sacramento Kings and New York Knicks, the Brooklyn Nets fell to a 117-103 reverse in Washington.

Rui Hachimura led the way for the Wizards with 20 points, as they moved to 2-2 for their series against the Nets this season.

The Los Angeles Clippers beat the Houston Rockets to win for a third time in their last four games, while the Miami Heat were overtime winners over the Charlotte Hornets.

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