NBA Power Rankings: Stephen Curry shoots Warriors into top spot


The red-hot Golden State Warriors, behind the hot shooting of Stephen Curry and an improved defense, have vaulted into the top spot in NBC Sports’ weekly NBA Power Rankings. After that, this early in the season, there are still some massive jumps up and down the board as things settle in but small sample sizes abound.

Warriors small icon 1. Warriors (9-1, Last Week No. 3). Winners of six in a row and with the best net rating in the NBA (via Cleaning the Glass), the Warriors don’t just look good; they look like themselves again. Are they contenders? Not sold on that, yet. The Warriors have had one of the two easiest schedules in the league so far, plus we need to see how Klay Thomson looks when he gets back on the court. Are the Warriors Stephen Curry for MVP good? Yes. It’s early, but Curry has to be near the top of the MVP conversation so far. Also, Gary Payton II is having a breakout season in the Bay Area — 14 points against the Hornets, 17 against the Pelicans — and he had this poster dunk.

Heat small icon 2. Heat (7-3, LW 1). Miami doesn’t run a lot — 16% of their plays start in transition, about the league average — but when they do they score have an offensive rating of 127.5, fifth best in the league. The Heat have the fourth best offense in the league so far, and while that may come back to earth some with Kyle Lowry adding shot creation and Tyler Herro seemingly not missing a shot, it feels sustainable. Miami’s loss to the Nuggets Monday was the start of 9-of-11 on the road through Thanksgiving.

Jazz small icon 3. Jazz (8-3, LW 2). Utah has the second-best offense in the NBA so far this season and a big part of that is no team takes a higher percentage of their shots from 3 — 48.7% of their attempts. It’s also a sign the Jazz offense could get better because they are hitting just 32.4% of those 3s (25th in the league) and that number is likely to go up. Of the Jazz’s three losses, two of them came in games Mike Conley sat out to rest (no back-to-backs), a reminder of what they missed last postseason without him.

Nets small icon 4. Nets (7-4, LW 9). The Nets core starting five — James Harden, Joe Harris, Bruce Brown, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin — has a +6.9 net rating this season, but surprisingly most of that comes from a stingy defense giving up less than a point per possession. Brooklyn’s offense still hasn’t hit its stride (and people are piling on Harden for that), but the team is winning and the offense is looking a little better each game. The Nets had won five in a row against lesser teams to right the ship, but it’s still a concern that their last two losses came against Miami and Chicago. Harden gave us an early candidate for the worst play of the year.

Knicks small icon 5. Knicks (7-4, LW 4). This ranking feels high for the Knicks, but they do have the third-best net rating in the league once garbage time is removed (Cleaning the Glass), and they did beat the Bucks and 76ers in the past week (both of those teams are shorthanded, but a win is a win). The Knicks third-best offense in the league has had some shooting luck to get that high — Kemba Walker is not going to shoot 45% from 3 for the season, and Derrick Rose at 43.2% is high — but the added depth around Randle this season means the Knicks are better on that end. If the offense slides some, it will be balanced out by the defense — Tom Thibodeau will not allow a 26th ranked defense to stand.

Sixers small icon 6. 76ers (8-4, LW 5). Philadelphia was off to a “Ben who? 8-2 start to the season with the top offense in the league (although their shooting numbers were not sustainable, a market correction is coming). Then COVID hit the team hard: Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris (who Doc Rivers said could return soon), Matisse Thybulle and Isaiah Joe are all missing time due to health and safety protocols. The Knicks took advantage on Monday night and the Bucks did the same on Tuesday, but we’re not dinging the Sixers too much here. Next up are the Raptors, and then a six-game road trip. As gritty as the 76ers have been, those are tough games without your two best players.

Bulls small icon 7. Bulls (7-3, LW 6). Chicago’s starting five — Lonzo Ball, Zach LaVine, Javonte Green, DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic — has improved after a rough first couple of games and now basically plays teams even (-0.6 net rating). However, the closing lineup — where Alex Caruso is in for Green — has a +17.5 net rating. Since the schedule got tough, Chicago is a respectable 3-3, although dropping both games to a shorthanded 76ers team was concerning. Starting Friday the Bulls are on a five-game West Coast road swing.

Raptors small icon 8. Raptors (6-5, LW 8). Pascal Siakam is back in the lineup and while he’s on a minute restriction he’s already made an impact, scoring 15 points in 25 minutes in his debut. It will be interesting to see how Siakam pairs with rookie Scottie Barnes, who is averaging 11 points and 8 rebounds a game plus playing great defense — it’s too early, but he is on the Rookie of the Year radar. Wednesday night in Boston starts 8-of-9 on the road for the Raptors (they are 4-0 away from home so far this season).

Wizards small icon 9. Wizards (7-3, LW 11). One of the surprises on the season is the Wizards’ top-10 defense so far, and the key to that is running opponents off the arc: 32.8% of Washington opponent shots are from 3, the lowest percentage of any team in the league. Opposing teams are also hitting only 29.2% of those 3s, although that number will go up over time. The Wizards are getting out of D.C. a lot in the coming weeks, with 8-of-11 on the road.

Nuggets small icon 10. Nuggets (6-4, LW 12). It was clear something was bothering Michael Porter Jr. before he went out with back issues (a red flag because that’s what caused him to drop in the NBA Draft). Porter Jr. had a dreadful 41.6 true shooting percentage (down from a very good 66.3 last season). He wasn’t getting to the rim as often, but the big issue was his shots were not falling no matter where he took them. Now Porter Jr. is out with no timeline. That the Nuggets have this record despite Porter Jr.’s issues and no Jamal Murray (knee) speaks to just how MVP-worthy Nikola Jokic has been this season (they are -19.1 per 100 when he is off the floor, a bad sign for the game he misses due to his suspension).

Cavaliers small icon 11. Cavaliers (7-4, LW 16). Collin Sexton is out, possibly for the season, with a torn meniscus and that is a real blow for a player in a contract year (he and the Cavs talked extension coming into the season but could not reach a deal). Sexton led the Cavaliers in scoring, even though his numbers and efficiency were down as he tried to adapt to a new role in the offense. Evan Mobley continues to tear it up as a rookie, and of late he has paired much better with Jarrett Allen up front, creating a dynamic front line that is difficult for opponents to deal with.

Suns small icon 12. Suns (6-3, LW 18). Winners of five in a row, taking advantage of a soft part of the schedule, but soft or not, the Suns have played much better defense during this stretch to spark the streak. As a team, they also have been able to tune out the controversy around the franchise owner Robert Sarver and not let it be a distraction on the court, which is a good thing because Sarver is fighting the allegations every step of the way, which means this could drag out.

Grizzlies small icon 13. Grizzlies (6-4, LW 14). Desmond Bane is the team’s second leading scorer at 16.3 points per game, which was unexpected on a team where  Jaren Jackson Jr. got paid and was the guy everyone was watching (Jackson has struggled, shooting 36.1% on the season). Dillon Brooks will score plenty once he gets healthy and on the court, which could be very soon as he had a full practice with the Grizzlies’ G-League team this week. But to start the season it’s been Bane, and he has impressed next to Ja Morant.

Mavericks small icon 14. Mavericks (7-3, LW 17). We’re 10 games into the season, the Mavericks have won 4-of-5, and yet does anyone know the answer to the question “how good is Dallas?” Jason Kidd has them playing decent defense (middle of the pack in the league) but the offense has struggled with spacing and flow. Kristaps Porzing is back in the rotation and that should help, but mostly what makes the offense work better is just more Luka Doncic.

Clippers small icon15. Clippers (6-4, LW 23). Paul George is earning his tributes, playing at an All-NBA (maybe MVP conversation) level averaging 26.7 points and 8.3 rebounds a game while doing it all with the highest usage rate of his career. However, it is still the Clippers defense — second in the league in net rating once garbage time is removed — that is at the heart of this team’s five-game win streak. That defense will get tested in games this week against the Heat and Bulls, but both at home at Staples Center.

Bucks small icon 16. Bucks (5-6, LW 15). Thrust into a bigger role than expected due to injuries, Grayson Allen has played well in Milwaukee averaging 15.5 points a game and shooting 41.5% from 3. The Bucks have been +13.2 per 100 possessions better with Allen on the court this season. Milwaukee still feels like a team treading water until it gets healthy, or maybe just until the playoffs start (they look like a bored championship team right now).

Blazers small icon 17. Trail Blazers (5-6, LW 20). Damian Lillard is in one of the worst slumps of his career to start this season, shooting 25.5% on his 10 3-pointers a game. His shot selection is almost identical to previous years, the shots just are not going in this season (an no, it’s not some passive aggressive trade thing, he’s just slumping… or is the ab injury that slowed in in the Olympics not healed?). Portland is 0-4 on the road after a loss to the Clippers Tuesday, and have three games left in this road trip (Suns, Rockets and Nuggets).

Lakers small icon 18. Lakers (6-5, LW 13). Forget Olympic ‘Melo, Staples Center ‘Melo is a thing. Carmelo Anthony is 38-of-59 (64.4%) from three at Staples Center and 1-of-16 on the road this season. The Lakers are 2-3 in the games LeBron James has missed and have been outscored by 3.8 points per 100 possessions in the minutes he is off the court overall this season (they are +3.4 when he is on). James has missed three straight games with this ab strain and there are reports that could stretch into a couple of weeks, bad news for a Lakers team about to see the schedule get tougher.

Kings small icon 19. Kings (5-6, LW 21). Richaun Holmes is perpetually the most underrated player in the NBA. He’s putting up good numbers at the five — 14.6 points and 10.5 rebounds a game — but the key is he does it incredibly efficiently shooting 65.7%, also he also provides much-needed rim protection. The Kings have a +2.6 net rating when he is on the court. The Kings offense has been pretty good (11th in the league) and that may be enough to get them in the play-in games.

Pacers small icon 20. Pacers (4-7, LW 22). After a rough start to the season the Pacers have have found some footing after a rough start to the season (but things don’t get easier with the next four games being the Nuggets, Jazz, 76ers, and Knicks). Malcolm Brogdon missed more time with an illness, but on the bright side there are reports T.J. Warren could return to the rotation around Christmas. This is still a team that is better than its record.

Celtics small icon 21. Celtics (4-6, LW 25). Because Jaylen Brown will miss a week (or more) with a hamstring strain, a bigger spotlight will be on Jayson Tatum’s shooting struggles to start the season. Tatum is shooting 32.1% on 3-pointers, down from 38.6% a year ago (on roughly the same number of attempts). He’s taking a few more midranges, and a little fewer at the rim, but he had been simply missing shots, at least until the Dallas game (we’ll see if that snaps him out of his slump). After a rough start to the season, the Celtics’ defense has looked better of late.

Hornets small icon 22. Hornets (5-7, LW 7). Charlotte was supposed to take a step forward this season, but that’s tough to do with the worst defense in the NBA. Charlotte is dead last in the league with a 114.2 defensive rating (remove garbage time and that “improves” to 28th worst). Last Friday, the Kings dropped 140 points on the Hornets, who have lost five in a row, four of those on the road. LaMelo Ball and the breakout season from Miles Bridges are great stories but have not been able to cover up the defensive flaws in the last week.

Hawks small icon 23. Hawks (4-8 LW 10). Kevin Huerter — he of the four year, $65 million contract extension last offseason — is off to a rough start: 6.9 points a game (down from 11 last season), and shooting 25.8% on 3-pointers (36.3% last season). He’s also taking fewer threes and more long-twos, which is not a good trade off. Blame the new ball or fans being back in the stands (that may be the bigger issue), but the Hawks need him to turn it around. Atlanta has lost five straight and is 1-7 on the road this season, they have one more game on this trip (Denver on Friday) before a five-game homestand.

Spurs small icon 24. Spurs (3-7, LW 24). Gregg Popovich has his young Spurs playing excellent defense — sixth-best in the NBA so far this season — but the wins aren’t coming as long as the offense continues to flounder. (The Spurs have also just been unlucky, they have the net rating of a .500 team.) Jakob Poeltl being out due to health and safety protocols is not ideal, but Thaddeus Young has stepped in and played fantastic defense while keeping the ball moving (5.4 assists a game). Young is helping the Spurs now, and playoff/contending teams will likely call around the trade deadline and ask about him.

Magic small icon 25. Magic (3-8, LW 26). Cole Anthony has made a leap in his second season — 20.2 points a game with just a slightly higher usage rate than last campaign, and he dropped a career-high 33 on the Jazz. Anthony has become far more efficient this season (58.5 true shooting percentage) by taking more than half his shots from 3 and is hitting 41.4% of them. Anthony also had the best postgame interview of the season.

Thunder small icon 26. Thunder (3-6, LW 30). Winners of two in a row, with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander putting on a show and shooting from the logo against the Lakers and dishing out nine assists against the Spurs. This mini winning steak could extend with the Pelicans and Kings the next two teams on the schedule. There’s a long way to go with this team, but they are feisty and Shai is making it entertaining.

27. Timberwolves (3-6, LW 19). Five straight losses have taken this team from “maybe the Wolves are turning it around” to “same old Wolves.” Surprisingly for a team with Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards, the offensive side of the ball is holding Minnesota back. Those struggles are why nobody bought the idea KAT was hacked when he liked a Tweet that had the #FreeKAT in it — he has never said he wants out, but know other teams are watching and waiting.

Rockets small icon 28. Rockets (1-9, LW 27). Jalen Green is putting up good numbers for a rookie — 13.6 points a game — but his shooting looks like a guy trying to adjust to the league. Green is shooting 28.6% on 3-pointers (which account for more than half his shots) and while he’s attacking the rim and taking nearly a quarter of his shots there, he’s hitting a decent but not great 59.4% of those. Kevin Porter Jr. also is struggling in clutch moments with his shot. All of this leads to flashes of what could be, but also a lot of losses. As expected this season in Houston.

Pelicans small icon 29. Pelicans (1-10, LW 28). No Zion Williamson so far this season and Brandon Ingram has now missed five straight games with a hip injury, and not shockingly the Pelicans are spiraling. New Orleans is bottom six in both offense and defense. Pelicans fans can try to be optimistic and say “once we get healthy with Zion and Ingram” they will look like a playoff/play-in level team. The problem is the hole this franchise has dug to start the season (and keeps digging until its stars return) will be very difficult to climb out of.

Pistons small icon 30. Pistons (1-8, LW 29). No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham is having a dreadful start to the season shooting. Through four games he is shooing 23.1 overall and 14/4% from 3 (he missed his first 18 3-pointers). It’s a small sample size, and Cunningham missed most of training camp due to injury. Far, far too early to hit the panic button, but he has a lot of work to do. Behind the top pick, the Pistons have the worst offense in the NBA so far.

Morant reportedly could return to Grizzlies Wednesday vs. Rockets


Despite his eight-game suspension being up, Ja Morant will not be on the court Monday night when the Grizzlies host the Mavericks (Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving are questionable for the Mavericks as of this writing, although Dončić has been hopeful he could play).

In good news for Grizzlies fans, Morant could return as soon as Wednesday against the Rockets, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Rockets and their porous defense are an excellent soft landing spot for Morant to return, put up some numbers, but not have to play heavy minutes. The Grizzlies play the Rockets both Wednesday and Friday and need wins as they are in a fight for the two seed with the red-hot Sacramento Kings.

Morant was suspended for flashing a gun in a club and broadcasting it on social media, something NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called “irresponsible” and “reckless.”The suspension was retroactive, including games he was “away from the team” following the incident. The suspension cost Morant $668,659 in pay, but it hit his bank account harder than that after one of his major sponsors — Powerade — pulled an ad campaign featuring him that would have run heavily during March Madness. Morant is also in the mix for an All-NBA spot — which, via the Rose rule could increase his contract extension that kicks in next season — and this incident and missed games will not help his cause.

Hopefully, Morant got a chance to step back and consider his path forward during the suspension. If the Grizzlies are going to make the postseason run this season — and be a contender for years to come — as they expect, they need peak Morant on the court.

Watch Antetokounmpo shoot 9-of-9, get triple-double in win against Raptors


MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 22 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, Brook Lopez scored 17 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter, and the Milwaukee Bucks rallied for a 118-111 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Sunday night.

Khris Middleton added 20 points and Bobby Portis had 14 as the Bucks improved to an NBA-best 51-20. Antetokounmpo had his 33rd career triple-double, making all nine of his field goal attempts.

Lopez scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter on a pair of 3-point plays and a dunk to put Milwaukee in front 97-95. Middleton’s free throw capped the 15-2 run that put the Bucks up 104-97.

“We settled down, we got back in control,” said Lopez, who outscored Toronto 17-16 in the fourth quarter. “We talked about the third quarter-fourth quarter break. They just shot more times than us. We were shooting just as well, or better than them from two and three. We just had to take care of the ball and keep them off the offensive glass.”

A dunk by Jakob Poeltl brought Toronto within 110-107, but Lopez scored underneath and Jrue Holiday hit two free throws to make it 114-107 with 1:29 remaining.

Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said Lopez’s outburst to start the fourth quarter was key.

“It changed the game,” Budenholzer said. “I think what he did offensively was important, and then the defense always stands out. It was a little bit muddy, not a pretty game there, and he stepped up and kind of just changed our feel and changed the momentum for us, particularly offensively, which we needed tonight.”

Fred VanVleet had 23 points and O.G. Anunoby added 22 for the Raptors, who had won their three previous games. Toronto missed a chance to move into eighth in the East Conference ahead of Atlanta, which lost to San Antonio 126-118.

“All these games are important to us, that’s for sure,” said Toronto coach Nick Nurse, whose team plays their next four at home. “I like, kind of, how we’re playing. I think we’re very well for long stretches of games. Hopefully, we can just keep building on that.”

Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr. hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Raptors up 83-76 with just under 4 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter. Toronto led 95-89 entering the final period.

“There was just two little probably bad stretches,” Nurse said. “In those stretches, they kind of got a couple of at the rim … a couple of and-ones. We just kind of lost our rim protection, and then kicked out and made a couple 3s after we kind of got that fixed. Give them credit, they made a couple big ones down the stretch when they needed them.”

The Bucks hit seven of their 16 3-pointers in the first period en route to a 33-29 lead.

Antetokounmpo, in his 10th season with the Bucks, played in his franchise-record 712th game, surpassing Junior Bridgeman. Antetokounmpo already was the franchise leader in points, assists, triple-doubles, free throws and minutes played. “It’s a great feeling. I wasn’t aware of it coming into the game,” Antetokounmpo said. “It’s been a long, long journey. There’s more to be accomplished yet, I believe.”

Three things to Know: Breaking down wild, wide-open West playoff race


Three Things To Know is NBC’s five-day-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Breaking down wild, wide-open West playoff race

There may be no clear-cut, runaway, team-to-beat in the West, but NBA rules state one of these teams will make it to the Finals. Which one? Your guess is as good as anyone’s at this point, but let’s break down a wide-open race.

• No.1 seed: Denver has lost 5-if-7 and Nikola Jokić was right in saying “we need to be concerned” after a loss to the Knicks on Saturday… they just don’t have to be concerned about being the No.1 seed in the West. After a bounce-back win against the Nets on Sunday — behind a Jokić triple-double — they have a four-game cushion for the top seed. This losing streak exposed questions about their defense and depth for a deep playoff run, but the standings haven’t changed much.

• No.2-3 seeds: Memphis and Sacramento are tied for the No.2-3 seeds at 43-27 — they will finish as those two seeds, the only question is which one will get the No.2 spot and have home court in a potential second-round matchup with each other. Memphis has the easier schedule the rest of the way and should get Ja Morant back from suspension this week, but count the Kings out at your own peril.

• No. 4-6 seeds: Here’s where things get messy. Only four games separate Phoenix at No.4 and New Orleans at No.12 — there is a lot of volatility in these spots. With the Suns expected to get Kevin Durant back before the end of the season, they are the logical pick to hold on to home court in the first round of the playoffs, but they also have a tougher schedule than the Clippers (one game back in the loss column) and Mavericks (two games back). The Clippers can’t afford to rest Kawhi Leonard as much down the stretch, they have lost seven in a row without him. With Dallas, the question is when does Luka Dončić return? These three teams likely finish 4-6 if they can play at least .500 ball the rest of the way, but if any team 4-12 in the West gets hot for the final games it could change everything.

• No.7-12 seeds: One game separates 7-12 in the bottom of the West, any little run could have the team at least in the 7/8 spots for the play-in (and only needing to win one game to make the playoffs. The team to watch is Oklahoma City, which has gone 7-3 in their last 10, has the easiest schedule of this group the rest of the way and is a tough out whenever Shai Gilgeous-Alexander plays. The Lakers sit 10th after an Austin Reavesfueled win over the Magic on Sunday, but they have the second-easiest schedule of this group and Darvin Ham said they expect LeBron James back before the end of the season. Can Golden State get a win on the road where they have lost seven straight (their 10 remaining games are split evenly home and road)? Fortunately for Minnesota, Anthony Edwardsankle injury is not as severe as it looked at first, but it’s unclear when he will return and this team has been outscored by 3.4 points per 100 possessions without him this season. Utah has the toughest remaining schedule in the West, but they have been gritty all season and will not go away, doing things like beating the Celtics over the weekend. Without Zion or a consistent offense, New Orleans may be the hardest of this group to back.

Portland sits 13th and has lost six in a row, mathematically they are not out of it but it’s hard to envision them turning things around, despite how well Damian Lillard is playing.

2) Giannis Antetokounmpo has perfect shooting triple-double in Bucks win

It feels like Giannis Antetokounmpo will have to put up triple-doubles nightly to keep up with Jokić and Joel Embiid in the MVP race, but the one he put up Sunday in leading the Bucks past the Raptors was special because he was a perfect 9-of-9 from the field.

If Wilt only did it twice, you know it’s hard to do.

We’ll dive into the East standings tomorrow, but the Bucks are sitting pretty as the league’s only 50+ win team (51-20) and have a comfortable 2.5-game cushion over the Celtics and 76ers. That matters, in part because Milwaukee will have home court for the entire playoffs, but more importantly, it puts them on the other side of the bracket from Boston and Philly and lets them fight it out in the second round.

3) Ted Lasso can hoop, too.

The Shot of the weekend goes to Jason Sudeikis. He and some others from Richmond F.C. were courtside at the Knicks game Saturday (promoting Ted Lasso, as it were) and he did this pregame:

Is there anything Ted Lasso can’t do?

Watch Austin Reaves score career-high 35, lead Lakers past Magic


LOS ANGELES — Austin Reaves scored a career-high 35 points, D’Angelo Russell added 18 points and the Los Angeles Lakers hung on for a 111-105 victory over the Orlando Magic on Sunday night.

Anthony Davis had 15 points and 11 rebounds on another rough shooting night, but Reaves carried the Lakers to victory with 13 points in the fourth quarter, including Los Angeles’ last 10 points over the final 1:33. The undrafted second-year pro has earned a vital role his star-studded team, and Reaves factored in almost every big play down the stretch as the Lakers snapped a two-game skid.

Lakers fans serenaded Reaves with chants of “M-V-P! M-V-P!” as he repeatedly earned trips to the line in the fourth quarter. Reaves shot a career-high 18 free throws, while the Magic shot 17.

“For them to recognize what I do – obviously I’m not an MVP-caliber player, those guys are really good – but for them to do that is special,” Reaves said. “It means a lot to me.”

The Lakers entered this game off back-to-back losses to Houston and Dallas, imperiling their tenuous position in the playoff race. This win put Los Angeles (35-37) back in ninth in the Western Conference, tied with Minnesota.

“I thought it was (Reaves) being his normal self,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “What he’s been all year. Coming up in clutch moments for us, trying to make plays downhill, putting the defense in uncomfortable situations with his ability to attack the paint and draw fouls. He was great. He ended up with 35, and we needed all of them.”

Rookie Paolo Banchero scored 21 points for Orlando, but got an unwise technical foul with 25.3 seconds to play after repeatedly arguing with officials during the night.

“It just puts you in a hard situation when they’re calling it like that,” Banchero said. “You want to defend without fouling, but we keep getting called. We keep fouling, I guess. We keep getting foul calls against us, so it just makes it hard, but we still had a chance to win. You can’t blame it all on that.”

Franz Wagner also scored 21 points in the Magic’s sixth loss in eight games to wrap up a four-game road swing. Wendell Carter Jr. had 16 points and 11 rebounds, but Orlando couldn’t repeat the dominance of its 39-point fourth quarter in a victory over the Clippers one day earlier in the same arena.

“It’s difficult, because I think we’re an aggressive, attacking team,” Orlando coach Jamahl Mosley said. “We’ve got to just, I guess, continue to do a better job of defending without fouling, show our help early and earn the respect of being able to get those calls.”

Cole Anthony hit a tying 3-pointer with 2:37 left for the Magic, who had trailed throughout the second half. Banchero fouled Reaves on a 3-point attempt a minute later, and Reaves hit two free throws before Wagner tied it again.

But Reaves hit a mid-range jumper with 57 seconds left and then grabbed the long rebound of Wagner’s missed 3 before making two more free throws. Banchero missed a layup and got the technical foul that helped the Lakers to seal it.

The Lakers improved to 6-5 during the latest injury absence for LeBron James, who has been out for three weeks with a sore right foot. Ham reiterated before the game that Los Angeles expects James to return before the regular season ends in three weeks.