The NBA summer league is winding down, as the preliminary round of games ends on Thursday.

Only the top eight seeds will advance to a single-elimination tournament set to begin on July 13, so quite a few prospects will have to wait until the preseason begins in October to return to the court.

Some players have surpassed expectations in July while others have not. Success in the summer league does not necessarily translate to the regular season, but let's take a look at who is hot and who is not so far.

 

Hot

Tyler Herro, Miami Heat

Herro's criticism ahead of the 2019 NBA draft was based on his poor defense and lack of efficiency, despite his reputation as a sharpshooter. The summer league has allowed him to showcase that he has more to offer than shooting, though.

The 6-5 guard initiated the Heat's offense early and often and helped lead the team to a 3-1 record in the preliminary round. He showcased his playmaking ability out of pick-and-roll sets and has averaged 19.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.5 steals.

Herro probably is not close to becoming a primary option for the Heat, especially since Miami already have Goran Dragic, Jimmy Butler and Justise Winslow on board. But Herro's versatility is a good sign.

Lonnie Walker IV, San Antonio Spurs

Walker had his rookie season derailed by a meniscus tear, but he appears like he is poised to have a great sophomore campaign.

The 6-5 guard entered Thursday tied for first in the summer league in points per game (30.0) and he has been ridiculously efficient. Walker shot 58 per cent from the field in his two appearances.

His team went 2-2, so it is not likely he will play again in the tournament.

The Spurs will have some serious battles in their 2019-20 backcourt, as Walker will compete with the likes of Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and DeMar DeRozan for time after playing in just 17 regular season games last season.

Chris Boucher, Toronto Raptors

The Raptors have found yet another diamond in the rough.

Boucher, 26, has played in 29 regular season games and is routinely dominating the summer league by averaging 22.7 points and 10.7 rebounds per contest. Toronto have the NBA's reigning Most Improved Player in Pascal Siakam, and Boucher could be up next. 

The 6-10 big man is fresh off a season in which he was crowned MVP and Defensive Player of the Year of the G-League, playing for Toronto 905. He won his second straight NBA title with the Raptors in 2018-19, as he played for the Golden State Warriors in 2017-18.

The departure of Kawhi Leonard could clear space for him to break into Toronto's rotation.

Not

RJ Barrett, New York Knicks

New York were initially favoured to win the summer league championship but went an underwhelming 1-3.

Barrett, the third overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, averaged 14.0 points and 8.8 rebounds but shot 30 per cent from the field with genuine rotation players around him.

The Knicks could be in a lot of trouble if his shooting struggles linger.

Nassir Little, Portland Trail Blazers

Many felt Portland got a steal when they selected Little with the 25th pick in 2019 but he definitely has some work to do.

The 6-7 wing has tallied 22 minutes per contest through three games. He is averaging 4.3 points and 4.3 rebounds while shooting 33 per cent from the field. 

Little has shown flashes of his athleticism and is still figuring out how to fit in offensively.

Dean Wade, Cleveland Cavaliers

Wade went undrafted after four years at Kansas State, so there were not lofty expectations for him.

However, the Cavaliers have not received much from him in the 27 minutes he has averaged through three games.

The 6-10 forward is averaging 5.7 points and 5.7 rebounds but is only shooting 26 per cent from the field. That is a big drop off for a player who was the first option in college and hovered around 50 per cent shooting.

The Oklahoma City Thunder appear to have entered rebuild mode - and Russell Westbrook could be the next star out the door.

With Kawhi Leonard having persuaded Paul George to leave the Thunder and join him at the Los Angeles Clippers, eight-time All-Star Westbrook is understood to be open to the idea of ending his stay with the franchise.

The 30-year-old point guard, who has undergone a series of operations on his right knee, could prove difficult to move on, though. He has four years and over $160million remaining on the mammoth contract extension he signed in September 2017.

Still, we take a look at the teams that could offer Westbrook a new home.

 

New York Knicks

After trading away franchise player Kristaps Porzingis, losing out on top free agents Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to the Brooklyn Nets and missing the chance to draft Zion Williamson, the Knicks will no doubt be keen to get a star on board.

They would have to wait until December to put together a package including players who they have recently signed, however.

 

Miami Heat

Having already signed Jimmy Butler in free agency, Miami is understood to be a destination that appeals to Westbrook.

The Heat have already got Hassan Whiteside off their books and could offer the favourable contracts of talented duo Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow, but a lack of draft capital to offer may prove troublesome.

 

Detroit Pistons

A move for Westbrook would likely require the Pistons' All-Star center Andre Drummond to head the other way. Still, Detroit's issue is the other salaries they could use in any deal; those contracts run for longer than the Thunder will surely have in mind for any new arrivals.

However, combining the former MVP with Blake Griffin would offer them a greater chance of success in a much-changed Eastern Conference.

 

Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves reportedly narrowly missed out on signing D'Angelo Russell, who joined the Golden State Warriors in a sign-and-trade deal that sent Durant to the Nets.

Exchanging Andrew Wiggins' contract, which has four years and more than $120m remaining, for Westbrook undoubtedly presents them an improved chance of contending this season.

Yet such an agreement would again rely on significant draft picks being offered.

 

Other contenders

Putting Westbrook on a team with two other ball-dominant players in James Harden and Chris Paul sounds like a crazy idea, but that has not stopped the Houston Rockets reportedly taking an interest. The Cleveland Cavaliers are expected to trade Kevin Love and focus on a rebuild at some stage, though they could scrap that and pair him with Westbrook to make themselves relevant once again.

Dwyane Wade brought the curtain down on his time in the NBA on Wednesday, ending a glittering career that began in 2003 - when LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh all entered the league too.

Wade made a triple-double in his final game with the Miami Heat, who selected the guard with the fifth overall pick 16 years ago.

James went first overall that year to the Cleveland Cavaliers and after Darko Milicic landed with the Detroit Pistons, the Denver Nuggets took Anthony and the Toronto Raptors drafted Bosh before Wade came off the board.

With the help of Opta, we take a look at how James, Anthony, Bosh and Wade have fared since they entered the league.



LeBron James: 2003-present (Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers)

James has certainly lived up to the incredible hype that surrounded him in 2003, having won three titles and been named MVP on four occasions. 

He has the fourth-most points of all time (32,543), having recently moved above Michael Jordan on that list, and the 34-year-old is the only one of this quartet to have made over 10,000 field goals (11,838) and more than 50 per cent of his attempts (50.4 per cent).

However, he is the worst of the four from the free-throw line (73.6 per cent) and both Anthony (1,818) and Bosh (1,927) have more offensive rebounds than James' 1443, though the latter has 7,437 defensive boards - way more than the others.

 

Carmelo Anthony: 2003-present (Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets)

Currently without a team after a disastrous short spell with the Rockets at the start of this season, Anthony trails only James among the four in regular-season games played.

He has 10 All-Star appearances to his name and was the NBA scoring champion in 2013, but he is the only one of the quartet yet to win a championship ring.

Anthony leads the way when it comes to making attempts from beyond the arc (34.7 per cent), with Wade's three-point shooting percentage beneath 30 per cent (29.3).

However, the former Knicks star has the worst overall field-goal percentage of the quartet (44.9 per cent) and averages fewer assists, steals and blocks when compared to Wade, who finished his career averaging only two points fewer per game than Anthony.

Chris Bosh 2003-2017 (Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat)

Bosh was the first of the four to retire, the two-time NBA champion and 11-time All Star calling it a day in 2017, having won two rings alongside James and Wade in Miami.

Although he has not featured in the NBA since 2016, he has still managed more offensive rebounds (1,927) than any of the other three and has the most blocks (932).

While James (27.2), Anthony (24) and Wade (22) have all averaged more than 20 points per game and made over 1,000 appearances each, Bosh retired with a career points-per-game average of 19.2 and featured in just 893 regular-season matches.



Dwyane Wade 2003-2019 (Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers)

Among these four, only James (15) has appeared in more All-Star Games than Wade (13), and he was the first of the quartet to win a title too when he was named Finals MVP in Miami's 2006 success.

Wade averaged fewer minutes per game (33.9) than James (38.6), Anthony and Bosh (both 35.8), which perhaps explains why he trails his peers in a number of categories.

The other three have all made over 30 per cent of the three-point shots they have taken, yet Wade (29.3 per cent) failed to reach that figure. He also had the fewest rebounds (4,933), with James leading the way in that category (8,880).

Dwyane Wade says he can retire a happy man and expressed his gratitude to the rest of the 'Banana Boat crew' for being courtside at the Miami Heat legend's swansong on Wednesday.

The three-time NBA champion ended his illustrious career with a triple double of 25 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in a 113-94 defeat to the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center.

LeBron James, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony were there to witness Wade's last hurrah.

Wade felt it was a fitting that his close friends were reunited for his last NBA appearance.

"Obviously, it means a lot [to have them here]," Wade said. "They know that I will always be there for them, especially in a moment like this.

"No matter what I'm doing, I will be there for their last game. It was cool to see those guys over there. I'm glad they came, but at the same time I wish they weren't here because the whole time they kept telling me to shoot, shoot, shoot.

"But it was great. We've got a brotherhood. Those are my brothers."

Wade added: "For me I'm happy with this season. Unfortunately for the organisation, our team, we weren't in position to make the playoffs, but I'm happy to say I completed it.

"I almost messed it up when I fell on the scorer's table. But it's been great. I'm thankful for it and I can retire and be happy about my career, my body of work and everything I've been able to accomplish."

The Detroit Pistons are heading to the NBA playoffs after defeating the lowly New York Knicks 115-89.

After jumping out to an early lead and never looking back, the Pistons clinched the final postseason spot in the Eastern Conference on Wednesday.

The Pistons took control in the opening moments and held a 14-point advantage by the end of the first quarter. They pushed the score to 65-41 by half-time and cruised from there.

Andre Drummond tallied 20 points and 18 rebounds to lead Detroit to the victory. Luke Kennard chipped in a game-high 27 points off the bench while connecting on four of his eight three-point attempts.

The Pistons were playing without star Blake Griffin, who is dealing with a sore knee. They had last made the playoffs in 2015-16.

Meanwhile, the Charlotte Hornets entered play with their postseason hopes still alive. But, they were officially eliminated following Detroit's win.

Charlotte would not have advanced to the playoffs anyway as they fell to the Orlando Magic 122-114.

Soon-to-be free agent Kemba Walker recorded 43 points and five assists for Charlotte in what could be his last game with the Hornets.

 

Wade and Nowitzki say goodbye

Dwyane Wade registered a triple-double in his last game before retirement. The 37-year-old put up 25 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in the Miami Heat's 113-94 loss to the Brooklyn Nets.

Dallas Mavericks veteran Dirk Nowitzki scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in his farewell – a 105-94 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.

Jonathon Simmons had 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists as the Philadelphia 76ers won 125-109 against the Chicago Bulls.

Jevon Carter tallied 32 points in the Memphis Grizzlies' 132-117 victory over the Golden State Warriors.

 

Finney-Smith struggles

Dorian Finney-Smith was two-of-10 shooting and scored five points in the Mavericks' defeat.

Atlanta Hawks wing Kent Bazemore shot two of 10 from the field and was a minus-16 as his team fell to the Indiana Pacers 135-134.

 

No stopping Gordon

Aaron Gordon powered his way to the basket for the Magic.

 

Wednesday's results

Orlando Magic 122-114 Charlotte Hornets
San Antonio Spurs 105-94 Dallas Mavericks
Philadelphia 76ers 125-109 Chicago Bulls
Memphis Grizzlies 132-117 Golden State Warriors
Detroit Pistons 115-89 New York Knicks
Indiana Pacers 135-134 Atlanta Hawks
Oklahoma City Thunder 127-116 Milwaukee Bucks
Brooklyn Nets 113-94 Miami Heat
Denver Nuggets 99-95 Minnesota Timberwolves
Los Angeles Clippers 143-137 Utah Jazz (OT)
Portland Trail Blazers 136-131 Sacramento Kings

The playoffs

After a long regular season, the playoffs have finally arrived. The path to the championship begins on Saturday when the first series tip-off.

LeBron James and other stars were in the crowd for Dwyane Wade's final NBA game on Wednesday.

In Wade's finale after a glittering 16-year career, his best friends — James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul — were courtside for the Miami Heat's matchup against the Brooklyn Nets.

The trio travelled to Brooklyn to see Wade off one last time midweek.

James played with Wade in two stints — including the 2010-2014 seasons in Miami, winning two NBA championships together — and the Los Angeles Lakers superstar said he could not miss the farewell.

"We all started this journey together — obviously CP [Paul] came into the league a couple years after us — but we have a brotherhood that's so much more than basketball," James said.

"CP played last night, we [the Lakers] had our last regular-season game last night and Melo [Anthony] is right here in New York so we made the plan, made the decision to come up here.

"Listen, we couldn't miss D-Wade's last game. This is the last time he's going to be on an NBA floor wearing that Miami Heat uniform, that number three. So we're happy to be here supporting him."

James added: "He's given so much to this game. [He's] one of the best players we've ever seen in this game from as soon as he came out of Marquette. It's an honour for me to be alongside him for four years and to also be his brother for the last 16 years of my career."

Wade, a 13 All-Star, is averaging 14.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game.

Miami – who were eliminated from the postseason race despite Tuesday's win over the Philadelphia 76ers – entered Wednesday with a 39-42 record, tied with the Charlotte Hornets for ninth in the Eastern Conference standings.

Dwyane Wade expressed his gratitude to Miami for allowing him to grow and says "Wade County" will always be his home after his final game at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Former United States president Barack Obama was among those to congratulate Wade on his outstanding career in a video tribute to the Heat legend on an emotional Tuesday night in Florida.

The three-time NBA champion marked the occasion by top-scoring with 30 points in a 122-99 victory that was not enough to take Miami into the playoffs.

Wade, a 13-time NBA All-Star, will make one last appearance in his illustrious career against the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday after delivering a message of thanks following his Miami swansong.

"It's meant everything," Wade said. "To be able to come here and be embraced, to find a home, to be able to grow. I think that's the one thing.

"When I was on the court early on and Stan [Van Gundy, former Heat head coach] let me grow, as a player, whether it was mistakes I made in life to whatever it was, this city has allowed me to grow.

"I hope they are proud of what they have helped me become. This city means everything to me. It's forever, forever, forever going to be my home.

"This is the end of the basketball part for me, but [there is] so much more that I want to do in this city, so much we can accomplish together, so I look forward to that."

Wade says whatever comes next cannot compare to life as one of the best basketballers in the world.

"You can't replace this. I remember talking to MJ [Michael Jordan] about it. You've got to obviously find other ways of being competitive, to throw that competitive nature into [something]," the 37-year-old added.

Tuesday was a historic day for the NBA.

Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki each played their last home games for their respective teams, as both have plans to retire after the season. The Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks were both able to secure quality wins for their superstars on such an important night.

Wade scored a game-high 30 points for Miami in its 122-99 triumph over the Philadelphia 76ers. After the contest, he gifted jerseys to all of his teammates.

Nowitzki scored 30 points of his own in Dallas. The 40-year-old big man filled it up early, scoring his team's first 10 points in a 120-109 victory over Phoenix Suns. He became the oldest player in NBA history to score at least 30 points in a game.

While neither future Hall of Fame player will be in the post-season, they got the storybook endings they deserved in front of their home crowds.

Crawford goes off on Dallas

Pheonix Sun Jamal Crawford scored a game-high 51 points against the Mavericks.

James Harden recorded 39 points and 10 rebounds in Houston Rockets' 112-111 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Donovan Mitchell posted 46 points in Utah Jazz's 118-108 win over the Denver N.

Six and out for Green

Jeff Green scored six points on 2-of-13 shooting in the Washington Wizards' 116-110 loss to the Boston Celtics.

Wayne Ellington totaled seven points on 1-of-11 shooting in the Detriot Pistons' 100-93 victory against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Caruso almost wins it for the Lakers

Alex Caruso hit a huge shot to put the Lakers up late, but they fell to Portland 104-101.

Paul George hit a game-winner to lift the Thunder over the Rockets.

What's Next?

Orlando Magic (41-40) at Charlotte Hornets (39-42) 8 p.m. ET — Orlando has already punched its ticket to the playoffs. Charlotte, on the other hand, is battling with Detroit for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot. Steve Clifford coached the Hornets as recently as last season and now he has the opportunity to eliminate his old team from the post-season.

Reigning NBA champions the Golden State Warriors locked up first place in the Western Conference thanks to Sunday's 131-104 blowout win against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Golden State secured the west's number one seed in their last regular-season game at Oracle Arena after 47 years as they prepare to move to Chase Center in San Francisco.

The Warriors marked the occasion by wearing throwback jerseys – famously known as the "We Believe" era uniforms worn during the team's run to the 2007 playoffs, which were used from 2002 to 2010.

It was fitting that the franchise's cornerstone, Stephen Curry, led all scorers with 27 points. Six other Warriors also reached double-figures.

Landry Shamet led the Clippers' well-rounded scoring effort with 17 points.

 

Harden lifts Rockets

James Harden posted 30 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists in the Houston Rockets' 149-113 win over the Phoenix Suns.

Alex Len scored a career-high 33 points as the Atlanta Hawks fell 115-107 to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Karl-Anthony Towns posted 35 points in the Minnesota Timberwolves' 132-126 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

 

Cavs' Clarkson and his shooting woes

Jordan Clarkson scored two points on one-of-eight shooting in the Cleveland Cavaliers' 112-90 defeat to the San Antonio Spurs.

Kyle Lowry scored five points on one-of-eight shooting as the Toronto Raptors downed the Miami Heat 117-109 in overtime.

 

McGee with the slam!

JaVale McGee threw an alley-oop into the hoop with force in the Los Angeles Lakers' 113-109 win against the Utah Jazz.

Elfrid Payton sent the Sacramento Kings' De'Aaron Fox tumbling with a dribble move as the New Orleans Pelicans won 133-129.

 

Sunday's results

Toronto Raptors 117-109 Miami Heat (OT)
San Antonio Spurs 112-90 Cleveland Cavaliers
Oklahoma City Thunder 132-126 Minnesota Timberwolves
Charlotte Hornets 104-91 Detroit Pistons
Brooklyn Nets 108-96 Indiana Pacers
Dallas Mavericks 129-127 Memphis Grizzlies (OT)
Milwaukee Bucks 115-107 Atlanta Hawks
Houston Rockets 149-113 Phoenix Suns
Orlando Magic 116-108 Boston Celtics
New York Knicks 113-110 Washington Wizards
Golden State Warriors 131-104 Los Angeles Clippers
New Orleans Pelicans 133-129 Sacramento Kings
Portland Trail Blazers 115-108 Denver Nuggets
Los Angeles Lakers 113-109 Utah Jazz

 

Hornets at Cavaliers

Charlotte will attempt to keep their playoff dreams alive against Cleveland on Tuesday. The Hornets will likely have to win out to reach the postseason. The Cavaliers could bring the opposition's campaign crashing to a halt.

The Orlando Magic could not be stopped in Friday's 149-113 NBA victory over the Atlanta Hawks.

Orlando's ridiculous offensive performance was fuelled by three 25-point scorers.

Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier both contributed 25 points as starters. But Terrence Ross pitched in with a surprising 25 more from the bench and connected on six 3-pointers.

Trae Young and John Collins mustered 22 and 20 points respectively for Atlanta, but were simply outmatched from the start.

With the Magic's victory, they moved to sixth in the Eastern Conference standings. Orlando are just a half game ahead of Detroit Pistons and Brooklyn Nets in the playoff race. Things could get tight down the stretch as these teams battle it out for optimal postseason seeding.

Griffin's haul in vain

Blake Griffin scored a game-high 45 points in the Pistons' 123-110 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Delon Wright posted a career-high 26 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists as Memphis Grizzlies took down Dallas Mavericks 122-112.

Kemba Walker totaled 29 points in Charlotte Hornets' 113-111 victory over Toronto Raptors.

 

Blundering Bogdanovic penalises Pacers  

Bojan Bogdanovic scored four points on 1-of-8 shooting as Indiana Pacers fell short to Boston Celtics 117-97.

Damyean Dotson managed seven points on 3-of-14 shooting in New York Knicks' 120-96 blowout loss to Houston Rockets.

 

Layman and Towns make the highlights reel

Portland Trail Blazers' Jake Layman elevated over Denver Nuggets to finish strong with two hands at the rim.

And Karl-Anthony Towns' over-the-shoulder pass made for an easy Minnesota Timberwolves finish against Miami Heat.

Friday's results

Utah Jazz 119-98 Sacramento Kings
Dallas Mavericks 112-122 Memphis Grizzlies
Oklahoma City Thunder 123-110 Detroit Pistons
Minnesota Timberwolves 111-109 Miami Heat
Houston Rockets 120-96 New York Knicks
Indiana Pacers 97-117 Boston Celtics
Washington Wizards 112-129 San Antonio Spurs
Orlando Magic 149-113 Atlanta Hawks
Charlotte Hornets 113-111 Toronto Raptors
Phoenix Suns 133-126 New Orleans Pelicans
Los Angeles Clippers 117-122 Los Angeles Lakers
Golden State Warriors 120-114 Cleveland Cavaliers
Denver Nuggets 119-110 Portland Trail Blazers

 

Nets at Bucks

Brooklyn Nets are tied with Detroit Pistons for the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference. Milwaukee Bucks have the top spot in the conference, so they could end up facing the Nets in the first round of the playoffs. This match-up could be a preview of a high-intensity postseason series.

Dwyane Wade is already preparing for his "big change", acknowledging that he will seek therapy when he leaves the NBA.

The veteran Miami Heat guard is retiring following his 16th season in the league and expects that he will struggle to adapt, despite having previously been sceptical of seeing a therapist.

Wade's career could end with the regular season - the Heat are half a game out of playoff contention - but he knows what he will be doing in retirement.

"I'll be in therapy. Seriously," Wade told ESPN. "I meant it - it is going to be a big change. I told my wife, I said, 'I need to do therapy, and we need to do a little bit'.

"I was always against someone that doesn't know me telling me how to live my life or giving me instructions. But I need someone to talk to about it. Because it is a big change.

"Even though I've got a long life to live, other great things I can accomplish and do, it's not this. So it's going to be different."

Regardless of exactly when his career comes to an end, Wade has enjoyed a final season that has brought tributes around the NBA.

He added: "It's been surreal. It's like you have this vision of how you want things to go with everything in life. And when something surpasses that vision, it's like an out-of-body experience.

"I couldn't have written this book any better. This is a best-seller. And I couldn't have written it about my life."

Wade, 37, is averaging 14.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists in his final season. 

The three-time NBA champion and 2006 Finals MVP is playing just over 25 minutes per game. He is averaging 17 points in the team's past five games.

"I'm gonna go out the way D-Wade's supposed to go out" Wade said. "You know what I mean? I think it helps, too, that we are in this playoff battle. Because I'm just trying to win."

 

Kyrie Irving and Al Horford each had praise for Gordon Hayward after he impressed with 25 points in the Boston Celtics' 112-102 win over the Miami Heat.

Hayward, Irving and Horford each had at least 20 points as the Celtics made it four wins from their last five, giving them momentum as the playoffs approach.

An All-Star with the Utah Jazz in 2017, Hayward has yet to reach such heights with the Celtics after suffering a horrific broken leg and dislocated ankle in his debut for them last season.

However, he had a season-high 13 free-throw attempts on Wednesday and is shooting at 51.9 per cent from the field since the All-Star break.

"He's just trying things now and doing it with more confidence, and getting into the lane and getting fouled," Irving said. "He's really understanding his size again, where he's 6ft 9in, able to post guys up, able to come off screen-and-rolls and make great decisions.

"We're best when he's looking for his shot. He's a great facilitator. But we need G to score.

"I told him that, and I'm going to keep telling him to stay aggressive and be him and really be that 20-point scorer that he was."

Horford added: "It is encouraging to see Gordon have such a good game, to really take over. Obviously Kyrie has been our rock all year. It is good, it is good to see all that come together, especially this time of year getting ready for the playoffs.

"I just think that not only is [Hayward] starting to understand what he wants to do and he's feeling good, but also us.

"We're starting to understand how to play with Gordon a little more. When the ball is in his hands, usually good things happen, and we just need him to continue to play with that confidence."

Of the Celtics' recent form, Horford said: "It does feel different.

"I just think that this time of the year and everything that's at stake, and the playoffs nearing, I think our group is playing with much better focus. That's encouraging."

The Denver Nuggets thrashed the San Antonio Spurs 113-85 in the NBA on Wednesday.

Both the Spurs and Nuggets entered the game with a chance to improve their playoff seeding.

Yet things went south for the Spurs just 63 seconds into the game when coach Gregg Popovich was ejected after picking up his second technical for arguing a call.

Denver went on to win comfortably, with the outcome never in doubt.

The only way Popovich could have made a difference for the Spurs would be if he had suited up and started knocking down three-pointers. San Antonio were dreadful from behind the arc, hitting only five-of-27 attempts.

Nikola Jokic scored 20 (with 11 boards and nine assists) to lead six players in double-figures for the Nuggets, who improved to 52-26. That leaves them only 1.5 games behind the idle Warriors for the number one seed in the Western Conference. Denver have four games remaining, while Golden State have five.

At the other end of the playoff field, the Spurs (45-34) dropped from seventh to eighth in the standings, a half-game behind the idle Oklahoma City Thunder. As the final week of the season plays out, those potential one-eight and two-seven first-round playoff matchups bear a close watch.

 

Drummond dynamic for Detroit

Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond narrowly missed another 20-20 game, scoring 28 and collecting 19 rebounds in a loss to the Indiana Pacers.

Center Nikola Vucevic had 29 points and 13 rebounds in the Orlando Magic's 114-100 win over the New York Knicks.

Knicks forward Mario Hezonja scored 29 points and added nine rebounds in the loss to the Magic.

Chicago Bulls guard Walt Lemon Jr. scored 24, had eight assists and won the game with two late free throws in a 115-114 victory over the Washington Wizards.

Portland Trail Blazers wing Evan Turner came off the bench for a triple-double (13/12/11) in a 116-89 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. 

 

Evans wayward

Pacers guard Tyreke Evans hit only one of 13 shots and scored six points in a win against the Pistons.

 

Harden class

Houston Rockets star James Harden makes even difficult shots look easy, as he showed against the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Minnesota Timberwolves' Karl-Anthony Towns drove the lane not once, but twice, for thunderous dunks in the first quarter against the Dallas Mavericks.

Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris went up strong to dunk, but the Atlanta Hawks' John Collins had other ideas.

Wednesday's results

Indiana Pacers 108-89 Detroit Pistons
Orlando Magic 114-100 New York Knicks
Chicago Bulls 115-114 Washington Wizards
Atlanta Hawks 130-122 Philadelphia 76ers
Toronto Raptors 115-105 Brooklyn Nets
Boston Celtics 112-102 Miami Heat
Charlotte Hornets 115-109 New Orleans Pelicans
Minnesota Timberwolves 110-108 Dallas Mavericks
Denver Nuggets 113-85 San Antonio Spurs
Utah Jazz 118-97 Phoenix Suns
Portland Trail Blazers 116-89 Memphis Grizzlies
Houston Rockets 135-103 Los Angeles Clippers

 

Bucks at 76ers

This could be a preview of the Eastern Conference Finals. The 76ers expect star Joel Embiid back in the lineup after a three-game break. But even with Embiid on the floor, the 76ers recently lost games to the Hawks and Magic – they lost again to the Hawks on Wednesday – so they need to rediscover their form before the playoffs begin.

The Boston Celtics got an unlikely triple-double from Al Horford in their 110-105 victory over the Miami Heat in the NBA on Monday.

Horford totalled 19 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in what was just the second triple-double of his 12-year career.

Boston got out to a sizable first-half lead, but Miami came battling back in the fourth. The Heat's comeback was fuelled by Goran Dragic's 30-point performance, but the Celtics simply had too many options, even without Jaylen Brown (back).

Miami (38-39) hold the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but the Magic are just a half-game back. The scramble for a postseason appearance could get hectic as the regular season comes to a close.

Boston (46-32), the Eastern Conference's fourth seed, are even with Indiana with four games to play before the playoffs.

 

Bledsoe brilliant against Brooklyn

Eric Bledsoe poured in a game-high 29 points in the Milwaukee Bucks' 131-121 win over the Brooklyn Nets.

Robin Lopez scored a season-high 29 points in the Chicago Bulls' 113-105 loss to the New York Knicks.

Danny Green's season-high of 29 points helped lift the Toronto Raptors past the Magic 121-109.

 

Joseph struggles

Cory Joseph tallied four points on two-of-nine shooting in the Indiana Pacers' 111-102 win over the Detroit Pistons.

Jonah Bolden scored two points on one-of-six shooting in the Philadelphia 76ers' 122-102 blowout loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

 

Jones tricks Lillard

Tyus Jones fooled Damian Lillard with a step-back jumper in the Minnesota Timberwolves' 132-122 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.

Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell moved the defense with a ball fake and threw the ball in at the rim against the Charlotte Hornets.

Monday's results

Indiana Pacers 111-102 Detroit Pistons
Boston Celtics 110-105 Miami Heat
Milwaukee Bucks 131-121 Brooklyn Nets
New York Knicks 113-105 Chicago Bulls
Toronto Raptors 121-109 Orlando Magic
Portland Trail Blazers 132-122 Minnesota Timberwolves
Dallas Mavericks 122-102 Philadelphia 76ers
Utah Jazz 111-102 Charlotte Hornets
Phoenix Suns 122-113 Cleveland Cavaliers

 

Nuggets at Warriors

Only one game separates Denver and Golden State in the Western Conference standings. The Nuggets are coming off a disappointing loss to the Washington Wizards and will have to rally to win in Oracle Arena. One of these team will likely claim the top seed, as just six games remain for each side in the regular season.

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