Luka Doncic produced a stunning moment of magic to help the Dallas Mavericks outlast the Los Angeles Clippers 135-133 in overtime in Game 4 of their Western Conference first-round series.

With the Mavericks trailing 133-132 and staring at a 3-1 deficit in the NBA playoffs, Doncic called game as the reigning Rookie of the Year nailed a buzzer-beating three in OT on Sunday.

A game-time decision due to a left ankle injury, Doncic put fitness issues aside to see the Mavericks dramatically level the series at 2-2 in Orlando, Florida.

Doncic became the youngest player in NBA playoffs history to post a 40-point triple-double as he finished with 43 points, 17 rebounds and 13 assists.

It was the 21-year-old's second successive triple-double ahead of Game 5 against the Clippers at Walt Disney World Resort.

Kawhi Leonard's 32 points were not enough for the Clippers, while Lou Williams led the team's scorers with 36.

Defending champions the Toronto Raptors flexed their muscles in a 150-122 victory over the Brooklyn Nets as they recorded a sweep in the Eastern Conference first round.

Toronto's bench contributed 100 points, the most in any game since official starters began being tracked in 1970-71 – Norman Powell (29) and Serge Ibaka (27) leading the way.

The Raptors will face the Boston Celtics in the second round after the latter swept the Philadelphia 76ers 4-0 via a 110-106 success.

 

Mitchell makes history

Donovan Mitchell became the first player in NBA history to have two games with 50-plus points and five-plus assists in a single postseason as the Utah Jazz trumped the Denver Nuggets 129-127. Mitchell scored 18 of his 51 points in the fourth quarter to help the Jazz take a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference matchup.

Nuggets star Jamal Murray also put up 50 points in the losing effort. Murray and Mitchell are the first pair of players to register 50-plus points each in a non-overtime game since Wilt Chamberlain (63) and Elgin Baylor (51) in 1962, per STATS.

It was a huge night for the Raptors. Not only did they become the first team in postseason history to score 500-plus points in a series sweep (505), Toronto also became the first playoff franchise to have 150-plus points to cap a series whitewash.

Kemba Walker's 32 points and a double-double of 28 points and 15 rebounds from Jayson Tatum fuelled the Boston Celtics. Joel Embiid was a shining light for the 76ers with 30 points and 10 rebounds.

 

Sixers' swift exit, George struggles

It was a day to forget for the 76ers. It marked the first sweep at the hands of the Celtics in 15 playoff series meetings. Philadelphia have also failed to progress beyond the second round in three consecutive seasons.

The Jazz won but Joe Ingles was scoreless. Usually a threat from beyond the arc, Ingles missed all three of his three-point attempts. The Australian was also 0 for four from the field in 35 minutes.

Paul George's struggles continued against the Mavericks. He was just three of 14 from the floor and one of seven from beyond the arc for nine points in 45 minutes.

 

Doncic's Euro step

The Slovenian star was at his brilliant best, including this move to the rim.

 

Sunday's results

Boston Celtics 110-106 Philadelphia 76ers
Dallas Mavericks 135-133 Los Angeles Clippers (OT)
Toronto Raptors 150-122 Brooklyn Nets
Utah Jazz 129-127 Denver Nuggets

 

Lakers face Trail Blazers

After his mammoth display in Game 3, LeBron James will look to help the Los Angeles Lakers take a 3-1 lead against the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday.

The Los Angeles Clippers took the lead in their series against the Dallas Mavericks, while the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors are 3-0 up.

Kawhi Leonard starred as the Clippers posted a 130-122 win over the Mavericks.

Leonard finished with 36 points, nine rebounds and eight assists as the Clippers grabbed a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference first-round series.

Mavs star Luka Doncic had a triple-double of 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, but also suffered an ankle injury.

Meanwhile, Kristaps Porzingis managed a double-double of 34 points and 13 rebounds, going 11-of-18 from the field for Dallas.

The Celtics and Raptors are each one win away from setting up an Eastern Conference semi-final.

Boston moved into a 3-0 lead over the Philadelphia 76ers thanks to a 102-94 win, while the Raptors beat the Brooklyn Nets 117-92 to be a victory away from advancing.

 

Kemba lifts Celtics, special Siakam

Kemba Walker had 24 points, eight rebounds and four assists in the Celtics' victory.

The 76ers are on the verge of a first-round exit, but Joel Embiid finished with a double-double of 30 points and 13 rebounds.

Pascal Siakam's 26 points helped the Raptors to their comfortable win.

A double-double of 24 points and 14 rebounds from Rudy Gobert helped the Utah Jazz past the Denver Nuggets 124-87. The Jazz lead the Western Conference first-round series 2-1.

Jazz guard Mike Conley went seven-of-eight from three-point range to post 27 points.

 

Terrible Temple

Garrett Temple struggled for the Nets. The forward was two-of-12 from the field, managing just five points in nearly 36 minutes.

 

Wonderful Walker

Walker contributed 14 of his 24 points in the second half for Boston.

Friday's results

Toronto Raptors 117-92 Brooklyn Nets
Utah Jazz 124-87 Denver Nuggets
Boston Celtics 102-94 Philadelphia 76ers
Los Angeles Clippers 130-122 Dallas Mavericks

 

Lakers face Trail Blazers

Having drawn level in the Western Conference first-round series, the Los Angeles Lakers face the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 3 on Saturday.

The Dallas Mavericks levelled their Western Conference first-round series after defeating the Los Angeles Clippers 127-114 in the NBA playoffs.

Luka Doncic starred as the Mavericks bounced back against Kawhi Leonard's Clippers in Game 2 at Walt Disney World Resort on Wednesday.

Doncic posted 28 points to go with eight rebounds and seven assists, while fellow star Kristaps Porzingis had 23 points in Orlando, Florida.

Leonard's game-high 35 points and 10 rebounds were not enough as Paul George (14 points and 10 rebounds) struggled shooting – the Clippers All-Star was just four of 17 from the field, and two of 10 from beyond the arc.

Game 3 between the Mavericks and Clippers is on Friday.

The Boston Celtics, meanwhile, took a commanding 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference first-round matchup after beating the Philadelphia 76ers 128-101.

Jayson Tatum led the way again with a career playoff-high 33 points to fuel Boston against rivals Philadelphia in Game 2.

The 76ers stormed out of the blocks, taking a 14-point lead early in the first quarter before the Celtics overpowered their opponents – Kemba Walker adding 22 points to go with Jaylen Brown's 20.

Joel Embiid's 34 points and 10 rebounds were not enough for the 76ers, who are under pressure as they fight to avoid an early exit.

The Celtics and 76ers will meet again on Friday in Game 3.

 

Raptors roar as VanVleet stars

Fred VanVleet impressed again as defending champions the Toronto Raptors earned a 2-0 lead over the Brooklyn Nets with a 104-99 victory. VanVleet had a double-double of 24 points and 10 assists in the first-round Eastern Conference clash. Norman Powell scored 24 points off the bench, while Kyle Lowry posted 21 points and nine rebounds.

After a playoff-record 57 points in Game 1, Donovan Mitchell registered 30 points and the Utah Jazz topped the Denver Nuggets 124-105 to level the series. Mitchell was big in the third quarter, scoring 21 of his 30 points to take down the Nuggets. Jazz team-mate Jordan Clarkson finished with a career playoff-best 26 points.

Nikola Jokic's double-double of 28 points and 11 rebounds were not enough for the Nuggets, who also had 28 points from rookie Michael Porter Jr.

 

Horford's woes continue

Al Horford and his move to the 76es has not paid off, and the former Celtics star struggled again. Back on the bench, Horford scored just four points in 23 minutes, while collecting two rebounds.

The player who started in his place, Matisse Thybulle, managed only two points in 25 minutes of action. Alec Burks was one of eight from the field and missed both of his three-point attempts.

While the Raptors won, Marc Gasol was scoreless through 17 minutes of court time. He also had three turnovers.

 

Brown's 360!

Brown produced a highlight moment – this spin and slam against the 76ers.

 

Wednesday's results

Boston Celtics 128-101 Philadelphia 76ers
Utah Jazz 124-105 Denver Nuggets
Toronto Raptors 104-99 Brooklyn Nets
Dallas Mavericks 127-114 Los Angeles Clippers

 

Trail Blazers face Lakers

The Portland Trail Blazers can take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference first-round matchup when they meet the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday.

Defending champions the Toronto Raptors made a winning start in the NBA playoffs, while the Los Angeles Clippers topped the Dallas Mavericks.

Fred VanVleet posted a playoff career-high 30 points and 11 assists as the Raptors eased past the Brooklyn Nets 134-110 in game one of the first-round Eastern Conference matchup at Walt Disney World Resort on Monday.

VanVleet became the first Raptors player in franchise history to combine 30-plus points and 10-plus assists in a playoff game.

The Raptors star was also eight of 10 from three-point range as the second-seeded Raptors drew first blood against the Nets in Orlando, Florida, where Serge Ibaka contributed 22 points off the bench.

In the day's final game, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George starred in the Clippers' 118-110 victory over the Mavericks in the Western Conference.

Leonard's double-double of 29 points and 12 rebounds, and George's 27 points fuelled the second-seeded Clippers, who emerged triumphant in the first-round opener.

 

Doncic creates history, Mitchell scores 57

While the Mavericks lost, Luka Doncic made history. The reigning Rookie of the Year's 42 points are the most in an NBA playoffs debut in league history.

Donovan Mitchell put up huge numbers. He scored a franchise playoff-record 57 points on 19 of 33 shooting from the field but the Utah Jazz lost to the Denver Nuggets 135-125 in overtime. His scoring spree surpassed the Jazz mark of 50 set by Karl Malone in 2000. Denver's game-one success in the west was inspired by Jamal Murray, who posted 10 of his 36 points in OT. Nikola Jokic added 29 points and 10 rebounds.

Jayson Tatum had career playoff highs of 32 points and 13 rebounds as the Boston Celtics beat the Philadelphia 76ers 109-101 in game one of their first-round Eastern Conference series. Jaylen Brown put up 29 points, while the 76ers were led by Joel Embiid's 26 points and 16 rebounds.

 

Turnovers cripple 76ers

Philadelphia were made to pay for their turnovers. In total, the 76ers turned the ball over on 18 occasions as the Celtics capitalised by scoring 21 points. Embiid had five turnovers of his own.

Kristaps Porzingis only managed 14 points and six rebounds for the Mavericks. He was three of nine from the field, and one of four from beyond the arc.

 

Embiid with the slam!

The 76ers All-Star was hot, especially early, against rivals the Celtics.

 

Monday's results

Denver Nuggets 135-125 Utah Jazz (OT)
Toronto Raptors 134-110 Brooklyn Nets
Boston Celtics 109-101 Philadelphia 76ers
Los Angeles Clippers 118-110 Dallas Mavericks

 

Trail Blazers face Lakers

The in-form Portland Trail Blazers will open their Western Conference first-round series against the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday. Damian Lillard's Portland secured their spot in the playoffs as the eighth seed courtesy of Saturday's play-in success against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Lakers – led by LeBron James – are making their first postseason appearance since 2013.

The NBA playoffs are finally here.

After the regular season extended into August with eight rounds of seeding games in the Orlando 'bubble' - followed by the Portland Trail Blazers' win in their play-in game - we have our 16 playoff teams.

The Milwaukee Bucks are the top seed in the East, while the Los Angeles Lakers led the way in the West.

But everything does not always go to script in the playoffs, with the Bucks on top last year, too, but losing out to eventual champions the Toronto Raptors - inspired by Kawhi Leonard, now of the Los Angeles Clippers.

Despite this unpredictable format, the Stats Perform AI team have been crunching the numbers behind the scenes and running 10,000 simulations.

Using this model, we have taken a look at how the coming weeks could pan out...
 

BUCKS AS CHAMPS? LAKERS WIN UNLIKELY

After another outstanding regular season and with Giannis Antetokounmpo in their ranks, it may come as no surprise the Bucks are favourites to take the title for just the second time.

What might be slightly more unexpected is the distance by which Milwaukee are considered the frontrunners.

According to our model, the Bucks have a 29.6 per cent chance of triumphing, winning 2,959 of the 10,000 simulations.

The Clippers are next on the list and would win the championship in 18 per cent of cases, while the Raptors' title defence stands a 13.6 per cent chance of being successful, just ahead of the Boston Celtics on 13.4 per cent.

That means the Lakers are way down in fifth on our list of contenders, despite boasting LeBron James and Anthony Davis and enjoying a strong season to date.

Indeed, LeBron's team won the playoff tournament in just 848 of the 10,000 simulations - or a measly 8.5 per cent.
 

ORLANDO COULD YET CONJURE UP SOME MAGIC

The Bucks have a great opportunity to win the championship and they will certainly be expected to get through their first-round series against the Orlando Magic, the eighth seed in the East.

But do not count the Magic out entirely at this stage.

Orlando will have their work cut out if they are to get anyway near the Finals, let alone take home the trophy, but not every simulation saw the local side make an early exit.

Of the 10,000 simulations, six (0.06 per cent) actually saw the Magic go all the way and claim a stunning title triumph.

Steve Clifford's team are unsurprisingly least likely to win the championship, although the eighth seed in the West, the Blazers, are ranked ahead of the Brooklyn Nets, who came seventh in the East.

The Philadelphia 76ers and Indian Pacers are each also given less than a one per cent chance of becoming champions.
 

BUCKS IN SEVEN AFTER CLIPPERS SWEEP LAKERS?!

The playoffs can often feel too random for any model to contend with, but what if we ran the simulation just once?

Well, in that scenario, the Bucks still came out on top, but they were pushed all the way to seven games by the Clippers, requiring a remarkable fightback after going 3-1 down in the Finals. They won Game 7 112-90, however.

Both teams had come into that series full of momentum after 4-0 sweeps in the Conference Finals.

Milwaukee brushed aside the Sixers, who beat the odds to come past the Celtics and then the Raptors, while the Clippers battered rivals the Lakers, winning each game by more than 10 points.

Besides Philadelphia's shock run, the biggest upset in the bracket saw the sixth-seeded Utah Jazz sensationally beat the third-seeded Denver Nuggets 4-0.

With the regular season over, it's time for business in the Orlando bubble.

The Portland Trail Blazers completed the NBA's playoff bracket with their play-in win against the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday.

Now, Giannis Antetokounmpo's Milwaukee Bucks, the LeBron-James led Los Angeles Lakers and Kawhi Leonard's Los Angeles Clippers are among the teams vying for supremacy at Walt Disney World Resort.

With the postseason scheduled to start on Monday, we use STATS data to preview the first-round series.

Eastern Conference

Milwaukee Bucks (1) v Orlando Magic (8)

Eyeing their first NBA championship since 1971, the Bucks head into the opening-round series struggling for form.

The Bucks, who went 52-8 from their first 60 games, recorded a 4-9 win-loss ratio from their last 13 fixtures – becoming the first team in NBA history to have more losses in their final 13 regular-season games than they did in the entire season prior to that.

Inside the bubble but in familiar surroundings, the Magic have the chance to snap a playoff drought, despite the odds being stacked against them.

Not since 2010 have the Magic won a playoff series. Orlando swept the Charlotte Bobcats and Atlanta Hawks en route to the Conference finals, before losing to the Boston Celtics. The Magic have since suffered first-round exits at the hands of the Hawks (2011), Indiana Pacers (2012) and Toronto Raptors (2019).

Toronto Raptors (2) v Brooklyn Nets (7)

Defending champions the Raptors have form on their side in pursuit of back-to-back championships.

Toronto went 27-5 over their last 32 games, easily the best record in the NBA during that period – ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder (21-10), Los Angeles Clippers (20-10), Bucks (20-11) and Celtics (21-13).

Nets star Spencer Dinwiddie has been one of the most clutch players this season, making an NBA-high seven go-ahead baskets in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime.

Dinwiddie's seven for 13 is better than the Denver Nuggets' Nikola Jokic (five), Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray of the Nuggets (both four).

Boston Celtics (3) v Philadelphia 76ers (6)

The Celtics renew hostilities with rivals the 76ers, having won the past four series between the two teams – Philadelphia have not claimed a series against Boston in the playoffs since 1982.

Philadelphia's hopes will rest on Joel Embiid in the absence of injured fellow All-Star Ben Simmons, who is the only player in NBA history to average 8.0-plus rebounds and 8.0-plus assists per game for his career.

The 76ers are 35-22 (.614 per cent) with Simmons in the team, while they are just 7-8 (.467 per cent) without the Australian star on the court. Philadelphia also allow more opposition points per game in his absence – 113.6 compared to 107.2.

Indiana Pacers (4) v Miami Heat (5)

All eyes will be on Indiana's T.J. Warren, who averaged 31.0 points per game with a .664 effective field-goal percentage this month following the restart.

Since 1985-86, the players with 30.0-plus points and a .650-plus effective field-goal percentage in a month (minimum five game played) are Charles Barkley (1990), Stephen Curry (2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019), Antetokounmpo (2017 and 2019) and Karl Anthony-Towns (2019).

With Heat pair Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson, Miami are the first NBA team to have two undrafted players averaging 13.0-plus points per game in the same season – minimum 70 per cent of team games played – since the Philadelphia Warriors in 1956-57 (Joe Graboski and Neil Johnston).

 

Western Conference

Los Angeles Lakers (1) v Portland Trail Blazers (8)

Making their first postseason appearance since 2013, the Lakers – who have a 74.6 per cent chance of winning this series using Stats Perform's advanced simulation tool – are one of the favourites to go all the way thanks to James and Anthony Davis.

James and Davis have combined well in LA, where the former has supplied 184 assists for the All-Star recruit this season – the most to one player in 2019-20, ahead of Damian Lillard to Hassan Whiteside (132). Three-time champion and four-time MVP James is also the second-oldest player to average 10 assists or more in a season in NBA history, with Steve Nash averaging 10.0-plus assists in each of his final three campaigns.

This will be the second playoff meeting between James and Carmelo Anthony. James and the Heat eliminated Anthony and the New York Knicks in the first round in 2012. Both averaged 27.8 points in the series. James was the first overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, while Anthony was the third pick. Their matchups date back to high school, when LeBron was at St. Vincent St. Mary's and Carmelo at Oak Hill Academy.

Portland's go-to man Lillard leads the NBA in scoring inside the bubble at 37.6 per game, including the play-in clash. The Trail Blazers star is averaging 46.3 points in his past four games following a career-high 61 against the Dallas Mavericks earlier this month. He has contributed to Portland averaging a league-high 126.0 points per game at Walt Disney World Resort, while the Lakers have only managed 106.4 points per game – the second worst behind the Washington Wizards.

How about most points per game by team-mate duos? Lillard and CJ McCollum (52.2) are second to James Harden and Russell Westbrook (61.5) but ahead of third-placed James and Davis (51.4).

Los Angeles Clippers (2) v Dallas Mavericks (7)

Can Leonard claim consecutive NBA titles after leading the Raptors to their first champion last season? Well it all begins against the Mavericks.

Leonard – the 2019 Finals MVP – averaged a career-high 27.1 points per game this season, while he averaged 30.5 during last year's playoffs. The four-time All-Star has also averaged 31.0 points per game in three games against the Mavericks this term, with the Clippers sweeping the season series.

Led by Luka Doncic, the Mavericks boast the second-highest offensive rating ever – 113.7 – behind last year's Golden State Warriors (113.9). The Clippers have a 111.1 rating, tied with the Trail Blazers for second this season.

Doncic is averaging 30.0 points, 10.1 assists and 9.7 rebounds in the bubble. The reigning Rookie of the Year also has three triple-doubles, including a 20-rebound triple-double.

Denver Nuggets (3) v Utah Jazz (6)

A Jazz team boasting the likes of Joe Ingles and Mitchell are the best three-point shooting team at 38.0 per cent, though Utah went 2-5 in their last seven regular-season games – allowing 110-plus points per game.

Rudy Gobert is also one shy of 250 career double-doubles as the Jazz look to avenge their season sweep at the hands of the Nuggets, though each game was decided by six or fewer points.

The Nuggets made the Conference semi-finals last season, snapping a five-year playoff drought. Jovic will be key for Denver, having averaged 7.0 assists per game for a second successive season – the most by any center in the NBA.

Houston Rockets (4) v Oklahoma City Thunder (5)

It will be a reunion as Harden, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul face their former teams.

The Rockets have advanced to at least the second round of the playoffs in three straight seasons and their hopes will depend on the team's starting five – their starters are averaging 89.1 points per game, the most in the league.

Former Thunder star Harden is also coming off his third consecutive season averaging 30 or more points per game (34.3 in 2019-20). He is the franchise's all-time leader in postseason assists (510) and second in points (2,061) behind Hakeem Olajuwon (3,727).

Westbrook, who arrived from the Thunder in a blockbuster trade at the start of the season, is second all-time for Oklahoma City in playoff points (2,489), behind Kevin Durant's 2,620, third in rebounds (686), first in assists (778) and first in steals (184).

The Thunder, boasting ex-Rockets guard Paul, have not progressed beyond the first round of the postseason since 2016 after blowing a 3-1 lead against the Warriors in the Conference Finals.

Mike Conley has left the NBA bubble in Orlando to attend the birth of his son, the Utah Jazz announced on Sunday. 

Point guard Conley has returned to Columbus, Ohio on the eve of Utah's series opener against the Denver Nuggets at the start of the playoffs.

The 32-year-old averaged 14.4 points and 4.4 assists during the regular season, his first in Utah since arriving via a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies. 

"It's much bigger than basketball, him being there with his family and Mary is priority number one right now," Jazz team-mate Joe Ingles told the media. 

"We 100 per cent support [him] and when he's ready to come back we'll obviously have him with open arms."

The sixth-seeded Jazz are also due to play on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday in the best-of-seven series, with it remaining unclear if Conley will feature. 

Approved departures from the bubble for less than seven days require a player to quarantine for four days upon returning, provided they have tested negative for COVID-19 during their absence. 

The Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Clippers were all victorious as the NBA's regular season concluded in Orlando on Friday.

Philadelphia's final game before their Eastern Conference first-round playoff blockbuster against the Boston Celtics on Monday saw the 76ers top the Houston Rockets 134-96.

Joel Embiid (14 points) overcame a wrist problem and played for the 76ers at Walt Disney World resort, where Tobias Harris (18), Al Horford (10), Alec Burks (16), Shake Milton (11), Mike Scott (10), Raul Neto (14) and Furkan Korkmaz (12) all had double-digit points.

The Rockets, who are set to meet the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference on Tuesday, were led by James Harden's 27 points and 10 assists.

Defending champions the Raptors, meanwhile, defeated the Denver Nuggets 117-109 behind Stanley Johnson's season-high 23 points.

Johnson scored 19 points in the second half, while Paul Watson put up a career-high 22 points for the in-form Raptors – who have won four games in a row and seven of their eight regular-season matchups in Florida.

The Raptors – second in the east – begin their playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets on Monday, while the Western Conference's Nuggets open against the Utah Jazz.

 

Mann impresses for Clippers

With Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Lou Williams rested, rookie Terance Mann stepped up as the Los Angeles Clippers outlasted the Thunder 107-103 in overtime. Mann had 25 points and 14 rebounds for a double-double, including the go-ahead three-pointer with less than three minutes remaining in OT. Amir Coffey contributed 21 points.

Hamidou Diallo's double-double of 27 points and 11 rebounds led the playoff-bound Thunder.

 

Robinson scoreless as Pacers cool Heat

Ahead of their upcoming first-round clash in the Eastern Conference, the Miami Heat lost 109-92 to the Indiana Pacers and Duncan Robinson struggled. Robinson was zero of three from the field, while he missed all three shots beyond the arc to go scoreless in 13 minutes. Trying to stay fit before the playoff matchup as both teams rested stars, the Heat lost Derrick Jones Jr. to a neck strain following a scary collision.

 

Harden with the behind-the-back pass

The 2018 MVP produced this assist for Rockets team-mate Jeff Green.

 

Friday's results

Toronto Raptors 117-109 Denver Nuggets
Indiana Pacers 109-92 Miami Heat
Los Angeles Clippers 107-103 Oklahoma City Thunder (OT)
Philadelphia 76ers 134-96 Houston Rockets

 

Grizzlies face Trail Blazers

The Western Conference play-in clash will see the Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trail Blazers go head-to-head on Saturday. A win for the Trail Blazers will secure a first-round matchup against the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers. Memphis have to go 2-0 in the play-in tournament.

The Los Angeles Clippers bounced back in the NBA on Wednesday, while James Harden starred in a loss.

Coming off a defeat to the Brooklyn Nets, the Clippers outclassed the Denver Nuggets 124-111.

Paul George and Kawhi Leonard led the Clippers, while Lou Williams impressed off the bench.

George (27 points), Leonard (26) and Williams (23) top-scored for the Clippers.

Harden had 45 points, 17 rebounds and nine assists, but the Houston Rockets fell to the Indiana Pacers 108-104.

The Rockets were without Russell Westbrook, who is battling a quad injury.

 

Turner records double-double, Lowry leads Raptors

Myles Turner's double-double of 18 points and 12 rebounds guided the Pacers.

Kyle Lowry led an even Toronto Raptors performance with 19 points in a 125-121 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.

Chris Boucher went seven-of-12 from the field for 19 points off the bench for the Raptors.

 

Horrible Holiday

Aaron Holiday struggled for the Pacers. The guard was one-of-11 from the field for just two points in 25 minutes.

 

Comeback kings

Darius Bazley scored 16 points in the fourth quarter as the Oklahoma City Thunder edged the Miami Heat 116-115. It marked the 17th time this season the Thunder have trailed entering the fourth quarter and won, the equal most in a season in the shot-clock era (since 1954-55). They joined the 1962-63 Los Angeles Lakers, 1990-91 San Antonio Spurs and 2007-08 Cleveland Cavaliers, as per STATS.

Wednesday's results

Indiana Pacers 108-104 Houston Rockets
Toronto Raptors 125-121 Philadelphia 76ers
Oklahoma City Thunder 116-115 Miami Heat
Los Angeles Clippers 124-111 Denver Nuggets

 

All eyes on Western Conference

The Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies, Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs are in action on Thursday, looking to claim seeds eight and nine in the Western Conference to get into the play-in.

LeBron James outlined the importance of Kyle Kuzma to the Los Angeles Lakers in their bid to be crowned NBA champions this year. 

Despite James and Anthony Davis being on the floor, Kuzma was the hero for the Lakers on Monday, hitting a three-pointer inside the final second that clinched a 124-121 win over the Denver Nuggets. 

Kuzma finished with 25 points and said after his game-winner: "Jesus could be in front of me and I'd probably still shoot".

Such confidence could be crucial in the coming weeks, with James making clear how the Lakers will need more than just himself and Davis to prevail in the playoffs.

"In order for us to win a championship, he [Kuzma] has to be our third best player," James told the media.

"If I'm struggling or AD is struggling, he has to be our second best player on any given night.  

"We can't win a championship if 'Kuz' doesn't play well."

The Lakers have already wrapped up the number one seed in the Western Conference, yet James insisted there is still work to do in the Orlando bubble to be ready for what is to come.

Asked during his post-game media call where, on a scale of one to 10, he ranked the Lakers in terms of being playoff ready, he replied: "I don't know, I don't think we're a 10. We shouldn't be a 10, because there is different type of preparation that goes into a playoff game.  

"You spend hours and hours on teams, because you know you're going to be locked into them for at least four games. 

"During the regular season, or throughout these eight games, you really only have a day, sometimes not even a full day, to lock in on a team and start preparing for the next one. 

"For me personally, as far as mentally, I don't feel like I'm in playoff mode. Physically, I'm getting there. I feel like I'm getting better and better, my game has improved and I'm getting more and more comfortable with the bubble. 

"As far as the mental side of it, I don't think I'm there and I'm not sure our team is – but we will be.

"It's a different type of mindset you have to be in, but you don't want to jump into it before you're actually there."

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma said "Jesus could be in front of me and I'd probably still shoot" after nailing the game winner over the Denver Nuggets' Bol Bol.

Kuzma made a three-pointer with 0.4 seconds remaining as the Lakers topped the Nuggets 124-121 in Orlando, Florida on Monday.

Towering Nuggets center Bol Bol contested Kuzma as time expired at Walt Disney World Resort, where the latter was the hero.

Speaking afterwards, the Lakers' Kuzma – who finished with 25 points – was full of confidence as he joked.

"I think Jesus could be in front of me and I'd probably still shoot. It don't really matter to me," Kuzma said.

"I got an open look, it was a play that we kind of ran in practice a few times prior to the restart. Coach had faith in me, he just called my number and it paid off."

Kuzma added: "I'm starting on most teams in this league and everyone knows it. It just so happens I'm playing behind the two best players in the NBA [LeBron James and Anthony Davis]."

Kyle Kuzma was the hero as the Los Angeles Lakers trumped the Denver Nuggets 124-121 in the NBA on Monday.

Kuzma nailed a three-pointer with 0.4 seconds remaining to see the Lakers past Western Conference rivals the Nuggets at Walt Disney World Resort.

The Lakers forward finished with 25 points in Orlando, while LeBron James put up a double-double of 29 points and 12 assists as Anthony Davis contributed 27 points.

The Milwaukee Bucks were missing key players, but the Eastern Conference's top seed still made unwanted NBA history.

In the absence of reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee went down 114-106 to defending champions the Toronto Raptors, who were also without Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet.

With the loss, the Bucks – who went 52-8 in their first 60 games of the season – fell to 3-8 from their past 13 outings.

The Bucks became the first team in NBA history to have as many or more losses over their final 13 games as they did the entire season prior to that, per STATS.

 

 

Booker stars again as Suns stay perfect

The Phoenix Suns improved to 6-0 inside the Orlando bubble since the league's restart after defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder 128-101. Devin Booker led the way again with 35 points, including 14-for-14 from the free throw line.

Jimmy Butler (19 points and 11 rebounds) posted a double-double in his return from a foot injury as the Miami Heat closed in on the Eastern Conference fourth seed by topping the Indiana Pacers 114-92.

 

O'Neale headlines Jazz's woes

Utah Jazz forward Royce O'Neale was scoreless in a 122-114 loss at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks. O'Neale was 0 of four from the field, while he missed all three of his attempts from beyond the arc in 14 minutes. Jordan Clarkson (18) was the only Jazz starter to shoot double-digit points.

It was a tough outing for the Thunder, who were held to just 17 points in the third quarter against the Suns. Oklahoma City managed just 37 points in the second half.

 

CP3 the architect

Chris Paul provided the lob for Thunder team-mate Darius Bazley to dunk emphatically.

 

Monday's results

Phoenix Suns 128-101 Oklahoma City Thunder
Dallas Mavericks 122-114 Utah Jazz
Toronto Raptors 114-106 Milwaukee Bucks
Miami Heat 114-92 Indiana Pacers
Los Angeles Lakers 124-121 Denver Nuggets

 

Suns face 76ers

The Suns will look to stay hot when they take on the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday. The 76ers will be without All-Star pair Joel Embiid (ankle) and Ben Simmons (knee).

TJ Warren overshadowed LeBron James' return as the Los Angeles Lakers slumped to a third successive NBA loss, while Luka Doncic dazzled on Saturday.

Back after a groin injury, Lakers star James had 31 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in 35 minutes but could not stop the Indiana Pacers and their thriving small forward from claiming a 116-111 victory.

Warren, a revelation since entering the NBA bubble, continued his incredible scoring run with 39 points on 15-of-22 shooting.

In the final minute, he hit a floater, a pull-up jumper and a clutch three-pointer over Anthony Davis to earn the Pacers a fourth win from five games at Walt Disney World Resort.

All-Star guard Doncic and reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo did not disappoint in their duel, sharing 70 points between them as the Dallas Mavericks outlasted the Milwaukee Bucks 136-132 in overtime.

Doncic did the business for Dallas, delivering a decisive triple-double with 36 points, 19 assists and 14 rebounds.

 

Pain for Mitchell, better for Booker

Donovan Mitchell's nerveless 35-point performance was not enough to help the Utah Jazz avoid a 134-132 defeat to the Denver Nuggets in double overtime, a thrilling game that included 30 points and 11 rebounds from Nikola Jokic.

Devin Booker's 35 points proved more valuable for the Phoenix Suns, who beat the Miami Heat 119-112 to stay undefeated since the restart.

 

Lillard's let down

After trading taunts with the Los Angeles Clippers, Damian Lillard let his opponents have the last laugh when he wasted two clutch free throws and missed a three-point attempt late in the Portland Trail Blazers' 122-117 loss.

 

Doncic's delicious dime

The Mavericks' main man went between the legs for one of his 19 assists.

Saturday's results

Los Angeles Clippers 122-117 Portland Trail Blazers
Denver Nuggets 134-132 Utah Jazz (2OT)
Indiana Pacers 116-111 Los Angeles Lakers
Phoenix Suns 119-112 Miami Heat
Dallas Mavericks 136-132 Milwaukee Bucks (OT)

 

Trail Blazers face 76ers

Lillard and the Trail Blazers (32-39), ranked ninth in the Western Conference, know they cannot afford any errors when they face the Philadelphia 76ers (42-27) on Sunday.

The LeBron James-less Los Angeles Lakers fell to another NBA loss, while Giannis Antetokounmpo starred again on Thursday.

Without James (groin), the Lakers suffered a second straight loss, beaten by the Houston Rockets 113-97.

James Harden led the way for the Rockets with 39 points on 11-of-19 shooting, while the guard also had 12 assists and eight rebounds at the Walt Disney World Resort.

In James' absence, Anthony Davis had a double-double of 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Lakers.

Coming off back-to-back losses, the Milwaukee Bucks clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference by beating the Miami Heat 130-116.

The Bucks recovered from a 23-point deficit to bounce back, with Antetokounmpo finishing with 33 points and 12 rebounds.

Khris Middleton also posted 33 points for Milwaukee.

Leonard, Lillard in form

Kawhi Leonard had 29 points as the Los Angeles Clippers eased past the Dallas Mavericks 126-111.

Damian Lillard hit 11 three-pointers in a 45-point haul to lead the Portland Trail Blazers to a 125-115 win over the Denver Nuggets.

A career-high 35 points from Bogdan Bogdanovic guided the Sacramento Kings to a 140-125 success against the New Orleans Pelicans.

 

Cook can't take chance

Quinn Cook was unable to make the most of his start for the Lakers. The guard went two-of-12 from the field for just six points in 29 minutes.

 

Amazing Lillard

Lillard went 11-of-18 from three-point range in an incredible performance.

Thursday's results

Sacramento Kings 140-125 New Orleans Pelicans
Milwaukee Bucks 130-116 Miami Heat
Phoenix Suns 114-99 Indiana Pacers
Los Angeles Clippers 126-111 Dallas Mavericks
Portland Trail Blazers 125-115 Denver Nuggets
Houston Rockets 113-97 Los Angeles Lakers

 

Celtics face Raptors

The Boston Celtics (45-23) and Toronto Raptors (49-18) go head-to-head in another blockbuster battle on Friday.

Gregg Popovich likened Nikola Jokic to a "reincarnation of Larry Bird" after he played a huge part in the Denver Nuggets' 132-126 win over the San Antonio Spurs.

Michael Porter Jr became the first Nuggets rookie to score 30 points or more and at least 10 rebounds in back-to-back games as his side move to 45-23 on Wednesday, hot on the heels of the second-placed LA Clippers in the West.

Porter poured in 30 points and provided 15 assists, but it was the performance of giant center Jokic that stood out for Spurs coach Popovich.

The Serbian landed 25 points, laid on 11 assists and grabbed four rebounds – three on offensive glass – and Popovich drew comparisons with Boston Celtics legend Bird.

He said: "Porter is a fine young talent. And Jokic, he's like a reincarnation of Larry Bird. He does everything. He's amazing. They were great."

Popovich said there was little his younger Spurs players could have done to stop Jokic from being so influential.

He added: "They've never seen anything like that,.

"He's stepping out and making threes. He's rebounding the ball, there should be an NBA rule, you can't tap it to yourself. He's Moses Malone.

"He's down there and he jumps about a quarter of an inch, then he taps it two or three times and then he gets it and he lays it back in.

"It's not just luck. He does it all the time. He is great on the board, he's obviously maybe the best big man passer in the league. If not, then close to it. He's a pretty special player."

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