Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant said he is excited to work with first-time head coach and Hall of Famer Steve Nash.

Nash has taken his first steps into senior coaching, appointed by the Nets to permanently replace Kenny Atkinson, despite the two-time NBA MVP's lack of experience.

Durant previously worked with former Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers guard Nash for three seasons at the Golden State Warriors, where the latter was a player consultant.

Two-time NBA champion and two-time Finals MVP Durant also went head-to-head with Nash when he entered the league as a rookie in 2007, and he is relishing the opportunity to be coached by the 46-year-old.

"His insight for the game, his communication, how he communicates the game of basketball is definitely going to help me as a player develop and it's going to help the rest of the team," Durant told JJ Redick's 'The Old Man and the Three' podcast.

Durant added: "Every time I'm in the gym with him, I was always like a sponge.

"I'm looking forward to this man. I always feel like I'm a student of the game. Somebody who has experienced so much and played in different eras, I'm looking forward to him teaching me some more things about it as well."

Durant is yet to play for the Nets due to an Achilles injury after his high-profile arrival from the Warriors in 2019 as he prepares for his long-awaited debut in Brooklyn.

Crowned MVP in 2014, Durant opted not to return to the court inside the Orlando bubble at Walt Disney World Resort, where the Nets were eliminated in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

"I've been playing since I was eight, like, really locked in. Every day was centred around the game," Durant said. "To finally get a year off, it was pretty cool. I started to focus a little bit more, understand what I like to do outside of the game a little bit more, as weird as that sounds at 30 years old. I really enjoyed that time to myself.

"I learned so much about the game of basketball, the business of basketball. I see it from a different lens. I was watching the game from a coaches' and a fans' perspective all at once. I felt a new level of appreciation for what I'm doing for being away from it.

"Going into [the season], I didn't think I would have that feeling. It definitely helps when the team signs you to a max deal even though you tore your Achilles. That definitely eased my mind a bit. I also just enjoyed having that free time to do my thing. I never got that time. I never got to enjoy that time. But at this point, I'm looking forward to going out there and playing again."

The Denver Nuggets cannot rely solely on Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray if they want to overcome the Los Angeles Clippers, says Michael Porter Jr.

Porter impressed for the Nuggets with 18 points in 23 minutes in Game 3 and looked set to build on that with 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the first half of Game 4 on Wednesday.

However, the rookie was unable to add to his tally and missed his only two shots after half-time as the Nuggets fell to a 96-85 defeat that left them 3-1 down in the Western Conference semi-final series.

Porter said his failure to score in the second half was down to a lack of touches and wants Denver to share the ball more in order to become less predictable.

"That is up to the play calling, the coaches and whose hands they want to put the ball in," Porter said of his involvement in the second half.

"We kept going to [Jokic] and [Murray] and they are two amazing players, you can never be mad at that, but I just think to beat them we need to get more players involved.

"We have to move the ball a little bit better. We can't be predictable against that team."

Asked if he felt confident voicing those concerns despite being in his first year in the NBA, he said: "I think if I am going to be out there on the floor playing a lot of minutes, I think I should voice that.

"I will probably talk to the coaches and tell them what I see being out there on the floor just letting them know, look, they know what we are doing.

"We have to swing the ball. We have a lot of players that can play basketball and score, so we have to get some more guys involved."

The Nuggets came back to progress from 3-1 down against the Utah Jazz in the first round and coach Michael Malone believes his team have plenty of fight left in them.

"The same message will be what it was against Utah," said Malone.

"It wasn't that we have to come back and win three games. It was, let's win Game 5. And then after that, let's win one at a time. Let's win 6 and then win 7.

"We have done it. It is a different opponent. Very talented, deep team, but I think we do have confidence in being a resilient group and being a team that when everyone else has written us off, we have found a way."

Norman Powell rescued the Toronto Raptors' season with his performance in the double overtime win over the Boston Celtics, according to Fred VanVleet.

The reigning champions forced a Game 7 with a 125-122 triumph on Wednesday, having been 2-0 and 3-2 down in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. 

While Kyle Lowry scored a game-high 33 points, it was Powell's display that Raptors guard VanVleet was most thankful for.

Powell put up 10 of his 23 points in the second overtime period and nailed a crucial three-pointer to level the scores late on, throwing in a key block on Daniel Theis for good measure.

"He saved us. He saved our season," VanVleet said.

"That is his trademark now. You never know when it is going to happen, but it always happens at some point in the playoffs. He was huge for us.

"Obviously, Kyle was steady the whole night, but Norm really gave us a boost there."

The series will now be decided on Friday, with momentum firmly on the side of the Raptors, who VanVleet concedes were slow to get off the mark.

"I think everyone came into this series expecting a long series," he said.

"I don't think we lived up to that in the first couple of games. We were able to work ourselves back into position to give ourselves a chance. Game 7 to go to the Eastern Conference finals, all you can ask for is a chance.

"[It was a] pretty long game, longer than we all would have asked for, but time to get some rest and go back at it again."

Man of the hour Powell felt the contest underlined the Raptors' need to piece together a more complete display to make sure of their spot in the finals.

"I think the games that we've won [in this series] have shown we have to put together a full 48-minute effort," Powell said.

"Have no lulls, offensively or defensively. Whatever happens through mistakes and moments where we do mess up whatever the game plan is, we continue to fight through it and figure it out and help one another."

The Toronto Raptors forced a Game 7 against the Boston Celtics, while the Los Angeles Clippers pulled clear in the NBA playoffs.

The Raptors drew level in the Eastern Conference semi-finals but needed double overtime to edge the Celtics 125-122.

A game-high 33 points from Kyle Lowry lifted the defending champions in Game 6 at the Walt Disney World Resort on Wednesday.

The Raptors stayed alive thanks to the thrilling victory and despite Marcus Smart's triple-double of 23 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for Boston.

Boston led by four early in the second period of OT and were up by three with one minute, 37 seconds remaining before Toronto fought back.

The Clippers moved into a 3-1 lead over the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semi-finals after a 96-85 victory.

Kawhi Leonard finished with 30 points and 11 rebounds in Game 4, in which the Clippers never trailed.

Powell produces, Jokic's big performance not enough

Norman Powell posted 23 points off the bench for the Raptors, shooting six-of-11 from the field.

OG Anunoby had a double-double of 13 points and 13 rebounds, while Fred VanVleet finished with 21 points.

Celtics duo Jayson Tatum (29 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists) and Jaylen Brown (31 points and 16 rebounds) almost saw Boston to a series win.

Brown, Tatum and Smart were the first trio of team-mates to have 20-plus points and 10-plus rebounds in the same playoff game since Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish achieved the feat for Boston in 1987, according to STATS.

Nuggets star Nikola Jokic had 26 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in Denver's loss.

 

Walker's woes

Kemba Walker went two-of-11 from the field to post just five points in more than 51 minutes for Boston.

 

Lakers face Rockets

Leading the Western Conference semi-final 2-1, the Los Angeles Lakers look to pull further clear of the Houston Rockets on Thursday.

Steve Nash described Kevin Durant as one of the NBA's greatest ever players and labelled Kyrie Irving one of his all-time favourites as the Brooklyn Nets head coach expressed his excitement at being able to work with the All-Star duo.

Nash has taken his first steps into senior coaching, appointed by the Nets, despite the Basketball Hall of Famer's lack of experience.

After filling the void left by Kenny Atkinson in Brooklyn, first-time coach and two-time NBA MVP Nash will have the opportunity to lead Durant and Irving.

Nash previously worked with two-time NBA champion and two-time Finals MVP Durant for three seasons at the Golden State Warriors, where he was a player development consultant.

Durant is yet to play for the Nets due to an Achilles injury after his high-profile arrival from the Warriors in 2019.

"It's a privilege to work with one of the greatest players to ever play the game," Nash said on Wednesday. "Someone who is incredibly coachable, inquisitive, and that lends itself to the question of searching.

"I think what I meant was that Kevin's always searching, he's always curious, inquisitive, developing as a human being. So he's a deep person who has a lot of goals and a lot about him, not just in basketball terms. I think my comment is more about Kevin as a human being, the type of person he is, about how he's always trying to grow, always trying to learn and always asking how he can get better.

"A big part of that is that Kevin is somebody that is never afraid to say, 'help me with this', 'what do you think about that', so that's the type of confidence and security it takes to be able to ask for help or know what they don't know. And he has that along with an incredible drive, work ethic, toughness and historic talent."

Nash is also relishing the chance to coach 2016 NBA champion and six-time All-Star Irving, who also joined the Nets in 2019 after opting to leave the Boston Celtics.

Irving was limited to just 20 games because of a shoulder injury as the Nets went on to lose in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs in 2019-20.

"First of all, Kyrie's one of my favourite players of all time," said Nash. "He's brilliant; skill level historically off the charts. Creative. Guts. Competitiveness.

"For me to get to coach him is really a pleasure. We have a relationship going back to when he was a rookie, playing against him. Got a chance to train with him for a couple days in New York City after I retired. Must have been five, six years ago. And I got a chance to speak to him since taking the job.

"I'm excited to develop that relationship, watching him continue to show greatness on the floor and to continue to get to know him in a really meaningful way, because he's an incredible person.

"The gestures and the things he's done around the WNBA or social justice, these are the things I really admire. For him to put himself in that position with his platform, to help people, shows there's a really deep person there that I've gotten to know but look forward to getting to really know and understand and learn from."

Steve Nash is not avoiding his Brooklyn Nets hiring controversy after acknowledging he did "skip the line" for his first head coaching role but the Hall of Famer highlighted his successful playing career.

The Nets – eliminated in the first round of the playoffs – raised eyebrows when they appointed two-time NBA MVP Nash to permanently replace Kenny Atkinson, despite his lack of coaching experience.

There has been criticism of Nash's appointment in Brooklyn and the 46-year-old – inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018 – is not shying away from the debate as he embarks on his first senior gig.

"Well, I did skip the line, frankly," Nash said during his virtual introductory news conference on Wednesday.

"But at the same time, I think leading an NBA team for almost two decades is pretty unique. So while I haven't necessarily learned some of the skills that I'll definitely seek to understand and learn as far as the technical aspects of coaching, I was never far from that.

"So to lead a team in such a unique position, to be the head of the team on the floor, to think on the fly, to manage personalities and people, skill sets, and bring people together, collaborating with a coach and a coaching staff for almost two decades, it's not like I was in a vacuum. I learned a tremendous amount during my career."

Nash is not the only former player to land a head coaching role without experience, following in the footsteps of Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, Doc Rivers of the Los Angeles Clippers and Isiah Thomas.

"I haven't grinded it out as an assistant coach, like many people's path, but there's a precedent for players who have strong careers, who are leaders, anchors," Nash said.

"I think to get this opportunity, as Steve Kerr and many other people have had great success, it's a unique situation, I think. But I definitely realise that I need support. I'm going to hopefully bring a lot of qualities and skills to the table that are unique and strong, but I'm going to need support and a collaborative staff that has a lot of experience and is willing to build this with me."

Nash's arrival in Brooklyn has been described by some as "white privilege" amid the Black Lives Matter movement but the eight-time All-Star added: "I have benefited from white privilege. Our society has a lot of ground to make up.

"I'm not saying this position was a factor, as far as white privilege ... I think, as white people, we have to understand we have a certain privilege and a benefit by the colour of our skin in our communities. We have a long way to go to find equality and social and racial justice. I hope that I'm a great ally in that cause.

"I'm very sensitive to the cause and the goal. I'm not sure that this is an example that purely fits that conversation, but I own it, and I understand why it's talked about. We do need more diversity and more opportunities for African American coaches on staff in all capacities. The league was built through African American players and stars that have made this one of the greatest entertainment industries and businesses in sports in the world. It's really important that we continue to come together and fight at the league level.

"It's interesting, being such a supporter and ally of that need for equality, to be put in the middle of it, in a sense, because it's something that's near and dear to my heart. But I accept it. I want to be part of the conversation. And, frankly, I want to be a part of change moving forward."

Jimmy Butler is adamant the best is still to come from the Miami Heat after they reached the NBA Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2014 by eliminating the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Heat came into the playoffs ranked fifth, making them the lowest seed to reach the Eastern Conference finals in 21 years.

The Bucks came into the playoffs as the conference's top seeds, but a 103-94 Heat victory in Tuesday's Game 5 secured a 4-1 triumph for Erik Spoelstra's team.

Butler certainly played his part in the series-clinching win, registering a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds after a shaky first quarter, and he was in a confident mood after the game.

When asked if the Heat had shown their best in the five meetings with the Bucks, Butler said: "No, I don't think so. I don't think we've played a full 48-minute game yet, and that what's promising.

"When we do lock in and decide to play from start to finish, I think the game would be a lot easier. I don't think it's happened yet, but we have to next round."

With regards to leading the team to the conference finals, Butler added: "It means a lot, but like you said, that's not my goal. That's not my guys' goal. It's not the organisation's goal.

"We want to win it, win a championship, and I think that's what we're focused on. These next eight are going to be much harder than the previous eight. We know that, but we're ready."

The Heat were boosted by Giannis Antetokounmpo missing out for the Bucks as he failed to shake off an ankle injury.

But Spoelstra was no less proud of his side, applauding them for their "journey".

"I want our guys to just step back at least for a night, if not two nights, and just reflect," Spoelstra said.

"It's not easy to get to the conference finals, and our organisation knows that. We've been trying desperately to get back to the conference finals. It's not our ultimate goal, we get it, but you can still acknowledge the journey, how hard it is to this point.

"That is why we brought Jimmy Butler here. That is why we put this team together with the veterans, adding Andre [Iguodala] and Jae [Crowder], building around Goran [Dragic] and Bam [Adebayo], having a young core.

"It was to try and do something in the playoffs. It's not easy to get to the conference finals. Otherwise, every team would be doing it."

LeBron James admits his determination to remain at the peak of his powers at 35 is even annoying his wife in the NBA's Orlando bubble.

The Los Angeles Lakers' 112-102 Game 3 win over the Houston Rockets on Tuesday was the 162nd postseason victory James has been a part of, a number that takes him past Derek Fisher for the most playoff wins in NBA history.

James was paramount to a victory that put the Lakers 2-1 up in the series as he had 36 points, seven rebounds and five assists, and had four blocks in one quarter.

Even in his 17th year in the league, James continues to remain elite and revealed his dedication to his craft has not stopped since his wife joined him in Orlando.

Asked how he is able to maintain his form on the court at his age, James told reporters: "I'm not going to tell you exactly what I do because I would be giving my opponents a lot of my ingredients.

"But let's just say my wife is not enjoying what I do on a day-to-day basis inside the bubble getting ready for a game. Let's just say that. I spent a lot of time, a lot of time on my body."

James was already the NBA's all-time points leader in the postseason but he claimed another playoff record in moving past Fisher for victories too.

"It's something I never dreamed of," he added.

"I never came into the league as a kid saying, 'I want to be number one in playoff wins.' I always said I want to be a part of a winning culture and be a winning player and do whatever it takes to help my team-mates win and this is the result of it.

"But it doesn't happen without my team-mates over the years. My coaching staff over the years. Everyone from the top to bottom - GMs, owners, training staff, ballboys, everything. Everyone has a hand in that because we're all a part of the process and the success.

"So, either if I was in Cleveland or Miami and now with the Lakers, I've been a part of three great organisations that have allowed me to be a part of something that's historic."

While the collective triumphs have continued to pile up, James may miss out on a fifth MVP to the Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo - not that Lakers head coach Frank Vogel would agree with that decision.

"Nobody impacts winning more than LeBron James," he said.

"That's true for this season, it's why he should be MVP and, honestly, it's probably true in the history of the game."

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo said he will not request a trade after his team crashed out of the NBA playoffs in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

Antetokounmpo watched from the sidelines due to an ankle sprain as the top-seeded Bucks suffered a 4-1 series defeat following Tuesday's 103-94 loss to the Miami Heat.

Attention immediately turned to Antetokounmpo's future, with the reigning MVP set to become a free agent at the end of 2020-21, while he is eligible for a max contract extension worth around $254million this offseason.

But Antetokounmpo dismissed speculation, telling Yahoo Sports: "It's not happening. That's not happening.

"Some see a wall and go in [another direction]. I plow through it. We just have to get better as a team, individually and get right back at it next season."

The Bucks – eyeing a first championship since 1971 – had finished the regular season with an NBA-best 56-17 record, but Milwaukee struggled inside the Orlando bubble at Walt Disney World Resort.

"If winning a championship was easy, everyone would have one," Antetokounmpo said.

"We lost. Everyone saw that we lost. It's disappointing, but what are we going to do? We're going to keep working. I've got confidence in my team-mates."

Antetokounmpo added: "Everyone has a role to play. You see my brother, Thanasis, he's always up cheering and doing whatever he can when he's not playing. I'm no different. This is a team and I'm going to do whatever I can to help our team win games."

"I trust my team-mates," he continued. "It's supposed to be hard."

LeBron James led the way in a record-breaking performance as the Los Angeles Lakers topped the Houston Rockets 112-102 in Game 3 of the Western Conference semi-finals.

James became the all-time leader for NBA playoff wins on Tuesday with his 162nd career victory in the postseason, surpassing Derek Fisher.

The three-time NBA champion and four-time MVP finished with 36 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four blocks to help the top-seeded Lakers claim a 2-1 series lead.

Big performances from James Harden and Russell Westbrook were not enough to lift the Rockets at Walt Disney World Resort.

Meanwhile, Eastern Conference top seeds the Milwaukee Bucks bowed out of the playoffs following a 103-94 loss to the Miami Heat.

Without reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo due to an ankle sprain, the Bucks were eliminated by the fifth-seeded Heat in the second round after suffering a 4-1 series defeat.

The Heat are through to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2014.

 

Davis double-double

While James top-scored for the Lakers, All-Star team-mate Anthony Davis contributed 26 points and 15 rebounds.

It was a vintage performance from Rajon Rondo. The Lakers veteran was eight of 11 from the field and three of five from three-point range for 21 points off the bench.

Rockets star Harden fell short of a triple-double, finishing with 33 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. Westbrook recorded 30 points.

Jimmy Butler put up 17 points and 10 rebounds as the Heat advanced.

 

Bledsoe struggles

It was a tough outing for Milwaukee's Eric Bledsoe. In 36 minutes of action, he made just two of his 12 field shots and was one of four from beyond the arc for nine points.

Eric Gordon had 10 points but on two-of-nine shooting from the field, while he converted just two of six three-point attempts.

 

Raptors face Celtics

The Boston Celtics can secure their spot in the Eastern Conference finals by beating defending champions the Toronto Raptors in Game 6 on Wednesday. They lead 3-2.

Giannis Antetokounmpo wanted to play in Game 5 against the Miami Heat, but Mike Budenholzer said there was no way the Milwaukee Bucks were going to risk their star.

Without Antetokounmpo (ankle), the Bucks bowed out of the NBA playoffs in the Eastern Conference semi-finals after a 103-94 loss to the Heat sealed a 4-1 series defeat on Tuesday.

The reigning NBA MVP was ruled out just before the game, but Bucks head coach Budenholzer said Antetokounmpo wanted to play.

"Giannis always wants to play, he's never going to pull himself and there was a plan today," he told a news conference.

"We had to look and put our heads together and listen to Giannis, but listen to our sports performance group led by Troy Flanagan and ultimately Jon Horst is our GM and myself and we couldn't let Giannis go out there. He's not ready, he's not healthy [and] we can't put him at risk.

"Giannis would always play, he wants to be there for his team-mates so really, really hard for Giannis, but I think it was pretty clear from everybody's, probably except for his, perspective what needed to happen."

The playoff exit was a disappointing finish to the campaign for the Bucks, who finished the regular season with the best record at 56-17.

Milwaukee also led the protests that saw the playoffs postponed last month as they called for justice for Jacob Blake, who was shot by police in Wisconsin.

Budenholzer was emotional when speaking about his players, saying: "I think what the team stands for and I think the character, the humanity to stand and be on the right side of history like we did led by George [Hill] and Sterling [Brown] and that was emotional and it's such a great group.

"Winning is important, we had high expectations starting the season, throughout the season, coming here, you always want to realise those expectations. But the relationships, the character, what this group did, I think it would be great if you could have both, but I think if you're going to choose one, I'd like to be with guys who had character and stand for something."

The Oklahoma City Thunder and head coach Billy Donovan have parted ways after five seasons.

Donovan led the Thunder to the playoffs in each of his campaigns at the helm, but they bowed out in the first round for the fourth straight year in 2019-20.

After leading the team to a 243-157 record, Donovan and the Thunder did not renew his contract, it was confirmed on Tuesday.

"I have great respect for Billy and will always appreciate our work together. He is a terrific basketball coach and we are proud of what he has accomplished with the Thunder," the team's executive vice-president and general manager Sam Presti said.

"We had planned to sit down at the end of the season and discuss the best way to move forward for both of us. After those discussions, it became apparent that we couldn't provide him the information on the future direction of the team over the next several seasons to give him the level of clarity that he understandably desires at this stage of his career.

"Therefore, we close this chapter and reflect fondly on all that he has given to the team, organisation and community. Billy will always have a place in the Thunder family."

Donovan, whose team were beaten 4-3 by the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference first round this season, thanked the Thunder.

"Coaching the Oklahoma City Thunder the past five seasons has been a great honour, and I thank Mr. [Clayton] Bennett [Thunder owner], Sam and the entire organisation for the opportunity," he said.

"I have a great respect and admiration for the players I coached in Oklahoma, and I also want to thank the coaches I worked with, who gave unbelievable time and expertise to our common goal.

"Lastly, I want to thank the Oklahoma City community for being so welcoming to my family during our time here. This place will always be special to us. I will always hold this organisation in the highest regard and wish the Thunder and their fans the success they deserve."

Denver coach Michael Malone defended Nikola Jokic on Tuesday after Clippers guard Patrick Beverley accused the Nuggets center of "flailing" to draw fouls after Los Angeles' 113-107 win in Game 3.

Jokic had 32 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists while going three-for-four from the foul line in the loss.

Asked what makes Jokic so difficult to guard, Beverley said: "He presents the same type of, I don't know, I wouldn't say problems, but he presents the same thing [Luka] Doncic presents, a lot of flailing. You know, puts a lot of pressure on the referee to make the right call."

"I don't really listen to Patrick Beverley a whole lot," Malone said. "If Kawhi Leonard was talking, maybe I might listen to him. Kawhi's a great player."

"All you got to do is look at the stat sheet. [Ivica] Zubac attempted more free throws than Nikola Jokic," Malone continued. "They shot 26 free throws, we shot 10. So I'm not really sure what game Patrick is talking about or looking at, but I really don't warrant and give too much attention to that."

Through the first three games of the series, Jokic has taken 10 free throws. Leonard, meanwhile, has attempted 17, while Clippers team-mate Paul George has 15.

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo has been ruled out of his team's crucial Eastern Conference semi-final Game 5 clash with the Miami Heat due to an ankle injury.

Antetokounmpo re-injured his right ankle during Sunday's 118-115 overtime victory against the Heat as the top-seeded Bucks stayed alive in the NBA playoffs.

However, Antetokounmpo has not recovered in time and will sit out Tuesday's showdown at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, where the Bucks trail 3-1, after being filmed arriving in a moonboot.

Reigning MVP Antetokounmpo left Game 4 in the second quarter, having played less than 12 minutes against the in-form Heat.

Antetokounmpo posted 19 points on eight-of-10 shooting to go with four rebounds and one steal before exiting.

No team in NBA history have recovered from a 3-0 playoff series deficit to advance.

Kawhi Leonard's "extra-long middle finger" was the curious focus of team-mate Paul George's praise after the Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Denver Nuggets to restore their series lead in the NBA playoffs on Monday.

The Clippers sealed a 113-107 triumph that was helped in no small part by a stunning block from Leonard, who thwarted a fourth-quarter dunk attempt from Jamal Murray with just one finger.

Murray drove for the basket and seemed certain to cut the deficit to four points, only for Leonard's outstretched digit to deny him.

And George, whose 32 points helped move his side 2-1 up in the Western Conference semi-finals, was in awe.

"That's an extra-long middle finger," he said. "Like it kept growing or something. That's Kawhi, man."

Clippers coach Doc Rivers was similarly impressed following a game in which Leonard posted a double-double of 23 points and 14 rebounds.

"That play by Kawhi was amazing," he said.

"I didn't know it was with one finger. I thought he just blocked it, but it was impressive. I didn't even know where he came from."

While everyone else seemed to be falling over themselves to find superlatives to describe his play, Leonard was a little less dramatic in his retelling of events.

"I just saw him penetrating, so I stepped up and tried to contest his shot," he explained.

The two-time NBA finals MVP now wants the Clippers to be more dominant in Game 4 to alleviate some of the pressure on the defense.

"I think we need to be consistent throughout the whole 48 minutes, but you got to give Denver credit," Leonard said.

"They are a good basketball team, they have been together for a while, they know how to make adjustments on the fly, they've got a good coach, it's playoff basketball. But for us, we definitely want to see it throughout."

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