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."

Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse is optimistic that the NBA's defending champions have the mentality to bounce back despite the Boston Celtics taking a 3-2 playoffs lead with a 111-89 victory on Monday.

The Celtics won the first two matches in the Eastern Conference semi-finals series before the Raptors battled back to level it up at 2-2 with successive wins of their own.

But now the 2019 champions are facing the prospect of a do-or-die Game 6 following Monday's loss, knowing defeat next time out will see their defence crumble.

Nurse feels positive about their chances, however, adamant they have shown their mettle when it really mattered in the past.

"We're really good at bouncing back," Nurse said.

"It's strange to me that we have these kinds of games, it really is. But historically we have [bounced back], and then historically we really usually bounce back in a big way."

Frustrations boiled over in the Raptors' ranks during the match, with Serge Ibaka reprimanding Kyle Lowry for a personal foul on Jayson Tatum before Fred VanVleet attempted to calm the former.

VanVleet insisted the situation was just accentuated by the fact there were no fans there, however.

"Those frustrations happen all the time," he said. "You guys don't see a lot of them, but that was one that was obviously visible and you could probably hear a little bit there if you were in the arena. Just some frustrations with the game.

"Kyle had his moment with the ref. Serge had his moment with Kyle, but we moved on, we moved past it. It happens. We're brothers.

"It wasn't as bad as it looked, I can tell you that much. That's an everyday thing on our team. Guys just being honest. We have a lot of passionate guys. It's just part of the process."

On the flip side, Jaylen Brown – whose 27 points led the way for Celtics – is not getting carried away, reminding his team-mates they still have a job to do in Game 6.

"It's the playoffs, we've got to come out ready to fight every single night. If not, that's how you lose. So, our guys came out ready to fight tonight," he said.

"But [Monday's result] doesn't say anything. We've got to get ready to play [Wednesday]. The job's not finished yet. We've still got a lot of work that needs to be done."

Coach Brad Stevens added: "They've got a lot of people to go to, and we're going to have to be good again."

The Los Angeles Clippers and Boston Celtics restored their series leads in the NBA playoffs on Monday.

The Clippers overcame the Denver Nuggets 113-107 in Game 3 of the Western Conference semi-finals.

Paul George top-scored for the Clippers with 32 points as they moved back ahead in the series.

The guard went 12-of-18 from the field and five-of-seven from three-point range at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Clippers star Kawhi Leonard posted a double-double of 23 points and 14 rebounds.

The Celtics went 3-2 up against the Toronto Raptors courtesy of a dominant 111-89 victory in Game 5.

Toronto had won back-to-back games, but Jaylen Brown's 27 points led the Celtics to their win.

 

Tatum's double-double, Jokic heroics not enough

Jayson Tatum recorded a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds in the Celtics' victory.

Boston got an even contribution, with Kemba Walker putting up 21 points on the back of eight-of-15 shooting.

Nikola Jokic was huge for the Nuggets. He had 32 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists, but Denver fell to the Clippers.

Michael Porter Jr. managed a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds off the bench for Denver.

 

Murray battles

Jamal Murray's up-and-down form continued. He was five-of-17 from the field for 14 points in 38 minutes for the Nuggets.

 

Heat face Bucks

The Milwaukee Bucks avoided a shock series sweep against the Miami Heat in their Eastern Conference semi-final, but they will need another win on Tuesday to stay alive in a series Miami lead 3-1. The Bucks could be without star Giannis Antetokounmpo (ankle).

LeBron James hailed "the intangibles" of Rajon Rondo's display in the Los Angeles Lakers' series-levelling 117-109 win over the Houston Rockets.

The top-seeded Lakers made it 1-1 in the Western Conference semi-finals as guard Rondo produced a dominant outing on Sunday to mark his return to form and fitness.

Rondo had 10 points, nine assists and five steals against the Rockets off the bench in just his second appearance in the bubble.

But James highlighted Rondo's overall influence, which the Lakers have missed since he suffered a thumb injury in practice in July.

"I think he was just extremely aggressive, not only offensively, but defensively – taking the challenge on James [Harden], taking the challenge on whoever he was guarding. Just trying to lead," said James, who had 28 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.

"I mean, that's what 'Do [Rondo] is. He's a leader. And for us to have him back in the postseason, it's a key for our team.

"He comes in, he pushes the tempo, he gets guys involved and that doesn't always show up in the stat sheet.

"The intangibles that he does both offensively and defensively – his nose is always around the ball and he just makes plays for us, and tonight was another example of that."

The Lakers switched things up after the 112-97 loss in Game 1 and James said it showcased the team's versatility.

"We built the team to be able to play in different ways and to be able to play big versus teams, to be able to play small, to be able to play in between," he said.

"We built that from the beginning and we have that, always had that, in our toolbox."

Jimmy Butler feels the Miami Heat eased up after Giannis Antetokounmpo was forced off injured as the Milwaukee Bucks staved off NBA playoff elimination with a 118-115 overtime win on Sunday.

Antetokounmpo was cleared to play late in the day having suffered an ankle sprain in Game 3 of the series, but he appeared to be moving well in the warm-up.

He was sent tumbling by Heat forward Andre Iguodala in the second quarter of Game 4, instantly clutching his ankle after he was left in a heap.

Although the NBA's reigning MVP managed to come back on for a pair of free throws, Antetokounmpo went off again straight after, with the Bucks ruling him out at half-time.

Despite such a blow, the Bucks went on to seal an overtime victory that keeps them alive in the series, having lost each of their first three clashes, and the Heat's Butler thinks they underestimated their opponents once Antetokounmpo had gone.

"Well, it shouldn't affect ours, but I think that we relaxed a little bit," the All-Star said when asked if Antetokounmpo's exit impacted the Heat's mentality.

"We stopped playing basketball the right way. We stopped guarding. We stopped living by our defensive principles. We weren't getting 50-50 balls. We were getting out-rebounded. It was just all bad."

Bam Adebayo added: "I feel like we played like we were up 3-0. That's not giving enough effort, not sacrificing our body, and we ended up losing because we were up 3-0.

"They're a good team, so at the end of the day, we should have played like we were in Game 1, Game 2 and Game 3 ... I feel like we didn't play a maximum effort the whole game."

Khris Middleton became the Bucks' inspiration in Antetokounmpo's absence, ending up with 36 points, eight assists and eight rebounds in 48 minutes on court, while he also sealed the victory with 6.9 seconds left of overtime with a three-pointer.

But he focused on the Greek star, lauding him for even getting on court in the first place.

"We know he was laying it out on the line out there for us," he said.

"His ankle was already in bad shape, and he still went out there in the first quarter in the minutes that, in the first and second quarter, however long he was out there, he gave it his all, and as a team you couldn't do nothing but respect your team-mate for giving his all out there.

"So, we had to have his back tonight, and hopefully we'll have him back again for the next game, but if not, we still have to play as hard as we can.

"We've got to fight every night to keep on playing."

"Trust the Process" but where to now for the Philadelphia 76ers?

That mantra has become synonymous with the team's culture and identity since former 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie started a drastic rebuild of Philadelphia's roster and psyche in 2013.

The long-term vision, in pursuit of a first NBA championship since 1983, has delivered stars Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and two trips to the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

However, the 76ers find themselves looking for a head coach after Brett Brown – who was at the helm as Philadelphia tanked out and started from the bottom seven years ago – was sacked following a first-ever series sweep at the hands of rivals the Boston Celtics.

While the 76ers were forced to face the Celtics without Simmons due to injury, Philadelphia's failure has only raised further questions as to whether they should trade the Australian or Embiid amid ongoing doubts over the All-Star pair's compatibility.

Jimmy Butler also came and went, while the Al Horford experiment has proved to be an expensive mistake so far.

As GM Elton Brand tries to get the 76ers back on track, with the likes of Tyronn Lue and Jason Kidd linked to the coaching vacancy, we look at the issues facing the team heading into 2020-21 using STATS data.

 

Keeping Embiid and Simmons fit

One of the main issues for the 76ers has been the health of big man Embiid and guard Simmons – franchise pillars.

While much has been made of Embiid and Simmons' chemistry, with spacing the floor a problem for Brown, their fitness issues mean they have only played in 184 of 345 games since the latter was drafted first by the 76ers in 2016.

When Embiid and Simmons play, the 76ers boast a 119-65 win-loss record. But without one or both, they greatly suffer (67-94), Embiid's physicality in the paint and Simmons' superior defensive skills vital in Philadelphia.

The 76ers average 111.7 points, 107.5 opposition points, 47.4 rebounds and 26.4 assists per game with Embiid and Simmons involved, a clear improvement compared to when one or both miss a game – 106.7 points, 109.4 opposition points, 44.5 rebounds and 25.0 assists.

Philadelphia also have a superior field goal percentage (46.9) when Embiid and Simmons both play, with the 76ers shooting just 45.3 per cent. Opposition numbers also go up in their absence – field goal percentage (44.3 to 46.2) and three-point percentage (34.1 to 35.5).

 

Simmons and his shooting woes

Simmons is an elite defender and creator with unrivalled pace, but his shooting struggles have left him stuck between a star and superstar.

There have been signs of a shooter behind all of his usual brilliance, however Simmons' jump-shot is too few and far between.

Previously compared to LeBron James, Simmons does not shoot threes or free throws well – his career free-throw percentage of 59.3 is the worst in NBA history by a guard with at least 1,000 attempts.

And his career three-point percentage (two-for-24, 8.3) is the lowest among all guards who debuted in the NBA in 2000 or later (minimum 20 attempts).

Simmons, 24, also signed a five-year, $170million max contract prior to the 2019-20 campaign.

 

Embiid not so clutch?

The third pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, Embiid has established himself as one of the best big men in the league but he has still been criticised for his lack of consistency and poor fitness at times. Nicknamed 'The Process', the 26-year-old knows there is room for improvement.

Embiid wanted to carry the 76ers in the absence of Simmons and while averaging 30.0 points and 12.3 rebounds per game in the playoffs – an increase on his regular-season averages of 23.0 points and 11.6 rebounds, which were a dip on his 2018-19 numbers – and he looked worn out.

There could be some concern that he does not play well at the end of close games. In his career – regular season and playoffs – Embiid has had 17 potential game-tying or go-ahead shots in the last 30 seconds of the fourth quarter and overtime, and he is just one-for-17.

The only shot he made was a dunk against the Cleveland Cavaliers in November 2019.

LeBron James and Anthony Davis flexed their muscles with double-doubles as the Los Angeles Lakers levelled their NBA playoff series by topping the Houston Rockets 117-109.

After losing Game 1 in the Western Conference semi-finals, the top-seeded Lakers responded thanks to James' 28 points and 11 rebounds at Walt Disney World Resort, where he finished just one assist shy of a triple-double on Sunday.

Fellow All-Star Davis posted 34 points and 10 rebounds to take down the Rockets in Orlando, Florida.

The Rockets, led by James Harden's 27 points and double-doubles from Russell Westbrook (10 points and 13 rebounds) and P.J. Tucker (18 points and 11 rebounds), outscored the Lakers 41-23 in the third quarter but a 27-17 final period in favour of the Lakers saw Houston fall.

Eastern Conference top seeds the Milwaukee Bucks, meanwhile, stayed alive thanks to a 118-115 overtime win against the Miami Heat in Game 4.

Facing a series sweep and with reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo forced to exit the game due to an ankle injury, the Bucks prolonged their postseason campaign as Khris Middleton put up 36 points.

 

LeBron moves up

The three-time champion and four-time MVP improved to second on the all-time playoffs list for three-pointers made. James now has 386 threes, only behind Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry (470).

Rajon Rondo has struggled for fitness, but the veteran produced an efficient display for the Lakers. He had 10 points, nine assists and five steals against the Rockets off the bench.

Bam Adebayo recorded 26 points and 12 rebounds for the beaten Heat.

 

Giannis cause for concern

Antetokounmpo was already in doubt for Sunday's do-or-die showdown due to his ankle and his availability for Tuesday's Game 5 is up in the air. The Bucks star lasted less than 12 minutes after re-injuring his ankle.

While Westbrook had a double-double, the Rockets star was just four of 15 from the field, while he only made one of his seven three-point attempts.

 

Celtics face Raptors

Can the Toronto Raptors make it three straight wins for a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference semi-finals? The defending champions are in action against the Boston Celtics on Monday. The Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets also meet in Game 3 of their Western Conference semi matchup.

Mike Budenholzer was unsure if Giannis Antetokounmpo would be fit for Game 5 against the Miami Heat, but the Milwaukee Bucks head coach's heart stopped when the star hurt his ankle.

Antetokounmpo left Sunday's 118-115 overtime victory in the second quarter after re-injuring his ankle in the NBA playoffs.

The reigning MVP had posted 19 points in less than 12 minutes before Khris Middleton inspired the Bucks with 36 points as they stayed alive in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

But there is no guarantee Antetokounmpo will be back for Game 5 on Tuesday, with the Heat still leading 3-1 at Walt Disney World Resort.

"As far as for Game 5, they're evaluating him now," Bucks Budenholzer told a news conference.

"He'll get treatment through the night and we'll just see how he does over the next 24-48 hours and no, there was no consideration about him coming back today."

While it was Middleton who ended up keeping the top-seeded Bucks alive, Antetokounmpo was in fine form before his injury.

Budenholzer praised Antetokounmpo and said the injury was a scary moment for the Bucks.

"You feel for Giannis. I hope it's not lost what he did in those first 10 or 12 minutes on an ankle that is not fully 100 per cent," he said.

"He was phenomenal to start the game and gave us a huge boost. I think they threw a big punch early and Giannis was able to keep us afloat and when he went down, all our hearts just stopped for a second."

Heat star Jimmy Butler, who finished with 17 points, felt Miami fell away after Antetokounmpo's injury.

"We relaxed a little bit. We stopped playing basketball the right way. We stopped guarding. We stopped living by our defensive principles," he said.

"We weren't getting 50-50 balls, we were getting outrebounded, it was just all bad."

Giannis Antetokounmpo was ruled out of the rest of Game 4 between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Miami Heat due to a right ankle sprain in the NBA playoffs.

Bucks star Antetokounmpo sustained the injury by tangling with Andre Iguodala with 10 minutes, 18 seconds remaining in the second period and left the game after shooting two free throws at Walt Disney World Resort on Sunday.

Milwaukee confirmed during half-time that the reigning MVP would not return to the floor for the rest of the Eastern Conference semi-finals clash.

Antetokounmpo appeared to be struggling with a right ankle injury during Game 3, which ended in a 115-100 defeat for the Bucks that sent them 3-0 down in the series.

The top-seeded Bucks needed to win on Sunday to keep their hopes of reaching the Eastern Conference Finals alive.

Antetokounmpo had started the game strongly in Orlando, scoring 19 points on eight-of-10 shooting to go with four rebounds and one steal.

Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse did not feel "especially satisfied" despite the defending NBA champions beating the Boston Celtic 100-93 to level their series at 2-2.

Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry starred for the Raptors in the Eastern Conference semi-final playoff, leading them to a crucial Game 4 win on Saturday.

Siakam posted 23 points and 11 rebounds, while Lowry claimed a double-double of his own with 22 points and 11 rebounds.

The Raptors had suffered back-to-back losses at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, in the first two matches of the series, but following their buzzer-beating win in Game 3, they are back on level terms.

But Nurse was not getting carried away and he wants more from the Raptors as they look to take charge of the series.

"We don't think we're defending a title," said Nurse. "We're just trying to get this team to do what they can do at as high a level as they can.

"And that, to me, is the job. I don't feel especially satisfied about winning this game tonight or how we played.

"I think that's what we're supposed to do and this is what we're working for – to get these guys to play as hard as they can and play together to get the result, and just go back to work and try to do it a little better again tomorrow."

While the Raptors were grateful to tie the series, there was more than a hint of rueful thinking from the Celtics, particularly Kemba Walker.

The four-time NBA All-Star finished with 15 points and eight assists, but he shot just nine times and successfully converted one of six from three-point range as the Celtics routinely faltered from beyond the arc.

"I got to be more aggressive, I wasn't aggressive enough," he reflected. "That's unacceptable on my behalf, to be honest. There's no way I can just be taking nine shots. That's unacceptable.

"Honestly, man, I thought we had great looks. I thought we had great looks throughout the whole game.

"We just really missed. We missed a lot of open ones that we know we can make. Like I said, we've got to make them. We have to make shots. When guys get shots, when guys are open, we've got to knock those shots down.

"We'll do better. We'll do better."

Denver Nuggets coach Mike Malone was delighted to see his side produce a vastly improved display to level up their second-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Nuggets triumphed 110-101 on Saturday to mark a drastic turnaround from their 120-97 loss in Game 1.

Jamal Murray put up 27 points, while team-mate Nikola Jokic finished with 26 points and 18 rebounds.

And Malone hailed his players' display, saying: "I thought we were a noticeably different team than we were in Game 1.

"Our defense, our activity and the fact that we were willing to help each other.

"The big point of emphasis coming out of Game 1 was as the game wore on, we stood, the ball didn't move, the bodies didn't move.

"We just came down and settled. We didn't make their defense work at all.

"I felt tonight there was a marked difference in our approach, our energy, our movement. And we made ourselves a lot harder to guard."

Malone is hopeful the Nuggets can maintain those high levels heading into the next game.

"Our group believes in themselves," he said.

"We've shown we're a resilient group that can execute and find ways to win in close games down the stretch.

"It's great to be able to tie the series up and have that life and belief going into the next game."

Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry starred as defending champions the Toronto Raptors topped the Boston Celtics 100-93 to level their Eastern Conference semi-final series in the NBA playoffs.

Siakam posted 23 points and 11 rebounds and Lowry had a double-double of his own with 22 points and 11 rebounds to help the Raptors take down the Celtics in Game 4 on Saturday.

After back-to-back defeats, the Raptors have managed to level the series 2-2 at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida following their buzzer-beating victory in Game 3.

The Denver Nuggets also levelled their second-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers via a 110-101 triumph in the Western Conference.

In Game 2, Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic led the way for the Nuggets, who led by as many as 23 points against the second-seeded Clippers.

 

Murray, Jokic fuel Nuggets

Following a subdued display in the series opener, Murray put up 27 points for the Nuggets. Team-mate Jokic finished with 26 points and 18 rebounds.

Jayson Tatum recorded 24 points and 10 rebounds for the beaten Celtics.

 

Leonard struggles against Nuggets

It was a rare off night for Kawhi Leonard offensively. The two-time NBA champion, who had at least 29 points in all seven playoff games this season, posted 13 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. He shot just four for 17 from the field.

The Celtics were just seven for 35 (20 per cent) from three-point range. Brown missed his first nine attempts from beyond the arc and finished two for 11. Boston team-mates Tatum, Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart were all one for six on three-pointers.

 

Filthy Murray

Nuggets star Murray left Leonard scrambling following this move.

 

Bucks face Heat

The Milwaukee Bucks will look to stay alive and avoid a series sweep when they meet the Miami Heat in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals on Sunday. In the west, the Los Angeles Lakers can bounce back from their opening-game loss to the Houston Rockets.

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo is questionable for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals against the Miami Heat due to a right ankle sprain.

The top-seeded Bucks trail 3-0 and are facing a stunning series sweep at the hands of the Heat in the NBA playoffs heading into Sunday's crucial clash at Walt Disney World Resort.

Antetokounmpo rolled his ankle in the first half of Milwaukee's 115-100 Game 3 loss to Miami in Orlando, Florida on Friday.

The reigning MVP still posted 21 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists for the struggling Bucks.

No NBA team have overturned a 3-0 series deficit as the Bucks – eyeing their first championship since 1971 – fight to stay alive in the postseason.

Giannis Antetokounmpo believes NBA history is within the reach of the Milwaukee Bucks despite them falling 3-0 behind to the Miami Heat in the NBA playoffs.

The Heat moved within a game of progressing to the Eastern Conference finals with a 115-100 win over the top-seeded Bucks on Friday.

Milwaukee led by 12 points going into the final quarter but were incredibly outscored 40-13 in the final 12 minutes of Game 3 of the semifinals.

The Bucks will attempt to keep their season alive with victory in Game 4 on Sunday.

And reigning MVP Antetokounmpo, who tweaked his ankle in the first quarter but still had 21 points with 16 rebounds and nine assists, knows Milwaukee cannot afford another fourth-quarter slump.

"We played well for three quarters, we just got to be able to do that for four quarters," said Antetokounmpo.

"You've got to play hard for 48 minutes. We've got to play harder, we've got to play better."

No NBA team has overturned a 3-0 series deficit but Antetokounmpo added: "Mentally, we're in a good place. If there's a team that can beat a team four straight it can be us.

"We've just got to believe in ourselves. We can do it. We've done things before where nobody believed in us."

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