NBA

Butler leads Heat past slumping Mavericks, Ingram stars as Pelicans continue playoffs push

By Sports Desk April 01, 2023

Luka Doncic scored 42 points with 10 rebounds but it was not enough for the Dallas Mavericks who suffered their sixth loss from their past seven games 129-122 to the Miami Heat on Saturday.

The win was much needed for Miami, who improved to 41-37 to be seventh in the East, with Jimmy Butler top scoring with 35 points and 12 assists at FTX Arena.

The Heat snapped their three-game skid but it left the Mavs' perilous playoff hopes worse off, falling to a 37-41 record, remaining 11th in the West.

Dallas are a game back from Oklahoma City (38-40) in the race for the final play-in spot, with the Thunder owning the head-to-head tiebreaker too.

Doncic tried his best with 42 points on 17-of-25 shooting with two triples along with 10 rebounds, eight assists and two steals. That was the Slovenian's 14th 40-point game this season.

Kyrie Irving added 23 points and eight assists, while Tim Hardaway Jr drained six three-pointers in his 31 points with six rebound and seven assists.

Yet all that was not enough for Dallas who shot at 61 per cent as a team, after Miami piled on 44 first-quarter points, leaving the Mavs to lament their defense. Miami's 76 first-half points was the third most in franchise history.

Center Cody Zeller offered good support to Butler with 20 points and eight rebounds, while Kevin Love and Max Strus both added 18 points and Tyler Herro contributed 15.

Ingram stars as Pels continue playoffs push

The New Orleans Pelicans moved above the Los Angeles Lakers and into the seven spot in the Western Conference with a crucial 122-114 over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Kawhi Leonard scored 40 points for the Clippers, who fall to sixth in the West, but Brandon Ingram maintained his fine form with a game-winning display.

Ingram scored 36 points on 13-of-23 shooting with four rebounds and eight assists, while Jonas Valanciunas added 23 points with 12 rebounds.

Leonard shot 15-of-28 from the field with four-of-eight from beyond the arc with eight rebounds and four assists, while Russell Westbrook contributed 24 points with nine assists.

The Pels have won seven of their past eight games to shoot into playoffs contention in the West with a 40-38 record, while the Clippers are 41-38.

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    Mavericks coach Jason Kidd hails Luka Doncic as “one of the best players in the world” after the Dallas Mavericks made it to the Western Conference finals.

    P.J. Washington Jr. sank two free throws with 2.5 seconds remaining to seal a 117-116 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday to send them to the finals with a 4-2 series win.

    Doncic finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his third-straight triple-double to help Dallas on their way, with Kyrie Irving and Derrick Jones Jr. each adding 22 points as they rallied from a 17-point deficit in the third quarter.

    Kidd praised Doncic for another inspired performance after the game, saying: "He's one of the best players in the world, but sometimes we lose sight that it's not just built [around Doncic].

    "One guy can't get you there. You need a team. Right now, he's got a team that he believes in."

    Doncic is just the fifth player to have three straight playoff triple-doubles in history, and he wants to soak in what he describes as a tough win.

    "We won the series. That's what matters in the end," Doncic said.

    "We won 4-2, [even though] we didn't have home advantage. It's great that we won, but just struggles are going to come. You got to stay positive and keep hooping.

    "Today is about today's game, and tomorrow we'll think about the conference finals.

    "I think we should all enjoy this, because this, I would say, was a really hard series."

    Kyrie Irving matches his scoring high for the series with his 22 points, but was quick to admire Washington’s late impact.

    "I think he [Washington] was just waiting for his moment.

    "He's played well the majority of the series, so we had some confidence in him that eventually he would make some big-time shots and grateful that he knocked them down. Man, that's just pure confidence and belief."

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    P.J. Washington Jr. sank two free throws with 2.5 seconds remaining and the Dallas Mavericks rallied for a 117-116 victory over the top-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday to reach the Western Conference finals for the second time in three seasons.

    With the Thunder ahead 116-115 after Chet Holmgren’s dunk, Washington pump-faked to get Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the air and the whistle blew as his shot fell short.

    After the Thunder’s challenge was unsuccessful, Washington made the first two free throws before intentionally missing the third. Jalen Williams’ desperation heave at the buzzer wasn’t close.

    Luka Dončić had 29 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his third straight triple-double and Kyrie Irving and Derrick Jones Jr. each added 22 points for Dallas, which rallied from a 17-point deficit in the third quarter.

    The Mavericks will face the winner of the Minnesota-Denver series with that headed to Game 7 on Sunday.

    Gilgeous-Alexander had 36 points and Williams finished with 22, nine rebounds and eight assists. The Thunder lost four of five games following a 5-0 start to the playoffs.

    Holmgren’s dunk with 8:26 left in the third extended the Thunder’s lead to 77-60, but Doncic and Irving combined for the next 13 points to make it 77-73.

    The final sequence capped a fourth quarter that had five lead changes and two ties in the final five minutes.

    Irving improved to 14-0 in closeout games in his career and had a 3-pointer to get Dallas within two midway through the fourth, the closest it had been since the second quarter. 

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    Arizona-born Budenholzer returns to his hometown after taking the 2023-24 season out, having previously enjoyed five-year stints with the Bucks and Atlanta Hawks.

    The 54-year-old has only missed out on the postseason once in his 10 previous NBA campaign, guiding his teams to six division titles and entering the playoffs as top seeds on four occasions.

    Budenholzer now hopes to achieve something similar with the Suns, who endured a disappointing season under Vogel, which culminated in a 4-0 first-round series defeat by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    "It's mind-boggling to me, like mind-blowing, to think that I'm going to be the head coach of the Phoenix Suns," he told reporters during his introductory news conference.

    "I'm excited about working with this roster and these players. We have great players and, with great players, comes great expectations. I think we embrace that.

    "The biggest message I want you to hear is that I would coach this team if it was on the moon. I would coach this team if it was in Alaska, if these players were in Denmark. I would go anywhere to coach this team."

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