NBA

Durant, Paul lead Suns to seventh win in a row, Thunder cling onto last play-in spot

By Sports Desk April 07, 2023

The Phoenix Suns have clinched the fourth seed in the Western Conference after defeating the undermanned Denver Nuggets 119-115 on Thursday.

The victory was Phoenix's seventh in a row, having been ignited by the return of Kevin Durant for their past five fixtures after he missed over three weeks of action in March.

Durant has personally not played in a loss since January 5, winning his last two games for the Brooklyn Nets before being traded while injured, and he has won all eight Suns games he has suited up for.

He was again the key against the Nuggets, scoring a team-high 29 points on nine-of-18 shooting, including six-of-10 from three-point range, while adding seven rebounds and four assists in an eyebrow-raising 41 minutes as head coach Monty Williams gave his star extended run.

Chris Paul was terrific in support, tying his regular season career-high with seven made three-pointers on the way to 25 points (nine-of-15 shooting) and only one turnover.

Devin Booker was the primary playmaker for the Suns, racking up eight assists, but it was also due to a poor shooting night where he finished three-of-12 from the field for his 15 points.

Despite the loss – where starters Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope sat out – Bruce Brown showed why he will have a key role in the playoffs as he put up 31 points (11-of-18 shooting), six rebounds and four assists as the stand-in top option.

Thunder hang on to final play-in spot

The Oklahoma City Thunder kept their playoff hopes alive with a 114-98 road win against the Utah Jazz, denying the Dallas Mavericks for the time being.

If the Thunder had lost, they would have slipped to 38-43 and been overtaken by the 38-42 Mavs, but they instead rode a terrific team effort to victory as seven Oklahoma City players scored in double-figures.

The result leaves the Thunder a half-game clear of the Mavericks in the race for the Western Conference's 10th seed, with OKC's last game of the season to come at home against the Memphis Grizzlies, while Dallas will host the Chicago Bulls and the San Antonio Spurs to close out their regular season.

Miami bring the heat to Philadelphia

The Philadelphia 76ers had almost nothing to play for against the Miami Heat, and it showed, with the visitors collecting a 129-101 road triumph.

Miami (43-37) still have a small chance at avoiding the play-in tournament if they can overtake the Brooklyn Nets (44-36) in the final stages, and they got the job done in Philadelphia thanks to Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro.

Butler was rock-solid with an equal team-high 24 points on nine-of-12 shooting, adding six assists, while Herro shot seven-of-17 for his 24 points and five assists.

Related items

  • Doncic 'one of best in the world' - Kidd praises star man after Mavericks win Doncic 'one of best in the world' - Kidd praises star man after Mavericks win

    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."

  • NBA: Washington's late free throws send Mavericks to Western Conference finals NBA: Washington's late free throws send Mavericks to Western Conference finals

    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. 

  • New Phoenix boss Budenholzer would coach Suns 'if it was on the moon' New Phoenix boss Budenholzer would coach Suns 'if it was on the moon'

    Mike Budenholzer admitted he would coach the Phoenix Suns, even if the team "was on the moon".

    The two-time NBA Coach of the Year, who guided the Milwaukee Bucks to the title in 2021, was named Frank Vogel's successor at Footprint Center last week.

    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."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.