NBA

Phoenix Suns first into playoffs with victory over Miami Heat

By Sports Desk March 10, 2022

The Phoenix Suns became the first team to secure a playoff spot with an impressive 111-90 defeat of the Miami Heat on Wednesday.

Devin Booker returned from a four-game absence to put up 23 points, nine assists and eight rebounds as the leaders of the West toppled the top side in the East.

The Suns, who are 53-13 for the season, have now beaten all other 29 teams in the same season for the first time since 2006-07.

"I told the guys it was one of the best defensive performances I've ever seen," said Suns coach Monty Williams after watching his team concede just 35 points in the second half. "I've been around for a little bit."

Duncan Robinson was top scorer for Miami with 22, who led by 11 in the early stages before falling to just their third defeat in 15 games.

"They were first to the ball a lot," said Robinson. "They were the aggressor. Unacceptable."

 

The Milwaukee Bucks are now two games behind the Heat at the top of the Eastern Conference after beating the Atlanta Hawks 124-115, with Giannis Antetokounmpo's double-double of 43 points and 12 rebounds firing them to a sixth-straight win.

Antetokounmpo finished 15-of-22 from the field to take his tally to 82 points in the space of 24 hours after his 39 in Tuesday's victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

"The things he does are not normal," said team-mate Bobby Portis. "It's fun to be his team-mate and fun to play alongside him."

Rockets stun Lakers in overtime

The Los Angeles Lakers lost for the ninth time in a row on the road, going down 139-130 in overtime against the Houston Rockets.

A triple-double from LeBron James and 30 points from Russell Westbrook were not enough as rookie Jalen Green hit a career-high 32 points for the Rockets.

"We have a really small margin of error this season and teams are making us pay," said James, whose run of consecutive 25-point games ended at 23. "I missed a lot of shots that I know I'm capable of making, have made throughout the course of the season and my career."

The Los Angeles Clippers snapped their two-game losing streak, beating the Washington Wizards 115-109, while the Utah Jazz improved to 41-24 with a comfortable 123-85 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

Bulls back on track, Beasley sets record

The Chicago Bulls ended a run of five consecutive losses, DeMar DeRozan scoring 36 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter, in a 114-108 win over the Detroit Pistons.

It was a day to remember for Malik Beasley, who set a franchise record for three-pointers in the Minnesota Timberwolves' win at home over the Thunder.

Beasley landed 11 of his 17 attempts from beyond the arc as Minnesota, seventh in the West, made it six wins in a row.

The Boston Celtics continued their recent good form with a 115-101 win at the Charlotte Hornets, while the New York Knicks pulled off a fifth-straight road win over the Dallas Mavericks, Julius Randle scoring 26 points in a 107-77 blowout.

Gregg Popovich will have to wait for his NBA record 1,336th regular-season win as coach, the San Antonio Spurs falling 119-104 at home to the Toronto Raptors.

There were also wins for the Orlando Magic, who topped the New Orleans Pelicans 108-102, and the Denver Nuggets, who beat the Sacramento Kings 106-100 thanks to a 38-point double-double from Nikola Jokic.

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    Andrew Nembhard, Tyrese Haliburton and T.J. McConnell each added 15 points, with Nembhard grabbing six rebounds and handing out six assists. Haliburton had nine assists as the Pacers remained perfect in six home games in this postseason.

    The winner of Game 7 in New York on Sunday will advance to face the top-seeded Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals.

    Jalen Bruson scored 31 points on 11-of-26 shooting after missing his final 11 shots in the first half. Deuce McBride added 20 points with four 3-pointers as the Knicks fell to 0-3 on the road in this series.

    Already decimated by injuries, the Knicks lost starting forward Josh Hart in the fourth quarter due to abdominal soreness.

    Hart was seen holding his midsection multiple times during the game and asked to be taken out after he had five points and eight rebounds in 31 minutes.

    New York is already without All-Star Julius Randle, OG Anunoby, Mitchell Robinson and Bojan Bogdanovic.

    Indiana used a 14-6 run in the third quarter to take control, turning a 61-56 lead into a 75-62 advantage. The Pacers maintained at least a 10-point edge the rest of the way.

  • Toronto FC v CF Montreal: Courtois accepts blame amid ongoing winless streak Toronto FC v CF Montreal: Courtois accepts blame amid ongoing winless streak

    Laurent Courtois has accepted that it is on him to find a winning formula as CF Montreal look to snap their winless run against Toronto FC.

    Montreal were beaten 3-1 by Columbus Crew in midweek and are now without a victory in six games in all competitions.

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    "It's up to me to find the winning formulas and discern the phases of the game," head coach Courtois said after the loss to Columbus.

    "We have to grit our teeth and find solutions. The difficult times we are going through help me identify my group. I want to know the players better. 

    "From all the negative aspects we can observe, I can identify a few individual aspects to improve the game or the team itself."

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    "The players are aware of that. They know where the growth areas are for us as a team."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Toronto - Federico Bernardeschi

    Bernardeschi missed the loss to Nashville but will hope to start this weekend in a fixture he has fond memories of. 

    The Italian has scored in each of his two home games against Montreal, making him the third Toronto player to score in two successive home games against them after Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley.

    Montreal - Joel Waterman

    Montreal have conceded three or more goals five times across their 12 MLS games this season, which is tied with San Jose Earthquakes for the most in MLS.

    They quite simply need to sharpen up at the back, with Joel Waterman needing to step up and hope others around him also do so.. The centre-back led the way for interceptions (three) and clearances (four) against Columbus, yet it was still not enough.

    MATCH PREDICTION: DRAW

    Montreal have won five successive matches against Toronto, following a run of neither side ever winning more than three on the spin in this fixture.

    Toronto have won seven and drawn one of their eight matches in which they have held opponents under two goals since September, while they have lost all 13 in which they have shipped two or more.

    Keeping the opposition quiet is therefore key, and this could present a chance to do just that against a Montreal side with fewer points (five) than any side in MLS since mid-March.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Toronto - 39.6%
    Draw - 28.5%
    Montreal - 31.9%

  • New England Revolution v Philadelphia Union: Porter urges players to cut out errors New England Revolution v Philadelphia Union: Porter urges players to cut out errors

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    The Union have double the number of points compared to their opponents, having played one game more, as they occupy ninth place in the East.

    The Us are themselves not in great form, though, as they lost 2-1 at home to New York City FC in their most recent game - a contest overshadowed by a raccoon that entered the field. 

    They have just two points from the past 18 on offer, meanwhile, and head coach Jim Curtin admits it is on him and his players to turn things around.

    "The guys fight until the end, and we have to find a way to get out of this," Curtin said. "We're the only people that are going to get us out of it. 

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    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    New England Revolution - Carles Gil

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    Philadelphia Union - Julian Carranza

    Carranza was on target for the Union in their midweek loss to New York City, coming from one of nine attempts he had on target. The former Argentina age-grade international has now registered four-or-more shots in four MLS career matches.

    To put that in perspective, the two other players to have done so in the club's history - Conor Casey and Andrew Wenger - have done so in a combined two games (one each).

    MATCH PREDICTION: DRAW

    Philadelphia have won 12 matches against the Revs across all MLS competitions, which includes MLS is Back, since 2018 - their best return against any single opponent across that period.

    New England's tally of seven points from their opening 11 games is their worst-such return at this stage of a campaign in club history, with only two out of 17 teams in the post-shootout era (since 2000) managing to reach the playoffs from this position.

    However, there is some hope for them this weekend as the Union's one point across their past five matches is their fewest across any five-game span within a single season since April 2017.


    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    New England Revolution - 36.1%
    Draw - 28.8%
    Philadelphia Union - 35.1%

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