The Denver Nuggets are on the brink of sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers after opening up a 3-0 lead in the teams' first-round series on Thursday, registering their 11th straight win against them.

Aaron Gordon had a playoff career-high 29 points and added 15 rebounds, while Nikola Jokic was just short of a triple-double with 24 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists as Denver clinched a 112-105 win.

Having squandered a big lead in Game 2, the Lakers failed to respond at home as the Nuggets began the second half with a 24-10 run to pull away from their hosts. Los Angeles failed to get closer than eight points in the fourth. 

LeBron James had 26 points, six rebounds and nine assists, while Anthony Davis had 33 points and 15 rebounds, but Los Angeles were let down by their shooting from the field.

They shot just 5 of 27 from the floor, missing with 15 of their first 16 3-point attempts. 

Game 4 takes place at Crypto.com Arena on Saturday, with the Lakers needing to become the first team in NBA history to rally from a 0-3 playoff deficit to keep James' 21st season alive. 

A small group of home fans showed their displeasure with head coach Darvin Ham after the loss, staying behind to chant, "fire Darvin" as the rest of the crowd filtered out.

Embiid's half-century takes Knicks-Sixers to 2-1

Joel Embiid's huge 50-point haul breathed fresh life into the Philadelphia 76ers' series with the New York Knicks, bringing the Sixers back to 2-1 after two road losses to start the playoffs.

The 76ers triumphed 125-114 as Embiid became the first player in playoff history to score 50 points on fewer than 20 shots in a game, going 13 of 19 from the floor and making 19 of 21 free throws.

Philadelphia were three down at the half but produced a huge third quarter, Embiid dragging his team into a 98-85 lead with four 3s in that period.

Tyrese Maxey supported Embiid with 25 points and seven assists, after the NBA admitted the officials missed a foul on him in the closing stages of the Sixers' controversial Game 2 loss.

Jalen Brunson led the Knicks with 39 points and 13 assists while Josh Hart tacked on 20 points, but Donte DiVincenzo only had five after hitting the decisive 3-pointer in Game 2.

Cavs suffer worst playoff loss as Magic hit back

The Orlando Magic also hit back after losing the first two games of their first-round series, dealing the Cleveland Cavaliers the heaviest loss in their playoff history on Thursday.

Taking the series back to Kia Center after a pair of road losses, Orlando recorded a 121-83 win behind Paolo Banchero's 31 points, with Jalen Suggs adding 24 for the fifth seeds in the East.

Orlando led by as many as 43 points in the fourth quarter before ultimately settling for a 38-point margin. The Cavs' previous worst playoff loss was a 36-point defeat to the Washington Wizards in 2008.

Franz Wagner tacked on 16 points and eight assists for Orlando, who now have the chance to level the series at home in Game 4 on Sunday.

Cleveland had four players in double figures but none managed more than the 15 put up by both Jarrett Allen and Caris Levert, the visitors shooting a miserable 8 of 34 (23.5 per cent) from the floor. 

The Miami Heat are desperate to silence their doubters and are using outside criticism as fuel in their first-round playoff series against the Boston Heat, having levelled it up at 1-1.

That is according to forward Bam Adebayo, who had 21 points and was nine of 13 shooting in the Heat's 111-101 win at TD Garden on Wednesday.

Miami buried their hosts under a mountain of 3-pointers in Game 2, setting a franchise record for a postseason game by shooting 23 of 43 (53.5 per cent) from the field.

Speaking after the game, Adebayo said the way in which the Eastern Conference's eighth seeds have been written off by neutrals was spurring them on.

"We've been doubted a lot through our playoff runs, people saying we couldn't do a lot of stuff that we eventually did," Adebayo said.

"So for me and my team, why lose belief now? Our backs are against the wall. Everybody's against us. So just use that as fuel.

"Our guys believe we can win. So, let's make it mano a mano… a cage fight. Let's hoop!"

Caleb Martin joined Adebayo on 21 points with five 3s, being booed by the Boston crowd every time he touched the ball following his heavy collision with Jayson Tatum in Game 1.

Jaime Jaquez Jr. contributed 14 points with three 3s, Nikola Jovic added a trio of 3s and Haywood Highsmith came off the bench to sink three 3s.

Martin said Miami's new shoot-on-sight mentality was part of a plan drawn up by Erik Spoelstra, saying: "I think it was about realising that being passive hurts us. 

"We'd just be playing into their gameplan. We're too good of a shooting team to hesitate from 3."

Spoelstra himself said the Heat had taken the decision to be more proactive after being sunk by Boston's 3-point shooting in Game 1.

"I understand the math of it," the Miami coach said. "We're not going to shoot 50 of them. That's not realistic."

Tyler Herro had 24 points and 14 assists and hit six of Miami’s franchise playoff-record 23 3-pointers as the Heat defeated the Boston Celtics, 111-101, to even their first-round series at a game apiece on Wednesday.

Bam Adebayo had 21 points and 10 rebounds and Caleb Martin added 21 points with five 3s for the Heat, who shot 53.5 percent (23 of 43) from long range to break the franchise playoff record of 20 3s, set against Milwaukee in 2021.

Jaime Jaquez Jr. contributed 14 points with three 3s, Nikola Jovic added a trio of 3s, nine rebounds and six assists and Haywood Highsmith came off the bench to hit three 3s.

The series shifts to Miami for Games 3 and 4 on Saturday and Monday.

Jaylen Brown scored 33 points and Jayson Tatum added 28 for the top-seeded Celtics, who cut Miami’s lead to 102-96 with three minutes left. But Martin hit a 3 and Herro made a driving layup to essentially seal the win.

Tatum scored 14 points in the first quarter and showed no ill effects after he was undercut by Martin while going after a rebound in the final minute in Game 1.

 

Gilgeous-Alexander, Holmgren power Thunder

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 33 points and Chet Holmgren added 26 to lead the hot-shooting Oklahoma City Thunder to a 124-92 rout of the New Orleans Pelicans and a 2-0 lead in their Western Conference first-round series.

Jalen Williams had 21 points, seven assists and five rebounds for the Thunder, who shot 59 percent (46 for 78) from the floor and made 14 of 29 (48.3 percent) from 3-point range.

Game 3 will be Sunday in New Orleans.

Jonas Valanciunas had 19 points and Herbert Jones and Brandon Ingram each added 18 as the Pelicans continued to struggle offensively without injured star Zion Williamson (strained left hamstring).

New Orleans missed 19 of 26 from beyond the arc and made 33 field goals to 46 for Oklahoma City.

The NBA has acknowledged numerous refereeing errors after the Philadelphia 76ers were on the wrong end of late decisions in a chaotic defeat to the New York Knicks.

Nick Nurse, Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey all voiced 76ers frustration after the Knicks came back from 101-96 down to win 104-101 on Monday in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarter-final series.

Philadelphia coach Nurse suggested his timeout calls were ignored on two separate occasions in the frantic finale, while Maxey and Embiid were left aggrieved with foul decisions during the same period.

In its Last Two Minute Report, the league concurred with the 76ers claims after admitting Maxey was fouled in the build-up to Jalen Brunson's 3-pointer that cut Philadelphia's lead to just two.

The same report also found that Maxey was illegally felled by Josh Hart, turning over for Donte DiVincenzo missing a decisive go-ahead 3-pointer before making the winning shot with 13 seconds remaining.

"[Maxey] did his job," Embiid said after the game when asked about the turnover in the closing seconds. "That's on the league. That's on the NBA.

"That's on the referees. I hate to put the game on them. But I am sure the two-minute report is going to come out and we are going to see what happened."

Maxey blamed himself and refused to dwell on the matter after the 76ers fell 2-0 down in the best-of-seven series, while Nurse was also left disappointed on the sidelines by the officiating.

Nurse claimed he twice attempted to call timeout, with the league's report acknowledging one of those should have been granted when 76ers point guard Kyle Lowry was inbounding the ball.

"I guess I got to run out onto the floor or do something to make sure and get his attention, but I needed a timeout there to advance it," Nurse lamented after the game.

The Last Two Minutes Report reviewed two other errors in officiating, having missed an Embiid foul on DiVincenzo before Brunson's 3-pointer and a defensive violation by Knicks forward OG Anunoby.

Though the NBA acknowledged the mistakes, no replay will be granted – a decision the Knicks are all too familiar with.

New York wanted a replay earlier this season after referee Jacyn Goble made an incorrect call for a foul on Houston Rockets guard Aaron Holiday, though that call was labelled as human error.

Both teams will be hoping for less drama when Games 3 and 4 come on Thursday and Sunday in Philadelphia.

The NBA has acknowledged numerous refereeing errors after the Philadelphia 76ers were on the wrong end of late decisions in a chaotic defeat to the New York Knicks.

Nick Nurse, Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey all voiced 76ers frustration after the Knicks came back from 101-96 down to win 104-101 on Monday in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarter-final series.

Philadelphia coach Nurse suggested his timeout calls were ignored on two separate occasions in the frantic finale, while Maxey and Embiid were left aggrieved with foul decisions during the same period.

In its Last Two Minute Report, the league concurred with the 76ers claims after admitting Maxey was fouled in the build-up to Jalen Brunson's 3-pointer that cut Philadelphia's lead to just two.

The same report also found that Maxey was illegally felled by Josh Hart, turning over for Donte DiVincenzo missing a decisive go-ahead 3-pointer before making the winning shot with 13 seconds remaining.

"[Maxey] did his job," Embiid said after the game when asked about the turnover in the closing seconds. "That's on the league. That's on the NBA.

"That's on the referees. I hate to put the game on them. But I am sure the two-minute report is going to come out and we are going to see what happened."

Maxey blamed himself and refused to dwell on the matter after the 76ers fell 2-0 down in the best-of-seven series, while Nurse was also left disappointed on the sidelines by the officiating.

Nurse claimed he twice attempted to call timeout, with the league's report acknowledging one of those should have been granted when 76ers point guard Kyle Lowry was inbounding the ball.

"I guess I got to run out onto the floor or do something to make sure and get his attention, but I needed a timeout there to advance it," Nurse lamented after the game.

The Last Two Minutes Report reviewed two other errors in officiating, having missed an Embiid foul on DiVincenzo before Brunson's 3-pointer and a defensive violation by Knicks forward OG Anunoby.

Though the NBA acknowledged the mistakes, no replay will be granted – a decision the Knicks are all too familiar with.

New York wanted a replay earlier this season after referee Jacyn Goble made an incorrect call for a foul on Houston Rockets guard Aaron Holiday, though that call was labelled as human error.

Both teams will be hoping for less drama when Games 3 and 4 come on Thursday and Sunday in Philadelphia.

Jason Kidd lauded Luka Doncic's defensive work after the Dallas Mavericks saw off the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Mavs beat the Clippers 96-93 on Tuesday, restoring parity in their playoff series.

Doncic finished with 33 points and 13 rebounds, though it was his defensive efforts that impressed coach Kidd.

"I think his defense has been great this whole series," Kidd said.

"We know they're going to put him in pick-and-roll. A couple years ago we saw this, and we had to tell him to participate.

"But I think he's participating at a high level on both ends. He's leading not just on the offensive end but also the defensive end."

According to ESPN, the Clippers missed all 11 shots that were contested by Doncic, whose teammate Maxi Kleber added: "When he gets his stops like this and pushes it, it's even more fun for us because we already know what he does on offense. 

"It spreads to everybody else. He's bringing the energy, and he's going to set the tone for us. And when he does stuff like that, it gives everybody juice."

The return of Kawhi Leonard was enough to ensure there was positivity from the Los Angeles Clippers despite their loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday.

Luka Doncic had 32 points, nine assists and six rebounds and the Mavs secured a 96-93 win to even their Western Conference first-round playoff series at a game apiece.

Kyrie Irving added 23 points and PJ Washington had 18 for the Mavericks, who take the series back to Dallas for Game 3 on Friday.

Leonard had 15 points and seven rebounds in 35 minutes in his first game since March 31. He had not played or engaged in any contact practices during that stretch because of inflammation in his surgically repaired knee.

He shot 7-of-17 but missed all five of his 3-point attempts as the Clippers fell short, but his return to action still came as a significant boost.

"Kawhi is one of the best in the world," said Paul George, per ESPN. 

"He is going to find his rhythm. We are going to find our rhythm around him. We feel good about it."

George and James Harden each scored 22 points and Ivica Zubac added 13 with 12 rebounds for the Clippers, who shot 36.8 per cent (32 for 87) from the field and missed 22 of 30 from long range.

The Clippers were ahead 73-67 with 9:32 remaining but the Mavs scored 14 straight points for an 81-73 lead. They did not relinquish the advantage from there.

"Just keep trying to get a rhythm back and obviously try to win a basketball game," Leonard said about his return. 

"We got pretty stagnant in that fourth quarter. I want to just be able to get a rhythm with the team and get a win.

"It has just been about being able to get on the floor and shoot consistent days and being able to run the last few weeks.

"I haven't been on the floor, so the last couple days it felt great and I was able to play.

"This is my first game in 20-something days. We got to be better as a unit overall and it starts with me. And even if my wind is low, I got to find a way."

Tyrese Haliburton says a fan directed a racial slur at his younger brother while he was in attendance for Game 1 of the Indiana Pacers' playoff series with the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum.

The Pacers guard made the claim during his post-game news conference after Indiana returned to Milwaukee for Game 2 on Tuesday, levelling up the series with a 125-108 win.

Haliburton, who was born in Wisconsin, has made his first two playoff appearances in his home state, with the Pacers dropping the first contest by a 109-94 scoreline on Sunday.

After they bounced back with Tuesday's win, in which Haliburton had 12 points and 12 assists, he addressed the incident upon being asked about his experience of returning to Wisconsin. 

"My little brother in the stands the other day was called the N-word," Haliburton said. "It was important for us as a family to just address that. 

"That was important for us to talk about because that just didn't sit right with anybody in our family. 

"It's just been important to have my family here right now. My little brother has handled that the right way."

He then added: "The team did a good job of handling this environment. The conversation… it's friendly during the regular season because I'm the hometown kid, but it's a little different when you're visiting in this environment."

The Bucks were asked about the incident after Tuesday's game, with a team spokesperson saying the accused individual denied the accusation. 

"An arena guest services representative reported that during Sunday's game a few guests were not sitting in their correct seats," a Bucks spokesperson said.

"The guest services representative asked the group to move one section over to their correct seats. Then, one of the individuals in the group claimed to the representative that a person sitting in front of him had used a derogatory term toward him. 

"The accused person denied the accusation. The group moved to their correct seats and no further incident was reported. We take our fan environment extremely seriously and are committed to providing a safe and secure experience."

Pascal Siakam was the star of Game 2 as his 37-point haul helped the Pacers overcome another fast start from Bucks guard Damian Lillard, who had 26 first-half points in the absence of two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

"We've got to be the hungry team," Siakam said after the game. "We've got to be the team that's coming in and wanting to show something. 

"That's the attitude that we’ve got to have against those guys, because they've done it before."

Rudy Gobert declared nobody wants to face the Minnesota Timberwolves' defense after they opened up a 2-0 series lead over the Phoenix Suns with a 105-93 win in Game 2 on Tuesday.

Gobert joined Mike Conley Jr. in scoring 18 points in support of Jaden McDaniels, who had 25 as the third-seeded Wolves tightened their grip on the series at Target Center.

The Suns' star trio of Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal were held to a combined 18 for 45 from the field, the team failing to score triple figures for the second time in the series. 

Three-time Defensive Player of the Year Gobert – who averaged 9.2 defensive rebounds, 0.7 steals and 2.1 blocks per game through the regular season – is relishing the Wolves' steely reputation. 

"We can see it. I can feel it. I can see them. It's tough," Gobert said. "No one likes going against the type of defense that we're playing right now."

The Suns' woes were compounded when they lost guard Grayson Allen in the third quarter, the 28-year-old aggravating the right ankle sprain he suffered in Game 1.

Guarding Conley on a drive, Allen jumped in an attempt to block his opponent's shot and landed awkwardly. Having been helped from the court, he was ruled out for the rest of the game.

Suns coach Frank Vogel later told reporters X-rays on Allen's ankle had been negative, so his condition will be assessed on a day-to-day basis ahead of Game 3 on Friday.

"It's just a little bit tougher since I was in the air and landing, but when I watched the replay, it looked like I landed on someone's heel and rolled it pretty hard," Allen said.

On the only previous occasion on which Minnesota took a 2-0 lead in a playoff series, they went on to eliminate the Denver Nuggets 4-1 in the first round in 2004.

However, as the series heads to Footprint Center, Booker says nothing is decided yet.

"Don't count us out," Booker said. "It's a series for a reason." 

Luka Dončić had 32 points, nine assists and six rebounds and the Dallas Mavericks overcame the return of Kawhi Leonard in a 96-93 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday to even their Western Conference first-round playoff series at a game apiece.

Kyrie Irving added 23 points and PJ Washington had 18 for the Mavericks, who send the series back to Dallas for Game 3 on Friday.

Leonard had 15 points and seven rebounds in 35 minutes in his first game since March 31. He didn’t play or engage in any contact practices during that stretch because of inflammation in his surgically repaired knee.

Paul George and James Harden each scored 22 points and Ivica Zubac added 13 with 12 rebounds for the Clippers, who shot 36.8 percent (32 for 87) from the field and missed 22 of 30 from long range.

The Clippers led 73-67 with 9:32 remaining but the Mavs scored 14 straight points for an 81-73 lead with 5:18 left. After Russell Westbrook hit a 3, Washington answered with a 3 to make it 84-76.

Maxi Kleber and Doncic made consecutive 3s to extend Dallas’ lead to 90-81 with 1:26 to play and Irving sealed the win with three free throws in the final 12 seconds.

Timberwolves stifle Suns for 2-0 lead

Jaden McDaniels scored 25 points and the Minnesota Timberwolves didn’t need another big performance from Anthony Edwards in a 105-93 win over the Phoenix Suns for a 2-0 lead in their first-round series.

Mike Conley and Rudy Gobert each scored 18 points while Edwards was limited to 15 on 3-of-12 shooting after he had 33 points in the series opener.

Minnesota held the Suns’ big three of Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal to a combined 18 for 45 from the field. Booker had 20 points and Durant 18 for the Suns, who head home for Game 3 on Friday faced with a 2-0 series deficit.

Phoenix lost starting guard Grayson Allen to an aggravated ankle sprain in the third quarter, during which the Wolves used a 12-0 run to turn a 63-60 deficit into a 72-63 lead.

The lead was down to 84-76 in the fourth quarter, but Minnesota scored the next seven points and was never threatened thereafter.

Siakam helps Pacers get even

Pascal Siakam poured in 37 points and the Indiana Pacers survived another stellar start by Damian Lillard to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks, 125-108, evening their Eastern Conference playoff series at a game apiece.

Myles Turner scored 22 points, Andrew Nembhard added 20 and Tyrese Haliburton had 12 points and 12 assists for the Pacers, who snapped a 10-game playoff losing streak that started with a Game 7 loss to Cleveland in a first-round series in 2018.

Siakam shot 16 of 23 from the field and had 11 rebounds and six assists.

Lillard had 26 points by halftime in this one after scoring all 35 of his points in the first half in the Bucks’ 109-94 victory in Game 1. He finished with 34 on 10-of-21 shooting – including 6 of 13 from 3-point range.

The Bucks were again without two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who sat with a strained left calf.

The Philadelphia 76ers may be two games down in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-finals series but Joel Embiid thinks his struggling side will triumph.

The second-seeded New York Knicks lead Philadelphia 2-0 after Monday's crucial 104-101 win after an impressive late comeback.

Down 101-96 in the final minute, the Knicks scored the game's final eight points to further their lead in the series, which shifts to Philadelphia for Thursday's Game 3.

Yet Embiid still insists the 76ers will progress in the East.

"We're good," a confident Embiid declared. "We're going to win this series.

"We are going to win this. We know what we have to fix. We did a better job today, so we are going to fix it.

"We are the better team. We are going to keep fighting."

A chaotic final 15 seconds proved decisive at Madison Square Garden as Donte DiVincenzo's go-ahead 3-pointer started a furious late rally that propelled the Knicks.

Philadelphia coach Nick Nurse claimed the 76ers had been calling timeout as a frenzied finale played out.

"Well, the first thing is obviously they score," Nurse said. "We take a look at getting it in quick. We don't get it in quick.

"I call timeout. Referee looked right at me. Ignored me. Went into Tyrese [Maxey], I called timeout again. Then the melee started.

"I guess I got to run out onto the floor or do something to make sure and get his attention, but I needed a timeout there to advance it.

"Would've been good, but, couldn't get it."

Embiid echoed his coach's sentiment, adding: "Everybody was trying to call a timeout on the floor, me included. Coach on the sideline. But they didn't give it to us.

"But, forget about the timeout. There's a bunch of fouls. That's unacceptable."

In stark contrast, the Knicks had a wholly different perspective on the ending.

"We're down two, got to be as physical as we can be, try to get the steal," said Josh Hart. "And that's what we did."

Donte DiVincenzo's go-ahead 3-pointer with 13.1 seconds left highlighted a furious late rally that propelled the New York Knicks to a crucial 104-101 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in Monday's Game 2 of an Eastern Conference quarter-finals series. 

Down 101-96 in the final minute, the second-seeded Knicks scored the game's final eight points to grab a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, which shifts to Philadelphia for Thursday's Game 3.

DiVincenzo finished with 19 points and Jalen Brunson had 24 along with eight rebounds and six assists for New York, which also got a big effort from center Isaiah Hartenstein to overcome a 10-point deficit late in the first half.

Hartenstein scored all 14 of his points in the second half on 7-of-7 shooting while helping the Knicks contain 76ers' star Joel Embiid. The reigning NBA MVP managed 34 points and 10 rebounds, but made good on just 12 of 29 field goal attempts and missed a potential tying 3-point try at the buzzer.

Tyrese Maxey ended just shy of a triple-double for seventh-seeded Philadelphia, as he compiled 35 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds.

The Sixers trailed 90-82 early in the fourth quarter before outscoring New York 19-6 over a seven-minute stretch to pull ahead late. Maxey's jumper with 2:22 to go gave Philadelphia a 97-96 edge, and the All-Star buried a 3-pointer shortly afterward to extend the lead to four entering the final minute.

Brunson gave New York some life with a 3-pointer with 27.4 seconds remaining to cut the lead to 101-99, and after Maxey turned it over on the ensuing possession, DiVincenzo knocked down a 26-footer on a second-chance attempt to send the Knicks in front.

Maxey then couldn't get a contested layup to fall with 6.6 seconds left, and New York's OG Anunoby was fouled after grabbing the rebound before making both free throws ahead of Embiid's game-ending miss. 

Nuggets rally from 20 points down to stun Lakers in Game 2

The Denver Nuggets also took a 2-0 lead in their Western Conference series with the Los Angeles Lakers after overcoming a 20-point second-half deficit to rally for a stunning 101-99 win.

Jamal Murray capped Denver's improbable comeback by hitting a game-winning 15-foot jumper with 0.4 seconds left on the clock.

Murray scored 16 of his 20 points in the second half and Nikola Jokić had 15 points after half-time to also spark the defending NBA champions. Jokic ended the night with a 27-point, 20-rebound, 10-assist triple-double.

Anthony Davis finished with 32 points and 11 rebounds for the seventh-seeded Lakers, who appeared on the verge of sending the series back to Los Angeles all tied up after opening up a 68–48 lead two minutes into the third quarter.

Second-seeded Denver trailed 74-55 near the midway point of the third before getting back in it with a 10-0 run. The Nuggets later went on a 10-1 spurt to pull within 83-81 on Murray's layup with 6:45 remaining.

Murray was later fouled with 57.6 seconds left and made both free throws to forge a 97-97 tie. LeBron James answered with a layup on the ensuing possession to put Los Angeles back ahead, but Murray sunk a step-back jumper with 30 seconds remaining to even the score once again.

James then misfired on a 3-point try and the Nuggets secured the rebound before getting the ball to Murray, who knocked down the game-winner right before the buzzer sounded with Davis contesting the shot.

James had 26 points and 12 rebounds, while D'Angelo Russell netted 23 points for the Lakers while going 7 of 11 from 3-point range.

Game 3 will take place Thursday night.

Cavaliers shut down Magic again to take 2-0 series lead

Donovan Mitchell scored 23 points and Jarrett Allen led another strong defensive effort for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who took a 2-0 lead in their first-round series against the Orlando Magic by recording a 96-86 win.

After holding the Magic under 33 per cent shooting in Saturday's series opener, fourth-seeded Cleveland forced 17 turnovers and limited No. 5 seed Orlando to a 36.2 per cent rate from the field to move within two wins of advancing.

Allen particularly made his presence felt by corralling 20 rebounds along with three blocks and two steals. The standout center also contributed 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting.

Evan Mobley added 17 points and Darius Garland had 15 in a game the Cavaliers never trailed while taking control early by building a 30-18 lead after one quarter.

Cleveland's margin grew as high as 17 points in the second quarter as the Magic continued to struggle to score, and Mitchell registered 19 of his points in the first half to help send the Cavs into the break owning a 58-44 advantage.

Orlando never seriously threatened in the second half and will now attempt to reverse momentum when it returns home to host Game 3 on Thursday. 

Paolo Banchero led the Magic with 21 points and Franz Wagner had 18 for Orlando, though all but one of those points came during the first half.

 

The Brooklyn Nets have a new man in charge, hiring Jordi Fernandez as the 24th coach in franchise history on Monday.

Fernandez spent the last two seasons as the associate head coach of the Sacramento Kings, helping lead them to the Pacific Division title and the third seed in the Western Conference a year ago for the franchise's first play-off berth since 2006.

The Kings finished ninth in the West this season, and went 94-70 in Fernandez's two seasons on the Sacramento staff.

The Nets ended up going 32-50 this season to miss the play-offs for the first time since 2018. They fired Jacque Vaughn at the All-Star break, and Kevin Ollie finished out the season as the interim coach.

 

A native of Badalona, Spain, Fernandez also coaches Canada's men's national team. He helped Canada to a bronze medal in last year's FIBA Basketball World Cup with a win over Team USA in the third-place game.

"We're thrilled to announce Jordi Fernández as Brooklyn's new head coach," said Nets general manager Sean Marks in a statement. "As we progressed through an extensive search over the past six weeks, it became increasingly clear that Jordi is the best coach to lead our team forward. Jordi brings a diverse set of experiences and basketball knowledge gained over the course of a coaching career that has taken him around the world. Each step of the way, Jordi has consistently demonstrated the ability to implement strong processes and creative systems designed to optimise each team's specific roster."

Prior to his stop in Sacramento, Fernandez was an assistant coach for the Denver Nuggets for six seasons, during which the team made the play-offs four times.

In addition to coaching Canada's team, Fernandez has other experience coaching on the global stage, serving as the lead assistant for the Nigerian national team at the 2020 Olympics. He also worked on the staff for the Spanish national team at EuroBasket 2017 and the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championships.

"My family and I are thrilled to join such an incredible organisation and become part of the vibrant Brooklyn community," Fernandez said. "I am eager to get to work with this talented group of players and collectively drive our team forward. Together, we will be fully committed to building something special for Nets fans and the borough to be proud of for years to come."

Jayson Tatum showed he was unfazed by the Miami Heat's physicality as he logged his first career playoff triple-double in the Boston Celtics' 114-94 Game 1 victory on Sunday.

Top-seeded Boston seized the initiative in their first-round series against Miami at TD Garden, with Tatum adding 10 rebounds and 10 assists to his 23 points, leading six Celtics in double figures.

Tatum's fine performance came despite some rough treatment from the Heat, taking one huge hit from Caleb Martin while going up for a rebound in the last minute of the fourth quarter.

Martin immediately went to help Tatum up but was pushed by Boston's Jaylen Brown, with both players awarded technicals. The Miami forward later said the incident was accidental, as he received a slight nudge from Jrue Holiday before crashing into Tatum.

The five-star All-Star was soon back to his feet, though, and he later said getting hit was just part of the game. 

"It's playoff basketball, and it's a physical game against a physical team. ***'s going to happen," Tatum said. "It's probably not the last time I'm going to get hit like that in this series.

The Celtics led by as many as 34 points in the fourth quarter, with a late run from the Heat only ever bringing them as close as 14. 

Tatum hailed Boston for staying focused throughout, adding: "It's supposed to be tough. In the playoffs no game is easy. 

"There are no guaranteed wins regardless of the score, or how much time is left. We just had to respond and we did that."

Miami struggled in the absence of Jimmy Butler, and coach Erik Spoelstra accepted they were second-best, saying: "Boston controlled this game from the tip. 

"They won the big muscle areas. They definitely won the 3-point line and the majority of the areas in between."

Elsewhere on Sunday, Milwaukee Bucks star Damian Lillard scored 35 first-half points – a franchise playoff record – as they claimed a 109-94 victory over the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 of their own first-round series.

Lillard didn't score after halftime, but his lightning start ensured the Bucks were untroubled despite the absence of two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who missed out with a calf strain. 

Milwaukee built a commanding 69-42 lead by the interval and never saw their advantage drop to single digits as Khris Middleton tacked on 23 points – 15 of them in the second half.

Looking ahead to Tuesday's second game, which will also be held at the home of the third-seeded Bucks, Lillard said: "In the playoffs, it's about setting the tone.

"We're going to see this team a lot of times, and you want to establish yourself, especially on your home floor. That was my mentality, to come out and try and set the tone in that way."

Remarking on Lillard's incredible first-half performance, Milwaukee coach Doc Rivers said: "He carried us. He was unbelievable."

Over the course of four quarters, Lillard was upstaged by Indiana's Pascal Siakam, who finished with 36 points and 13 rebounds in 40 minutes on the court.

Indiana head coach Rick Carlisle, however, was unable to look beyond their miserable start to the game.

"The first half was embarrassing," Carlisle said. "We have no excuses. We've simply got to come out better. It was ugly, and we all own it."

Jason Kidd and Kyrie Irving were frustrated by a "passive" performance from the Dallas Mavericks, who went down 109-97 to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.

The Mavs were second best throughout the opening contest of their first-round series against the Clippers, who were without talisman Kawhi Leonard.

James Harden stepped up with 28 points in Leonard's absence, Paul George chipped in with 22 and Ivica Zubac contributed a career-high 20 points, adding 15 rebounds.

Dallas, seeded fifth, shot just 38.8 per cent for the game, and were 56-30 down by halftime.

Doncic finished with 33 points, while Irving finished with 31, but the latter was deeply frustrated by the Mavs' display.

"It really centered around the foundational point of talking about physicality and this being the playoffs," Irving said.

"A lot of guys aren't used to being here. A few young guys aren't used to being here, so they don't know what they can get away with and what the refs are going to call.

"I think this was a great first test for us. We obviously failed and we came out with a loss, but I think there are some things we can take into Game 2."

Mavs coach Kidd added: "They were physical and we were passive."

For the Clippers, it was a timely reminder of what Harden is able to offer.

"I can score with the best of 'em," Harden said.

"Still can score with the best of 'em. My role for this team is just generating really good shots and making guys' jobs easier.

"And then when my number to score is called, then you score the basketball. Obviously, Kawhi is out, so my playmaking and my volume is going to go up a little bit more, and took advantage of it."

Zubac lauded his teammate's performance, labelling Harden as "one of the greatest scorers this game has seen".

"James was great," he said. "We needed him and he played great.

"He is one of the greatest scorers this game has seen. He can do that on a nightly basis. It's just the role is different for him in this game and [with Leonard out], we need him to score more and that's what he did and we all know he can do that."

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue chipped in with the praise, too, saying: "When he's scoring the basketball and making the right play, it's huge.

"He understands that he doesn't have to do a lot of heavy lifting with Kawhi and PG both on the floor.

"But if one of those guys are out, he has to step up and be aggressive to score the basketball. That is what he has been doing for us of late. I thought he really set the tone early."

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