The Los Angeles Clippers still won’t have injured leading scorer Kawhi Leonard in the lineup Sunday when they host the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of the team’s first-round playoff series.

Leonard missed Los Angeles’ final eight regular-season games due to inflammation in his right knee.

A three-time First-Team All-NBA selection, Leonard played in 68 games during the regular season – his most since 2016-17 - and averaged 23.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.63 steals.

Los Angeles went 51-31 to earn the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference.

The Philadelphia 76ers are hopeful Joel Embiid will be available for Game 2 of their playoff series against the New York Knicks after he suffered an injury scare during their defeat in Game 1.

Embiid had 29 points, also adding eight rebounds and six assists, as the Sixers succumbed to a 111-104 defeat at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.

He made one stunning play near the end of the first half, finishing with a one-handed dunk after passing to himself off the backboard, but that came at a cost as he then left for the final two minutes and 37 seconds of the second quarter.

Embiid seemed to land awkwardly on his left leg after that play and immediately dropped to the ground before getting up and walking straight to the locker room. 

Embiid rejoined his team-mates on the floor at the start of the second half, but with the reigning MVP recently missing two months after undergoing meniscus surgery, the incident left fans concerned.

Philadelphia coach Nick Nurse is positive regarding his chances of featuring in Game 2 on Monday, saying: "He really is a warrior, and he's battling.

"I think he absolutely wants to play. I knew when I went in at halftime that they were checking him out and that he was up and moving. 

"They did say we are seeing, they didn't rule him out yet. They just took him all the way to the end there to get him ruled back in."

The Sixers outscored the Knicks by 14 points during Embiid's 37 minutes on the court, being outscored by 21 points during the 11 minutes he spent out of the game. 

Tyrese Maxey, who led Philadelphia with 33 points and was 14-of-26 shooting, says Embiid will suit up for Monday's contest if physically able to.

"Nothing with Joel surprises me now," Maxey said. "He's always a fighter. He's always going to try and give it his all for his team. So if he thinks he can go, he'll for sure be out there."

Michael Malone believes the Denver Nuggets face "a hell of a series" against the Los Angeles Lakers, with LeBron James pledging to improve after his team were beaten in Game 1 on Saturday.

The Nuggets and the Lakers faced off in the Western Conference finals last season, and they were reunited for Game 1 of this year's first-round series at Ball Arena on Saturday.

It's advantage Denver after Nikola Jokic had 32 points and 12 rebounds in a 114-103 win over Los Angeles, their ninth victory in the teams' last nine head-to-head meetings.

The reigning NBA champions were made to work for their success, though, having gone into halftime down 60-57, with James scoring 19 first-half points. 

However, the NBA's all-time leading scorer was limited to just eight second-half points and didn't attempt a shot in the fourth quarter until the final 80 seconds.

Though the Lakers ultimately ran out of steam, Denver coach Malone expects another tough test when the teams reconvene for Game 2 on Monday.

"We're not going anywhere," Malone said. "This is the playoffs. No team in the playoffs, if you get down 12 early, you're not going to just take your ball and go home. 

"We still have plenty of fight left in us and we know that we are better than what we were playing early.

"That's a good team over there. They came into the playoffs playing extremely well, and they showed it. 

"LeBron was on course, I thought he was about to have 50 points tonight, the way he was playing and shooting the ball.

"We've got to watch the film to see what we can do better. This is going to be a hell of a series."

James' 27 points came in support of Anthony Davis, who had 32, while the Nuggets had two other players match Jokic's double-double, with Jamal Murray tallying 22 points and 10 assists and Aaron Gordon adding 12 points and 11 rebounds.

James, who is appearing in the playoffs for the 17th time in 21 seasons, says the team won't get too low with plenty of time remaining to rescue the series. 

"I thought we played some good ball tonight, just could have been better," he said. "You don't have much room for error versus Denver, especially on their home floor.

"They're just a team that's been through everything. Obviously, they're the defending champions, so you've got to execute, you've got to make shots, you've got to defend.

"I don't ever get into the 'here we go again' mindset. It's one game, they protected their home court. We have another opportunity on Monday to come back and be better."

Nikola Jokić had 32 points and 12 rebounds and got ample help from his teammates as the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets continued their recent mastery of the Los Angeles Lakers with a 114-103 win in their Western Conference playoff opener on Saturday.

Jamal Murray tallied 22 points and 10 assists, Aaron Gordon added 12 and 11 rebounds and Michael Porter Jr. contributed 19 points and eight boards as the Nuggets won their ninth straight against the Lakers.

Anthony Davis matched Jokic with 32 points and 14 rebounds and LeBron James scored 27 points, but D’Angelo Russell was held to 13 points on 6-of-20 shooting – including 1 of 9 from 3-point range – and Rui Hachimura managed just seven points in 31 minutes.

Los Angeles hasn’t beaten Denver since Dec. 16, 2022, and will try again Monday in Denver, where the Nuggets are 34-8 this season.

Denver’s lead was down to 103-96 with five minutes left but Porter Jr. hit a 3 and Jokic dunked off a turnover by James to push the lead to 12.

  

Knicks’ reserves step up in win

Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart each scored 22 points and the New York Knicks got a huge lift from their bench for a 111-104 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round series.

Deuce McBride outscored the 76ers by himself with 13 points in the second quarter and finished with 21 on 7-of-12 shooting, including 5 of 7 from long range. Bojan Bogdanovic added 13 points and Mitchell Robinson came off the bench to add eight points, 12 rebounds and four blocks.

Joel Embiid had 29 points, eight rebounds and six assists and Tyrese Maxey scored 33 points for the 76ers, who will try to even the series in Game 2 on Monday.

Embiid was listed as questionable to play and went down with 2:49 left in the first half with an apparent injury to his surgically repaired knee. He walked to the locker room area and missed the rest of the first half but returned to start the second.

Hart made a pair of huge 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, the second extending the Knicks’ lead to 107-100 with one minute remaining.

 

Edwards powers Timberwolves past Suns

Anthony Edwards scored 18 of his 33 points in the third quarter and grabbed nine rebounds to lift the Minnesota Timberwolves to a tone-setting 120-95 win over the visiting Phoenix Suns in their series opener.

Karl-Anthony Towns had 19 points, Nickeil Alexander-Walker added 18 and Rudy Gobert tallied 14 points, 16 rebounds and stellar defence to help Minnesota to its first home win in the playoffs in 20 years.

Edwards keyed a 19-4 run to close the third quarter for a 20-point cushion and put a bow on his performance by stealing the ball from Kevin Durant and finishing with a slam on the other end to give the Timberwolves a 111-91 lead with 3:37 left.

Durant scored 31 points on 11-of-17 shooting, but Devin Booker was held to 18 on 5 for 16 from the field. The Suns were outrebounded 52-28 and outscored 52-34 in the paint.

Game 2 is in Minnesota on Tuesday before the best-of-seven series shifts to Phoenix for Game 3.

 

Erik Spoelstra singled out Bam Adebayo for an "inspiring" performance after the Miami Heat defeated the Chicago Bulls to clinch the last spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The Heat went all the way to the NBA Finals last season, ultimately losing to the Denver Nuggets, after securing the No.8 seed.

And they will be seeded eighth once again for their playoff campaign, which they will kick-off against the Boston Celtics, who the Heat defeated in the Conference finals last season.

Jimmy Butler could not feature against the Bulls on Friday due to injury, but Adebayo stepped up with 13 points while also marking Bulls star DeMar De Rozan.

"What we needed, what we felt like, was inspiration," Spoelstra told ESPN.

"And Bam was our most inspiring player, especially with Jimmy being out. The two of them are our most inspiring players. And they've always been.

"When they're locked in at their highest level competitively, we feel like we can beat anybody. With Jimmy out, I had to.

"We felt like DeRozan is a guy who can totally take over a game in a one-game deal. If our most inspiring player has to make an impact, it would be against their best scorer."

Butler is unlikely to feature at all against the Celtics, either, though Spoelstra has not yet paid mind to how he will look to keep the likes of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown under wraps.

"I haven't even thought about that," Spoelstra said.

"This was for this kind of deal, to set the tone for the game, to help alleviate any stress or pressure from anyone else in the locker room, Bam had to be that, which he was."

Looking ahead to the Celtics series, Adebayo said: "It's going to be a dogfight. It's going to be a battle. It's going to be in the mud.

"It's not going to be pretty basketball. That's usually how it is when we play that team."

The New Orleans Pelicans are wholly deserving of their place in the playoffs, so says Larry Nance Jr.

After losing to the Los Angeles Lakers earlier in the week, New Orleans clinched the Western Conference's No.8 seed on Friday by overcoming the Sacramento Kings 105-98.

Brandon Ingram scored 24 points while Jonas Valanciunas added 19 with 12 rebounds.

Victory also saw the Pelicans, who were without Zion Williamson due to a hamstring injury, beat the Kings for the sixth time this campaign, and they will now face the Oklahoma City Thunder in the playoffs.

"We deserve it," Pelicans forward Nance Jr. said.

"That's how we felt coming into this game, and that's how we felt going into the last game. You don't win 49 games by accident; that doesn't happen.

"You don't just slip and do that in a historic conference. We're a really good team, and we deserve to be here. We showed that tonight, and we're proud to be going to Oklahoma."

Ingram, meanwhile, was on top form having recently returned from injury.

"It's been one my healthiest seasons, and I was out for three weeks just watching and just trying to stay disciplined," Ingram said.

"It's hard just trying to stay disciplined, trying to stay locked in knowing I wanted to be out on the floor. I was losing some of my conditioning a little bit and just trying to stay ready.

"That was three weeks that passed, and I was just coming in and trying to play 30 minutes after all that and be locked in. I was, of course, hard on myself because I didn't think it mattered that I just came off the knee injury. Those first two games didn't go how I wanted to go, but I just wanted to give it all tonight and trust my teammates, trust my stuff, and we ended up winning.

"I thought I could control the game. I thought I controlled the game the first quarter, the second quarter. And I knew that it was about time for us to go on a run."

Of the Pelicans' playoff hopes, he added: "This was the goal at the beginning of the year.

"Throughout it, we had some injuries. We had different things happen. But we had another opportunity today, and we came in and everybody contributed."

Tyler Herro fell an assist shy of a triple-double and scored 24 points as the Miami Heat rolled to a 112-91 win over the Chicago Bulls on Friday to secure the last spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Jaime Jaques Jr. added 21 points, Kevin Love had 16 and Bam Adebayo 13 for Miami, which advanced to face the league-leading Boston Celtics in a rematch of the last two East finals.

They were the No. 8 seed last season also and survived the play-in before going all the way to the NBA Finals.

The Heat were without star forward Jimmy Butler and won’t have him available for the Boston series, either.

Even without Butler, Miami took control with a 19-0 run in the first quarter, and a 14-0 surge midway through the second half. Herro finished with 10 rebounds and nine assists as the Heat eliminated the Bulls in the last East play-in game for the second straight season.

DeMar DeRozan scored 22 points and Nikola Vucevic had 16, 14 boards and five assists but the Bulls were unable to become the fifth team in the last 35 years to make the playoffs after not spending a single day all season over the .500 mark.

The Heat were held to 13 points in the second quarter but still took a 47-37 lead into the break because the Bulls went 8 for 39 from the field after opening 4 for 5. Chicago missed 14 of 15 shots in one stretch.

Chicago got as close as 70-60 in the third quarter before Miami essentially iced the game with the 14-0 run.

Pelicans continue mastery of Kings

Brandon Ingram scored 24 points and Jonas Valanciunas added 19 with 12 rebounds as the New Orleans Pelicans secured the eighth seed in the Western Conference with a 105-98 victory over the Sacramento Kings.

Trey Murphy III had 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists as six players scored in double figures for the Pelicans, who won all six meetings this season against the Kings and now move on to face top-seeded Oklahoma City in the first round of the playoffs.

The Pelicans are the first team to 6-0 in a season (without a playoff series) against an opponent since Denver against Minnesota in 1994-95.

New Orleans played without leading scorer Zion Williamson (left hamstring), who will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

De’Aaron Fox poured in 35 points and Domantas Sabonis had 23 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists but the Kings shot just 40.9 percent (36 of 88) from the field and misfired on 30 of 41 (26.8 percent) from 3-point range.

Sacramento got just 12 points from its bench compared to 34 for New Orleans.

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr believes there is a "lot of value" in the team keeping their core of Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson together, as the latter of the trio prepares to hit free agency.

The Warriors' season came to an abrupt end on Tuesday as they were dumped out of the Play-In Tournament by the Sacramento Kings, falling to a 118-94 defeat to their upstate rivals. 

It is the third time in the last five seasons that Golden State – who have won four NBA championships under Kerr – have missed out on a playoff berth. 

That has led to questions being asked about the team's future, and they have a decision to make over Thompson as the 34-year-old prepares to become an unrestricted free agent.

While the Warriors have outlined their desire to keep Thompson, he has been linked with the Orlando Magic and Dallas Mavericks and says his priority is playing for a championship contender. 

Speaking at his exit interview on Thursday, Kerr spoke of the difficulties of breaking up great teams and said he was keen to continue working with the Warriors' 'big three'. 

"It's rarely a storybook," Kerr said. "Even the '96 or '98 Bulls, the team was broken up and we won the championship in our last year but there was a documentary about what a disaster the whole thing was. It's impossible for this stuff to end perfectly.

"I do think there is a lot of value to having our three guys being Warriors for life. I think there's a lot of value in ending with dignity.

"For those three, I really want to see all of them finish their careers here, but also finish out their careers with a sense of pride and dignity in what they're doing."

Much of the Warriors' season was overshadowed by discussions regarding Green's ill-discipline, with the forward being ejected four times in 2023-24.

Green also missed 16 games after receiving an indefinite suspension for striking Phoenix Suns center Jusuf Nurkic in the face in December, an incident that Kerr described as "unforgivable".

However, Kerr still believes Green is worth the trouble, saying: "Yet I forgave him. He's one of the most competitive, one of the smartest players I've ever been around. 

"Yet he makes these decisions that hurt the team, that aren't smart. So how do you reconcile all that? It's really difficult. 

"The number one thing I would say is, if we decided he wasn't worth it then we would have moved off of him years ago. 

"But he's worth it and he's worth it not only because of the banners that are hanging out there but because he really is a wonderful human being."

Kawhi Leonard is questionable for Game 1 of the Los Angeles Clippers' playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks as he continues to be troubled by inflammation in his right knee.

Leonard has undergone surgeries to repair damage to the anterior cruciate ligament and the meniscus in his right knee in the last few years, having torn his ACL during a second-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz in 2021.

The six-time All-Star has not featured for the Clippers – who clinched the Western Conference's fifth seed – since the end of March, missing their last eight games of the regular season. 

Speaking ahead of Thursday's practice session, the Clippers' president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank said Leonard had work to do to make Sunday's matchup at Crypto.com Arena.

"He's doing everything, our medical staff is doing everything to get the inflammation down so he can play," Frank said. 

"Progress has been made, but the inflammation needs to continue to reduce so he can do functional basketball movements.

"There is no gamesmanship here and we're very sensitive of the fact that questions are going to be asked and want to be as transparent as possible. It's okay to say what the truth is. It's unpredictable. 

"We're hoping it's trending in the right direction. It's a very accurate statement. When it gets to a point where he's able to play, then that's when he'll be back on the court."

The two-time NBA champion averaged 23.7 points and 6.1 rebounds through 68 regular-season appearances in 2023-24, the former figure falling just short of his 23.8 points per game last term.

Despite Leonard's importance to the Clippers' chances of defeating Luka Doncic and company, Frank says no risks will be taken with his fitness. 

"In terms of where we're heading, is it possible he could play? Sure, it's possible. It's Thursday. With each day we'll know more and more," Frank said. 

"Obviously if he's not healthy to play at a certain moment then he won't be out there. When Kawhi is healthy, he plays. 

"Some things you can't control, regardless of how meticulous he is with his body and everything that goes into playing. You can only control what you can control and you've got to surrender to the things you can't."

LeBron James believes the media are putting "too much emphasis" on the Los Angeles Lakers' recent history with the Denver Nuggets.

The Lakers, after their win over the New Orleans Pelicans, will take on the Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs.

Los Angeles lost to Denver in the 2023 Western Conference Finals, as the Nuggets went on to win the NBA championship.

The Lakers, meanwhile, defeated the Nuggets en route to winning the championship in 2020.

James, though, is not looking back at past results as an indicator of how this series might play out.

"I think you're putting a little bit too much emphasis on it," James said. 

"This is our first-round matchup. I mean, we're looking forward to the postseason. But I haven't been, like, looking forward to the rematch.

"The game is played how it's being played, and this is the matchup. So we're looking forward to that challenge.

"It shouldn't be personal at all. I think you allow yourself to get away from the game plan when you make it too personal.

"We have a game plan. You go out there and execute it and you live with the results. I'm kind of the last person you should [ask that], I just stay even-keeled.

"I've been in the postseason way too long in my career to know that you don't get too high off of Game 1 or get too high over whoever the matchup is. You got to just stay even-keeled."

Lakers coach Darvin Ham did say his team can take lessons from last year's defeat, in particular when focusing on cutting out small errors.

And James echoed the sentiment.

"We just got to be better all around," he said. "Obviously, it's a great team that we're playing against. A team that won the championship, so they've been in a lot of big games and know what they want to get to late in games.

"So we just have to be very disciplined and have our mind into throughout the course of 48 minutes or however long it takes.

"It's going to be challenging but that's what the postseason is all about. It should be."

Dejounte Murray declared "the sky's the limit" for Coby White after his career-best performance guided the Chicago Bulls past the Atlanta Hawks in the Play-In Tournament on Wednesday.

The Bulls clinched a 131-116 win over Atlanta at a sold-out United Center in their first Play-In game, teeing up a rematch with the Miami Heat – who eliminated them from last year's Play-In Tournament – for Friday.

White had a career-high 42 points, the second-best tally ever recorded in a Play-In contest, after Jayson Tatum's 50 against the Washington Wizards in 2021, and went 15-of-21 from the field.

His stunning performance meant Murray's own 30-point showing counted for nothing, with Atlanta always fighting an uphill battle after going 18 points down in the first quarter.

Asked about White after the game, Murray said: "I root for guys that work hard and are great people.

"[Bulls forward] DeMar DeRozan's a brother to me and he speaks highly of him. He says he works hard, he's a great guy, he's handled his business, he's a professional on and off the floor. 

"When I hear those things, I root for guys around the league just to have success. 

"I think he's always been good. He never really got the opportunity to showcase what he's showcasing now, and the sky's the limit."

It was something of a breakout performance for White, who averaged just 8.4 points per game in his only previous playoff series, a 4-1 first-round defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks in 2022.

He was also part of the Chicago team beaten by the Heat in last year's Play-In Tournament, and they will get a chance to avenge that loss when they go to Kaseya Center on Friday.

"I'm just grateful to be where I'm at. That first playoff series I ever had in my career didn't go how I wanted it to go," White said. 

"Then last year, I played better in the Play-In, but this year, I didn't come into the game saying I was going to put the team on my back. 

"I just wanted to be aggressive and take what the defense gave me and try to lead."

DeRozan is glad to have the opportunity to banish the ghosts of last year's loss in Miami, saying: "I remember that plane ride back home vividly, everybody was just frustrated.

"That feeling sucked. I know for me that was one thing that was on my mind once I realised we were going back to Miami, not to have that same feeling."

Klay Thompson says winning remains his priority as he prepares to enter free agency and is grateful to hear the Golden State Warriors are keen on keeping him in San Francisco.

Thompson's five-year contract with the Warriors – who selected him 11th overall in the 2011 NBA Draft – is due to expire following an abrupt ending to their 2023-24 campaign.

The Warriors were eliminated from the Play-In Tournament by the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday, with Thompson shooting 0-for-10 from the field in a 118-94 defeat at Golden 1 Center.

The four-time NBA champion is yet to agree fresh terms and has already been linked with the Orlando Magic and the Dallas Mavericks. 

Asked what the future holds in his exit interview on Wednesday, the 34-year-old said the ability to compete for a fifth championship would play a huge role in determining where he will play next year.

"Considering it's April 17, I don't think I have to pivot that quickly," Thompson said. "When is free agency? July 1? Yeah, I've got some time.

"I want to keep winning. When you've been a part of winning seasons, you don't really want to go away from that. So I would like to win again. One for the thumb would be nice. 

"I still think it's within reach. Other than that, you've just got to think about what will really make you happy in the last few years of your career.

"Every year I give my best effort, and the ownership group has been great. I have nothing but positive things to say about them.

"It's up to them, but at the end of the day, whatever happens, it's all gravy. It's been such a special run."

Several key figures around Golden State have outlined the importance of keeping Thompson. After Tuesday's Play-In elimination, Stephen Curry said he couldn't imagine playing without him, while Draymond Green insisted "there isn't any scenario" where he moves on.

Head coach Steve Kerr also said the Warriors need Thompson to return, and those comments have gone down well with the soon-to-be free agent. 

"It means a lot," Thompson said when those quotes were put to him. "I mean, we've been through the highest of highs and lows. 

"Whether it's losing a championship, winning a championship, missing the playoffs, we've been through everything together, so that does mean a lot. 

"It makes me grateful to have the times I've had with them. Like, that was pretty historic stuff."

The Miami Heat won’t have injured leading scorer Jimmy Butler in the lineup when they host the Chicago Bulls in Friday’s Eastern Conference do-or-die play-in tournament game.

Butler will be sidelined for several weeks due to a right MCL injury sustained in Wednesday’s 105-104 road loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, who clinched the No. 7 seed in the East.

Butler was hurt late in the first quarter when he tried to fake out Philadelphia’s Kelly Oubre Jr. and his knee buckled, causing the six-time All-Star to fall to the court.

A hobbled Butler remained in the game and wound up playing 40 minutes. He scored 19 points but shot 5 of 18 from the field.

Butler led Miami in the regular season with 20.8 points, 5.0 assists and 1.32 steals per game while also averaging 5.3 rebounds.

Last season, Butler won the Larry Bird Trophy as the MVP of the Eastern Conference Finals as No. 8 seed Miami advanced to the NBA Finals before losing in five games to the Denver Nuggets.

The winner of Friday’s matchup between Miami and Chicago will capture the No. 8 seed in the East and move on to play the top-seeded Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs.

Joel Embiid had 23 points, 15 rebounds and six assists and the 76ers beat the visiting Miami Heat 105-104 on Wednesday in an Eastern Conference play-in game.

With the victory, Philadelphia secured the seventh seed in the East and will face the second-seeded New York Knicks in a first-round series beginning on Saturday.

The Heat, who made last season’s NBA Finals as a play-in team, will face an elimination game Friday against the Chicago Bulls for the eighth seed and the right to play the NBA-best Boston Celtics.

Embiid’s availability against Miami was uncertain after the reigning league MVP tweaked his surgically repaired left knee Friday and sat out the regular-season finale two days later.

He played 38 minutes and stepped up down the stretch with eight points in the final three minutes and dished out a clutch assist.

With the game tied at 96, Embiid found Kelly Oubre Jr. under the basket with 36 seconds to play, and he was fouled while making a layup for a three-point play to put Philadelphia ahead for good.

On Miami’s next possession, Nicolas Batum blocked Tyler Herro’s potential game-tying 3-point attempt.

Batum provided a spark off the bench with 20 points and hit five of his six 3-pointers after halftime to help Philadelphia battle back from a 12-point deficit at the break.

Tyrese Maxey added 19 points for a 76ers team that made 21 of 23 free throws.

Both Herro and Jimmy Butler struggled with their shots for the Heat, who led by as much as 14 late in the second quarter.

Butler injured his right knee in the first quarter and said after the game that he would need an MRI, putting his availability for Friday in question.

Herro finished with a game-high 25 points but was just 4 of 14 from 3-point range, while Butler had 19 points on 5-of-18 shooting.

 

 

White erupts for career-high 42 in Bulls’ win

Coby White scored a career-best 42 points on 15-of-21 shooting and Nikola Vucevic added 24 points and 12 rebounds as the Chicago Bulls rolled to a 131-116 win over the Atlanta Hawks.

White, who surpassed his previous career high of 37 points, had nine rebounds and six assists as Chicago advanced to a Friday matchup at Miami for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.

DeMar DeRozan had 22 points and nine assists and Ayo Dosunmu added 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting after missing the final four regular-season games with a bruised right quadricep.

The Bulls shot 56.8 percent from the field and 42.3 percent (11 for 23) from 3-point range to go with a 47-34 rebounding advantage.

Dejounte Murray led the Hawks with 30 points and Trae Young and Clint Capela each had 22 as Atlanta’s season came to an end after it closed the regular season with six straight losses.

The Hawks were within 88-85 but Vucevic’s 3-pointer ignited a 17-2 run to put the Bulls up 105-87 with 1:27 left in the third quarter.

Miami Heat star guard Jimmy Butler says he will need an MRI on his right knee after he was injured in the first half of a play-in tournament loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday.

Butler sustained the injury in the first quarter when he tried to fake out Kelly Oubre Jr. on a basket, only to have his knee buckle. He fell to the floor and Oubre appeared to land on top of him.

“I fell, he landed, and my knee just didn’t do well, I guess,” Butler said. “I don’t know. It’s not a good feeling, I can tell you that.”

Butler sank the free throw, exhaled, and missed the second one. He stayed in the game and finished with 19 points on 5-of-18 shooting in a 105-104 loss.

The Heat will host the Chicago Bulls on Friday night, with the winner getting the No. 8 seed and a playoff matchup with the league-leading Boston Celtics.

“We just need to get one and then we’ll worry about the next one,” Butler said.

It’s unknown whether Butler will be available to play that game.

“It felt like I couldn’t do much, which sucks with the timing of the game and everything,” Butler said. “I hope that I’m fine. I hope that I wake up tomorrow and can still stick-and-move. Right now, I can’t say that’s the case.”

Butler averaged 20.8 points in 60 games this season for the Heat, tied with Tyler Herro for the team lead.

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