Nikola Jokić had 24 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists and Jamal Murray bounced back with 24 points as the Denver Nuggets rolled to a 117-90 rout of the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals on Friday.

Michael Porter Jr. scored 21 points and Aaron Gordon had 13 for the Nuggets, who cruised to an easy win on the road after dropping the first two games at home.

They are the 30th team in the history of the NBA playoffs to lose the first two games at home in a best-of-seven series. Five of them have rallied to win, most recently the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round in 2021.

Game 4 is Sunday in Minneapolis.

Murray totalled just 25 points on 9-of-32 shooting over the first two games but was 11 of 21 in this one.

Denver shot 14 of 29 from 3-point range with Gordon and Porter combining to hit 7 of 9.

Anthony Edwards was held in check with 19 points and Karl-Anthony Towns had 14 for a Wolves team that suffered its first loss in seven playoff games.

Minnesota shot 10 of 33 from long range and fell behind by as many as 34 points down the stretch.

Pacers rally to cut deficit to 2-1

Andrew Nembhard drilled a 31-foot, tiebreaking 3-pointer with 16 seconds left and Tyrese Haliburton had 35 points with six 3-pointers as the Indiana Pacers rallied for a 111-106 win over the banged-up New York Knicks in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Knicks lead the series 2-1 with Game 4 on Sunday in Indianapolis. New York held a nine-point lead with 9:45 remaining but was unable to hold the lead with star guard Jalen Brunson slowed by a right foot injury.

Nembhard scored all five of his points in the final minute, connecting on a long 3 as the shot clock expired to give the Pacers a 109-106 lead.

Brunson missed a potential tying 3 with 14 seconds left and finished with 26 points on 10-of-26 shooting.

Donte DiVincenzo scored 35 points and was 7 for 11 on 3s, while Alec Burks, who came in having played just 1 minute in the playoffs, scored 14 points in 21 minutes for the Knicks, who played without starting forward OG Anunoby.

It’s unclear whether Anunoby can recover from his injured left hamstring to play Sunday.,

Haliburton triggered Indiana’s comeback in the fourth quarter. He completed a three-point play and then made back-to-back layups to make it 98-96. After Brunson made a free throw, Pascal Siakam tied the score with a three-point play.

The teams traded the lead four more times, with Brunson’s 3 tying it at 106 with 42 seconds remaining.  

 

The Phoenix Suns are making Mike Budenholzer their next head coach with the sides agreeing to a five-year contract, according to reports.

A formal announcement is expected to come Saturday.

Budenholzer, 54, last coached the Milwaukee Bucks before he was let go after they were upset by the Miami Heat in the first round of the 2022-23 season.

He led the Bucks to the 2020-21 NBA title in his third season with the team and began his coaching career with the Atlanta Hawks in 2013-14, compiling a 213-197 record in five seasons.

Budenholzer is a two-time NBA Coach of the Year, winning with Atlanta in 2014-15 and 2018-19 with Milwaukee.

He replaces Frank Vogel, who was fired on Thursday after one season with the Suns. Phoenix went 49-33 in the regular season but was swept in the opening round of the playoffs by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Vogel was unable to fulfil lofty expectations after injuries limited the number of games the star trio of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal could play together. His dismissal came after reports surfaced that Vogel had lost the locker room and Durant was unhappy with his role in the offense.

Budenholzer becomes the third Suns’ coach in three years under new owner Mat Ishbia, who inherited Monty Williams as the team’s leader when he took over the franchise in February 2023.

Luka Doncic described Thursday's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder as one of the hardest of his career after battling through injury to help the Dallas Mavericks to a 119-110 win.

Doncic had 29 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists as Dallas levelled their Western Conference semifinals series with the top-seeded Thunder at a game apiece.

Doncic – who finished third in 2023-24 NBA MVP voting this week – had been limited to 19 points on 6-of-19 shooting in Game 1, struggling with soreness in his sprained right knee.

However, he was 11 of 21 from the field and 5 for 8 from 3-point range at Paycom Center, handing a huge boost to Dallas' hopes of progression ahead of a two-game homestand.

"It was just my mentality," Doncic said after the win. "I think today was one of the hardest games I had to play. I'm battling out there. 

"I try and do my best to help the team win just with my mentality. I had a great start, and then the team's going to follow me."

P.J. Washington also had 29 points with seven 3-pointers and grabbed 11 rebounds and Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 17 points off the bench for the Mavs.

Fellow Dallas star Kyrie Irving said Doncic's team-mates always trusted him to get back to his best, claiming he was simply unfortunate in Game 1. 

"Some of those shots are a centimetre off or an inch off," Irving said. "We know Luka very well, so we're not worried relatively, but we understand that we have to continue to feed him confidence. 

"It starts with him, and he knows that in order for us to be successful, he's going to have to play his role and be a star of the team. When it's our time to star in our role, he gives us that chance."

Thursday's defeat was not only the first loss Oklahoma City had suffered this postseason, but also the first time they had conceded more than 95 points.

Coach Mark Daigneault accepts this series represents a step up from their first-round sweep of the New Orleans Pelicans, saying: "This is just part of the deal.

"It's the playoffs, and we're playing against a really good team. This is deep waters. You're going to throw some punches, you're going to take some punches. We've got to eat one."

Donovan Mitchell scored 16 of his 29 points in the third quarter and the Cleveland Cavaliers answered with a blowout of their own in a 118-94 win over the Boston Celtics to even their second-round playoff series at one game apiece on Thursday.

Evan Mobley had 21 points and 10 rebounds and Caris LeVert added 21 points off the bench for the Cavaliers, who won their first road playoff game in five tries this postseason.

Cleveland lost the series opener on Tuesday by 25 points but seized the lead in the third quarter with Mitchell sinking four of five from 3-point range. He hit three straight baskets early in the fourth, including a 28-foot, banked 3 to make it 95-80.

Boston never got the deficit under double digits after that.

Jayson Tatum scored 25 points and Jayen Brown added 19 but combined to shoot 14 for 34, including 2 for 11 from 3-point range for the Celtics, who were 8 for 35 from beyond the arc.

Derrick White was limited to 10 points and misfired on seven of eight from deep after he had 25 points in Game 1.

Boston center Kristaps Porzingis missed his third straight game with a strained calf muscle.

Mobley started at center in place of Jarrett Allen, who has missed the last five games with bruised ribs.

Mavericks beat Thunder to even series

Luka Doncic had 29 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in a bounce-back performance as the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder, 119-110, to even their second-round series at a game apiece.

P.J. Washington had 29 points with seven 3-pointers and grabbed 11 rebounds and Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 17 points off the bench for Dallas, who will host Game 3 on Saturday.

After he was limited to 19 points on 6-of-19 shooting in Game 1, Doncic was 11 of 21 from the field and 5 for 8 from 3-point range in this one.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 33 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists and Jalen Williams added 20 points for the Thunder, who lost for the first time in six playoff games and allowed over 100 points for the first time this postseason.

Gilgeous-Alexander's layup with 7:13 remaining drew the Thunder within 106-101, but Doncic hit a pair of jumpers and Washington dunked to make it 112-101 with 4:14 to play.  

Donovan Mitchell scored 16 of his 29 points in the third quarter and the Cleveland Cavaliers answered with a blowout of their own in a 118-94 win over the Boston Celtics to even their second-round playoff series at one game apiece on Thursday.

Evan Mobley had 21 points and 10 rebounds and Caris LeVert added 21 points off the bench for the Cavaliers, who won their first road playoff game in five tries this postseason.

Cleveland lost the series opener on Tuesday by 25 points but seized the lead in the third quarter with Mitchell sinking 4 of 5 from 3-point range. He hit three straight baskets early in the fourth, including a 28-foot, banked 3 to make it 95-80.

Boston never got the deficit under double digits after that.

Jayson Tatum scored 25 points and Jayen Brown added 19 but combined to shoot 14 for 34, including 2 for 11 from 3-point range for the Celtics, who were 8 for 35 from beyond the arc.

Derrick White was limited to 10 points and misfired on 7 of 8 from deep after he had 25 points in Game 1.

Boston center Kristaps Porzingis missed his third straight game with a strained calf muscle.

Mobley started at center in place of Jarrett Allen, who has missed the last five games with bruised ribs.

Mavericks beat Thunder to even series

Luka Dončić had 29 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in a bounce-back performance as the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder, 119-110, to even their second-round series at a game apiece.

P.J. Washington had 29 points with seven 3-pointers and grabbed 11 rebounds and Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 17 points off the bench for Dallas, which hosts Game 3 on Saturday.

After he was limited to 19 points on 6-of-19 shooting in Game 1, Doncic was 11 of 21 from the field and 5 of 8 from 3-point range in this one.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 33 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists and Jalen Williams added 20 points for the Thunder, who lost for the first time in six playoff games and allowed over 100 points for the first time.

Gilgeous-Alexander's layup with 7:13 remaining drew the Thunder within 106-101, but Doncic hit a pair of jumpers and Washington dunked to make it 112-101 with 4:14 to play.  

The Phoenix Suns have fired head coach Frank Vogel, the franchise announced Thursday, ending his tenure after one disappointing season.

Vogel’s Suns failed to live up to lofty expectations after investing almost all their future draft capital in acquiring veteran All-Stars Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal.

The Suns went 49-33 this season and needed a late 10-4 stretch to avoid the play-in tournament as the Western Conference’s No. 6 seed. Phoenix was eliminated from the playoffs by the Minnesota Timberwolves in a first-round sweep.

Former title-winning Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer is atop the Suns’ list of candidates, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported. Vogel’s successor will face championship-level expectations without the ability to dramatically upgrade the roster.

“We are here to win a championship and last season was way below our expectations,” general manager James Jones said in a statement.

“We will continue to evaluate our operation and make the necessary changes to reach our championship-calibre goals. We all take accountability, and it’s my job, along with [CEO Josh Bartelstein] and ownership, to build a championship team.”

The Suns implemented a win-now strategy when, at the behest of new owner Matt Ishbia, they acquired Durant last February.

Phoenix doubled down on the all-or-nothing route by acquiring Beal in the offseason, putting the team over the second apron of the luxury tax and hindering their ability to improve the roster around Durant, Beal and Devin Booker.

The inflexibility left the Suns without a traditional point guard this season and unable to make an impactful trade deadline acquisition.

Despite having three All-Star scorers, the Suns ranked 10th in the NBA by scoring 116.2 points per game, not enough to overcome their mediocre defence.

Durant, 35, was the most productive and available of the Suns’ big three, playing 75 games and averaging 27.1 points on his typical efficient shooting.

Booker also scored 27.1 points per game and set a career-high in assists at 6.9 per contest, but he was limited to 68 games.

Beal failed to live up to his contract – which still has three years and $161million remaining – by averaging 18.2 points over 53 games.

Beyond the individual numbers, the Suns’ stars failed to create a team greater than the sum of its parts. Despite having plenty of firepower, Phoenix ranked 23rd this season by shooting 40.6 percent in clutch situations (last five minutes and the game within six points).

Vogel has a career 480-422 record (.532) with four teams. He won a championship in 2020 with the Los Angeles Lakers, who are undergoing their own coaching search after firing Darvin Ham.

The NBA announced on Thursday that it has suspended Milwaukee Bucks guard Patrick Beverley four games without pay for throwing a ball at spectators multiple times in his team's 120-98 loss to the Indiana Pacers on May 2.

The incident occurred with about 2 1/2 minutes left in the defeat that knocked the Bucks out of the play-offs.

Beverley first tossed a ball into the stands hitting some fans who weren't paying attention.

The 11-year NBA veteran appeared to ask for the ball back and after a different fan threw it to him, Beverley fired it back at that same spectator.

The league also stated he was suspended for his interaction with a reporter.

During the Bukcs' media availability the day after Milwaukee's Game 6 loss, Beverley refused to answer questions from Malina Adams from ESPN because she didn't subscribe to his podcast.

Acquired by Milwaukee from the Philadelphia 76ers in February, Beverley averaged 6.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 0.73 steals in 26 regular-season games for the Bucks. He then started all six play-off games for Milwaukee, averaging 8.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.0 steals.

The 35-year-old Beverley, who is known for being an elite defender but also has the reputation of being somewhat cantankerous, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

 

The Charlotte Hornets announced Charles Lee as their new head coach Thursday, with the current Boston Celtics assistant tabbed to take over a team with the NBA's longest active streak of missing the playoffs.

ESPN reports that Lee, who previously served as an assistant for the Milwaukee Bucks during that team's NBA title run in 2020-21, has agreed to a four-year contract.

Lee will replace Steve Clifford, who stepped down at the end of this season but will remain with the Hornets in a front-office advisory role. Charlotte finished 21-61 in 2023-24, tied with the Portland Trail Blazers for the third-lowest win total in the league.

“The opportunity to be the head coach of the Charlotte Hornets is a dream come true,” Lee said in a statement.  “I want to thank (owner) Rick Schnall, (owner) Gabe Plotkin and (Vice President of Basketball Operations) Jeff Peterson for the trust they are placing in me to lead this team."

Lee has had a hand in a number of successful campaigns during his 10-year stint as an NBA assistant, a stretch that began with the Atlanta Hawks in 2014. The 39-year-old has been a part of nine post-season appearances and seven division title winners during that span, with three of those teams (the 2014–15 Hawks, 2018–19 Bucks and 2020–21 Bucks) advancing to the Eastern Conference finals. 

The former Bucknell University star has been on the staff of four of the last six teams that finished the regular season with the NBA's best record, including this past one when the Celtics compiled a 64-18 mark.

Lee also has familiarity with new Hornets vice president of basketball operations Jeff Peterson, as the two worked together in Atlanta during Lee's four seasons with the Hawks from 2014-18.

“We are excited to welcome Charles Lee as the head coach of the Charlotte Hornets,” said Peterson. “His high character and his ability to connect with players while also instilling a culture of accountability will serve us well as we construct a competitive team built for long-term success. Charles possesses a championship pedigree with a wide range of basketball knowledge and NBA experience, has a tremendous work ethic and is a great communicator. He shares our vision for this organisation, and I look forward to partnering with him in building something special here in the Carolinas."

Lee left the Hawks in 2018 to begin a five-year stint with the Bucks under Mike Budenholzer and was promoted to associate head coach in 2022. He was hired as the Celtics' top assistant under Joe Mazzulla in June.

The Maryland native now joins a franchise that has missed the playoffs in eight consecutive seasons, three more than the teams that currently hold the second-longest drought (Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs).

Charlotte's future does offer some promise, however. In 2023 No. 2 overall pick Brandon Miller, 2020-21 NBA Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball and center Mark Williams, the Hornets have three potential building blocks that are all 22 years old or younger.

Ball has played in only 58 of a possible 164 games over the past two seasons due to ankle injuries, however, and Williams was limited to just 19 games this season by a back issue. 

"The Hornets have a talented young core of players, and I’m excited about our future and what we can build here," Lee said. "There are few places as passionate about basketball as the Carolinas, and I look forward to coming to Charlotte and getting to work.”

 

 

 

Jamaican basketball fans around the world will now have access to a shoe that represents them to the fullest thanks to NBA Hall of Famer, Patrick Ewing.

The Kingston-born Ewing, through his Ewing Athletics brand, oversaw the creation of the Ewing Rogue “Jamrock.”

Ewing Athletics is an American basketball shoe brand founded by Ewing and his former agent, David Falk.

This shoe draws inspiration from the flag of Jamaica, featuring a black and green leather upper and yellow leather straps to represent the saltire (diagonal cross) on the flag.

A description on the brand’s website explained the inspiration behind the shoe.

“Hailing from Kingston, Jamaica, Pat has never shied away from representing his homeland. While we're no strangers to telling the story of his heritage through sneakers, we felt it was time for a refresh. After all, Pat did put the Jam in Jamrock.”

Ewing, who was born in Kingston a day before Jamaica gained independence, moved to the US in 1975.

After shining in High School, he had a decorated career at Georgetown University before being the first overall pick in the 1985 NBA Draft.

Ewing then had a seventeen-year NBA career, predominantly playing for the New York Knicks, where he was an eleven-time all-star and named to seven All-NBA teams. The Knicks appeared in the NBA Finals twice (1994 and 1999) during his tenure. He won Olympic gold medals as a member of the 1984 and 1992 United States men's Olympic basketball teams. 

Ewing was selected as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996 and as one of the 75 Greatest Players in NBA History in 2021.

He is a two-time inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts (in 2008 for his individual career and in 2010 as a member of the 1992 Olympic team). Additionally, he was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame as a member of the "Dream Team" in 2009. His number 33 was retired by the Knicks in 2003.

The Ewing Rogue “Jamrock” is now available on ewingathletics.com.

 

Jalen Brunson was hailed "a warrior" by team-mate Donte DiVincenzo after his return from injury inspired the New York Knicks to a second-half turnaround against the Indiana Pacers.

The Knicks ran out 130-121 winners in Game 2 at Madison Square Garden to take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semi-final series.

Things did not look good for the hosts, who also lost OG Anunoby in the third quarter to a hamstring injury, as Brunson was forced to exit during the first quarter with a foot problem.

However, with the Knicks trailing 73-63 at half-time, the point guard received a raucous ovation from the home supporters as he returned to warm up in a bid to shake off his injury.

"He's a warrior," said DiVincenzo, who finished with 28 points. "There was no doubt in my mind he'd be back."

"He's a great leader, and the players all have respect for that when a guy tries to give whatever he has. It says a lot about him," coach Tom Thibodeau added.

"To me, the actions say a lot more than the words. It says that you care a lot about your team and your team-mates."

Brunson's return certainly inspired New York, who were already without Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson and Bojan Bogdanovic due to season-ending injuries.

He notched up 24 of his 29 points during the second half as the Knicks moved halfway towards reaching their first Eastern Conference final since 2000.

"It was really cool," Brunson said of his half-time reception. "But I just knew I had to get my mind in the right place to figure out how I was going to attack in the second half."

Jalen Brunson shook off a right foot injury to score 24 of his 29 points in the second half, and the New York Knicks withstood an injury to OG Anunoby for a 130-121 win over the Indiana Pacers to take a 2-0 lead on Wednesday in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Brunson was forced to exit in the first quarter with the injury but returned to warm up at halftime, sending the Madison Square Garden crowd into a frenzy.

He fell short of becoming the second player in NBA history to score 40 or more points in five straight playoff games, but still provided the spark to move the Knicks halfway to their first East finals appearance since 2000.

The series shifts to Indiana for Game 3 on Friday.

Anunoby scored a career playoff-high 28 points before leaving in the third quarter with a left hamstring injury. New York is already playing without three key players (Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson and Bojan Bogdanovic) due to season-ending injuries.

Donte DiVincenzo also scored 28 points with six 3-pointers, Josh Hart had 19 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists and Isaiah Hartenstein added 14 points, 12 boards and eight assists for the Knicks, who hit nearly half of their 3-point attempts (14 for 30).

Tyrese Haliburton bounced back from a poor Game 1 with 34 points, nine assists and six rebounds for the Pacers, who hurt themselves by shooting 10 for 17 from the free throw line.

Denver Nuggets centre Nikola Jokic has added to his legacy by winning a third NBA MVP Award.

The NBA announced the Serbian superstar beat out the Oklahoma City Thunder's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the Dallas Mavericks' Luka Doncic for the Michael Jordan trophy on Thursday.

Jokic won back-to-back awards in 2020-21 and 2021-22, and with this year's trophy, he becomes the ninth player to win three or more MVPs, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six), Jordan and Bill Russell (five), Wilt Chamberlain and LeBron James (four), and Moses Malone, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson (three).

Jokic won the 2023-24 award in a runaway, capturing 79 first-place votes. Gilgeous-Alexander received 15 first-place votes, Doncic had four and the Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo had one.

 Jokic led the Nuggets to the franchise's first NBA title last season and the second seed in the Western Conference play-offs in 2023-24 after averaging 26.4 points, 12.4 rebounds and 9.0 assists.

He was the only player in the NBA to rank in the top 10 in scoring, rebounding and assists, and his 25 triple-doubles were one fewer than the Sacramento Kings' Domantas Sabonis for the most in the league.

Luka Doncic acknowledged "I've got to be better" after the Dallas Mavericks were beaten by Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1 of their Western Conference semi-final series.

The Thunder, who swept the New Orleans Pelicans aside in their first-round series, built on that momentum with a 117-95 victory at Paycom Center.

Although, it was a day to forget for Doncic, who registered just 19 points on six-of-19 shooting as he ended a streak of 24 successive playoff games with at least 20 points, while he also had five turnovers.

Struggling with a knee injury and tightly marked by Oklahoma's Lu Dort, the five-time NBA All-Star was also just one-for-eight from three-point range, making it five-of-35 over the past four games.

That is the worst percentage (14.3 per cent) for any player with at least 30 attempts over a four-game streak during the postseason.

"[We've] just got to move onto the next one," Doncic said. "I've got to be better, we've got to be better. We've got to focus. They're a great team, a great defensive team, so it's not going to be easy at all."

"We have to put a complete game together against this young OKC team because they have an endless amount of energy," added Kyle Irving, who finished with 20 points. "They're never going to stop attacking."

The youngest team in NBA history to win a playoff series following their triumph over the Pelicans, Oklahoma made it five straight wins in the postseason with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scoring 29 points along the way.

The Thunder have only conceded 90.6 points per game in the playoffs, the fewest by any team across five games in the postseason since the San Antonio Spurs in 2016.

"[The defence is] where we hang our hat every night," Gilgeous-Alexander said. "Especially this late in the season, we know that if we want to win basketball games, that it's going to start on that end.

"Obviously, we have some really talented players at that end of the floor, but we also like to do it together and not just rely on those guys."

Luka Doncic acknowledged "I've got to be better" after the Dallas Mavericks were beaten by Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1 of their Western Conference semi-final series.

The Thunder, who swept the New Orleans Pelicans aside in their first-round series, built on that momentum with a 117-95 victory at Paycom Center.

Although, it was a day to forget for Doncic, who registered just 19 points on six-of-19 shooting as he ended a streak of 24 successive playoff games with at least 20 points, while he also had five turnovers.

Struggling with a knee injury and tightly marked by Oklahoma's Lu Dort, the five-time NBA All-Star was also just one-for-eight from three-point range, making it five-of-35 over the past four games.

That is the worst percentage (14.3 per cent) for any player with at least 30 attempts over a four-game streak during the postseason.

"[We've] just got to move onto the next one," Doncic said. "I've got to be better, we've got to be better. We've got to focus. They're a great team, a great defensive team, so it's not going to be easy at all."

"We have to put a complete game together against this young OKC team because they have an endless amount of energy," added Kyle Irving, who finished with 20 points. "They're never going to stop attacking."

The youngest team in NBA history to win a playoff series following their triumph over the Pelicans, Oklahoma made it five straight wins in the postseason with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scoring 29 points along the way.

The Thunder have only conceded 90.6 points per game in the playoffs, the fewest by any team across five games in the postseason since the San Antonio Spurs in 2016.

"[The defence is] where we hang our hat every night," Gilgeous-Alexander said. "Especially this late in the season, we know that if we want to win basketball games, that it's going to start on that end.

"Obviously, we have some really talented players at that end of the floor, but we also like to do it together and not just rely on those guys."

Luka Doncic acknowledged "I've got to be better" after the Dallas Mavericks were beaten by Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1 of their Western Conference semi-final series.

The Thunder, who swept the New Orleans Pelicans aside in their first-round series, built on that momentum with a 117-95 victory at Paycom Center.

Although, it was a day to forget for Doncic, who registered just 19 points on six-of-19 shooting as he ended a streak of 24 successive playoff games with at least 20 points, while he also had five turnovers.

Struggling with a knee injury and tightly marked by Oklahoma's Lu Dort, the five-time NBA All-Star was also just one-for-eight from three-point range, making it five-of-35 over the past four games.

That is the worst percentage (14.3 per cent) for any player with at least 30 attempts over a four-game streak during the postseason.

"[We've] just got to move onto the next one," Doncic said. "I've got to be better, we've got to be better. We've got to focus. They're a great team, a great defensive team, so it's not going to be easy at all."

"We have to put a complete game together against this young OKC team because they have an endless amount of energy," added Kyle Irving, who finished with 20 points. "They're never going to stop attacking."

The youngest team in NBA history to win a playoff series following their triumph over the Pelicans, Oklahoma made it five straight wins in the postseason with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scoring 29 points along the way.

The Thunder have only conceded 90.6 points per game in the playoffs, the fewest by any team across five games in the postseason since the San Antonio Spurs in 2016.

"[The defence is] where we hang our hat every night," Gilgeous-Alexander said. "Especially this late in the season, we know that if we want to win basketball games, that it's going to start on that end.

"Obviously, we have some really talented players at that end of the floor, but we also like to do it together and not just rely on those guys."

 

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