Luka Doncic hailed Kyrie Irving's performance against the Los Angeles Clippers as "unbelievable" after the Dallas Mavericks progressed in the playoffs.

Irving starred with 30 points, six rebounds and four assists as the Mavs won 114-101 on Friday to seal a 4-2 series victory.

Eight-time All-Star Irving scored 28 points in the second half to propel the Mavs to victory, leaving teammate Doncic, who finished with 28 points, seven rebounds and 13 assists, in awe.

"I would say unbelievable," Doncic said of Irving's display.

"So it's even more special, but just to have the guy like that on your team, it's a pleasure.

"Just working with him, just playing with him, it's a pleasure no matter what. He's always positive energy, always. Not even one second of negative energy, which helps a lot, helps everybody and we're so happy to have him."

Across the series, Irving averaged 26.5 points and 51.4 per cent shooting.

"He doesn't force anything," Mavs forward Derrick Jones Jr. added of Irving, who joined Dallas from the Brooklyn Nets in 2023.

"He lets the game come to him and he knows the perfect moments where he should be more ultra-aggressive."

A bullish Irving said: "I just got to get there to that point to be able to be ready to have the other team submit.

"One of the hardest things to do as a competitor is to have your opponent concede or submit. And I do want to take this time to give a respectful shoutout and also show my respect to the Clippers organisation and the players. It's always fun."

Clippers star Paul George bowed to Irving's imperious performance.

"You give someone like Kai those looks, that basket gets bigger and bigger," he said.

"I thought that was really all he needed to see. Everything else was a playground for him."

The Mavs will face the Oklahoma City Thunder for a place in the Conference finals.

Kyrie Irving scored 28 of his 30 points in the second half and Luka Dončić added 28 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds as the Dallas Mavericks finished off the Los Angeles Clippers, 114-101, to advance to the Western Conference semifinals on Friday.

The fifth-seeded Mavericks beat the Clippers for the first time in three first-round tries over the last five seasons and will open the West semis at top-seeded Oklahoma City on Tuesday.

Paul George had 18 points and 11 rebounds and James Harden added 16 points and 13 assists but was 5 of 16 from the field and 0 for 6 from 3-point range as Los Angeles was eliminated in the first round for the second straight season.

Irving was limited to two points in the first half but shot 10 of 13 from the floor after halftime and gave the Mavs their biggest lead at 106-82 with a flashy four-point play with 5:38 remaining.

Dallas broke a 52-52 halftime tie by outscoring Los Angeles 35-20 in the third quarter and were never seriously threatened thereafter.

P.J. Washington had 14 points with four 3s and Daniel Gafford contributed 13 points with several emphatic baskets down low.

Magic survive Mitchell’s 50 to force Game 7

Paolo Banchero scored 10 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter and the Orlando Magic overcame Donovan Mitchell’s 50 points in a 103-96 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers to force Game 7 in their Eastern Conference first-round series.

Banchero carried the Magic to their biggest win in years and hit a 3-pointer with 3:39 left to put Orlando ahead for good, 92-89.

Franz Wagner had 26 points and Jalen Suggs added 22 with six 3s for the Magic, who are seeking their first series win in 14 years.

Game 7 is Sunday in Cleveland, where the Cavs won Games 1, 2 and 5, compared to seven straight road playoff losses dating to a LeBron James-led Game 7 victory at Boston in the 2018 Eastern Conference finals.

Mitchell scored all his team’s 18 points in the fourth quarter, including a pair of 3s. He fell one point shy of matching the franchise playoff scoring record set by James, who had 51 on May 31, 2018, against Golden State in the NBA Finals.

Darius Garland scored 21 points and Max Strus (10) was the only other Cav in double figures. Cleveland shot 7 of 28 from 3-point range and was outscored 22-5 from the free throw line.

The Los Angeles Lakers fired head coach Darvin Ham on Friday after he failed to live up to the franchise’s championship expectations.

Ham coached two seasons of his four-year contract, compiling a 90-74 record with two play-off appearances. He also guided the Lakers to a championship in the league’s inaugural in-season tournament.

But Ham’s Lakers needed to survive the play-in tournament in both seasons. Despite getting 71 games from LeBron James and 76 games from Anthony Davis, this year’s run came to a quick end with a five-game loss in the first round at the hands of the Denver Nuggets.

“We greatly appreciate Darvin Ham's efforts on behalf of the Lakers and recognise the many accomplishments achieved over the past two seasons, including last year's remarkable run to the Western Conference finals,” general manager vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka said in a statement.

“We all want to thank Darvin for this dedication and positivity. While this was a difficult decision to make, it is the best course of action following a full review of the season. The organisation will remain unwavering in its commitment to deliver championship-calibre basketball to Lakers fans around the world.”

Ham took over for Frank Vogel in 2022, just 18 months after the Lakers won the NBA title in the 2020 “bubble.”

Los Angeles will now face more change in a crucial offseason. The Lakers will almost certainly choose Ham’s successor to encourage the 39-year-old James to pick up his $51.4million player option for 2024-25.

If James stays, the Lakers are likely to be active players in the trade market to acquire more talent around him and Davis.

 

Damian Lillard lamented the Milwaukee Bucks’ injury troubles after their playoff exit at the hands of the Indiana Pacers.

The Bucks lost the series 4-2 after suffering a heavy 120-98 defeat in Game 6 on Thursday, condemning them to their second consecutive first-round exit to a lower seed.

Two-time MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo was one of the key players missing for the Bucks as he missed the entire playoff series due to a left calf strain, while Lillard returned after missing the last two games with an Achilles injury.

Lillard, who finished with 28 points, admitted it was frustrating to have so many injuries, but he wanted to try to make an impact.

"I don't think I would've went into the summer feeling good about much if I felt like I let the team go out there and me not at least try," he said.

"It's definitely disappointing because you know how much better of a team we are when he's [Antetokounmpo] on the floor and how much things change when he's on the floor.

"You play an entire 82-game season. You go through training camp, you go through all the ups and downs of an NBA regular season, and you get to the point where, all right, now we're going to play for everything. And you're not whole.

"You don't have the best opportunity to reach where you want reach. So it is frustrating, it's disappointing, but it's part of the game."

Meanwhile, T.J. McConnell says he is proud to be part of the Pacers team that ended their long wait to reach the semifinals.

McConnell had 20 points and nine assists off the bench, while Obi Toppin finished with a playoff career-high 21 points for the Pacers, who had lost their last six playoff series since 2014.

McConnell said: "It means a lot. Not getting into the playoffs since the bubble, not being able to advance since 2014, we take great pride in being able to advance and extend our season.

"Milwaukee has a great team and, if I can be honest with you, I think our bench has taken a couple steps back competitive wise and I think tonight all of us went out there with the mentality we’re going to take it to another level."

The Pacers will face New York in the next round after the Knicks eliminated the Philadelphia 76ers.  

Jalen Brunson scored 14 of his 41 points in the fourth quarter and Josh Hart made a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 24.4 seconds left as the New York Knicks advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals with a 118-115 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday.

Donte DiVincenzo added 23 points, OG Anunoby had 19 and Hart finished with 16 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists as the Knicks reached the second round for the second consecutive season.

New York will face Indiana in the East semis after the Pacers eliminated the Bucks in six games. Game 1 is Monday at Madison Square Garden.

Brunson became the first player to score 40 or more points to close out a series since Michael Jordan for Chicago against Cleveland in 1989.

Joel Embiid had 39 points and 13 rebounds but was held to six points in the fourth quarter. Buddy Hield scored 20 points off the bench and Tyrese Maxey was a non-factor in the first half and finished with 17 points on 6-of-18 shooting as the 76ers failed to win a playoff round for the first time since 2019-20.

The Knicks led 109-101 with 2 ½ minutes remaining in the back-and-forth game, but Kelly Oubre Jr. hit a 3 and a layup sandwiched around Maxey’s layup to make it a one-point game.

After Brunson’s layup put New York up 111-108 with under a minute to play, Maxey converted a three-point play with 35 seconds left to tie it.

Hart drilled a 3 from the top of the key before Embiid’s layup four seconds later made it 114-113. DiVincenzo and Brunson each sank two free throws to seal it.

 

Pacers advance with rout of Bucks

Obi Toppin led six players in double figures with a playoff career-high 21 points and the Indiana Pacers won a playoff series for the first time in a decade with a 120-98 rout of the Milwaukee Bucks.

T.J. McConnell had 20 points and nine assists off the bench, Pascal Siakam added 19 points and Tyrese Haliburton contributed 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Pacers, who had lost their last six playoff series since 2014.

Indiana will face New York in the next round after the Knicks eliminated Philadelphia.

The Pacers went 8-3 against the Bucks this season and handed Milwaukee its second straight first-round exit.

Damian Lillard returned from a right Achilles injury with 28 points and Bobby Portis added 20 and 15 rebounds for the Bucks, who shot just 42.2 percent (35 for 83) from the field and 25.9 percent (7 for 27) from 3-point range.

Two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo missed the entire series after straining his left calf on April 9.

The Pacers used a 15-3 run in the first quarter for a 29-19 lead and never trailed again.

Milwaukee cut the deficit to 85-78 with 6:05 left in the third, but McConnell capped an 11-0 run with consecutive 3s to make it 96-78 early in the fourth.

Tyronn Lue insisted that the Los Angeles Clippers will be "better for Game 6" after their worst game of the series against the Dallas Mavericks.

The Clippers lost 123-93 in Game 5 on Wednesday, giving the Mavericks a 3-2 series lead as they prepare for the next meeting in Dallas.

Los Angeles struggled against the Mavericks' defence, and at one point, missed 16 straight 3-point attempts.

Asked what went wrong for the Clippers on Wednesday, Lue said: "We just didn’t play well, all round. Offensively, defensively, we just didn’t play a good game. We know that.

"Playoffs, you have to win four games. We didn’t play our best game; we understand that and we all understand that collectively – we’ll be better for Game 6.

"Not making shots, not defending, had some gambles that really cost us early in the game. It was a two-point game, we gave up three gambles, and it became eight points, that got them going.

"We weren’t good on both sides of the basketball, we had a bad game and, to give them credit, they played well.

"We understand how we need to play. We got into our stuff a little slow. We didn’t shoot the ball well; we didn’t play well either – it kind of goes hand in hand. We didn’t play the style of basketball we need."

The Clippers have been in this position against the Mavericks before, going down 3-2 during the first round in 2021.

On that occasion, they won to force a Game 7 and went on to advance to the semifinals.

Shaquille O’Neal, however, does not think the Clippers are consistent enough to beat the Mavericks.

"They tried to play hero ball at the end by shooting those threes. Paul [George] had a surge of scoring late, but too late by then,” he said to NBA on TNT Sports.

"That's why I've never really been on the Clippers bandwagon because those two guys [George and James Harden] are too inconsistent for me. You can't go from 33 to seven."

Kyrie Irving was amazed by the "resilience" of Luka Doncic after he led the Dallas Mavericks to a pivotal Game 5 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers despite suffering from injury and illness.

A knee problem that has been troubling Doncic since Game 3 was wrapped with ice by midway through the fourth quarter, but he scored 35 points to lead the Mavs to a 123-93 rout of the Clippers.

That gave the Mavs a 3-2 lead in their Western Conference first-round series and put them on the brink of a series victory.

Doncic had 14 points in the third quarter as Dallas extended its lead to 25 before taking an 89-69 advantage into the fourth. He shot 14 of 26 from the field and finished with 10 assists and seven rebounds. 

It was the fifth time in his postseason career that Doncic had produced a performance with at least 30 points and 10 assists, extending what is already a team record.

And Doncic also tied with Michael Jordan for the most consecutive 20-plus point games on the road to begin an NBA playoff career. He has now done that in 15 consecutive games.

Maxi Kleber hit five 3-pointers and Irving added 14 points and six assists on a great Wednesday night for Dallas.

"I always speak on his resilience," Irving said about Doncic after the game, per ESPN. "He's not feeling a hundred percent, but he's still going to go out there and play. 

"For me as a teammate, I enjoy that. I enjoy being around somebody like that that's going to push themselves but also be smart and still make an impact on the game – and still empty his clips, as we like to say. 

"Even though he is not feeling well or he's not able to be a hundred percent, he's still able to lead our team in his own way."

The Mavericks will try to close out the Clippers at home in Game 6 on Friday. Doncic admitted that, given his condition, he would not have played in Game 5 if it had been a regular season contest.

"It's the playoffs," he said after playing while feeling unwell as well as managing the pain in his knee.

"When you start the game in the playoffs, it's a different thing. There's a lot of adrenaline, a lot of emotions. So you just keep going."

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue knows finding a way to stop Doncic will be key if his team are to reverse their fortunes.

"We knew at some point Luka was going to have a Luka game," he said. "We are not going to hang our heads.

"We have got to win four games. We go to Dallas, Game 6 on Friday and we will be ready to go."

Jayson Tatum claimed that the Boston Celtics are learning from their mistakes after securing their place in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Celtics are into the semifinals following a 4-1 series victory over the Miami Heat after winning Game 5 118-84 on Wednesday.

In taking the series, the Celtics avenged their 2023 Conference finals loss to the Heat, who routed them in Game 7.

Tatum praised the team’s attitude during the win, saying: "That's how it should be.

"We should be learning from our mistakes and things we could've done better and applying it to the next season, because we're trying to have a different outcome this year."

Jaylen Brown and Derrick White each scored 25 points, while Sam Hauser had 17 points and Tatum added 16 with 12 rebounds for the Celtics.

Despite a record-breaking shooting performance by the Heat in Game 2, they struggled to gain a foothold in the series. They missed 26 of 29 from 3-point range and were out-rebounded 56-29 in Game 5 while playing without the injured Jimmy Butler, Terry Rozier and Jaime Jaquez Jr.

The Celtics were also without a key player, as Kristaps Porzingis missed his first postseason game with a right calf strain that will keep him out for at least a week.

Brown insisted that the Celtics have proven that they were never reliant on any single player.

"I think we just have to continue to play our game like we've been doing our whole career and continue to show our growth by trusting our teammates," he said.

"I think if we're going to win, we're going to win as a team."

Up next for the top-seeded Celtics is the winner of the Cleveland-Orlando series that the Cavaliers lead 3-2.

Jaylen Brown and Derrick White each scored 25 points and the Boston Celtics rolled to a 118-84 rout of the short-handed Miami Heat on Wednesday to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Up next for the top-seeded Celtics is the winner of the Cleveland-Orlando series that the Cavaliers lead 3-2.

Sam Hauser had 17 points and Jayson Tatum added 16 with 12 rebounds for the Celtics, who never trailed and gained a measure of revenge a year after Miami routed them in Game 7 of the conference finals.

Bam Adebayo scored 23 points and Tyler Herro had 15 for Miami, which exited the playoffs prior to the conference finals for the first time since 2021.

The Heat, who missed 26 of 29 from 3-point range and were outrebounded 56-29, played without Jimmy Butler (knee), Terry Rozier (neck) and Jaime Jaquez Jr. (hip).

 

Doncic, Mavericks rip Clippers

Luka Dončić scored 20 of his 35 points in the second half to lead the Dallas Mavericks to a 123-93 rout of the Los Angeles Clippers for a 3-2 lead in their Western Conference first-round series.

Doncic had 14 points in the third quarter as Dallas extended its lead to 25 before taking an 89-69 advantage into the fourth quarter. He shot 14 of 26 from the field and finished with 10 assists and seven rebounds.

The Mavericks will try to close out the Clippers at home in Game 6 on Friday.

Maxi Kleber hit five 3-pointers and Kyrie Irving added 14 points for Dallas, which shot 54 percent (47 for 87) from the field, including 35.9 percent (14 for 39) from long range. The Clippers, meanwhile, were held to 37.9 percent (33 for 87) shooting and 25.7 percent (9 for 35) on 3s.

Paul George and Ivica Zubac scored 15 points apiece and James Harden scored just seven points on 2-of-12 shooting and missed six of his seven 3s. Russell Westbrook missed his first eight shots before finally scoring in the third quarter and finishing with six points on 2 of 11 from the field.

Having kept their Eastern Conference first-round series with the Indiana Pacers alive with Tuesday's Game 5 win, the Milwaukee Bucks could recover their two leading scorers for Game 6.

Despite star duo Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard missing out due to injury, the third-seeded Bucks dragged the series back to 3-2 with a 115-92 victory at Fiserv Forum.

Khris Middleton had 29 points and 12 rebounds – his third straight game with at least 25 points – while Bobby Portis Jr. also had 29 as he made amends for being ejected in Milwaukee's Game 4 defeat.

That meant they became the first team in NBA history to win a playoff game when deprived of their two top scorers from the regular season.

The Bucks will go back on the road for another must-win game on Thursday, and they are hoping to have reinforcements.

Two-time NBA MVP Antetokounmpo has missed all five games in the series with a left calf strain, while Lillard has missed the last two contests after hurting his Achilles last week.

After Tuesday's game, coach Doc Rivers said both players were scheduled to work out on Wednesday and suggested they could be in contention for Game 6.

"I think they're very, very, very close," Rivers said.

Rivers was delighted by the way their team-mates stepped up in difficult circumstances, adding: "You could feel the energy in our film and in our walk-through.

"We were coming to play and win tonight. You could feel it in the preparation, that was not a team walking through a walk-through, thinking this was it. That's a team thinking they can win."

For Middleton, it was simply about staying alive and giving the Bucks' stars a chance to impact the series.

"We have to find a way to win, whatever it takes," Middleton said. "We're still confident. Our backs were up against the wall tonight, we had a great home crowd that got us going. 

"So we're going to have to find a way. That's the only way to put it, find a way to get this next one and force a Game 7."

Tyrese Maxey scored seven points in the final 25 seconds of regulation to save Philadelphia’s season and finished with a playoff career-high 46 as the 76ers staved off elimination in their Eastern Conference first-round series with an unlikely 112-106 victory over the New York Knicks on Tuesday.

Down six with 28 seconds left in regulation, Maxey converted the rare four-point play with 25 seconds to play, and after Josh Hart’s free throw, hit a 35-foot 3-pointer to tie it at 97 with 8.1 seconds remaining in front of a stunned Madison Square Garden crowd.

Joel Embiid had 19 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists and nine turnovers for the 76ers, who will host Game 6 on Thursday.

Maxey added nine assists and was 7 of 12 from 3-point range.

Brunson scored 40 points and Hart had 18 with nine rebounds for the Knicks, who were tantalisingly close to reaching the Eastern Conference semifinals for the second straight season.

Brunson scored the first five points of overtime but Maxey's 3 triggered a 9-0 run that Embiid capped with a 3-point play with 1:40 left for a 106-102 lead. Brunson tied it with a 3 but Kelly Oubre Jr. made the tiebreaking basket with 62 seconds to play, and Tobias Harris sealed it with two free throws. 

 

Short-handed Bucks stay alive

Khris Middleton had 29 points and 12 rebounds and Bobby Portis added 29 with 10 boards as the Milwaukee Bucks stayed alive with a 115-92 win over the Indiana Pacers in Game 5 despite missing leading scorers Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard.

Portis had the highest point total of his playoff career and made amends after he was ejected from a Game 4 loss. Middleton had his third straight game with at least 25 points.

Tyrese Haliburton scored 16 points and Myles Turner added 13 for the Pacers, who still lead the series 3-2 and will try to close it out at home in Game 6 on Thursday. Indiana hasn’t advanced past the first round since 2014.

The Bucks got a balanced effort without Antetokounmpo and Lillard, as every starter scored in double figures. Antetokounmpo has missed the entire series and hasn’t played since straining his left calf on April 9. Lillard sat out a second consecutive game after injuring his Achilles tendon in Game 3 on Friday.

 

Cavs edge Magic for 3-2 lead

Donovan Mitchell scored 28 points and Evan Mobley came up with a huge block in the final seconds to lift the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 104-103 win over the Orlando Magic to take a 3-2 lead in their Eastern Conference series.

After Mitchell missed a jumper with 15.7 seconds left, Franz Wagner drove the left side for a potential game-tying layup but was denied at the rim by Mobley with six seconds left.

Mitchell, who had 14 fourth-quarter points, was then fouled and made two free throws with 3.2 seconds remaining to up Cleveland’s lead to 104-100. Paolo Banchero made a 3-pointer in the final second for the final margin.

The Cavs bounced back at home after losing two road games and can finish off the Magic in Orlando in Game 6 on Friday.

Max Strus scored 16 points to help Cleveland offset the loss of starting center Jarrett Allen (bruised rib) and Mobley added 14 points and 13 rebounds.

Banchero scored 16 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter and grabbed eight rebounds, but the next closest Magic player was Wagner with 14 points.  

 

Al Horford said that the Boston Celtics needed to change their mindset after losing Kristaps Porzingis to injury during their convincing Game 4 102-88 victory over the Miami Heat.

The Celtics now have a 3-1 series lead after Derrick White scored a career-high 38 points to edge the top seeds one step closer to the Conference Semifinals.

The win came at a cost though, as Porzingis was forced off with right calf tightness just before the end of the second quarter, but the Celtics rallied to win their sixth straight game in Miami.

Horford replaced Porzingis for the second half and told ESPN that the team had to change their approach after losing a key player.

“All of us, our mindset has to shift," he said.

“I talked to Luke [Kornet] and Xavier [Tillman] and let them know that all of us have to be ready to step up and do a little more because KP was playing so well defensively.

“It’s definitely concerning for me. He's in good spirits, but we don't know what it's going to be. I'm just hoping that it's nothing serious, and he can get back to us quick.”

Bam Adebayo finished with 25 points, 17 rebounds and five assists for Miami, but they struggled on offence once more, with Tyler Herro scoring 19 points and Caleb Martin adding 18.

The Heat coach, Erik Spoelstra, bemoaned his side’s struggles to get more points on the board, saying: “Offensively, we struggled again. We had some decent looks early on, weren't able to knock those down, and Derrick White was very good tonight — obviously. He was just very efficient, very good.

“I know in my heart we have a game that's there. It's just a matter of the ball going in a few more times, and all of a sudden it ignites.”

Anthony Davis says he will give LeBron James the space he needs to make the right decision on his NBA future.

The Los Angeles Lakers were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in a 4-1 series defeat to the Denver Nuggets, who won Game 5 108-106 on Monday.

James led the Lakers with 30 points and 11 assists and hit a pair of free throws to tie the game in the final 30 seconds.

But with 3.6 seconds remaining, Jamal Murray, who was playing through a calf strain, hit a pull-up 14-footer to condemn the Lakers to an early exit.

After the game, James said that “he does not have an answer” on his NBA future after 21 years in the league.

However, Davis is confident that James will take his time over the decision, make the correct call for himself and tell everyone else when the time is right.

“I mean, he has been in this position numerous times in his career, where he had to make a decision ultimately for himself and his family. I'll be right there supporting whatever he decides to do,” Davis told ESPN.

“It's still fresh. I mean, I'm pretty sure it's not even on his mind right now.

"But I'm pretty sure he'll come talk to me, tell me what's going on before he becomes public with the situation, just to keep me in the loop.

“Obviously, it's been a great five seasons with him. If he does decide to come back, obviously this isn't what we want to be left at, losing in the first round.

"If he does, obviously our goal is to come back and be a championship contender, stay healthy and give Laker Nation what they deserve."

The Nuggets swept the Lakers in the Western Conference finals last year, with their late-game execution proving to be the difference once again in this series.

Murray, who also hit a buzzer-beater to win Game 2, was advised to sit the game out by management due to his calf injury but proved decisive as he scored 12 of his 32 points in a fourth quarter in which the teams repeatedly traded leads.

Asked if he had debated sitting the game out, Murray said: "I came in a little earlier to see if I was going to be able to go, and I felt like I could.

"They [management] just didn't want me to risk it. They told me no.

"And I didn't say no. I didn't want to leave my teammates out there. We've been battling all season.

"Everybody's hurt at some point, everybody's going through something, and I just wouldn't be able to live with myself if I wasn't able to play this game.

"I'm just glad they listened to me - and listened to me listening to my body - and just trusting me with it."

Nikola Jokic finished with 25 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists, while Michael Porter Jr. concluded his impressive series with a 26-point performance for Denver.

Davis had 17 points and 15 rebounds for Los Angeles but was not involved much in the offence late while playing through a shoulder injury.

The Nuggets will continue their championship defence with a second-round series against the Minnesota Timberwolves, who advanced on Sunday by completing a sweep of the Phoenix Suns.

Denver eliminated Minnesota in the first round of last year’s playoffs with a five-game series win.

LeBron James says he "does not have an answer" on his NBA future after the Los Angeles Lakers were eliminated by the Denver Nuggets in their first-round playoff series.

The Nuggets emerged triumphant with a 4-1 series win after beating the Lakers 108-106 in an entertaining Game 5 on Monday.

Despite playing through a calf strain, Jamal Murray hit a pull-up 14-footer with 3.6 seconds remaining of a game which saw the two teams repeatedly trade leads.

LeBron hit a pair of free throws to tie the game with 26 seconds left to give the Lakers hope, but Murray drove to his left and pulled up for the go-ahead jumper over Austin Reaves.

After the painful narrow loss, LeBron was asked how he would approach any decision about Year 22 in the NBA.

"I do not have an answer to be honest, I have not given it much thought," he said, per ESPN.

"We will cross that when we need to. [I will evaluate] what's best for my career."

Asked if the Nuggets game was likely to be his last in a Lakers jersey, the 39-year-old replied: "I'm not going to answer that." 

This was the earliest playoff exit in James' 17 postseason trips. The only other time he was eliminated in the first round was 2021, in a six-game loss to the Phoenix Suns.

"Tip your hat to them," James said about Denver. "Defending champions, they are a great team. Super-well coached and made the plays down the stretch to win the series.

"You give credit where credit is due, that is for sure."

Much like last year, when the Nuggets swept the Lakers in the Western Conference finals, Denver’s late-game execution proved to be the difference.

Nikola Jokic finished with 25 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists, while Michael Porter Jr. concluded his impressive series with a 26-point performance.

James led the Lakers with 30 points and 11 assists. Anthony Davis had 17 points and 15 rebounds but was not involved much in the offence late while playing through a shoulder injury.

LeBron has the option to enter the final year of his contract with the Lakers or he could become a free agent.

Also facing an uncertain future after the first-round exit is head coach Darvin Ham, who has been with the team for two years.

Ham, who is now on the hot seat, hopes the defeat will make him a better coach in the long run.

"My mind's all over the place right now," he said. "It's been a hell of a two years, though, I'll tell you that. Sitting in this seat, it's been a hell of a two years. 

"A lot of good things that got done, but ultimately, you want to win that ultimate prize. I know what that feels like. I had that feeling a couple of times.

"So, you want to do everything in your power to prevent and not continue to feel this feeling we're feeling now, the feeling of defeat. So again, control what I can control, continue to grow and hopefully be a better coach for it.

"I couldn’t be more proud of our crew despite everything that happened.

"Obviously, the series didn’t go in our favor, it didn’t start the way we wanted it to, but to win that one at home, fight tooth and nail to get this one, our guys showed a lot of guts and a lot of character."

Despite playing through a calf strain, Jamal Murray hit a pull-up 14-footer with 3.6 seconds remaining, and the Denver Nuggets beat the Los Angeles Lakers 108-106 on Monday for a 4-1 series win.

Murray, who also hit a buzzer-beater to win Game 2, was a game-time decision due to his calf injury but scored 12 of his 32 points in a fourth quarter in which the teams repeatedly traded leads.

LeBron James hit a pair of free throws to tie the game with 26 seconds left to give the Lakers hope, but Murray drove to his left with help from a high ball screen and pulled up for the go-ahead jumper over Austin Reaves.

Without any timeouts to advance the ball, the Lakers managed only a desperation heave from Taurean Prince at the buzzer which never had a chance.

Much like last year, when the Nuggets swept the Lakers in the Western Conference finals, Denver’s late-game execution proved to be the difference.

Nikola Jokić finished with 25 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists, while Michael Porter Jr. concluded his impressive series with a 26-point performance.

James led the Lakers with 30 points and 11 assists. Anthony Davis had 17 points and 15 rebounds but was not involved much in the offence late while playing through a shoulder injury.

The Nuggets will continue their championship defence with a second-round series against the Minnesota Timberwolves, who advanced Sunday by completing a sweep of the Phoenix Suns.

Denver eliminated Minnesota in the first round of last year’s playoffs with a five-game series win.

Thunder complete sweep of Pelicans

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jalen Williams each scored 24 points to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 97-89 win over the New Orleans Pelicans and secure a four-game series sweep.

The youngest team ever to secure a conference’s No. 1 seed, the Thunder answered questions about play-off inexperience by easily securing their place in the second round, outscoring New Orleans by an average of 15.8 points per game.

Oklahoma City trailed 71-70 to start the fourth quarter but held the Pelicans to 18 points in the final frame.

Williams scored 11 of his points in the fourth quarter, including his own 8-0 run that put the Thunder up 93-82 with 3:08 remaining.

The Pelicans played the series without Zion Williamson due to a hamstring strain, with Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum failing to rise to the challenge.

Ingram shot under 35 percent from the field during the series and was 2 of 14 in Game 4. McCollum had 20 points on 9-for-16 shooting Monday but was just 7 of 29 from 3-point range in the series.

Celtics rout Heat for 3-1 series lead

Derrick White scored 38 points, and the Boston Celtics overcame an injury to Kristaps Porzingis to beat the Miami Heat 102-88 for a 3-1 series lead.

Porzingis exited with 2:27 remaining in the second quarter with right calf tightness and did not return. Al Horford started the second half in Porzingis’ place.

White, who is better known for his defensive contributions, went 8 of 15 from 3-point range en route to his 38 points, a career high for both the regular season and post-season.

Bam Adebayo led the way for the Heat with 25 points, 17 rebounds and five assists.

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