Zach LaVine will be staying with the Chicago Bulls after the All-Star guard agreed to a five-year, $215.2million maximum extension on Friday.

LaVine's agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, confirmed the agreement to The Athletic. The deal contains a player option for nearly $49m in the final year.

Acquired from Minnesota in 2017 as part of a draft-day trade that sent six-time All-Star Jimmy Butler to the Timberwolves, LaVine has emerged as one of the NBA's most consistent scorers during his time in Chicago. The 27-year-old joined the legendary Michael Jordan as the only players in franchise history to average 23 or more points per game in four consecutive seasons after averaging 24.4 per game in 2021-22.

LaVine also shot 38.9 per cent from three-point range and 85.3 per cent from the free throw line this past season to earn his second straight All-Star nod and help the Bulls reach the playoffs for the first time since 2016-17.

By retaining LaVine, the Bulls keep a core intact that also consists of 2021-22 All-Star DeMar DeRozan, center Nikola Vucevic and playmaking point guard Lonzo Ball. That group led Chicago to a 46-36 finish last season, their most victories since 2014-15, and a sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.

LaVine was hampered down the stretch of last season by a left knee injury and underwent surgery in May, but is expected to be fully recovered in time for training camp.

The future of two-time All-Star guard Zach LaVine remains the biggest question mark this offseason for the Chicago Bulls.  

The franchise's desires, however, have been made crystal clear.  

"We hope Zach is here for a long time, and nothing has changed," executive vice president Arturas Karnisovas said Monday.  

Karnisovas and the Bulls have repeatedly made their desire to re-sign LaVine public, with the NBA's free agent negotiating period set to start on Thursday.  

Karnisovas spoke at a news conference intended to introduce first-round draft pick Dalen Terry, but LaVine's unrestricted free agency again took centre stage.  

LaVine previously said that he plans on exploring his options in free agency but has not ruled out returning to Chicago.  

The Bulls could offer LaVine a contract up to five years and about $212million, while the largest offer he could receive from another team would be near $157m over four years.  

Expectedly, Karnisovas remained quiet on the offer the team plans to make to LaVine.  

"I'm confident. I'm confident in approaching this free agency in the next couple of days, sitting down with our group, looking at a lot of things," he said. 

After scoring a career-high 27.4 points per game in 2020-21, LaVine's production and efficiency dipped a bit last season as he battled thumb and knee injuries, averaging 24.4 points a night.  

LaVine had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in May.  

"I think he's gonna be healthy," Karnisovas said. "I think he's now progressing great."

The Bulls got off to a strong start last season, leading the Eastern Conference into February but losing 15 of 22 games to close the regular season.

Despite ending a four-year playoff drought, they were dispatched in the first round in five games by the Milwaukee Bucks.  

Even with the disappointing end to the season, Karnisovas would like to keep together the core of LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic and Lonzo Ball.  

"This group has been here only since October," Karnisovas said. "We're still trying to get used to how to play with each other."

While free agent deals will not be officially recognised by the league until July 6, teams and players can agree to terms starting from this Thursday.

The NBA All-Rookie teams were unveiled on Wednesday, headlined by Rookie of the Year finalists Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley and winner Scottie Barnes in the All-Rookie First Team.

Joining the trio – who were all unanimous selections – on the First Team were Orlando Magic forward Franz Wagner and Houston Rockets guard Jalen Green.

Cunningham, Green, Mobley and Barnes were the first four picks of the 2021 NBA Draft, while Wagner was the eighth selection.

They were also the only five rookies to average at least 15 points per game this season, putting a gap between themselves and sixth-highest scorer Chris Duarte at 13.1 points per game. It is the first time since at least 1985 that all five members of the All-Rookie First Team have each averaged at least 15 points per game.

The All-Rookie Second Team was made up of first-rounders Josh Giddey (sixth selection), Duarte (13th selection) and Bones Hyland (26th), as well as a pair of second-round picks in Herb Jones (35th) and Ayo Dosunmu (38th).

Orlando will have the number one pick of the 2022 NBA Draft, followed by the Oklahoma City Thunder and then the Rockets.

Mike Budenholzer says the Milwaukee Bucks showed their strength in depth by reaching the Eastern Conference playoff semi-finals without Khris Middleton.

The defending champions beat the injury-hit Chicago Bulls 116-100 in Game 5 at Fiserv Forum on Wednesday to advance from the first round of the postseason.

Middleton sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee during the fourth quarter of Game 2, but the Bucks proved they could cope without the All-Star.

Budenholzer confirmed Middleton will miss the start of the playoff semi-final series against the Boston Celtics.

But the Milwaukee head coach is confident other players can continue to step up in his absence.

"We've been talking about the depth of the roster, the quality of the roster, a lot this season," Budenholzer said.

"Other guys have gotten opportunities and played well. Our defense has tightened up, and we've leaned hard on that these three games. We've got depth. We've got a good group.

"We miss Khris; I don't think anybody underestimates how important and how effective he is for us. While we don't have him, we've got to be our best all up and down the roster."

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo played a big hand as the Bucks ended the Bulls' season, putting up 33 points and nine rebounds in Game 5.

The two-time MVP said being "desperate" to get the job done in the absence of Middleton was vital.

"After Game 2, the team knew what the deal was," Antetokounmpo said. "We knew what we had to do, we had to be desperate.

"We had to go out there and compete at a high level. Pay attention to detail as much as possible. Help one another defensively. We've got to do it as a team. It's not a one-man show or two-man show.

"Now we're going to a different series, playing a different team, a very, very good team, and hopefully we can do it again."

It was a dominant showing by the reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday, closing out their series with a 116-100 win against the Chicago Bulls, taking the series 4-1.

The Bulls had their backs up against the wall, and their plight was made even tougher when star Zach LaVine and defensive ace Alex Caruso were ruled out due to health and safety protocols.

By the end of the first quarter, Milwaukee led 34-18, and they went on to also win the second and third quarters to hold a lead of at least 20 points throughou

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way for the Bucks, scoring 33 points on 11-of-15 shooting, also going 11-of-14 from the free throw line.

Jrue Holiday was solid in his point guard duties, dishing nine assists to go with his 10 points and five rebounds, while Bobby Portis was a force inside, scoring 14 points and snatching down 17 rebounds.

For the Bulls, DeMar DeRozan was disappointing in a must-win clash, finishing with just 10 points and seven assists, while only attempting 10 field goal attempts in 42 minutes.

Intriguing second-year forward Patrick Williams led Chicago in scoring with 23 points on nine-of-13 shooting, going four-of-seven from long range, while Nikola Vucevic had 19 points, 16 rebounds and six assists.

The Bucks will now take on the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semi-finals, with Game 1 set to take place this weekend.

Warriors roll past Nuggets with new starting-five

The Golden State Warriors had to fight back against the Denver Nuggets, closing out the series 4-1 with a 102-98 win while sporting a new-look starting five.

Stephen Curry made his first start since he was eased back from a foot injury, joined by both Jordan Poole and Klay Thompson.

The Dubs left it late though, cutting away at an eight-point deficit from the last change, before a Gary Payton II triple gave them the eventual lead with seven minutes remaining

Golden State will now take on the winner between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Minnesota Timberwolves, where the Grizzlies lead 3-2.

 

The Chicago Bulls will have to make do without Zach LaVine and Alex Caruso in their do-or-die Eastern Conference playoffs Game 5 showdown with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Needing a victory to keep the series alive, the Bulls confirmed LaVine and Caruso will play no part at Fiserv Forum on Wednesday.

All-Star LaVine misses out a day after he entered the NBA's health and safety protocol, having revealed he was feeling unwell before a practice session.

Fellow guard Caruso took a blow to his face in the second quarter of an emphatic 119-95 Game 4 defeat on Sunday and is going through concussion protocols.

LaVine had led the Bulls with 24 points, 13 assists and five rebounds in a loss that left them trailing the series 3-1.

A depleted Chicago were already missing Lonzo Ball (knee) and Matt Thomas (leg).

The Chicago Bulls supporters booing Grayson Allen no longer bothers the Milwaukee Bucks shooting guard, who propelled his side to a 3-1 playoff series lead on Sunday.

Allen fell out of favour with the Chicago faithful after his flagrant foul on guard Alex Caruso during a game in January resulted in a two-month absence for the Bulls star.

The 26-year-old, formerly of Duke, has since been greeted with boos at any opportunity as the Bucks hit the road for the playoffs in Chicago, but that has been music to Allen's ears.

He set a career-high in the playoffs in Game 3 when he scored 22 in a 111-81 triumph at the United Center, before surpassing that the following game with 27 points, including six three-pointers, in a 119-95 victory.

Allen is 18 of 24 from the field and 11 for 14 on three-pointers over the past two games, but it is the playful jeers from his own Bucks bench that has made the hostile atmosphere easier for him.

"They have so much fun doing it," he told reporters of his team-mate's decision to boo him in practice, the team hotel or film sessions.

"I think it's honestly hilarious. They've kind of turned it into a fun thing. It makes hearing it out there during the game a lot easier too because they think it's so funny.

"It's not naturally comfortable for me. I am to the point now, anytime I go out and play basketball, I just remind myself to go out and have fun with this.

"My personality is naturally uncomfortable with the attention, the booing, the heckling. It's not something I feed off of. I'm not going out searching for it."

Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo is also enjoying his team-mate thriving under the pressure and playfully suggested the Bucks fans may have to try a new way of motivating Allen.

"He's played amazing, maybe we got to boo him even more," Antetokounmpo said. "Maybe Milwaukee fans, we got to boo him ... nah, we're not going to do that."

Meanwhile, guard Jrue Holiday added: "When we booed him during the game, and he really started hooping, I think we just stuck with it."

Allen also became the first Bucks player to score 25 points and knock down six 3s in a playoff game and first Milwaukee player with at least 25 points off the bench since Tim Thomas in 2003, according to ESPN.

And Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer was delighted to see Allen step up in the absence of Khris Middleton, who will miss the rest of this first-round series after sustaining an injury to his left knee.

"He's kind of quiet, but confident," Budenholzer said of Allen. "I think this is a confident group, a group that sees a player that can help them and appreciates his competitiveness.

"He's just quiet, no bull****, and comes to play. I think our guys gravitate towards that type of mentality. It's certainly been a good fit."

It was not just his Milwaukee colleagues showering Allen with praise either, Bulls guard Zach LaVine was also quick to credit his opponent.

"You got to give [Allen] credit," LaVine said. "He's hitting shots. Obviously, we know what happened [with the Caruso injury]. At the end of the day, it's basketball too. We understand it. But it's not like we're going out there saying, 'That guy can't beat us.'

"The Milwaukee Bucks can't beat us and he's part of their team. Them as a whole is beating us right now. You can't just account for him. It's everybody."

Chicago have lost six straight home playoff games since beating Cleveland in Game 3 of the 2015 Eastern Conference semi-finals, losing that series in six. The Bulls will look to make amends in Game 5 on the road on Wednesday as they aim to keep the playoff series alive.

The Denver Nuggets narrowly avoided a series sweep on Sunday, coming up big on both ends in the final seconds to beat the Golden State Warriors 126-121.

Down 17 points at one stage and nine to start the fourth quarter, the Warriors were able to claw their way level through Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who combined for 55 points for the game and on 22-of-43 shooting from the floor.

The Warriors could not seize the opportunity to lead with scores tied at 121 however, when Andrew Wiggins missed a tip-dunk off a Thompson miss, an open catch-and-shoot three in the corner.

A Monte Morris floater gave the Nuggets the lead with 33.5 seconds remaining, and Austin Rivers' steal from the consequent Otto Porter Jr. inbound effectively settled the result. Will Barton's corner three from a Nikola Jokic feed was punctuation mark.

Jokic was exceptional with Denver's season on the line, coming up with 37 points on 14-of-21 shooting, eight rebounds and six assists.

Pels level series against Suns

The New Orleans Pelicans have managed to level the series with the first-seeded Phoenix Suns, comfortably winning Game 4 118-103.

The combination of the Pels' defensive flexibility and length combined with the Suns' continued struggles in injured star Devin Booker's absence has made this a series.

While Deandre Ayton was able to provide a presence under the basket with 23 points and eight rebounds, Chris Paul and Mikal Bridges shot a combined six-of-19 from the floor.

Jonas Valanciunas came up with important buckets down the stretch on his way to 26 points and 15 rebounds.

Heat and Bucks take commanding leads in East

The Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks now have the chance to advance in the playoffs on their home floors, defeating the Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls respectively. 

The Heat defeated the Hawks 110-86 to take a 3-1 series lead, with the latter held to just 15 points in the second quarter.

It was a particularly tough night for Trae Young after his game-winner in Game 3, taking only four shots in the second half and committing as many turnovers.

The Milwaukee Bucks also took a 3-1 series lead on Sunday, claiming a big 119-95 win over the Chicago Bulls.

Grayson Allen provided crucial minutes off the bench with 27 points off 10-of-12 shooting, including six-of-seven from beyond the arc, as well as three steals.

Trae Young hit a dramatic game-winner with less than five seconds remaining in the Atlanta Hawks' 111-110 home win against the Miami Heat.

The win is the Hawks' first of the series, keeping things alive at 2-1 with Game 4 remaining in Atlanta, while Kyle Lowry may be missing for the Heat after leaving Friday's game with a hamstring complaint.

Momentum switched hands throughout the contest, with Atlanta putting up 39 points in the second quarter to lead 61-54 at half-time, before the Heat came out on fire in the third, winning the frame 31-16 to take an eight-point lead into the last.

Miami extended their lead to 94-80 with 9:06 to play in the fourth quarter, when Bogdan Bogdanovic and Onyeka Okongwu began to drag the home side back into the game.

Bogdanovic hit a trio of three-pointers in less than three minutes, while Okongwu had seven points down the stretch and was the Hawks' primary defensive presence on the interior, more than holding his own against Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler.

But after a P.J. Tucker three-ball put the Heat up 110-109 with 54 seconds to play, only one man was going to have the final say for the Hawks.

When Butler missed a jump shot with 12 seconds left, the Hawks opted not to call a time-out, letting Young make his way up the court quickly, weaving his way into the lane for one of his trusty floaters, getting the friendly home-rim roll.

He finished with 24 points on six-of-14 shooting, also dishing nine assists. Bogdanovic had 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists, and De'Andre Hunter scored 17, including some important buckets when the Hawks were sputtering.

Butler's desperation three on the buzzer fell short, but he played well, scoring 20 (eight-of-20 shooting) with 10 rebounds and eight assists, while Tyler Herro led the Heat in scoring with 24 off the bench and Max Strus had 20, hitting five-of-10 from three-point range.

Paul, Ayton carry Phoenix

The duo of Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton led the top-seeded Phoenix Suns to a crucial Game 3 114-111 win against the New Orleans Pelicans to take a 2-1 lead in the series.

With Devin Booker absent for at least this game and the next, Paul had to take on a greater offensive burden than usual, but he did it in style, racking up 14 assists and scoring 28 points on 10-of-18 shooting.

He needed someone to get hot with him, and Ayton rose to the occasion, scoring 28 points on 13-of-20 shooting and grabbing 17 rebounds, with three steals and a block. The performance demonstrated the ability to be an offensive focal point that was envisioned when he was selected number one overall in the 2018 NBA Draft.

It was far from smooth sailing for the Suns, as the Pelicans kept it close throughout, and even poked their head in front at 93-92 with less than six minutes to play.

But the Suns as has been the story of the Suns' season, they have been the best clutch team in the NBA, and once again showed why. Paul's surgical precision on the offensive end, and a sea of swarming length and physicality on the defensive end, was too much for a young Pelicans team that played three rookies in the fourth quarter (Herb Jones, Trey Murphy III and Jose Alvarado).

Brandon Ingram had 34 points on 11-of-19 shooting in a strong performance for New Orleans, and C.J. McCollum also contributed 30 points (11-of-23 shooting), but no other Pelican could score more than a dozen.

Bucks cruise without Middleton

The Milwaukee Bucks were shot out of a cannon and never allowed the Chicago Bulls a foothold into the game, winning 111-81 to take a 2-1 series lead.

With extended minutes due to Khris Middleton's knee injury, Grayson Allen set the tone to close the first quarter, scoring three consecutive three-pointers in just 62 seconds on his way to a game-high tally of 22 points.

With 1:15 to play in the first half, the Bucks opened up their lead to 60-37 as they dominated both ends of the floor.

Giannis Antetokounmpo only needed to play 29 minutes before getting an early rest, scoring 18 points (seven-of-12 shooting) with seven rebounds and nine assists, and the Bucks were plus 36 during his time on the floor.

After only playing six minutes in the Game 2 loss, Bobby Portis made his case for his playoff value with 18 points and 16 rebounds, hitting four of his eight three-point attempts.

Three-time All-Star Khris Middleton will miss the rest of the Milwaukee Bucks' first-round series against the Chicago Bulls after spraining a ligament in his left knee.

Middleton, 30, averaged 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game this season, but has been diagnosed with a sprained MCL after coming down awkwardly in the fourth quarter of Game 2 against the Bulls.

The scoring forward played a key role in the Bucks' championship last season, increasing his averages to 23 points, seven rebounds and five assists while playing over 40 minutes per contest during the 2020-21 postseason.

In the 16 games Middleton has missed this season, the Bucks are 7-9, going 3-5 on the road. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo has played in nine games this season without his All-Star teammate, and has scored 26.6 points per game at 49 per cent shooting – both down from his full-season averages of 29.9 points at 55 per cent.

However, in the one game this season between the Bucks and Bulls where Middleton was absent, Milwaukee dominated 126-98, as Jrue Holiday picked up the slack with 27 points and seven assists.

According to the Bucks, Middleton will be re-assessed in two weeks.

The series is locked at 1-1 after two games, and heads to Chicago for Game 3 and Game 4.

Giannis Antetokounmpo says being without Khris Middleton for any length of time would be a "tremendous loss" for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Middleton sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee during the fourth quarter of the Bucks' 114-110 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday.

Head coach Mike Budenholzer confirmed Middleton will undergo an MRI scan on Thursday to determine his status for the rest of the first-round playoff series, which is level at 1-1.

At the very least, the 30-year-old faces a race against time to be ready for Game 3 on Friday, and Antetokounmpo acknowledged that would be a huge blow for his side.

"We need this guy. When he asks for a sub, you know that it's bothering him because he doesn't leave the game," Antetokounmpo said.

"You expect him to get up and walk it off and get back to the game, but you see he was limping and limping and you're thinking like, 'Oh, I hope it's not bad, I hope it's not bad."

Middleton had scored 18 points and provided eight assists before leaving the game and has averaged 20.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists this season.

He averaged at least 21.5 points in the past four playoff series and had 24 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game in the NBA Finals.

"We have a job to do here," Antetokounmpo added. "Khris is one of the best players on the team, if he's not able to be with us, it's going to be a tremendous loss for us."

Antetokounmpo led the scoring for the Bucks with 33 points, but that was not enough as the Bulls – inspired by 41-point DeMar DeRozan – levelled up the series.

The Bucks also lost Bobby Portis in the first quarter after being caught in the face by an elbow from Tristan Thompson, but Budenholzer is optimistic he can make a swift return.

"We anticipate he should be fine with some time and that he should be good," Budenholzer said.

DeRozan's career playoff-high scoring return ensured the Bulls beat the third-seeded Bucks for just a second time in 19 meetings.

"No matter what you did in the regular season, this is a brand new start and new mindset," DeRozan said. 

"You could see it in all the guys. It doesn't matter if we'd lost 20 times to those guys. This is an opportunity for us to compete. We've got to take advantage of it."

The Boston Celtics overturned a 17-point deficit to go 2-0 up over the Brooklyn Nets in their playoff series, winning 114-107 on Wednesday.

The Nets' lack of off-ball movement eventually told against the NBA's best defensive team, as Kevin Durant scored 12 points in the second half but went zero-of-10 from the open floor and the Nets went 11-of-36 collectively.

Kyrie Irving shot one-of-seven after the main break and the Nets' iso-ball provided such a net loss, the second-half collapse came despite the Nets holding advantages in team rebounding, fast-break points and points off turnovers for the game.

Derrick White was the only Celtic not to score in double digits as Ime Udoka went with the eight-man rotation. Even with the relatively low 27 assists for the team, the Celtics still had a +11 margin over the Nets in that category.

Jayson Tatum was the only player on the floor with a double-double, putting up 19 points, 10 assists and six rebounds as the Celtics protected home court.

Sixers inch closer to series sweep

The Philadelphia 76ers took a commanding 3-0 lead in their series with the Toronto Raptors, claiming a 104-101 win in overtime on the road.

After protecting home court, the Sixers also fought their way back from a 17-point deficit to take a huge step towards claiming the first-round series.

With the game tied at 101, Joel Embiid scored the game-winning basket with 0.8 seconds remaining, evading Precious Achiuwa and receiving the inbound to bury a turnaround three-pointer off the catch.

The MVP candidate finished with 33 points on 12-of-20 shooting and 12 rebounds, while James Harden and Tyrese Maxey contributed 19 points each.

It was yet another poor shooting night for Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr, combining for 36 points but off 12-of-32 shooting from the floor, with VanVleet's two-of-10 from beyond the arc particularly damaging.

Bulls split series in Milwaukee

The Chicago Bulls have managed to split the opening two games and can potentially gain home-court advantage in the series after their 114-109 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

There was a sense the Bulls could take at least one game from Milwaukee after the opener, which saw them almost claim the win despite a horrible shooting night from Nikola Vucevic, DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine.

After a combined 21-of-71 in Game 1, the three Bulls bounced back with a combined 33-of-62 from the floor, while Alex Caruso gave them a reference point with primary ball-handling duties.

The Bucks just could not stop DeRozan getting to his mid-range spots and the five-time All-Star finished with 41 points. Caruso did a bit of everything on both ends with nine points and 10 assists as well as two blocks and two steals.

While Giannis Antetokounmpo put up 33 points, Milwaukee ultimately could not work their way back from a poor first half that opened up an 18-point deficit.

Jayson Tatum's buzzer-beating layup gave the Boston Celtics a dramatic 115-114 victory over the Brooklyn Nets in their series opener on Sunday.

Tatum scored 16 of his 31 points in the second half, along with adding eight assists, four rebounds, two blocks and a steal. His final two points came in the frenetic final seconds, cutting towards the basket off Kevin Durant for Marcus Smart, spinning past Kyrie Irving and finishing with as time expired.

Smart particularly showed poise, forcing the closeout from Bruce Brown and Nic Claxton before dishing, along with adding 20 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals.

While Irving scored a game-high 39 points for the Nets, Durant put up 23 points but went nine-of-24 from the floor, including some open, trailing looks in transition. One miss at 102-98 would have made it a three-possession game in Brooklyn's favour midway through the fourth quarter, but a miss leading to a Jaylen Brown dunk brought it back to one.

It was also at that point where Boston were zero-for-seven for the quarter from the floor, and momentum suddenly shifted.

Giannis yields Bucks win in opener

Giannis Antetokounmpo put up 26 points and 17 rebounds as the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Chicago Bulls 93-86.

The defending NBA champions blew a 16-point lead, but recovered with a Jrue Holiday triple that triggered an 8-0 run.

The Bulls still had their chances, with Zach LaVine missing a game-tying three-pointer with 29 seconds remaining in what was a rough shooting night. LaVine and DeMar DeRozan shot a combined 12-of-44 as the team connected on only 32.3 per cent of field goal attempts.

Red-hot Robinson gives Heat opening victory

Duncan Robinson set a franchise playoff record with eight three-pointers in a catch-and-shoot clinic, leading the Miami Heat to a 115-91 win against the Atlanta Hawks in their series opener.

Robinson scored 27 points on nine-of-10 shooting for the Eastern Conference's first seed, who had three players see over 20 minutes of game time off the bench.

Trae Young had his worst-ever shooting night for the Hawks, making one field goal out of 12 attempts, as well as committing six turnovers.

CP3 takes over for Suns

Chris Paul scored 19 points in a brilliant fourth quarter, as the Phoenix Suns secured a 110-99 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

As the Pelicans cut a 23-point deficit to single digits to two possessions, the Suns needed the 36-year-old, who eventually finish with 30 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and three steals.

Despite 25 points from CJ McCollum, the Pelicans finished with the unusual statistic of a better three-point field goal percentage (39.1) than total field goal percentage (37.9).

The Brooklyn Nets came back from a 21-point deficit to storm home in the second half, defeating the New York Knicks 

The Nets' defense struggled early on, conceding 38 points in just the second quarter on the way to trailing 67-50 at half-time.

Knicks' R.J. Barrett was the best player in the first half, and went on to finish with 23 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, but after his side peaked at a 71-50 lead one minute into the third period, it was all downhill from there.

Brooklyn would hold New York to just 31 points in the entire second half, snatching the lead in the fourth quarter and riding a hot shooting performance from Patty Mills in his return to form.

Mills hit five-of-seven from long range off the bench, including a deep contested step-back with the shot clock winding down late in the fourth quarter, while superstar Kevin Durant was spectacular throughout.

Durant scored 32 points on 11-of-22 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds to go with his 11 assists, while Barrett's shooting tailed off badly, finishing with figures of seven-of-27 from the field and two-of-11 from deep.

The win moves Brooklyn's record to 42-38, which is the same record as the Atlanta Hawks, but the Nets hold the tie-breaker and would finish in the eight seed if the season ended today.

 

Trae Young leads his Hawks in style

Atlanta has been arguably one of the league's most disappointing teams this year, but last season's Eastern Conference Finalists have found some form heading into the play-in tournament, beating the Washington Wizards 118-103 behind another spectacular showing from All-NBA point guard Trae Young.

Young, who in his past 10 games is averaging 29.7 points and 11.1 assists on shooting splits of 48/40/91, was again the best player on the floor against the Wizards, racking up an efficient 30 points (eight-of-17 shooting, 11-of-12 from the free throw line) to go with 11 assists.

Washington's Kristaps Porzingis also deserves a mention for his 26 points (eight-of-16 shooting) and 18 rebounds as the Wizards nearly broke even (minus three) in his 32 minutes played.

 

Celtics stifle struggling Bulls

The Boston Celtics have been the best defensive team in the NBA this season, and made life miserable for the Chicago Bulls for a 117-94 road win.

Both teams will make the playoffs, but while the Celtics have thrived in the second half of the season and look like a contender, the Bulls have stumbled, with no Chicago player scoring more than DeMar DeRozan's 16 points on six-of-16 shooting on Wednesday.

On a down night for Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown picked up the scoring load, finishing with 25 points on 10-of-21 shooting to go with four assists and four steals.

Chicago Bulls guard Lonzo Ball has been ruled out for the rest of the NBA season as he recovers from knee surgery.

The 24-year-old underwent an operation on his left knee in Los Angeles on January 28.

Chicago on Wednesday stated that Ball "continues to experience pain with high-level physical activity" and will not play again this season.

Ball will undergo treatment and rehabilitation on a daily basis to ensure he is ready for the start of the 2022-23 campaign.

The former Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans player was expected to return in six to eight weeks after going under the knife over two months ago.

He averaged 13 points, 5.1 assists and 5.4 rebounds for the Bulls this season.

The Bulls are sixth in the Eastern Conference and guaranteed a playoff place despite losing back-to-back games against the Miami Heat and the Milwaukee Bucks.

 

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