Joel Embiid scored 40 points but it was not enough to prevent the Philadelphia 76ers from slumping to a 0-3 start to the new NBA season after a 114-105 home loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday.

James Harden had minimal impact in the second half as Spurs small forward Doug McDermott took control with an eight-point burst, capping his 14 points, which all came in the second half.

The 76ers, who had been beaten by contenders, the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks, to open their season, squandered Embiid's huge game where he shot 14-of-25 from the field and hauled down 13 rebounds with two blocks.

Harden only added 12 points on four-of-18 shooting, making one-of-six three-point attempts. The former MVP provided 12 assists with nine rebounds and two blocks, but was inconspicuous in the second half with the game up for grabs, with the Spurs defense denying him good looks.

Tyrese Maxey contributed 25 points for the 76ers, including three triples, but Philadelphia slumped to their first 0-3 start since 2016-17.

Devin Vassell (22 points with nine-of-14 field shooting, including four three-pointers) and Keldon Johnson (21 points with eight rebounds) were San Antonio's most productive offensive players.

Mitchell betters LeBron start for Cavs

Donovan Mitchell scored 32 points as he claimed his first win as a Cleveland Cavaliers player in their 128-96 victory over the Chicago Bulls in their home season opener.

Mitchell achieved a feat that not even LeBron James could, becoming the first Cavs player with back-to-back 30-point games to open a season.

The All-Star, who made a high-profile trade from the Utah Jazz to the Cavs in the off-season, landed four-of-six from beyond the arc with nine rebounds and eight assists.

Zach LaVine returned after off-season knee surgery that forced him to miss Chicago's opening two games to top score for the Bulls with 23 points.

Giannis powers Bucks past Rockets

Giannis Antetokounmpo only needed 28 minutes to put on an MVP-like display as the Milwaukee Bucks routed the Houston Rockets 125-105 in their home opener at Fiserv Forum.

Antetokounmpo scored 44 points, shooting 17-of-21 from the field with two three-pointers, along with 12 rebounds and three assists.

The Greek forward became Milwaukee's all-time free throws leader, shooting eight-of-13 from the stripe to exceed Sidney Moncrief's 3,505 record, before sitting out with 8:08 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Jayson Tatum also scored 40 points to lead the 3-0 Boston Celtics past the 0-3 Orlando Magic 126-120, while Paul George had 40 in the Los Angeles Clippers' 111-109 win over the Sacramento Kings.

A stunning 49-point outburst from Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant carried his side back from a 16-point first-half deficit to defeat the Houston Rockets 129-122 on Friday.

Morant had 18 points and six assists in the first half, but the rest of the Grizzlies were struggling, falling into a 42-26 hole early in the second quarter before trimming the margin to 70-62 at halftime.

The second pick from the 2021 NBA Draft, Jalen Green, showed why Rockets fans are so excited as he piled up 33 points on 13-of-21 shooting while going four-of-five from long range, but Morant was matching him step-for-step before running away late.

Memphis won the fourth quarter 34-22 as the Rockets ran out of gas, with Morant finishing 17-of-26 from the field, and five-of-six from long range, while adding eight assists, four rebounds, two blocks and a steal. He had 31 in the second half, and only a missed free throw in the fourth quarter kept him from scoring 50.

In an eye-catching performance, second-year center Alperen Sengun tallied 23 points (nine-of-13 shooting) with 12 rebounds in 27 minutes off the Houston bench.

Beal wins it for the Wizards

The Washington Wizards are now 2-0 after a Bradley Beal game-winner with seven seconds remaining handed his side a 102-100 win over the Chicago Bulls.

Chicago trailed by nine points with less than five minutes to play, but from that point on DeMar DeRozan dropped 11 of his 32 points (11-of-23 shooting), tying things up at 98-98 with a minute remaining after a pair of free throws.

Beal answered back with a layup, and DeRozan leveled the score again with a dunk, before Beal sank the dagger to finish with 19 points (nine-of-14 shooting) and eight assists. DeRozan had a chance to win it with a three-pointer on the buzzer, but could not deliver.

Brown and Tatum carry the Celtics

The combination of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum proved too much for the Miami Heat to overcome, with the duo combining for 57 points in the Boston Celtics' 111-104 triumph.

Tatum finished with 29 points on 10-of-22 shooting, getting to the line and hitting all seven of his free throws, while Brown was more efficient from the field, hitting 12-of-18 shots for 28 points after they scored 35 each in Boston's season opener.

The Heat could not survive in the minutes center Bam Adebayo had to sit down, as the big man posted 19 points (eight-of-11 shooting) with eight rebounds, five assists, two steals and a plus/minus of plus 20 in his 35 minutes. Unfortunately for Miami, they were minus 26 in the 12 minutes he was on the bench.

Simmons banks first win as a Net

The Brooklyn Nets won their first game with Ben Simmons as they defeated the Toronto Raptors 109-105 at home.

Simmons was solid without contributing much on the scoreboard, finishing with six points (three-of-five shooting), but he grabbed 10 rebounds, dished eight assists and blocked two shots.

Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant carried the scoring load, as Irving top-scored, producing 30 points on 11-of-24 shooting while adding seven assists, while Durant hit eight-of-18 shots for 27 points and six assists.

Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan is optimistic Lonzo Ball's latest knee surgery will address his ongoing discomfort but refused to put a timeframe on his return.

Bulls guard Ball on Wednesday underwent a second arthroscopic surgery on the knee which has seen him sidelined since January.

Ball revealed on Tuesday that he is still unable to run or jump due to the pain in his left knee.

Donovan said Ball's operation "went well", although he was cautious to commit to any timeline on a return to practice or playing.

"You always try to stay optimistic that this will get resolved and he'll be fine," he said.

"But until he gets back and gets into the situations that were causing him pain, to see how he responds in being back in those situations, we'll find out more.

"I don't know how long it will take before he can actually start the rehab process."

Prior to Wednesday's procedure, the Bulls had announced they would re-evaluate Ball's status in four to six weeks, meaning he is unlikely to play in the NBA until November at the earliest, given he has not played since January 14.

"You've also got a player that's been out for nine months," Donovan said. "It's not like in three weeks, the surgery is a success, you can just throw him back out there and play.

"We haven't even gotten to the point if this all goes well with the rhythm, timing, the flow, catching up.

"He's had no competitive play since [January]. So that's a whole other scenario of when he could actually get back."

The Bulls are due to open their NBA campaign against the Miami Heat on October 19.

Ball, who was taken with the second pick overall in the 2017 NBA Draft, moved to the Bulls from the New Orleans Pelicans in August last year, averaging 13.0 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists across 35 games in the 2021-22 season.

Chicago Bulls guard Lonzo Ball is still unable to run or jump without pain in his surgically repaired left knee and will undergo a second arthroscopic surgery, ESPN reported Tuesday.  

His discomfort remains nearly 10 months on from his initial injury back in January, with Ball telling the media it is nothing like he has ever experienced before. The operation is scheduled for Wednesday.  

"There was a point where we would warm up and stuff, and I would go through certain days and it would be fine," Ball told reporters Tuesday. "Then whenever I got to real basketball activities, I just couldn't do it.  

"Unfortunately, this is what's at hand and has to be dealt with. We feel like surgery, again, is the best option." 

The Bulls said that they will reevaluate Ball in four to six weeks, but neither the team nor Ball himself was willing to put a timeline on the point guard’s return from a third career surgery on his left knee.  

"For me, this will be my third surgery, so this time around I really don't want to rush anything," Ball said.  

Ball’s continued pain and stunted recovery have been both a surprise and a mystery to his medical team as he continues to struggle with some day-to-day activities, including walking up stairs.  

"From my understanding they're going in there to see what it is, because it's not necessarily showing up on the MRI," Ball said. "It's clear that there's something there that's not right, so they're going to go in, look at it, and whatever needs to be done is going to be done. 

"I've never felt pain like this or was able to ramp up a little bit but never fully, so definitely a unique situation. The doctors and the Bulls, we're all trying to figure out what it is." 

Despite the considerable setback, Ball does not believe the injury will sideline him for the entire season.  

"That's not in my mind right now, but that would be the worst-case scenario," Ball said. "I'm at a point now where I know I can't get back out there until I'm comfortable playing and can actually play. So whenever that day comes, that's when I'll have the jersey back on." 

The news comes as the Bulls practiced for the first time in preparation for the 2022-23 season. Chicago hopes to improve on last season when they started hot but ended up as the Eastern Conference’s No. 6 seed and losing their first-round playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks in five games. 

Chicago Bulls guard Lonzo Ball will be sidelined for the next four-to-six weeks after undergoing an arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, the team announced on Wednesday.

Ball, 24, last played in January before he tore his meniscus, and at the time he was given a six-to-eight week recovery time, but the pain persisted and kept him out of the final months of the season.

The former second overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft was in the midst of a career-best shooting season with the Bulls, with his 42.3 per cent shooting from beyond the arc on 7.4 attempts per game marking the first time he has ever posted a three-point percentage above 37.8.

He was also averaging 13 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists and was one of the best defensive guards in the league, tallying 1.8 steals per game.

The Bulls are scheduled to kick off their season on October 19 against the Miami Heat, so his current injury timeline makes it incredibly unlikely that he will be ready for the start of the season, with November a more realistic target.

Ball is entering the second year of a four-year, $80million contract, with the fourth year being a player option that Ball can decide to void if he feels he can secure a larger long-term deal.

Giannis Antetokounmpo says only a "liar" would state that they do not want to play for the Chicago Bulls but he is committed to the Milwaukee Bucks for now.

Antetokounmpo has only ever played for the Bucks in the NBA and signed a blockbuster new long-term deal contract in December 2020.

The two-time NBA MVP is not contemplating leaving Milwaukee but gave a frank answer when asked if playing for the Bulls would interest him.

Antetokounmpo told Fox 32 Chicago Sports: "I think anybody you ask that question that plays basketball, if he said no he would be a liar.

"It's a team that won multiple championships, it's a team that one of the greatest players [Michael Jordan], if not the greatest player, to play this game played for.

"So, it's a no-brainer, everybody would love to play for Chicago. Down the line you never know.

"Maybe I'll play for Chicago, but right now I'm committed to Milwaukee."

Zach LaVine is targeting an NBA championship with the Chicago Bulls after the All-Star guard sealed his five-year contract extension with the team.

Not since the Michael Jordan-led glory years of the 1990s have the Bulls reigned above the rest in the NBA.

Their six championships in that decade account for all the NBA titles that the Bulls have won, and there have been lean times since then.

They halted a run of four seasons without a playoffs appearance by making it to the postseason in 2021-22, only to fall in the first round to the Milwaukee Bucks.

LaVine has agreed to a five-season, $215.2million maximum extension, and the former Minnesota Timberwolves man has high hopes for what may lie ahead.

He said: "Individually, I'm wanting to keep pushing myself to reach higher and higher things. If it isn't All-NBAs, if it isn't MVPs, team-wise, it's win a championship.

"I think there's nothing above that. You've heard me say individual things come with winning, and the better and better we get as a team, and I keep pushing myself to get better as a player, those things can match up."

 

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 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.

The Bulls are retaining a core that also includes 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.

Speaking about his max contract, LaVine said: "There's no extra added pressure. It's just who I am, and what goals and what things I want to reach, and how much better can we get as a team."

He added: "Chicago is my home. We've built something over the last two, three [years]. Being able to come back as a cornerstone piece and allowing them to get some of my insights, some of my input in constructing the roster to help me and help us win, was really big for me."

LaVine said there was "no other reason for me to go outside and look at any other teams", suggesting that would have been "disrespectful on my end because they gave me everything that I asked for".

He said he still gave plenty of thought to what he wanted.

"But my heart was in Chicago," LaVine said.

After undergoing knee surgery in May, LaVine is optimistic he will be in prime shape for next season.

"I feel way better. I've been rehabbing, working out, playing, lifting, doing all the good stuff and boring stuff, too," he said. "I feel really good, and over the next two months, getting back into the season, I feel like I'm gonna be even better."

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.

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