LeBron James showed no rust on Saturday in his return to competitive basketball at the Drew League, while former team-mate Kyrie Irving was a no-show after being expected to take the court. 

James had 42 points, 16 rebounds and four steals while teaming with Chicago Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan at the Drew League, a pro-am event held every summer in the Los Angeles area. 

It was James' first action since missing seven of the Los Angeles Lakers' final eight games due to a sprained ankle. James appeared in just 56 games in 2021-22 as he dealt with ankle, knee and abdominal injuries. 

However, he managed to average 30.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 6.2 assists for a Lakers team that missed the playoffs with a 33-49 record. 

"I'm 100 percent healthy," James told ESPN on Saturday in his first appearance at the Drew League since 2011. 

Irving, meanwhile, was expected to play in the event but instead attended a camp hosted by Lakers assistant coach Phil Handy. 

"They were pretty sure he was coming," Drew League Commissioner Dino Smiley told NBA.com of Irving's representatives. "But you know how Kyrie is. I guess he changed his mind in the middle of it."

James and Irving won an NBA title with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, and rumours have been swirling that they could be reunited in Los Angeles. 

Irving recently exercised his $36.5million player option for next season with the Brooklyn Nets, but with Kevin Durant requesting a trade out of Brooklyn, the Nets could be looking to move Irving as well. 

ESPN has reported that the Nets and Lakers have been in talks about a deal that would send Irving to Los Angeles and Russell Westbrook to Brooklyn. 

"In order to get great talent, you have to give up a lot of great talent and value in draft picks," Lakers president Jeanie Buss told NBA.com. "Every team is sophisticated and smart. Nobody is just asleep at the wheel. 

"Everybody is just trying to make their team better. Some teams are pivoting from a path they were on and want to deal because they have players that don't fit what their plans are. So it's a fluid situation. You always have to stay on top of it."

Kevin Durant has requested a trade away from the Brooklyn Nets, according to widespread reports.

With free agency due to start later on Thursday, the day's biggest story is certain to centre around the former MVP.

Durant is under contract until 2026, but ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said Nets general manager Sean Marks was working with the player and his business manager Rich Kleiman to find a trade.

The 12-time All-Star forward is now 33 yet would command a huge trade package.

Wojnarowski described Durant as "one of the most valuable trade assets ever on the market". He added the Nets had taken calls and would expect "a historic return on players and draft picks".

The Phoenix Suns and the Miami Heat have been listed among potential destinations.

Murmurings of discontent around Durant, who joined the Nets from the Golden State Warriors in a 2019 sign-and-trade, had emerged in recent weeks.

Durant had sought to turn the Nets into a contender when he and close friend Kyrie Irving went to Brooklyn, where they were later joined by James Harden.

But the 'big three' did not deliver, and Harden was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers last season as Irving spent an extended period on the sideline after refusing a coronavirus vaccine.

Irving eventually returned to play and has opted in to his contract with the Nets, but Durant now appears determined to force his way out.

The two-time champion and two-time Finals MVP would likely make any suitors a major threat in the 2022-23 season.

Kyrie Irving has exercised his $37 million player option with the Brooklyn Nets for next season, confirming his decision on Monday.

The move ends any chance of a sign-and-trade deal and takes Irving off the market when the free agency negotiating period begins on Thursday.

Locking in the enigmatic Irving ends speculation of him fleeing—for now, at least.

Earlier this off-season, Irving had given the Nets a list of approved destinations if a sign-and-trade deal were to happen. The only team on the list that explored acquiring Irving was the Los Angeles Lakers, ESPN reported earlier Monday.

“Normal people keep the world going, but those who dare to be different lead us into tomorrow,” Irving told The Athletic. “I've made my decision to opt in. See you in the fall. A11even.”

Irving has played just 103 of a possible 226 games since signing with Brooklyn in the 2019 off-season.

Irving chose not to receive any COVID-19 vaccinations, leaving him unable to play for much of last season due to municipal regulations in New York. He played 29 games in 2021-22, averaging 27.4 points and 5.8 assists.

It always feels somewhat presumptuous to talk about an NBA Draft in the immediate aftermath and judge who did well and who did not. Surely, we have to wait to see how things play out and whether players with immense potential are able to fulfil it?

However, what you can do is judge those who, on paper at least, seem to have struck gold and those who appeared to stumble through their Thursday evening and may well have come away disappointed with their haul.

The night started off delightfully chaotically as the Orlando Magic went against the widely predicted number one pick of Jabari Smith Jr and instead brought in Paolo Banchero.

Now the dust has settled after an interesting night, Stats Perform has taken a look at the potential winners and losers of the draft.

Winners

Houston Rockets

The Rockets could probably not believe their luck when the Magic decided to opt for Banchero. The Italian-American would have still been a fine first-round pick, but given the choice it seems like Houston would rather have taken Smith Jr, and they had the chance to do just that.

The youngster was a disruptive defender for Aubern, and clearly has sound fundamentals, a result no doubt of growing up in and around basketball, with his father Jabari Smith Sr a former NBA player himself.

Smith Jr averaged 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists while shooting 42.9 per cent from the floor and 42 per cent from the three-point line in 2021-22, and should dovetail nicely with Alperen Sengun, a first-round pick from last year.

The Rockets also took Tari Eason, a breakout star at LSU, and TyTy Washington, a high-quality and versatile option who was expected to be picked up earlier in the night.

Detroit Pistons

A very similar moment of fortune fell for the Pistons as their top choice Jaden Ivey was surprisingly still available when it came to their number five pick, with the Sacramento Kings instead taking Keegan Murray.

In two seasons at Purdue, Ivey showed himself to be a top-five prospect with a well-rounded game, though questions persist about the consistency of his shooting. He averaged 17.3 points per game last season, though, with a field goal percentage of 46.0.

Detroit were also involved in a three-way trade with the Charlotte Hornets and the New York Knicks. This ended with them procuring Jalen Duren and Kemba Walker in exchange for their 2025 first-round pick, having acquired it as part of the Jerami Grant trade to the Portland Trail Blazers earlier in the week.

Walker is expected to be bought out of his contract and become a free agent, so it looks like sound dealing to essentially trade a first-round pick to get Duren through the door, who averaged 12.0 points and 8.1 rebounds per game for the Memphis Tigers last season.

San Antonio Spurs

Nothing outrageous from the Spurs, but on the face of it, they ended the night with three solid picks.

Jeremy Sochan became the first British player to be picked in NBA Draft in over 10 years. As a freshman at Baylor, Sochan averaged 9.2 points and 6.4 rebounds in 25.1 minutes per game, making 47.4 per cent of his field goal attempts.

As that average suggests, one aspect to his game that could be improved is his shooting, but San Antonio's Chip Engelland is one of the best shooting coaches in the game and could well help the young man who was raised in Milton Keynes, England.

Malaki Branham looks a smart choice as the number 20 pick from Ohio State, with his one college season seeing him average 13.7 points on 49.8 per cent shooting, while Blake Wesley from Notre Dame also has the potential to also be a valuable arrival.

Losers

New York Knicks

After a poor season that felt like it would at least set them up for a productive draft, the Knicks appeared to overthink things at the draft, or underthink them depending on your viewpoint.

They decided to trade their number 11 pick for three future first-round picks, though none that really hold any value.

They managed to get Walker's contract out the door to the Pistons to free up some salary space, seemingly putting all their eggs in the Jalen Brunson basket, or potentially even Kyrie Irving. However, they only saved $9.2m from Walker's contract, which is not a lot considering they gave up one of their first-round picks. 

Who knows if it will pay off, but Knicks fans were almost certainly expecting more.

Washington Wizards

There was nothing particularly wrong with the picks from the Wizards, but as harsh as it may sound, they are in danger of becoming the NBA's dullest team.

A win percentage of 0.427 was down from 0.472 in 2020-21, and it felt like they might need to take a bit of a risk in the draft with their number 10 pick.

Johnny Davis is a fine player, averaging 19.7 points per game for the Wisconsin Badgers last year, the 25th highest in the college game, but someone like Duren could have been a roll of the dice for something to boost that win percentage sometime soon.

Who knows? It could be a sound strategy, but to be frank, it is a strategy that has not been working for the last few years in Washington.

Sacramento Kings

There is some sympathy with the situation the Kings were put in as the extremely obvious pick at four was Ivey, who had expressly said he did not want to go to Sacramento, so they went with Murray instead.

Murray is a fine prospect himself, and arguably a better fit than Ivey for the Kings, but the latter felt like an opportunity to at the very least have significant trade leverage.

Murray did average the fourth-highest points per game average last year with 23.5 for Iowa, while also adding 8.7 rebounds per game, so comes in as a promising addition.

Ivey will inevitably feel like the one who got away if he does what many think he will at Detroit, though, which could bring back memories of when Sacramento failed to take on Luka Doncic in 2018.

The Brooklyn Nets could be set to lose their two biggest stars with Kyrie Irving eyeing up other teams and Kevin Durant monitoring the situation, according to multiple reports. 

By June 29, Irving must decide whether to take up his $36.5million player option for the 2022-23 season or opt out and test free agency or sign a new deal with the Nets. 

Talks are understood to be at an impasse and ESPN reported on Thursday that if an agreement cannot be reached, the seven-time All-Star would pursue a sign-and-trade. 

It was claimed the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks, Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks and Philadelphia 76ers were on Irving's list of favoured destinations. 

According to The Athletic, the uncertainty surrounding the Nets has led to Durant considering his future with the franchise. 

Durant signed an extension through the 2025-26 season last year, but would reportedly seek a trade if Irving departed. 

Irving is said to have engaged in conversations with former Cleveland Cavaliers team-mate LeBron James about a reunion at the Lakers. The pair led the Cavaliers to the NBA championship in 2016, but parted ways the following season. 

Across the three seasons they have both been in Brooklyn, Irving and Durant have only played a total of 58 games together. 

Durant sat out the entire 2019-20 season due to an Achilles injury, while he missed significant time in each of the following two campaigns through hamstring and knee problems respectively. 

Irving, meanwhile, was a bit-part player for much of 2021-22 after he refused to comply with the New York City COVID-19 vaccine mandate. 

Michael Jordan has company at last.

The Chicago Bulls legend was for a long time the only player to average more than 30 points per game in the NBA playoffs, yet Luka Doncic is now writing his own name into the history books in Dallas.

The Mavericks superstar has a long way to go before he can come anywhere close to matching Jordan's achievements, but he has been spectacular in scoring 32.7 points per game through his first four postseason series.

Not only is Jordan (33.4 points per game) the sole player to top Doncic's mark across a playoff career, he alone since 1963-64 joins the former EuroLeague sensation in scoring more than 750 points over his first 23 postseason games (823 for Jordan, 751 for Doncic).

These look to be early steps in a truly great NBA career for Doncic, and he could yet end this season as a champion.

The Slovenian was outgunned taking on the Los Angeles Clippers on his own in the first round in consecutive years, but the Mavericks made bold moves this year – most notably appointing Jason Kidd and trading away Kristaps Porzingis – and are now in the Western Conference Finals.

Although Doncic averaged 32.6 points as the Mavericks beat the Phoenix Suns in the second round, he crucially had help, now surrounded with defense and shooting.

Dallas held the Suns to their three lowest points totals of the season (94 in Game 3, 90 in Game 7, 86 in Game 6), while Doncic and Spencer Dinwiddie became the first team-mates to each score 30 points in a Game 7 since Los Angeles Lakers greats Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal against the Sacramento Kings in 2002.

As the tournament heats up, Doncic will need all the assistance he can get – but any Mavericks title run surely depends on their main man being the best player in every series.

That becomes a little tougher when Dallas are faced next with playoff veterans the Golden State Warriors.

This is the 10th year of the Steph-Klay-Draymond Warriors, in which time they have been to five NBA Finals, won three championships and seen off a whole host of superstars.

There are plenty of examples for Doncic to learn from then as he prepares to take on the greatest team of the past decade.

LeBron James (33.0 points per game, 7-15 record)

Ja Morant, who scored 35 points against Golden State in last year's play-in tournament, averaged 38.3 points across three games in the 2022 second round until a knee injury ended his series and, ultimately, the Memphis Grizzlies' season. That is the highest mark posted against the Warriors in the past 10 years, albeit with a limited sample size.

Among those to play 10 or more games, James (33.0 points per game) leads the way. Equally as impressive, the four-time MVP has the most total playoff points versus the Warriors since 2012 (727) – despite spending the bulk of his career in the Eastern Conference.

 

James did score 22 in a Lakers play-in win over the Warriors in 2021, but all of their 22 postseason encounters have come across four Finals series. Unfortunately, while James has excelled, his teams have not fared quite so well.

Prior to Morant's explosion, James accounted for three of the four highest series averages against the Warriors over this period – 35.8 in 2015, 34.0 in 2018 and 33.6 in 2017 – but the Cleveland Cavaliers lost on each occasion. Their one Finals win came in 2016, when James scored 29.7 points per game.

James had a little more help in 2016 – we'll come on to that – and the Cavaliers' various failures perhaps best illustrate the folly of Doncic attempting to take on a super-team alone.

The 51 points James scored in Game 1 in 2018 were the most against the Warriors in a single playoff game in the past 10 years, but he was let down by his team-mates – we're looking at you, J.R. Smith – and Cleveland not only lost that series opener but were then swept.

James Harden (29.8 points per game, 7-16 record)

Harden's playoff career is best known for his repeated failures to get the better of the Warriors, losing all of his four series against Golden State while on the Houston Rockets, yet only James has scored more points in such matchups since 2012 (685).

Counted among Harden's 23 postseason games against the Warriors in the past 10 years – only Iman Shumpert (24) has played more – are three 41-plus-point performances. James alone can top that (five games).

However, Harden has also failed to reach 20 points on five occasions, twice shooting worse than 20 per cent from the field in 2015. Consistency is the key at this time of year, and Harden has not had that.

The Rockets blew their biggest opportunity to make a first Finals since 1995 in 2018, when they led the Warriors 3-2 in the Conference Finals before Chris Paul went down injured. Houston lost Game 6 and Game 7, collapsing dramatically in the first of the two defeats as Harden did not contribute a single fourth-quarter point.

Doncic, unsurprisingly, has never shot worse than 20 per cent in the playoffs, while his best shooting performance (63.2 per cent) came in Game 7 against the Suns and his career-high points total came in Game 7 against the Los Angeles Clippers (46).

Kyrie Irving (27.7 points per game, 5-8 record)

Given Irving was the Cavaliers' second man behind James, it is difficult to draw a direct comparison with Doncic. But the point guard's performances show the sort of levels Dinwiddie or Jalen Brunson may have to reach to beat the Warriors if they are at the top of their game.

Irving's 2015 Finals debut ended in Game 1 when he sustained a fractured kneecap, but he returned in 2016 and played a huge role in the Cavaliers' historic win.

Cleveland were trailing 3-1 heading into Game 5 – a deficit that had never previously been overturned – only for Irving and James each to score 41 points, becoming the first team-mates to both top 40 in a Finals game. Irving shot 70.8 per cent from the field.

As the Cavaliers recovered to win 4-3, with Irving shooting a decisive three late in Game 7, his usage rate was a lofty 30.7 per cent for the series, taking responsibility off James' shoulders. Brunson is the Mavericks' second man, although his usage rate of 29.7 per cent was boosted a little by playing three games without the ball-dominant Doncic.

Damian Lillard (27.6 points per game, 1-12 record)

If nothing else, Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers provide an example of how not to play the Warriors. Only former Blazers team-mate Rodney Hood (0-12) has a worse record in playoff games against Golden State in the past 10 years.

A 43.7 per cent career shooter, Lillard has averaged 38.7 per cent from the field against the Warriors in the postseason. Sure, he has scored 27.6 points, but it has taken him 22.1 field goal attempts per game.

When Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are on the other side of the floor, you cannot afford to be so inefficient. Lillard's sole victory in 2016 came courtesy of his one 40-point performance – while Curry was out injured.

Only Allen Iverson (26.5) and Jordan (25.1) have attempted more field goals per playoff game than Doncic (24.3), so there is definitely scope for the Warriors to profit if he cools off – not that there has been a great deal of evidence to suggest that is likely.

Kawhi Leonard (21.9 points per game, 8-5 record)

The man who has occupied Doncic's playoff nightmares in the previous two seasons surely provides the blueprint for how to enjoy postseason success against the Warriors.

Leonard has played on two of the four teams to eliminate Golden State from the playoffs in the past 10 years; he has not lost a series to the Warriors – missing the entirety of their 4-1 defeat of the San Antonio Spurs in 2018 – and boasts the best winning percentage of any player to face Steve Kerr's winning machine on more than 10 occasions over this period.

The 2019 Finals showed the sort of standard that has been required to get the better of the Warriors in the past decade, with Leonard dominant as the outstanding player on the Toronto Raptors. He led the Raptors in points (171), rebounds (59) and steals (12) versus the Warriors, ranking second in assists (25) and blocks (seven).

 

Doncic made strides on defense over the course of the Suns series, but whether he is capable of such an all-round display is very much up for debate.

Naomi Osaka has told Kyrie Irving there is "always room" after the NBA star asked if "hoopers" were welcome in her new agency.

The four-time grand slam winner – who withdrew from the Internazionali d'Italia this week due to an Achilles injury she suffered at the Madrid Open – announced on Wednesday she was leaving IMG to start her own agency, Evolve, with long-time agent Stuart Duguid.

Duguid told Reuters the venture will be a "small boutique and bespoke agency" that will only welcome athletes "who transcend their sports; or those with the potential to do so".

Irving is one of the leading players in the NBA, and the Brooklyn Nets star hinted at his interest on Twitter, messaging Osaka on Wednesday to ask: "yall got room over at your agency for hoopers. Just inquiring" with an emoji of two champagne flutes clinking together.

Osaka replied on Thursday simply saying: "always room" with the same champagne emoji as well as one of a basketball.

The 24-year-old said on Wednesday that the move was to make the "next step" in her journey "as an athlete and a businesswoman", telling Sportico: "I've spent my career doing things my way, even when people told me that it wasn't what was expected or traditional.

"Evolve is the natural next step in my journey as both an athlete and businesswoman, as well as a way to continue being myself and doing things my way."

Ben Simmons will have surgery to help treat the pain caused by a herniated disc, with the Brooklyn Nets expecting his recovery to take at least three months.

Simmons, the 2020-21 Defensive Player of the Year runner-up, did not play a game in the 2021-22 season, encountering more back pain as he tried to ramp up to a return in the playoffs.

A statement released by the Nets highlighted that the surgery he will receive is called a microdiscectomy. 

It was a disappointing season for the Nets, who began the year as the favourites to win the Eastern Conference, but struggled throughout as Kyrie Irving was absent for the first portion of the season, and James Harden was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for a package around Simmons.

In the playoffs, the Nets were swept in the first round by the Boston Celtics, who are now the Eastern Conference favourites.

While Kyrie Irving highlighted in his last post-game press conference of the playoffs that there will be plenty of roster turnover as he and Kevin Durant "co-manage" the offseason along with the front office, he indicated Simmons was seen as a core building block.

Kyrie Irving confirmed he will remain with the Brooklyn Nets after a disappointing first-round 4-0 sweep against the Boston Celtics.

Irving scored 20 points with five rebounds and five assists in the decisive 116-112 Game 4 loss on Monday.

The mercurial guard has a player option in his contract for the 2022-23 season, which means he can decide whether to stay for the $36million he has agreed to, or he could void the last year and enter negotiations for a long-term deal with the Nets, or any other team with cap space.

When asked in his post-game press conference, Irving said: "I don't really plan on going anywhere."

He later took it even further as he spoke about rebuilding the team through his "co-management relationship" with the Nets front office.

"I don't really plan on going anywhere – this is added motivation for our franchise to be at the top of the league for the next few years," he said.

"When I say I'm here with 'Kev' [Kevin Durant], I think that it really entails us managing this franchise together alongside [owner] Joe [Tsai] and [general manager] Sean [Marks], and just our group of family members that we have in our locker room and our organisation.

"I think we've just got to make some moves this offseason – and really talk about, and really be intentional about, what we're building.

"We'll just have fun building it, having that creative process. It's a co-management relationship, and you see that the players need to gel. You can't have these little lulls of uncertainty… [we have to] be intentional about who's in our locker room, and how we're going to be leading.

"There's no question about where I'm going, or how this is going to happen. I'm here with [Durant], but also I'm here to build a great team.

"Individually I've been recognised for my greatness, but at this point in my career I really just want to be part of a great team, and dominate that way, without focusing on any individual accolades or achievements. Just really build something special."

When discussing how he felt about the outcome of the season, Irving said he would use it as fuel, but admitted there were points in the season that he felt he was letting down his teammates.

"Just disappointment, sadness. But more importantly, on the positive side, it's motivation," he said. "It's burning in my heart right now.

"I know so many people wanted to see us fail at this juncture… and have so much to say at this point, so I'm just using that as fuel for the summer.

"I think it was just really heavy emotionally this season. We all felt it.

"I felt like I was letting the team down at a point where I wasn't able to play. We were trying to exercise every option for me to play, but I never wanted it to just be about me. I think it became a distraction at times."

Irving was unavailable for home games until late March due to his refusal to accept a COVID-19 vaccination.

He added: "We just had some drastic changes. We lost a franchise player – and we got a franchise player back – but we didn't get a chance to see him on the floor."

Irving discussed issues such as allowing outside noise to seep into the locker room and repeated calls for more mental toughness, but he made sure to support embattled All-Star Ben Simmons. Simmons did not make his Nets debut in Game 4, as had been initially anticipated, as he battles to overcome a back problem.

"There was no pressure for [Simmons] to step on the floor with us, either," Irving said. "Ben's good, we have his back, and he's going to be good for next year.

"But now we just turn the page, and look forward to what we're building as a franchise, and really get tougher.

"This is a league that's getting younger, it's getting more athletic, it's getting taller, and more competitive. These young guys are hungry out here. You see it, I could feel it, so it's added motivation when you get swept like this.

"Now we just look to the future as a team and what we can accomplish for the next few years – and I get excited about that."

Kevin Durant accepts it is down to him to step up and rescue the Brooklyn Nets' playoff series after struggling once again as his side fell 2-0 down to the Boston Celtics.

The 12-time NBA All-Star went zero-of-10 from the field in the second half, which is the most field attempts without a make in any half during his career.

While Durant did manage to score 12 points in the second half, it was not enough as the Celtics overturned a 17-point deficit to prevail 114-107 on Wednesday.

He is now 13-for-40 from the field in the series, having also struggled in the Nets' 115-114 loss in Game 1.

"It's on me to just finish it and figure it out," Durant said when asked about his latest underwhelming display. 

"I'm not expecting my team-mates or the defense to give me anything. I've just got to go out there and play."

Despite being targeted by multiple players, Durant still led the scoring with 27 points at TD Garden as he finished 18-of-20 from the free throw line.

 

Rather than complain about opposition tactics, though, the 33-year-old hopes to find a solution in time for Game 3 in Brooklyn on Saturday.

"They're playing two, three guys off me sometimes on me when I'm off the ball," Durant said. "They're mucking up actions when I run off stuff.

"I see [Al] Horford leaving his man to come over and hit me sometimes. Two or three guys hit me wherever I go. And that's just the nature of the beast in the playoffs. 

"I feel like I got a couple good shots there in the fourth that just didn't go down, but I see a few of their guys around me every time I get the ball.

"So I got to be more patient, but also play fast sometimes, too."

Kyrie Irving, who added 10 points for the Nets, believes the blame should be shared on the back of successive defeats.

"We're going against the No. 1 team in defense in the league. They've proven it, so it's not going to be easy, but it can be done," he said.

"I've got to get [Durant] to his spots and make the game a lot easier, and I believe I can do that with the assistance of the coaches and having a game plan to attack this defense."

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.

Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving has been fined $50,000 for flipping off Boston Celtics fans twice during Sunday's Game 1.

Irving, who was with the Celtics from 2017 and 2019, scored 39 points as the Brooklyn Nets lost 115-114 to the Celtics after Jayson Tatum's buzzer-beating game-winner.

The NBA announced the sanction on Tuesday in a release, where president of league operations Byron Spruell said Irving was fined for "making obscene gestures on the playing court and directing profane language toward the spectator stands."

The 30-year-old was open after Sunday's defeat about his response to the Boston fans.

"When people start yelling 'p---y' or 'b----' and 'f--- you' and all this stuff, there's only but so much you take as a competitor," Irving said.

"We're the ones expected to be docile and be humble, take a humble approach, f--- that, it's the playoffs. This is what it is."

Kyrie Irving has been fined $50,000 by the NBA after appearing to raise his middle finger to fans on two separate occasions during Game 1 of the Brooklyn Nets' playoffs opener against the Boston Celtics.

Irving defended his actions during the Nets' 115-114 loss to the Celtics on Sunday.

The 30-year-old, who played for Boston for two turbulent seasons before a sour exit in 2019, has been regularly booed by fans at the TD Garden, and the ill-feeling has only intensified with each meeting.

Irving scored a game-high 39 points in Sunday's loss, and insisted he was only reciprocating the feedback from the Celtics fans.

"Look, where I'm from, I'm used to all these antics and people being close nearby," Irving said post-game. "It's the same energy, and I'm going to have the same energy for them.

"And it's not every fan. I don't want to attack every fan, every Boston fan, but when people start yelling 'p****' or 'b****' or 'f*** you' and all this stuff, there's only but so much you take as a competitor.

"We're the ones expected to be docile and humble, take a humble approach. F*** that, it's the playoffs. It is what it is."

On Tuesday it was confirmed by the NBA that Irving would be fined for his actions, with a statement released by NBA Communications saying: "Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving has been fined $50,000 for making obscene gestures on the playing court and directing profane language toward the spectator stands, it was announced today by Byron Spruell, President, League Operations.

"Irving made the gestures and his comments to the spectators during the Nets' 115-114 loss to the Boston Celtics on April 17 at TD Garden."

Game 2 will take place at TD Garden on Wednesday.

Kyrie Irving defended his actions during the Brooklyn Nets' 115-114 loss to the Boston Celtics on Sunday, where he appeared to raise his middle finger to fans on two separate occasions during Game 1 of their playoffs opener.

Irving, who played for Boston for two turbulent seasons before a sour exit in 2019, has been regularly booed by fans at the TD Garden, and the ill-feeling has only intensified with each meeting.

The 30-year-old has not hidden his feelings towards the organisation either, stomping on the Celtics logo at mid-court of the Garden following Brooklyn's win in Game 4 of last season's playoffs series between the two.

Scoring a game-high 39 points during his running battle with the crowd in Sunday's loss, Irving asserted he is only reciprocating the ill-sentiment.

"Look, where I'm from, I'm used to all these antics and people being close nearby," Irving said post-game. "It's the same energy, and I'm gonna have the same energy for them.

"And it's not every fan. I don't want to attack every fan, every Boston fan, but when people start yelling 'p****' or 'b****' or 'f*** you' and all this stuff, there's only but so much you take as a competitor.

"We're the ones expected to be docile and humble, take a humble approach. F*** that, it's the playoffs. It is what it is."


The seven-time All-Star relentlessly attacked on Sunday, playing with notable vigour on his way to 39 points, six assists, five rebounds and four steals in just over 42 minutes.

He also shot 60 per cent from the floor in both total and three-point categories, hinting that he was driven by the crowd.

"Embrace it," Irving said. "Embrace it. It's the dark side. Embrace it.

"I know what to expect in here, and it's the same energy I'm giving back to them. This isn't my first time at TD Garden so what you guys saw, what you guys think is entertainment, or the fans think is entertainment, all is fair in competition."

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).

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