League MVP Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of the Oklahoma City Thunder were both unanimous selections to the All-NBA first team.

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, Boston Celtics guard Jayson Tatum and Giannis Antetokounmpo of Milwaukee Bucks were also named to the first team, which was revealed Wednesday.

Jokic, who has won three of the last four MVP awards, and Gilgeous-Alexander were both listed on all 99 ballots.

Doncic fell one vote shy of joining them, while Antetokounmpo received 88 first-place votes and Tatum garnered 65.

New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson, Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards, Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant, Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard and Los Angeles Lakers centre Anthony Davis were named to the second team.

The third team was made up of Lakers forward LeBron James, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, Sacramento Kings forward Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton and Suns guard Devin Booker.

This is the 20th consecutive season James has been named to an All-NBA team since being included on the second team in his second season.

At 39 years old, he became the oldest All-NBA player in league history. He was also the youngest All-NBA selection as a 20-year-old back in 2004-05.

Jokic, who won the 2023-24 MVP award in a runaway with 79 of a possible 99 first-place votes, was named to the All-NBA first team for the fourth time to go with a pair of inclusions on the second team.

Gilgeous-Alexander, who finished second in MVP voting, was named to the first team for the second straight season.

Doncic made the first team for the fifth year in a row, while Tatum is on it for the third consecutive season.

Antetokounmpo has been on the first team each of the last six seasons after being on the second team the previous two years.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thunder complete sweep of Pelicans

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celtics rout Heat for 3-1 series lead

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

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

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

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

Michael Malone refused to blame a bizarre equipment mix-up for his Denver Nuggets' Game 4 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.

Denver headed into the game with a 3-0 first-round series lead, but ahead of a Game 4 where they could have sealed their progression, some Nuggets players warmed up in flip-flops after a delay in their shoes arriving to the arena.

Following the equipment mix-up, the Nuggets fell to a 119-108 loss as LeBron James led the way for the Lakers with 30 points to keep his team in the series.

Despite the pre-match muddle, Malone says to blame that for the ensuing defeat would be a "reach".

"Is it ideal? No," Malone told reporters. "But hopefully we can figure that out and make sure it never happens again.

"If you want to dig into stuff and say, 'well, we lost because for some strange reason our players didn't have their shoes when they got here for their normal warm-ups, that we had guys out there shooting around with flip-flops'. Is it ideal? No. But I'm not an excuse guy. And I'm not going to point to the reason we got our butts kicked in the paint because shoes weren't here."

Denver had been forced to overturn double-digit deficits in all three of their series victories prior to Saturday's defeat, and Michael Porter Jr. again lamented his team's slow start while crediting the Lakers.

"We talked about getting off to a better start," Porter Jr. explained. "It takes a lot of energy to come back from these double-digit leads, down 20, down 15, whatever it is.

"Tonight they [Lakers] did a good job of sustaining it. Whenever we got within 10 or eight, it seemed like they made a 3-pointer or made a big shot. So credit to them."

LeBron James says the Los Angeles Lakers face a "one-game series" against the Denver Nuggets after clinching a lifeline in their Western Conference first-round battle in Game 4.

The Lakers avoided a sweep with Saturday's 119-108 home win over the reigning NBA champions, halting an 11-game losing streak in head-to-head meetings with Denver. 

James had 30 points while Anthony Davis added 25 points and 23 rebounds as Los Angeles finally saw out a lead to stay alive in the playoffs.

They now return to Denver for Game 5 on Monday, knowing no team has ever overturned a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series. 

James, however, is taking things one game at a time, saying: "Well, the only opportunity for us is just to play the next game. 

"We've given ourselves another life. We've given ourselves another lifeline, and it's a one-game series for us.

"Monday's game is the most important game of the season for us, and we understand that and we know that, it's at that stage where if you lose, you're done. You win and you keep going."

Davis' 25 points came on 11 of 17 shooting, and he is averaging 30.5 points and 15.8 rebounds throughout a series in which he is often up against likely 2023-24 MVP Nikola Jokic.

Davis attracted scrutiny when he appeared to blame head coach Darvin Ham for the Lakers' defeat in Game 2, but James says he doesn't have anything to prove through the rest of the series.

"AD doesn't have to prove anything to anybody," James said. "He's one of the best bigs we have in the game, one of the best bigs in the world. He's showing that again through the first four games."

Davis, meanwhile, was relieved to see the Lakers produce through four quarters, having squandered a 20-point lead back in Game 2.

"We have a lot of confidence in our team," Davis said. "We've had the lead a lot this series. 

"It's just been our second halves, actually our third quarters, where we haven't been able to execute at scoring the basketball. So our confidence was never lost at any point in the game."

LeBron James has urged the Los Angeles Lakers to deal with the pressure, and thrive under it, as they aim to avoid a series sweep against the Denver Nuggets.

The Lakers slumped to a 3-0 lead in their first-round series against the reigning NBA champions following a 112-105 loss on Thursday.

Denver have now won 11 straight games against the Lakers, who squandered a big lead in Game 2 and were no match for the Nuggets in Game 3, with Nikola Jokic and Aaron Gordon in fine form.

James had 26 points and Anthony Davis had 33 for the Lakers, but Los Angeles went just 5 of 27 from the floor and missed 15 of their first 16 3-pointers.

Defeat means the Lakers will have to become the first team in NBA history to rally from a 0-3 playoff deficit to keep their postseason alive. 

James, though, laid down the gauntlet for his teammates.

"It's one game at a time, at this point. You lose, you go home. You come out with the mindset, 'Let's get one, force a Game 5, and then we go from there,'" James said.

"As long as you still have life, then you obviously have belief. I just think you play 'til the wheels fall off. That's what it's always about for me.

"That's a mindset, and I know [Davis] feels the same way.

"You're supposed to have anxiety and pressure, or feel the pressure.

"That's what it's about. This is what the postseason is about.

"Me and this guy [Davis], have been playing together for six years. We've been to the mountaintop. We've been close to the mountaintop. We've played a lot of games.

"We know what it takes to win. We know what it takes to win a championship and how damn near perfect you got to be. That's not like something that's so crazy to obtain."

Lakers coach Darvin Ham came under criticism from some fans following the Game 3 loss, but he paid credit to the Nuggets.

"They have a championship confidence," he said.

"That starting group has been together for a long time. Their net rating is off the charts as a starting group. They had guys step up and make plays."

The Nuggets are taking nothing for granted.

"I think every game is tougher and tougher," Jokic said.

"They were up 20 in Denver; they were up 12 today in the first half. I think it's really hard to play against the same team over again.

"You can't get bored with the style of the play or whatever. You just need to keep doing you, especially for us - because we won the last three - and just trust what we are doing and don't get bored with success because it can go wrong really quick."

The Denver Nuggets are on the brink of sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers after opening up a 3-0 lead in the teams' first-round series on Thursday, registering their 11th straight win against them.

Aaron Gordon had a playoff career-high 29 points and added 15 rebounds, while Nikola Jokic was just short of a triple-double with 24 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists as Denver clinched a 112-105 win.

Having squandered a big lead in Game 2, the Lakers failed to respond at home as the Nuggets began the second half with a 24-10 run to pull away from their hosts. Los Angeles failed to get closer than eight points in the fourth. 

LeBron James had 26 points, six rebounds and nine assists, while Anthony Davis had 33 points and 15 rebounds, but Los Angeles were let down by their shooting from the field.

They shot just 5 of 27 from the floor, missing with 15 of their first 16 3-point attempts. 

Game 4 takes place at Crypto.com Arena on Saturday, with the Lakers needing to become the first team in NBA history to rally from a 0-3 playoff deficit to keep James' 21st season alive. 

A small group of home fans showed their displeasure with head coach Darvin Ham after the loss, staying behind to chant, "fire Darvin" as the rest of the crowd filtered out.

Embiid's half-century takes Knicks-Sixers to 2-1

Joel Embiid's huge 50-point haul breathed fresh life into the Philadelphia 76ers' series with the New York Knicks, bringing the Sixers back to 2-1 after two road losses to start the playoffs.

The 76ers triumphed 125-114 as Embiid became the first player in playoff history to score 50 points on fewer than 20 shots in a game, going 13 of 19 from the floor and making 19 of 21 free throws.

Philadelphia were three down at the half but produced a huge third quarter, Embiid dragging his team into a 98-85 lead with four 3s in that period.

Tyrese Maxey supported Embiid with 25 points and seven assists, after the NBA admitted the officials missed a foul on him in the closing stages of the Sixers' controversial Game 2 loss.

Jalen Brunson led the Knicks with 39 points and 13 assists while Josh Hart tacked on 20 points, but Donte DiVincenzo only had five after hitting the decisive 3-pointer in Game 2.

Cavs suffer worst playoff loss as Magic hit back

The Orlando Magic also hit back after losing the first two games of their first-round series, dealing the Cleveland Cavaliers the heaviest loss in their playoff history on Thursday.

Taking the series back to Kia Center after a pair of road losses, Orlando recorded a 121-83 win behind Paolo Banchero's 31 points, with Jalen Suggs adding 24 for the fifth seeds in the East.

Orlando led by as many as 43 points in the fourth quarter before ultimately settling for a 38-point margin. The Cavs' previous worst playoff loss was a 36-point defeat to the Washington Wizards in 2008.

Franz Wagner tacked on 16 points and eight assists for Orlando, who now have the chance to level the series at home in Game 4 on Sunday.

Cleveland had four players in double figures but none managed more than the 15 put up by both Jarrett Allen and Caris Levert, the visitors shooting a miserable 8 of 34 (23.5 per cent) from the floor. 

Donte DiVincenzo's go-ahead 3-pointer with 13.1 seconds left highlighted a furious late rally that propelled the New York Knicks to a crucial 104-101 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in Monday's Game 2 of an Eastern Conference quarter-finals series. 

Down 101-96 in the final minute, the second-seeded Knicks scored the game's final eight points to grab a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, which shifts to Philadelphia for Thursday's Game 3.

DiVincenzo finished with 19 points and Jalen Brunson had 24 along with eight rebounds and six assists for New York, which also got a big effort from center Isaiah Hartenstein to overcome a 10-point deficit late in the first half.

Hartenstein scored all 14 of his points in the second half on 7-of-7 shooting while helping the Knicks contain 76ers' star Joel Embiid. The reigning NBA MVP managed 34 points and 10 rebounds, but made good on just 12 of 29 field goal attempts and missed a potential tying 3-point try at the buzzer.

Tyrese Maxey ended just shy of a triple-double for seventh-seeded Philadelphia, as he compiled 35 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds.

The Sixers trailed 90-82 early in the fourth quarter before outscoring New York 19-6 over a seven-minute stretch to pull ahead late. Maxey's jumper with 2:22 to go gave Philadelphia a 97-96 edge, and the All-Star buried a 3-pointer shortly afterward to extend the lead to four entering the final minute.

Brunson gave New York some life with a 3-pointer with 27.4 seconds remaining to cut the lead to 101-99, and after Maxey turned it over on the ensuing possession, DiVincenzo knocked down a 26-footer on a second-chance attempt to send the Knicks in front.

Maxey then couldn't get a contested layup to fall with 6.6 seconds left, and New York's OG Anunoby was fouled after grabbing the rebound before making both free throws ahead of Embiid's game-ending miss. 

Nuggets rally from 20 points down to stun Lakers in Game 2

The Denver Nuggets also took a 2-0 lead in their Western Conference series with the Los Angeles Lakers after overcoming a 20-point second-half deficit to rally for a stunning 101-99 win.

Jamal Murray capped Denver's improbable comeback by hitting a game-winning 15-foot jumper with 0.4 seconds left on the clock.

Murray scored 16 of his 20 points in the second half and Nikola Jokić had 15 points after half-time to also spark the defending NBA champions. Jokic ended the night with a 27-point, 20-rebound, 10-assist triple-double.

Anthony Davis finished with 32 points and 11 rebounds for the seventh-seeded Lakers, who appeared on the verge of sending the series back to Los Angeles all tied up after opening up a 68–48 lead two minutes into the third quarter.

Second-seeded Denver trailed 74-55 near the midway point of the third before getting back in it with a 10-0 run. The Nuggets later went on a 10-1 spurt to pull within 83-81 on Murray's layup with 6:45 remaining.

Murray was later fouled with 57.6 seconds left and made both free throws to forge a 97-97 tie. LeBron James answered with a layup on the ensuing possession to put Los Angeles back ahead, but Murray sunk a step-back jumper with 30 seconds remaining to even the score once again.

James then misfired on a 3-point try and the Nuggets secured the rebound before getting the ball to Murray, who knocked down the game-winner right before the buzzer sounded with Davis contesting the shot.

James had 26 points and 12 rebounds, while D'Angelo Russell netted 23 points for the Lakers while going 7 of 11 from 3-point range.

Game 3 will take place Thursday night.

Cavaliers shut down Magic again to take 2-0 series lead

Donovan Mitchell scored 23 points and Jarrett Allen led another strong defensive effort for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who took a 2-0 lead in their first-round series against the Orlando Magic by recording a 96-86 win.

After holding the Magic under 33 per cent shooting in Saturday's series opener, fourth-seeded Cleveland forced 17 turnovers and limited No. 5 seed Orlando to a 36.2 per cent rate from the field to move within two wins of advancing.

Allen particularly made his presence felt by corralling 20 rebounds along with three blocks and two steals. The standout center also contributed 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting.

Evan Mobley added 17 points and Darius Garland had 15 in a game the Cavaliers never trailed while taking control early by building a 30-18 lead after one quarter.

Cleveland's margin grew as high as 17 points in the second quarter as the Magic continued to struggle to score, and Mitchell registered 19 of his points in the first half to help send the Cavs into the break owning a 58-44 advantage.

Orlando never seriously threatened in the second half and will now attempt to reverse momentum when it returns home to host Game 3 on Thursday. 

Paolo Banchero led the Magic with 21 points and Franz Wagner had 18 for Orlando, though all but one of those points came during the first half.

 

Michael Malone believes the Denver Nuggets face "a hell of a series" against the Los Angeles Lakers, with LeBron James pledging to improve after his team were beaten in Game 1 on Saturday.

The Nuggets and the Lakers faced off in the Western Conference finals last season, and they were reunited for Game 1 of this year's first-round series at Ball Arena on Saturday.

It's advantage Denver after Nikola Jokic had 32 points and 12 rebounds in a 114-103 win over Los Angeles, their ninth victory in the teams' last nine head-to-head meetings.

The reigning NBA champions were made to work for their success, though, having gone into halftime down 60-57, with James scoring 19 first-half points. 

However, the NBA's all-time leading scorer was limited to just eight second-half points and didn't attempt a shot in the fourth quarter until the final 80 seconds.

Though the Lakers ultimately ran out of steam, Denver coach Malone expects another tough test when the teams reconvene for Game 2 on Monday.

"We're not going anywhere," Malone said. "This is the playoffs. No team in the playoffs, if you get down 12 early, you're not going to just take your ball and go home. 

"We still have plenty of fight left in us and we know that we are better than what we were playing early.

"That's a good team over there. They came into the playoffs playing extremely well, and they showed it. 

"LeBron was on course, I thought he was about to have 50 points tonight, the way he was playing and shooting the ball.

"We've got to watch the film to see what we can do better. This is going to be a hell of a series."

James' 27 points came in support of Anthony Davis, who had 32, while the Nuggets had two other players match Jokic's double-double, with Jamal Murray tallying 22 points and 10 assists and Aaron Gordon adding 12 points and 11 rebounds.

James, who is appearing in the playoffs for the 17th time in 21 seasons, says the team won't get too low with plenty of time remaining to rescue the series. 

"I thought we played some good ball tonight, just could have been better," he said. "You don't have much room for error versus Denver, especially on their home floor.

"They're just a team that's been through everything. Obviously, they're the defending champions, so you've got to execute, you've got to make shots, you've got to defend.

"I don't ever get into the 'here we go again' mindset. It's one game, they protected their home court. We have another opportunity on Monday to come back and be better."

Nikola Jokić had 32 points and 12 rebounds and got ample help from his teammates as the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets continued their recent mastery of the Los Angeles Lakers with a 114-103 win in their Western Conference playoff opener on Saturday.

Jamal Murray tallied 22 points and 10 assists, Aaron Gordon added 12 and 11 rebounds and Michael Porter Jr. contributed 19 points and eight boards as the Nuggets won their ninth straight against the Lakers.

Anthony Davis matched Jokic with 32 points and 14 rebounds and LeBron James scored 27 points, but D’Angelo Russell was held to 13 points on 6-of-20 shooting – including 1 of 9 from 3-point range – and Rui Hachimura managed just seven points in 31 minutes.

Los Angeles hasn’t beaten Denver since Dec. 16, 2022, and will try again Monday in Denver, where the Nuggets are 34-8 this season.

Denver’s lead was down to 103-96 with five minutes left but Porter Jr. hit a 3 and Jokic dunked off a turnover by James to push the lead to 12.

  

Knicks’ reserves step up in win

Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart each scored 22 points and the New York Knicks got a huge lift from their bench for a 111-104 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round series.

Deuce McBride outscored the 76ers by himself with 13 points in the second quarter and finished with 21 on 7-of-12 shooting, including 5 of 7 from long range. Bojan Bogdanovic added 13 points and Mitchell Robinson came off the bench to add eight points, 12 rebounds and four blocks.

Joel Embiid had 29 points, eight rebounds and six assists and Tyrese Maxey scored 33 points for the 76ers, who will try to even the series in Game 2 on Monday.

Embiid was listed as questionable to play and went down with 2:49 left in the first half with an apparent injury to his surgically repaired knee. He walked to the locker room area and missed the rest of the first half but returned to start the second.

Hart made a pair of huge 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, the second extending the Knicks’ lead to 107-100 with one minute remaining.

 

Edwards powers Timberwolves past Suns

Anthony Edwards scored 18 of his 33 points in the third quarter and grabbed nine rebounds to lift the Minnesota Timberwolves to a tone-setting 120-95 win over the visiting Phoenix Suns in their series opener.

Karl-Anthony Towns had 19 points, Nickeil Alexander-Walker added 18 and Rudy Gobert tallied 14 points, 16 rebounds and stellar defence to help Minnesota to its first home win in the playoffs in 20 years.

Edwards keyed a 19-4 run to close the third quarter for a 20-point cushion and put a bow on his performance by stealing the ball from Kevin Durant and finishing with a slam on the other end to give the Timberwolves a 111-91 lead with 3:37 left.

Durant scored 31 points on 11-of-17 shooting, but Devin Booker was held to 18 on 5 for 16 from the field. The Suns were outrebounded 52-28 and outscored 52-34 in the paint.

Game 2 is in Minnesota on Tuesday before the best-of-seven series shifts to Phoenix for Game 3.

 

LeBron James believes the media are putting "too much emphasis" on the Los Angeles Lakers' recent history with the Denver Nuggets.

The Lakers, after their win over the New Orleans Pelicans, will take on the Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs.

Los Angeles lost to Denver in the 2023 Western Conference Finals, as the Nuggets went on to win the NBA championship.

The Lakers, meanwhile, defeated the Nuggets en route to winning the championship in 2020.

James, though, is not looking back at past results as an indicator of how this series might play out.

"I think you're putting a little bit too much emphasis on it," James said. 

"This is our first-round matchup. I mean, we're looking forward to the postseason. But I haven't been, like, looking forward to the rematch.

"The game is played how it's being played, and this is the matchup. So we're looking forward to that challenge.

"It shouldn't be personal at all. I think you allow yourself to get away from the game plan when you make it too personal.

"We have a game plan. You go out there and execute it and you live with the results. I'm kind of the last person you should [ask that], I just stay even-keeled.

"I've been in the postseason way too long in my career to know that you don't get too high off of Game 1 or get too high over whoever the matchup is. You got to just stay even-keeled."

Lakers coach Darvin Ham did say his team can take lessons from last year's defeat, in particular when focusing on cutting out small errors.

And James echoed the sentiment.

"We just got to be better all around," he said. "Obviously, it's a great team that we're playing against. A team that won the championship, so they've been in a lot of big games and know what they want to get to late in games.

"So we just have to be very disciplined and have our mind into throughout the course of 48 minutes or however long it takes.

"It's going to be challenging but that's what the postseason is all about. It should be."

The New Orleans Pelicans will be without injured leading scorer Zion Williamson when they host the Sacramento Kings in Friday’s Western Conference play-in tournament elimination game.

Williamson starred in his NBA postseason debut Tuesday, scoring 40 points while adding 11 rebounds and five assists in over 36 minutes of action against the Los Angeles Lakers.

The two-time All-Star, though, missed the final three minutes of New Orleans’ 110-106 loss after injuring his left hamstring.

Williamson tied the game at 95 with 3:19 remaining in the fourth quarter on a driving layup, but he left shortly after and headed to the Pelicans’ locker room.

His huge performance caught the attention of Lakers superstar LeBron James.

“He's a generational player, a generational talent. He's going to continue to get better and better,” James said. “Tonight was just a small microcosm of how great he can be, his ability to get downhill, finish vs. smalls, finish vs. bigs, taller guys, shorter guys, doesn't matter.

“One thing about him, he's not afraid to compete. So, that's a great thing. He's a star.”

Williamson missed plenty of time due to various injuries in his first four seasons after New Orleans selected him No. 1 overall in the 2019 NBA Draft, but he was healthy throughout the 2023-24 campaign.

Williamson appeared in a career-high 70 contests and led the Pelicans with 22.9 points per game while averaging 5.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists.

The winner of Friday’s matchup between New Orleans and Sacramento will capture the No. 8 seed in the West and move on to play the top-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the playoffs.

Stephen Curry is set to make his Olympic debut for the United States at the age of 36 after being named in the 12-strong men’s basketball squad for Paris on Wednesday.

The Golden State Warriors guard joins three-time Olympic champion Kevin Durant and the NBA’s all-time leading scorer LeBron James in an experienced squad named by national team managing director Grant Hill.

Durant, 35, helped Team USA to gold at each of the last three Olympics, while Los Angeles Lakers forward James, 39, will make his first appearance since London 2012, having also won gold in Beijing in 2008 and bronze in Athens in 2004.

Besides the Phoenix Suns’ Durant, four other members of the Tokyo squad return with Miami Heat centre Bam Adebayo, Phoenix guard Devin Booker, guard Jrue Holiday and forward Jayson Tatum – both of the Boston Celtics – included.

Los Angeles Lakers centre Anthony Davis will, like James, make his first Olympic appearance since London 2012.

Making their debuts on the biggest international stage alongside Curry will be Minnesota Timberwolves swingman Anthony Edwards, Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton, Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard and Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid, the NBA’s reigning Most Valuable Player.

The United States have won gold at each of the last four Olympics and 16 in all, but finished a disappointing fourth at last year’s World Cup.

Curry’s Golden State coach Steve Kerr will lead the team in Paris.

The United States are due to start a training camp in Las Vegas on July 6 before a series of exhibition games that includes tilts against South Sudan and Germany on July 20 and 22 in London. Their opening game in Paris will be against Serbia on July 28.

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