Nikola Jokic said he is not the only player deserving of MVP honours after strengthening his case by putting up 41 points in the Denver Nuggets' crucial victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday.  

Jokic is favoured to see off competition from Luka Doncic and be crowned MVP for the third time in four seasons, and he did his hopes no harm in what was arguably the game of the year to date.

The Timberwolves entered the game top of the West due to holding the tiebreaker over the Nuggets, but the reigning NBA champions leapfrogged them with a crucial 116-107 win at Ball Arena.

Jokic added 11 rebounds and seven assists in the 20th 40-point game of his career, shooting 16-of-20 from the field as a big second half carried the Nuggets home in front of a capacity crowd.

Asked what the performance meant for his hopes of landing the league's top individual prize, Jokic said: "I think I'm playing good basketball. The team is playing good basketball,

"I think there is a lot of guys playing really good basketball in the league and a couple of guys deserve to have that award."

The 2021 and 2022 MVP instead preferred to focus on the role of Denver's closers Peyton Watson and Christian Braun, saying: "They were great. 

"P-Wat, it seemed like he was all over the place. He was just full of energy. C.B., with that sequence of two minutes, it was really amazing. 

"I was happy for those guys. They don't get enough credit for what they are doing on the floor, and they're helping us energy-wise, effort-wise. We need them."

Jokic's huge performance came despite him being guarded by the league's top defender in Rudy Gobert, leading Denver coach Michael Malone to describe the Serbian as unstoppable.

"Nikola always embraces the physicality. He never shies away from it," Malone said. "Rudy Gobert is going to be a Hall of Fame player one day. 

"Rudy Gobert is going to be regarded as one of the best defenders of his generation. It just speaks to how great Nikola is. I don't think anybody in the NBA can guard Nikola one-on-one."

Minnesota now need the Nuggets to slip up in one of their final two games, at the San Antonio Spurs and the Memphis Grizzlies, to allow them back into the race for the top seed. 

Guard Anthony Edwards, who put up a team-high 25 points, said: "We knew what this game was going to determine.

"If we won it, we knew we were going to possibly be the number one seed. If we lost it, we knew they'd possibly be the number one seed. 

"I think we cared before but now that we lost, we can't do nothing about it."

Nikola Jokić scored 41 points on 16-of-20 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the Denver Nuggets to a 116-107 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday to take a one-game lead in the race for the top seed in the Western Conference.

Jamal Murray added 20 points in 27 minutes and Michael Porter Jr. had 18 points with eight rebounds for the Nuggets, who split the four-game season series with the Wolves. Denver needs to finish ahead of Minnesota and Oklahoma City to earn the No. 1 seed for the second straight season.

The Nuggets parlayed the top seed last year into a 10-1 run at home in the playoffs on the way to their first NBA title.

Anthony Edwards scored 25 points but was a non-factor in the fourth quarter and Mike Conley added 19 for Minnesota, which had won four of five.

Denver closed the third quarter on a 9-1 run to take an 83-80 lead into the fourth. The Nuggets’ second until extended the margin to 91-87 before Jokic and Murray returned with 7 ½ minutes left, and Denver used a 10-0 spurt to pull away.


Mavericks clinch Southwest Division

Luka Dončić scored 29 points and Kyrie Irving had 25 as the Dallas Mavericks secured the Southwest Division title with a 111-92 win over the Miami Heat.

Doncic fell just shy of his 22nd triple-double of the season with nine rebounds and nine assists.

Derrick Jones Jr, P.J. Washington and Daniel Gafford each scored 12 points for the Mavericks, who will face the Clippers in the first round of the playoffs. It will be the third opening-round matchup between those teams in the last four seasons.

Tyler Herro scored 21 points for Miami, which fell to 20-19 at home this season after going 24-17 on the road.  


Portis leads Bucks without Antetokounmpo

Bobby Portis collected 30 points, nine rebounds and a career-high five steals and the Milwaukee Bucks overcame Giannis Antetokounmpo’s absence for a 117-99 win over the Orlando Magic.

Damian Lillard had 29 points and eight assists and Pat Beverley had 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Bucks, who played a night after Antetokounmpo suffered a strained left calf that will sideline him the final three games of the regular season.

Milwaukee is 1 ½ games ahead of the Knicks and two in front of Cleveland in the race for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Cole Anthony scored 23 points for Orlando, which has lost two straight and three of four.

Anthony Edwards praised coach Chris Finch's man-management skills after dropping 51 points to help the Minnesota Timberwolves to a stirring comeback win against the Washington Wizards.

The Wizards made a blistering start to Tuesday's game at Target Center and found themselves 21 points up in the first quarter. 

That advantage was cut to 44-27 by the end of the quarter, yet it still represented Washington's franchise record for most points in a single quarter. 

However, a dominant second-half showing saw Minnesota turn the game around, with Edwards' 3 pointer giving them their first lead with just over two minutes of the third quarter remaining.

His final tally surpassed his previous best, a 49-point performance against the San Antonio Spurs in April 2022, also putting him joint-fifth among all displays from Timberwolves players.

The victory kept Minnesota above the Denver Nuggets at the top of the Western Conference, and they hold the tiebreaker ahead of the teams' huge clash at Ball Arena on Wednesday.

Speaking after the game, Edwards revealed the details of a meeting he held with Finch earlier in the week, saying: "He put me in the office two or three days ago and said, 'look, we've got this Washington game, and we need to win it'.

"'We need to come ready to play, you can't treat it like any other game'. I don't even need to talk about how big it is. Everybody knows."

The Timberwolves improved to 12-5 without All-Star forward Karl-Anthony Towns, who is nearing a return after around a month on the sidelines with a knee injury.

Finch credited his players for producing another real team performance in his absence, saying: "We needed all of them, for sure.

"The best thing about it for me was they came in the flow. Anthony kept making the right play down the stretch for the most part. He was really finding people. 

"Guys were knocking down shots, too. He was aggressive getting to the hoop. I thought he turned the game around, along with Nickeil [Alexander-Walker], in getting to the basket."

Minnesota have already clinched a top-three seed and a victory in Denver on Wednesday would leave them needing just one further win to secure top spot in the West. 

Gary Trent Jr.'s 31 points and Immanuel Quickley's near triple-double sparked Toronto to a 117-111 win over Milwaukee on Friday, which ended the Raptors' 15-game losing streak and extended the Bucks' late-season slump.

Quickley compiled 25 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, while Trent went 7 of 15 from 3-point range to help the Raptors hand Milwaukee a fifth loss in six games. RJ Barrett contributed 26 points to Toronto's first win since March 3.

The Bucks' woes continued despite Damian Lillard returning from a three-game absence to record 36 points. Milwaukee was without its other superstar, however, as Giannis Antetokounmpo was held out with a sore hamstring.

Toronto seemed on the way towards another defeat after trailing 40-30 five minutes into the second quarter, but Trent led a 16-3 run later in the period that gave the Raptors a 56-51 advantage with a minute to go before half-time.

The Raptors eventually pushed the margin to 14 points when a Trent 3-pointer created a 77-63 lead midway through the third quarter, but the Bucks closed the gap later in the period. Lillard capped a 10-2 spurt with a 3-pointer that cut Milwaukee's deficit to 87-84 in the final minute of the third.

Milwaukee had a chance to pull ahead in the late stages, but Khris Middleton missed a potential go-ahead 3-point attempt with the Raptors up 113-111 with 20.4 seconds left. Quickley then made a pair of free throws and the Bucks were held scoreless the rest of the way.

Middleton finished with 21 points and Bobby Portis tallied 19 points with 10 rebounds off the bench for the Bucks.

Washington stars as Mavericks end Warriors' winning streak

P.J. Washington capped a 32-point night with a tie-breaking layup with 4.5 seconds left that lifted the Dallas Mavericks to a 108-106 victory over Golden State which halted the Warriors' season-high six-game winning streak.

After Golden State erased a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit on Stephen Curry's jumper with 13 seconds remaining that tied the game at 106-106, Dallas' Tim Hardaway Jr. found a cutting Washington for an inside basket that put the Mavericks back in front.

Klay Thompson then missed a 3-point shot just before the final buzzer as Dallas held on for its 13th win in its last 15 games.

Washington finished 12 of 18 from the field while stepping up with the Mavericks holding out star guard Luka Dončić in the second of a back-to-back, and Dallas also received a 26-point, eight-rebound, seven-assist effort out of Kyrie Irving.

Curry ended with 28 points, 14 of which came in the fourth quarter as the Warriors battled back from being down 98-88 with under six minutes left.

Golden State also rallied from a slow start, as Dallas built a 29–13 lead less than eight minutes into the game. The Warriors closed out the first quarter on a 19-2 run, however, to take a 32-31 edge into the second.

The game remained tight until the Mavericks scored the first five points of the fourth quarter to open up an 84-76 lead with under 11 minutes left to play.

Fast start propels Suns past Timberwolves

The Phoenix Suns used a quick start and a strong game from Grayson Allen to continue their late-season surge with a 97-87 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Allen gave Phoenix a lift on a night in which All-Star Devin Booker was held to 13 points on 3-of-12 shooting, as the former Duke star recorded 23 points along with eight rebounds.

Kevin Durant added 22 points in the Suns' third consecutive win, while Jusuf Nurkic compiled 11 points, 15 rebounds and six assists.

Booker did have 13 assists and scored the first five points of a 15-0 Phoenix run to open the game. The Suns never trailed at any point, as they shot 55 per cent in the first quarter to build a 32-20 lead and carried a 57-41 advantage into half-time.

Minnesota, on the other hand, struggled to score throughout the evening and fell behind by as many as 23 points in the fourth quarter.

The Timberwolves shot just 38.8 per cent for the game while being dealt just their second defeat in their past eight outings. All-Star Anthony Edwards was 6 of 19 while being limited to 17 points, while starting forward Naz Reid managed just eight points on 3-of-13 shooting.

Monday's loss dropped Minnesota into a tie with the Denver Nuggets for first place in the Western Conference.



Jalen Green scored 30 of his 34 points in the second half, including a pair of late free throws, and the Houston Rockets edged the Utah Jazz for their 11th consecutive NBA win on Friday.

Fred VanVleet added 22 points and Amen Thompson had 18 points and 14 rebounds for the Rockets, who have won 12 of 13 games to remain one game behind the Golden State Warriors for the final play-in spot in the Western Conference.

Houston trailed the entire first half but swung momentum their way during a third-quarter scoring outburst from Green.

He had five of the Rockets' first six baskets of the second half to power a 20-7 run that put Houston up 61-54.

Green scored 20 of his team's 28 points in the quarter and Houston ultimately edged it 101-100.

Timberwolves win showdown with Nuggets

Anthony Edwards scored 25 points and Mike Conley added 23 with eight assists as the surging Minnesota Timberwolves moved atop the Western Conference with a 111-98 win over the Denver Nuggets.

Rudy Gobert had 21 points and 11 rebounds while Jaden McDaniels contributed 17 points as the Wolves won their fourth straight and seventh in eight games to tie Oklahoma City for first place in the West.

Nikola Jokic had 32 points and 10 rebounds for the Nuggets, who lost their second in a row and were without star point guard Jamal Murray for a fourth consecutive game.

Lakers' winning streak ends at five

Pascal Siakam and Tyrese Haliburton thrived as the Indiana Pacers beat the Los Angeles Lakers 109-90 in a game which had playoff implications for both teams.

The Lakers came into the game having won their last five, but Siakam finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds, while Haliburton added 21 points, eight assists and eight rebounds for the victorious hosts.

Indiana has won four of six to retain the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference, while the Lakers are trying to improve their playoff positioning from the No. 9 seed in the West.

All-Stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis both started despite being injury doubts.

Davis finished with 24 points and 15 rebounds, while James had 16 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. But the Lakers struggled from deep, going five of 29 on 3-pointers and committing 16 turnovers. five of which came from James.

The Pacers led for almost all the game and it was a sweet result for coach Rick Carlisle after his team had previously lost to the Lakers in the final of the NBA's inaugural In-Season Tournament and again been beaten 150-145 in Los Angeles five days before this contest.

Steph Curry may have been surprised to not feature more in the Minnesota Timberwolves defeat but Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr insists his side will not solely rely on their star.

That message from Kerr was clear after Sunday's 114-110 loss to the Timberwolves, with the Golden State chief prioritising Curry's fitness over chasing results.

Curry scored 31 points on 9-of-21 shooting in his 30 minutes, including five 3-pointers, despite sitting out 11 straight minutes between the end of the third quarter and the closing stages of the fourth.

"I want to play as many minutes as I'm fresh and able to, so I'm a little bit [surprised] knowing that they were going on a run," said Curry.

Curry acknowledged "our lead was withering away" as the Warriors man was removed with four third-quarter minutes left and not introduced until just over six final minutes remained.

Kerr refuted suggestions Curry should have been reinstated sooner, though, pointing to the fitness load already on his strained shoulders.

"We can't expect to just ride Steph game after game after game," Kerr said. "We've put the burden of this franchise on his shoulders for 15 years.

"We can't expect him to play 35 minutes ... If you want to say that him playing 30 minutes instead of 32 is a difference between a win and a loss, I totally disagree with that.

"We're trying to win the game. And we're trying to keep him fresh, too."

Unlike the Timberwolves defeat, Curry played the entirety of the fourth quarter and 35 minutes overall in Friday's 123-11 loss to the Indiana Pacers.

"I played the whole fourth quarter against Indiana and it didn't work out, this didn't work out [against Minnesota]. We've got to find somewhere in the middle," Curry added.

"The situation will define itself in real-time. Every game matters as we're inching closer to the other end of the standings we never thought we would be in.

"No one is going to wave the white flag and say we are mailing it in. If that means playing more minutes, I'll be ready to do that."

The Warriors are just one game up on the in-form Houston Rockets, hanging on to the no.10 seed in the Western Conference by a slight margin.

Curry had earlier stated there remains no concern as to where Golden State finish in the standings, so long as the Warriors develop a winning habit to regain form for the postseason.

"What Steph is saying is if we don't build the habits, it doesn't matter," Kerr clarified as the final 12 games loom.

"You make the play-in, you don't, if you don't have the habits you're not going anywhere."

Nikola Jokić had 35 points and 16 rebounds and Michael Porter Jr. scored 13 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter to lift the Denver Nuggets to a 113-109 win over the undermanned Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday in a matchup of Western Conference heavyweights.

Jamal Murray had 18 points and 11 assists and Aaron Gordon added 14 with 11 rebounds as the Nuggets won for the sixth time in seven games to move within percentage points of idle Oklahoma City for the West lead.

Denver blew an 18-point lead in less than 12 minutes but Jokic hit a 3-pointer with 1:45 remaining and sank a floater with 44 seconds to go for a 109-103 lead.

Mike Conley’s 3 with 12 seconds made it a two-point game, but the Nuggets sank four free throws down the stretch and Anthony Edwards missed a potential tying 3 from the wing at the buzzer.

Edwards had 30 points, eight rebounds and eight assists and Jaden McDaniels contributed 26 points for the Wolves, who had won three straight.

Minnesota played at home for the first time in 15 days and was without its top three big men - Karl-Anthony Towns (knee), Rudy Gobert (ribs) and Naz Reid (head).

Green drops 42 for surging Rockets

Jalen Green matched a career high with 42 points and the Houston Rockets defeated the Washington Wizards, 137-114, for their sixth consecutive win.

Green scored 15 points in the third quarter and finished with 10 rebounds. He previously scored 42 points against Minnesota on Jan. 23, 2023.

Amen Thompson scored 25 points and Jabari Smith Jr. added 18 with 14 rebounds for Houston, which moved within 2 ½ games of Golden State for the final play-in spot in the Western Conference.

Justin Champagnie and Jules Bernard scored 16 points apiece for the league-worst Wizards, who lost their fifth straight.

Magic roll past Hornets

Cole Anthony scored 17 of his 21 points in the second quarter and Jalen Suggs added 19 points to lead the Orlando Magic to their fourth straight win, 112-92 over the Charlotte Hornets.

Paolo Banchero and Moritz Wagner each scored 13 points for the Magic, who led 67-32 at halftime and won their ninth in 11 games to extend their lead over second-place Miami in the Southeast Division.

Orlando clinched at least a play-in berth in the Eastern Conference and secured just its second non-losing season since 2011-12.

Brandon Miller had 21 points and fellow rookie Vasilije Micic added 20 as Charlotte lost its third straight and dropped to 2-10 in its past 12 games.

Anthony Edwards scored 37 points and the Minnesota Timberwolves rallied from a 22-point deficit for a 118-100 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker added a season-high 28 points and Mike Conley scored 23 with five 3-pointers for the Wolves, who bounced back from consecutive losses to pull within one game of the Northwest Division lead.

Kawhi Leonard left with back spasms between the first two quarters, the Clippers said. He played the entire first quarter, but he was seen leaving the arena during the second quarter.

Faced with a 57-35 deficit midway through the second quarter, Minnesota cut the Clippers’ lead to 63-55 at halftime and took control in the second half for the team’s largest comeback since November 2012.

Paul George scored 22 points for Los Angeles, which has dropped two straight for only the second time since Christmas.

Minnesota’s Rudy Gobert returned from a one-game absence with a right hamstring injury but then apparently injured his ribs or sternum at some point in the second half, heading to the locker room in pain.

Kings finally beat Bucks

De’Aaron Fox scored 29 points and Domantas Sabonis had 22 with 11 rebounds as the Sacramento Kings defeated the Milwaukee Bucks, 129-94, for their first win in the series in over eight years.

Sacramento posted its first win over Milwaukee since Feb. 1, 2016, with the 15-game losing streak being the longest active streak for any team.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 30 points and 13 rebounds as the Bucks finished a 1-3 California swing.

Hart stars in Knicks’ rout of 76ers

Josh Hart registered his fourth triple-double of the season and OG Anunoby scored 14 points in his return from an 18-game absence as the New York Knicks rolled to a 106-79 drubbing of the Philadelphia 76ers.

Hart had 20 points, a career high-tying 19 rebounds and 10 assists, and Jalen Brunson added 20 points and nine assists for the Knicks, who bounced back from Sunday’s loss to the 76ers.

Anunoby played his first game since Jan. 27 due to a right elbow injury that required surgery. New York improved to 13-2 in games that he has played in since his acquisition from Toronto on Dec. 30.

Kelly Oubre Jr. had 19 points and Tyrese Maxey added 17 after missing the previous four games due to a concussion. Philadelphia has lost four of its last five games.

Anthony Davis brushed off injury concerns and confidently declared the Los Angeles Lakers are "hitting our stride" after his record-breaking NBA showing against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Lakers man Davis was the star of the show as Los Angeles powered from a fourth-quarter tie to win 120-109 and secure their ninth victory in 13 games.

Davis finished with 27 points, 25 rebounds, five assists, seven steals and three blocks on Sunday, a feat that has never previously been matched.

No other player in NBA history has tallied 25-plus points, 25-plus rebounds, five-plus assists and five-plus steals in a single game.

"I think we're hitting our stride right now," Davis said after a roaring finish to a week that also saw the Lakers defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Milwaukee Bucks.

"We're just trying to keep going, keep pushing, knowing that just like last year, all we got to do is get in. We feel like it's tough for anybody to beat us in a seven-game series.

"We like our chances against anybody at that point."

Davis was a doubt for the Minnesota meeting after reporting left-shoulder soreness from a collision with the Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo on Friday.

"I felt it at times out there," added Davis, who was in constant dialogue with the Lakers' medical staff whenever not on the court. "I still kind of feel it."

Such was the magnitude of Davis' dominance, LeBron James returning from a sore left ankle to put up 29 points, nine assists and eight rebounds was somewhat ignored.

A taming of the Timberwolves, alongside a piece of NBA history, also marked a birthday treat for Davis, who turns 31 on Monday.

"It was before my birthday, so I guess we can [count it]," he continued. "It's actually the first time I'm able to celebrate my birthday in my entire career at home, on my actual birthday."

The Lakers are ninth in the Western Conference with 16 games remaining, but are just two behind sixth-placed Phoenix Suns, as Austin Reeves insisted Los Angeles will back themselves.

"I think if you go ask anybody in our locker room, we're super confident with what we have," Reeves said.

"Regardless of where we stand, if we go put our best foot forward and play the basketball that we know we can play."

Anthony Davis filled the stat sheet with a dominant performance that propelled the Los Angeles Lakers to an important 120-109 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday.

Davis recorded 27 points, 25 rebounds and a career-high seven steals to lead the way as the Lakers defeated a potential title contender for the second time in three days. Los Angeles was coming off a 123-122 triumph over the Eastern Conference power Milwaukee Bucks on Friday. The All-Star forward added five assists and three blocks.

The Lakers also received 29 points, eight rebounds and nine assists from LeBron James in the legendary superstar's return after he missed the Milwaukee game tending to a nagging ankle injury.

Los Angeles still sits in ninth place in the challenging Western Conference, but has gone 12-5 since Feb. 1.

The Timberwolves, meanwhile, lost ground in the race for the West's top spot after being dealt a second straight loss. Minnesota now trails first-place Oklahoma City by 1 1/2 games after the Thunder defeated the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday.

Anthony Edwards and Naz Reid, starting in place of an injured Rudy Gobert, led Minnesota with 25 points each.

The Timberwolves did hold a slim 92-91 lead after three quarters, but went just 5 of 17 from the field as James and Davis took over in the fourth.

Los Angeles' star duo sparked a pivotal 11-0 run that Davis finished with a three-point play that gave the Lakers a 107-94 advantage with under seven minutes to go, and they maintained a double-digit advantage the rest of the way as the Timberwolves continued to miss shots down the stretch.

 Lillard, Antetokounmpo lead way as Bucks top Clippers

Damian Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo combined for 69 points as the All-Star duo got the Milwaukee Bucks back on track with a 124-117 victory over the short-handed Los Angeles Clippers.

Lillard scored 16 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter and added 11 assists, while Antetokounmpo recorded 10 helpers along with 34 points to help lead Milwaukee to its first win on its current four-game road trip. The Bucks had won six straight before opening the trek with losses at Golden State and the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Clippers played without two of their stars as both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were rested with the team playing for a second consecutive day. Norman Powell paced Los Angeles with 26 points off the bench and James Harden recorded 11 assists, though the 10-time All-Star finished with just 13 points on 5-of-16 shooting.

Despite those obstacles, the Clippers owned a 98-96 lead with under 8 1/2 minutes left before Milwaukee seized momentum. Antetokounmpo scored on back-to-back possessions and Lillard followed with one of his seven 3-pointers for the game to give the Bucks a five-point edge with seven minutes to go.

The Clippers countered with two Ivica Zubac baskets to cut the lead down to one, but Lillard had nine points during a game-sealing 12-4 run shortly afterward that staked the Bucks to a 119-109 lead with 1:19 remaining.

Los Angeles had won four of five coming in, including a 112-102 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Saturday.


76ers hold Knicks to 73 points in defensively dominated win

Defence reigned supreme in New York's Madison Square Garden on Sunday, as the Philadelphia 76ers held the home-town Knicks to the lowest points total by any team in an NBA game this season in an ugly 79-73 win.

Both teams shot under 39 per cent in a game in which neither could find any sustained offensive momentum, and no player finished with more than New York's Jalen Brunson's 19 points. Brunson got there on a 6-of-22 shooting performance, while Kelly Oubre Jr. was 6 of 19 while leading Philadelphia with 18 points.

There were plenty of rebounds, however, due to all the clanged shots. Oubre had 10 and Tobias Harris 12 for the 76ers, while the Knicks got 11 boards from Josh Hart and 10 from Isaiah Hartenstein.

Oubre did manage 12 points during a first half in which the 76ers carried a 37-31 lead into the break, with the 68 combined points the lowest at half-time in any NBA game since the Portland Trail Blazers held a 34-31 edge over the Detroit Pistons on March 30, 2019.

New York did battle back to tie the game at 47-47 on Brunson's layup with 5:09 remaining in the third quarter, but Buddy Hield hit a pair of 3-pointers during a 14-5 spurt that put the Sixers up by a 61-52 count with 1:29 left in the period.

That would be enough for Philadelphia to hold on, as the Knicks shot 25 per cent while mustering a mere 16 points in the fourth quarter.

Rudy Gobert has acknowledged the gesture which landed him a costly technical in the Minnesota Timberwolves' defeat to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday was "immature", though he refused to back down on his claim sports betting is influencing NBA officials.

The Timberwolves led the short-handed Cavs with just 27.8 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse when Gobert was pulled up for his sixth and disqualifying foul. 

The three-time All-Star responded by rubbing his fingers together in an apparent money gesture towards referee Scott Foster. 

Fellow official Natalie Sago spotted the gesture and hit Gobert with a technical, sending Cleveland's Darius Garland to the free-throw line to tie the game up at 97 apiece.

Garland finished with 34 points and Jarrett Allen added a career-high 33 including 10 in overtime, as the Cavs took full advantage of Gobert's loss of discipline to claim a 113-104 win.

Gobert is now facing the prospect of further punishment from the NBA, having told reporters that gambling is influencing the way games are being officiated.  

"I'll bite the bullet again," Gobert said. "I'll be the bad guy. I'll take the fine, but I think it's hurting our game. 

"I know the betting and all that is becoming bigger and bigger, but it shouldn't feel that way.

"It's not just one call. Everyone makes mistakes, but when it's over and over and over again, of course it's frustrating."

The Frenchman did concede that he was wrong to make the gesture at such a pivotal moment, adding: "My reaction, I think it was the truth, but it wasn't the time to react that way. 

"It cost my team the game. It was an immature reaction."

Minnesota coach Chris Finch missed the game after feeling unwell prior to tipoff, with assistant Micah Nori taking his place on the bench.

Nori was furious with Gobert for the timing of his technical, saying: "A technical foul with 27 seconds in the game, to be honest, is unacceptable. 

"That's who Rudy is, but you've got to be smart. He made a visual that was automatic. He was obviously frustrated, both teams were, but we have to be smarter."

The Timberwolves, who sit second in the Western Conference at 44-20, now head to Los Angeles to face the Lakers and the Clippers, while the Cavs host the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday.

D’Angelo Russell scored 21 of his season-high 44 points in the fourth quarter, including the go-ahead jumper with 5.9 seconds left, and the Los Angeles Lakers overcame LeBron James’ absence in a 123-122 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday.

After Russell’s basket put the Lakers up one, Spencer Dinwiddie blocked Damian Lillared’s step-back jumper before the buzzer to preserve a stirring win for the Lakers.

Russell matched his career high with nine 3-pointers, handed out nine assists and scored the Lakers’ final eight points in the final 1:13 to help them rally from a late deficit.

Anthony Davis had 22 points and 13 rebounds and Austin Reaves added 18 points as the Lakers won without James, who sat out to rest his sore left ankle.

Giannis Antetokounmpo tallied 34 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists for his 43rd career triple-double and Lillard scored 28 points, but Milwaukee lost its second in a row after coming out of the All-Star break with six consecutive wins.

Depleted Cavaliers outlast Timberwolves

Darius Garland scored 34 points and Jarrett Allen scored 10 of his career-high 33 in overtime and also grabbed 18 rebounds to lead the injury-thinned Cleveland Cavaliers to a 113-104 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Allen made a career-best 15 free throws, 14 after halftime and his dunk early in overtime put the Cavaliers ahead for good.

Georges Niang had 16 points and Caris LeVert added 15 and eight assists to help Cleveland win despite missing starters Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley and Max Strus.

Naz Reid scored a career-high 34 points and Anthony Edwards added 19 on 7-of-27 shooting for the Wolves, who entered with a league-best 21-11 road record.

Minnesota’s loss coupled with Oklahoma City’s win over Miami moved the Thunder into sole possession of the Western Conference lead.

Thunder win to move atop West

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 23 of his 37 points in the second half and the Oklahoma City Thunder rallied for a 107-100 victory over the Miami Heat to move into sole possession of the Western Conference lead.

Jalen Williams added 15 points and Josh Giddey had 11 points, nine rebounds and six assists as the Thunder overcame a 14-point deficit to move into first place in the West, one-half game ahead of Minnesota.

Rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. scored 25 points and Jimmy Butler had 20, 10 boards and eight assists for Miami, which has lost consecutive games for the first time since a seven-game skid in January.

The Western Conference-leading Minnesota Timberwolves will be without star forward Karl-Anthony Towns for at least four weeks after he undergoes surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee, the team announced Thursday night.

With Towns expected to miss at least four weeks, he would, at minimum, be sidelined for at least 13 more games – the majority of the Timberwolves’ remaining schedule.

The team revealed after Thursday’s 113-111 win over Indiana that an MRI exam, performed Wednesday, showed the tear.

He will undergo surgery early next week.

“It’s not a plug-in one person to fill Karl’s role kind of situation,” Wolves coach Chris Finch said. “What I love about our team is that we have a multitude of options. We can go a lot of different ways based on matchups on any given night. We’ve started different guys through the season anyway.”

An All-Star for the fourth time, Towns is averaging 22.1 points and 8.4 rebounds per game while sinking a career-best 42.3 percent from 3-point range. He is one five players in the league averaging at least 20 points, shooting 50 percent from the field and 40 percent on 3-pointers.

D'Angelo Russell insisted the Los Angeles Lakers proved their quality by overcoming the Oklahoma City Thunder, in a win he labelled as "no fluke".

Russell was the star of the show for the Lakers in their 116-104 triumph on Monday, sinking five 3-pointers in a 26-point haul.

Anthony Davis backed Russell up with 24 points and 12 rebounds, while LeBron James added 19 points and 11 rebounds.

The Lakers have now won 10 of their last 14 games, while the Thunder were knocked off of their perch at the Western Conference summit.

"They're so well-coached that you can't relax," Russell said of facing the Thunder, who have now lost two of their last three games after going on a six-game winning streak.

"That team has got everything you need to win and to be efficient at this level. You've got to be ready to play against those guys. It's no fluke [to beat them]."

Austin Reaves, who shot four 3s, added: "Obviously, they're coming off a tough back-to-back.

"But any time you can beat a team confidently going into the fourth of that calibre, it speaks to what you did offensively and defensively.

"Anytime you beat a team like that that’s been playing really good basketball, it feels good and it gives you some momentum going forward."

The Lakers managed to keep Shai Gilgeous-Alexander under wraps, limiting him to 20 points, ending a run of eight successive 30-point performances for the Thunder's talisman.

"Our start was good offensively, but our overall sharpness just wasn't there," Thunder coach Mark Daigneault reflected.

"Defensively, we turned them over a bunch of times, and that kept us in it. But certainly not our fastball tonight.

"I just didn't think we were as sharp offensively as we needed to be. A team like that that’s got size and physicality, that's a requirement to hit shots against them, but we just didn't do that enough."

The Thunder were replaced at the top of the West by the Minnesota Timberwolves, who beat the Portland Trail Blazers 119-114.

Rudy Gobert recorded his 43rd double-double of the season, and the Timberwolves have now swept the Trail Blazers in their four meetings with Portland this term.

"We absolutely had to have this one," said Timberwolves coach Chris Finch, whose team had lost their previous two games.

The Minnesota Timberwolves "needed a win desperately", according to head coach Chris Finch, whose team beat the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday.

Minnesota came out on top 101-86 to claim a fifth win in the space of six games, bouncing back from a defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks last time out.

The Timberwolves are now clear at the top of the Western Conference with a 40-17 record, one win better than the 39-17 Oklahoma City Thunder.

But coach Finch said his team "desperately" needed a victory.

"We needed a win desperately," Finch said. "Still not playing really sharp basketball, particularly on the offensive end. But defensively, we were really strong."

Anthony Edwards led the Timberwolves with 29 points, while Karl-Anthony Towns added 28 to Milwaukee's total.

"It was ugly, sloppy. I think by both teams, actually," said Timberwolves center Naz Reid.

"But we [were] able to buckle down in the last quarter and handle business."

The Nets dismissed coach Jacques Vaughn over the All-Star break, though are now 0-2 under interim Kevin Ollie.

"I thought we did a great job coming together as a team and facing adversity," Ollie said. "But we've got to make shots."

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