Luka Doncic admitted he exaggerated contact from Chris Paul to get him into foul trouble after the Dallas Mavericks' 111-101 win over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday.

Doncic came up with 26 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds in the Game 4 win but the Mavs' win and levelling of their playoff series was aided by Chris Paul fouling out early in the fourth quarter.

Doncic was key factor in that regard, tumbling towards the baseline after both went up for a rebound and earning a fourth foul for Paul just before half-time.

The 23-year-old declared his respect for Paul and his impact on the Suns, but also hinted he gave the notorious flopper a taste of his own medicine with the tumble and ensuing exchange between the two.

"He [Paul] is one of the best point guards this league has ever had," Doncic said. "His mentality is insane, the way he sees the court, his IQ is amazing, so I think it was big time.

"He was in foul trouble, so we tried to get after him and if you don't have CP out there, it's for sure tougher on their team.

"I saw he was going for the rebound and I was surprised. He said to me if I pushed him that hard. I said, 'No, not that hard, but it was a smart play.' And he said, 'Yeah, I know.'"

While Doncic had a particularly poor shooting night, shooting one-of-10 from the perimeter, he was critical in creating good shots for his teammates.

Dorian Finney-Smith was the primary beneficiary, making a playoff career-high 24 points on eight-of-12 from beyond the arc.

Doncic singled Finney-Smith and Reggie Bullock out post-match, specifically for how they've been able to limit Paul's ability to attack the paint as the series has gone on. For the Mavs to win the series though, the three-time All-Star believes Dallas have to show the same intensity and determination on the road.

"That's Reg [Bullock] and Doe [Finney-Smith], those two guys are warriors," Doncic said. "Those two guys, they don't complain about how many shots they get, they just play hard, play defence and I'm really happy to have both of them on our team.

"We've got to play the same way on away games, though. I think the fans helped out a lot, with their energy, but we've got to bring this energy to away games.

"I think it's going to come down to who wins the first away game – maybe, I don't know, but we've got to play with the same energy."

The Dallas Mavericks tied up their playoff series in spite of a poor shooting night from Luka Doncic on Sunday, winning Game 4 against the Phoenix Suns 111-101.

The Slovenian went one-of-10 from beyond the arc and converted on a total of nine-of-25 from the floor, but the Mavs were otherwise automatic from long-range and Doncic was the facilitator in that regard.

He ended up with 11 assists while the rest of the Dallas team went 19-of-34 from deep, with Dorian Finney-Smith scoring a career playoff-high with 24 points on eight-of-12 from the perimeter.

While Devin Booker scored 35 points, Phoenix lacked a reference point late in the game with Chris Paul fouled out early.

The first-seeded Suns went three-of-nine from the perimeter in the fourth quarter, while Booker critically turned the ball over three times.

Sixers tie it up on home court

In the Eastern Conference, the first-seeded Miami Heat find themselves in a series, with the Philadelphia 76ers claiming a 116-108 win in Game 4.

Joel Embiid's second game back from injury gave the Sixers a boost to tie up the series, finishing with 24 points on seven-of-13 shooting and 11 rebounds.

James Harden was the star of the show, however, coming up with 31 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, including some big buckets down the stretch.

The Heat were able to generate open looks, and at timely moments in the game, but were simply not able to capitalise, going seven-of-35 from the perimeter.

Victor Oladipo and Tyler Herro were particularly unable to provide Miami with a scoring boost off the bench, combining for 26 points but off two-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc.

The Sacramento Kings are reportedly hiring Golden State Warriors assistant coach Mike Brown on a four-year deal to be their new head coach.

Brown, 52, has spent the past seven seasons with the Warriors, but spent eight years before that as a successful head coach with a 61.6 per cent winning percentage (347-216).

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Sunday that Brown had become the focus of the Kings' search, with the franchise believing he is the right man to end their 16-year playoff drought.

When Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was sidelined during the 2016-17 playoffs, Brown stepped into the acting head coach role, going 12-0 during his stint in charge as Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry led the Warriors to a 16-1 playoff record and an eventual title.

The Kings' last made the playoffs in the 2005-06 season and have had 13 top-10 picks in the NBA Draft since then, including DeMarcus Cousins, De'Aaron Fox, Bismack Biyombo and Tyreke Evans.

Memphis Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins told reporters on Sunday "there's a really good chance" superstar Ja Morant does not play in Game 4 against the Golden State Warriors.

Morant – who is averaging 38 points, eight assists and six rebounds in the three games against Golden State this series – suffered a knee injury in the fourth quarter of Game 3 after an awkward tangle at mid-court where Jordan Poole appeared to grab and pull his knee.

After the game, Morant took to Twitter and claimed Poole "broke the code" in the incident – referencing Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, who said Dillon Brooks "broke the code" with his flagrant two foul that resulted in Gary Payton's fractured elbow – before deleting the tweet.

Speaking to reporters, Jenkins said "there's probably a really good chance he won't play tomorrow".

The NBA has come out and said it will not be taking any action against Poole for his role in the incident. The Grizzlies trail 2-1, with Game 4 to take place at Golden State before returning to Memphis for Game 5.

 

Jordan Poole has refuted he "broke the code" with a play on Ja Morant that left the Memphis Grizzlies point guard an injury doubt in the Golden State Warriors 142-112 Game 3 win.

Morant posted 34 points, plus three rebounds and seven assists, but limped off with five to go in the last quarter after the Warriors man grabbed his knee in a trap near half-court.

The Warriors surged on to a blowout victory in the end, resulting in them taking a 2-1 lead in the series after they were edged out in Game 2.

That led to a fiery post-game response from the Grizzlies star, who tweeted and then deleted a video claiming that Poole "broke the code" in intentionally injuring him.

The Grizzlies are yet to formally confirm the extent of Morant's injury - but speaking afterwards, Poole knocked back suggestions his play was intended to harm his opponent.

"It was a basketball play when we doubled him," Poole said. "And I hit the ball and I was going for the ball.

"I mean, obviously, you don't want to see anybody get hurt. I'm not even that type of player. I respect everybody.

"Hopefully he gets better and, you know, we can see him out there next game. I don't even play like that for real. That's not my type of game."

Poole's grab is the latest flashpoint in a fiery series, with Memphis forward Dillon Brooks sitting out Game 3 after hitting Gary Payton II in the head, resulting in a fractured elbow.

Memphis boss Taylor Jenkins skirted an official comment on whether Poole's move on his player was intentional, instead saying: "We just watched the replay.

"He was going after a dribble and Jordan Poole actually grabbed his knee and yanked it, which kind of triggered whatever happened.

"I'm actually going to be very curious to see what happens after that. I don't know what goes through you guys' head.

"No, I didn't say that it went on purpose. I said the play happened. There was a grab. I'm just curious what happened."

The two teams meet for Game 4 on Monday at Chase Center, San Francisco once more, with the Warriors looking to go 3-1 up.

The Milwaukee Bucks escaped with a win in Game 3 against the Boston Celtics, claiming a 103-101 victory after a frantic final exchange on Saturday.

Boston trailed 103-100 when Marcus Smart was fouled by Jrue Holiday just before attempting a three-pointer to tie the game with 4.6 seconds remaining.

After making the first free-throw from a non-shooting foul, Smart intentionally missed the second attempt and got the rebound, but he missed his putback attempt.

Robert Williams flew in but the ball bounced off the glass, before Horford picked up the rebound, missed his putback attempt, got his own rebound and banked it in, but his final shot came just after the buzzer sounded, denying overtime.

Giannis Antetokounmpo put up a massive performance on the other end, coming up with 42 points on 16-of-30 shooting, 12 rebounds and eight assists, as well as two steals and blocks.

Dubs defend home court after slow start

The Golden State Warriors blew the Memphis Grizzlies out despite a slow start and poor shooting night from Stephen Curry beyond the arc, taking Game 3 out 142-112.

The Warriors coughed up seven turnovers as the Grizzlies created a double-digit lead in the first quarter, but once the home side took care of the ball, their shooting facilitated a comprehensive turnaround.

Despite two-of-eight from Stephen Curry beyond the perimeter, he and Jordan Poole were able to penetrate off the dribble and get the team great looks. The Dubs went 53-of-84 for the night with an extraordinary true shooting rate of 76.1 per cent.

Curry still finished with an even 50 per cent from the floor and hit all 14 free-throw attempts, getting 30 points and six assists. Poole contributed 27 points off the bench, while the team outside of Curry went 17-of-24 from the perimeter.

Ja Morant limped off late following a knee injury, finishing the night with 34 points and seven assists.

Luka Doncic felt it was all about "energy, man" as the Dallas Mavericks put in a much-improved defensive showing to claw their way back into their Western Conference semi-finals series against the Phoenix Suns.

Speaking after the Game 2 defeat to the top-seeded Suns, superstar Doncic described the Mavs' second-half defensive showing as "horrible".

But it was a much different story for a desperate Dallas side on Friday as Doncic and Jalen Brunson starred in a 103-94 win to trim the deficit to 2-1.

Doncic finished with 26 points, 13 rebounds, nine assists and two steals, while Brunson put up a game-high 28 points – six more than he managed over the first two games.

After helping to spoil Chris Paul's 37th birthday and keep the Suns at bay, Doncic explained why he felt the Mavs were more on it from a defensive standpoint.

"Energy, man. The crowd gets you going. The energy and the execution were better. That's what we've got to do every game," he said, in quotes reported by ESPN.

"I knew I had to do better. I knew I could do better. I think I made a big jump on defense this year. The second half (of Game 2) was horrible by me, and I knew I had to get back to my team and play better defense.

"We're going to believe until the end. Somebody's got to get to four wins, and no matter if you're down or you're up, you've got to believe."

Head coach Jason Kidd said after the Game 1 defeat that Doncic did not get enough support from his team-mates. He had a different view this time around.

"Everybody joined the party," Kidd said. 

"They helped out on both ends. Luka was great defensively. He participated, too. It puts us in a different position when that happens."

For Brunson, the target now is maintaining that same standard when Dallas aim to tie things up in Game 4 on Sunday.

"I found a way to bounce back tonight," Brunson said. 

"I just can’t be satisfied with this. Sunday’s going to be another brutal game. I have to bring the same energy, the same intensity, the same everything."

It was a defensive showcase by the Philadelphia 76ers in their 99-79 home win in Game 3 of their series against the Miami Heat.

With their season essentially on the line – as no NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit – the 76ers were energised on the defensive end with the return of star Joel Embiid, who was wearing a protective mask to protect his fractured orbital bone.

It was the first time since January 2018 that the 76ers have held an opposing team under 80 points, when they beat the San Antonio Spurs 97-78.

In an incredibly low-scoring first half, the 76ers reached half-time with a 41-34 lead as James Harden carried the early offensive load, before cooling off in the second half to finish on 17 points (four-of-11 shooting) with eight rebounds and six assists.

Embiid was solid in his return, commanding plenty of defensive attention to open up lanes for his teammates and putting in 18 points (five-of-12 shooting, eight-of-10 free throws) with 11 rebounds.

The real star of the show for the home side was Danny Green, who hit seven of his first eight three-point attempts for his equal team-high 21 points, sharing that figure with Tyrese Maxey, who had all of his 21 points in the second half.

Jimmy Butler was the only Miami starter to get into double figures, scoring a game-high 33 points on 12-of-22 shooting, while Tyler Herro was a disappointing five-of-15 from the field for his 14 points.

Game 4 will remain in Philadelphia before heading back to Miami for Game 5.

 

Mavericks make it a series

The Dallas Mavericks injected some life into their series against the Phoenix Suns, taking Game 3 103-94 at home to trail 2-1.

In an inspired defensive showing, Dallas held the Suns to quarter totals of 20, 24, 23 and 27, slowing the game down to a crawling pace at times as both sides hunted for the exact looks they were after.

Both teams shot a respectable 44 per cent from the field, while the Suns were more efficient from long range, shooting it at 46 per cent compared to the Mavericks' 33 per cent, but the hosts forced 17 turnovers while committing just eight.

While the Mavs were not at their best from deep, despite shooters Reggie Bullock and Dorian Finney-Smith combining for eight makes behind the arc, they compensated by dominating the interior, out-scoring the Suns 50-32 in the paint.

Luka Doncic was at his best with 26 points (11-of-25 shooting), adding 13 rebounds and nine assists, but it was Jalen Brunson who lifted the Mavericks to the victory.

After scoring a combined 22 points from 32 per cent shooting in Game 1 and Game 2, Brunson erupted for a game-high 28 points on 10-of-21 shooting, with five assists and four rebounds.

Philadelphia 76ers superstar Joel Embiid will return from injury for Game 3 against the Miami Heat.

Embiid had been sidelined since a stray Pascal Siakam elbow in the last game of Philadelphia's first-round series against the Toronto Raptors fractured his orbital bone, meaning he will play in a protective mask.

He averaged a career-high 30.6 points per game this season along with 11.7 rebounds and a career-high 4.2 assists, and shot over 50 per cent from the field against the Raptors.

The 76ers had a record of 6-8 in the 14 regular season contests Embiid missed, and also dropped the first two games of their current series against Miami as he did not travel with the team for the Heat's opening home fixtures.

Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid has passed concussion protocol and there is "optimism" about his participation in Friday's Game 3 against the Miami Heat, according to reports.

Embiid has not played so far in the second-round series, which the 76ers trail 2-0 after a defeat on Wednesday.

Tyrese Maxey did his best to make up for the Cameroonian's absence, scoring 34 points, but Heat center Bam Adebayo (23 points and nine rebounds) enjoyed another big night as Miami secured a 119-103 victory.

The 76ers will look to get on the board in Philadelphia on Friday, but doubts remain around the availability of their MVP candidate, who suffered a facial fracture and concussion against the Toronto Raptors in round one.

Embiid is currently listed as out for Game 3, but according to The Athletic's Shams Charania, he cleared concussion protocol earlier on Friday and also participated in the team's shootaround, with Charania saying there was "optimism" about his chances of featuring in Game 3.

Coach Doc Rivers was unable to offer any assurances on Thursday, telling reporters: "I really don't know [if Embiid can play].

"We talked [on Tuesday], and we talked [on Wednesday]. He looked good, as far as talking... we just have to wait and see."

In the first round against the Raptors, Embiid averaged 26.2 points per game across his six appearances, with 11.3 rebounds per game.

Memphis Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks has been suspended without pay from Game 3 against the Golden State Warriors for his flagrant two foul on Gary Payton II.

Brooks was ejected less than three minutes into Game 2 for a foul described as "unnecessary and excessive contact… resulting in substantial injury" when he hit Payton in the head as he attacked the rim, causing an awkward fall on his extended arm underneath the basket.

With Payton – who was the primary defender on Grizzlies star Ja Morant – ruled out of the game, Morant exploded for 47 points to carry his side to a 106-101 win to even the series.

He will miss the rest of the series after being diagnosed with a fractured elbow as well as ligament and muscle damage.

It is reported that Payton may be able to return for the NBA Finals if the Warriors are to make it that far, while Brooks will return for Game 4.

Gary Payton II suffered ligament and muscle damage along with a broken left elbow in the Golden State Warriors' defeat to the Memphis Grizzlies – but he might not be out of the playoffs just yet.

The Grizzlies' Dillon Brooks was ejected in the first quarter of Tuesday's game for a nasty-looking strike across the head of Payton in midair, which was followed by a rebuke from Warriors head coach Steve Kerr.

Kerr said that Brooks "broke the code" of the sport with that incident, claiming it had been "dirty" play.

The Warriors were beaten 106-101 by the Grizzlies, leaving their Western Conference semi-finals series locked at 1-1 ahead of the next tussle on Saturday.

While Payton will not feature again against the Grizzlies in this series, it appears he could have a role to play if the Warriors go any deeper into the playoffs. For now, the plan is to assess his condition in two weeks' time.

A Warriors team statement said: "Gary Payton II, who exited Tuesday's Game 2 in Memphis after sustaining an injury to his left elbow, underwent an MRI yesterday in the Bay Area. The MRI confirmed a fracture in the left elbow, in addition to ligament and muscle damage. He will be re-evaluated in two weeks."

The Warriors also offered an update regarding veteran Andre Iguodala, seemingly ruling out a return until at least Game 6, should the series with the Grizzlies go so far.

"Andre Iguodala, who has missed the team's last three playoff games due to a disc injury in his neck, is making good progress in his recovery and will be re-evaluated again in one week," the Warriors statement read.

Brooklyn Nets point guard Ben Simmons will hope to finally get on the court in the 2022-23 season after undergoing successful back surgery on Thursday.

The 2020-21 Defensive Player of the Year runner-up failed to play a single minute in the 2021-22 campaign.

He joined the Nets from the Philadelphia 76ers in February as part of a multi-player trade and was soon sidelined with a herniated disc.

The Nets have now confirmed both a successful surgery and a timeline for his return.

"Brooklyn Nets guard/forward Ben Simmons underwent successful microdiscectomy surgery today at Cedars-Sinai Marina Del Rey Hospital in Los Angeles," read a team statement.

"Following an initial recovery period of three weeks, Simmons will begin a rehabilitation programme. He is expected to make a full recovery prior to the start of next season's training camp."

The Nets suffered a frustrating 2021-22 campaign, and were recently swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics, who have emerged as strong contenders to be champions of the Eastern Conference.

Jason Kidd repeated his plea for the rest of his Dallas Mavericks players to do more to help Luka Doncic after they fell 2-0 behind to the Phoenix Suns in the NBA playoffs.

Game 2 of their Western Conference semi-final was taken away from Dallas by the Suns in the second half on Wednesday, with the hosts scoring 71 points after half-time to eventually run out 129-109 victors at Footprint Center.

A sensational performance from Chris Paul was the catalyst for the number one seeds in the West, with 28 points as well as eight assists and six rebounds.

Paul was more than ably assisted by Devin Booker, who helped himself to 30 points on the night, but the game's top scorer Doncic (35) received less support.

The Slovenian added seven assists and five rebounds, with the next highest Dallas scorer, Reggie Bullock, only managing 16, while first-round star Jalen Brunson could only add nine.

Doncic is averaging 33.5 points per game for his playoff career – the most of all time – but coach Kidd accepts he cannot beat a team as good as the Suns on his own.

"He had a great game, but no one else showed," Kidd said. "We've got to get other guys shooting the ball better.

"We can't win with just him out there scoring 30 a night – not at this time of the year. And we're playing the best team in the league, so we've got to get other guys going.

"We need to do a better job of helping him. [The Suns are] bringing him up into everything. We knew that coming into the series. We knew that in the last series. We did a better job of protecting one another, not just Luka. We've got to get back to protecting one another for Game 3 back at home."

Doncic did not absolve himself of blame, though, adding: "I've just got to play better defense. That's it."

Mavs coach Kidd was also full of praise for Paul and Booker, acknowledging the Suns' gameplan worked to perfection.

"When you look at CP and Book, they took turns," Kidd said. "One took the third quarter, the next one took the fourth quarter, and we had no answers.

"They got the shots that they wanted. CP got to his spots and he made layups and made jump shots. Book made threes. They're really good. They understand the situation. They've seen it all. We've just got to be better."

The Philadelphia 76ers still do not know if Joel Embiid will be able to return in Game 3 against the Miami Heat, as he still has "so many steps to go through".

Embiid has not played so far in the second-round series, in which the 76ers now trail 2-0 after another defeat on Wednesday.

Although Tyrese Maxey went off for 34 points, Heat center Bam Adebayo (23 points and nine rebounds) enjoyed another big night in Embiid's absence to inspire a 119-103 win.

The 76ers will hope to get on the board as they head home to Philadelphia, but they may again be without their MVP candidate, who suffered a facial fracture and concussion against the Toronto Raptors in round one.

Coach Doc Rivers could offer no assurances ahead of Game 3, as he told reporters: "I really don't know [if Embiid can play].

"We talked [on Tuesday], and we talked [on Wednesday]. He looked good, as far as talking.

"But he's got so many steps to go through, and I don't think he's cleared any of them right now. So, we just have to wait and see."

Despite the Heat's dominant start, coach Erik Spoelstra remains wary of the series-altering impact of a potential Embiid return.

"It changes dramatically," Spoelstra said. "You're talking about MVP talent, you know? So, we'll just have to see.

"We knew that this series was going to shift, and it was going to change pretty dramatically [if Embiid returns].

"It's better for it to change dramatically when we're able to get a couple wins, but yeah, he changes the equation quite a bit."

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