Zion Williamson received the ultimate present on his 22nd birthday. 

As a thank you, he wants to deliver a championship to the New Orleans Pelicans. 

Williamson officially signed his five-year, $231million rookie max extension with the Pelicans at a YMCA in New Orleans where he was hosting a camp.  

He signed the deal on Wednesday, the same day he turned 22, and sitting alongside Pelicans general manager Trajan Langdon, executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin and coach Willie Green, Williamson – not surprisingly – said this is the number one birthday he has ever had. 

"For the Pelicans to give me this birthday gift, I'm not going to let them down," Williamson said. 

A year ago on his birthday, Williamson found out he broke his foot forcing him to miss the entire 2021-22 season. Now that he has been cleared to play, he has lofty goals. 

"I want to prove that I'm a winner, it's as simple as that," he said. "The ultimate goal is to win a championship. And I feel like that's what we're all striving for." 

The Pelicans made the playoffs this past season without Williamson and took the No. 1 seed Phoenix Suns to six games before being ousted. 

With Williamson in the fold, the hope is he can help the franchise take the next step. 

"It's gonna all come together at some point throughout the course of the season," Green said. "And when it does, I think we can be a scary team."

Williamson has only appeared in a mere 85 games since being the top pick of the 2019 NBA draft, but he has been outstanding when healthy, averaging 25.7 points, 7 rebounds and 3.2 assists while shooting just over 60 per cent. 

Since his rookie season, Williamson has been instrumental to New Orleans' success. The Pelicans have won 47.1 per cent of their games while averaging 116.4 points in the 85 games Williamson has played, compared to winning 40.4 per cent of the games and an average of 111.1 points in the contests he has missed.  

"Adding [Zion] back on the court with the group that we have is going to be a lot of fun but also really dangerous for the entire league and all of the 29 teams that have to face us night in and night out," Langdon said. "We are incredibly excited about that."

Suiting up alongside Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum, Williamson gives the Pelicans another scoring threat making the offense even more dangerous. New Orleans' offense thrived after acquiring McCollum last February, averaging 115.9 points after the trade compared to an average of 105.9 points in their first 54 games. 

"We have an opportunity to be able to run toward sustained success for quite a long time," Griffin said. "We're young, we're talented, and most importantly – we are very hungry." 

Zion Williamson is set to agree a five-year, $231million rookie max extension with the New Orleans Pelicans.

The imminent deal was reported by The Athletic's Shams Charania on Friday, the second day of NBA free agency.

A number of leading stars were given new deals on Thursday – including Nikola Jokic, Devin Booker and Ja Morant – and Williamson should now join them.

The Pelicans are building an exciting young team, making the playoffs in 2021-22 and taking the number one seed Phoenix Suns to six games despite Williamson's injury absence.

New Orleans could be forgiven for having some concerns about committing such a huge sum to Williamson, though.

The former first overall pick has played only 85 games in three seasons in the NBA – albeit he has averaged 25.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.

Williamson has spoken of his desire to commit to the Pelicans, but Charania added this deal was expected to include "protections".

With the top three picks of the NBA Draft appearing to be Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren and Paolo Banchero – likely in that order – the real fun begins with the Sacramento Kings at pick four.

The heavy favourite to be selected fourth overall is Purdue's Jaden Ivey, who projects as the top guard prospect in this year's class.

At 6ft 4in with tremendous athleticism, Ivey is a point guard that plays in a similar fashion to John Wall, although he is not the natural facilitator Wall is, leaning on his scoring and driving ability for his primary value.

Ivey was considered part of the top tier through early portions of the college basketball season until the three bigs elevated themselves further into their own conversation, but Ivey has been gaining so much steam throughout the pre-draft process that teams including the New York Knicks have reportedly been enquiring about trading up to the Kings' pick to select him.

 

Keegan Murray

After Ivey, the draft really opens up, although Iowa wing Keegan Murray will likely not fall outside of the top seven.

Murray is a 6ft 8in, highly skilled scorer who will be able to fill both forward spots in the NBA, and figures to be a player who will be able to create his own baskets in isolation situations.

He averaged 23.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game during his sophomore season, and shot a terrific 55 per cent from the field and 39.8 per cent from three-point range on 4.7 attempts per game.

Defense is the question with Murray, but he has the size and athleticism to contribute on that end, while the team that drafts him will hope he can fill a similar role to Milwaukee Bucks All-Star Khris Middleton as a low-maintenance scorer who does not need to be the centrepiece of every play to stack up points, but can also take over if needed.

 

Shaedon Sharpe

The mystery man of this year's class is 6ft 5in wing Shaedon Sharpe, who did not play a single game this past season at the college level.

Sharpe was viewed as a potential top-five pick in next year's draft, but opted to expedite his process to turn professional as soon as possible, and he will be rewarded with a top-10 pick barring any unforeseen red flags.

Strongly built, athletic, long-armed wings with the ability to aggressively hit pull-up three-pointers and defend multiple positions are probably the most valuable archetype in the game right now, and Sharpe fits the billing.

With a game that resembles Paul George, Sharpe arguably has a ceiling as high as anybody in the class, but a lot of future NBA wings look like Paul George when their only footage is against high school kids.

 

Bennedict Mathurin

Arizona wing Bennedict Mathurin also appears to be a lock for the top 10 after a dominant March Madness run that included a 30-point outburst in an overtime win in the Sweet 16, profiling as a high-level traditional shooting guard.

Clearly a score-first player, Mathurin – 6ft 6in with a 6ft 9in wingspan – will be able to defend opposing ones, twos and threes while his well-rounded offensive game should comfortably translate to an off-ball role at the next level.

Through his two seasons at Arizona, Mathurin shot 38 per cent from three on five attempts per game, including difficult, contested looks, while he also showed he can score at all three levels, and even dished seven assists with his 27 points in a key tournament win.

Maybe the safest pick outside of the top three, Mathurin will comfortably score in the teens as a rookie if he lands in a situation with minutes available. Think of him as a more athletic C.J. McCollum.

Dyson Daniels

Arguably the most unique guard in the class is Australian Dyson Daniels, who played with the G-League Ignite, and he also seems unlikely to fall out of the top 10.

Daniels was viewed as a decent prospect as a 6ft 5in combo guard who specialised in defense and lacked a jump shot – then he grew another three inches, cleaned up his jump shot and began assuming point guard responsibilities.

At 6ft 8in now with guard skills and elite defensive upside, Daniels is perhaps the hardest player in the class to find an NBA comparison for. He is so unselfish and pass-first that his play style resembles pure point guards like Tyus Jones or Monte Morris, but he is at least six inches taller and can realistically guard four positions.

Unlikely to ever become a true first option, Daniels is best served playing next to a primary scorer, making him an ideal fit with Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers if they decide to use pick seven instead of trade it.

 

Ousmane Dieng

Speaking of late risers in the draft process, teams seem to be deciding that someone with the tools of France's Ousmane Dieng may have no business falling outside of the top 10.

Dieng, a massive wing measuring at 6ft 10in, showed some extremely interesting flashes of skill this past season as an 18-year-old playing with the New Zealand Breakers in the NBL.

Playing for a professional team, he was not given nearly the kind of leash as college prospects to show what they can do, averaging 15 minutes and three points through his first nine games.

But once he found his footing, it was clear he was a serious prospect, showing off sharp ball-handling and the ability to attack off the bounce in an 11-game stretch where he averaged 24 minutes and 14 points per game, scoring at least 17 points in five contests and shooting 20-of-56 from long range (35 per cent).

A.J. Griffin

The son of former NBA player and current Toronto Raptors assistant coach Adrian Griffin, the only thing that can force A.J. Griffin to slide down draft boards is his injury history.

With essentially the perfect body for an NBA wing at 6ft 6in and 220 pounds with a seven-foot wingspan, Griffin is yet to turn 19 years old, and shot a blistering 44 per cent from long range on 4.4 attempts per game in his sole collegiate season.

If he can stay healthy, Griffin will be a solid starting wing at the bare minimum, with similar offensive upside to Raptors forward O.G. Anunoby and the defensive tools to guard at least three positions.

Teams will take a look at his medicals and decide if he is worth the risk, with multiple serious injuries during his high school career and more injury concerns during his one year at Duke.

The New Orleans Pelicans want Zion Williamson to stay with the franchise.

And Williamson says the feeling is mutual. 

Speaking on Saturday at a New Orleans YMCA where he held a youth and basketball camp registration, Williamson was asked if opening the camp was a sign he wanted to stay with the Pelicans.

"I do want to be here," Williamson said. "That's no secret. I feel like I've stood on that when I spoke."

Williamson reiterated that he wanted to stay with New Orleans just days after Pelicans executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin said it was essentially a no-brainer that the team will offer him the max of five years and at least $182 million despite the fact he missed the entire 2021-22 season due to a foot injury.

"It's not a big decision. It's a pretty easy decision," Griffin said on a podcast. "This is a max player. That's easy. The kid is historically good when he plays.

"What becomes significant with a team that's a small-market team that can't make mistakes in terms of injuries over time, you have to indemnify yourself in some way." 

When asked on Saturday about the extension, Williamson, who recently said he "couldn't sign it fast enough", smiled and said: "You have to ask the Pels, baby."

The Pelicans made the playoffs this past season without Williamson, who should be fit to suit up for the 2022-23 opener after being cleared on May 26 to play this offseason without any restrictions.

"It was a long year for me for rehab and mental battles. I'm fine now. I'm ready to get to work," he said.

Since his 2019-20 rookie season, Williamson has appeared in just 85 games, but he has been outstanding when healthy, averaging 25.7 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists while shooting just over 60 per cent.

Despite missing all of last season due to injury, Zion Williamson remains very much in the long-term plans of the New Orleans Pelicans, according to executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin. 

Appearing on a podcast, Griffin expressed confidence in signing Williamson to a maximum-salary extension this offseason and said it’s an "easy decision". 

Williamson said in his postseason press conference that he’s eager to sign long-term with the Pelicans after the team made a late run to the playoffs. Griffin said it’s essentially a no-brainer that he will get a max offer of five years and at least $182 million. 

"We feel really confident he wants to be here, and we’re equally confident we can come to an agreement," Griffin said. 

Because Williamson missed the entire 2021-22 season due to a foot injury and has played in just 85 games since entering the league in 2019, the Pelicans could seek protections within the deal. 

"It’s not a big decision. It’s a pretty easy decision," Griffin said. "This is a max player. That’s easy. The kid is historically good when he plays.

"What becomes significant with a team that’s a small-market team that can’t make mistakes in terms of injuries over time, you have to indemnify yourself in some way." 

Williamson was recently cleared to play this offseason without any restrictions after recent imaging on the fifth metatarsal in his right foot showed continued improvement. 

Barring any setbacks, he should be ready to return next season and take the court for the first time since May 2021.  

Williamson has been an extremely effective player when healthy, averaging 25.7 points, 7 rebounds and 3.2 assists while shooting just over 60 percent from the field for his career.  

Offseason work pic.twitter.com/scnFaHUil3

— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) June 7, 2022

Zion Williamson has been cleared to return to play without any restrictions.

The New Orleans Pelicans star did not play a single game this season due to a foot fracture as his team reached the playoffs through the play-in tournament, before losing 4-2 to the Phoenix Suns in the first round.

Williamson has been troubled by fitness issues throughout his NBA career, and the former first overall pick returned to full team activities in late November, only to suffer further setbacks.

However, the Pelicans confirmed on Thursday that the 21-year-old is finally able to return without restrictions, saying via a statement: "The New Orleans Pelicans announced today that recent imaging of Zion Williamson's right fifth metatarsal showed continued improvement.

"Williamson has been cleared in his return to play progression without any restrictions."

In the 2020-21 season, Williamson averaged 27.0 points and 7.2 rebounds from 61 games, and scored more than 20 in each of his last 15 games before getting injured just over a year ago.

Williamson is eligible for a five-year, $181million max rookie extension ahead of the 2022-23 season, and he will not think twice if that offer comes from the Pelicans, recently saying: "Of course, I couldn't sign it fast enough."

The NBA All-Rookie teams were unveiled on Wednesday, headlined by Rookie of the Year finalists Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley and winner Scottie Barnes in the All-Rookie First Team.

Joining the trio – who were all unanimous selections – on the First Team were Orlando Magic forward Franz Wagner and Houston Rockets guard Jalen Green.

Cunningham, Green, Mobley and Barnes were the first four picks of the 2021 NBA Draft, while Wagner was the eighth selection.

They were also the only five rookies to average at least 15 points per game this season, putting a gap between themselves and sixth-highest scorer Chris Duarte at 13.1 points per game. It is the first time since at least 1985 that all five members of the All-Rookie First Team have each averaged at least 15 points per game.

The All-Rookie Second Team was made up of first-rounders Josh Giddey (sixth selection), Duarte (13th selection) and Bones Hyland (26th), as well as a pair of second-round picks in Herb Jones (35th) and Ayo Dosunmu (38th).

Orlando will have the number one pick of the 2022 NBA Draft, followed by the Oklahoma City Thunder and then the Rockets.

Zion Williamson says he is committed to the New Orleans Pelicans, who were rejuvenated in the 2021-22 season he spent on the sideline.

Former first overall pick Williamson did not play a single game this season as the Pelicans reached the playoffs through the play-in tournament and then took the Phoenix Suns to six games.

The optimism around the team would increase further with the forward's return next year after playing just 85 games through three years.

When he has been on the court, Williamson has averaged 25.7 points on 60.4 per cent shooting, scoring 20 or more points in each of his 15 most recent outings – all of which came way back in 2020-21.

The former Duke sensation's dedication to the Pelicans has been questioned at times, but he appeared enthused discussing the future on Friday following their playoff elimination.

"It sucks watching from the sideline, because I just want to be out there," Williamson said. "But you're seeing the potential. We've got a lot of great pieces.

"The locker room [had] a different feel this year. A lot of that goes to BI's [Brandon Ingram's] leadership, the young guys buying in to coach [Willie] Green so fast.

"You saw it on the court. Man, we have a special group, I truly believe that."

Williamson is eligible for a five-year, $181million max rookie extension ahead of the 2022-23 season, and he is not planning to think twice if that offer comes from the Pelicans.

"Of course, I couldn't sign it fast enough," he said.

Chris Paul says his NBA playoff-record shooting night in the Phoenix Suns' 115-109 win over the New Orleans Pelicans was a simple matter of needs must.

The 12-time All-Star went a perfect 14-of-14 as the Suns took out Game 6 and advanced to the second round, setting the NBA playoff record for most field goals without a miss in a single game.

The Point God took over in the third quarter and at an ideal time for the Western Conference's first seed, making all six shots as the Pelicans' double-digit lead from half-time evaporated.

Paul made reference to the fact the Suns were staring a Game 7 in the face at the start of the third quarter, and he had to perform.

"We needed it," Paul said post-game. "That team right there, they pushed us as hard as you can be pushed, and I think it might have been some point in the second quarter, I said to someone 'Imma get aggressive.'

"Coming out the third quarter, I saw how the game was going. We were down 10, so I knew I had to try to force the issue."

The 36-year-old faced particular difficulty with the Pelicans' ability to switch, as well as the primary Jose Alvarado matchup, with Devin Booker out for the previous three games due to a hamstring injury.

Booker's presence allowed Paul an increased ability to penetrate and attack the paint, and the veteran point guard was thankful afterwards.

"It's real nice to have Devin back," he said. "All the pressure from the series, especially the last three games - it's a little bit different when you got him out there on the court."

The Suns will now face the Dallas Mavericks, who also progressed on Thursday with their Game 6 win on the road against the Utah Jazz.

The Phoenix Suns booked their spot in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs, securing the series with a 115-109 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Devin Booker's return from injury gave Chris Paul more room to attack, and Paul obliged with the best shooting night in NBA playoff history.

He went a perfect 14-of-14 from the floor on the way to a game-high 33 points, making the most field goals without a miss in a single playoff game.

The Suns did not have it easy though, with Booker's three-pointer putting the Suns ahead at 106-104 with 1:42 remaining. A CJ McCollum turnover on the next possession effectively secured the Suns the series.

The Pels were up 10 at the half, but foul trouble for McCollum, Herbert Jones and Jose Alvarado made lineups and finding consequent balance complicated for first-year head coach Willie Green.

Sixers snap up Raptors

The Philadelphia 76ers will face the Miami Heat in the second round after they defeated the Toronto Raptors 132-97 in Game 6 of their series.

Joel Embiid and James Harden ultimately stepped up when required, combining for 55 points off 19-of-30 shooting. Embiid added 10 rebounds, three blocks and two steals while Harden masterfully distributed the ball with 15 assists and committed just three turnovers.

The Raptors had a brutal third quarter with their season on the line, going five-of-19 from the floor for 17 points, before Pascal Siakam eventually fouled out with 24 points.

Jazz miss chance to extend season

The Utah Jazz were eliminated from the playoffs, with the Dallas Mavericks winning Game 6 98-96 and progressing to the second round.

With 4.3 seconds remaining on the clock, Bojan Bogdanovic got the ideal look to win the game from a drawn-up play off an inbound. Spencer Dinwiddie scrambled and bought the initial pump-fake, but Bogdanovic could not convert the open look, ending the Jazz's season.

Luka Doncic was everywhere for the Mavs however, coming up with 24 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, as well as two steals and blocks.

Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker is nearing his return from a hamstring injury, and could reportedly play in Game 6 against the New Orleans Pelicans, or Game 7 if it is required.

Booker, 25, will likely be named to the All-NBA First Team after averaging 26 points, five rebounds and five assists per game, with the Suns going 56-12 in the 68 games he suited up for in the regular season.

He played 41 minutes in Phoenix's Game 1 win against the Pelicans, but hurt his hamstring in the third quarter of Game 2 after scoring 31 points in the first half.

In his absence, the Suns lost Game 2 and Game 4, before recovering to win at home in Game 5, taking a 3-2 lead.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said Booker is "progressing toward a return soon, including the possibility as soon as Game 6 or Game 7".

Despite being a true game-time decision, it is reported that Booker will initially be listed as out of Game 6 until he proves his fitness.

Chris Paul was perplexed by a "ridiculous" technical foul he received in the Phoenix Suns' Game 5 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Paul described the officiating as "out of control" after he was hit with an eight-second violation when the Suns were leading 100-92 in the fourth quarter.

Phoenix went on to win 112-97 at Footprint Center on Tuesday, taking a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference playoffs first-round series.

Paul, who scored 22 points and contributed 11 assists, made his feelings clear when asked about his technical foul, revealing he merely said "C'mon'' at the scorer's table as he wanted a review.

He said: '"It's out of control, that's ridiculous. It is what it is. We try not to get fourth-quarter techs on our team. That's a big deal."

 

Mikal Bridges starred with 31 points as the Suns gave themselves the opportunity to wrap up the series in Game 6 in New Orleans on Thursday.

The 25-year-old small forward said: "I'm ready to play tomorrow. I'm energised, my team-mates keep me going. I'm itching my knee right now, talking about it.

"I'm ready, I love being out there with my team-mates. They're my best friends, it makes it way easier."

Paul said of Bridges' exploits: "He doesn't miss games, he guards the best players every night and then he has 31."

Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram had fingers taped up following the game, but says he will play in Game 6.

"It's fine," Ingram said. "It got a little banged up during the game, but I'll be all right."

Ja Morant produced a dazzling fourth-quarter display and game-winning lay-up to earn the Memphis Grizzlies a 3-2 series lead in their first round playoffs against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday.

The Grizzlies triumphed 111-109 over the Timberwolves, led by Morant with 30 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists.

Morant made the decisive contribution with a play with 3.7 seconds left with scores at 109-109, bucketing a left-handed lay-up from Dillon Brooks' inbound.

Memphis had trailed by 11 points in the last quarter before their rally, with recently crowned NBA Most Improved Player Morant scoring 18 points in the fourth. Morant had sparked after a massive third-quarter dunk.

Desmond Bane added 25 points for the Grizzlies, while Karl-Anthony Towns was excellent with 28 points including five three-pointers and 12 rebounds.

Heat seal series win over Hawks

The Miami Heat completed a 4-1 series victory over the Atlanta Hawks with a 97-94 win, despite the absences of Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry.

The Hawks failed to get a shot away in the final play in the dying seconds to force over-time as the Heat triumphed led by Victor Oladipo (23 points) and Bam Adebayo (20 points and 11 rebounds).

Trae Young struggled again with 11 points on two-of-12 shooting from the field, finishing the five-game series with 30 turnovers.

Bridges guides Suns into 3-2 lead

Mikal Bridges produced a 24-point second half as the Phoenix Suns won 112-97 over the New Orleans Pelicans to move ahead 3-2 in their first round series.

Bridges finished with 31 points for the game while Chris Paul had 22 points, 11 assists and three steals for the Suns who were without Devin Booker (hamstring).

The Suns, who came into the playoffs with the best record in the NBA, led from start to finish. Brandon Ingram top scored for the Pelicans - who had six turnovers in the first quarter - with 22 points.

The Phoenix Suns were left unimpressed by the physicality and officiating in their 118-103 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans that levelled the playoff series at 2-2 on Sunday.

The Pelicans repeatedly tested the Suns inside the paint in Game 4, with Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valanciunas combining to shoot half of New Orleans' 42 free throws.

By contrast, Monty Williams' Phoenix shot 15 from the line – in what was a 17-2 first-half difference between the sides – while being called for 12 more fouls than their opponents (28 versus 16).

The evergreen Chris Paul did not have one free-throw chance, after throwing 14 in the first three games, and went scoreless in the fourth quarter against defensive nuisance Jose Alvarado, who is a rookie guard.

The 36-year-old also managed just four points at the Smoothie King Center, a joint-low return in his playoff career alongside a four-point tally against the Denver Nuggets in April 2009.

Speaking to reporters after the game, Paul suggested the physicality was a throwback to yesteryear in basketball: "It's like the old NBA, isn't it?

"I asked one of the refs one time, 'Are we playing in the old NBA or the new NBA?'

"I was fortunate enough to play in both of them, we just have to figure out which one it's going to be. Regardless, whatever it is, you've to adjust early in the game and figure it out."

The Suns' coach Williams echoed Paul's frustrations as he bemoaned the officiating but acknowledged the eighth-seeded Pelicans were worthy winners in the Western Conference match-up.

"Forty-two to 15 in free throws – slice it any way you like to, in a playoff game that's physical, that's amazing," he said.

"Coaches shouldn't have to come up to the microphone and feel like they're going to get their head cut off for speaking the truth. It's not like we didn't attack the basket. That's really hard to do.

"They outplayed us and they deserved to win, but that's a free throw disparity."

The Pelicans attempted 46 shots in the paint to the Suns' 41, and New Orleans coach Willie Green was delighted with his team's aggressiveness.

"We were being aggressive. They dominated the paint last game," Green said. "Had 64 points in the paint. So we were well aware that we had to do better in that area."

Paul had 28 assists and zero turnovers in Games 2 and 3, but only produced 11 assists – four of those coming in the fourth quarter – and three turnovers in Game 4.

And Pelicans guard CJ McCollum was delighted with the defensive showing against the first-seeded Phoenix.

"I was tired of hearing about [Paul] breaking records during the fourth quarter," McCollum said of Paul.

"It's just a credit to our defense. Especially our intensity. But also, it's a make-or-miss league. He is not going to make every shot. But some nights, he is going to make a lot of tough ones.

"Tonight, he missed some shots he made the last three games. Credit our defense. But it's a make-or-miss league."

The Suns will also have to contain Ingram in Game 5 on Tuesday after he became the first Pelicans player in team history to score 30 or more in three consecutive playoff games.

The Denver Nuggets narrowly avoided a series sweep on Sunday, coming up big on both ends in the final seconds to beat the Golden State Warriors 126-121.

Down 17 points at one stage and nine to start the fourth quarter, the Warriors were able to claw their way level through Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who combined for 55 points for the game and on 22-of-43 shooting from the floor.

The Warriors could not seize the opportunity to lead with scores tied at 121 however, when Andrew Wiggins missed a tip-dunk off a Thompson miss, an open catch-and-shoot three in the corner.

A Monte Morris floater gave the Nuggets the lead with 33.5 seconds remaining, and Austin Rivers' steal from the consequent Otto Porter Jr. inbound effectively settled the result. Will Barton's corner three from a Nikola Jokic feed was punctuation mark.

Jokic was exceptional with Denver's season on the line, coming up with 37 points on 14-of-21 shooting, eight rebounds and six assists.

Pels level series against Suns

The New Orleans Pelicans have managed to level the series with the first-seeded Phoenix Suns, comfortably winning Game 4 118-103.

The combination of the Pels' defensive flexibility and length combined with the Suns' continued struggles in injured star Devin Booker's absence has made this a series.

While Deandre Ayton was able to provide a presence under the basket with 23 points and eight rebounds, Chris Paul and Mikal Bridges shot a combined six-of-19 from the floor.

Jonas Valanciunas came up with important buckets down the stretch on his way to 26 points and 15 rebounds.

Heat and Bucks take commanding leads in East

The Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks now have the chance to advance in the playoffs on their home floors, defeating the Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls respectively. 

The Heat defeated the Hawks 110-86 to take a 3-1 series lead, with the latter held to just 15 points in the second quarter.

It was a particularly tough night for Trae Young after his game-winner in Game 3, taking only four shots in the second half and committing as many turnovers.

The Milwaukee Bucks also took a 3-1 series lead on Sunday, claiming a big 119-95 win over the Chicago Bulls.

Grayson Allen provided crucial minutes off the bench with 27 points off 10-of-12 shooting, including six-of-seven from beyond the arc, as well as three steals.

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