Phoenix Suns top-scorer Devin Booker is reportedly unlikely to play in Game 3 or Game 4 of their first-round series against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Booker, 25, scored 31 points in the first half of Game 2, but tweaked his hamstring with five minutes remaining in the third quarter when trying to contest Jaxson Hayes at the rim, immediately leaving for the locker room.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that while the injury is considered "mild" and Booker is not being ruled out for the series, "it appears unlikely he will be able to play in Games 3 and 4".

The injury could have seismic repercussions for the favourites to take out this year's NBA Championship, as what was once considered to be a likely sweep, may now become a case of the Suns being on upset-watch.

From the point Booker was substituted out of Game 2, the Suns were outscored 48-40 in just under 17 minutes, allowing 69 second-half points in the process. For the season, Phoenix only allows opposition teams to score an average of 54 in second-halves.

While the Suns are clearly not a one-man team, if there is one player they could not afford to lose, it is Booker.

In games this season where Booker has played, Phoenix have a record of 56-12 – and winning percentage of .824 – and were just 8-6 in games he missed.

In addition, the Pelicans are a much better side than their 36-46 record indicates.

After starting their season with just one win from their first 14 games, New Orleans went 32-30 from their last 62 contests, banking wins over playoff teams including the Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies, Utah Jazz, Dallas Mavericks, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, Toronto Raptors – and the Suns.

Since the All-Star break – around the time they added key starter C.J. McCollum through a trade with the Portland Trail Blazers – the Pelicans have been a top-10 offense and a top-10 defense, with a net-rating of 4.7, only slightly behind Phoenix's 6.0 over the same time period.

New Orleans are a team playing their best basketball at the right point of the season, and have a young star looking poised to elevate himself into the conversation of the game's most elite offensive players.

In the Pelicans' four postseason games, including the two play-in fixtures, Brandon Ingram is averaging 28 points, 6.8 rebounds and six assists, including going off for 37 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in the Game 2 win to even the series.

Health and momentum are now on the Pelicans' side, as they head back to New Orleans for Game 3 and Game 4 in games Booker is unlikely to suit up for.

While the Suns have kept their head above water in games he has missed, they are just 2-5 on the road when Booker has not played, and they will need at least one more win before heading back to Phoenix for Game 5, or else it could shape up as an upset for the ages.

An eighth seed has only defeated a one seed on four occasions in NBA history: the 1993-94 Denver Nuggets defeated the Seattle Supersonics; the 1998-99 New York Knicks toppled the Miami Heat en route to the NBA Finals; the 2006-07 'We Believe' Golden State Warriors against the Dallas Mavericks; and the 2010-11 Memphis Grizzlies beating the San Antonio Spurs.

The Phoenix Suns are waiting to hear more on Devin Booker's hamstring injury, although coach Monty Williams insisted the NBA title favourites are ready for the "next man up".

After scoring 31 points in the first half of Tuesday's game against the New Orleans Pelicans, giving the Suns a 61-56 lead, Booker was held scoreless in the third quarter before going down injured.

The three-time All-Star, who has battled injury problems previously, left the floor and was unable to return.

"We'll have more information tomorrow," Williams told reporters. "We've played without Chris [Paul] and Book before. If we have to play without Book, next man up. We've done that all year long."

The Suns were 8-6 without Booker this year, 11-6 without Chris Paul and 3-3 when both were absent.

Paul continued on Tuesday to finish with 17 points and 14 assists but acknowledged the blow of Booker's injury.

"It is what it is, it's part of the game," he said. "He was killing, he was having a big-time game."

In Booker's absence, the Suns sensationally lost 125-114 as New Orleans levelled the first-round series at 1-1.

It was a historic win for the Pelicans, who became the first team in NBA history to beat 60-win opponents in the playoffs after themselves finishing the regular season at least 10 games under .500.

Brandon Ingram was the star of the show, with 37 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.

"This was one of his best [games] and it was on the big stage," Pelicans coach Willie Green said of Ingram. "I'm proud of that young man. He works his tail off."

Ingram added: "Throughout this year I had confidence that we would be here.

"I didn't know what it would look like, but we continued to get better every single day with Willie being positive every single day and helping guys and teaching guys every single day."

The Phoenix Suns lost Devin Booker to a hamstring injury as they were stunned 125-114 by the New Orleans Pelicans who squared up their first-round playoffs series.

Brandon Ingram scored 37 points, including 26 in the second half, with 11 rebounds and nine assists, while CJ McCollum added 23 points including six three-pointers.

But the hamstring injury to Suns All-Star guard Booker was the major talking point, leaving the Western Conference's top seed severely weakened if he is out for an extended period.

The Suns were leading 61-56 at half-time with Booker having scored 31 first-half points including shooting seven-of-11 from three-point range, before he left the game in the third quarter and did not return.

Chris Paul could not lift the Suns in Booker's absence, finishing with 17 points and 14 rebounds, while Mikal Bridges added 19 points.

 

Butler on fire as Heat win

Jimmy Butler scored 45 points with 15-of-25 shooting from the field as the Miami Heat claimed a 2-0 lead in their series against the Atlanta Hawks with a 115-105 win.

The Heat went on an 11-0 run the third quarter to open up the game-winning lead led by Butler while Tyler Herro (15 points) and Max Strus (14 points) contributed well.

Trae Young, coming off a playoff career-low display, managed 25 points for the Hawks with Bogdan Bogdanovic landing five triples in his 29-point haul.

 

Grizzlies claim franchise-best playoff win

The Memphis Grizzlies overcame a Ja Morant injury scare as they levelled their series against the Minnesota Timberwolves with a 124-96 victory.

Morant left the court in the third quarter after copping a knee to his left leg but returned, finishing with 23 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists. That was Morant's third career playoffs double-double.

The victory was the Grizzlies' largest in their franchise playoff history, despite Anthony Edwards' best efforts with 20 points and six rebounds for the Timberwolves.

Chris Paul revealed he was spurred on by the New Orleans Pelicans' defensive strategy during the Phoenix Suns' 110-99 Game 1 win on Sunday.

The 36-year-old, who turns 37 next month, became the oldest player in NBA history to put up 30 points and 10 assists in a playoff game, including 19 points in a brilliant fourth quarter.

After the Pelicans rallied back from a 23-point deficit to make it a two-possession game, Paul took advantage of multiple instances where they went under on-ball screens against him.

Following the game, the 12-time All-Star said he wanted to make former team-mate and now Pelicans coach Willie Green pay for his strategy.

"That's like inviting me to shoot," Paul said. "I know Willie, that's my man. It's all a part of the game."

Paul, who only attempted 3.3 three-pointers per game in the playoffs last season and 3.1 this regular season, went four-of-six from beyond the arc, including three-of-four in the fourth quarter.

Team-mate Devin Booker said of Paul: "That man is a true competitor and a true winner.

"When he wants it that bad, you can see it in his demeanour and see it in his walk, so it shouldn't surprise anyone. He's built for these moments."

Meanwhile, on defense, the Suns kept C.J. McCollum, Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valanciunas to a combined 22-of-63 from the floor.

"We were just connected," Paul said. "We were making it tough on C.J., same thing with BI [Ingram] and closing out to their shooters. We were just on a string.

"I think a lot of times people think about our offense and how we move the ball and stuff, but our defense is what we really sort of hang our hats on."

Jayson Tatum's buzzer-beating layup gave the Boston Celtics a dramatic 115-114 victory over the Brooklyn Nets in their series opener on Sunday.

Tatum scored 16 of his 31 points in the second half, along with adding eight assists, four rebounds, two blocks and a steal. His final two points came in the frenetic final seconds, cutting towards the basket off Kevin Durant for Marcus Smart, spinning past Kyrie Irving and finishing with as time expired.

Smart particularly showed poise, forcing the closeout from Bruce Brown and Nic Claxton before dishing, along with adding 20 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals.

While Irving scored a game-high 39 points for the Nets, Durant put up 23 points but went nine-of-24 from the floor, including some open, trailing looks in transition. One miss at 102-98 would have made it a three-possession game in Brooklyn's favour midway through the fourth quarter, but a miss leading to a Jaylen Brown dunk brought it back to one.

It was also at that point where Boston were zero-for-seven for the quarter from the floor, and momentum suddenly shifted.

Giannis yields Bucks win in opener

Giannis Antetokounmpo put up 26 points and 17 rebounds as the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Chicago Bulls 93-86.

The defending NBA champions blew a 16-point lead, but recovered with a Jrue Holiday triple that triggered an 8-0 run.

The Bulls still had their chances, with Zach LaVine missing a game-tying three-pointer with 29 seconds remaining in what was a rough shooting night. LaVine and DeMar DeRozan shot a combined 12-of-44 as the team connected on only 32.3 per cent of field goal attempts.

Red-hot Robinson gives Heat opening victory

Duncan Robinson set a franchise playoff record with eight three-pointers in a catch-and-shoot clinic, leading the Miami Heat to a 115-91 win against the Atlanta Hawks in their series opener.

Robinson scored 27 points on nine-of-10 shooting for the Eastern Conference's first seed, who had three players see over 20 minutes of game time off the bench.

Trae Young had his worst-ever shooting night for the Hawks, making one field goal out of 12 attempts, as well as committing six turnovers.

CP3 takes over for Suns

Chris Paul scored 19 points in a brilliant fourth quarter, as the Phoenix Suns secured a 110-99 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

As the Pelicans cut a 23-point deficit to single digits to two possessions, the Suns needed the 36-year-old, who eventually finish with 30 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and three steals.

Despite 25 points from CJ McCollum, the Pelicans finished with the unusual statistic of a better three-point field goal percentage (39.1) than total field goal percentage (37.9).

The Los Angeles Clippers will play no part in this year's playoffs, but coach Ty Lue still believes they "can be special" next season.

The Clippers finished eighth in the West to enter the Play-In tournament, only to fall short of the postseason with consecutive defeats.

After losing 109-104 to the Minnesota Timberwolves with Paul George in the lineup, the seven-time All-Star was in health and safety protocols for Friday's make-or-break 105-101 defeat at home to the New Orleans Pelicans.

George's absence was a cruel blow for the Clippers, not that playing without him is a new experience.

Injury limited George to 31 games this year – in which he averaged a team-leading 24.3 points – but that was 31 more games than the team got out of two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who is still recovering from a partial ACL tear in last season's playoff run.

Even Norman Powell, signed in February, suffered a setback and could play only limited minutes in a bench role after returning ahead of the play-in games.

Since the Clippers signed George and Leonard ahead of the 2019-20 season, they have played together in only 104 games across the regular season and playoffs.

The Clippers have a 72-32 (.692) record in those games, versus 83-71 (.539) in the 154 when one of their superstars is missing.

For that reason, Lue can retain some optimism as they hope to have Leonard back for 2022-23.

"We get our main guys back, we can be dangerous," he said after the Pelicans game. "Health is part of it. We've got to stay healthy, continue to work.

"When you get Kawhi back, a top-five player, PG, a perennial All-Star, your team changes tremendously.

"Guys who have taken on bigger roles this year, who have never been in this position before, they can kind of fall back into their original roles.

"We could be very different with those two guys back and healthy. We can be special."

The Pelicans have themselves missed a big name this year, with former first overall pick Zion Williamson joining Leonard in sitting out the entire season to date.

In his stead, C.J. McCollum and, particularly in the play-in tournament, Brandon Ingram have stepped up to lead the Pelicans into a first-round series against title favourites the Phoenix Suns.

Ingram has averaged 18.5 points per game for his career and 22.7 in the regular season this year but 28.5 across play-in wins over the San Antonio Spurs and the Clippers.

His 30 led the team on Friday, prompting high praise from coach Willie Green.

"Brandon Ingram is the truth," Green said. "He just brought it. He had that look in his eye from the time we got on the plane. Shootaround, he's been locked in. He has been waiting for this moment, for this type of moment."

A Trae Young masterclass in the second half of the Atlanta Hawks' play-in clash against the Cleveland Cavaliers led his side to a 107-101 victory.

After only scoring six points in the first half, Young had 32 in the second, finishing with 38 points on 13-of-25 shooting (four-of-11 from deep) to go with nine assists.

It was a gutsy comeback from the Hawks, who trailed 28-14 in the first quarter and 49-61 with 30 seconds to play in the first half.

Overall, the Hawks outscored the Cavaliers 56 to 40 in the last two quarters, and after committing seven turnovers in the opening frame, cleaned things up significantly and only committed six more across the next three quarters.

Cleveland's Darius Garland had a difficult shooting night, finishing nine-of-27 from the field for his 21 points, but he showed excellent command of his side throughout, dishing nine assists, snatching three steals and finishing with a plus/minus of plus three in his 43 minutes. This means in the five minutes Garland was sitting on the bench, the Cavs were outscored by eight.

With the win, the Hawks have earned a seven-game series against the top seed of the Eastern Conference – the Miami Heat.

Pelicans survive Clippers comeback

The New Orleans Pelicans survived a massive second-half surge from the Los Angeles Clippers to fight back and win on the road 105-101. 

Through the first half, it looked like it would be smooth sailing for the Pelicans as they jumped out to a 56-42 lead with one minute to play in the second quarter.

Los Angeles were without star Paul George after it was announced he had tested positive for coronavirus and had to adhere to health and safety protocols, but they found a second wind to start the third period.

The Clippers started the second half on a 20-to-two run, flipping a 56-46 deficit to a 66-58 lead as Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris started to catch fire.

After being outscored 38-18 in the third term, the Pelicans began the final period trailing 84-74, but it would be their turn to make a run, rallying to tie the game at 88-88 with 7:35 to play.

Brandon Ingram was the star of the show, finishing with 30 points (14-of-21 shooting) with six assists and six rebounds, but the clutch long-range shooting from rookie Trey Murphy III was the catalyst for their surge down the stretch.

Murphy came off the bench and finished with a game-high plus/minus of plus 26 in his 24 minutes, hitting four-of-six threes, including three of them in the last 10 minutes.

Jackson and Morris finished with 27 points each for the Clippers, while the former also added eight assists, seven rebounds and two steals.

The win means the New Orleans Pelicans will face the Phoenix Suns in a best-of-seven series, beginning on Sunday.

 

Paul George has entered the NBA's health and safety protocols and will not feature for the Los Angeles Clippers against the New Orleans Pelicans, according to reports.

George spent three months out earlier this season due to a serious elbow injury but returned at the end of March to help the Clippers push for a playoff berth.

They did not quite seal a guaranteed postseason spot but face the Pelicans on Friday in the Western Conference's play-in game.

The Clippers lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first game of the play-in tournament but get a second shot against the Pelicans. However, they will be without their talisman George.

George scored a game-high 34 points in the defeat to Minnesota yet will sit out as his teammates aim to secure a playoff game against the top-seeded Phoenix Suns.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported the news, with his colleague Ohm Youngmisuk stating that Lawrence Frank, the president of basketball operations for the Clippers, had told media that George had tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday.

George averaged 24.3 points per game for the Clippers across the regular season, more than any of his teammates.

After the loss to the Timberwolves, George told reporters: "It's win or go home.

"Obviously, [if] we don't win, we go home. I could care less who we play. The mindset is we have to win regardless. There's no pep talk, X's and O's. We've got to win. We've got to win if we want to continue our season."

George has carried a heavy burden this season in the absence of Kawhi Leonard who has not featured at all this season due to injury, though there is hope he may return for the playoffs should the Clippers progress. 

New Orleans Pelicans guard C.J. McCollum called Wednesday's play-in tournament win against the San Antonio Spurs "the start of something special".

McCollum has been the star of the Pelicans since arriving in a mid-season trade, and it was no different against the Spurs, netting a game-high 32 points to go with seven assists and six rebounds.

The former Lehigh University standout has been averaging 23.3 points and 6.0 assists since the All-Star break and helped propel the Pelicans into the play-in tournament despite starting the season 1-12 from their first 13 games.

Speaking with post-game media, McCollum said it feels like something great is brewing in New Orleans.

"This is the start of something special, for sure," he said. 

"You see the energy. Feel the energy. My mother is in town – I have some family in town – when we go out to eat, you can feel the city is excited about basketball, as they should [be]. 

"There's a lot of talent here. We're playing the game the right way. It's going to be a lot of winning in our future."

McCollum went on to talk about how seriously the Pelicans were taking this game with their season on the line.

"I understood the magnitude of this game," he said. 

"The Spurs are always going to go on a run at some point. They are well-coached. They execute. They have a lot of great players who can shoot and score. 

"When you get a chance to get up double digits, you have to put the pedal to the metal and try to be aggressive… I try to be more aggressive in the playoffs, try to get downhill a little bit more."

Pelicans head coach Willie Green had nothing but praise for his star shooting guard.

"We just got the ball to him, and he made play after play, score after score," he said. 

"The rest of the guys started to feed off C.J. – he's been in these moments, he's played on the big stage. 

"It's no coincidence that he goes out and has the game that he has."

The Atlanta Hawks avoided elimination from the NBA Play-In Tournament on Wednesday, comfortably defeating the Charlotte Hornets 132-103, despite a poor shooting night from Trae Young.

The Hawks shot 52.1 per cent collectively even with Trae Young's eight-of-24 from the floor, with all five starters scoring in double-digits along with Bogdan Bogdanovic from the bench, who added 13 points.

Young started slow with three-of-13, matching LaMelo Ball for the first half, but was able to find his teammates early, particularly getting easy buckets for Clint Capela out of high pick-and-roll action.

Finishing with 31 assists for the night, the Hawks moved the ball fluidly in comparison to the Hornets, who could not generate clean looks on the way to 37.8 per cent shooting from the floor and 22 assists collectively.

Ball and Terry Rozier shot a combined 15-of-47, while the former went four-of-14 from three-point range despite eight assists and five rebounds.

Atlanta will now face the Cleveland Cavaliers, with the winner earning a Playoff matchup against the Eastern Conference's first seed, the Miami Heat.

McCollum leads Pelicans past Spurs

C.J. McCollum was the star of the show as the New Orleans Pelicans defeated the San Antonio Spurs 113-103 to earn a chance at the Western Conference eighth seed.

McCollum was on fire early, particularly in the second quarter, where he went a perfect six-for-six from the field to score 19 points in the period, on his way to final figures of 32 points (12-of-23 shooting), seven assists and six rebounds.

He was supported in style by Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valanciunas, who combined for 49 points, 19 rebounds and eight assists, while rookie defensive sensation Herb Jones had two steals and two blocks.

Jones also did a great job on Spurs All-Star Dejounte Murray, holding him to five-of-19 shooting for his 16 points.

With the win, the Pelicans will play the Los Angeles Clippers in a game where the victor will earn a seven-game series against the Phoenix Suns in round one of the Playoffs.

 

Whatever you think about the sporting merit of the introduction of the Play-In tournament to last year's NBA season, there is no doubt it made things more interesting for the neutral.

The Golden State Warriors were surprisingly eliminated after defeats to the Los Angeles Lakers and the Memphis Grizzlies, while the Indiana Pacers were denied a playoff place by the Washington Wizards in 2021.

The format has returned for this season, and again, it promises to add all sorts of further intrigue to the playoff picture.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, the mini tournament will take place from April 12-16. The teams that finished seventh and eighth play one another to determine the seventh playoff seed from their respective conference, while the loser of that game gets a chance to secure the eighth seed when they host the winner of a game between the ninth and 10th seeds.

Therefore, the teams that finish seventh or eighth only need to win one game to advance to the playoffs, while those in ninth and 10th must win two.

Whoever clinches the seventh seed in the east will face the Boston Celtics in the playoffs, while the eighth seed will take on the Miami Heat. In the west, the seventh seed will go up against the Memphis Grizzlies, and the eighth seed will be paired with the Phoenix Suns.

With the regular season over after Sunday's final games, Stats Perform takes a look at the eight teams with one last chance to secure their place in the 2022 NBA playoffs.

Eastern Conference

Tuesday, April 12 – Brooklyn Nets (7th) vs Cleveland Cavaliers (8th) 

It has felt like a season of distractions in Brooklyn this season, be it James Harden's struggles, Kevin Durant's fitness or Kyrie Irving's vaccination status, and now the debut of Ben Simmons, which it seems may come in the playoffs, if they make it that is.

The Nets will be favourites, having won 12 of their last 17 and with Durant and Irving both in excellent form. KD is averaging 29.9 points per game (PPG), while Irving sits at 27.4.

The Cavaliers do not arrive in great form, losing eight of their last 11 games. Though they were victorious in their last outing against the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday, the Bucks rested their starters, and Jrue Holiday only started to earn a foul and trigger a financial clause in his contract.

Darius Garland will be key if Cleveland are to stand a chance at Barclays Center, with the 22-year-old averaging 21.7 PPG.

Brooklyn have won three of their four meetings this season, including a 118-107 win at Barclays on Friday.

The loser will host the winner of...

Wednesday, April 13 – Atlanta Hawks (9th) vs Charlotte Hornets (10th)

All eyes will be on Trae Young as the 23-year-old looks to drag the Hawks into the playoffs, though it will take two big performances, even by his high standards.

Young averages 28.4 PPG this season, the joint-fifth highest in the league along with Luka Doncic, as well as 9.7 assists per game.

Atlanta have won seven of their last nine, including a 130-114 success at the Houston Rockets on Sunday.

For Charlotte, they will look to trio Miles Bridges, LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier for inspiration, and have had a good end to the season themselves, winning 11 of their last 15.

They also beat the Hawks last month 116-106 in Charlotte, though each team has won two apiece of their four meetings through the campaign.

Western Conference:

Tuesday, April 12 – Minnesota Timberwolves (7th) vs Los Angeles Clippers (8th)

Despite the Timberwolves going into this one with home advantage, you would have to make the Clippers the favourites based on form and previous meetings.

Minnesota have lost six of their last 10, while the visitors arrive having won five of their last six.

The form of Karl-Anthony Towns, who is averaging 24.6 PPG this season, will be key for the hosts, as will that of Anthony Edwards, who scored a career-high 49 points in the recent win over the San Antonio Spurs.

Unsurprisingly, the Clippers have been a different prospect since the return of Paul George at the end of March, having lost eight of their previous 10 games before the 31-year-old came back, and winning six of seven since, albeit George only played in five of those games.

The Clippers have won three of their four meetings in the regular season, but the Timberwolves did win their last encounter in January. It should be noted that the team from Los Angeles won both games in Minnesota, though.

The loser will host the winner of...

Wednesday, April 13 – New Orleans Pelicans (9th) vs San Antonio Spurs (10th)

No team shows just how much the introduction of the Play-In tournament keeps seasons alive for a longer period than the Pelicans, who somehow have a shot at the postseason despite a disastrous start to their campaign.

Having lost 12 of their first 13 games, they are just two wins away from booking their place in the playoffs, and come into this one having won five of their last eight. 

Coach Willie Green will need CJ McCollum in top form, with the 30-year-old impressing since arriving from Portland earlier in the season, averaging 24.3 PPG since becoming a Pelican.

San Antonio recently won seven of eight games, but a slight wobble from the Spurs in the last few, losing their last three, may have thrown them off course at precisely the wrong time.

Like the Clippers, the Spurs could still be favourites despite being the away side, as they have won three of the four meetings between the two teams this season, including the most recent one in late March (107-103 in New Orleans).

The Boston Celtics secured the second seed in the Eastern Conference following their 139-110 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday night, the regular-season finale for both teams.

With the second seed in the Western Conference already secured, Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins rested a number of starters including Ja Morant, Steven Adams, Dillon Brooks and Jaren Jackson Jr. Desmond Bane and Brandon Clarke were listed as questionable and while not ruled out, finished with DNPs.

Although the Celtics had a full complement in a game they needed to win, the weakened opposition did not cause tunnel vision, as they shared the ball to come up with 34 assists as a team.

Jayson Tatum came up with three of his own, along with 31 points on 11-of-14 shooting and nine rebounds to lead the way for the Celtics.

In an odd statistical quirk given the situation, the Grizz's John Konchar claimed the first triple-double of his career, finishing with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.

Dubs find their groove to clinch third seed

The Golden State Warriors clinched the third seed in the Western Conference with their 128-107 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Klay Thompson made seven three-pointers and scored 41 points for the Warriors, who have impressively managed to close out the season without Stephen Curry on a five-game winning streak.

While Jordan Poole's 22 points off seven-of-16 shooting lightened the load, Jonathan Kuminga again scored a critical 18 points off the bench and gave the team important balance.

Doncic strains calf in Mavs win

Luka Doncic strained his left calf in the Dallas Mavericks' 130-120 win over the San Antonio Spurs, putting the Slovenian star's status in question for the playoffs.

The two-time All-Star would not have been eligible for what was ultimately a meaningless game – following the Warriors win - if the NBA did not rescind his 16th technical foul of the season, which he earned in the previous game against the Portland Trailblazers.

Doncic led Dallas with 26 points, nine assists and eight rebounds but sat the second half, with his ability to play against the Utah Jazz in the playoffs now in doubt.

Joel Embiid made his closing statement for the MVP award and all but wrapped up the NBA scoring title in the Philadelphia 76ers' 133-120 win over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday.

Embiid put up monster numbers of 41 points, 20 rebounds and four assists, while going 14-of-17 from the floor and 11-of-15 from the free-throw line. It was the first time this NBA season that a player scored 40 points or more and had 20 or more rebounds in a game.

The 28-year-old is currently the league's scoring leader, averaging an astounding 30.6 points per game, just ahead of LeBron James' 30.3 and Kevin Durant's 30.1 points per game.

James Harden had 22 points and 14 assists for Philadelphia, who had a healthy spread of scorers with Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey both scoring 18 points, and Danny Green adding 15.

The Sixers remain in the hunt for the Eastern Conference's third seed with the win, moving to the same record as the Boston Celtics at 50-31, while the Milwaukee Bucks are second at 51-30.

A win over the Detroit Pistons on Sunday combined with a Boston loss to the Memphis Grizzlies would move the Sixers into the third seed.

Morant makes timely return for Grizzlies

Ja Morant returned to action after a nine-game absence on Saturday night, as the Memphis Grizzlies secured a comfortable 141-114 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Morant finished with 21 points off seven-of-14 shooting, along with nine assists and four rebounds, while Jaren Jackson Jr. contributed a solid 12 points, nine rebounds and four blocks.

The Grizzlies are set to finish second in the Western Conference, to face the winner of the 7-8 matchup in the play-in between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Clippers.

Warriors continue winning run

The Golden State Warriors claimed their fourth consecutive victory despite an off shooting night from Jordan Poole, defeating the San Antonio Spurs on the road 100-94.

With Stephen Curry yet to return from injury and Klay Thompson rested, Poole had to take on more offensive responsibility and went three-of-19 from the floor in win.

A combined 30 points at nine-of-14 shooting off the bench from Jonathan Kuminga and Nemanja Bjelica was able to counteract it, along with 12 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists from Draymond Green.

All-Star guard Ja Morant was content with his return ahead of the playoffs after missing the past three weeks with knee soreness.

Morant had not played since March 18 for the Memphis Grizzlies but returned with 21 points, four rebounds and nine assists in a 141-114 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

The 56-25 Grizzlies are locked into the second seed in the Western Conference, with Morant's return coming with the playoffs around the corner.

"[I] felt like I needed a game or two to get my legs back under me," Morant told reporters.

"Get the game-type feel, nothing compares to a game, whether its practice or whatever. Just wanted to be ready to go.

"Obviously been in and out of the line-up, my teammates were playing a lot of basketball without me. I was just going out there to adapt."

Despite his All-Star status, the Grizzlies have a remarkable 20-4 record without Morant this season.

The 22-year-old point guard said it was important he developed synergy with his teammates, likely with two games fielding their preferred starting line-up ahead of the playoffs of Morant, Dillon Brooks, Desmond Bane, Jaren Jackson Jr and Steven Adams.

Morant has only played 12 games alongside Brooks this season, while he has had limited opportunities alongside Steven Adams who moved to Memphis from the Pelicans in the off-season.

"One hundred per cent," Morant said about the significance of developing connection among the starting five. "Obviously I've played with Dillon since I've been here and most of the other guys I've played with before, so I know their game.

"Being out there at the same time as Steveo [Adams] to get that chemistry, it's basically the starting line-up I felt like we did a very good job tonight."

Morant continued: "Tonight I felt like we looked damn good. Look at that third quarter [55-33 points]. Obviously there's some stuff we've still got to correct."

The 2019 NBA Draft second pick added that he had no preference on second seed Memphis' playoffs opponents, with the side to face either the Los Angeles Clippers or Minnesota Timberwolves via the play-in tournament.

"I really don’t care who we play," he said. "I'm focused on us getting better and being ready to play. No matter who it is, we go out in the games the same way."

The Miami Heat moved a step closer to claiming the Eastern Conference's first seed with a 114-109 win on the road against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday.

Kyle Lowry put up 16 points and 10 assists in an emotional return to the Air Canada Centre against his old team, while Victor Oladipo scored a season-high 21 points.

Lowry had not played in Toronto since February 2020, when he was still a member of the Raptors, weeks before that season was shut down and moved to a bubble due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Heat had a healthy spread of scorers as Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo scored 18 and 16 points respectively, on the way to winning their fourth consecutive game.

Miami remain two games clear of the Boston Celtics atop the standings in the East, while both teams have only three games remaining in the regular season.

Toronto now hold an equal record with the fifth-placed Chicago Bulls, but the Bulls hold the tiebreaker. However, they remain 2.5 games clear of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the play-in spots.

Bucks no match for Luka magic 

Luka Doncic was unstoppable as his Dallas Mavericks defeated the reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks 118-112.

Doncic had 32 points on nine-of-22 shooting, as well as 15 assists, eight rebounds and three steals in a game that saw both coaches cut their rotation down to nine players and extend the minutes of their stars.

Giannis Antetokounmpo top-scored for the Bucks with 28 points on 12-of-22 shooting, but was a costly 50 per cent from the free throw line, going four-of-eight.

Clippers clinch play-in double chance 

The Los Angeles Clippers secured eighth spot in the Western Conference on Sunday, defeating the New Orleans Pelicans 119-100.

Marcus Morris made four three-pointers on the way to 22 points, while the Clippers went 21-of-44 from total beyond the arc and connected on all eight attempts in the first quarter.

The Clips guaranteed the double chance in the play-in with the win, meaning if they lose to the seventh seed, they would face the winner between the ninth and 10th seed for an eventual play-off spot.

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