Brandon Ingram said the New Orleans Pelicans proved they can contend with the best in the NBA as he continued his hot streak to earn a huge win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Ingram scored 25 points or more for the ninth straight outing, putting up 36 in a 122-114 victory that leaves the Pelicans just one game back of the sixth-placed Clippers in the West.

Getting into the top six would mean the Pelicans avoid the play-in tournament in the playoffs.

"If you want to be the best, you've got to go against the best and you've got to beat them," Ingram said. 

"That's one of the things that was in my head tonight, just trying to get this win."

Asked about his impressive form, Ingram said: "It's just manoeuvring a little bit, seeing what's open, seeing what spot I can get to on the floor, not forcing the game.

"That’s the biggest thing – seeing what's the best shot for the team, but also making sure that I stay aggressive."

Team-mates CJ McCollum and Trey Murphy III put up 19 apiece, and the former paid tribute to Ingram's ability to make the clutch shots in key moments.

"Those are I'm-just-better-than-you shots," McCollum said. 

"He's relying on his skill set and his comfort level. Regardless of analytics and what's considered a good shot, that's a great shot for him."

Kawhi Leonard put up 40 points for the Clippers, who have now lost back-to-back games.

"We just have to give credit to them as they played amazing. Ingram played great," Leonard said.

Luka Doncic scored 42 points with 10 rebounds but it was not enough for the Dallas Mavericks who suffered their sixth loss from their past seven games 129-122 to the Miami Heat on Saturday.

The win was much needed for Miami, who improved to 41-37 to be seventh in the East, with Jimmy Butler top scoring with 35 points and 12 assists at FTX Arena.

The Heat snapped their three-game skid but it left the Mavs' perilous playoff hopes worse off, falling to a 37-41 record, remaining 11th in the West.

Dallas are a game back from Oklahoma City (38-40) in the race for the final play-in spot, with the Thunder owning the head-to-head tiebreaker too.

Doncic tried his best with 42 points on 17-of-25 shooting with two triples along with 10 rebounds, eight assists and two steals. That was the Slovenian's 14th 40-point game this season.

Kyrie Irving added 23 points and eight assists, while Tim Hardaway Jr drained six three-pointers in his 31 points with six rebound and seven assists.

Yet all that was not enough for Dallas who shot at 61 per cent as a team, after Miami piled on 44 first-quarter points, leaving the Mavs to lament their defense. Miami's 76 first-half points was the third most in franchise history.

Center Cody Zeller offered good support to Butler with 20 points and eight rebounds, while Kevin Love and Max Strus both added 18 points and Tyler Herro contributed 15.

Ingram stars as Pels continue playoffs push

The New Orleans Pelicans moved above the Los Angeles Lakers and into the seven spot in the Western Conference with a crucial 122-114 over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Kawhi Leonard scored 40 points for the Clippers, who fall to sixth in the West, but Brandon Ingram maintained his fine form with a game-winning display.

Ingram scored 36 points on 13-of-23 shooting with four rebounds and eight assists, while Jonas Valanciunas added 23 points with 12 rebounds.

Leonard shot 15-of-28 from the field with four-of-eight from beyond the arc with eight rebounds and four assists, while Russell Westbrook contributed 24 points with nine assists.

The Pels have won seven of their past eight games to shoot into playoffs contention in the West with a 40-38 record, while the Clippers are 41-38.

Nikola Jokic sat out the Denver Nuggets' loss to the New Orleans Pelicans as an "ultra cautious" step to protect the two-time MVP ahead of the NBA playoffs.

The Nuggets were beaten 107-88 and have lost their last four matches in which Jokic did not play. He missed this one with a calf injury that appears to be a minor problem.

On this occasion, Denver turned in a largely shabby display in the home loss, proving especially dire from three-point range where their 4-of-28 shooting pointed to a clear deficiency.

Sitting top of the Western Conference, three games ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies, Denver could afford to let Thursday's game get away from them.

The playoffs are approaching, so it was a night where coach Michael Malone felt Jokic needed a rest.

When assessing afterwards how the game went so badly wrong for the Nuggets, Malone said: "Well, Nikola didn't play."

 

He expanded on his reasons, but it is clear Jokic's unavailability was a major factor behind the team's performance.

Once again, Jokic is a leading contender for MVP honours, chasing a hat-trick of consecutive individual accolades.

The 28-year-old Serbian is averaging 24.9 points per game, plus 11.9 rebounds and 9.9 assists, and it looks to be between him and Joel Embiid for MVP, albeit with Giannis Antetokounmpo a potential dark horse.

Malone, quoted in the Denver Post, said before the game began it was a smart move to give Jokic a rest, following his triple-double against the Philadelphia 76ers earlier in the week.

"Yeah, I think it's just been something kind of brewing a little bit," said Malone.

"He was able to get through the Philadelphia game. In practice yesterday he didn't do a whole lot. Obviously, being ultra cautious with where we're at in the season. If there's any doubt, we're going to definitely err on the side of caution with seven games remaining in the regular season."

The Boston Celtics produced a stunning 140-99 blowout on the road against the full-strength Milwaukee Bucks in Thursday's potential Eastern Conference Finals preview.

Although the Bucks did roll out their full team, they were playing their third game in four days and were on the second leg of a back-to-back, and their fatigue showed in a horrible first half defensively.

The Celtics piled on 34 points in the first quarter, and added another 41 in the second to open up a commanding 75-47 lead at half-time. Instead of coming out of the locker room with extra intensity, the Bucks proceeded to give up another 39 in the third period to kill the game.

Boston's All-Star duo were nearly faultless, led by Jayson Tatum's 40 points on 12-of-18 shooting. He finished eight-of-10 from three-point range, and a perfect eight-of-eight from the free throw line while adding eight rebounds and zero turnovers.

Jaylen Brown was just as impressive as he made his way to 30 points on 13-of-20 shooting with five rebounds, five assists and just one turnover, while Sixth Man of the Year candidate Malcolm Brogdon chipped in 14 points (six-of-13), five assists and four steals off the bench.

Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo led his side with 24 points and seven rebounds through three quarters before sitting out the last, although he was a disappointing 11-of-27 from the field and missed all five of his three-point attempts.

The win pulled the Celtics (53-24) to within two games of the Bucks (55-22) in the race for the Eastern Conference's top seed, and for the best record in the league.

Ingram shows recent improvement is no fluke

New Orleans Pelicans wing Brandon Ingram has performed at an All-NBA level since the All-Star break and continued to shine in a 107-88 triumph over the Nikola Jokic-less Denver Nuggets.

Ingram, 25, posted the first triple-double of his career last Thursday and followed it with a career-high 13 assists on Saturday, and he now has his second triple-double after 31 points (13-of-22), 11 rebounds and 10 assists against the Nuggets.

Across his past eight games, Ingram is averaging 29.6 points, 8.3 assists and 6.3 rebounds while shooting 51.8 per cent from the field and 48 per cent from deep.

The result improved the Pelicans' record to 39-38, leapfrogging the Minnesota Timberwolves into the Western Conference's seventh seed, with Zion Williamson's return potentially imminent after working out on-court prior to Thursday's game.

Steve Kerr credited Draymond Green with "willing" the Golden State Warriors to victory in their comeback win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Green scored eight points and provided 13 assists, four turnovers and two steals to help complete a 120-109 turnaround triumph for the reigning NBA champions at Chase Center.

Golden State were trailing by 17 points after a lacklustre first half, but Green sparked the team into life, earning the credit from his coach.

"Draymond willed us to victory tonight," said Kerr. "Just the intensity, the frustration early with the way we were playing.

"Mad at the world, yelling at everybody – their bench, our bench – and frankly, we deserved it."

Green's first spark came late in the second quarter when he picked up his 17th technical foul for a shove on Brandon Ingram.

The pair exchanged words, amongst some shoving, and were issued Ts.

He will be fined $5,000 if the technical foul does not get rescinded over the next 24 hours - which Green thinks it will be - but if it does not, the Warriors forward believes it was worth it.

"It was perfect," said Green. "Perfectly executed. We looked dead those first 18 minutes. We had to find some energy somewhere.

"It wasn't just going to come, especially after losing the game like we did last game [99-96 to Minnesota Timberwolves].

"That can carry over. I felt like it did. I knew we had to do something and do it fast before the game got out of hand."

Green almost picked up another technical foul 20 seconds later after colliding with Herbert Jones but following more shoving and a video review, no Ts were assessed.

"I've got to play with the same intensity I try to play with each and every time I step on the court," added Green.

"I can't worry about that. For me, if I'm going to change my intensity level, then why be out there?"

Following Green's clash with Jones, Stephen Curry got involved in the scrum yelling at Pelicans players and giving some shoves.

"He knows that guys are backing him up," said Curry. "I'm sure [Green] wouldn't go out on an island like that if he didn't have that confidence.

"There are times when I've got to keep him in check and bring him back in when it's turning in the wrong direction in the sense of staying focused on just winning."

The Warriors outscored the Pelicans 74-46 in the second half, shooting 70 per cent to help complete their second-biggest comeback of the season.

Curry scored or assisted half of the points Golden State won after half-time.

Green said: "When I turned it up a notch, [Curry] turned it up another two notches.

"We all hopped in line and followed him, and he was locked in. No one was stopping him."

The Warriors are now sixth in the Western Conference, holding just a half-game advantage over the Timberwolves in seventh with five rounds left of the regular season.

"It feels like we've been in a playoff vibe for a couple of weeks now," said Curry.

"The only difference is you're playing a different team every night. But it's the same kind of adrenaline rush that we're getting. Every game does matter.

"We have a competitive spirit that's unmatched. And it's been that way for a decade."

The Golden State Warriors played an inspired second half to recover from a 20-point deficit and defeat the visiting New Orleans Pelicans 120-109 on Tuesday.

As usual, the Warriors were led by reigning NBA Finals MVP Stephen Curry with a game-high 39 points on 14-of-25 shooting, hitting eight-of-15 three-point attempts while adding eight rebounds, eight assists and three steals.

It was a rough start for Golden State as they found themselves trailing 63-43 late in the second quarter, but some early shenanigans between Draymond Green and the entire Pelicans team seemed to spur some life into the Warriors defense after the break.

In typical Warriors fashion, they exploded in the third quarter in front of their home fans, putting together a 39-26 period to cut the lead to four going into the last.

They ratcheted up the defense even further down the stretch, holding the visitors to just 20 points while piling on 35 of their own as Curry, Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole all drained deep triples to blow the roof off Chase Center.

Despite the loss, it was another strong showing from Pelicans centrepiece Brandon Ingram. After his first career triple-double on Thursday and a career-high 13 assists on Saturday, Ingram again looked every bit of an All-NBA initiator with a team-high 26 points (nine-of-22), eight rebounds and seven assists.

A loss for the Warriors would have seen them drop to 39-38 and potentially swap spots with the eighth-seeded Pelicans, but they instead improved to 40-37 and leapfrogged the sixth-seeded Minnesota Timberwolves (39-37) in the process.

Mitchell's 44 not enough for Cleveland

Donovan Mitchell dropped 44 points on the road but it was not enough as the Cleveland Cavaliers fell 120-118 to the Atlanta Hawks.

Mitchell shot 15-of-33 with five rebounds and five assists, while Darius Garland added 27 points (10-of-22) and Evan Mobley chipped in 20 points (10-of-13), 15 rebounds, four assists and four blocks – but the Hawks had all the answers.

Atlanta had seven players score double figures, led by Dejounte Murray's 29 (11-of-22). Trae Young ran the show with 10 assists on an off-shooting night (four-of-15 for 16 points), and the Hawks' bench delivered in a big way.

Backup center Onyeka Okongwu had a wildly efficient 20 minutes with 21 points (five-of-five from the field and 11-of-12 free throws), nine rebounds and three blocks, and trade deadline acquisition Saddiq Bey had 11 points, 10 rebounds and three assists.

Hornets win a shootout in Oklahoma City

The Oklahoma City Thunder received 30-point efforts from Josh Giddey, Jalen Williams and Isaiah Joe – but still lost 137-134 to the surprisingly in-form Charlotte Hornets.

Giddey had one of the best statistical games of his career with 31 points (14-of-22), 10 rebounds and nine assists; rookie Williams had 31 points (11-of-16), four assists and four steals; and Joe hit six-of-11 threes and 11-of-18 overall for his 33 points.

But P.J. Washington was not going to let the Hornets lose, scoring a career-high 43 points on 16-of-24 shooting as he added six rebounds and five assists in an eye-opening performance from the well-rounded six-foot-seven 24-year-old.

It was a standout showing off the bench for the spectacularly bouncy 22-year-old second-year center Kai Jones, collecting the first double-double of his career with 12 points (five-of-five) and 14 rebounds in 22 minutes.

The loss for the Thunder means they slipped to 37-39, still inside the play-in tournament placings, but now tied with the 11th-ranked Dallas Mavericks.

In a highly anticipated clash between winners of the past four MVPs it was Nikola Jokic's Denver Nuggets comfortably handling Giannis Antetokounmpo's Milwaukee Bucks 129-106.

Played in Denver, the reigning back-to-back MVP winner put on a show for his home fans with 31 points (10-of-20 shooting), 11 assists and six rebounds. 

Jokic was supported in style by Jamal Murray, who chipped in 26 points (nine-of-19), nine assists and six rebounds, and kick-started the Nuggets with four triples in the first quarter.

Antetokounmpo, winner of the 2019 and 2020 MVP trophies, was far from the reason his side went down, posting a strong 31 points (13-of-22), nine rebounds, four assists and four steals. He led Milwaukee to a 66-63 half-time lead, before they put up just 40 points as a team in the second half.

After a mini-slump with four losses from of five games, the Nuggets have now rattled off three wins in a row, improving their home record to 31-6 in the process, which trails only the Memphis Grizzlies (32-5) for the league's best mark.

Despite the loss, Milwaukee (53-21) are still two games clear in the race for the league's best record, while the Nuggets are 3.5 games clear atop the West.

Hawks prevail despite Trae ejection

Atlanta Hawks franchise player Trae Young was ejected for throwing the ball at an official, but his side still came away with a 143-130 home win against the visiting Indiana Pacers.

Young was kicked out in the second quarter after the incident, but eight Hawks players ended up scoring double-figures to pick up the slack.

John Collins led the way with 21 points (nine-of-12 shooting), Dejounte Murray added 20 points (eight-of-20) and 12 assists, and Clint Capela snatched down 17 rebounds to go with his 17 points (five-of-five).

The win pulled the Hawks' record even at 37-37, now a game clear of the ninth-seeded Toronto Raptors (36-38) as they battle for play-in tournament positioning.

Pelicans muddy the waters in the West

The New Orleans Pelicans kept their season alive with a 131-110 road win over the Los Angeles Clippers, creating a logjam in the Western Conference's play-in placings.

Second-year Pelicans wing Trey Murphy was spectacular as he hit 10-of-12 three-pointers for an equal team-high 32 points. He was joined on 32 points by Brandon Ingram, and after Ingram's first career triple-double on Thursday, he followed it with a career-high 13 assists against the Clippers.

The win means the Pelicans are in a three-way tie for the seventh-best record in the West, joining the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Los Angeles Lakers at 37-37 with eight games to play.

Zion Williamson has been cleared to return to on-court activities but will need at least two weeks to get up to speed.

The New Orleans Pelicans announced Williamson's return to fitness on Wednesday – a significant boost for a team whose season has gone off the rails.

At the time of Williamson's hamstring strain in January, the Pels were third in the Western Conference, just a game behind the first-placed Denver Nuggets.

Since then, however, New Orleans are 12-23, slipping to 12th place on the outside even of the play-in race.

Williamson has not been the only Pelican to miss time with injury, but Brandon Ingram's return has not improved the team's fortunes.

With the Pels set to re-evaluate Williamson in two weeks' time, he is on course to miss a minimum of seven more games.

New Orleans only have 10 games remaining.

A return in the final week of the regular season could be just the boost the Pels need, but they could also very realistically be out of postseason contention by then.

This has been another season wrecked by injury for Williamson, the former first overall pick.

He played only 24 games in his rookie season and 61 the following year before missing the entire 2021-22 campaign with a foot fracture.

The Pels still handed Williamson a five-year rookie extension worth up to $231million, with $193m guaranteed.

Although he continued to miss games on occasion, the initial signs were encouraging as Williamson averaged 26.0 points through 29 games.

But the hamstring injury derailed his and the Pels' season, with time running out to set it back on track.

Darvin Ham confirmed the Los Angeles Lakers will not risk Anthony Davis against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday.

Davis starred in a 123-108 win over his former team the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday, scoring 35 points while adding 17 rebounds and one assist.

The 30-year-old is enjoying a strong season, with his 26.1 points per game his best average since the 2019-20 campaign – his first in Los Angeles.

Davis has also stepped up in LeBron James' absence. In the eight games Lakers' talisman has missed since February 26, Davis has played seven, scoring 30 or more points on four occasions.

The Lakers are above the play-in line in the Western Conference, but they will have to face the Rockets without Davis, who Ham explained will not be risked in back-to-back games.

"He's not going to play," Ham said of Davis, who missed a large chunk of this campaign due to a stress fracture in his right foot.

"He hasn't been cleared. Even though he's been playing pain-free, we made an organisational decision, starting with our team doctors, to hold him out of back-to-backs.

"It's just one of those things where even though he's playing pain-free, it's still an active injury.

"So we have to monitor it and stick to the plan, as we always have done. And just go out there with our other guys and try to get a W and finish the trip the right way."

With a comfortable 75-40 half-time lead over the Pelicans, Ham would have ideally liked to hand Davis a rest, yet New Orleans fought back to reduce the deficit to 13 in the final quarter.

"It definitely was a thought, but obviously, that's a hell of a ballclub over there that has a lot of pride and they made their push, so having to reinsert him into the game kind of nixed any delusions of grandeur," Ham said.

While frustrated that he will be watching on from the sidelines in Houston, Davis knows it is likely for the best.

He said: "It's tough, especially because each game you want to go out and play.

"But before I even came back, it's something the doctors and the organisation discussed that they thought it would be best for me not to play back-to-backs. 

"It's still a stress reaction, and we're doing all the right things to make sure that I'm ready to go and I still need that day break. Obviously it sucks."

Despite their win, the Lakers dropped from ninth to 10th in the West, due to the Oklahoma City Thunder's win over the Brooklyn Nets.

The Milwaukee Bucks underlined their NBA title favouritism as they reached 50 wins for the season with a commanding 116-104 road victory over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo backed up Monday's 40-point return against the Sacramento Kings with 36 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists at the Footprint Center.

The Bucks have won 20 of their past 22 games, including a 15-game winning streak during that stretch, while the Suns have now lost three consecutive games.

Milwaukee's record is 50-19, pulling clear of the Boston Celtics (47-22) in second in the Eastern Conference, while the 37-31 Suns remain among the mayhem in the tight Western Conference playoffs race.

The Suns had rallied from a 57-48 half-time deficit to take the lead in the fourth quarter but the Bucks steadied, with Antetokounmpo's block on Devin Booker's two-point attempt among the highlights.

Bucks center Brook Lopez added 21 points with 10 rebounds, while Jrue Holiday chipped in with 12 points, six rebounds and five assists.

Booker top scored for the Suns, still missing Kevin Durant due to an ankle injury, with 30 points on 13-of-27 shooting, while Chris Paul added 11 points with eight assists. Phoenix only made eight three-pointers for the game.

Nuggets fall to fourth straight defeat

The Western Conference-leading Denver Nuggets slumped to their fourth straight defeat despite a third-quarter rally, going down 125-110 to the Toronto Raptors.

Fred VanVleet scored 36 points on 13-of-22 shooting including eight triples as the Raptors flew out of the blocks with a franchise-record 49-point first quarter, improving their record to 33-26.

The Nuggets fall to 46-23 amid their slump, with Nikola Jokic scoring 28 points with eight rebounds and seven assists, while Michael Porter Jr added 23 points with five three-pointers.

Lakers hit franchise record in key win over Pels

Anthony Davis produced a bounce-back display after his "terrible" showing two nights ago with 35 points and 17 rebounds as the Los Angeles Lakers won 123-108 over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Malik Beasley added 24 points, shooting seven-of-12 from beyond the arc, as the Lakers moved closer to .500 with a 34-35 record to boost their playoffs hopes.

Beasley's three-point shooting helped the Lakers achieve a franchise record for threes made in a half, with 15 as a team before half-time.

Mikal Bridges' incredible start to his career as a Brooklyn Net continued on Sunday as he led his team to a 122-120 road upset against the Western Conference-leading Denver Nuggets despite Nikola Jokic's massive triple-double.

Bridges, 26, arrived from Phoenix as the central piece heading to Brooklyn in the Kevin Durant trade, and he has lived up to even the most lofty expectations about what he could produce as the focal point of an offense.

Playing in a supporting role during his time with the Suns, Bridges was averaging a career-high 17.2 points per game this season. It is the fifth season in a row he has improved his points per game, all with career shooting splits of 49.9 per cent from the field, 37.6 per cent from deep and 85.2 per cent from the free throw line.

In his 12 games since joining the Nets, Bridges has shown he is indeed capable of filling a featured role, averaging 25.8 points while maintaining elite efficiency at 51.4 per cent from the field, 49.2 per cent from deep and 90 per cent at the line.

Against the Nuggets, Bridges again led his team in scoring with 25 points on seven-of-16 shooting, while fellow trade deadline acquisition Spencer Dinwiddie posted a career-high 16 assists to go with his 15 points (five-of-15) and six rebounds.

After starting the season a perfect 25-0 in games when reigning back-to-back MVP Jokic has tallied a triple-double, Denver have now dropped two in a row, with his 35 points (14-of-23), 20 rebounds and 11 assists proving not enough to make up for Jamal Murray's ice-cold five-of-19 shooting night.

The Nets have now won five of their past six to improve to 39-29, sitting 3.5 games clear of the play-in tournament placings, while the 46-22 Nuggets are still five games clear atop the West.

Murphy's big night carries the Pelicans

Second-year wing Trey Murphy III dropped a career-high 41 points as the New Orleans Pelicans defended their home court 127-110 against the visiting Portland Trail Blazers.

With Damian Lillard out of action for Portland, they did not have a single player exceed 17 points, while Murphy caught fire.

The 22-year-old hit 13-of-20 shots and nine-of-14 three-pointers, eclipsing his previous high score by nine points as he reached the 30-point mark for the third time. 

Much like Bridges, Murphy has excelled when given an expanded opportunity, providing a silver lining to the absences of Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson.

Embiid too big, too strong for the Wizards

Philadelphia 76ers MVP candidate Joel Embiid was once again the most dominant player on the floor during Sunday's 112-93 manhandling of the Washington Wizards.

Embiid, who leads the race for the scoring title at 33.4 points per game, raised his average ever so slightly with 34 points on 12-of-21 shooting, adding eight rebounds, four assists, four blocks and a steal.

James Harden, who is leading the league in assists at 10.8 per game, made his center's life easier with another 14 dimes to go with 18 points (six-of-11).

The win is the 76ers' fifth in a row, and they are now only 1.5 games behind the Boston Celtics (47-21) as they both try to chase down the conference-leading Milwaukee Bucks (48-19).

Luka Doncic will undergo an MRI after being forced out of the Dallas Mavericks' loss to the New Orleans Pelicans with a thigh issue, having described his injury as "not good".

Doncic recorded 15 points and eight assists before exiting in the third quarter of Wednesday's 113-106 defeat, a result that saw the Mavs slip to eighth in the Western Conference.

The four-time NBA All-Star appeared to be in pain after going up for a 15-foot jump shot, and his condition must be assessed ahead of the first game of a double-header against the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday.

Asked about his thigh after the loss to New Orleans, Doncic said on Wednesday: "It's not good.

"I didn't get hit. So this is kind of weird for me. I don't really know what it is. I can feel it mostly on the jump shots because you need both legs, so pushing off has been really hard for me.

"Tomorrow, we're going to do an MRI. We'll see if everything is fine. Just ice and therapy and that's it. We'll see more tomorrow."

Doncic also revealed he felt discomfort in the same area before a 142-116 win over the San Antonio Spurs on February 24, with the injury lingering since then.

"I think it was the second game after the All-Star break, something like that," Doncic said, when asked when he first sustained the problem.

Coach Jason Kidd said: "I think we all can see he's not moving well. Shooting, defense – it's affecting everything. He's trying to fight through it and help his team-mates. But he had to leave there.

"Hopefully it's not something serious. We have a couple of days here before we play Memphis. Hopefully he's back soon."

Devin Booker made Phoenix Suns history with 44 points in the Phoenix Suns' 132-101 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, where Kevin Durant's anticipated home debut was delayed due to an ankle injury.

Durant had been named in the Suns' starting line-up but suffered an ankle sprain during the warm-ups and was ruled out of the game on Wednesday at the Footprint Center.

In Durant's absence, Booker put on a show, becoming the first player in franchise history with four straight 35-point games.

Booker finished with 44 points on 17-of-23 shooting from the field, making six-of-10 from beyond the arc in a masterful display from only 28 minutes on court, checking out in the fourth quarter.

The Suns guard had 30 points by half-time in the blowout win which gave fourth-placed Phoenix a cushion on the chasing pack for the Western Conference playoffs spots.

Veteran guard Chris Paul added 18 points with nine assists and four steals, while Terrence Ross scored 24 points in 23 minutes off the bench.

For the Thunder, Lindy Waters III top scored off the bench with 23 points including six three-pointers, while Josh Giddey had 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

Doncic injured as Mavs lose to Pels

The Dallas Mavericks lost Luka Doncic to injury as their defensive struggles continued with a 113-106 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, who are still without star center Zion Williamson.

The Mavs slipped to eighth in the west with the defeat and will be sweating on Doncic's fitness, exiting in the third quarter with a strained left thigh after 15 points and eight assists.

C.J. McCollum landed six-of-eight three-point attempts in his 32 points for the Pels, who made 13-of-27 from beyond the arc, compared to Dallas' 16-of-46.

Hawks triumph despite Porzingis career-high

Kristaps Porzingis scored a career-high 43 points, but it was not enough as the Washington Wizards lost 122-120 to the Atlanta Hawks.

De'Andre Hunter's go-ahead three-point play with 1:07 left in the fourth quarter settled the tight win, as new Hawks head coach Quin Snyder saw his side improve to 33-33.

Atlanta guard Trae Young scored 28 points with 10 assists and three steals, while Porzingis was outstanding, shooting 17-of-22 from the field including seven-of-10 from three-point range.

The wait for Zion Williamson's return from a right hamstring strain continues with the New Orleans Pelicans announcing he will miss at least the next two weeks.

Williamson has not played since January 2 due to the injury, and the Pelicans have slipped down to 10th in the Western Conference with a 31-34 record in his absence.

The 2019 NBA Draft first overall pick suffered a setback on the injury on February 12, with the Pels offering an update on Wednesday following re-evaluation.

"Medical imaging revealed that Williamson's hamstring continues to heal," the Pelicans statement said. "His next examination will take place in approximately two weeks."

The Pels said last week in an update that Williamson "continues to make progress" but his absence has dragged on beyond two months.

New Orleans head coach Willie Green said on Wednesday he was "definitely optimistic" the center would return before the end of the regular season, which concludes on April 9.

"He's building his strength," Green said. "Doing some pool workouts. He can get on AlterG. He can get on the floor and spot shoot.

"He's progressing, but we're extremely mindful of the last time we got to six weeks and he wasn't quite ready. So we want to make sure we're mindful of that."

Williamson has battled injuries throughout his NBA career, missing the entire 2021-22 season due to a foot injury.

The two-time All-Star has played 29 of 65 games this season, averaging 26.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists.

Steve Kerr is enthused by the Golden State Warriors' recent form, believing his team have "turned a corner" in their season.

The defending NBA champions have endured a difficult up-and-down year, not helped by injuries to Finals MVP Stephen Curry.

But as Curry prepares to return from his latest lay-off, which has so far spanned 11 games, the Warriors are hitting form.

They ended a 5-0 homestand with victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, improving to 34-30 in fifth place in the Western Conference.

"It's been exciting to see our team, I think, turn a corner," said coach Kerr.

The Warriors are only a game behind the Phoenix Suns in fourth place, giving them a clear target for the remainder of the season.

"You realise how important all these games are from here on out," Klay Thompson added.

"We want to do everything we can to have home court, especially in the first round. So, it's a great challenge, and it's there for us to take."

Thompson, who is scoring 22.1 points per game for the year, has averaged 27.1 points over the last 11 games while Curry has been out and 30.3 points across the Warriors' seven wins in that time.

"Guys have figured out their roles, and I think we are in great condition," he said. "We are having fun, above all."

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