The NBA has begun an investigation into a potential tampering violation by the Philadelphia 76ers and their signings of James Harden, P.J. Tucker and Danuel House Jr, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. 

The league is interested in the circumstances surrounding Harden declining his $47million player option to sign a two-year, $68m contract that includes a player option for the second year of the deal.  

Questions have been raised about whether there was a handshake agreement in place on a future contract – which would be in violation of collective bargaining rules. 

Harden’s decision to decline his option gave Philadelphia more flexibility to sign Tucker and House. 

"Taking less money this year to sign as many players as we needed to help us contend and be the last team standing was very, very important to me," Harden said in an interview this month. "I wanted to show the organisation, the Sixers fans and everybody else who supports what we're trying to accomplish, what I'm trying to accomplish individually, that this is what I'm about."

Tucker signed a three-year, $30m contract, and House signed for $8.4m over two years. The 76ers were able to sign Tucker to the full mid-level exception and sign House to the bi-annual exception only because Harden declined his option. 

According to the report, 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey has already begun answering questions from league attorneys.  

With tampering often a potential issue, the NBA approved stiffer penalties in 2019 and stripped a draft pick from the Chicago Bulls for early contact with Lonzo Ball in 2019, and the Miami Heat for doing the same with Kyle Lowry last summer. 

James Harden has officially finalised his deal to stay with the Philadelphia 76ers, agreeing to a two-year, $68.6million contract on Wednesday.

Harden will make $33m for the 2022-23 season and then has the player option for $35.6m in 2023-24. He can decline the option and become a free agent again ahead of the 2023-24 and sign a new deal. 

Harden had previously declined his $47.4m player option for this upcoming season from the 76ers, but was set to return to them all along while taking a pay-cut to help the team sign other players with the hopes of building a championship roster. 

Thanks in part to his pay-cut, the 76ers have been able to add P.J. Tucker and Danuel House this offseason, and are expected to contend amongst the best teams in the Eastern Conference with MVP runner-up Joel Embiid and Harden leading the way. 

Philadelphia acquired Harden from the Brooklyn Nets in February, and he averaged 21 points, 10.5 assists and 7.1 rebounds in 21 games with the Sixers, but the team suffered the same fate as three of the previous four seasons, again losing in the Eastern Conference semifinals. 

The 76ers have not been past the conference semis since losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2001 NBA Finals, and the 32-year-old Harden has never won a title, only reaching the NBA Finals once, in 2012 with the Oklahoma City Thunder. 

A 10-time All-Star and the 2017-18 NBA MVP, Harden averaged 22 points, 10.3 assists and 7.7 rebounds in 65 total regular-season games for the 76ers and Nets, missing time due to hamstring issues. 

James Harden made it clear this offseason that at this point in his career he cares more about having an opportunity to win an NBA championship than money. 

While his deal with the Philadelphia 76ers has yet to be finalised, Harden is expected to sign a two-year contract that will pay him $32million next season and includes a player option for 2023-24. That $32m salary is a steep discount after he declined his $47.4m player option for 2022-23. 

"I had conversations with [76ers president of basketball operation Daryl Morey], and it was explained how we could get better and what the market value was for certain players," Harden told Yahoo Sports. "I told Daryl to improve the roster, sign who we needed to sign and give me whatever is left over. 

"This is how bad I want to win. I want to compete for a championship. That's all that matters to me at this stage. I'm willing to take less to put us in position to accomplish that." 

The 32-year-old Harden has racked up plenty of personal accolades – NBA MVP, 10-time All-Star, three-time league scoring champion and NBA Sixth Man of the Year, to name a few. However, he has never won a title and only reached the NBA Finals once, in 2012 with the Oklahoma City Thunder. 

Following that NBA Finals appearance, Harden was traded to the Houston Rockets and became a superstar in the league. He was then dealt to the Brooklyn Nets in January 2021 to play alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but that experiment failed, and Harden was sent to Philadelphia last February. 

Harden averaged 21 points, 10.5 assists and 7.1 rebounds in 21 games after joining the 76ers. He then put up 18.6 points, 8.6 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game in the playoffs, where the 76ers lost to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals. 

Harden wound up appearing in 65 regular-season games overall in 2021-22, mostly due to hamstring issues. He averaged 22 points, 10.3 assists and 7.7 rebounds in those 65 contests. 

"I don't really listen to what people are saying. I wasn't right last season and I still almost averaged a triple-double," Harden said. "If anybody else had those numbers, we'd be talking about them getting the max. 

"People were used to seeing me averaging 40, 30 points, and so they viewed it as a down year. I was in Philadelphia for a couple of months and I had to learn on the fly. That's just what it was. I'm in a good space physically and mentally right now, and I'm just looking forward to next season."

With a full season ahead of playing alongside perennial NBA MVP contender Joel Embiid, and with the additions of P.J. Tucker and Danuel House (thanks in part to Harden's paycut), the 76ers are expected to be a favourite in the East. They also added De'Anthony Melton in a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies. 

"I think we have a much deeper team," Harden said. "That's something we wanted to address. If you look at our team now, we're positioned to go a lot further. I like how we stack up with the rest of the top teams."

Oklahoma City Thunder second-year standout Josh Giddey posted a triple-double in his side's 87-71 win against the Memphis Grizzlies in Wednesday's Summer League action.

Giddey, who at 19 years old is still younger than team-mate and newly acquired second overall pick Chet Holmgren, was in total control against a Grizzlies team consisting of players battling for the last few roster spots.

He finished with 14 points on seven-of-15 shooting, with 10 rebounds, 10 assists, two steals and a blocked shot.

Holmgren could not match his incredible debut where he set the Summer League record with six blocks, but he still found a way to contribute despite shooting three-of-11 from the field. He scored 12 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, dished three assists and blocked two shots.

The seven-foot-one, 195-pound rookie was locked in a tantalising matchup against the Grizzlies' Kenny Lofton Jr, who measures in at six-foot-six and 290 pounds. Lofton's massive weight advantage provided a glimpse into the potential struggles Holmgren will face early in his career as he was physically pushed around at times on Lofton's way to 19 points on eight-of-17 shooting.

The Thunder's other two lottery picks were also serviceable, with Jalen Williams hitting all three of his three-point attempts on his way to 16 points, two assists and two steals, while the six-foot-11 Ousmane Dieng hit two-of-five from long range and collected a couple of assists.

Later in the day, the Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Utah Jazz 86-82 in a game where Charles Bassey made his case as the back-up center behind Joel Embiid.

Bassey, the 76ers' second-round pick from the 2021 NBA Draft, scored 17 points (seven-of-12 shooting), grabbed nine rebounds and snatched four steals as he made the most of his seven-foot-three wingspan.

For the Jazz, there were signs of life from Bruno Caboclo – the man who became famous for being called "two years away from being two years away" by ESPN's Fran Fraschilla when he was drafted in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft.

Caboclo was out of the league this past season, but at six-foot-nine with a ridiculous seven-foot-seven wingspan, and an improved three-point stroke, the 26-year-old has a chance to make another run at sticking in the NBA after stuffing the stat sheet.

He scored 16 points with six rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks – although he did commit five turnovers and seven personal fouls.

Lu Dort, Bobby Portis and P.J. Tucker were among the players to get paid on a busy Thursday evening of free agency action.

Dort was shown good faith by the Oklahoma City Thunder, who opted to decline his team option that would have kept him on a $1.9million deal for next season, instead choosing to sign him to a five-year, $87.5million extension.

On a roster stacked with rookie salaries, the Thunder simply need to have some bigger contracts on their books to meet the league's salary floor, and in doing so they have rewarded a player who has become a cult figure, averaging 17.2 points per game this past season while being his side's premier wing defender.

Speaking of cult figures, Portis' connection with the Milwaukee Bucks after helping to deliver the city their second NBA championship was strong enough to have him stick around for the following year on just over $4m.

That loyalty was rewarded with a new four-year, $49m deal that will keep the 27-year-old big-man in Milwaukee until after the 2026 playoffs.

The Bucks also made a second notable move, signing 34-year-old free agent Joe Ingles to a one-year, $6.5m contract. Ingles suffered a season-ending injury with the Utah Jazz this past season, but figures to fill a role as a 41 per cent career three-point shooter, who can also handle, pass and defend at six-foot-eight.

Tucker was also a member of the Bucks' 2021 championship team, and after contributing to the Miami Heat's run to the Eastern Conference Finals this past season, the 37-year-old has signed with the Philadelphia 76ers for three years and $33m.

Over the years, Tucker has evolved into one of the game's best corner three point shooters, and across the past five seasons he has started 77 playoff games, often guarding the opposition's most dangerous wing scorer.

While Tucker is getting paid to come and provide a stabilising force, the Portland Trail Blazers are paying for upside with their four-year, $100m commitment to breakout guard Anfernee Simons.

After averaging no more than 8.4 points and 1.4 assists in each of his first three campaigns, the 23-year-old shot into mainstream attention this season and he piled up numbers on a Trail Blazers team that was missing star Damian Lillard through injury.

Simons started a career-high 30 games, and put up career-high numbers across the board. He averaged 17.3 points and 3.9 assists, while shooting an impressive 40 per cent from three on an aggressive 7.8 attempts per game, emerging as one of the game's more lethal pull-up shooters from distance.

Backup point guard Tyus Jones will return to the Memphis Grizzlies on a two-year, $30m contract after a season where he became one of the league's most valuable backups.

Jones led the entire league in assist-to-turnover ratio at 6.4 – putting a gap on the rest of the field – with his brother, Tre Jones of the Spurs, in second place at 5.1.

He also shot a career-high 39 per cent from long range, and averaged 12.7 points, 6.6 assists and 3.2 rebounds without Ja Morant in the line-up, making him one of the main reasons the Grizzlies were 20-5 in the 25 games their superstar point guard missed due to injury.

James Harden has declined his player option – which would have paid him $47.4million for the upcoming season – to become an unrestricted free agent, although all signs point to an extension with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Since arriving with the 76ers this past season in the trade that sent Ben Simmons to the Brooklyn Nets, Harden's production was up-and-down.

He averaged 21 points, 10.5 assists and 6.5 rebounds in his 21 regular season games with his new team, but he also shot a career low 40 per cent from the field while attempting his fewest shots per game (13.6) since coming off the bench with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2011-12.

His numbers in the playoffs dipped even further, averaging 18.6 points, 8.6 assists and 5.7 rebounds while no-showing in the second half of some crucial defeats in their six-game series loss to the Miami Heat.

The report about Harden declining his player option, broken by The Athletic's Shams Charania, states his reasoning for declining the option is to extend with the 76ers at a more team-friendly salary that would allow the team to spend the savings on additional talent.

In the report, it is said that Harden has also returned to the 76ers' practice facility to begin his off-season program early, with his "sole focus" being to win a title in Philadelphia in this coming season.

By signing a deal more in the range of three years, $100m, the 76ers would have slightly more wiggle room to sign additional talent, but if they have plans on totally revamping the landscape, it would require trading Tobias Harris ahead of a season where he will be paid $37.6m – more than star Joel Embiid ($33.6m).

The Philadelphia 76ers have traded Danny Green and their number 23 pick in Thursday's NBA Draft to the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for De'Anthony Melton.

It was a trade the Sixers had been expected to offer around various teams, and they may well be pleased with the outcome as Melton brings a strong three-point game in particular, averaging 41.2 per cent in 2020-21, and 37.4 per cent in the campaign just gone.

The 24-year-old also averaged 10.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game last season, and is due to make $8.25million next year, and $8m in 2023-24.

The experienced Green heads to Memphis after two years in Philadelphia. The shooting guard has a career average of 8.7 points per game, but managed only 5.9 per game last season from 62 appearances, though only 28 of those were starts, and he suffered tears to his ACL and LCL in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals against the Miami Heat.

The number 23 pick obtained by the Grizzlies was used to obtain Colorado State's David Roddy, who was Mountain West Player of the Year in 2022.

Roddy averaged 19.2 points last season, 37th of college players, while also recording 7.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.

Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid has undergone surgery to repair two finger injuries but is expected to be ready for training camp.

Embiid suffered a problem with his right thumb in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series with the Toronto Raptors.

The 28-year-old played through the issue in Game 4, registering 21 points, eight rebounds and three assists in the 110-102 defeat in Toronto.

He managed to make it through the next two games as the 76ers edged out the Raptors, averaging 26.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 blocks per game.

However, a right orbital fracture and concussion in Game 6 against Toronto kept him out of the first two games of the Eastern Conference semi-finals against Miami Heat.

Embiid returned with a face mask as Philadelphia fell to a series defeat against the Heat, despite the center finishing as the league scoring champion with 30.6 points, 11.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists.

An issue with Embiid's left index finger, though, was not previously disclosed and he has sought to fix both hand problems with procedures in the offseason.

Embiid will hope to guide the 76ers further in the playoffs next season, after Philadelphia failed to make it past the second round for the fourth time in five years.

Nikola Jokic was named in the All-NBA first team ahead of Joel Embiid and alongside Jayson Tatum, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Devin Booker in Tuesday evening's announcement.

Jokic pipped fellow center Embiid for the NBA's 2021-22 MVP award earlier this month and the Serbian again got the nod in that position in the All-NBA first team, although the Philadelphia 76ers star was eligible as a forward but also missed out.

While Jokic and Embiid split votes, Milwaukee Bucks forward Antetokounmpo was the only unanimous selection in the first team.

Antetokounmpo became the first player over the past 50 years to be a unanimous selection to the All-NBA first team in four straight seasons.

Tatum and Booker were both selected to the All-NBA first team for the first time.

Embiid led the selections for the second team, alongside DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Ja Morant.

LeBron James was named to the third team, with Pascal Siakam, Karl-Anthony Towns, Chris Paul and Trae Young.

James Harden cannot be expected to consistently dominate NBA games but could have shown more aggression as the Philadelphia 76ers were knocked out of the playoffs, team-mate Joel Embiid said.

According to Embiid, a team-wide lack of aggression cost the 76ers as a 99-90 loss to the Miami Heat spelled the end for their season.

After being bounced out of the Eastern Conference semi-finals, much of the attention turned to Harden's quiet game.

He had just nine shots and scored only 11 points in almost 43 minutes on court, taking a mere two shots in the second half.

Embiid, who had a double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds, said the 32-year-old Harden cannot be compared to the player who averaged above 30 points for three consecutive seasons with the Houston Rockets from 2017-18 to 2019-20.

Harden was the NBA MVP in 2018, but his points on the board have begun to tail off in the past two seasons.

Since joining Philadelphia in February 2022, after a stint with the Brooklyn Nets, Harden has averaged 21.0 points over 21 regular season games, and just 18.6 points per game in the postseason.

Harden's field-goal shooting record of 40.5 per cent over the Sixers' 12 playoff games was his lowest in the postseason since the 2013-14 season.

"Since we got him, everybody expected the Houston James Harden," said Embiid. "But that's not who he is anymore. He's more of a playmaker. I thought, at times, he could have been, as all of us could have been, more aggressive. All of us, whether it was Tyrese [Maxey] or Tobias [Harris] or guys coming off the bench.

"And I'm not just talking about offensively. I'm talking about as a whole, offensively and defensively. I didn't think we were good defensively as a team.

"They took advantage of a lot of stuff that we tried to do defensively. And then offensively just really everybody being on the same page, obviously, only having probably three or four months to all work together and try to figure it out. Maybe it wasn't a lot of time. I don't think we played our best basketball."

Lakers legend Magic Johnson was among those to question Harden's display, saying such a player "can't have a performance like that".

The 76ers won the last of their three NBA titles in 1983 and have not landed a conference title since 2001.

Asked how he and Harden could forge a stronger understanding, Embiid told a news conference: "Everybody's got to get better. It's not just about me and him."

Questions will be asked of Doc Rivers and the 76ers coaching staff, but Embiid said the players must look at themselves.

"I believe that we have the right people, but at some point you have to stop looking at coaching and you have to look at the players. Maybe you are just not good enough," Embiid said.

"I'm not trying to blame anybody, but the players have also got to do their jobs. It doesn't matter how much a coach or a GM talks to you or tries to motivate you, if you still go out there and don't do your job and the other team is more physical than you, that's on the players."

James Harden insisted he intends to stay with the Philadelphia 76ers next season after delivering a flat performance in the defeat that killed off the team's playoffs dream.

After posting just 11 points on four-of-nine shooting, NBA veteran Harden said he hoped the 76ers could realise their ambition to win a championship, and stressed he wanted to be a part of that.

Harden did not put any points on the board in the second half on a 99-90 defeat at home to the Miami Heat, who advanced 4-2 to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The 32-year-old guard spoke about his lack of impact, saying: "I feel like the ball moved, it just didn't get back to me."

The Heat dominated the third quarter 25-15 to open up an 11-point lead, including a 16-2 run, and Harden said: "We didn't score. They got some easy buckets in transition, and hit some big shots, and kind of broke the game open."

Acquired from the Brooklyn Nets in a February trade, Harden was asked whether he saw his future in Philadelphia.

"I'll be here," he said. "Whatever allows this team to continue to grow and get better, and do the things necessary to win and compete at the highest level."

He explained: "For me, it's been a long year, but since I've been here it's been great. We tried to build something so fast – tried to build a championship-contending team so fast – which I still think we are, but we're just missing a few pieces. Other than that, we tried to go for it right away, and we just came up a little short. It doesn't stop, we've still got to put work in and keep going.

"We're trying to win a championship, man. That's the goal. We'll continue to build, us individually, and continue to get better, us as a unit, and continue to get to know each other. We'll find out what works, what doesn't work, and things like that."

Harden has battled hamstring trouble in recent times, and he believes there is a pathway back to full fitness, where he would not feel impeded at all next season.

"I'm finally starting to feel okay again, so it will be a great summer for me to get my body right and get ready to go for next year. This last two years have been a whirlwind though," he said.

"I've been trying to get right throughout the course of a basketball season for two years straight, and that's not it. All last summer I was rehabbing, and it was a little frustrating because I'm not used to going through something like that. It is what it is, and I'm just happy to be healthy now, and I have a full summer to be straight and do the things necessary to come back even better next year."

The Miami Heat progressed to the Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday, comfortably defeating the Philadelphia 76ers 99-90.

After the Golden State Warriors' anaemic performance in a closeout game on the road, the Heat showed no such trepidation and led by 20 at one stage, taking control in the third quarter with a 16-2 scoring run.

Jimmy Butler scored 14 points on six-of-nine shooting in that period as Miami put the proverbial foot on Philadelphia's throat, finishing with 32 points, eight rebounds and four assists against his former team.

James Harden went missing in the second half with Philadelphia's season on the line, meanwhile, taking only two shot attempts for the half while committing three turnovers to go with his four assists.

Now in their second ECF in three seasons, the Heat will face the winner of the series between the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks.

Mavs take Suns to deciding game

The Dallas Mavericks are taking the Western Conference's first seed to seven games, after they blew the Phoenix Suns out 113-86.

Luka Doncic was very close to a triple-double with his side's season on the line, but his fingerprints were nevertheless all over Game 6, finishing with 33 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.

Doncic's ability to find his teammates for open looks has been consistent in the series but their ability to knock them down has fluctuated. On Thursday, the Mavs shot 41 per cent from the perimeter for the win.

Devin Booker went two-of-10 with the game in the balance in the second and third quarters, as the Suns hoped to close the series out, finishing with 19 points on six-of-17 shooting.

Phoenix simply did not take care of the basketball, coughing it up 22 times with the Mavs scoring 29 points in transition off those turnovers.

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra lavished praise on Jimmy Butler following his side's 120-85 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday, labelling him the "ultimate competitor."

Without the injured Kyle Lowry, Butler led the Heat with 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists, while keeping turnovers to a relatively low two despite higher usage.

After scoring 33 and 40 points respectively in losses on the road, Butler had more of a supporting crew in Game 5, as six other Heat players scored in double digits.

Spoelstra singled Butler out not only for his versatility, and how that drives the Heat, but his character.

"Jimmy is just such a stable, high IQ…he's got a great feel for what the team needs, and he does it on both ends and that's what's really kind of lost on young players coming into this league," Spoelstra said post-game.

"He has orchestrated so many things for us offensively, particularly with Kyle [Lowry] out, and he's been able to toggle between those roles seamlessly, and make it look a lot easier than it is."

Shots fell for the Heat as they took a 3-2 series lead, converting on 39.4 per cent of attempts from the perimeter and finishing with 26 assists as a team.

Butler finished Game 5 with an impressive defensive rating of 87.7, and Spoelstra believes his competitive spirit is transformative in both individual and collective senses.

"In terms of being just a scoring option tonight, he was that scoring option but also facilitating for us, he was kind of initiating offense for us quite a bit," he said. "You just feel our whole team has a great sense of confidence when the ball's in Jimmy's hands and we leave the decision up to him.

"He's a great competitor in his heart and his soul. He's an ultimate competitor and when you get into competition, he understands the whole deal. You have to be able to do it on both ends.

"That's what he's been doing for us for three years, really competing for us on both ends, but he's able to compete with a ferocity and do it with an incredibly stable mind."

Joel Embiid insists he is "not mad" after missing out on the NBA's MVP award again to Nikola Jokic but continues to show contempt at the award's voting process.

The Philadelphia 76ers center was runner-up to Jokic last year and according to ESPN the Denver Nuggets' big man will edge him again for this season's gong.

Embiid enjoyed arguably a career-best season, with a league-high 30.6 points per game with 11.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists.

"I'm not mad," Embiid told reporters, when speaking after the 76ers' 120-85 loss to the Miami Heat on Tuesday.

"That's two years in a row I put myself in that position. It didn't happen. It is almost like, at this point, it is whatever. Whatever happens, happens.

"Last year, I campaigned about it. This year, I answered questions when I was asked, and in the next few years until I retire, it's almost like ... like I said, I wonder what else I have to do to win it, and to me, at this point, it's whatever.

"It's all about focusing, not that I wasn't focused on the bigger picture. It's really time to really put all my energy into the bigger picture, which is to win the whole thing."

Embiid's comments come with the 76ers on the brink of elimination after Tuesday's loss which leaves them 3-2 down in the Conference semi-finals to the Heat.

The 28-year-old Cameroonian added that there was no "right or wrong" answer for the MVP but continued to show derision towards the voting process, insisting he knew weeks ago he would not win.

"This is something that I knew weeks ago, even probably two weeks before the season ended, after those games against whether it was Denver and Milwaukee, and when [ESPN did its] straw poll or whatever. I just knew it wasn't gonna happen," Embiid said.

"Obviously, congrats to Nikola. He deserved it. He had an amazing season. There's no right or wrong. There was a lot of candidates.

"It could have gone either way. Giannis [Antetokounmpo], Devin Booker, being on the best team in the league, by far. I guess, every year is all about whatever you guys decide, whatever fits the narrative as far as who's gonna win."

The Miami Heat moved a step closer to progressing to the Eastern Conference Finals, rolling past the Philadelphia 76ers in a 120-85 win on Tuesday.

The Heat comfortably took a 3-2 series lead as the Sixers collapsed in the third quarter, going three-of-12 from the floor for the period aside from Joel Embiid.

While the Heat started strong, Embiid, James Harden and Tyrese Maxey were taken out with eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

Jimmy Butler was able to get to his spots on the floor, going nine-of-15 shooting on the way to 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists for the night.

As a team, Miami had a 20-point advantage (56-36) for points in the paint while seven players scored in double figures in the 35-point win, the joint largest margin of victory in the playoffs this season.

Suns surge in second-half to Game 5 win

The Phoenix Suns also claimed an important Game 5 victory on Tuesday, defeating the Dallas Mavericks 110-80.

Similar to the Philadelphia 76ers in the earlier game, the Mavericks started out ice cold and turned the ball over following the main break, giving up a double-digit lead to start the third quarter.

What was a one-point margin lead for the Suns at half-time quickly blew out to 17 by the middle of the third, when Deandre Ayton scored to make it 67-50.

The Western Conference's first seed did not look back from there, as Devin Booker finished the game with 28 points, seven rebounds and two steals.

Dribble penetration and offensive rebounding created good looks for the Suns, who shot 37.5 per cent from beyond the arc, while the Mavs conversely shot at 25 per cent.

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