The Miami Heat took a commanding 2-0 series lead against the Philadelphia 76ers, comfortably winning 119-103 at home on Wednesday.

The Eastern Conference's first seed were faced with little resistance against a Sixers side without Joel Embiid protecting the paint, shooting 51.3 per cent from the floor and 48.3 per cent from beyond the arc.

Jimmy Butler was transformative on the offensive end for the Heat, finishing with 22 points on eight-of-15 shooting and 12 assists.

Four Heat players - Bam Adebayo, Gabe Vincent, Max Strus and Tyler Herro - had three assists, while Herro and Victor Oladipo combined for 37 points off the bench on 12-of-21 shooting.

The Sixers kept turnovers relatively low with eight but did not generate great shots either, coming up with 17 assists for the night and connecting on a poor 26.7 per cent of three-point attempts.

Suns secure 2-0 lead over Mavs

The Phoenix Suns assuredly defended home court in their series with the Dallas Mavericks, securing a 129-109 victory.

A dominant second half saw the Suns through in Game 2, scoring 71 points on 29-of-41 shooting against the Mavs' 49 points on 14-of-39 from the floor.

Devin Booker and Chris Paul took over, combining for 41 points on 16-of-21 shooting after the main change. The change in game complexion was all the more distinct with Dallas taking 16 free-throw attempts in comparison to Phoenix's five.

Booker and Paul scored 30 and 28 points respectively for the night, with the latter chipping in eight assists and six rebounds.

Luka Doncic put up 35 points on 13-of-22 shooting along with seven assists, but crucially committed as many turnovers for the Mavs.

Jason Kidd called on Luka Doncic's Dallas Mavericks team-mates to "join the party" after the Slovenian star's 45-point haul was not enough to deny the Phoenix Suns a Game 1 win.

The top-seeded Suns drew first blood in the Western Conference semi-finals on Monday, winning 121-114 at Footprint Center on Monday.

Three-time NBA All-Star Doncic was outstanding yet again, also taking 12 rebounds and providing eight assists to go with his huge tally of points.

Maxi Kleber was the second-highest points scorer for the Mavs with 19 and coach Kidd says Doncic will need more support ahead of Game 2 in Phoenix on Wednesday.

Kidd said: "He [Doncic] got whatever he wanted, when you look at the shots in the paint, behind the arc, midrange and then also I thought he got his team-mates some great looks that we normally had made.

"I thought he played great. We've just got to get someone to join the party."

Doncic did not brush over his analysis over where the Mavs had fallen short as he urged them to "attack the paint."

He said: "We've just got to attack more paint. I settled for a little too much step-backs for me. Attacking the paint is our lethal weapon.

"When we do that, we can score easily, especially with five-out and they've got a big rotating. We've got to attack more paint."

Deandre Ayton led the way for the Suns with 25, while Devin Booker posted 23 and had eight assists.

Suns coach Monty Williams said: "'I liked the fact that we weren't settling for threes. A lot of guys were attacking the paint, we were getting floaters and rim shots."

 

 

The Phoenix Suns were at their offensive best in their 121-114 Game 1 win against the Dallas Mavericks.

Led by center Deandre Ayton, who had 19 of his 25 points in the first half, the Suns scored 35 in the first quarter and 34 in the second to lead 69-56 at the long break.

The only thing keeping the Mavericks in the game was superstar Luka Doncic, who had 26 first-half points on his way to 45 on 15-of-30 shooting, while grabbing 12 rebounds and dishing eight assists.

Dallas' defense was much improved after half-time, but they struggled to cut into the lead as Devin Booker kept things ticking on his way to 23 points, with some cold shooting late bringing his figures to seven-of-20 from the field with nine rebounds and eight assists.

Cameron Johnson also chipped in with a playoff career-high 17 points off the bench in 24 productive minutes.

With a 16-point lead heading into the last frame, the Suns moved their perfect record to 51-0 this season when leading after three quarters, with only some too-little, too-late shot-making cutting the final margin to a respectable deficit.

Dallas will need much more out of guard Jalen Brunson on the attacking end to keep up with the powerful Suns offense as this series moves forward, finishing six-of-16 from the field for his 13 points, with eight of those points coming in the last quarter when the game was essentially decided.

76ers go cold against Heat

A dominant second half saw the Miami Heat pull away for a 106-92 Game 1 home victory against the Philadelphia 76ers.

It was a great start for the Heat, jumping out to a 25-11 lead, but a strong Philly fightback in the second quarter gave the road team a 51-50 advantage heading into half-time as James Harden put through his 12th point.

Harden would only score four points in the second half, which was indicative of how it went for the 76ers as the Heat raised their defense to another level in the third period.

Miami outscored the visitors 56-41 after half-time, as Tyler Herro led the way with 25 points off the bench on nine-of-17 shooting, adding seven assists.

It was also a strong scoring game for Bam Adebayo, who shot eight-for-10 for his 24 points, with 12 rebounds, four assists, two steals and a blocked shot.

Tobias Harris was the shining light for the 76ers, battling hard on both ends to finish with 27 points on 11-of-18 shooting, and was a big reason for Jimmy Butler's poor performance, which saw the Heat star not play a minute in the fourth quarter.

Narratives are being readied all over the place to make this season's NBA playoffs potentially one of the most exciting of recent times.

The first round may not have provided quite as much drama as hoped, with none of the eight clashes going to a Game 7, but looking at the contests in prospect in the Conference semi-finals, we should not be far away from some.

The top four seeds in both Conferences ultimately made it through, though that's not to say some were not given a bit of a fright, and the semis were set after the Memphis Grizzlies eventually put away the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday in Game 6.

There are stories to be written when it comes to the star players in the league, though, with some excelling as they look lead their team to glory, while others are struggling to stay on the court and off the injured list.

This leads us into some potentially fascinating encounters in the final eight, and Stats Perform has taken a look at what we can expect over the next two weeks.

Eastern Conference

Boston Celtics v Milwaukee Bucks

Frankly, these two should be perfectly fresh heading into this one.

The Celtics whitewashed the Brooklyn Nets in the first round, barely breaking a sweat in the process, while the Bucks dropped just one game in overcoming a depleted Chicago Bulls.

Jayson Tatum has unsurprisingly been the star so far for Boston in the postseason, averaging 29.5 points per game, including 39 in Game 3, as well as averaging 7.3 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game.

Equally unsurprisingly, Giannis Antetokounmpo has been leading the way for the defending NBA champions, averaging 28.6 points per game from five postseason outings so far for the Bucks, as well as 6.2 assists and 13.4 rebounds.

The continued absence of Khris Middleton will be a blow for Mike Budenholzer, with the swingman still recovering from a knee injury suffered in the first round, and reports suggesting he will miss the entirety of this round as well.

These two beat each other twice during the regular season, with the Bucks getting the final win just over three weeks ago at Fiserv Forum, so it promises to be a much tighter affair than either experienced in round one.

Miami Heat v Philadelphia 76ers

The number one seeds in the East were barely inconvenienced by the Atlanta Hawks in the first round, with the Heat winning 4-1.

Jimmy Butler is bringing it in the playoffs so far, averaging 30.5 points, with an additional 5.3 assists and 7.8 rebounds per game. He missed Game 5 against the Hawks with a knee inflammation, but it is hoped he will return for Game 1 against his former team.

Kyle Lowry's participation is more of a question mark, with the 36-year-old missing since suffering a hamstring injury in Game 3.

There is an arguably worse injury situation in Philadelphia, though, with Joel Embiid out "indefinitely" with a right orbital fracture and mild concussion. The Cameroonian was averaging 26.2 points across the 4-2 first round win over the Toronto Raptors.

Despite playing with an injured thumb, Embiid was dominant as the Sixers took out Game 6, putting up 33 points on 12-of-18 shooting from the floor and nine-of-10 from the free-throw line, as well as adding 10 rebounds and three blocks, but it is unclear when he will play a part in this round.

Tyrese Maxey, along with James Harden, will need to step up even more in the absence of Embiid if the Sixers are to dump out the top seeds.

Like the Celtics and the Bucks, these two traded two wins apiece in the regular-season meetings, with the Sixers winning 113-106 at Wells Fargo Center in March without Embiid, with Maxey top-scoring with 28 points.

 

Western Conference

Golden State Warriors v Memphis Grizzlies

Despite the best efforts of Nikola Jokic, the Warriors strolled past the Denver Nuggets 4-1 in the first round, but can expect a sterner test here from the Grizzlies.

Stephen Curry is on his game, averaging 28 points across those five outings, although only 3.8 three-pointers per game so far, being outshone in that metric by team-mate Klay Thompson, who has averaged 4.4.

Curry and Thompson combined to great effect in Game 5 against the Nuggets, scoring 33 and 32 points respectively.

Memphis probably struggled more than they thought they would against the Timberwolves, securing a 4-2 win in the end but being made to work for it.

Ja Morant recorded 30 points, 13 rebounds, nine assists and three steals in Game 5. Only five players in the last 35 seasons have recorded such a stat line in a playoff game, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Morant himself.

Morant has continued his great form, but Desmond Bane is also shining in the postseason, with the top average point score for the Grizzlies of 23.5, and 4.5 three-pointers made per game.

The Grizzlies could have a psychological edge in this contest, having won all of their last three meetings in the regular season, with the 28-point difference in the 123-95 win at FedExForum in late March the largest defeat of the Warriors' season.

Phoenix Suns v Dallas Mavericks

Although ultimately through with a game to spare, it was surprising to see the Suns struggle as much as they did against the eighth-seed New Orleans Pelicans.

The outstanding Suns, who won 64 regular-season games, eventually prevailed 4-2 against the Pelicans, who by comparison won just 36 in the regular season, but that is what the playoffs bring, the threat of upsets.

Monty Williams and his team will have hardly been panicking, though, even when they were tied at 2-2 after Game 4, with a Chris Paul-inspired win in New Orleans in Game 6 sealing their passage through.

Having Devin Booker back is a big boost for West's number one seeds, with the 25-year-old returning from a hamstring injury for Game 6 that ruled him out of Games 3-5, having registered a combined 56 points in Games 1 and 2.

The Mavericks made it through the first round for the first time since they won the championship in 2011, seeing off the Utah Jazz 4-2, in a series that was also previously tied at 2-2.

It was made all the more impressive considering Luka Doncic could only play in three games, though still averaging 29.0 points in those he did, as well as 5.7 assists and 10.7 rebounds.

That meant someone else stepping up, and that someone else was Jalen Brunson, who scored 41 in Game 2 and a further 31 in Game 3, averaging 27.8 across the six games.

Dallas will need to do something about their record against Phoenix, though, having lost their last nine meetings with them, including three this season. The Mavs have not recorded a win against the Suns since November 2019.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sixers snap up Raptors

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

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

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

Jazz miss chance to extend season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heat seal series win over Hawks

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

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

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

Bridges guides Suns into 3-2 lead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pels level series against Suns

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

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

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

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

Heat and Bucks take commanding leads in East

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

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

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

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

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

Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul was all smiles after his side's crucial 114-111 road win against the New Orleans Pelicans, in a city that holds a special place in the heart of the 'Point God'.

With Devin Booker out for the game with a hamstring injury, Chris Paul assumed a greater offensive load on Friday and took it in stride.

He posted a gaudy playoff stat line of 28 points on 10-of-18 shooting, with 14 assists, while Deandre Ayton was superb, riding a hot start to a 28-point (13-of-20 shooting), 17-rebound showing.

Paul, who was drafted by the New Orleans Hornets back in 2005, dismissed a question in the post-game press conference about whether he heard fans in the arena chanting their displeasure for their former favourite son, and wrapped his arms around the city he once called home.

"These are my people, man. I grew up here," he said. "Six of the best years of my life I played for New Orleans.

"I know how I am with this city, that will never change. I have my parents here, my family here. 

"There's nothing like it, it will always be so much love between me and the city here."

Touching on the game, Paul was full of praise for both Suns centers who played key roles in Game 3.

"[Ayton's start] was huge, it was big-time," he said. "You can't replace everything that Devin [Booker] does for us, so it's going to be different spurts, where guys get going. 

"[Ayton] kept us in this game in order to bring it home down the stretch… he kept telling me he was going to get me loose, and to stop passing and just shoot the ball.

"JaVale [McGee] was amazing. We talked about it – this was the third game where Larry Nance came in and they started to switch everything – so we wanted to try and punish them on the inside. 

"JaVale's energy is contagious – him rebounding and getting those put-backs kept us in the game, too."

The Suns were a top-10 team in three-point percentage during the regular season, but shot just four-of-26 from downtown on Friday.

Paul went into detail about why he feels that stat bodes well for his side going forward in this series, and why he thinks they are built to handle adversity and win tough games.

"We got a lot of good looks," he said. "I was one-for-six, and I didn't realise we were four-of-26 [from three-point range] – but the thing about it is we got great looks.

"All season long we've been a really good shooting team, so to win this game without shooting well, that's a plus for us, because if we can get the same shots next game, hopefully we can knock them down.

"We've got a good group who have been together – we're sort of battle-tested when it comes to things. We went on an incredible run last year, and we're still building.

"I don't know the amount of playoff games our team has under our belts, so everything is still new to a certain extent, but guys know what to expect, and we know what we want to get to [offensively] down the stretch."

Trae Young hit a dramatic game-winner with less than five seconds remaining in the Atlanta Hawks' 111-110 home win against the Miami Heat.

The win is the Hawks' first of the series, keeping things alive at 2-1 with Game 4 remaining in Atlanta, while Kyle Lowry may be missing for the Heat after leaving Friday's game with a hamstring complaint.

Momentum switched hands throughout the contest, with Atlanta putting up 39 points in the second quarter to lead 61-54 at half-time, before the Heat came out on fire in the third, winning the frame 31-16 to take an eight-point lead into the last.

Miami extended their lead to 94-80 with 9:06 to play in the fourth quarter, when Bogdan Bogdanovic and Onyeka Okongwu began to drag the home side back into the game.

Bogdanovic hit a trio of three-pointers in less than three minutes, while Okongwu had seven points down the stretch and was the Hawks' primary defensive presence on the interior, more than holding his own against Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler.

But after a P.J. Tucker three-ball put the Heat up 110-109 with 54 seconds to play, only one man was going to have the final say for the Hawks.

When Butler missed a jump shot with 12 seconds left, the Hawks opted not to call a time-out, letting Young make his way up the court quickly, weaving his way into the lane for one of his trusty floaters, getting the friendly home-rim roll.

He finished with 24 points on six-of-14 shooting, also dishing nine assists. Bogdanovic had 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists, and De'Andre Hunter scored 17, including some important buckets when the Hawks were sputtering.

Butler's desperation three on the buzzer fell short, but he played well, scoring 20 (eight-of-20 shooting) with 10 rebounds and eight assists, while Tyler Herro led the Heat in scoring with 24 off the bench and Max Strus had 20, hitting five-of-10 from three-point range.

Paul, Ayton carry Phoenix

The duo of Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton led the top-seeded Phoenix Suns to a crucial Game 3 114-111 win against the New Orleans Pelicans to take a 2-1 lead in the series.

With Devin Booker absent for at least this game and the next, Paul had to take on a greater offensive burden than usual, but he did it in style, racking up 14 assists and scoring 28 points on 10-of-18 shooting.

He needed someone to get hot with him, and Ayton rose to the occasion, scoring 28 points on 13-of-20 shooting and grabbing 17 rebounds, with three steals and a block. The performance demonstrated the ability to be an offensive focal point that was envisioned when he was selected number one overall in the 2018 NBA Draft.

It was far from smooth sailing for the Suns, as the Pelicans kept it close throughout, and even poked their head in front at 93-92 with less than six minutes to play.

But the Suns as has been the story of the Suns' season, they have been the best clutch team in the NBA, and once again showed why. Paul's surgical precision on the offensive end, and a sea of swarming length and physicality on the defensive end, was too much for a young Pelicans team that played three rookies in the fourth quarter (Herb Jones, Trey Murphy III and Jose Alvarado).

Brandon Ingram had 34 points on 11-of-19 shooting in a strong performance for New Orleans, and C.J. McCollum also contributed 30 points (11-of-23 shooting), but no other Pelican could score more than a dozen.

Bucks cruise without Middleton

The Milwaukee Bucks were shot out of a cannon and never allowed the Chicago Bulls a foothold into the game, winning 111-81 to take a 2-1 series lead.

With extended minutes due to Khris Middleton's knee injury, Grayson Allen set the tone to close the first quarter, scoring three consecutive three-pointers in just 62 seconds on his way to a game-high tally of 22 points.

With 1:15 to play in the first half, the Bucks opened up their lead to 60-37 as they dominated both ends of the floor.

Giannis Antetokounmpo only needed to play 29 minutes before getting an early rest, scoring 18 points (seven-of-12 shooting) with seven rebounds and nine assists, and the Bucks were plus 36 during his time on the floor.

After only playing six minutes in the Game 2 loss, Bobby Portis made his case for his playoff value with 18 points and 16 rebounds, hitting four of his eight three-point attempts.

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."

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