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.

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.

James Harden continued his impressive start to life with the Philadelphia 76ers by dazzling in Wednesday's 123-108 victory against the New York Knicks on his home debut.

The 10-time NBA All-Star starred with 26 points, nine assists and nine rebounds to make it three wins from three since arriving from the Brooklyn Nets last month.

Joel Embiid led the scoring with 27 points, while Tyrese Maxey added 25 as the 76ers won for a fourth game in a row and improved to 38-23 for the season.

Doc Rivers' side now sit two games back of the Miami Heat for the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings after the latter lost 120-119 to the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Heat led by 14 points with six minutes to play but could not see out a fifth victory in a row, with Jrue Holiday's driving layup with 1.9 seconds to go completing the comeback.

Defending NBA champions Milwaukee had Giannis Antetokounmpo to thank for the much-needed win, the two-time MVP registering 28 points, 17 rebounds and five assists.

 


Suns reach milestone mark

The Phoenix Suns became the first team to reach 50 wins this season by easing to a 120-90 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers at Footprint Center.

Cam Johnson scored 20 points and Deandre Ayton added 18 as the Suns made light work of being without Chris Paul and Devin Booker, the latter entering the league's health and safety protocols.

Portland briefly put up a fight and were ahead early in the second quarter, but the hosts rallied to lead 63-48 at half-time and pulled further ahead to keep a two-game lead over the Chicago Bulls atop the Eastern Conference.


Pelicans show unity with Ukraine

The New Orleans Pelicans wore yellow socks for their 125-95 win over the Sacramento Kings in a show of solidarity with Ukraine after the country was invaded by Russia.

"It's a big mess," said Lithuanian center Jonas Valanciunas, who had 17 points and 14 rebounds. "We're just trying to bring more attention. The enemy is still out there. Innocent people are still dying. 

"The whole world is talking about sanctions, support, prayers – but something else has to be done because the war is still going on. It's been a tough seven days."
 
Elsewhere on Wednesday, injury-depleted Oklahoma City Thunder pulled off a surprise 119-107 win over the Denver Nuggets, while Donovan Mitchell scored 37 points as the Utah Jazz held off the Houston Rockets 132-127.

The Cleveland Cavaliers lost for a fifth time in six games with a 119-98 loss to the Charlotte Hornets, despite the return of Darius Garland from injury, and the Indiana Pacers beat the Orlando Magic 122-114 thanks to Malcolm Brogdon's 31 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.

LeBron James hurt his ankle but played on as the Los Angeles Lakers were humbled by the in-form Phoenix Suns 108-88 led by Devin Booker with 24 points on Tuesday.

The Lakers had a major injury scare, with All-Star forward Anthony Davis already sidelined, after James rolled his left ankle driving to the basket in the third quarter, leaving him punching the floor.

The four-time MVP soldiered on, finishing with 34 points and seven rebounds, but spent the final few minutes on the bench as the Lakers were brushed aside by the Suns who improve to 25-5.

Phoenix have four straight and won six of their past seven games, having started the season 1-3. The Suns had seven different players in double figures on Tuesday.

Booker starred in his second game back after a hamstring injury with 24 points including six three-pointers, along with nine rebounds and seven assists. Suns center Deandre Ayton had 19 points and 11 rebounds.

Talen Horton-Tucker had a nightmare game for the Lakers, shooting one of 13 from the field and none of eight from beyond the arc, while Russell Westbrook had 22 points and 10 rebounds but also seven turnovers.

 

Lillard's heroics in vain as Blazers lose

Damian Lillard's 39 points, including six triples, were not enough to lift the Portland Trail Blazers past the New Orleans Pelicans, going down 111-97. Brandon Ingram finished with 28 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, while Jonas Valanciunas had 10 points with 16 rebounds.

Jalen Brunson stepped up in Luka Doncic's absence with 28 points including three triples in the Dallas Mavericks' 114-102 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Karl-Anthony Towns scored 26 points with 12 rebounds and seven assists for the Wolves.

Julius Randle had 21 points and 11 rebounds as the New York Knicks overcame the Detroit Pistons 105-91.

 

Brogdon injured as Pacers burnt by Heat

The Indiana Pacers' starting five combined for a measly 46 points in their 125-96 defeat to the Miami Heat. The Pacers were not helped by a sore right Achilles to Malcolm Brogdon which forced him off after eight minutes.

Nikola Jokic's return proved the perfect tonic for the slumping Denver Nuggets after the reigning MVP helped snap a six-game slide in a 120-111 victory over the Miami Heat.

All eyes were on Jokic, who had missed four straight games because of a wrist injury amid Denver's worst six-game stretch since the 2014-15 season.

There was also plenty of interest as the Nuggets and Heat renewed hostilities for the first time since Jokic and Miami's Markieff Morris were involved in a dustup on November 8.

Jokic received a one-game ban after shoving Morris in the back as tempers flared – the Nuggets star reacting angrily after the Heat veteran came in with a hard foul, catching his opponent with a left elbow to the chest.

While the Heat were shorthanded in the absence of Morris – who has missed 11 consecutive games since the incident, Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro, Miami fans let their feelings known, booing Jokic every time he touched the ball.

Jokic, with his two brothers behind the Denver bench, was not fussed as he posted 24 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists.

Double-doubles from Bam Adebayo (24 points and 13 rebounds) and Kyle Lowry (17 points and 14 assists) were not enough for the Heat.

 

Doncic matches Robertson

Luka Doncic had 25 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds in the Dallas Mavericks' 114-96 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He tied Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson for the most triple-doubles (38) before turning 23. Mavericks star Doncic celebrates his 23rd birthday in February.

Lonzo Ball earned family bragging rights after the Chicago Bulls outlasted the Charlotte Hornets 133-119. Up against brother LaMelo and the Hornets, Lonzo's Balls prevailed thanks to Nikola Vucevic (30 points and 14 rebounds), DeMar DeRozan (28 points) and Zach LaVine (25 points). According to Stats Perform, Chicago are the first team to have a starting guard (LaVine), starting forward (DeRozan) and starting center (Vucevic) have 25-plus points, five-plus rebounds and five-plus assists in the same game since the Orlando Magic in January 1994. LaMelo Ball's 18 points and 13 assists were not enough for the Hornets.

Seth Curry put up 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting as the Philadelphia 76ers held on to beat the Magic 101-96 at home. The 76ers are riding a five-game winning streak against the Magic – their longest such streak against Orlando.

Jonas Valanciunas nailed seven of his three-point attempts as he torched the Los Angeles Clippers in a 39-point and 15-rebound performance, the New Orleans Pelicans triumphing 123-104.

 

Lillard struggles in Blazers loss

Much was said about All-Star Damian Lillard heading into the season amid question marks over his future with the Portland Trail Blazers. Had he outgrown the smalltown market? Well, his topsy-turvy campaign continued after scoring just 11 points on four-of-12 shooting from the floor in the 129-107 defeat at the Utah Jazz.

Rookie of the Year candidate Josh Giddey had a game to forget as fellow strugglers the Houston Rockets eased past the Oklahoma City Thunder 102-89. In 25 minutes, Giddey made only one of his nine shots from the field, missing his five three-point attempts for two points in total.

Giannis Antetokounmpo came close to a triple-double as reigning NBA champions the Milwaukee Bucks took down the Indiana Pacers 119-109 on Monday.

Antetokounmpo finished the game with 30 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, as well as two blocks and a steal to fuel the Bucks.

Bucks team-mate Khris Middleton provided good scoring support with 27 points, five rebounds and seven assists, including a remarkable three-pointer on the first-quarter buzzer.

Milwaukee pulled away throughout the game, leading by 15 points at the final change, having no issues in Jrue Holiday (ankle) and Brook Lopez's (back) absence.

While the Bucks improved to 3-1, the Pacers slipped to a 1-3 record despite Domantas Sabonis' 21 points, 13 rebounds and five assists.

 

 

Bulls maintain perfect start

The Chicago Bulls improved to 4-0 for the first time since 1996-97 thanks to a 111-108 victory against the Toronto Raptors. The Bulls led by 10 points with less than three minutes remaining before Fred VanVleet (15 points and a career-high 17 assists) missed a three-point attempt on the buzzer to send it to overtime.

Jayson Tatum posted 41 points, including six three-pointers, with seven rebounds and eight assists as the Boston Celtics outlasted the Charlotte Hornets 140-129 after overtime. The Celtics closed the extra period with a 14-0 run to storm to victory.

Paul George had a career-high eight steals along with 16 points as the Los Angeles Clippers won 116-86 against the Portland Trail Blazers. Luke Kennard added 23 points.

Jonas Valanciunas put up 22 points and a career-high 23 points as the New Orleans Pelicans snapped a season-opening three-game skid by topping the Minnesota Timberwolves 107-98.

 

Harden's radar still off

The Brooklyn Nets improved their record to 2-2 with a 104-90 win over the Washington Wizards although James Harden's shooting radar was off. The former MVP finished five of 17 from the field, including going at 12.5 per cent from beyond the arc for his 14 points.

Damian Lillard continues to struggle for the Blazers this season. The All-Star finished four-of-15 shooting against the Clippers, while he missed all eight of his three-point attempts. Lillard has made two of 24 three-pointers this season (8.3 per cent). He is shooting 34 per cent overall.

The Memphis Grizzlies are trading up to the 10th pick in Thursday's NBA Draft but must give up Jonas Valanciunas to the New Orleans Pelicans while taking Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe in return.

ESPN reported the Grizzlies were finalising a deal on Monday that would see them trade selections 17 and 51 for the Pels' 10 and 40 as well as a top-10 protected 2022 pick via the Los Angeles Lakers.

Lithuanian center Valanciunas leaves Memphis after two and a half years, having been the team's third scorer in 2020-21 with 17.1 points per game behind Ja Morant (19.1) and Dillon Brooks (17.2).

He also averaged 12.5 rebounds but heads to New Orleans, where he will be expected to create space for Zion Williamson.

It means another offseason of flux for the Pels, who selected Williamson with the first overall pick in 2019 as former number one selection Anthony Davis left for the Lakers.

The team have so far struggled to surround Williamson with the right talent, although he was an All-Star last season with 27.0 points – the eighth-most in the league.

Adams and Bledsoe arrived in 2020 as another star performer departed, this time Jrue Holiday in a four-team trade. Holiday won the title last week with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Adams contributed only 7.6 points per game and struggled to work in tandem with Williamson, while Bledsoe's 12.2 points made for his worst scoring season since 2012-13.

Crucially, the pair were set to count for more than 21 per cent of the Pels' cap in 2021-22.

New Orleans now have the flexibility to make an offer to Lonzo Ball or to eye up other free agents, including linked Toronto Raptors great Kyle Lowry.

The Grizzlies instead take on Adams' $17.1million and Bledsoe's $18.1m, but they do also now get a look at a top-10 pick in a talented draft class.

Paul George and Marcus Morris Sr. combined to lead the Los Angeles Clippers past the Detroit Pistons 131-124 in NBA action on Sunday.

Clippers star George posted 32 points – his third consecutive game of 30-plus points – as the Los Angeles franchise rallied for their fifth successive victory.

Morris put up a season-high 33 points for the Clippers, who capped a nine-game homestand against the lowly Pistons.

Veteran Morris nailed six three-pointers and surpassed 1,000 for his career as star Kawhi Leonard was rested.

Meanwhile, the Denver Nuggets had their eight-game winning streak snapped by the Boston Celtics in a 105-87 defeat.

The Celtics used a remarkable 31-3 run to take down the Nuggets on the road in Denver, where Jayson Tatum (illness) and Jaylen Brown (knee) battled to inspire Boston.

Denver led 79-65 late in the third quarter before capitulating, outscored 31-8 in the final period.

Nikola Jokic's triple-double of 17 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds were not enough for the Nuggets.

 

Zion flexes muscles

Zion Williamson had 38 points as the New Orleans Pelicans rallied past the Cleveland Cavaliers 116-109. Williamson, who scored 25 points in the first half and fell one shy of his career best, made 16 of 22 shots, while collecting nine rebounds and tallying four assists.

Portland Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard (1,983) passed Dirk Nowitzki (1,982) for 11th on the NBA's all-time list for threes. The Trail Blazers lost 107-98 at home to the Miami Heat.

Jonas Valanciunas produced a big performance, but the Memphis Grizzlies went down 132-125 to the Indiana Pacers. He recorded a career-high tying 34 points and 22 rebounds. Valanciunas posted his second career game with 30-plus points and 20-plus rebounds and is the second player in Grizzlies history with multiple 30-20 regular-season games after Zach Randolph (three).

Bogdan Bogdanovic finished with 32 points on a career-high eight three-pointers as the high-flying Atlanta Hawks defeated the Charlotte Hornets 105-101. Clint Capela added 20 points and 15 rebounds for the Hawks, who are fourth in the Eastern Conference.

DeMar DeRozan registered 33 points, including the tie-breaking jump shot with 0.5 seconds remaining, to lift the San Antonio Spurs to a 119-117 win against the Dallas Mavericks.

 

Game to forget for Magic

The Orlando Magic have not had much to celebrate this season and they had a tough time against the Milwaukee Bucks, who won 124-87. All five of Orlando's starters did not reach double-digit points. James Innis III was two-for-seven shooting, while missing all three attempts from beyond the arc for six points in 25 minutes. In total, the Magic were just 22.2 per cent from three-point range.

 

Space Jam?

In a scene reminiscent of iconic 1990s movie Space Jam, Hornets star Miles Bridges channelled his inner Michael Jordan with a thunderous slam against the Hawks.

 

Sunday's results

Atlanta Hawks 105-101 Charlotte Hornets
Boston Celtics 105-87 Denver Nuggets
New Orleans Pelicans 116-109 Cleveland Cavaliers
Milwaukee Bucks 124-87 Orlando Magic
New York Knicks 102-96 Toronto Raptors
San Antonio Spurs 119-117 Dallas Mavericks
Indiana Pacers 132-125 Memphis Grizzlies
Minnesota Timberwolves 121-117 Chicago Bulls
Los Angeles Clippers 131-124 Detroit Pistons
Miami Heat 107-98 Portland Trail Blazers

 

76ers at Mavericks

The Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers (36-17) will be eyeing back-to-back wins when they face Luka Doncic's Mavericks (29-23) on Monday.

The Los Angeles Clippers made light work of their short-handed neighbours, crushing defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers 104-86.

Kawhi Leonard (19 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists) fell just short of a triple-double as the Clippers snapped a two-game skid in the NBA on Sunday.

Marcus Morris posted 22 points and Paul George added 16 for the Clippers, who claimed bragging rights in Los Angeles, where superstar Lakers duo LeBron James and Anthony Davis remain sidelined.

Former Clippers star Montrezl Harrell led the Lakers with 19 points – Frank Vogel's team have dropped six of nine games.

 

Vucevic and LaVine sink Nets, Valanciunas' Grizzlies roar against 76ers

The Chicago Bulls ended a six-game losing streak after upstaging the Brooklyn Nets 115-107. Recruit Nikola Vucevic (22 points and 13 rebounds) and Zach LaVine (25 points) fuelled the Bulls, while Tomas Satoransky registered a season-high 19 points and 11 assists. The Nets – playing without James Harden and Kevin Durant – were led by Kyrie Irving's double-double of 24 points and 15 assists.

Jonas Valanciunas guided the Memphis Grizzlies to a surprise 116-100 win at the Philadelphia 76ers. Valanciunas had 16 points and 12 rebounds in a career-high tying 10th consecutive double-double – his longest streak ever within a single season. Memphis' 45 points in the third quarter marked the most in a single period in a road game in franchise history. Tobias Harris put up 21 points in the absence of star 76ers team-mate Joel Embiid, who was rested after returning from a 10-game injury lay-off on Saturday.

It was a milestone result for Atlanta Hawks head coach Nate McMillan, who moved up to 20th on the all-time coaching wins (673) list after his team topped the Golden State Warriors 117-111. Double-doubles from Clint Capela (24 points and 18 rebounds) and Danilo Gallinari (25 points and 10 rebounds) inspired the Hawks. The Warriors lost despite Stephen Curry's game-high 37 points, and double-doubles from Kelly Oubre Jr. (20 points and 11 rebounds) and Draymond Green (11 points and 11 assists).

 

Simmons and Curry headline Philly woes

It was a frustrating game for the 76ers, who were 41.6 per cent from the field and 23.5 from three-point territory. Ben Simmons endured a forgettable outing, the All-Star finishing two-of-six shooting for seven points in 26 minutes. Seth Curry was one-of-six shooting, while he made just one of five attempts from three-point range for three points. Fellow starters Danny Green (six points on two-of-seven shooting) and Mike Scott (nine points on three-of-10 shooting) all struggled.

P.J. Washington made one of six shots from the field – nailing just one of his three efforts from beyond the arc – as he finished with three points in the Charlotte Hornets' 116-86 defeat away to the Boston Celtics.

The Houston Rockets went down 122-115 to the New Orleans Pelicans, with Avery Bradley ending the game two-for-nine shooting and five points in 26 minutes.

A championship winner with the Lakers, Rajon Rondo made his Clippers debut. But the veteran did not have the greatest game. Rondo made one of three field goals and committed four turnovers in 13 minutes.

 

The Joker does it all

Nikola Jokic showcased his MVP credentials and playmaking abilities with another impressive performance. He recorded 17 points and 16 assists to lead the Denver Nuggets to a 119-109 win over the lowly Orlando Magic.

 

Sunday's results

Chicago Bulls 115-107 Brooklyn Nets
Los Angeles Clippers 104-86 Los Angeles Lakers
Boston Celtics 116-86 Charlotte Hornets
Memphis Grizzlies 116-100 Philadelphia 76ers
Atlanta Hawks 117-111 Golden State Warriors
New Orleans Pelicans 122-115 Houston Rockets
Denver Nuggets 119-109 Orlando Magic

 

Knicks at Nets

It will be another rivalry clash on Monday with bragging rights on the line between the New York Knicks (25-25) and the Nets (34-16). The Nets could welcome back both Kevin Durant and James Harden.

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