It almost feels as though using the Ron Burgundy 'boy, that escalated quickly' GIF would be a little too on the nose.

The NBA Conference semi-finals proved to be just as dramatic as we all hoped, with two of them going all the way to all or nothing Game 7s.

In the East, despite a bit of a comeback once Joel Embiid returned from injury, the Philadelphia 76ers were unable to halt the number one seed Miami Heat, while defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks are also out after going down in Game 7 to the Boston Celtics.

Over in the West, the Golden State Warriors overcame the Memphis Grizzlies in a tempestuous series defined by Ja Morant's knee injury, while a sensational performance from Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks saw them destroy the Phoenix Suns in their own backyard in Game 7 on Sunday.

They may not be the Conference Finals many predicted, but they will be absolutely covered in compelling narratives, so Stats Perform is here to take a look at what should be two fascinating contests to determine this year's NBA finalists.

Eastern Conference Final

Miami Heat v Boston Celtics

Perhaps this pairing was to be expected given they are the one and two seeds respectively in the East, but with Giannis Antetokounmpo in their corner and an NBA championship to defend, many will have expected the Bucks to get the better of Boston.

The Celtics showed their mettle, though, in particular Jayson Tatum, who is averaging 28.3 points per game (PPG) in the postseason.

Tatum's 6.1 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game are supported by an impressive average of four turnovers as the 24-year-old has set about trying to drag his team all the way.

He has not been alone though, with Jaylen Brown averaging 22.2 PPG, while an unlikely hero emerged in the 109-81 win against the Bucks on Sunday as Grant Williams top-scored with 27, the first time he has done so for the Celtics. Williams hit seven of the Celtics' 22 made three-pointers in an incredible shooting barrage.

 

The Heat took full advantage of an Embiid-less Sixers in the opening games of their series with Philadelphia before losing their 2-0 lead, only to see it out 4-2.

Jimmy Butler shone throughout and is averaging 28.7 PPG in the playoffs so far, as well as 5.4 assists and 7.5 rebounds.

His 32 in Game 6 helped ease any nerves about going to a decider, while even the 40 he managed in defeat in Game 4 made the Sixers work harder than they should have had to.

The Celtics won two of their three meetings with the Heat in the regular season, but Miami were triumphant last time out in late March, winning 106-98 at TD Garden thanks to 24 from Butler and 23 from Kyle Lowry, who may not feature in Game 1.

Lowry injured his hamstring in Game 3 of the Heat’s first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks, and is a doubt for the start of this series.

Western Conference Final

Dallas Mavericks v Golden State Warriors

Can you stop Luka Doncic, or do you just watch in awe and hope the ball pops before he can score?

That probably won't be the question Steve Kerr and the Warriors will be asking, but they will certainly have to come up with some way of dealing with the dangerous Slovenian.

Doncic is averaging 31.5 PPG from his 10 playoff games so far and was unsurprisingly trending on social media on Sunday as his own personal scoring was such that he was single-handedly matching the Phoenix Suns in the first half at Footprint Center.

His 6.6 assists and 10.1 rebounds per game in the postseason also show how dominant he has been, but that should not take away from the fine work going on elsewhere in Jason Kidd's team.

Having had to carry the Mavericks through most of the first round against the Utah Jazz in Doncic's absence, Jalen Brunson demonstrated his worth with 24 against the Suns in Game 7, while Spencer Dinwiddie posted 30 points of his own too.

 

The Warriors are unsurprisingly just as good at spreading the wealth, even if Stephen Curry – like Doncic – is leading the way with his 26.9 PPG in the playoffs.

The three-point assassin is tied with team-mate Klay Thompson for shots from beyond the arc, with both sinking 42 efforts in the postseason so far, which emphasises the importance of Thompson as well, who has averaged 20.4 PPG.

Jordan Poole is playing his part too with 19.3 PPG, including a 50 per cent success rate on field goal attempts, making 74 from 148.

Dallas may have the upper hand going into this one, not just because of their complete undressing of the Suns in Game 7, but also because they won three of the four games against Golden State in the regular season, with Doncic scoring 41 in their last meeting in early March.

The Boston Celtics survived a historic performance from Giannis Antetokounmpo as Jayson Tatum scored 46 points to carry his side to a 108-95 win, tying the series at 3-3 and forcing a Game 7 in Boston.

Antetokounmpo became the first player since Shaquille O'Neal over 20 years ago to eclipse a playoff stat-line of 40 points and 20 rebounds, finishing with 44 points on 14-of-30 shooting, going 14-of-15 from the free throw line and an even 20 boards. He also added six assists, two blocks and one steal.

But Tatum was matching him every step of the way on the offensive end, shooting 17-of-32 from the field and seven-of-15 from long range, with nine rebounds and four assists to go with his 46.

It was a game that the Celtics controlled from the second quarter, restricting the Bucks to 17 points in the frame to grab a 10-point half-time lead, and although the home side made runs, Boston had all the answers.

The Bucks were a one-man show, but the Celtics had a number of solid contributors as Jaylen Brown shot seven-of-16 from the field and four-of-seven from deep for his 22 points, while Marcus Smart shot eight-of-16 and five-of-nine from beyond the arc for his 21.

Al Horford finished with just two points, but had a game-high four blocks and a team-high 10 rebounds as he made Antetokounmpo battle all day inside, while Derrick White also chipped in with 30 important minutes off the bench, complimenting the stars perfectly.

Jrue Holiday and Pat Connaughton were the only other Bucks to score more than six points as Milwaukee shot 40 per cent from the field and 24 per cent from three (seven-of-29).


'Game 6 Klay' returns to clinch series 

The Golden State Warriors booked their trip to the Western Conference Finals with a 110-96 win in Game 6 of their series against the Memphis Grizzlies, advancing with a 4-2 margin.

To the Grizzlies' credit, without Ja Morant, they stayed competitive through three quarters, before a 32-19 final frame for the Warriors put the game to bed.

While most Warriors players rose to the occasion, none played better than Klay Thompson, who lived up to his glittering reputation in Game 6s with 30 points, shooting 11-of-22 from the field and eight-of-14 from long range.

Stephen Curry added 29 points on 10-of-27 shooting, adding seven rebounds and five assists, while Andrew Wiggins was strong on both ends, scoring 18 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking three shots.

After being bullied on the interior in Game 5, the Warriors re-injected Kevon Looney into the rotation, and he collected a game-high 22 rebounds in 35 minutes, while Draymond Green had 14 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists.

The Warriors will play the winner of the Game 7 showdown between the Phoenix Suns and the Dallas Mavericks.

Giannis Antetokounmpo showed why many feel he is the best player in the world in the Milwaukee Bucks' 110-107 comeback win away against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday.

The two-time MVP and reigning NBA Finals MVP was a dominant force in Boston, finishing with 40 points on 16-of-27 shooting, keeping his side in touch as they struggled in the first half, and making clutch plays down the stretch to help the Bucks win the fourth quarter 33-21.

It was a bright start in the first quarter for Milwaukee, with Antetokounmpo only scoring four points as role players hit shots and Jrue Holiday had nine early, but their star had to take over in the second quarter as the offense stalled.

Antetokounmpo had 15 of the Bucks' 19 second-quarter points as the Celtics threatened to pull away, leading 54-42 with two minutes remaining in the first half.

Both teams were clicking in the third quarter, but every time the Bucks closed the gap, the Celtics had an answer in front of their raucous home fans, with an Antetokounmpo pull-up three to end the quarter needed to trim the margin to an 86-77 Boston lead.

With 10 minutes to play, the Celtics led 93-79 – and then everything began to fall apart.

The once-fluid Boston offense devolved into a stagnant, turn-taking, isolation-heavy mess, consistently not even beginning to attack until there was less than 10 seconds on the shot clock, often resulting in tough, contested, long two-point jump shots by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

Trailing 105-99 with two minutes remaining, Antetokounmpo drained a clutch three-pointer to make it a one-possession game, before Holiday tied it up via a long-ball with 42 seconds on the clock.

Two Tatum free throws put the Celtics back ahead, before Antetokounmpo earned two shots himself. 

He scored the first – with blood dripping down his face from a cut above his right eye – and missed the second, but Bobby Portis was able to come up with the offensive rebound in a scramble and put it back in to take a 108-107 lead with 11 seconds remaining.

The last 11 seconds was a chance for Holiday to make a statement. Widely considered the best defensive guard in the game, Holiday blocked the shot of Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart, snatching the ball out of the air in the process to win possession.

After two successful free throws from Pat Connaughton, Holiday put the finishing touches on the game by picking Smart's pocket once again as he tried to bring the ball up for one last attempt at tying it, taking a 3-2 series lead, with Game 6 headed back to Milwaukee.

In NBA playoff history, when a series has been tied at 2-2, the winner of Game 5 has won the series 82.2 per cent of the time (180-39).

If the Celtics can win Game 6, the Game 7 decider will head back to Boston.

 

No Ja, no worries for Memphis Grizzlies at home

With their season on the line, the Memphis Grizzlies dominated the Golden State Warriors 134-95 as nine players scored at least nine points each with star Ja Morant out injured.

The Grizzlies were expected to be competitive without Morant – going 20-5 in the 25 games he missed in the regular season – but they were far more than that, opening up a 119-67 lead at three-quarter time.

Illustrating the one-sided nature of the contest, the Warriors committed 22 turnovers compared to 10 for the Grizzlies, and grabbed just four offensive rebounds while the home side snatched down 18.

Overall, this meant the Grizzlies attempted 19 more field goals (47-of-99 compared to 36-of-80), as well as 17 more free throws (22-of-30 to nine-of-13).

Desmond Bane, Tyus Jones and Jaren Jackson Jr top-scored for Memphis with 21 points each, and all five Grizzlies starters finished with a plus/minus of at least plus 32.

Klay Thompson top-scored for the Warriors with 19 points on an efficient seven-of-12 shooting, but he had the worst plus/minus in the game at minus 45.

Game 6 will head back to Memphis, and if the Grizzlies can force a Game 7, it will be played in Golden State

Stephen Curry hailed Mike Brown's input after the Golden State Warriors moved 3-1 ahead in their Western Conference semi-final series duel with the Memphis Grizzlies.

Brown, who has agreed to become the Sacramento Kings' next head coach, is seeing out his final weeks as assistant with the Warriors and stepped up on Monday when Steve Kerr tested positive for COVID-19 and was ruled out of Game 4 duties.

Curry joked Brown was setting trends, after being made head coach of two teams in such quick succession.

The Warriors were held to just 38 points in the first half, but Curry stepped up, scoring 18 of his 32 points in the final quarter, including eight consecutive clutch free throws in the final minute as his team edged ahead and clung on to a narrow lead.

"It's been a wild day all round. You just had to figure it out on the fly," Curry said after the 101-98 win.

"We've been through this before. In '16-17 the coach had his back problems back in the day when he was out of the line-up but still had an influence, and Mike B stepped up.

"We didn't have a lot of time to react. We went out and tried to execute. We obviously didn't for three quarters. Defensively we were solid, but offensively we couldn't get anything going, and we gutted it out."

Curry became the first player to reach 500 three-pointers in NBA playoffs during the narrow win.

Brown's move to Sacramento was only agreed on Sunday and will take effect once the playoffs are over. With Warriors head coach Kerr sidelined, Brown kept the team moving closer to the Western Conference Finals.

"He had a lot of good words tonight," said Curry. "I don't know in history if anyone's been named head coach of two teams in 24 hours, so he's continued to set some trends.

"He's been through it all, been with us for this last six years, been interim coach for a little bit and made his presence felt, especially defensively."

The Boston Celtics produced an incredible fourth quarter to take Game 4 116-108 on the road against the Milwaukee Bucks, tying the NBA Eastern Conference semi-final series at 2-2.

A strong start for home side Milwaukee saw them hold the Celtics to just 18 points in the first quarter, but the tough play of Al Horford, Derrick White and Jaylen Brown helped the visitors back into the game, trailing 48-47 at half-time.

Performances went up a gear in the second half, as a massive Giannis Antetokounmpo dunk on Horford was then reciprocated, with both players receiving technical fouls after their respective dunks.

After a quiet start, Jayson Tatum began to find his footing, eventually taking over to score 20 of his 30 points in the second half, going 11-of-24 from the field overall with 13 rebounds and five assists.

Tatum was vital to the Celtics, but Horford was their best player, with 30 points on 11-of-14 shooting with eight rebounds and three assists, while also being their primary source of interior defence.

There were times when it appeared Antetokounmpo simply would not be denied, going on to post game-highs in points with 34 (14-of-32 shooting) and rebounds with 18, but he needed far more offensive help from Jrue Holiday, who shot just five-of-22 from the field for his 16 points to go with his nine assists and seven rebounds.

Antetokounmpo's 13 points in the third quarter guided the Bucks to a 80-73 lead at three-quarter time, but there would be nothing they could do about the offensive onslaught that was to come.

In the final frame, the Celtics shot 16-of-19 from the field (84 per cent), four-of-five from three-point range and seven-of-seven from the free-throw line, winning the quarter 43-28 and pulling away down the stretch.

Game 5 will head back to Boston, with Game 6 scheduled to return to Milwaukee. Game 7, if needed, will be played in Boston.

Chef Curry cooks up late comeback

The Memphis Grizzlies lacked the firepower to match the Golden State Warriors down the stretch, going down 101-98 as the Warriors established a 3-1 series lead in their Western Conference semi-final.

Without Ja Morant, who missed the game after suffering a knee injury in Game 3, the Grizzlies fought gallantly, leading at quarter-time, half-time and three-quarter time as their defense rose to the occasion and turned it into a scrap.

With Jaren Jackson Jr dominating around the rim – blocking five shots and snatching two steals – the Warriors were held to just 38 points in the first half, but poor shooting from Jackson (seven-of-21) and Dillon Brooks (five-of-19) bogged down the Grizzlies offense.

Needing a hero in the fourth quarter, Warriors superstar Stephen Curry stepped up, scoring 18 of his 32 points, including eight consecutive clutch free throws in the final minute, as his team edged ahead and clung on to a narrow lead.

Curry shot 10-of-25 from the field across the game, and four-of-14 from long range, with eight assists and five rebounds.

Andrew Wiggins was arguably the Warriors' strongest performer across all four quarters, shooting seven-of-13 for his 17 points, with five of his 10 rebounds coming on the offensive end, and he added two blocks and one steal to finish with a team-high plus/minus of plus 12.

Otto Porter – who is still just 28 years old and set to become an unrestricted free agent – continues to make himself money this postseason as he played a crucial 26 minutes off the bench, shooting four-of-six from long range and adding three assists with two steals.

The Milwaukee Bucks escaped with a win in Game 3 against the Boston Celtics, claiming a 103-101 victory after a frantic final exchange on Saturday.

Boston trailed 103-100 when Marcus Smart was fouled by Jrue Holiday just before attempting a three-pointer to tie the game with 4.6 seconds remaining.

After making the first free-throw from a non-shooting foul, Smart intentionally missed the second attempt and got the rebound, but he missed his putback attempt.

Robert Williams flew in but the ball bounced off the glass, before Horford picked up the rebound, missed his putback attempt, got his own rebound and banked it in, but his final shot came just after the buzzer sounded, denying overtime.

Giannis Antetokounmpo put up a massive performance on the other end, coming up with 42 points on 16-of-30 shooting, 12 rebounds and eight assists, as well as two steals and blocks.

Dubs defend home court after slow start

The Golden State Warriors blew the Memphis Grizzlies out despite a slow start and poor shooting night from Stephen Curry beyond the arc, taking Game 3 out 142-112.

The Warriors coughed up seven turnovers as the Grizzlies created a double-digit lead in the first quarter, but once the home side took care of the ball, their shooting facilitated a comprehensive turnaround.

Despite two-of-eight from Stephen Curry beyond the perimeter, he and Jordan Poole were able to penetrate off the dribble and get the team great looks. The Dubs went 53-of-84 for the night with an extraordinary true shooting rate of 76.1 per cent.

Curry still finished with an even 50 per cent from the floor and hit all 14 free-throw attempts, getting 30 points and six assists. Poole contributed 27 points off the bench, while the team outside of Curry went 17-of-24 from the perimeter.

Ja Morant limped off late following a knee injury, finishing the night with 34 points and seven assists.

Jaylen Brown found his range with 30 points and Jayson Tatum added 29 as the Boston Celtics squared up their Conference Semifinals series against the Milwaukee Bucks with a 109-86 win on Tuesday.

Brown shot four-of-13 for 12 points in Game 1 but shook that off with a masterful first-half display, scoring 25 of his 30 points before the main break, going nine-of-10.

The Celtics led 65-40 at half-time and held off the reigning champions' best efforts to get back into the contest.

Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 28 points, with nine rebounds and seven assists and Jrue Holiday added 19 points but shot seven-of-20 from the field and one-of-six from beyond the arc.

The Bucks only managed three triples for the game, while Boston landed 20-of-43 beyond the arc, along with 24 points from turnovers.

Brown also had five rebounds and six assists to go with his 30 points, while Grant Williams chimed in with 21 points for Boston who were without Marcus Smart (quad).

 

Morant dominates as Grizzlies edge home

Ja Morant starred with 47 points as the Memphis Grizzlies edged the Golden State Warriors 106-101 to level up their series at 1-1 at the FedExForum.

Morant shot 15-of-31 and made five triples among his 47-point haul along with eight rebounds, eight assists and three steals, as the Grizzlies got home after scores were locked at three-quarter time.

Stephen Curry did not shoot at his best, making 11-of-25 from the field and three-of-11 from three-point range for his 27 points with nine rebounds and eight assists.

Jordan Poole added 20 points off the bench, while Klay Thompson could only manage 12 points with three steals. Draymond Green returned after his Game 1 ejection with 10 rebounds.

Stephen Curry says he is proud of his team's response to Draymond Green's rejection, after the Golden State Warriors took Game 1 on the road against Memphis Grizzlies with a 117-116 win.

Green was ejected in the first half of Sunday's series opener at the FedEx Forum for a flagrant foul on Brandon Clarke, and the Warriors rallied to take a double-digit lead in the third quarter before holding on with defensive stops on the Grizzlies' final two possessions.

Curry snatched the ball from Ja Morant to set up free-throws for the Warriors, but Klay Thompson shockingly missed both, before he responded by stopping Morant on the final possession of the game.

The former unanimous MVP praised his side's mental toughness in not imploding after the contentious ejection, noting it even galvanised them in front of the Memphis crowd.

"It was a tough call obviously, on the road and you're trying to start a series, and you get a guy like Draymond headed to the locker room," Curry said. "Nobody wants to see that. It's not good for the game, I didn't think it [Green's jersey pull] deserved that.

"We got a little emotional rise out of it, trying to stay locked in and deal with the circumstances and give ourselves a chance to win.

"Whatever emotion you rely on to turn the page from one series to the next, and especially when you're starting on the road, you've got to have an edge about you, for sure."

Along with the defensive stops, the Dubs' win on Sunday was also notable for the fact Curry and Thompson shot a combined 14-of-39, including eight-of-22 from beyond the arc.

Jordan Poole compensated and nearly notched his first triple-double with 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting, nine assists and eight rebounds.

With Curry starting in Poole's place this time, after he was eased back off the bench in the series win over the Denver Nuggets, the 34-year-old cited his team's resilience as critical.

"Whatever way you explain it, whatever emotion you tie into it, you just bring it," Curry said. "When Draymond went out, there's your moment like 'What are we gonna do? How are we gonna figure this out?'

"To go into half-time, regroup, come out and play the way that we did, I'm really proud of everybody and their approach to the game. It was a good vibe out there."

The Boston Celtics failed to take Game 1 at home despite locking up Giannis Antetokounmpo, with the Milwaukee Bucks managing a 101-89 win on Sunday.

Antetokoumpo shot nine-of-25 from the floor and coughed up five turnovers as the Celtics went at him defensively - trapping upon receiving the ball in the post, along with crowding the paint and staying physical as he drove to the basket.

Boston did not capitalise on the other end however, shooting a playoff low 33 per cent (23-of-84) from the floor in the loss.

While it was evident in the Brooklyn series, Jaylen Brown as one of the Celtics' ball-handlers hurt the team, giving up a game-high seven turnovers as he scored 12 points off four-of-13 shooting.

The assist count was naturally low for both teams - 22 for Milwaukee, 21 for Boston - in what became a defensive stoush, setting the tone for this series.

Warriors take home court from Memphis

Later on Sunday, the Golden State Warriors dramatically took home court from the Memphis Grizzlies, claiming a 117-116 win in Game 1 on the road.

The win was all the more impressive given Draymond Green was ejected early for a Flagrant 2 foul, after he pulled Brandon Clarke down by the jersey.

It also came with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson only converting on a combined 14-of-39 from the floor, even walking into open looks down the stretch after offensive rebounds.

Notably, the Warriors almost dared Ja Morant to shoot, taking 11 three-point attempts in Game 1, which is a contrast to the 20 he attempted for the series against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Morant still had the final possession, but after rimming both free-throws to make it a three-point game, Thompson forced the 22-year-old into a miss as he attacked the basket.

Steph Curry has gone all the way to an NBA championship three times, but merely to clear the first hurdle in the playoffs this time came as a huge relief to the Golden State Warriors superstar.

After two years of failing to reach the postseason, Golden State are back and in the hunt, through to the second round after a 4-1 series win over the Denver Nuggets, sealed by a 102-98 win in Game 5 on Wednesday.

Curry's 30 points, five rebounds and five assists helped the Warriors counter the monumental threat posed by Denver's Nikola Jokic, who also scored 30 points and managed 19 rebounds and eight assists.

It was a first start for Curry since he was eased back from a foot injury, and the Warriors now await the winner of the first-round tussle between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Minnesota Timberwolves, with the Grizzlies leading 3-2.

After championships in 2015, 2017 and 2018, the Warriors were beaten in the NBA Finals in 2019 and then endured two taxing seasons.

To be winning again in the playoffs gave Curry obvious satisfaction.

"It means a lot. I never take it for granted," he said. "We understand we hopefully have a lot left to do, but getting to the playoffs and getting through a series and winning four games against a good team, it's hard.

"Every team wants to be in this position at the end of the year. For me, Draymond [Green], Klay [Thompson], [Kevon] Looney, we've all been there before and love the competition and the environment.

"Tonight was just a weird feeling, because we hadn't been there in a while and wanted it so bad and kind of made it a lot more difficult for ourselves, but we still remembered how to do it which was a good feeling."

The Warriors had to reel in a Nuggets side who threatened to take the series to a sixth game.

Curry said: "They had a lot of life in that third quarter, and it was a good reminder of how hard it is to win a playoff game, and how hard it is to close a team out, and just dealing with the nerves of it all because it matters so much. We wanted it so much, it kind of got in our own way a little bit.

"The fourth quarter was just about trying to find a way to get it done, get enough stops to speed up the game, put some pressure on them, and we were able to do that.

"Everyone contributed, so it was a fun way to finish the game. It was not exactly how you would draw it up, but a playoff type of environment where can you get the win and get out of here."

It was a dominant showing by the reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday, closing out their series with a 116-100 win against the Chicago Bulls, taking the series 4-1.

The Bulls had their backs up against the wall, and their plight was made even tougher when star Zach LaVine and defensive ace Alex Caruso were ruled out due to health and safety protocols.

By the end of the first quarter, Milwaukee led 34-18, and they went on to also win the second and third quarters to hold a lead of at least 20 points throughou

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way for the Bucks, scoring 33 points on 11-of-15 shooting, also going 11-of-14 from the free throw line.

Jrue Holiday was solid in his point guard duties, dishing nine assists to go with his 10 points and five rebounds, while Bobby Portis was a force inside, scoring 14 points and snatching down 17 rebounds.

For the Bulls, DeMar DeRozan was disappointing in a must-win clash, finishing with just 10 points and seven assists, while only attempting 10 field goal attempts in 42 minutes.

Intriguing second-year forward Patrick Williams led Chicago in scoring with 23 points on nine-of-13 shooting, going four-of-seven from long range, while Nikola Vucevic had 19 points, 16 rebounds and six assists.

The Bucks will now take on the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semi-finals, with Game 1 set to take place this weekend.

Warriors roll past Nuggets with new starting-five

The Golden State Warriors had to fight back against the Denver Nuggets, closing out the series 4-1 with a 102-98 win while sporting a new-look starting five.

Stephen Curry made his first start since he was eased back from a foot injury, joined by both Jordan Poole and Klay Thompson.

The Dubs left it late though, cutting away at an eight-point deficit from the last change, before a Gary Payton II triple gave them the eventual lead with seven minutes remaining

Golden State will now take on the winner between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Minnesota Timberwolves, where the Grizzlies lead 3-2.

 

Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr says his side is still in an ideal situation despite the Denver Nuggets claiming a 126-121 win on Sunday and avoiding a sweep.

Careless play put the Warriors down 17 points down at one stage, but they managed to eventually draw level through the shooting of Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry.

Turning the ball over 11 times in the first half, the Dubs started in a sloppy manner against a Denver side fighting to keep their season alive.

The 56-year-old Kerr believes Golden State are still in a good spot and that the nature of the loss can nevertheless act as a good reference point looking ahead in the post-season.

"We needed that," Kerr said post-match. "We took ourselves out of the game because we were too excited, and part of winning playoff basketball games on the road is executing being poised, understanding what's happening and sticking to the game plan. We didn't deserve to win.

"But now, you take that and put it in your back pocket, and you've got it in the memory bank for the next time we're in that situation.

"But the focus now goes to heading home and getting back in front of our fans. This is the situation you want in any playoff series when you're hosting – sweep the first two, get one out of two on the road and go home with a chance to clinch. We're right where we need to be."

Kerr's play-calling down the stretch also came under scrutiny after the loss.

Following a Monte Morris floater to put the Nuggets up 123-121 with 33 seconds remaining, Kerr called a lob for Andrew Wiggins off the inbound from the consequent timeout.

Austin Rivers' steal of Otto Porter Jr's inbound pass effectively sealed the win for Denver, but it came in the face of Curry and Thompson in good shooting rhythm.

"Yeah, I would like that play back," Kerr said. "There's 33 seconds so we're thinking a two-for-one. If we get a two-for-one, then we can tie the game and have a chance to win it at the end.

"So it's a good two-for-one situation, but the lob wasn't there, and if I could do it do it again I'd probably draw up something different. But they made a great defensive play, give them credit."

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.

Klay Thompson was full of praise for Jordan Poole as the Golden State Warriors claimed a 3-0 series lead, defeating the Denver Nuggets 118-113 on Thursday.

Stephen Curry notably played over 30 minutes in the Warriors' road victory, with the recent three-guard lineup of Curry, Thompson and Poole just proving too much.

After only three playoff games in his career, the 22-year-old Poole is leading the Dubs in scoring over the series with 28.7 points per game.

It is not just volume Poole is scoring at but the efficiency, scoring 27 points on nine-of-13 shooting in Thursday's win, with Thompson asserting he is vital to Golden State's NBA title aspirations.

"These three games, I mean, I don't remember a better start for a playoff debut for a guard," Thompson said post-game. "It's incredible what Jordan is doing.

"We need him to go where we want to go, and we need him to keep doing what he's doing.

Opposition defensive schemes effectively have to pick their poison with two the NBA's best three-point shooters ever and Poole, who shot at an astounding 58.8 per cent from the perimeter in the opening two games against Denver.

Thompson is well aware of the spacing Golden State's three-guard lineup provides, but believes it is complemented by Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins.

"At times, yeah [I feel the space]," Thompson said. "I mean, I had a really good look with like a minute left that I missed – I wish I could get that one back, but that's okay.

"What a fun night at the office. The ball's just flying around, and we played great down the stretch on both sides of the ball. When we move the ball and we trust each other, we'll get open looks.

"We're all great shooters, and Draymond's play-making, and Andrew [Wiggins] is a great shooter as well."

A remarkable fourth quarter from the Memphis Grizzlies was the catalyst in their 104-95 win on the road against the Minnesota Timberwolves, going up 2-1 in the series.

In the first quarter, in front of their home fans, it appeared that it was going to be all Timberwolves early as they got off to a scorching start, with Patrick Beverley scoring eight of the game's first 12 points as the hosts went up 12-0.

Both Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr collected two personal fouls each in the opening period as the Grizzlies went into the second quarter trailing 39-21. A much-improved defensive effort held the Wolves to 12 points in the second term, though, cutting the margin back to 51-44 at the half.

Memphis were unable to keep that momentum coming out of the break as Minnesota started the third frame on a 28-10 run, pulling away to a 79-54 lead.

But trailing 83-62 with 1:05 to play in the third quarter, the Grizzlies started their run. They would score 21 consecutive points to tie the game at 83-83 as Desmond Bane, Brandon Clarke and Tyus Jones lifted the visitors.

As Karl-Anthony Towns struggled down the stretch – finishing with just eight points and five blocks with five fouls – the Grizzlies were firing on all cylinders, winning the last quarter 37-12 to open their lead up to 10 points for a relatively comfortable final few minutes.

Morant was a disappointing five-of-18 from the field for his 16 points and seven turnovers, but he added 10 rebounds and 10 assists as he stayed involved in other areas of the game. 

He was supported beautifully by Bane who top-scored with 26 points, hitting seven-of-15 from long range, while Clarke had 20 points and eight rebounds on just nine field goal attempts. Jones posted a line of 11 points, five rebounds and four assists off the bench, hitting all three of his threes.

Game 4 will remain in Minnesota before heading back to Memphis for Game 5.

Brunson and the bench boys

Dallas Mavericks point guard Jalen Brunson carried his side to a 126-118 win against the Utah Jazz, with superstar teammate Luka Doncic watching from the sidelines.

Brunson scored a career-high 41 points in his last outing, before dropping 31 on 12-of-22 shooting in hostile territory on Thursday.

He was supported by a terrific shooting performance by the Mavericks reserves, as Maxi Kleber, Davis Bertans and Josh Green combined to shoot 11-of-17 from three-point range. As a team, Dallas shot 42.9 per cent from beyond the arc (18-of-42).

The Jazz shot 56 per cent from the field in the loss, but were minus 12 in the nine minutes with Donovan Mitchell sitting on the bench. Mitchell finished with 32 points (10-of-21 shooting) with six assists.

Rudy Gobert did not miss a field goal or free throw for 15 points and seven rebounds, but the Jazz struggled to get stops while he and Mike Conley were on the floor, as both players finished with a plus/minus of minus 16.

The win is the Mavericks' first in Utah since 2016.

Warriors shoot their way to 3-0 lead

In a game where both teams shot the lights out, the Golden State Warriors showed once again that it is not wise to get into a shoot-out with the team from the Bay Area, beating the Denver Nuggets 118-113.

The Warriors shot 55 per cent from the field and 45 per cent from long range (18-40) as their offense was clicking for most of the night. 

Denver shot the ball well in their own right, finishing 50 per cent from the field and 44 per cent from deep (11-of-26), and even looked to take control in the third quarter, winning the term 30-18 and taking a 89-87 lead into the final period.

But that third quarter would be the Warriors' only slip-up, scoring at least 31 points in the other three as the Splash Brothers – now with a third member – were unstoppable.

Stephen Curry came off the bench once again to score 27 points (nine-of-17 shooting, three-of-nine from deep), Klay Thompson looked back to his best with 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting, hitting six of his 13 threes, while Jordan Poole continues to show he is no flash in the pan, scoring 27 points on nine-of-13 shooting.

For Denver, MVP favourite Nikola Jokic tried his heart out, finishing with 37 points (14-of-22 shooting) with 18 rebounds, five assists and three steals, and he was plus three in his 38 minutes, meaning the Nuggets were outscored by eight in his 10 minutes on the bench.

The win moves the Warriors to a 3-0 lead, with Game 4 to be played in Denver, before returning home for Game 5.

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