Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said it is "highly unlikely" that DeMarcus Cousins will return in the NBA playoffs.

Warriors center Cousins tore his left quadriceps muscle last week and started his rehabilitation program on Tuesday.

Two-time defending champions the Warriors, however, are still expecting to be without Cousins for the remainder of their three-peat quest.

"It was good to see him, and obviously we've been gone the last week or so," said Kerr, whose team lead the Los Angeles Clippers 3-1 in the Western Conference first-round series.

"It's good for everyone to see him and vice versa. We'll see what happens in a few weeks once we have a better sense of his healing and his ability to maybe get on the court.

"Who knows? But at this point, I'd say it's highly unlikely [he returns in the playoffs]."

Cousins suffered the injury when he fell chasing down a loose ball on a fast break in the first quarter of Golden State's Game-2 loss to the Clippers.

He was helped back to the locker room and was ruled out shortly after.

"You're probably looking at a couple months' recovery, so it's unlikely," Kerr said shortly after Cousins' injury. "But [the Warriors' sports medicine staff has] told me that there are occasions where that injury heals faster. So, we're leaving the door open, obviously."

The four-time All-Star made his first career playoff appearance in Game 1 of the series, scoring nine points and grabbing nine rebounds in 21 minutes of action.

Cousins signed a one-year, $5.3million deal with the Warriors in July and missed the team's first 45 games as he continued to recover from a torn Achilles.

"More than anything, I'm just crushed for DeMarcus," Kerr said last week. "He's been waiting his whole career for this. Then, the second game, he goes down after putting all that work in to recover from the Achilles. And he's had a great season for us. He's really come along the last month or so. I just feel bad for him."

Cousins finished the regular season averaging 16.3 points and 8.2 rebounds in 25.7 minutes per game.

The Warriors will face the Clippers in Game 5 at Oracle Arena on Wednesday.

The Phoenix Suns will have a new head coach next season after firing Igor Kokoskov.

The team issued a statement late on Monday from general manager James Jones, confirming the decision after just one season with Kokoskov at the helm.

He led the Suns to a 19-63 record, which tied the Cleveland Cavaliers for the second worst mark in the league.

"After extensive evaluation, I determined it is best to move in a different direction with our head coaching position," Jones said. "I want to thank Igor for his work this past season and wish him the best with his future endeavours."

A search will begin immediately for the team's next head coach, the Suns said.

It is reported that their search will target Philadelphia 76ers assistant Monty Williams as Kokoskov's successor.

Phoenix have a 14 per cent chance to win the lottery in the 2019 NBA Draft - the same odds as the New York Knicks and the Cavs.

James Harden felt the Houston Rockets' failure to effectively deal with Derrick Favors was key in their Game 4 defeat to the Utah Jazz.

The Jazz came back into the first-round playoff series at 3-1 after winning 107-91 on Monday, with Donovan Mitchell contributing 31 points.

But while Mitchell stole the headlines, Harden identified the towering presence of Favors as the Rockets' real issue. He made 11 rebounds in 24 minutes.

"We went small in our line-up and Favors was getting his hands on the rebounds and tip outs and things like that," said Harden.

"Whenever we do go small in that line-up, we need to make sure we put a body on him and get the rebound. That was the game. I think they got three offensive rebounds in a row.

"We played pretty good defense, but it's just draining when you play good defense and give up offensive rebounds. We'll be better individually and as a group and be ready."

MVP candidate Harden also felt Utah were motivated by a sense of "embarrassment" as they faced being swept on their home court.

"It's tough, no matter who you're playing," he said. "This is one of the toughest places to play in the league.

"On the other side, it's an embarrassment, you don't want to get swept, you want to show that you have pride. So those guys came out and give them credit: they played well. They fought hard and they came away with the win.

"We got Game 3 and we get an opportunity to go home and do what we're supposed to do."

Donovan Mitchell thanked his Utah Jazz team-mates after he revived their playoff series hopes against the Houston Rockets.

The Jazz pulled the series back to 3-1 with victory in Game 4 as Mitchell put up 31 points in a 107-91 defeat of the hotly tipped Rockets.

And, while Utah still have it all to do if they are to take Houston to seven games, second-year shooting guard Mitchell acknowledges he has become used to tricky hurdles in his time in the NBA.

"That's who we are. We've had our backs up against the wall plenty of times in the past two years we've played together as a team," he said. "I think this is familiar ground with us.

"Everybody responded the way we expected them to. The biggest thing to do is to take what we did today and multiply it, because I think we can play even better.

"I think we can do different things better – they got a few open looks – but if we continue to play with the same intensity as we did tonight, and in Game 3, then anything can happen."

Despite his individual heroics on Monday, Mitchell took the opportunity to pick out numerous team-mates for their help in allowing him to thrive.

"I've played with a lot of close friends and the support I've got since I arrived – not just from the community but also my team-mates – has been huge," he said.

"Me being able to do what I do on a daily basis is not the norm in this league for a second-year guy – or even a first-year guy last year.

"My team-mates have had my back with every mistake, with everything I've done well. When you have that support system in the locker room every day, it makes it easier.

"It makes it easier when you start the game with two straight turnovers. It makes it easier when Jae [Crowder] sometimes is vocal, sometimes is leading by example. Rudy [Gobert] sometimes is vocal, sometimes is leading by example.

"Having guys you can look to [helps]. Kyle [Korver], I've asked him a thousand questions since he's been here about whatever.

"Being down 3-0, you've got to talk. I have so many resources I can go to. As a player who wants to learn, I'm finding ways to learn.

"It's not always going to be perfect, but to have team-mates who have your back through the ups and downs means the world."

Donovan Mitchell thanked his Utah Jazz team-mates after he revived their playoff series hopes against the Houston Rockets.

The Jazz pulled the series back to 3-1 with victory in Game 4 as Mitchell put up 31 points in a 107-91 defeat of the hotly tipped Rockets.

And, while Utah still have it all to do if they are to take Houston to seven games, second-year shooting guard Mitchell acknowledges he has become used to tricky hurdles in his time in the NBA.

"That's who we are. We've had our backs up against the wall plenty of times in the past two years we've played together as a team," he said. "I think this is familiar ground with us.

"Everybody responded the way we expected them to. The biggest thing to do is to take what we did today and multiply it, because I think we can play even better.

"I think we can do different things better – they got a few open looks – but if we continue to play with the same intensity as we did tonight, and in Game 3, then anything can happen."

Despite his individual heroics on Monday, Mitchell took the opportunity to pick out numerous team-mates for their help in allowing him to thrive.

"I've played with a lot of close friends and the support I've got since I arrived – not just from the community but also my team-mates – has been huge," he said.

"Me being able to do what I do on a daily basis is not the norm in this league for a second-year guy – or even a first-year guy last year.

"My team-mates have had my back with every mistake, with everything I've done well. When you have that support system in the locker room every day, it makes it easier.

"It makes it easier when you start the game with two straight turnovers. It makes it easier when Jae [Crowder] sometimes is vocal, sometimes is leading by example. Rudy [Gobert] sometimes is vocal, sometimes is leading by example.

"Having guys you can look to [helps]. Kyle [Korver], I've asked him a thousand questions since he's been here about whatever.

"Being down 3-0, you've got to talk. I have so many resources I can go to. As a player who wants to learn, I'm finding ways to learn.

"It's not always going to be perfect, but to have team-mates who have your back through the ups and downs means the world."

Giannis Antetokounmpo described the Milwaukee Bucks' progress as an "unbelievable journey" after their first NBA playoff series win since 2001.

The Bucks completed a 4-0 sweep of the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference first round thanks to a 127-104 win on Monday.

It marked their first series victory in 18 years, when Antetokounmpo was just six.

Now in his sixth season with Milwaukee, Antetokounmpo – who posted 41 points in game four – said the Bucks' development was remarkable.

"It's definitely crazy," he told a news conference.

"Where we were and where we are right now, it's been an unbelievable journey. I think the organisation has done a great job just pushing us towards the right direction and we're just going to keep enjoying the moment.

"We're going to try and stay in the moment and as Eric [Bledsoe, Bucks team-mate] said, enjoy it and hopefully we can get better each day and achieve our goals that we've set all season."

The Bucks moved into the conference semi-finals, where Boston await in a repeat of last year's first-round series that the Celtics won 4-3.

Antetokounmpo talked up the togetherness of Milwaukee, who finished top of the Eastern Conference during the regular season.

"It means a lot. I've been six years in the league and just to win our first playoff series with this group right here is unbelievable," he said.

"I think we played great basketball, stuck together the whole series.

"Even when we faced adversity and when they were up, they were taking the leads, we weren't playing our best, I think we were able to keep fighting, keep pushing as a group and it feels good to win our first playoff series together."

The Milwaukee Bucks became the second team to advance to the second round of the NBA playoffs on Monday.

The Bucks topped the Pistons 127-104 in Detroit to complete a first-round sweep, giving them their first playoff series win since 2000-01.

Giannis Antetokounmpo followed up a subpar game-three performance with a game-high 41 points and nine rebounds in game four.

Blake Griffin did all he could to keep the Pistons alive, totalling 22 points, five rebounds and six assists.

The Bucks advance to face the Celtics in the second round. Boston knocked Milwaukee out of the playoffs last season in a seven-game series.

Meanwhile, Utah are not out of the race just yet.

The Jazz beat the Rockets 107-91 in game four on Monday, preventing Houston's closeout. 

Utah dominated on the boards and grabbed 17 more rebounds than Houston. They also forced 15 turnovers.

Donovan Mitchell scored a game-high 31 points and had a late dunk that helped seal his team's victory.

James Harden bounced back from a poor shooting night and posted 30 points of his own.

The Jazz have a difficult task ahead of them, as they will have to stay hot and beat the Rockets in the Toyota Center on Wednesday in game five.

 

Jackson efforts not enough for Pistons

Reggie Jackson recorded a team-high 26 points and seven assists in Detroit's loss.

Jae Crowder posted 23 points for the Jazz.

 

Smith struggles

Ish Smith scored two points on one-of-six shooting for the Pistons.

Clint Capela scored four points on one-of-six shooting for the Rockets.

 

Gigantic Giannis

Antetokounmpo converted a double clutch finish through contact over Andre Drummond.

Thunder at Trail Blazers

Oklahoma City were the first team to drop a game at home in this series on Sunday. Now, the Thunder have no choice but to beat the Trail Blazers in Portland. If they do not, their season is over.

Brooklyn Nets forward Jared Dudley is standing by the notion that Ben Simmons is "average" in the half court.

Dudley made an initial statement about the 76ers star ahead of game two of his team's first-round series against Philadelphia.

He doubled down on Monday and gave the media more detail regarding his opinions on the second-year player.

"My comments were basically directed as me being a coach or analyst, directing how we're going to guard someone," Dudley told reporters, via ESPN.

"How we're trying to guard [Simmons] is put him in the half court. The difference is I'm a player that just voices my opinion more directly.

"I think he's average in the half court, but you're going to put him in because he's elite, All-Star level in the full court."

Dudley went on to say that Simmons is predictable in the half court, and seems to think his experience can be a way to limit his go-to moves.

"I'm a 12-year guy. I'm not going to give you those points," Dudley said. "I've guarded Kobe [Bryant] in the playoffs, Brandon Roy and Dirk Nowitzki. Those guys you have to play further out, so it's not being disrespectful. Now he might have taken it [that way] because he heard the word average. So once he gets going, and he had such a good game [in game two]. In all those good games, I'm not on him."

Simmons erupted for a playoff career-high 31 points in game two of the series, following Dudley's first comments on the subject. It appears the two have developed ill will for one another, as they have been jawing ever since.

Dudley was ejected from the Nets' game-four loss for shoving Joel Embiid after the center committed a flagrant foul on Jarrett Allen. A scuffle followed in the aftermath, resulting in the ejection of Philadelphia's Jimmy Butler.

Nevertheless, the 76ers came out on top, claiming a 112-108 victory. Simmons posted 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

Brooklyn have not won since they upset Philadelphia in game one, and now they will face elimination at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday.

Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum insists his team-mates will retain their unwavering focus after moving to the brink of the Western Conference semi-finals. 

McCollum scored 27 on 10-of-20 shooting as the Blazers opened up a 3-1 series lead over Oklahoma City Thunder with an 111-98 win in Game 4. 

Another win in Portland on Tuesday would see the Blazers advance and McCollum is ready to stay above the fray when it comes to trash talk. 

"I think we're a lot more mature than we were in past years," McCollum told reporters. "We can handle adversity and understand what we want to accomplish. 

"We didn't want anything to get in the way, we didn't want anything to interfere with that. Multiple times we had discussions about not saying anything to anyone.  

"If they're not wearing a black or grey jersey, don't talk to them. Don't talk to the refs, don't talk to the other team and let's get out of here with a win 

"That was our mindset. Having been through what we've been through historically we understand what we need to do, who we need to talk to and how we need to execute."

The Blazers were beaten 4-0 in the first round against the New Orleans Pelicans last year, having suffered the same fate against the Golden State Warriors in 2017 – setbacks that act as enduring motivation for McCollum. 

"We got swept last year. It was really embarrassing, and everybody talked about it," he said. 

"It was on TV every day. They talked about us getting swept, they talked about me getting traded, talked about how we can't win together. 

"We remember, and we know that feeling of going home early." 

Barring a stunning turnaround, it will be the Thunder and Russell Westbrook heading home early. 

Star point guard Westbrook finished the game by missing 10 straight shots and relied heavily on his jump shot throughout, taking only three shots in the paint and missing each one. 

"I get deep paint any time I want, but I always make the right play," Westbrook said, as quoted by ESPN.  

"So, when I'm in deep paint I find guys on the perimeter. My job is to make sure guys get the basketball.  

"I don't need to shoot a layup every single time. But I'm in the paint all game, and that's how it goes sometimes.  

"Shot attempts is not the only thing that I can do to make sure I'm in it for the defence and kick it out to make open shots."

Two-time reigning NBA champions the Golden State Warriors and the Portland Trail Blazers are poised to advance to the Western Conference semi-finals.

Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson combined for 65 points, leading Golden State to a 113-105 victory and a commanding 3-1 series lead over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Stephen Curry struggled shooting the basketball and finished three of 14 from the field, while rookie guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander posted a team-high 25 points for Los Angeles.

Also in the west, the Trail Blazers hold a 3-1 advantage against the Oklahoma City Thunder following Sunday's 111-98 win.

After losing Game 3, Portland moved a step closer to the second round of the playoffs thanks to CJ McCollum's 27 points.

On the other side, Paul George posted a game-high 32 points and 10 rebounds for the Thunder, who are fighting to stay alive in the postseason.

The Toronto Raptors are also a win away from the Eastern Conference semi-finals courtesy of their 107-85 triumph against the Orlando Magic.

Toronto – who were stunned in Game 1 – extended their winning streak to three as Kawhi Leonard starred with a game-high 34 points.

 

Haywards leads Celtics sweep

Gordon Hayward posted a team-high 20 points as the Boston Celtics swept the Indiana Pacers 4-0 thanks to their 110-106 victory. Marcus Morris added 18 points on seven-of-11 shooting.

Al-Farouq Aminu totalled 19 points and nine rebounds for Portland.

 

Matthews struggles as Pacers bow out

Wesley Matthews scored three points on one-of-seven shooting in Indiana's loss.

Lou Williams posted 12 points on two-of-10 shooting for the Clippers.

Terrence Ross had five points in 31 minutes as the Magic lost.

Russell Westbrook scored 14 points, but it was on five-of-21 shooting.

 

Irving picks a pocket

Kyrie Irving's steal was turned into a behind-the-back pass, which was finished on the other end by Celtics team-mate Jayson Tatum.

George kept the Thunder in the hunt with a buzzer-beater from behind the arc to end the third quarter.

 

Rockets at Jazz

The Houston Rockets came out on top in Game 3 despite James Harden's horrendous shooting performance. The Utah Jazz found a way to bother the league's leading scorer for a majority of the game, but failed to capitalise on their opportunities to pull ahead. The Jazz lost a one-possession game, so minor adjustments could help them turn things around. Harden likely will not play as bad a second time, though.

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr is not concerned about Stephen Curry's struggles in the NBA playoffs.

Curry finished with 12 points but knocked down just three of his 14 shots and missed eight of his nine three-point attempts in Golden State's 113-105 Game 4-win over the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center.

Kerr was asked about Curry's performance when he met with reporters after Sunday's triumph as the Warriors moved 3-1 ahead in the Western Conference first-round series.

"You just keep playing and you trust that he's going to impact the game because he's such a great player whether his shots are going in or not," Kerr said. "Tough day for Steph, but this is the way the game goes. Guys sometimes have a huge night, sometimes they struggle.

"But the great players like Steph [Curry], Kevin [Durant], Klay [Thompson], they bounce back pretty quickly from tough shooting nights. So that's what I would expect on Wednesday [in Game 5]."

Curry has been limited by foul trouble throughout the series. Kerr said the Warriors guard "hasn't been focused" on that aspect of his game.

"He's such a fascinating player because the same thing that makes him not hesitate to shoot a fadeaway 30-footer, maybe, is the same thing that gets him in foul trouble," Kerr said. "You know, he doesn't overthink much, and so he's just gotten into a habit lately of reaching, and instead of showing his hands and trusting the help behind him.

"But he'll be fine. I mean, he's just in a little bit of a rut right now with that stuff, but second half was a good spell for him where he was disciplined and stayed in the game."

Despite his poor shooting, Curry still finished with 10 rebounds, seven assists and three steals.

Backcourt partner Klay Thompson said Curry always finds a way to "stuff the stat sheet".

"[He] made some great passes, had timely steals, and he did make some huge shots for us on the offensive end," Thompson said. "Even when he's not shooting well, we still trust him to take any shot he takes. He's proved it with his career and his track record. Greatest shooter and scorer, one of them, of all time."

The Warriors will have a chance to close out the series in Game 5 at Oracle Arena on Wednesday.

Fines were handed down to Philadelphia 76ers star Jimmy Butler and Brooklyn Nets forward Jared Dudley for their roles in the fight that broke out in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference first-round series.

The NBA fined Dudley $25,000, while Butler received a $15,000 fine for the incident in Philadelphia's thrilling 112-108 win as the 76ers claimed a commanding 3-1 series lead in the playoffs.

The scuffle began when Joel Embiid swatted hard at Jarrett Allen, which prompted Dudley to shove the 76ers All-Star.

Butler entered the fray to defend Embiid, which resulted in a shoving match that also involved Ben Simmons on Saturday.

"Dudley has been fined $25,000 for escalating an on-court incident which spilled into the spectator stands by shoving Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid. Butler has been fined $15,000 for escalating it further by then shoving Dudley," the NBA announced on Sunday.

Fortunately for both Butler and Dudley, they have not been suspended and will be able to play in Game 5 in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

Nets general manager Sean Marks reportedly was infuriated that Embiid did not receive a Flagrant 2 foul, which prompted him to burst into the referees' locker room after the game.

That resulted in Marks receiving a $25,000 fine and being suspended without pay for Game 5 of the series.

Klay Thompson said he jumped into the ocean to help end his slump following the Golden State Warriors' win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Warriors star Thompson shot 44.4 per cent from the field, knocked down four three-pointers and averaged 13.7 points through the first three games of the Western Conference opening-round series.

So, Thompson decided to find a place to clear his head with team-mate Jonas Jerebko.

"I did a couple of things," Thompson told reporters. "I didn't think I had bad games, but I didn't have any big games. I told Jonas yesterday, we went to the beach, played some volleyball, I'm like, 'I'm just going to jump in the ocean. I know that will reset my mind'."

Thompson's method appears to have worked as he broke out in a big way in Game 4, tallying 32 points on 12-of-20 shooting and connecting on six of his nine three-point as Golden State beat Los Angeles 113-105 on Sunday.

Two-time reigning NBA champions the Warriors now hold a 3-1 lead in the series.

"The ball was just finding me," Thompson said. "I didn't do anything special. I was just getting open and knocking down shots. Playing in a good rhythm. See a few go in and then all you need is a little space.

"Give credit to my team-mates. I got a lot of good shots off of offensive rebounds and all shots within the offense. Just more volume but nothing I don't do usually. Just try to get open."

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr praised Thompson's performance after the victory.

"When Klay gets going like that, it fuels the whole bench," Kerr said. "You can see everybody jumping around. Everybody gets happy. We all love when Klay gets hot. It fuels our momentum. It didn't surprise me at all. He kind of had a quiet first few games of the series, so it was only a matter of time until he broke out."

The Warriors will have a chance to close out the series in Game 5 at Oracle Arena on Wednesday.

The Celtics needed just four games against the Pacers to advance to the Eastern Conference semi-finals as Boston beat Indiana 110-106 on Sunday.

Indiana kept the contest close throughout Game 4 and even led by two at half-time. Boston stars Kyrie Irving and Al Horford did not have a strong first half as they struggled to shoot, but they helped change the course of the game after the interval.

The Pacers held the lead until the final seconds of the third quarter before the Celtics pulled ahead by one when Marcus Morris made a pair of free throws to make it 73-72 entering the fourth. 

From there, it was a back-and-forth battle as the Celtics' offense rallied. With less than three minutes left, Boston claimed a 10-point advantage and held on to wrap up the series win.

Irving finished the game with just 14 points, shooting four of 13, while Horford also scored 14 and made only four of 19. The Celtics' bench provided 49 points while Morris delivered 18 points with eight rebounds and Gordon Hayward contributed a team-high 20 points. 

After earning their first playoff sweep since 2011, the Celtics will have some time off before the next round of the playoffs. They will likely face the Milwaukee Bucks, who are leading their opening series against the Detroit Pistons 3-0, in the conference semi-finals.

Brad Stevens hailed the Boston Celtics for not easing up as they beat the Indiana Pacers 110-106 on Sunday to seal a 4-0 series success in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

Boston advanced to the Eastern Conference semi-finals, and will likely face the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks, who lead their series with the Detroit Pistons 3-0.

Though the Celtics claimed their first playoff sweep since 2011, Stevens insisted the Pacers had made life difficult for his team.

"You have to earn it every time [you play them]," he told reporters.

"When you get into the playoffs, if you take your foot off the gas at any point in time, you're in trouble.

"I appreciate the fact the way that our guys play, especially late in games. The way they executed all the way through.

"We can still get a little bit better in the middle of the game. But we're happy to win the series. We thought it was going to be really tough coming in. Like I said all along, [the Pacers] are a physically tough team that I think plays basketball the right way and I appreciate them for that."

Gordon Hayward came off the bench and tallied a team-high 20 points on Sunday.

"Just proud of us for finding ways to win," Hayward said. "[Stevens] and the rest of the coaching staff did an unbelievable job of getting us ready each game, with the game plans. I think that's something that sometimes people don't look at.

"There are countless hours after the game, before the game, trying to figure out what they can do to help us out when we're out there on the court. The staff did a tremendous job. Credit to them for everything they helped us do."

 

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