The Indiana Pacers have appointed Toronto Raptors assistant Nate Bjorkgren as their new head coach, the NBA franchise announced.

Bjorkgren replaces Nate McMillan, who was sacked after the Pacers were swept in the first round of the playoffs for a second consecutive year.

The 45-year-old Bjorkgren served as Raptors assistant for the past two seasons, helping Toronto to their first NBA championship in 2018-19.

"I am honoured to take on the role as head coach of the Indiana Pacers," said Bjorkgren. "This is something I have prepared for during my career. I want to thank Kevin, Chad [Buchanan], Kelly [Krauskopf], Larry Bird, Donnie Walsh, and Herb and Steve Simon for this opportunity.

"I also want to thank Nick Nurse for giving me my first professional coaching job 14 years ago.

"I'm looking forward to working with this great team to achieve our goal as NBA champions."

Bjorkgren was also player development co-ordinator and assistant coach of the Phoenix Suns between 2015 and 2017, having served as a head coach in the NBA G League for four seasons – compiling a 126-74 record with the Bakersfield Jam (2014-15), Iowa Energy (2013-14), Santa Cruz Warriors (2012-13), and Dakota Wizards (2011-12).

"We are very pleased and excited to have Nate as our new coach," said president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard. "This was an extensive and thorough search, and when we reached the conclusion, we felt strongly Nate is the right coach for us at the right time.

"He comes from a winning background, has experienced championship success, is innovative and his communication skills along with his positivity are tremendous. We all look forward to a long, successful partnership in helping the Pacers move forward."

The Indiana Pacers relieved Nate McMillan of his coaching duties on Wednesday, two days after the team was swept out of the first round of the playoffs for a second straight year.  

The stunning move also comes just two weeks after the Pacers extended McMillan's contract by one year through the 2021-22 season. 

McMillan spent four seasons in Indiana and led the Pacers to the playoffs in each of those campaigns, but the team failed to win a postseason series over that period. Indiana was 3-16 in playoff games during his tenure and was swept in three series, including this year's match-up with the Miami Heat.

"This was a very hard decision for us to make; but we feel it's in the best interest of the organization to move in a different direction," Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said in a statement.

McMillan compiled a 183-136 regular-season record with the Pacers while often saddled with injuries or defections to top players. He guided Indiana to 48 wins - six more than the previous season - in 2017-18 after the organisation traded All-Star Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Pacers matched that win total the following year despite leading scorer Victor Oladipo missing over half the season with a ruptured quadriceps tendon. 

With Oladipo limited to only 19 games in 2019-20 while recovering from that injury, the Pacers finished 45-28 and were the Eastern Conference's number four playoff seed.  

McMillan has gone 661-588 in 16 overall seasons as an NBA head coach with the Seattle SuperSonics (2000-05), Portland Trail Blazers (2005-12) and Indiana.

The 56-year-old also worked alongside Pritchard, the former Trail Blazers' general manager, during his time with Portland.  

"Nate and I have been through the good times and the bad times; and it was an honour to work with him for those 11 years (in Indiana and Portland)," Pritchard stated.  

The Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks cruised into 3-1 series leads in the NBA playoffs on Monday.

The Lakers made it three straight wins over the Portland Trail Blazers with a 135-115 victory, taking a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference first-round series.

LeBron James produced a huge performance with a double-double of 30 points and 10 assists for the Lakers.

Anthony Davis posted 18 points before exiting due to back spasms, while Kyle Kuzma contributed 18 off the bench.

While Jusuf Nurkic had a double-double of 20 points and 13 rebounds, the Trail Blazers lost star Damian Lillard (11 points) to a knee injury.

The Bucks grabbed a 3-1 lead in their Eastern Conference first-round series against the Orlando Magic thanks to a 121-106 win.

Giannis Antetokounmpo unsurprisingly led Milwaukee with a double-double of 31 points and 15 rebounds, plus eight assists.

Khris Middleton struggled from the field, going seven-of-19, but still finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds.

 

Dynamic Dragic sees Miami through, Thunder draw level

Goran Dragic had a team-high 23 points as the Miami Heat completed a 4-0 series sweep of the Indiana Pacers courtesy of a 99-87 win.

Miami were also led by Bam Adebayo, who finished with 14 points, 19 rebounds and six assists.

The Western Conference first-round series between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets is locked at 2-2. Dennis Schroder had 30 points off the bench as the Thunder won Game 4 117-114.

Thunder forward Shai Gilgeous-Alexander managed a double-double of 18 points and 12 rebounds.

The Rockets were beaten despite a fine performance by James Harden, who had 32 points, 15 assists and eight rebounds.

 

Bad Brogdon

Indiana are out of the playoffs and Malcolm Brogdon struggled for the Pacers, going five-of-16 from the field in Game 4. The guard finished with 13 points in 40 minutes.

 

LeBron from range

James hit a three-pointer from just over half-court in the Lakers' win.

Monday's results

Milwaukee Bucks 121-106 Orlando Magic
Oklahoma City Thunder 117-114 Houston Rockets
Miami Heat 99-87 Indiana Pacers
Los Angeles Lakers 135-115 Portland Trail Blazers

 

Mavericks face Clippers

Luka Doncic inspired the Dallas Mavericks to draw level in their series with the Los Angeles Clippers. The crucial Game 5 of the Western Conference first-round series is on Tuesday.

LeBron James inspired the Los Angeles Lakers to a 116-108 win and 2-1 series lead over the Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA playoffs.

James erupted for 38 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists as the top-seeded Lakers trumped the Trail Blazers in Game 3 of their Western Conference first-round series on Saturday.

At age 35, James became the oldest player to reach both 38 points and eight assists in a playoff game, surpassing Michael Jordan (34 in 1997), per STATS.

James moved second on the all-time list for playoff wins with 158, leapfrogging Tim Duncan and closing in on Derek Fisher (161), while the three-time NBA champion climbed up to third on the all-time list for three-points made in the playoffs (375).

Anthony Davis contributed his own double-double of 29 points and 11 rebounds as the Lakers benefited from a 40-point third quarter to see off eighth seeds the Trail Blazers in Orlando, Florida.

Damian Lillard's 34 points were not enough for the Trail Blazers, while CJ McCollum (28) and Carmelo Anthony (20) also impressed at Walt Disney World Resort.

 

Giannis fuels Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way for the Milwaukee Bucks, who earned a 2-1 series lead against the Orlando Magic in their Eastern Conference opening-round matchup. The reigning MVP had 35 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in a 121-107 triumph. Antetokounmpo was 12 of 14 from the field.

Dennis Schroder (29 points), Chris Paul (26), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (23) and Danilo Gallinari (20) all impressed as the Oklahoma City Thunder outlasted the Houston Rockets 119-107 in overtime. Oklahoma City avoided falling 3-0 behind in the Western Conference series. The Thunder outscored the Rockets 15-3 in OT.

James Harden scored a game-high 38 points, but the Rockets still lost. He fouled out 53 seconds into overtime.

Malcolm Brogdon starred with playoff highs of 34 points and 14 assists. However, the Indiana Pacers were beaten 124-115 by the Miami Heat, who lead the Eastern Conference series 3-0.

Jimmy Butler's 27 points and a Bam Adebayo double-double (22 points and 11 rebounds) put the Heat on the cusp of a series sweep.

 

Lakers struggle from the line

While the Lakers won, they were far from convincing at the free-throw line. The Lakers were just 65.1 per cent from the line, compared to Portland's 94.7 per cent. Davis – who missed four of his first five attempts – was seven of 14 and James 12 of 17.

 

Harden with the euro step

The Rockets guard weaved his way past two opponents en route to the rim.

 

Saturday's results

Los Angeles Lakers 116-108 Portland Trail Blazers
Oklahoma City Thunder 119-107 Houston Rockets (OT)
Miami Heat 124-115 Indiana Pacers
Milwaukee Bucks 121-107 Orlando Magic

 

Raptors face Nets

Defending champions the Toronto Raptors can seal a series sweep against the Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Conference on Sunday. The Philadelphia 76ers, meanwhile, will look to avoid a 4-0 whitewash in their matchup with the Boston Celtics.

The Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks drew level in their respective NBA playoff series on Thursday.

Coming off surprise Game 1 losses, the Lakers and Bucks responded against the Portland Trail Blazers and Orlando Magic respectively.

The Lakers drew level at 1-1 in their Western Conference first-round meeting with the Trail Blazers courtesy of a 111-88 win.

Anthony Davis posted a double-double of 31 points and 11 rebounds as the Lakers won their first playoff game since 2012.

While Davis went 13-of-21 from the field, LeBron James was below his best, but still managed 10 points, seven assists and six rebounds.

Red-hot Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard had 18 points, but the guard was one-of-seven from three-point range.

In the Eastern Conference, the Bucks are back to 1-1 against Orlando after a 111-96 victory.

Giannis Antetokounmpo lifted Milwaukee with 28 points and 20 rebounds, while Brook Lopez had 20 points.

Harden guides Rockets as Robinson shines for Heat

James Harden had 21 points and nine assists as the Houston Rockets took a 2-0 series lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder courtesy of a 111-98 win.

Danuel House Jr. contributed 19 points, nine rebounds and three assists for the Rockets.

Duncan Robinson was in impressive form as the Miami Heat went 2-0 up against the Indiana Pacers thanks to a 109-100 win. Robinson was seven-of-eight from three-point range for 24 points in 25 minutes.

Heat star Goran Dragic posted 20 points.

 

Miserable Melo

Carmelo Anthony struggled badly for Portland. He was one-of-six for just two points in 26 minutes.

 

Davis delights

Davis showed his class during the Lakers' series-levelling win.

Thursday's results

Miami Heat 109-100 Indiana Pacers
Houston Rockets 111-98 Oklahoma City Thunder
Milwaukee Bucks 111-96 Orlando Magic
Los Angeles Lakers 111-88 Portland Trail Blazers

 

Clippers face Mavericks

With their Western Conference first-round series locked at 1-1, the Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks do battle in Game 3 on Friday.

It was a day of upsets in the NBA playoffs as the eighth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers and Orlando Magic upstaged the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks respectively.

Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers powered past top seeds the Lakers 100-93 in Game 1 of their Western Conference first-round series on Tuesday, while the Magic stunned the Giannis Antetokounmpo-led Bucks 122-110 in their Eastern Conference opener.

It is the second time in NBA postseason history that both eighth seeds have beaten the top seeds in Game 1, per STATS. The other occasion was in 2003, when the Magic and Phoenix Suns trumped the Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs.

Lillard maintained his red-hot form with 34 points to inspire the Trail Blazers at Walt Disney World Resort, where Trail Blazers team-mates CJ McCollum (21 points) and Carmelo Anthony (11 points and 10 rebounds) made solid contributions in Orlando, Florida.

LeBron James' triple-double of 23 points, 17 rebounds and 16 assists were not enough as the Lakers superstar (12-2) lost for just the second time in the opening game of a first-round matchup.

The Magic – without a playoff series win since 2010 – did not follow the script as they took down the Bucks thanks to Nikola Vucevic's big night.

Vucevic had a playoff career-high 35 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Magic past the Bucks, who swept the season series by winning four games by an average of 17 points.

A double-double of 31 points and 17 rebounds from reigning MVP Antetokounmpo was not enough to lift the Bucks – eyeing their first championship since 1971.

 

Harden launches Rockets, Butler's Heat cool Pacers

No Russell Westbrook, no problem for the Houston Rockets. In the absence of the injured star, James Harden posted 37 points and 11 rebounds as the Rockets – seeded fourth in the west – soared past the Oklahoma City Thunder 123-108 in their series opener. Houston made 20 three-pointers.

Danilo Gallinari matched a playoff career-high with 29 points for the fifth-seeded Thunder. Chris Paul recorded 20 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists against his former team. Steven Adams put up 17 points and 12 rebounds for a double-double.

Jimmy Butler fuelled the Miami Heat's 113-101 victory over the fourth-seeded Indiana Pacers in Game 1. Butler had 28 points, including two big three-pointers in the final quarter. Goran Dragic added 24 points, while Bam Adebayo (17 points and 10 rebounds) finished with a double-double.

 

Oladipo adds to Pacers' defeat

Pacers star Victor Oladipo is day-to-day after injuring his left eye against the Heat. Oladipo was inadvertently poked in the eye by Miami's Jae Crowder with just over three minutes remaining in the opening quarter. He had scored four points in nine minutes prior to exiting.

Dennis Schroder struggled to make an impact in 32 minutes for the Thunder. A threat off the bench, Schroder was three of 12 from the field while he missed all five three-point attempts for just six points.

Milwaukee made 43 per cent from the field, and were 14 of 42 from three-point land against the Magic.

 

No stopping LeBron!

James flew past the Trail Blazers en route to his swift basket.

Somehow, a diving Adebayo made this stunning shot for the Heat with his back towards the rim.

Tuesday's results

Houston Rockets 123-108 Oklahoma City Thunder
Miami Heat 113-101 Indiana Pacers
Orlando Magic 122-110 Milwaukee Bucks
Portland Trail Blazers 100-93 Los Angeles Lakers

 

76ers face Celtics

Can the Philadelphia 76ers bounce back from their Game 1 loss against old rivals the Boston Celtics? Philadelphia will meet Boston on Wednesday, with the Celtics to be without injured star Gordon Hayward (ankle).

The NBA playoffs are finally here.

After the regular season extended into August with eight rounds of seeding games in the Orlando 'bubble' - followed by the Portland Trail Blazers' win in their play-in game - we have our 16 playoff teams.

The Milwaukee Bucks are the top seed in the East, while the Los Angeles Lakers led the way in the West.

But everything does not always go to script in the playoffs, with the Bucks on top last year, too, but losing out to eventual champions the Toronto Raptors - inspired by Kawhi Leonard, now of the Los Angeles Clippers.

Despite this unpredictable format, the Stats Perform AI team have been crunching the numbers behind the scenes and running 10,000 simulations.

Using this model, we have taken a look at how the coming weeks could pan out...
 

BUCKS AS CHAMPS? LAKERS WIN UNLIKELY

After another outstanding regular season and with Giannis Antetokounmpo in their ranks, it may come as no surprise the Bucks are favourites to take the title for just the second time.

What might be slightly more unexpected is the distance by which Milwaukee are considered the frontrunners.

According to our model, the Bucks have a 29.6 per cent chance of triumphing, winning 2,959 of the 10,000 simulations.

The Clippers are next on the list and would win the championship in 18 per cent of cases, while the Raptors' title defence stands a 13.6 per cent chance of being successful, just ahead of the Boston Celtics on 13.4 per cent.

That means the Lakers are way down in fifth on our list of contenders, despite boasting LeBron James and Anthony Davis and enjoying a strong season to date.

Indeed, LeBron's team won the playoff tournament in just 848 of the 10,000 simulations - or a measly 8.5 per cent.
 

ORLANDO COULD YET CONJURE UP SOME MAGIC

The Bucks have a great opportunity to win the championship and they will certainly be expected to get through their first-round series against the Orlando Magic, the eighth seed in the East.

But do not count the Magic out entirely at this stage.

Orlando will have their work cut out if they are to get anyway near the Finals, let alone take home the trophy, but not every simulation saw the local side make an early exit.

Of the 10,000 simulations, six (0.06 per cent) actually saw the Magic go all the way and claim a stunning title triumph.

Steve Clifford's team are unsurprisingly least likely to win the championship, although the eighth seed in the West, the Blazers, are ranked ahead of the Brooklyn Nets, who came seventh in the East.

The Philadelphia 76ers and Indian Pacers are each also given less than a one per cent chance of becoming champions.
 

BUCKS IN SEVEN AFTER CLIPPERS SWEEP LAKERS?!

The playoffs can often feel too random for any model to contend with, but what if we ran the simulation just once?

Well, in that scenario, the Bucks still came out on top, but they were pushed all the way to seven games by the Clippers, requiring a remarkable fightback after going 3-1 down in the Finals. They won Game 7 112-90, however.

Both teams had come into that series full of momentum after 4-0 sweeps in the Conference Finals.

Milwaukee brushed aside the Sixers, who beat the odds to come past the Celtics and then the Raptors, while the Clippers battered rivals the Lakers, winning each game by more than 10 points.

Besides Philadelphia's shock run, the biggest upset in the bracket saw the sixth-seeded Utah Jazz sensationally beat the third-seeded Denver Nuggets 4-0.

With the regular season over, it's time for business in the Orlando bubble.

The Portland Trail Blazers completed the NBA's playoff bracket with their play-in win against the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday.

Now, Giannis Antetokounmpo's Milwaukee Bucks, the LeBron-James led Los Angeles Lakers and Kawhi Leonard's Los Angeles Clippers are among the teams vying for supremacy at Walt Disney World Resort.

With the postseason scheduled to start on Monday, we use STATS data to preview the first-round series.

Eastern Conference

Milwaukee Bucks (1) v Orlando Magic (8)

Eyeing their first NBA championship since 1971, the Bucks head into the opening-round series struggling for form.

The Bucks, who went 52-8 from their first 60 games, recorded a 4-9 win-loss ratio from their last 13 fixtures – becoming the first team in NBA history to have more losses in their final 13 regular-season games than they did in the entire season prior to that.

Inside the bubble but in familiar surroundings, the Magic have the chance to snap a playoff drought, despite the odds being stacked against them.

Not since 2010 have the Magic won a playoff series. Orlando swept the Charlotte Bobcats and Atlanta Hawks en route to the Conference finals, before losing to the Boston Celtics. The Magic have since suffered first-round exits at the hands of the Hawks (2011), Indiana Pacers (2012) and Toronto Raptors (2019).

Toronto Raptors (2) v Brooklyn Nets (7)

Defending champions the Raptors have form on their side in pursuit of back-to-back championships.

Toronto went 27-5 over their last 32 games, easily the best record in the NBA during that period – ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder (21-10), Los Angeles Clippers (20-10), Bucks (20-11) and Celtics (21-13).

Nets star Spencer Dinwiddie has been one of the most clutch players this season, making an NBA-high seven go-ahead baskets in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime.

Dinwiddie's seven for 13 is better than the Denver Nuggets' Nikola Jokic (five), Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray of the Nuggets (both four).

Boston Celtics (3) v Philadelphia 76ers (6)

The Celtics renew hostilities with rivals the 76ers, having won the past four series between the two teams – Philadelphia have not claimed a series against Boston in the playoffs since 1982.

Philadelphia's hopes will rest on Joel Embiid in the absence of injured fellow All-Star Ben Simmons, who is the only player in NBA history to average 8.0-plus rebounds and 8.0-plus assists per game for his career.

The 76ers are 35-22 (.614 per cent) with Simmons in the team, while they are just 7-8 (.467 per cent) without the Australian star on the court. Philadelphia also allow more opposition points per game in his absence – 113.6 compared to 107.2.

Indiana Pacers (4) v Miami Heat (5)

All eyes will be on Indiana's T.J. Warren, who averaged 31.0 points per game with a .664 effective field-goal percentage this month following the restart.

Since 1985-86, the players with 30.0-plus points and a .650-plus effective field-goal percentage in a month (minimum five game played) are Charles Barkley (1990), Stephen Curry (2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019), Antetokounmpo (2017 and 2019) and Karl Anthony-Towns (2019).

With Heat pair Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson, Miami are the first NBA team to have two undrafted players averaging 13.0-plus points per game in the same season – minimum 70 per cent of team games played – since the Philadelphia Warriors in 1956-57 (Joe Graboski and Neil Johnston).

 

Western Conference

Los Angeles Lakers (1) v Portland Trail Blazers (8)

Making their first postseason appearance since 2013, the Lakers – who have a 74.6 per cent chance of winning this series using Stats Perform's advanced simulation tool – are one of the favourites to go all the way thanks to James and Anthony Davis.

James and Davis have combined well in LA, where the former has supplied 184 assists for the All-Star recruit this season – the most to one player in 2019-20, ahead of Damian Lillard to Hassan Whiteside (132). Three-time champion and four-time MVP James is also the second-oldest player to average 10 assists or more in a season in NBA history, with Steve Nash averaging 10.0-plus assists in each of his final three campaigns.

This will be the second playoff meeting between James and Carmelo Anthony. James and the Heat eliminated Anthony and the New York Knicks in the first round in 2012. Both averaged 27.8 points in the series. James was the first overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, while Anthony was the third pick. Their matchups date back to high school, when LeBron was at St. Vincent St. Mary's and Carmelo at Oak Hill Academy.

Portland's go-to man Lillard leads the NBA in scoring inside the bubble at 37.6 per game, including the play-in clash. The Trail Blazers star is averaging 46.3 points in his past four games following a career-high 61 against the Dallas Mavericks earlier this month. He has contributed to Portland averaging a league-high 126.0 points per game at Walt Disney World Resort, while the Lakers have only managed 106.4 points per game – the second worst behind the Washington Wizards.

How about most points per game by team-mate duos? Lillard and CJ McCollum (52.2) are second to James Harden and Russell Westbrook (61.5) but ahead of third-placed James and Davis (51.4).

Los Angeles Clippers (2) v Dallas Mavericks (7)

Can Leonard claim consecutive NBA titles after leading the Raptors to their first champion last season? Well it all begins against the Mavericks.

Leonard – the 2019 Finals MVP – averaged a career-high 27.1 points per game this season, while he averaged 30.5 during last year's playoffs. The four-time All-Star has also averaged 31.0 points per game in three games against the Mavericks this term, with the Clippers sweeping the season series.

Led by Luka Doncic, the Mavericks boast the second-highest offensive rating ever – 113.7 – behind last year's Golden State Warriors (113.9). The Clippers have a 111.1 rating, tied with the Trail Blazers for second this season.

Doncic is averaging 30.0 points, 10.1 assists and 9.7 rebounds in the bubble. The reigning Rookie of the Year also has three triple-doubles, including a 20-rebound triple-double.

Denver Nuggets (3) v Utah Jazz (6)

A Jazz team boasting the likes of Joe Ingles and Mitchell are the best three-point shooting team at 38.0 per cent, though Utah went 2-5 in their last seven regular-season games – allowing 110-plus points per game.

Rudy Gobert is also one shy of 250 career double-doubles as the Jazz look to avenge their season sweep at the hands of the Nuggets, though each game was decided by six or fewer points.

The Nuggets made the Conference semi-finals last season, snapping a five-year playoff drought. Jovic will be key for Denver, having averaged 7.0 assists per game for a second successive season – the most by any center in the NBA.

Houston Rockets (4) v Oklahoma City Thunder (5)

It will be a reunion as Harden, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul face their former teams.

The Rockets have advanced to at least the second round of the playoffs in three straight seasons and their hopes will depend on the team's starting five – their starters are averaging 89.1 points per game, the most in the league.

Former Thunder star Harden is also coming off his third consecutive season averaging 30 or more points per game (34.3 in 2019-20). He is the franchise's all-time leader in postseason assists (510) and second in points (2,061) behind Hakeem Olajuwon (3,727).

Westbrook, who arrived from the Thunder in a blockbuster trade at the start of the season, is second all-time for Oklahoma City in playoff points (2,489), behind Kevin Durant's 2,620, third in rebounds (686), first in assists (778) and first in steals (184).

The Thunder, boasting ex-Rockets guard Paul, have not progressed beyond the first round of the postseason since 2016 after blowing a 3-1 lead against the Warriors in the Conference Finals.

The Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Clippers were all victorious as the NBA's regular season concluded in Orlando on Friday.

Philadelphia's final game before their Eastern Conference first-round playoff blockbuster against the Boston Celtics on Monday saw the 76ers top the Houston Rockets 134-96.

Joel Embiid (14 points) overcame a wrist problem and played for the 76ers at Walt Disney World resort, where Tobias Harris (18), Al Horford (10), Alec Burks (16), Shake Milton (11), Mike Scott (10), Raul Neto (14) and Furkan Korkmaz (12) all had double-digit points.

The Rockets, who are set to meet the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference on Tuesday, were led by James Harden's 27 points and 10 assists.

Defending champions the Raptors, meanwhile, defeated the Denver Nuggets 117-109 behind Stanley Johnson's season-high 23 points.

Johnson scored 19 points in the second half, while Paul Watson put up a career-high 22 points for the in-form Raptors – who have won four games in a row and seven of their eight regular-season matchups in Florida.

The Raptors – second in the east – begin their playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets on Monday, while the Western Conference's Nuggets open against the Utah Jazz.

 

Mann impresses for Clippers

With Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Lou Williams rested, rookie Terance Mann stepped up as the Los Angeles Clippers outlasted the Thunder 107-103 in overtime. Mann had 25 points and 14 rebounds for a double-double, including the go-ahead three-pointer with less than three minutes remaining in OT. Amir Coffey contributed 21 points.

Hamidou Diallo's double-double of 27 points and 11 rebounds led the playoff-bound Thunder.

 

Robinson scoreless as Pacers cool Heat

Ahead of their upcoming first-round clash in the Eastern Conference, the Miami Heat lost 109-92 to the Indiana Pacers and Duncan Robinson struggled. Robinson was zero of three from the field, while he missed all three shots beyond the arc to go scoreless in 13 minutes. Trying to stay fit before the playoff matchup as both teams rested stars, the Heat lost Derrick Jones Jr. to a neck strain following a scary collision.

 

Harden with the behind-the-back pass

The 2018 MVP produced this assist for Rockets team-mate Jeff Green.

 

Friday's results

Toronto Raptors 117-109 Denver Nuggets
Indiana Pacers 109-92 Miami Heat
Los Angeles Clippers 107-103 Oklahoma City Thunder (OT)
Philadelphia 76ers 134-96 Houston Rockets

 

Grizzlies face Trail Blazers

The Western Conference play-in clash will see the Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trail Blazers go head-to-head on Saturday. A win for the Trail Blazers will secure a first-round matchup against the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers. Memphis have to go 2-0 in the play-in tournament.

The Los Angeles Clippers bounced back in the NBA on Wednesday, while James Harden starred in a loss.

Coming off a defeat to the Brooklyn Nets, the Clippers outclassed the Denver Nuggets 124-111.

Paul George and Kawhi Leonard led the Clippers, while Lou Williams impressed off the bench.

George (27 points), Leonard (26) and Williams (23) top-scored for the Clippers.

Harden had 45 points, 17 rebounds and nine assists, but the Houston Rockets fell to the Indiana Pacers 108-104.

The Rockets were without Russell Westbrook, who is battling a quad injury.

 

Turner records double-double, Lowry leads Raptors

Myles Turner's double-double of 18 points and 12 rebounds guided the Pacers.

Kyle Lowry led an even Toronto Raptors performance with 19 points in a 125-121 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.

Chris Boucher went seven-of-12 from the field for 19 points off the bench for the Raptors.

 

Horrible Holiday

Aaron Holiday struggled for the Pacers. The guard was one-of-11 from the field for just two points in 25 minutes.

 

Comeback kings

Darius Bazley scored 16 points in the fourth quarter as the Oklahoma City Thunder edged the Miami Heat 116-115. It marked the 17th time this season the Thunder have trailed entering the fourth quarter and won, the equal most in a season in the shot-clock era (since 1954-55). They joined the 1962-63 Los Angeles Lakers, 1990-91 San Antonio Spurs and 2007-08 Cleveland Cavaliers, as per STATS.

Wednesday's results

Indiana Pacers 108-104 Houston Rockets
Toronto Raptors 125-121 Philadelphia 76ers
Oklahoma City Thunder 116-115 Miami Heat
Los Angeles Clippers 124-111 Denver Nuggets

 

All eyes on Western Conference

The Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies, Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs are in action on Thursday, looking to claim seeds eight and nine in the Western Conference to get into the play-in.

Head coach Nate McMillan has signed a one-year contract extension with the Indiana Pacers.

McMillan is in his fourth year in charge of the Pacers and on Wednesday confirmed he has reached an agreement to extend his stay.

"I just felt that that was appropriate for both sides," McMillan said before the Pacers' NBA game against the Houston Rockets.

"Normally I don't do any negotiations until after the end of the season. This has been an unusual season for all of us - myself, the organisation, the NBA. And we've been talking about this and thought that one-year extension was really the appropriate thing for both sides."

Terms for McMillan's contract were not disclosed as the Pacers prepare to feature in the playoffs or a fourth consecutive season.

Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said: "What Nate has done in four seasons with our franchise merits this extension.

"Between injuries and changes in personnel, he and his coaching staff have adapted and produced positive results. He also represents the franchise, the city and our state in a first-class manner."

The experienced McMillan has 16 NBA seasons under his belt as a head coach, having previously led the Portland Trail Blazers and Seattle SuperSonics.

Kyle Kuzma was the hero as the Los Angeles Lakers trumped the Denver Nuggets 124-121 in the NBA on Monday.

Kuzma nailed a three-pointer with 0.4 seconds remaining to see the Lakers past Western Conference rivals the Nuggets at Walt Disney World Resort.

The Lakers forward finished with 25 points in Orlando, while LeBron James put up a double-double of 29 points and 12 assists as Anthony Davis contributed 27 points.

The Milwaukee Bucks were missing key players, but the Eastern Conference's top seed still made unwanted NBA history.

In the absence of reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee went down 114-106 to defending champions the Toronto Raptors, who were also without Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet.

With the loss, the Bucks – who went 52-8 in their first 60 games of the season – fell to 3-8 from their past 13 outings.

The Bucks became the first team in NBA history to have as many or more losses over their final 13 games as they did the entire season prior to that, per STATS.

 

 

Booker stars again as Suns stay perfect

The Phoenix Suns improved to 6-0 inside the Orlando bubble since the league's restart after defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder 128-101. Devin Booker led the way again with 35 points, including 14-for-14 from the free throw line.

Jimmy Butler (19 points and 11 rebounds) posted a double-double in his return from a foot injury as the Miami Heat closed in on the Eastern Conference fourth seed by topping the Indiana Pacers 114-92.

 

O'Neale headlines Jazz's woes

Utah Jazz forward Royce O'Neale was scoreless in a 122-114 loss at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks. O'Neale was 0 of four from the field, while he missed all three of his attempts from beyond the arc in 14 minutes. Jordan Clarkson (18) was the only Jazz starter to shoot double-digit points.

It was a tough outing for the Thunder, who were held to just 17 points in the third quarter against the Suns. Oklahoma City managed just 37 points in the second half.

 

CP3 the architect

Chris Paul provided the lob for Thunder team-mate Darius Bazley to dunk emphatically.

 

Monday's results

Phoenix Suns 128-101 Oklahoma City Thunder
Dallas Mavericks 122-114 Utah Jazz
Toronto Raptors 114-106 Milwaukee Bucks
Miami Heat 114-92 Indiana Pacers
Los Angeles Lakers 124-121 Denver Nuggets

 

Suns face 76ers

The Suns will look to stay hot when they take on the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday. The 76ers will be without All-Star pair Joel Embiid (ankle) and Ben Simmons (knee).

TJ Warren overshadowed LeBron James' return as the Los Angeles Lakers slumped to a third successive NBA loss, while Luka Doncic dazzled on Saturday.

Back after a groin injury, Lakers star James had 31 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in 35 minutes but could not stop the Indiana Pacers and their thriving small forward from claiming a 116-111 victory.

Warren, a revelation since entering the NBA bubble, continued his incredible scoring run with 39 points on 15-of-22 shooting.

In the final minute, he hit a floater, a pull-up jumper and a clutch three-pointer over Anthony Davis to earn the Pacers a fourth win from five games at Walt Disney World Resort.

All-Star guard Doncic and reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo did not disappoint in their duel, sharing 70 points between them as the Dallas Mavericks outlasted the Milwaukee Bucks 136-132 in overtime.

Doncic did the business for Dallas, delivering a decisive triple-double with 36 points, 19 assists and 14 rebounds.

 

Pain for Mitchell, better for Booker

Donovan Mitchell's nerveless 35-point performance was not enough to help the Utah Jazz avoid a 134-132 defeat to the Denver Nuggets in double overtime, a thrilling game that included 30 points and 11 rebounds from Nikola Jokic.

Devin Booker's 35 points proved more valuable for the Phoenix Suns, who beat the Miami Heat 119-112 to stay undefeated since the restart.

 

Lillard's let down

After trading taunts with the Los Angeles Clippers, Damian Lillard let his opponents have the last laugh when he wasted two clutch free throws and missed a three-point attempt late in the Portland Trail Blazers' 122-117 loss.

 

Doncic's delicious dime

The Mavericks' main man went between the legs for one of his 19 assists.

Saturday's results

Los Angeles Clippers 122-117 Portland Trail Blazers
Denver Nuggets 134-132 Utah Jazz (2OT)
Indiana Pacers 116-111 Los Angeles Lakers
Phoenix Suns 119-112 Miami Heat
Dallas Mavericks 136-132 Milwaukee Bucks (OT)

 

Trail Blazers face 76ers

Lillard and the Trail Blazers (32-39), ranked ninth in the Western Conference, know they cannot afford any errors when they face the Philadelphia 76ers (42-27) on Sunday.

The LeBron James-less Los Angeles Lakers fell to another NBA loss, while Giannis Antetokounmpo starred again on Thursday.

Without James (groin), the Lakers suffered a second straight loss, beaten by the Houston Rockets 113-97.

James Harden led the way for the Rockets with 39 points on 11-of-19 shooting, while the guard also had 12 assists and eight rebounds at the Walt Disney World Resort.

In James' absence, Anthony Davis had a double-double of 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Lakers.

Coming off back-to-back losses, the Milwaukee Bucks clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference by beating the Miami Heat 130-116.

The Bucks recovered from a 23-point deficit to bounce back, with Antetokounmpo finishing with 33 points and 12 rebounds.

Khris Middleton also posted 33 points for Milwaukee.

Leonard, Lillard in form

Kawhi Leonard had 29 points as the Los Angeles Clippers eased past the Dallas Mavericks 126-111.

Damian Lillard hit 11 three-pointers in a 45-point haul to lead the Portland Trail Blazers to a 125-115 win over the Denver Nuggets.

A career-high 35 points from Bogdan Bogdanovic guided the Sacramento Kings to a 140-125 success against the New Orleans Pelicans.

 

Cook can't take chance

Quinn Cook was unable to make the most of his start for the Lakers. The guard went two-of-12 from the field for just six points in 29 minutes.

 

Amazing Lillard

Lillard went 11-of-18 from three-point range in an incredible performance.

Thursday's results

Sacramento Kings 140-125 New Orleans Pelicans
Milwaukee Bucks 130-116 Miami Heat
Phoenix Suns 114-99 Indiana Pacers
Los Angeles Clippers 126-111 Dallas Mavericks
Portland Trail Blazers 125-115 Denver Nuggets
Houston Rockets 113-97 Los Angeles Lakers

 

Celtics face Raptors

The Boston Celtics (45-23) and Toronto Raptors (49-18) go head-to-head in another blockbuster battle on Friday.

The NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks crashed to a 119-116 defeat against the Brooklyn Nets, while the Phoenix Suns upstaged the Los Angeles Clippers at the buzzer.

Back-to-back three-pointers from Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot put the Nets ahead during the closing stages as the Bucks suffered a surprise loss in Orlando, Florida on Tuesday.

Luwawu-Cabarrot posted a career-high 26 points for the Nets (32-25), while reigning MVP and Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 16 points before sitting out the entire second half.

The Bucks (54-14) are yet to clinch the top seed in the Eastern Conference following consecutive defeats at the Walt Disney World Resort.

There was another upset in the Orlando bubble as the Clippers went down 117-115 to the Suns following Devin Booker's buzzer-beating shot.

Booker nailed a turnaround jumper over Clippers star Paul George as time expired in a 35-point performance for the Suns, after Kawhi Leonard had tied the game with 31.1 seconds remaining.

The playoff-chasing Suns (29-39) claimed their third consecutive victory since the NBA resumed following the coronavirus-enforced break.

Leonard led the Clippers (45-22) with 27 points, while team-mate George contributed 23 of his own.

 

Doncic's historic triple-double leads Mavs

Luka Doncic's 34 points, career-high 20 rebounds and 12 assists helped the Dallas Mavericks top the Sacramento Kings 114-110 in overtime. At 21 years and 158 days, Doncic became the youngest player to finish a game with 30 or more points, 20 or more rebounds and 10 or more assists.

T.J. Warren enjoyed another fine outing with 32 points as the Indiana Pacers beat the Orlando Magic 120-109.

A 21-point and 19-rebound Jusuf Nurkic double-double fuelled the Portland Trail Blazers' 110-102 victory over the Houston Rockets.

 

Bogdanovic struggles

In the Kings' loss to the Mavericks, Bogdan Bogdanovic was just one for 15 from the field in 21 minutes. The Kings shooting guard only made one of eight three-pointers for three points.

 

Harden inspires quick basket

A perfectly weighted inbound pass from Houston Rockets star James Harden caught the Portland Trail Blazers napping as Russell Westbrook made the catch before teeing up Ben McLemore in a swift move.

 

Tuesday's results

Brooklyn Nets 119-116 Milwaukee Bucks
Dallas Mavericks 114-110 Sacramento Kings (OT)
Phoenix Suns 117-115 Los Angeles Clippers
Miami Heat 112-106 Boston Celtics
Indiana Pacers 120-109 Orlando Magic
Portland Trail Blazers 110-102 Houston Rockets

 

Thunder face Lakers

The Oklahoma City Thunder will meet the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday. The Thunder are coming off a loss, while the Lakers clinched the top seed in the west on Monday.

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