LeBron James and Anthony Davis were both named in the All-NBA First Team on Wednesday as the Los Angeles Lakers prepare to face the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals.

The All-NBA selections were announced as the playoffs hot up in Orlando, although the Lakers duo were the only remaining members of the First Team.

James and Davis were joined by James Harden, whose Houston Rockets they beat in the second round, along with reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic.

MVP candidates James and Antetokounmpo were both unanimous votes.

The Los Angeles Clippers' Kawhi Leonard and playoff nemesis Nikola Jokic headlined the Second Team. Jokic led the Nuggets past the Clippers on Tuesday to complete another remarkable series fightback.

Damian Lillard was also included after carrying the Portland Trail Blazers into the postseason, alongside veteran Chris Paul, who impressed following his trade from the Rockets to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Pascal Siakam - disappointing in the playoffs for defending champions the Toronto Raptors - made up the selection.

Meanwhile, in the Third Team, the Boston Celtics' Jayson Tatum and the Miami Heat's Jimmy Butler are both still alive as Eastern Conference Finals opponents.

Russell Westbrook, part of the Paul trade, got recognition, too, and was joined by Rudy Gobert and Ben Simmons, the latter ending the season injured.

Jamal Murray is convinced Nikola Jokic is headed for a Hall-of-Fame career after he inspired the Denver Nuggets past the Utah Jazz and into the Western Conference semi-finals.

The Nuggets ran out 80-78 winners in Tuesday's decisive Game 7 of the thrilling first-round series, overcoming a 3-1 deficit that had been inspired by Utah's Donovan Mitchell.

On a night where Murray struggled to hit the same heights he had reached in previous games in the series, Jokic put up 30 points and added 14 rebounds to help the third-seeded Nuggets book a semi-final against the Los Angeles Clippers.

"Dude's a joke," Murray said of Jokic. 

"He does everything. Post up, he shoots it, he passes, he pushes the pace, he's smart, and we definitely needed him today.

"He made clutch baskets and just kept us poised. Even when I didn't have it going or I missed some bunnies or we messed up on defense and they made their push, especially in the third quarter. 

"He was our leader for that second half and he did it all so, he's gonna be a Hall of Famer one day."

Jokic scored 17 of Denver's 30 second-half points, the highest percentage of a team's points scored in the second half of a Game 7 over the past 20 years, to receive praise from head coach Michael Malone.

"We are not in a Game 7 without Jamal, but quietly Nikola Jokic was having an outstanding series as well," Malone said. 

"And you knew that they would take away Jamal Murray, they tried to do different things tonight, that was their adjustment. 

"We were prepared for that. We knew they would try to get the ball out of his hands. That is when you need Nikola to step up."

Jokic himself was expecting a tense series, just maybe not the levels of excitement it provided.

"Before the series started I felt it was going to be an interesting series. But after 3-1 I didn't think it was going to be this interesting," Jokic said. 

"So I'm glad that we won the game and I'm glad that we won the series."

Mitchell's 33 three-pointers marked a record for a playoff series and he was proud of the way the team battled after trailing by 19 points in the first half.

"We fought hard and came back. I'd go to war with any one of these guys in the locker room, any one of these coaches," Mitchell, who was helped off the floor by Murray at the buzzer, said. 

"We could've easy chalked it up in the first half. We have grit and fight. That's all you can really ask for."

Mitchell added that the emotions following the defeat were nothing compared to what the families who have been affected by police brutality and racism are going through.

"I can only imagine. I wanted to say that. I wanted to get that out there," he said. 

"The way I'm feeling right now is nothing compared to that. I appreciate the NBA and everybody in this league for continuing to push that message. 

"It's not stopping. I just wanted to say that. Whether we won or lost, that was going to be the first thing said. I should've said it first."

The Denver Nuggets completed a stunning comeback from a 3-1 series deficit against the Utah Jazz as they moved through to the second round of the NBA playoffs.

Denver booked their spot in the Western Conference semi-finals thanks to Tuesday's tense 80-78 victory, which was sealed by Nikola Jokic's tie-breaking basket with 27 seconds remaining.

The Nuggets faced elimination after losing three of the opening four games against the Donovan Mitchell-inspired Jazz at Walt Disney World Resort, but Jamal Murray's heroics helped Denver stay alive in the postseason.

Murray's 50 points on Sunday forced a deciding Game 7 in the opening round in Orlando, Florida.

In the do-or-die showdown, Jokic proved to be the difference in the closing stages as Jazz guard Mike Conley's three-pointer spun out at the buzzer in a dramatic finish.

Jokic posted 30 points and 14 rebounds for the third-seeded Nuggets, who became the 12th team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series, despite blowing a 19-point lead on Tuesday.

Murray had 17 points of his own as the Nuggets await second seeds the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round.

The Jazz were led by Mitchell's 22 points and Rudy Gobert's double-double of 19 points and 18 rebounds.

Meanwhile, the Boston Celtics topped defending champions the Toronto Raptors 102-99 for a commanding 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

Jayson Tatum scored 34 points and Marcus Smart put up 16 points in a devastating stretch early in the fourth quarter as the Celtics claimed Game 2.

Smart (19 points) made five three-pointers in a three-minute span to help the Celtics move closer to the Conference Finals.

OG Anunoby's 20 points led the Raptors, who also had 19 from Fred VanVleet.

 

Thunder face Rockets

It will be winner-takes-all on Wednesday when the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets clash in Game 7 of their Western Conference first-round matchup. The Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks will also go head-to-head in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semi-final.

Jamal Murray's incredible 50-42-50 playoff run brought lofty praise from Nuggets coach Mike Malone and team-mate Nikola Jokic after Denver forced a Game 7 against the Utah Jazz.

The Nuggets trailed 3-1 through four games, but Murray has caught fire again in the playoffs, having helped Denver take the Portland Trail Blazers to seven games in the second round last year.

Murray had 50 points in a losing effort in Game 4 against the Jazz, then inspired wins with returns of 42 and then, on Sunday, 50 points.

The 23-year-old averaged 18.5 points in the regular season and his sensational upturn in form has left coach Malone - formerly an assistant at the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors - struggling to make a fitting comparison.

"What Jamal's done the last three games is unbelievable," Malone said.

"I've been blessed to have been around some great players in this game - LeBron [James], CP [Chris Paul], Steph Curry, Klay Thompson - but I've never seen a guy go 50, 42 and 50, two of those games being elimination games.

"Talk about a young guy putting a team on his back... and that will to win, to do whatever is necessary to get the team to win, is tremendous."

Murray visibly grappled with his emotions in Denver's first game since the playoffs were paused after the Milwaukee Bucks went on strike following the shooting of Jacob Blake.

Blake was repeatedly shot in the back by police in the Bucks' home state of Wisconsin, prompting the latest demonstration against police brutality and racial inequality.

Murray wore shoes decorated with images of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and he struggled to find words for his on-court TNT interview.

Malone continued: "We haven't played since Tuesday, so to do it with everything that's taken place in the last three or four days, all the raw emotion, makes it that much more impressive.

"I'm running out of superlatives for Jamal Murray. I just want to say I'm proud of him. What he did tonight was amazing."

Jokic, who scored 22 points, was similarly impressed, adding of Murray: "He's really playing at a high level, a superstar level right now.

"We wish the God of basketball is going to give him a little bit more of that during our playoffs."

Murray himself recognises the need to perform on a more consistent basis, however.

"People want me to be consistent and, I'm not going to lie, it's not easy," he said. "That's why the greats are so good. They don't just do it one night, they do it every night."

The Boston Celtics drew first blood against defending champions the Toronto Raptors in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference second-round series.

Boston were too strong for Toronto, winning 112-94 at Walt Disney World Resort in the NBA playoffs on Sunday.

Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart posted 21 points apiece, while Kemba Walker put up 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Celtics, who swept the Philadelphia 76ers and never trailed against the Raptors.

On a tough day for the Raptors, Kyle Lowry led the team with 17 points in Orlando, Florida.

Game 2 between the Celtics and Raptors is on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Clippers booked their spot in the Western Conference semi-finals after accounting for the Dallas Mavericks 111-97.

Kawhi Leonard's 33 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists and five steals helped seal a 4-2 series victory for the Clippers.

Leonard became the first player in franchise history to have at least 30 points and five steals in a postseason game.

Luka Doncic's 38 points, nine rebounds and nine assists were not enough for the eliminated Mavericks.

The Clippers will face either the Denver Nuggets or Utah Jazz in the west.

 

Murray's half-century forces Game 7

Another big performance from Jamal Murray helped the Nuggets level their series with the Jazz at 3-3 after prevailing 119-107 in Game 6. Murray finished with 50 points to force a deciding showdown.

Per STATS, Murray is the second player in NBA history to have back-to-back 40-point games to force a Game 7 after being 3-1 down. The other was LeBron James in the 2016 Finals.

Jazz star Mitchell scored 44 points in the losing effort. Per STATS, it marked the fourth time this series Mitchell and Murray have posted 30-plus points in the same game. The only other pair of opposing players in NBA history to achieve the feat in the same series were James and Gilbert Arena in 2006.

 

Williams struggles

While the Clippers advanced, it was a tough outing for Lou Williams. He was just one of nine from the field and missed all four of his three-point efforts for five points.

Clippers team-mate Paul George also made just six of 19 from the field. The All-Star was two of seven from beyond the arc as he finished with 15 points in 40 minutes of action.

Dallas' Trey Burke struggled. In 35 minutes, Burke was two of 10 from the field and 0 of two for six points.

The Raptors were poor from three-point range. Toronto shot just 25 per cent on 10-for-40 shooting against Boston.

 

Williams windmill

After Smart's steal, Robert Williams III nailed this dunk for the Celtics.

 

Sunday's results

Boston Celtics 112-94 Toronto Raptors
Los Angeles Clippers 111-97 Dallas Mavericks
Denver Nuggets 119-107 Utah Jazz

 

Heat face Bucks

The Miami Heat and the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks will open their Eastern Conference second-round series on Monday.

Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers delivered an emotional response to a question about the shooting of Jacob Blake, which has led to further protests against racial injustice in the United States.

Blake was shot several times by a police officer as he got into a car in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Sunday. Footage of the incident was shared on social media and Blake's family says he has been left paralysed from the waist down.

Since the NBA restarted in its Orlando bubble last month, players have taken a knee during the national anthem in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and were given the option to place a social justice message on the back of their jerseys.

Those moves were made in response to the killing of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis in May after a police officer knelt on his neck for seven minutes and 46 seconds.

Rivers said prior to the Clippers' 154-111 victory over Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday he would answer questions on the shooting of Blake after the Game 5 encounter.

When he addressed the media about the incident, Rivers delivered a powerful statement as his eyes welled up and his voice cracked with emotion.

"It's just so sad. What stands out to me is, just watching the Republican Convention and they're spewing this fear," he said as he took off his face mask.

"All you hear is Donald Trump and all of them talking about fear. We're the ones getting killed. We're the ones getting shot. We're the ones that are denied to live in certain communities. We've been hung. We've been shot. And all you do is keep hearing about fear.

"It's amazing why we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back. It's just really so sad. Like, I should just be a coach. I'm so often reminded of my colour. It's just really sad. We've got to do better. But we got to demand better.

"It's funny. We protest and they send riot guards. They send people in riot outfits. They go up to Michigan with guns and they're spitting on cops and nothing happens.

"The training has to change in the police force. The unions have to be taken down in the police force. My dad was a cop. I believe in good cops. We're not trying to defund the police and take all their money away. We're trying to get them to protect us, just like they protect everybody else.

"I didn't want to talk about it before the game because it's so hard to just keep watching that. If you watch that video, you don't need to be black to be outraged. You need to be American and outraged.

"How dare the Republicans talk about fear. We're the ones that need to be scared. We're the ones having to talk to every black child. What white father has to give his son a talk about being careful if you get pulled over? It's just ridiculous.

"And it just keeps going. There's no charges. Breonna Taylor [who was shot when police entered her flat in March], no charges, nothing. All we're asking is you live up to the constituion - that's all we're asking - for everybody, for everyone."

Following the Utah Jazz's 117-107 loss to Denver Nuggets in Game 5 on Tuesday, Jazz star Donovan Mitchell branded the shooting of Blake "inexcusable" and "disgusting".

"A lot of times where we say we don't feel safe, it doesn't matter how much money, it doesn't matter who you are," Mitchell said.

"The common excuse is, 'He shouldn't have walked away; he shouldn't have not listened to the cops.' He doesn't deserve to be shot in the back, shot seven times. That's inexcusable.

"The point of us coming down here [to Orlando] was to create change, and I feel that we're doing a good job of that, but not good enough. It's obviously not going to happen overnight, but it's disgusting.

"I really don't know how else to describe it as an African American male. When does it stop? When do we feel comfortable? When do we feel safe?

"I just want this s*** to stop, to be completely honest with you."

Kawhi Leonard and Paul George starred as the Los Angeles Clippers routed the Dallas Mavericks 154-111 in Game 5 of their Western Conference first-round matchup.

Donovan Mitchell wants a deep playoff run with the Utah Jazz after dropping 51 points to join Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson in an elite NBA club. 

Mitchell outshone Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray - who scored 50 points - to lead the Jazz to a 129-127 victory in Game 4 as Utah moved 3-1 up in the first round. 

It was the second time Mitchell had gone beyond 50 points in the matchup, a feat only former MVPs and Hall of Famers Jordan and Iverson have previously managed in a single playoff series in the league's entire history. 

"Honestly, it's the first round," Mitchell told reporters of emulating Jordan and Iverson. 

"The two guys you named have made it to the Finals. Michael Jordan is obviously the greatest basketball player of all time. 

"I got a lot of work to do to catch up to those guys. I am honoured to be in that category, but we are doing all this in the first round." 

The talented youngster has certainly bounced back from his performance in the postseason last year, when he missed 18 of his 22 shots as the Jazz crashed to a decisive Game 5 loss against the Houston Rockets in the first round.

"It's no secret that last year's playoffs wasn't my best," Mitchell added. "And I took that personally, and I am going to trust my work and keep moving forward.

"I love hearing negative things about me. 

"The knock on me has been, 'Inefficient, not a team player', whatever it is.

"I pride myself on being a team player, on being a playmaker. I've said it a thousand times, and I am going to continue to do that.

"Fifty [points] is what it is, but I am more happy that I got seven assists."

Mitchell scored 16 of the Jazz's final 20 points and urged his team to punch their ticket to the next round in Game 5.

"The job's not finished," he added.

"As good as this one feels, we won by two, and we're on to Game 5."

Luka Doncic produced a stunning moment of magic to help the Dallas Mavericks outlast the Los Angeles Clippers 135-133 in overtime in Game 4 of their Western Conference first-round series.

With the Mavericks trailing 133-132 and staring at a 3-1 deficit in the NBA playoffs, Doncic called game as the reigning Rookie of the Year nailed a buzzer-beating three in OT on Sunday.

A game-time decision due to a left ankle injury, Doncic put fitness issues aside to see the Mavericks dramatically level the series at 2-2 in Orlando, Florida.

Doncic became the youngest player in NBA playoffs history to post a 40-point triple-double as he finished with 43 points, 17 rebounds and 13 assists.

It was the 21-year-old's second successive triple-double ahead of Game 5 against the Clippers at Walt Disney World Resort.

Kawhi Leonard's 32 points were not enough for the Clippers, while Lou Williams led the team's scorers with 36.

Defending champions the Toronto Raptors flexed their muscles in a 150-122 victory over the Brooklyn Nets as they recorded a sweep in the Eastern Conference first round.

Toronto's bench contributed 100 points, the most in any game since official starters began being tracked in 1970-71 – Norman Powell (29) and Serge Ibaka (27) leading the way.

The Raptors will face the Boston Celtics in the second round after the latter swept the Philadelphia 76ers 4-0 via a 110-106 success.

 

Mitchell makes history

Donovan Mitchell became the first player in NBA history to have two games with 50-plus points and five-plus assists in a single postseason as the Utah Jazz trumped the Denver Nuggets 129-127. Mitchell scored 18 of his 51 points in the fourth quarter to help the Jazz take a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference matchup.

Nuggets star Jamal Murray also put up 50 points in the losing effort. Murray and Mitchell are the first pair of players to register 50-plus points each in a non-overtime game since Wilt Chamberlain (63) and Elgin Baylor (51) in 1962, per STATS.

It was a huge night for the Raptors. Not only did they become the first team in postseason history to score 500-plus points in a series sweep (505), Toronto also became the first playoff franchise to have 150-plus points to cap a series whitewash.

Kemba Walker's 32 points and a double-double of 28 points and 15 rebounds from Jayson Tatum fuelled the Boston Celtics. Joel Embiid was a shining light for the 76ers with 30 points and 10 rebounds.

 

Sixers' swift exit, George struggles

It was a day to forget for the 76ers. It marked the first sweep at the hands of the Celtics in 15 playoff series meetings. Philadelphia have also failed to progress beyond the second round in three consecutive seasons.

The Jazz won but Joe Ingles was scoreless. Usually a threat from beyond the arc, Ingles missed all three of his three-point attempts. The Australian was also 0 for four from the field in 35 minutes.

Paul George's struggles continued against the Mavericks. He was just three of 14 from the floor and one of seven from beyond the arc for nine points in 45 minutes.

 

Doncic's Euro step

The Slovenian star was at his brilliant best, including this move to the rim.

 

Sunday's results

Boston Celtics 110-106 Philadelphia 76ers
Dallas Mavericks 135-133 Los Angeles Clippers (OT)
Toronto Raptors 150-122 Brooklyn Nets
Utah Jazz 129-127 Denver Nuggets

 

Lakers face Trail Blazers

After his mammoth display in Game 3, LeBron James will look to help the Los Angeles Lakers take a 3-1 lead against the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday.

The Los Angeles Clippers took the lead in their series against the Dallas Mavericks, while the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors are 3-0 up.

Kawhi Leonard starred as the Clippers posted a 130-122 win over the Mavericks.

Leonard finished with 36 points, nine rebounds and eight assists as the Clippers grabbed a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference first-round series.

Mavs star Luka Doncic had a triple-double of 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, but also suffered an ankle injury.

Meanwhile, Kristaps Porzingis managed a double-double of 34 points and 13 rebounds, going 11-of-18 from the field for Dallas.

The Celtics and Raptors are each one win away from setting up an Eastern Conference semi-final.

Boston moved into a 3-0 lead over the Philadelphia 76ers thanks to a 102-94 win, while the Raptors beat the Brooklyn Nets 117-92 to be a victory away from advancing.

 

Kemba lifts Celtics, special Siakam

Kemba Walker had 24 points, eight rebounds and four assists in the Celtics' victory.

The 76ers are on the verge of a first-round exit, but Joel Embiid finished with a double-double of 30 points and 13 rebounds.

Pascal Siakam's 26 points helped the Raptors to their comfortable win.

A double-double of 24 points and 14 rebounds from Rudy Gobert helped the Utah Jazz past the Denver Nuggets 124-87. The Jazz lead the Western Conference first-round series 2-1.

Jazz guard Mike Conley went seven-of-eight from three-point range to post 27 points.

 

Terrible Temple

Garrett Temple struggled for the Nets. The forward was two-of-12 from the field, managing just five points in nearly 36 minutes.

 

Wonderful Walker

Walker contributed 14 of his 24 points in the second half for Boston.

Friday's results

Toronto Raptors 117-92 Brooklyn Nets
Utah Jazz 124-87 Denver Nuggets
Boston Celtics 102-94 Philadelphia 76ers
Los Angeles Clippers 130-122 Dallas Mavericks

 

Lakers face Trail Blazers

Having drawn level in the Western Conference first-round series, the Los Angeles Lakers face the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 3 on Saturday.

The Dallas Mavericks levelled their Western Conference first-round series after defeating the Los Angeles Clippers 127-114 in the NBA playoffs.

Luka Doncic starred as the Mavericks bounced back against Kawhi Leonard's Clippers in Game 2 at Walt Disney World Resort on Wednesday.

Doncic posted 28 points to go with eight rebounds and seven assists, while fellow star Kristaps Porzingis had 23 points in Orlando, Florida.

Leonard's game-high 35 points and 10 rebounds were not enough as Paul George (14 points and 10 rebounds) struggled shooting – the Clippers All-Star was just four of 17 from the field, and two of 10 from beyond the arc.

Game 3 between the Mavericks and Clippers is on Friday.

The Boston Celtics, meanwhile, took a commanding 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference first-round matchup after beating the Philadelphia 76ers 128-101.

Jayson Tatum led the way again with a career playoff-high 33 points to fuel Boston against rivals Philadelphia in Game 2.

The 76ers stormed out of the blocks, taking a 14-point lead early in the first quarter before the Celtics overpowered their opponents – Kemba Walker adding 22 points to go with Jaylen Brown's 20.

Joel Embiid's 34 points and 10 rebounds were not enough for the 76ers, who are under pressure as they fight to avoid an early exit.

The Celtics and 76ers will meet again on Friday in Game 3.

 

Raptors roar as VanVleet stars

Fred VanVleet impressed again as defending champions the Toronto Raptors earned a 2-0 lead over the Brooklyn Nets with a 104-99 victory. VanVleet had a double-double of 24 points and 10 assists in the first-round Eastern Conference clash. Norman Powell scored 24 points off the bench, while Kyle Lowry posted 21 points and nine rebounds.

After a playoff-record 57 points in Game 1, Donovan Mitchell registered 30 points and the Utah Jazz topped the Denver Nuggets 124-105 to level the series. Mitchell was big in the third quarter, scoring 21 of his 30 points to take down the Nuggets. Jazz team-mate Jordan Clarkson finished with a career playoff-best 26 points.

Nikola Jokic's double-double of 28 points and 11 rebounds were not enough for the Nuggets, who also had 28 points from rookie Michael Porter Jr.

 

Horford's woes continue

Al Horford and his move to the 76es has not paid off, and the former Celtics star struggled again. Back on the bench, Horford scored just four points in 23 minutes, while collecting two rebounds.

The player who started in his place, Matisse Thybulle, managed only two points in 25 minutes of action. Alec Burks was one of eight from the field and missed both of his three-point attempts.

While the Raptors won, Marc Gasol was scoreless through 17 minutes of court time. He also had three turnovers.

 

Brown's 360!

Brown produced a highlight moment – this spin and slam against the 76ers.

 

Wednesday's results

Boston Celtics 128-101 Philadelphia 76ers
Utah Jazz 124-105 Denver Nuggets
Toronto Raptors 104-99 Brooklyn Nets
Dallas Mavericks 127-114 Los Angeles Clippers

 

Trail Blazers face Lakers

The Portland Trail Blazers can take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference first-round matchup when they meet the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday.

Defending champions the Toronto Raptors made a winning start in the NBA playoffs, while the Los Angeles Clippers topped the Dallas Mavericks.

Fred VanVleet posted a playoff career-high 30 points and 11 assists as the Raptors eased past the Brooklyn Nets 134-110 in game one of the first-round Eastern Conference matchup at Walt Disney World Resort on Monday.

VanVleet became the first Raptors player in franchise history to combine 30-plus points and 10-plus assists in a playoff game.

The Raptors star was also eight of 10 from three-point range as the second-seeded Raptors drew first blood against the Nets in Orlando, Florida, where Serge Ibaka contributed 22 points off the bench.

In the day's final game, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George starred in the Clippers' 118-110 victory over the Mavericks in the Western Conference.

Leonard's double-double of 29 points and 12 rebounds, and George's 27 points fuelled the second-seeded Clippers, who emerged triumphant in the first-round opener.

 

Doncic creates history, Mitchell scores 57

While the Mavericks lost, Luka Doncic made history. The reigning Rookie of the Year's 42 points are the most in an NBA playoffs debut in league history.

Donovan Mitchell put up huge numbers. He scored a franchise playoff-record 57 points on 19 of 33 shooting from the field but the Utah Jazz lost to the Denver Nuggets 135-125 in overtime. His scoring spree surpassed the Jazz mark of 50 set by Karl Malone in 2000. Denver's game-one success in the west was inspired by Jamal Murray, who posted 10 of his 36 points in OT. Nikola Jokic added 29 points and 10 rebounds.

Jayson Tatum had career playoff highs of 32 points and 13 rebounds as the Boston Celtics beat the Philadelphia 76ers 109-101 in game one of their first-round Eastern Conference series. Jaylen Brown put up 29 points, while the 76ers were led by Joel Embiid's 26 points and 16 rebounds.

 

Turnovers cripple 76ers

Philadelphia were made to pay for their turnovers. In total, the 76ers turned the ball over on 18 occasions as the Celtics capitalised by scoring 21 points. Embiid had five turnovers of his own.

Kristaps Porzingis only managed 14 points and six rebounds for the Mavericks. He was three of nine from the field, and one of four from beyond the arc.

 

Embiid with the slam!

The 76ers All-Star was hot, especially early, against rivals the Celtics.

 

Monday's results

Denver Nuggets 135-125 Utah Jazz (OT)
Toronto Raptors 134-110 Brooklyn Nets
Boston Celtics 109-101 Philadelphia 76ers
Los Angeles Clippers 118-110 Dallas Mavericks

 

Trail Blazers face Lakers

The in-form Portland Trail Blazers will open their Western Conference first-round series against the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday. Damian Lillard's Portland secured their spot in the playoffs as the eighth seed courtesy of Saturday's play-in success against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Lakers – led by LeBron James – are making their first postseason appearance since 2013.

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.

Mike Conley has left the NBA bubble in Orlando to attend the birth of his son, the Utah Jazz announced on Sunday. 

Point guard Conley has returned to Columbus, Ohio on the eve of Utah's series opener against the Denver Nuggets at the start of the playoffs.

The 32-year-old averaged 14.4 points and 4.4 assists during the regular season, his first in Utah since arriving via a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies. 

"It's much bigger than basketball, him being there with his family and Mary is priority number one right now," Jazz team-mate Joe Ingles told the media. 

"We 100 per cent support [him] and when he's ready to come back we'll obviously have him with open arms."

The sixth-seeded Jazz are also due to play on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday in the best-of-seven series, with it remaining unclear if Conley will feature. 

Approved departures from the bubble for less than seven days require a player to quarantine for four days upon returning, provided they have tested negative for COVID-19 during their absence. 

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