NBA

Harden leads 76ers' late run as Mavs suffer playoffs blow, Durant returns and Kings end 17-year drought

By Sports Desk March 30, 2023

The Dallas Mavericks' playoff hopes suffered another setback after James Harden inspired the Philadelphia 76ers' fourth-quarter charge on Wednesday.

The Mavs, who had lost seven of their previous 10 games coming into the contest, led 91-89 at three-quarter time at Wells Fargo Center before the home side rallied to triumph 116-108, clinching their 50th win of the season.

Harden provided the assists for all of Philadelphia's points during a 10-0 run that flipped the contest, condemning the Mavs to a 37-40 record and leaving them in danger of missing the playoffs and play-in tournament in the Western Conference. Dallas failed to score in the final 3:18 of the game.

Joel Embiid returned from a one-game, calf-injury-enforced absence to boost his MVP aspirations with 25 points and nine rebounds, while Harden had 15 points and 12 assists.

Harden's partnership with Embiid was on full show, with the pair holding the NBA's best single-season record over the past 25 years for assists by one player to another, averaging 4.8 per game, ahead of Sacramento Kings duo Rajon Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins (4.0 in the 2015-16 season).

For the Mavs, Luka Doncic had 24 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, while Kyrie Irving added 23 points.

Philadelphia's 50th win from their 76th game of the campaign marks the fewest amount of games required to reach that mark in franchise history since 2001.

The 50-26 76ers are third in the East, behind the Milwaukee Bucks (55-21) and the Boston Celtics (52-24).

The Bucks routed the Indiana Pacers 149-136 led by Jrue Holiday's career-high 51 points and a Giannis Antetokounmpo triple-double.

Kings end NBA's longest playoff drought

Sacramento ended their 17-year playoffs wait, the longest drought in NBA history, thanks to a 120-80 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Kings pulled away with a lopsided 70-34 second half, led by Domantas Sabonis (15 points and 12 rebounds) and De'Aaron Fox (18 points and six assists), while Keegan Murray passed Donovan Mitchell for the most threes made by a rookie (188) in his 13 points.

Sacramento clinching their playoff spot came amid a chaotic night in the West, with Jalen Williams' buzzer-beating tip-in earning the 10th-placed Oklahoma City Thunder a 107-106 win over the Detroit Pistons. OKC occupy the final play-in spot.

Russell Westbrook scored 36 points as the fifth-placed Los Angeles Clippers ended the second-placed Memphis Grizzlies' seven-game winning streak with a 141-132 victory, while the taunts continued as the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Chicago Bulls 121-110.

Durant returns as Suns firm up fourth seed

Kevin Durant made his long-awaited home debut as he returned from a 10-game absence due to a sprained ankle, but he was rusty as the Phoenix Suns overcame the Minnesota Timberwolves 107-100.

Durant shot five-of-18 from the field for 16 points with eight rebounds and four assists. Devin Booker top-scored for the Suns with 29 points on eight-of-18 shooting from the field.

The 2014 MVP Durant shot two-of-four from three-point range, both in the fourth quarter, holding off the Timberwolves who drew level in the final period, with the win helping the Suns improve to 41-35 to sit fourth in the West.

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    LeBron James starred as the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the New Orleans Pelicans to reach the NBA play-offs.

    The 39-year-old scored 23 points in the Lakers’ 110-106 victory and also contributed nine rebounds, nine assists and three steals.

    The Lakers go into the play-offs as the seventh seed and will face defending champions the Denver Nuggets in the first round.

    Speaking to reporters, James said: “It was a good all-round team win. This was a long road trip, you almost forget we were in Memphis before these two games.

    “Tonight was definitely a play-off game so get your mind right, get your body right, try to get as much recovery as we can before we have to go out there on Saturday.

    “It’s a sprint now, we already went through the marathon. Tonight we showcased what we’re able to do both offensively and defensively. We’ve got a good group going right now, a good rotation, good plan and guys are coming in ready to go.”

    James, who will compete in the play-offs for the 17th time in 21 seasons, feels his team have their work cut out against the Nuggets.

    “It’s the defending champion, they know what it takes, they know how to win, they’ve been extremely dominant at home over the last few years,” he said.

    “They’ve got high-level players, high IQ players, they’ve got a hell of a coach. We have to play mistake-free basketball and make it tough on them.”

  • NBA: Lakers top Pelicans for playoff spot; Warriors eliminated with loss to Kings NBA: Lakers top Pelicans for playoff spot; Warriors eliminated with loss to Kings

    LeBron James tallied 23 points, nine rebounds and nine assists and the Los Angeles Lakers overcame Zion Williamson’s 40 points to clinch a playoff berth with a 110-106 win over the New Orleans Pelicans in the Western Conference play-in tournament on Tuesday night.

    D’Angelo Russell added 21 points with five 3-pointers and Anthony Davis had 20 points and 15 rebounds for the Lakers, who advanced to face the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets in a rematch of last season's West finals.

    Williamson shot 17 of 27 and had 11 rebounds and five assists in his postseason debut before he went to the locker room after tying the game at 95 on a driving layup with 3:19 remaining. He threw a towel to the floor in disgust as he walked into the tunnel with what coach Willie Green called “left leg soreness.”

    Williamson didn’t get much help, as Brandon Ingram scored 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting and CJ McCollum was limited to nine on 4 of 15, including 1 of 9 from 3-point range.

    Soon after Williamson’s injury, James hit a jumper, Davis dunked on an alley-oop, Russell drained a 3 and Davis grabbed a crucial offensive rebound, then hit two key free throws.

    New Orleans will take on Sacramento on Friday for the final playoff spot in the West.

     

    Kings roll to eliminate Warriors

    Keegan Murray scored 32 points with eight 3-pointers and every Sacramento starter scored in double figures as the Kings cruised to a 118-94 victory to eliminate the Golden State Warriors and stay alive in the play-in tournament.

    Harrison Barnes scored 17 points, Domantas Sabonis added 16, 12 rebounds and seven assists and Keon Ellis contributed 15 points as the Kings moved on to a matchup with New Orleans on Friday with a chance to return to the playoffs as the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

    Golden State was kept out of the playoffs for the third time in five seasons, including two eliminations in the play-in tournament. The Warriors committed 16 turnovers, gave up 15 offensive rebounds and missed 23 of 33 from long range.

    Stephen Curry had 22 points, but Klay Thompson didn’t score and missed all 10 shots from the field.

  • Heat anticipating 'dog fight' with 76ers – Martin Heat anticipating 'dog fight' with 76ers – Martin

    The Miami Heat are anticipating a "dog fight" in their play-in matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers, according to forward Caleb Martin.

    The 8th-seeded Heat face the 7th-seeded Sixers - who have listed Joel Embiid as questionable - at Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday.

    Defeat for the Heat would see them in a win-or-go-home contest, but victory would see them open the playoffs against the New York Knicks.

    Speaking ahead of the showdown with the Sixers, Martin is quoted by the Miami Herald as saying: "Everybody knows what's at stake going into that building, including them.

    "We just expect a dog fight. We went through a lot of difficult games this year, over the last couple years, to get us prepared for these types of moments.

    "So we'll definitely come in with the right mentality."

    An injury-ravaged Heat ended the regular season with a record of 46-36, including a run of 7-3 across their final 10 games.

    The Heat hope to have Duncan Robinson back after a four-game absence through a back injury, but Terry Rozier has been ruled out.

    Miami and Philadelphia split the season series, and Heat center Bam Adebayo sees no reason why his side cannot come out on top this time around.

    "We've been in a lot of big games before," he said. "We've all experienced it. We've been to the Finals. We understand what's at stake."

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