NBA

NBA: Celtics rout short-handed Pistons for 8th consecutive win

By Sports Desk March 23, 2024

Jaylen Brown scored 33 points to lead the NBA-leading Boston Celtics to their eighth straight victory, 129-102 over the short-handed Detroit Pistons on Friday.

Payton Pritchard had 20 points and Derrick White added 19 with 11 assists for Boston, which has won 18 of 20 games to continue cruising toward the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

Leading scorer Jayson Tatum sat out to rest an ankle for the second time in five days.

James Wiseman scored a season-high 24 points for the Pistons, who have lost five in a row overall and the last nine meetings with the Celtics.

Detroit was missing its top post players in Jalen Duren (back), Stanley Umude (ankle), Simone Fontecchio (toe), Isaiah Stewart (hamstring) and Ausar Thompson (illness).

Pelicans roll over Heat

CJ McCollum scored 30 points and the New Orleans Pelicans exacted a measure of revenge on the Miami Heat with a 111-88 rout.

Jose Alvarado added 17 points and Trey Murphy had 14 with eight rebounds as the Pelicans had no trouble in the first meeting between the teams since four players were ejected in the most recent matchup in New Orleans last month.

Zion Williamson was limited to only four points in 25 minutes, but the Pelicans won their eighth in 10 games.

Jimmy Butler scored 17 points as the Heat dropped to 17-16 at home, the 19th-best mark in the league. Miami dropped four games behind Southeast Division-leading Orlando.

Thunder down reeling Raptors

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 23 points, eight assists and seven rebounds in his only regular-season trip to his native Canada and the Oklahoma City Thunder pulled away to defeat the Toronto Raptors, 123-103.

Jalen Williams added 20 points and Kenrich Williams and Cason Wallace scored 12 apiece as the Thunder won their fourth straight and remained on top of the Western Conference.

Rookie Gradey Dick scored 21 points for the Raptors, who lost their ninth straight game. Toronto was without seven players, including five regular starters.

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    LeBron James said "every seed matters" for the Los Angeles Lakers after he combined with Anthony Davis to power them past the Memphis Grizzlies and go eighth in the Western Conference.

    The Lakers entered Friday's game – their penultimate outing of the regular season – on a two-game losing streak and jockeying for position with the Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors. 

    However, James put up 37 points, nine rebounds and five assists, while Davis added 35 points as the injury-hit Grizzlies failed to hold on after going 118-117 up with one minute and six seconds left.

    James sank six points in the final minute to lift Los Angeles one game clear of Sacramento and Golden State, both of whom suffered defeats later on Friday.

    "Every game matters. Every seed matters. Wherever you fall, you can't play in the past," James said.

    "I can't say I would much rather be where we are today than be the number one seed. That would be a lie. Seeds matter, and wherever you fall, you take that challenge."

    The Lakers emerged from the Play-In Tournament to reach the Western Conference Finals last year before being dispatched by the eventual NBA champions, the Denver Nuggets.

    With coach Darvin Ham plotting a route through the postseason, he left James out on the court for 41 minutes on Friday, while Davis played 43 minutes on his return from a left eye injury which kept him out of Tuesday's loss to the Warriors. 

    Asked about the risks of keeping the duo out there, Ham said: "In the moment, you're not worried about that. You're worried about securing the victory you came to get. 

    "Everyone knows what time it is. It's that time of the year. Everyone knows what's at stake. 

    "Whatever we need, and however long we need to push guys, we've got to have it, and they understand that."

    Memphis are guaranteed to end a frustrating campaign 13th in the West, and Scotty Pippen Jr. said they were simply playing for future opportunities after scoring a career-high 28 points.

    "The emphasis going into the game was to play hard," Pippen said. "We knew they were playing for something, and they probably thought we were playing for nothing. 

    "But a lot of guys here are playing for opportunities. That's our motivation."

  • NBA: Embiid returns from injury scare, scores 32 to lead streaking 76ers NBA: Embiid returns from injury scare, scores 32 to lead streaking 76ers

    Joel Embiid shook off an apparent injury to finish with 32 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists and the Philadelphia 76ers extended their winning streak to seven with a 125-113 victory over the Orlando Magic on Friday.

    Embiid had 21 points, nine boards and seven assists in the first 17 minutes but appeared to land awkwardly on his left knee late in the first half. He limped to midcourt and gave up on the play.

    After coach Nick Nurse called timeout, Embiid went straight to the locker room. But he returned for the second half and promptly hit a 3-pointer on his first touch of the third quarter.

    Orlando, Indiana and Philadelphia are all 46-35 after the Pacers lost to Cleveland and are fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively, in the Eastern Conference.

    Franz Wagner scored 24 points and Paolo Banchero added 22 for Orlando, which dropped its third straight game. The Magic can win the Southeast Division with a victory over Milwaukee on Sunday.

    Spurs rally to stun Nuggets

    Devonte’ Graham scored on a floater in the lane with 0.9 seconds remaining and the San Antonio Spurs rallied from a 23-point deficit for a 121-120 win over the Denver Nuggets, who may have suffered a potentially damaging loss.

    The loss dropped Denver out of sole possession of first place in the Western Conference and into a tie with Minnesota and Oklahoma City. After tiebreakers, the Timberwolves are first, the Thunder and second and the Nuggets are third heading into the final day of the regular season on Sunday.

    Victor Wembanyama had 34 points and 12 rebounds for the West-worst Spurs, who trailed 76-53 early in the third quarter and were still down 17 early in the fourth.

    Jamal Murray scored 35 points and Nikola Jokić had 22 and 12 rebounds for the Nuggets, who close the regular season Sunday at Memphis.

    Thunder handle depleted Bucks

    Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 23 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder boosted their chances at capturing the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference with a 125-107 win over the short-handed Milwaukee Bucks.

    Chet Holmgren had 22 points and nine rebounds and Aaron Wiggins added 19 points for the Thunder, who won their fourth straight and ended the night tied for the top seed in the West after Denver lost to San Antonio and Minnesota beat Atlanta.

    Milwaukee played without superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo (strained left calf) and All-Star Damian Lillard (sore left adductor) and dropped into a tie with the Knicks for the No. 2 seed in the East. The Bucks can still finish second with a win at Orlando on Sunday or a New York loss to Chicago.

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    Kristaps Porzingis suggested Thursday's defeat to the New York Knicks could be just what the Boston Celtics needed ahead of the playoffs.

    The Celtics went down 118-109 to the Knicks, as New York hunt down the No.2 seed in the Eastern Conference.

    Boston have long since had their playoff berth secured, but have now lost their last two games.

    Porzingis, though, is taking the positives.

    "It stings to have this loss, but maybe we need this before heading into the postseason with a killer mentality," Porzingis said.

    "It's not who we are. This is not the team our fans love. That wasn't on display.

    "You best believe we'll show up when we have to. We know what the goal is and make no mistake about it."

    Jaylen Brown chipped in with 15 points for the Celtics, and like Porzingis, recognises Boston have not been up to scratch as of late.

    "We got out-toughed the last two games and haven't played to our standard," Brown said.

    "The game has shifted and it's going to shift even more in the playoffs."

    Jalen Brunson led the Knicks with 39 points, and New York are now just one game behind the Milwaukee Bucks in the race for the No.2 seed.

    "We made shots and made the right plays," Brunson said.

    "Obviously, we know they're the top dog in the East. Whenever you play against them, it's always a good measuring stick to see where you're at.

    "We played pretty well, but we know what they’re capable of doing. We just had their number tonight."

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