NBA

NBA: Rockets earn 11th straight win, Timberwolves triumph in Nuggets showdown

By Sports Desk March 30, 2024

Jalen Green scored 30 of his 34 points in the second half, including a pair of late free throws, and the Houston Rockets edged the Utah Jazz for their 11th consecutive NBA win on Friday.

Fred VanVleet added 22 points and Amen Thompson had 18 points and 14 rebounds for the Rockets, who have won 12 of 13 games to remain one game behind the Golden State Warriors for the final play-in spot in the Western Conference.

Houston trailed the entire first half but swung momentum their way during a third-quarter scoring outburst from Green.

He had five of the Rockets' first six baskets of the second half to power a 20-7 run that put Houston up 61-54.

Green scored 20 of his team's 28 points in the quarter and Houston ultimately edged it 101-100.

Timberwolves win showdown with Nuggets

Anthony Edwards scored 25 points and Mike Conley added 23 with eight assists as the surging Minnesota Timberwolves moved atop the Western Conference with a 111-98 win over the Denver Nuggets.

Rudy Gobert had 21 points and 11 rebounds while Jaden McDaniels contributed 17 points as the Wolves won their fourth straight and seventh in eight games to tie Oklahoma City for first place in the West.

Nikola Jokic had 32 points and 10 rebounds for the Nuggets, who lost their second in a row and were without star point guard Jamal Murray for a fourth consecutive game.

Lakers' winning streak ends at five

Pascal Siakam and Tyrese Haliburton thrived as the Indiana Pacers beat the Los Angeles Lakers 109-90 in a game which had playoff implications for both teams.

The Lakers came into the game having won their last five, but Siakam finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds, while Haliburton added 21 points, eight assists and eight rebounds for the victorious hosts.

Indiana has won four of six to retain the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference, while the Lakers are trying to improve their playoff positioning from the No. 9 seed in the West.

All-Stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis both started despite being injury doubts.

Davis finished with 24 points and 15 rebounds, while James had 16 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. But the Lakers struggled from deep, going five of 29 on 3-pointers and committing 16 turnovers. five of which came from James.

The Pacers led for almost all the game and it was a sweet result for coach Rick Carlisle after his team had previously lost to the Lakers in the final of the NBA's inaugural In-Season Tournament and again been beaten 150-145 in Los Angeles five days before this contest.

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    The New York Knicks are under no illusions as to the importance of securing home-court advantage for the Eastern Conference playoffs, with Friday's win over the Brooklyn Nets keeping them in the hunt for the second seed.

    The Knicks drew level with the Milwaukee Bucks at 49-32 with their 111-107 win at Madison Square Garden, boosting their chances of playing at the iconic venue through the postseason.

    Jalen Brunson put up 30 points and added 11 assists as the Knicks made it four straight victories, with Josh Hart adding 16 and Mitchell Robinson tacking on 15.

    The result saw New York secure a top-four seed, with the Bucks' subsequent 125-107 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder keeping their chances of finishing second in the East alive.

    With the Bucks possessing the head-to-head tiebreaker, the Knicks must beat the Chicago Bulls in their season finale on Sunday and hope Milwaukee lose on the road against the Orlando Magic. If both teams lose, the Cleveland Cavaliers could yet usurp them.

    Asked about the importance of playing at home, Hart said: "I heard the lights are really bright at MSG during that time, so it's really big for us."

    Coach Tom Thibodeau, though, said the team cannot control anything other than their own results, saying: "We want to go through the finish line so that's the way we're looking at it. We want to improve and play our best."

    With Giannis Antetokounmpo sidelined by a left calf injury and Damian Lillard missing out due to pain in his left adductor, the short-handed Bucks let the Knicks into the race with their loss at Paycom Center.

    Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 23 points and Chet Holmgren added 22 as the Thunder eased to victory, establishing a 17-point halftime lead which they never looked likely to surrender.

    Asked about Milwaukee's failure to wrap up second place, Bucks coach Doc Rivers said: "I don't have much of a reaction. We've got to run to the finish line.

    "The good news is, no matter what, we'll be at home for game one. That we do know."

    That result was also an important one in the race to top the Western Conference, with the Thunder now locked in a three-way tie with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets.

    It's in Oklahoma City's hands going into their season finale against the Dallas Mavericks, with Mark Daigneault's team edging the three-way tiebreaker.

    "I think the big exponential jumps come from small incremental steps," Daigneault said after Friday's game. "I talk all the time about stacking and we really are trying to live that out. 

    "We just try to have a good day in the day that's in front of us, have a good possession in the possession that's in front of us, a good game in the game that's in front of us and just be very present in the process of improving and competing."

  • 'Every seed matters' for LeBron James as Lakers outlast Grizzlies 'Every seed matters' for LeBron James as Lakers outlast Grizzlies

    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. 

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  • 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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