NBA

NBA: Mavericks extend streak, end Rockets' run

By Sports Desk March 31, 2024

Luka Dončić delivered another sensational performance by tallying 47 points and 12 rebounds, and the Dallas Mavericks cruised to a 125-107 victory over the Houston Rockets on Sunday in a clash of the NBA's hottest teams.

Doncic added seven assists and Kyrie Irving contributed 24 points to the Mavericks' seventh consecutive win, tying a season high. Dallas also set a season best by making 24 3-pointers - with Doncic hitting nine in 16 attempts - while shooting 51.1 per cent from beyond the arc.

Houston entered the in-state matchup riding an 11-game winning streak, the franchise's longest in a single season since 2017-18. The Rockets received 28 points from Jabari Smith Jr. but two of their other core players, Jalen Green and Fred VanVleet, were held to 12 and 10 points, respectively.

Doncic accumulated 32 of his points in the first half on 12-of-18 shooting as the Mavericks built a 36-24 lead after one quarter and never trailed thereafter. The superstar guard closed out the second quarter with a three-point play that capped a 9-2 run which extended Dallas' advantage to 66-45 at half-time.

Houston never got its deficit under 15 points in the second half, and Dallas put the game completely out of reach with an 18-7 spurt that pushed its lead to 111-83 with eight minutes to go.

 

Thunder hit late shot to edge Knicks, clinch play-off spot

Shai GIlgeous-Alexander's go-ahead basket with 2.6 seconds remaining sent the Oklahoma City Thunder into the play-offs for the first time since 2020 with a thrilling 113-112 win over the New York Knicks. 

After Jalen Brunson's layup with 4.1 seconds left gave the Knicks a 112-111 lead, Gilgeous-Alexander answered by knocking down a contested turnaround jumper on the ensuing possession before Brunson misfired at the buzzer to allow Oklahoma City to secure a spot in this year's post-season.

The victory, the Thunder's seventh in their last nine games, also gave them sole possession of first place in the Western Conference. Oklahoma City entered the game tied with the Minnesota Timberwolves, who were dealt a 109-101 loss by the Chicago Bulls on Sunday, for the top spot. 

Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 19 points but wasn't the Thunder's lone star performer. Jalen Williams put up a game-high 33 points with eight rebounds while Josh Giddey compiled a triple-double with 16 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists.

Brunson paced New York with 30 points and Miles McBride added 19 in the second straight frustrating defeat for the Knicks, who lost in overtime at San Antonio on Friday.

New York appeared on the way to victory after holding an 85-75 lead after three quarters, but the Thunder opened the fourth on a 13-3 run to tie the game at 88-88 on back-to-back 3-pointers from Giddey and Kenrich Williams.

Giddey scored seven straight points later on to give Oklahoma City a 102-95 advantage with five minutes left, but the Knicks responded with a 9-2 spurt capped by Brunson's 3-pointer that knotted the score at 104-104 heading into the final three minutes.

 

Nuggets blow out Cavaliers to keep pace in West

The Thunder's lead atop the West is at a half-game over the Denver Nuggets, who came through with a 130-101 rout of the Cleveland Cavaliers behind a dominant 26-point, 18-rebound, 16-assist effort from Nikola Jokić.

Jokic notched his 22nd triple-double of the season to help the defending NBA champions lock up a play-off spot, and the Nuggets also got a season-high 22 points from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to help halt a two-game losing streak.

Down by four points midway through the second quarter, Denver outscored Cleveland by a 24-11 margin over the remainder of the first half to take a 65-56 lead into the break. 

The Nuggets then shot 62.5 per cent from the field in the third quarter to extend the margin, with Jokic amassing 10 points, five rebounds and five assists while hitting 5 of 7 field goal attempts for the period.

Denver opened the second half on a 15-2 run to build a commanding 80–58 advantage four minutes into the third quarter, and maintained a lead of at least 17 points the rest of the way.

Evan Mobley finished with 23 points on 9-of-10 shooting to lead the slumping Cavaliers, who have now lost eight of 12. Jarrett Allen added 19 points for Cleveland, but All-Star Donovan Mitchell had just 13 while missing nine of 12 field-goal attempts in his second game back from a broken nose that sidelined him six consecutive contests. 

 

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