NBA

Miami lose top seed as Brooklyn roll, Memphis move to 17-2 without Morant

By Sports Desk March 26, 2022

The Miami Heat's slide continued on Saturday, with a disappointing 110-95 home defeat against the Brooklyn Nets making it four losses on the trot.

Miami entered the week multiple games clear of the chasing pack, but after the loss against the Nets, the Philadelphia 76ers usurped the Heat as the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

The race for home-court advantage throughout the Eastern playoffs is far from over, as the top four teams, including the Milwaukee Bucks and the Boston Celtics, are only separated by a half-game.

Things were ugly early for the Heat, with its once-feared defence giving up 40 points in just the second quarter to hand the Nets a 67-46 half-time lead, which was never threatened.

Kevin Durant led a balanced offensive performance from the Nets, finishing with a team-high 23 points on seven-of-14 shooting, while seven of his teammates scored at least eight points each.

The win was Brooklyn's seventh from their past nine games, with Kyrie Irving set to make his home debut the next time out against the Charlotte Hornets.

No Morant, no problem

The Memphis Grizzlies passed another real test when the Milwaukee Bucks came to town, sending the reigning champions home with their tails between their legs after a 127-102 result.

In one of the more unlikely storylines of this season, the Grizzlies are now 17-2 in games where their best player and MVP candidate Ja Morant has not played.

Emerging franchise centrepiece Desmond Bane rose to the occasion, scoring 20 points on nine-of-19 shooting to go with five assists, while Defensive Player of the Year candidate Jaren Jackson Jr blocked two shots and snatched one steal to go with his 16 points and six rebounds.

Kings rookie continues to break out, Bulls finally beat a good team

With De'Aaron Fox missing yet again, Sacramento Kings rookie Davion Mitchell had his third consecutive game with at least 22 points and seven assists in his side's 114-110 overtime win against the Orlando Magic.

Mitchell's line of 22 points (10-of-23 from the field) with seven rebounds and nine assists comes after games of 25 points and seven assists against the Indiana Pacers, and 28 points with nine assists against the Phoenix Suns.

Meanwhile, after entering the game with a sputtering record of 3-10 in their past 13 games, the Chicago Bulls collected a much-needed 98-94 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Since February 12, Chicago have only beaten two teams who currently occupy playoff spots – the Cavaliers, and the Toronto Raptors.

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  • Celtics obliterate Warriors 140-88, hold Curry to just four points Celtics obliterate Warriors 140-88, hold Curry to just four points

    Stephen Curry's first basket Sunday tied the score between the Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics midway through the first quarter.

    The next time he made a shot, the Warriors trailed by 32 points.

    The Celtics annihilated Curry and the Warriors, cruising to a 140-88 drubbing to extend their season-best winning streak to 11 games.

    The victory marked the third-largest winning margin in franchise history as Boston set an NBA record with its third win by 50 or more points this season.

     

    After Curry's floating bank shot tied the game at 21 with 6:05 to play in the opening period, Boston went on a 22-3 run en route to a franchise-record 44-point half-time lead.

    Curry's only other basket came with 4:24 remaining in the second quarter, as his four points marked his fewest since he scored just three on March 16, 2022 at Boston - a game he departed after playing just 16 minutes due to a foot injury.

    The 10-time All-Star missed all nine of his 3-point attempts and didn't play after half-time.

    The Celtics had no such trouble making their baskets, connecting on 51.0 per cent of their 3-point tries, hitting a season high-tying 25 shots from beyond the 3-point arc.

    Jaylen Brown had a game-high 29 points in just 22 minutes, while Jayson Tatum had 27 points on 9-of-13 shooting on his 26th birthday.

    Payton Pritchard added 19 points for the Celtics, who shot 60 per-cent in the first half to go into the break with an 82-38 lead, and led by as much as 56 points.

    At 48-12, Boston has its best record through 60 games since 2007-08 - the last season the franchise won the NBA title.

    Golden State (32-28) arrived in Boston having won 11 of 13, including eight straight on the road.

    None of the Warriors starters played more than 20 minutes, as reserve Lester Quinones had a team-high 17 points in 33 minutes.

     

    Thunder escape in Phoenix to move back atop West

    The Oklahoma City Thunder survived a furious rally by the Phoenix Suns to pull out an impressive 118-110 road win to move atop Western Conference.

    Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 36 points, nine rebounds and nine assists to help the Thunder bounce back from Thursday's 132-118 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.

    The victory marked Oklahoma City's seventh in eight games as the Thunder (42-18) moved into sole possession of first place in the West for the first time since January 27.

    Oklahoma City looked like it was going to cruise to an easy win, going up by 24 points on Gilgeous-Alexander's jump shot with 6:56 left in the third quarter.

    The Suns (35-26) stormed back, however, going on a 31-5 run and taking a 91-89 lead Royce O'Neale's 3-pointer just over one minute into the fourth period.

    Phoenix built its lead to six points before Oklahoma City rallied once more, taking the lead for good at 105-103 on Jalen Williams' driving layup with 5:29 to play.

     

    Jusuf Nurkic established a Phoenix franchise record with 31 rebounds - the most by any player in the NBA since Kevin Love also had 31 for the Minnesota Timberwolves on November 12, 2010.

    Nurkic's previous career high for rebounds was 23 and he broke the Suns' record of 27 set by Tyson Chandler on January 23, 2016.

    He also had 14 points and four assists for Phoenix, which was playing without Devin Booker after he sprained his right ankle in Saturday's 118-109 loss to the Houston Rockets.

    Bradley Beal led the Suns with 31 points and six assists but also accounted for seven of Phoenix's 21 turnovers.

    Kevin Durant, who added 20 points, turned the ball over five times, along with Nurkic.

     

    Brunson exits early but Knicks get past Cavaliers

    Things looked bleak early for New York when Jalen Bunson got hurt in the opening minute, but the Knicks managed to overcome the loss of their All-Star guard for a 107-98 road win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    Brunson was injured on New York's first possession when his left knee hit the knee of team-mate Isaiah Hartenstein as he lifted off the ground while attempting a jump shot after coming off a screen from Hartenstein near the foul line.

    He sat on the court holding his left leg and needed to be helped to the locker room.

    The injury is not believed to be serious with coach Tom Thibodeau saying after the game that X-rays were negative. 

    That's good news for a banged-up Knicks team already without starters Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson and O.G. Anunoby because of injuries.

    Brunson, who was diagnosed with a knee contusion, entered the game against the Cavaliers averaging 30.2 points in his last six games.

    Josh Hart and Donte DiVincenzo stepped up in Brunson's absence for the Knicks (36-25), as Hart finished with 13 points, a career high-tying 19 rebounds and 10 assists, while DiVincenzo scored 28.

     

    Reserve Miles McBride entered New York's lineup after Brunson was injured, and was never subbed out, finishing with 16 points and four 3-pointers - including a clutch 3 in the final minute to put the Knicks up by nine.

    Playing without Donovan Mitchell for a second straight game because of left knee soreness, the Cavaliers (39-21) fell apart late, missing 5 of 6 shots while turning the ball over four times in the final four minutes.

    Backup Sam Merrill led Cleveland with 21 points while making 7-of-13 3-point attempts and Darius Garland added 19 points and went 5 of 8 from beyond the arc. 

  • James after reaching 40,000 NBA points: 'Records are always meant to be broken' James after reaching 40,000 NBA points: 'Records are always meant to be broken'

    LeBron James cannot discount another player going on to reach 40,000 NBA points, as he celebrated reaching the milestone despite a Los Angeles Lakers loss.

    The Lakers lost 124-114 to the Denver Nuggets on Saturday, though with a haul of 26 points, James reached 40,017 points.

    When James reached nine points, he was presented with the game ball and received an ovation from the crowd at the Crypto.com arena.

    Coincidentally, James surpassed the 40,000 mark on the 62nd anniversary of Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game for the Philadelphia Warriors against the New York Knicks.

    While teammate Anthony Davis believes no other player will come close to matching James' points haul, James himself warned records are there to be broken, even though no other active player has yet reached 30,000 career points.

    "Obviously we have a lot of great guys in our league that can score the ball, and if they were to stay healthy and they would play a long time, then they can eclipse it," James said.

    "And then, records are always meant to be broken. You can never say never for any record. At one point we said that Big O's [Oscar Robertson's] triple-double record would never be broken and Russ [Westbrook] did it, and now looks like Joker [Nikola Jokic] and Luka [Doncic], they're doing it every night.

    "I feel like I'm still that threat out on the floor and I am still able to do the things that I was doing 10 years ago. And some things I was doing 20 years ago, which is weird to say."

    Davis did joke, though, that James' record-setting games usually come in defeats for the Lakers.

    "I was just telling him in the locker room he might have to stop breaking records because we always lose any time he breaks a record," Davis said. "And he said the same thing."

    Indeed, that streak is quite something. James was on the losing side when he reached his 30,000th and 35,000th career points. When he became the all-time leading NBA points scorer last year, the Lakers lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    "For me, the main thing is always the main thing, and that's the win," James said.

    "I hated that it had to happen in the defeat, especially versus the team that plays extremely well. We played some good basketball tonight, but weren't able to close it out. So, bittersweet but enjoyed every moment tonight on the floor."

  • NBA: James reaches 40,000 points but Nuggets win 6th straight NBA: James reaches 40,000 points but Nuggets win 6th straight

    LeBron James scored his 40,000th point, but the Denver Nuggets closed strong and won their sixth straight game, 124-114 over the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.

    James finished with 26 points and nine assists while reaching his latest milestone on a layup with 10:39 left in the second quarter. He extended his lead as the league’s career scoring leader.

    Nikola Jokić had 35 points and 10 rebounds, Michael Porter Jr. added 25 and 10 and Jamal Murray had 24 points, 11 assists and six boards to help Denver get within one-half game of Minnesota for the Northwest Division lead.

    The Nuggets closed the game on a 16-6 run, with Aaron Gordon’s 3-pointer with 3:49 left putting them ahead for good.

    Jokic made a turnaround hook before Murray hit a jumper and Justin Holiday converted a running layup for a 117-110 advantage. After Anthony Davis’s basket got the Lakers within 117-112 with 1:49 left, Murray made a layup and Jokic added a layup of his own.

    Booker injures ankle in Suns’ loss

    Jalen Green poured in 34 points with six 3-pointers to lead the Houston Rockets to a 118-109 win over the Phoenix Suns, who lost star guard Devin Booker to an ankle injury.

    Booker left late in the game after he injured his right ankle when he stepped on teammate Royce O’Neale’s foot. Booker had 24 points in 38 minutes before departing.

    Fred VanVleet scored 24 points and Alperen Sengun added 21 with 10 rebounds as the Rockets snapped a three-game skid and avenged Thursday’s loss at Phoenix.

    Kevin Durant had 30 points for the Suns, who had a nine-game home winning streak snapped.

    Butler leads Heat past Jazz

    Jimmy Butler scored 18 of his season-high 37 points in the third quarter and the Miami Heat defeated the Utah Jazz 126-120 for their 10th win in 13 games.

    Bam Adebayo added 23 points and Caleb Martin had 18 for the Heat, who beat the Jazz at home for the seventh straight time.

    Butler hit all three of his 3-point attempts and had a steal, extending his streak of having at least one 3 and one steal to 13 consecutive games – the fourth-longest run in the NBA this season and tying Tim Hardaway for the second-longest such streak in Heat history.

    Keyonte George scored 31 points and Lauri Markkanen added 25 as the Jazz lost their third straight and eighth in nine games.

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