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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    Booker had 24 points in 38:21 of action before getting injured when he stepped on teammate Royce O'Neale's foot.

    Booker is averaging 27.5 points - second on the Suns behind Kevin Durant (27.8) – and leads the team with 6.8 assists per game while also averaging 4.6 rebounds.

    Booker, Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic and Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are the only three players in the NBA averaging at least 27.5 points, 6.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game.

    Phoenix (35-26) is in seventh place in the Western Conference and battling a handful of teams for positioning in an attempt to avoid the NBA Play-In Tournament.

  • LeBron James 'hated' circumstances of reaching record 40,000-point mark LeBron James 'hated' circumstances of reaching record 40,000-point mark

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    The NBA's record all-time scorer hit the latest milestone in his career in the second quarter of his side's 124-114 loss to the Denver Nuggets.

    James scored a team-high 26 points, taking his overall tally to 40,017, but it was not enough as the Lakers' two-game winning run was snapped.

    "For me, the main thing is always the main thing, and that's the win," James said after the contest at Crypto.com Arena

    "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 wasn't able to close it out. So, it's bittersweet but I enjoyed every moment tonight on the floor."

    James is averaging 25.3 points per game this season, which is currently the 17th-best return of any player.

    "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 and even 20 years ago," James added.

    The loss was the Lakers' eighth in a row against the Nuggets and continued a theme of James losing games in which he hits a milestone figure.

    James also fell short in games that saw him hit 10,000 rebounds, 10,000 assists, 30,000 points and a record 38,388 points.

    The 20-time NBA All-Star surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's 40-year points record last season and is showing no signs of letting up.

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    Asked if James' ever-growing tally will ever be surpassed, team-mate Anthony Davis said: "Possibly Steph, the way he shoots the ball, but I guess not?"

    "It's just tough because he's not finished playing, so it's only going to increase. That gap is only going to get bigger and bigger.

    "So as of right now, I don't see anybody breaking his record."

    James does not quite see it that way, though, adding: "We have a lot of great guys in our league that can score the ball.

    "If they were to stay healthy and they would play a long time, then they can eclipse it. Records are always meant to be broken. Never say never."

    The 33-29 Lakers are 10th in the Western Conference ahead of facing the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday.

  • Curry laments 'perfect storm' as Warriors demolished by Celtics Curry laments 'perfect storm' as Warriors demolished by Celtics

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    It marks the third time this season the Celtics have won by 50 points or more, meanwhile, as they racked up an 11th victory in a row.

    "The way that they've been playing, they seem very sure of themselves in their identity and who they are," Curry said. "Give them credit. 

    "They came out and whooped us from the jump, and it was a perfect storm of a rough [day] on our end and them taking it to us."

    Curry played despite being questionable, but he did not feature in the second half as he finished with a season-low tally of four points.

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    "This was not a day off for Steph, though he probably could have used one," Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said.

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    Jaylen Brown led the scoring with 29 points, while birthday boy Jayson Tatum had 26 in the Celtics' third-biggest victory in franchise history.

    Boston led by a franchise-record 44 points at the midway point and went on to extend their advantage to 51 before making some changes.

    "It feels great, but, at the same time, it's always within humility," Brown said. "We don't take the game for granted. 

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    "It's a lot of respect for the Golden State Warriors, but we feel like it's our time now."

    The 48-12 Celtics lead the Eastern Conference, while the Warriors are ninth in the Western Conference with a record of 32-28. 

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