Monty Williams has enjoyed a good run of success as coach of the Phoenix Suns but his inability to lead the team to a championship has cost him his job.

The Suns fired Williams on Saturday, two days after they were eliminated by the Denver Nuggets in Game 6 of their Western Conference semifinal series.

"I take that personally, not having our team ready to play in the biggest game of the year," Williams said following the loss.

"That’s something that I pride myself on and it just didn’t happen. That’s something I have to take a deep look at, everything I’m doing."

Williams just completed his fourth season as Phoenix’s coach, finishing his tenure with a 194-115 record, including a trip to the 2021 NBA Finals, which the Suns lost to the Milwaukee Bucks.

He was named the NBA’s Coach of the Year in 2022 after guiding the Suns to a league-best 64-18 record.

A second straight blowout loss at home in an elimination game was likely the biggest factor in Phoenix’s decision.

Last season, the Suns lost 123-90 to the Dallas Mavericks in Game 6 of the conference finals and were routed by the Nuggets 125-100 in Game 6 again on Thursday. Phoenix trailed by 30 at the half in both games.

The Suns join the Toronto Raptors and Bucks as teams currently without head coaches. Toronto fired Nick Nurse after he won the 2019 NBA title and Milwaukee fired Mike Budenholzer, the coach who beat the Suns in the 2021 finals.

LeBron James led five players in double figures with 30 points and the Los Angeles Lakers continued their late-season surge with a 122-101 rout of the Golden State Warriors on Friday to advance to the Western Conference finals.

Austin Reaves scored 23 points, D'Angelo Russell added 19 and Anthony Davis showed no ill effects from a head injury in Game 5 with 17 points and 20 rebounds.

Los Angeles improved to 6-0 at home in these playoffs and is back in the West finals for the first time since beating Denver en route to the 2019-20 NBA title. The seventh-seeded Lakers will visit the top-seeded Nuggets on Tuesday.

The Lakers scored the game's first basket and never trailed, leading 56-46 at halftime. The Warriors got as close as 91-80 early in the fourth quarter before the Lakers reeled off the next 11 points to essentially put the game away.

Defending champion Golden State shot just 37.9 percent from the field and missed 35 of 48 from 3-point range. Stephen Curry scored 32 points on 11-of-28 shooting, while Klay Thompson struggled again with eight points on 3 of 19 from the field. The duo combined to shoot 6 of 26 from beyond the arc.

The Lakers haven’t lost back-to-back games since March 17, and have won 11 of their last 12 at home.

Heat book return trip to East finals

Jimmy Butler scored seven of his 24 points down the stretch and the Miami Heat again earned a spot in the Eastern Conference finals with a 96-92 win over the New York Knicks in Game 6 on Friday.

Bam Adebayo had 23 points and nine rebounds and Max Strus chipped in 14 points for Miami, which returns to the East finals for the third time in four years and 10th time overall.

Miami became the second No. 8 seed in NBA history to make the conference finals - joining the 1999 Knicks. The Heat will visit Boston or Philadelphia in Game 1 on Wednesday. The Celtics and 76ers play Game 7 of their series Sunday.

Jalen Brunson was stellar again for New York with 41 points on 14-of-22 shooting, including 5 of 10 from 3-point range. He sank two free throws following a flagrant foul on Gabe Vincent and Josh Hart's layup four seconds later drew the Knicks within 92-90 with less than a minute remaining.

New York had a chance to tie after Butler missed a jumper, but Kyle Lowry picked off Brunson's pass and that led to two free throws by Butler with 14 seconds left. Strus closed the scoring with a pair from the line four seconds later.

The Knicks got little offense from Julius Randle and RJ Barrett, who combined for 26 points on 4-of-24 shooting and 1 of 10 from long range.

Nikola Jokic scored 21 of his 32 points in a dominant first half and notched another triple-double as the Denver Nuggets punched their ticket to the Western Conference finals with a 125-100 rout of the Phoenix Suns on Thursday.

Jamal Murray had 26 points and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 21 as the Nuggets became the first team in the series to win on the road. They return to the West finals for the second time in four seasons after losing to the Lakers in the Florida bubble during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019-20.

Denver essentially put the game away with a dominant first quarter, using a 23-2 run to take a 44-26 lead into the second. Caldwell-Pope had nine points during the surge and Jokic added eight. Phoenix never got closer than 15 points for the duration of the second half.

With 10 rebounds and 12 assists, Jokic earned this third triple-double in this series and 11th in his postseason career. Only LeBron James, Magic Johnson and Russell Westbrook have more.

Cameron Payne led the Suns with 31 points on 12-of-16 shooting as Kevin Durant (23 points) and Devin Booker (12) were never factors in a must-win scenario.

Phoenix played without injured starters Deandre Ayton and Chris Paul. Ayton sustained a rib contusion in Tuesday’s Game 5 while Paul has been out the past four games with a strained left groin.

Tatum bounces back late to keep Celtics' season alive

Jayson Tatum erased a dismal shooting night with four late 3-pointers and the Boston Celtics forced Game 7 with a 95-86 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

After missing his first six 3-point attempts, Tatum keyed a late 14-3 run by making four of his final five from deep, including two on consecutive possessions to give Boston an 87-83 lead with 3:35 to play. He sank another long-range shot with under two minutes left and his final 3 with 38 seconds remaining put the Celtics up 95-84.

Tatum, who missed 14 of his first 15 shots, finished with 19 points on 5-of-21 shooting with nine rebounds and six assists. He outscored the 76ers alone in the fourth quarter, with 16 points to Philly's 13.

Marcus Smart scored 22 points, Jaylen Brown had 17 and Malcolm Brogdon added 16 to help the Celtics avoid a third straight loss and send the series back to Boston for Game 7 on Sunday.

Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey each scored 26 points for the 76ers, while James Harden struggled again with 13 points on 4-of-16 shooting, missing all six 3-point attempts. Tobias Harris was a non-factor with two points on 1 of 7 from the field in 42 minutes.

The Los Angeles Lakers expect to have Anthony Davis on the court as they again attempt to close out the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of their Western Conference semi-final series on Friday.

After exiting Wednesday’s 121-106 loss with a head injury, Davis apparently is not in the concussion protocol, according to reports, and should be ready to play.

The league’s concussion protocol prohibits a player diagnosed with a concussion from playing in a game that same day or the next calendar day.

An official injury report will be released later Thursday.

Davis’ availability appeared murky after he was inadvertently hit in the head and was reportedly feeling woozy and required a wheelchair to go to the locker room.

Immediate tests after the game were encouraging, however, according to Lakers coach Darvin Ham.

“He seems to be doing really good already,” Ham told reporters after the game.

Davis was injured with 7:43 to go in the fourth quarter when Kevon Looney’s elbow hit him in the head as the two were converging under the basket on D’Angelo Russell’s driving layup.

The 6-foot-10 superstar stayed in the game until the Lakers’ next possession before taking a seat on the bench.

Prior to leaving, Davis was in the midst of another solid game, totalling 23 points on 10-of-18 shooting to go with nine rebounds and three assists. However, he did fail to block a shot for a second straight game after blocking 11 shots in the first three games of the series.

Leading 101-88 when Davis exited, the Warriors remained in control the rest of the way to keep their season alive and cut the Lakers’ advantage in this best-of-seven series to 3-2.

The series now shifts back to Los Angeles, where the Lakers are 5-0 this postseason.

Joel Embiid may have finally been named as NBA's MVP but winning the championship with the Philadelphia 76ers would push his legacy to "new heights".

That was the message from Embiid's former team-mate Perry Ellis, who played with the 76ers star during his one-year stint of college basketball at the Kansas Jayhawks.

Embiid finished runner-up to Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic in the previous two seasons but claimed the MVP award this time around after leading the league with a 33.1 points-per-game average.

The six-time NBA All-Star now has his sights on a first championship of his career, attempting to end the 76ers' long-awaited road to glory since last triumphing way back in 1983.

Philadelphia lead the Boston Celtics 3-2 in their second-round playoff series and Ellis believes success for the 76ers would represent a landmark moment in Embiid's already illustrious career.

"It'll be huge for them for, legacy wise, and just for him, mentally, mindset wise, to say you got past that stage," Ellis told Stats Perform.

"We're moving forward, we're pushing to new heights, and I think that would be big for his career. And overall, mentally, I think that'll take him to the next step.

"He's an MVP now but it's even more, just taking it to another step. So I think that's what it could do."

Jokic and Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo were the other two frontrunners for the MVP award this year, although Embiid's late-season exploits propelled him to the individual accolade.

Doc Rivers declared the MVP race "over" after Embiid scored 52 points against the Celtics in the last week of the regular season, with Ellis revelling in his former teammate's exploits.

"Before he was so close, over the last couple of years," Ellis added. "And this year, he finally got it. I was just so excited for him, he was a teammate of mine for a year.

"Just from that little stint, I could see how much he was growing as a player and he only started playing basketball at maybe 15 years old or so.

"Everybody could see how good he can be. So I had no doubt that someday he could be that type of player."

Embiid hit 30 points for a third straight game in the last outing against the Celtics, offering the 76ers the chance to secure their first NBA Finals appearance since 2001 with victory in the next meeting on Thursday.

Stephen Curry led a balanced attack with 27 points and the Golden State Warriors notched a season-extending 121-106 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals on Wednesday.

Facing elimination, the defending champion Warriors took the lead late in the second quarter and never trailed again to force the series back to Los Angeles for Game 6 on Friday.

Andrew Wiggins had 25 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while Draymond Green had his best game of the series with 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting, nine boards and four assists.

Gary Payton II (13 points), Jordan Poole (11) and Klay Thompson (10) also reached double figures for Golden State.

The Warriors led by as many as 17 in the third quarter, but the Lakers trimmed the deficit to 104-95 on Austin Reaves' 3-pointer with 5:25 remaining. Curry, however, sank a jumper and a three to put Golden State up 14.

LeBron James scored 25 points and Anthony Davis had 23 and nine rebounds before he left in the fourth quarter after taking what appeared to be an inadvertent elbow to the head from Golden State's Kevon Looney. Davis grabbed his head grimacing before going to the locker room late in the game.

Brunson goes distance as Knicks force Game 6

Jalen Brunson scored 38 points and the New York Knicks kept their season alive with a 112-103 victory over the Miami Heat in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.

Brunson played all 48 minutes, shot 12 of 22 from the field and hit 4 of 10 3-pointers while adding nine rebounds and seven assists.

RJ Barrett added 26 points, including four free throws in the final two minutes to preserve the lead, and Julius Randle scored 24 with four threes to get New York within 3-2 in the series.

Jimmy Butler led Miami with 19 points and Bam Adebayo had 18 and eight boards. Duncan Robinson scored 17 points and hit three of his five 3s in the fourth quarter as the eighth-seeded Heat nearly came all the way back after trailing by 19 in the third quarter.

Miami got the deficit down to 103-101 before Isaiah Hartenstein slammed home a follow dunk with 2:07 left. Barrett followed with a pair of free throws and hit another two after Adebayo's dunk to make it 109-103 with under a minute remaining.

The fifth-seeded Knicks will try to force the series back to New York with a road win in Game 6 on Friday.

Joel Embiid can add an All-NBA First Team selection to his resume.

A week after being voted as the league’s most valuable player for the 2022-23 season, the Philadelphia 76ers center was named to the All-NBA First Team for the first time in his career after being selected to the All-NBA Second Team four times.

The All-NBA teams were announced Wednesday, and joining Embiid on the first team is guards Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and forwards Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks and Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics.

The second team consists of guards Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors and Donovan Mitchell of the Cleveland Cavaliers, forwards Jaylen Brown of the Celtics and Jimmy Butler of the Miami Heat and center Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets.

The third team features Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, New York Knicks forward Julius Randle, Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard and a pair of Sacramento Kings teammates in guard De’Aaron Fox and center Domantas Sabonis.

This marks James’ third time named to the All-NBA Third Team to go with three selections to the All-NBA Second Team and 13 selections to the All-NBA First Team. James’ 19 total selections are the most in NBA history and four more than his closest challengers – Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Antetokounmpo, who won the league MVP in 2018-19 and 2019-20, is on the All-NBA First Team for the fifth time, while Jokic, the league MVP the past two seasons, is on the All-NBA Second Team for the second time after being named to the All-NBA First Team three times.

Doncic’s on the All-NBA First Team for the fourth straight season, Tatum’s on it for the second year in a row and Gilgeous-Alexander is included on an All-NBA team for the first time in his five-year career.

Antetokounmpo was the only unanimous selection, appearing on all 100 ballots, while Tatum received 92 first-team votes. Embiid earned 87, Gilgeous-Alexander got 63 and Doncic 60.

The All-NBA teams will have a different look next year, as the teams will no longer be broken down by the traditional positions of two guards, two forwards and a center.

Embiid was a victim of the position breakdown the past two years, as he was a runner-up to fellow center Jokic in MVP voting but saddled on the All-NBA Second Team.

Jokic was on the short end of the voting this year, as he finished second to Embiid in the MVP race and ended up on the All-NBA Second Team.

Embiid, the league’s scoring leader at 33.1 points per game, received 73 first-place votes for MVP.

Nikola Jokic scored 17 of his 29 points during the decisive third quarter and the Denver Nuggets gained the upper hand in their Western Conference semifinal series with a 118-102 rout of the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday.

Jokic followed his 53-point performance in Game 4 with another stellar display, adding 13 rebounds and 12 assists for his 10th career playoff triple-double, breaking a tie with Wilt Chamberlain for most by a center in NBA history.

Bruce Brown scored 25 points, one shy of his playoff career high, and Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray added 19 apiece as Denver improved to 6-0 at home this postseason for a 3-2 series lead.

The Nuggets turned a 52-49 halftime lead into a 91-74 advantage with a dominant third quarter in which Jokic made seven of eight shots, while Devin Booker scored three points on 1 of 8 from the field.

Booker finished with 28 points but missed 11 of 19 shots, Kevin Durant had 26 points and Deandre Ayton added 14. No other Suns player reached double figures.

Denver can earn a trip to the west finals with a win at Phoenix on Thursday in Game 6.

Visiting 76ers cruise past Celtics

Joel Embiid scored 32 points and Tyrese Maxey added 30 with six 3-pointers to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to a surprisingly easy 115-103 victory over the Boston Celtics and a 3-2 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal series.

Philadelphia led by as many as 21 points in the fourth quarter as the home fans showered the Celtics with boos.

James Harden had 17 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds, Tobias Harris chipped in 16 points and 11 boards and little-used Danuel House Jr. contributed 10 points and five rebounds.

The 76ers can close out the series and advance to the East finals for the first time since reaching the NBA Finals in 2000-01 with a win at home in Game 6 on Thursday.

Jayson Tatum had 36 points but missed all five of his first-quarter attempts and made 11 for 27 from the field. He was part of a poor shooting effort by the Celtics, who shot under 40 percent overall and misfired on 26 of 38 from long range.

Boston cut the deficit to 92-81 with under 10 minutes remaining but Maxey and Embiid responded with consecutive 3s. After Jaylen Brown hit a layup, baskets by House Jr. and Maxey stretched Philadelphia's advantage to 104-88, effectively ending any hopes of a comeback.

Three weeks after being named the 2022-23 Defensive Player of the Year, the Memphis Grizzlies’ Jaren Jackson Jr. is the leading vote-getter to headline the NBA All-Defensive first team.

The league announced the All-Defensive first and second teams on Tuesday, and joining Jackson on the top team is Chicago Bulls guard Alex Caruso, Cleveland Cavaliers forward Evan Mobley and Brook Lopez and Jrue Holiday of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Jackson, who boasted an individual defensive rating of 106.6 – the best among all full-time starters – received the most first-team votes with 96, followed by 94 for Holiday, 85 for Lopez, 50 for Caruso and 49 for Mobley.

The 23-year-old Jackson just completed his fifth professional season, and this is his second time selected to the All-Defensive first team.

Jackson’s former Memphis teammate Dillon Brooks was named to the All-Defensive second team, along with Boston Celtics guard Derrick White, Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green, Toronto Raptors forward O.G. Anunoby and Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat.

Jackson’s inclusion on the All-Defensive first team comes after he was announced the winner of the Hakeem Olajuwon Trophy as the NBA Defensive Player of the Year on April 17.

Blocking an astounding 9.58 per cent of all opponent shot attempts, the 6-foot-11 Jackson averaged an NBA-best 3.0 blocks per game.

Lopez was the runner-up in voting for Defensive Player of the Year after leading the league with 193 blocks, an average of 2.5 per game – the highest mark of his 15-year NBA career.

LeBron James and Lonnie Walker IV sparked a furious second-half rally as the Los Angeles Lakers put the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors on the brink of elimination with a 104-101 win Monday in Game 4 of the teams’ Western Conference semifinal series.

James finished with 27 points and Walker scored all 15 of his points in the fourth quarter as the seventh-seeded Lakers overcame a 12-point third-quarter deficit and grabbed a 3-1 series lead.  

Led by Stephen Curry’s 31-point, 14-assist, 10-rebound triple-double, Golden State looked poised to even the series after building a 77-65 lead with four minutes left in the third quarter.

Los Angeles then outscored the Warriors 21-7 over the next seven minutes, with James scoring seven points during the run that Walker capped with a layup that put the Lakers up 86-84 with 9:27 remaining.

The Warriors answered and took a 99-96 lead on Klay Thompson’s 3-pointer with three minutes left, but the Lakers scored the next six points before Curry’s layup brought Golden State within 102-101 entering the final minute.

Curry missed two shots in the final 30 seconds, however, and Walker hit two free throws to extend the Lakers’ lead to three before the Warriors turned the ball over in the waning seconds.

Anthony Davis added 23 points and 15 rebounds for the Lakers, who will try to clinch the series in San Francisco in Wednesday’s Game 5, while Austin Reaves contributed 21 points to the victory.

Heat handle Knicks again to take 3-1 series lead

Jimmy Butler had 27 points and 10 assists and the Miami Heat moved a win away from a return trip to the Eastern Conference finals with a 109-101 victory over the New York Knicks.

Bam Adebayo added 23 points and 13 rebounds to help the Heat take a 3-1 series lead and move closer towards becoming only the second No. 8 seed in NBA history to reach the conference finals. The Knicks accomplished the feat in 1999 and ultimately reached the NBA Finals before losing to the San Antonio Spurs in five games.

Miami, which upset East No. 1 seed Milwaukee in five games in the first round, can advance to its third conference final in four years with a win in New York in Wednesday’s Game 5. 

Adebayo had 16 first-half points to spur Miami to a 56-48 lead at intermission and the Heat held a 90-81 advantage entering the fourth quarter. They shot just 27.3 per cent in the final period, but the Knicks never got closer than six points down and were further hampered when All-Star Julius Randle fouled out with 3:08 left.

Jalen Brunson led New York with 32 points and 11 assists, while RJ Barrett finished with 24 points and Randle had 20 points and nine rebounds before exiting. 

Nikola Jokic will be available for Game 5 of the Denver Nuggets’ Western Conference semi-final series against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday in Denver.

Jokic reportedly has been fined $25,000, but the NBA decided on Monday they would not suspend the superstar centre for his involvement in a scuffle with Suns owner Mat Ishbia on Sunday that resulted in a technical foul for the two-time league MVP.

There was speculation that Jokic could be suspended for an incident that occurred with less than 3 minutes to go in the second quarter in the Suns’ 129-124 win to even the series at 2-2.

The play began when Jokic blocked a Deandre Ayton shot sending the ball heading out of bounds by the baseline.

The ball ended up in the arm of Ishbia, who cradled it under his arm as Jokic attempted to grab it back.

Ishbia did not immediately return the ball and it flipped a few rows back as Jokic tried to pull it from his arm.

As Jokic then reached for the ball he raised his elbow up to Ishbia’s chest and made contact.

Ishbia then fell down into his seat with his arms raised.

The refs then huddled to discuss what transpired, and decided Jokic’s actions were worthy of a technical foul.

That decision, however, sparked significant debate as to whether Ishbia flopped or if the Denver big man used excessive force.

Kevin Durant ended up making the technical free throw to tie the score at 55.

Jokic defended his actions after the game in which he finished with a career-high 53 points on 20-of-30 shooting, along with 11 assists.

Earlier Monday, Ishbia showed no ill-will toward Jokic, tweeting out that he was hopeful the league wouldn’t punish him.

“Great win for the Suns last night in an amazing series so far!” Ishbia posted. “That should be and is the only story. Suspending of fining anyone over last nights incident would not be right. I have a lot of respect for Jokic and don’t want to see anything like that. Excited for game 5! Go Suns!”

The home team has won every game in this series, and the Nuggets are 5-0 in Denver this postseason.

Jokic has been outstanding in this series, averaging 36.5 points, 14.0 rebounds and 9.5 assists in the four games.

Orlando Magic wing Paolo Banchero headlines the NBA All-Rookie first team as the only unanimous selection.

The league revealed the first and second teams on Monday, and the 20-year-old Banchero was the only player to be selected to the first team on all 100 ballots.

Banchero, who was previously announced as the NBA Rookie of the Year on April 25, is joined on the first team by Utah Jazz centre Walker Kessler, Indiana Pacers small forward Bennedict Mathurin, Sacramento Kings small forward Keegan Murray and Oklahoma City Thunder wing Jalen Williams.

The second team featured two pairs of teammates – Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren of the Detroit Pistons and Jabari Smith Jr. and Tari Eason from the Houston Rockets – as well as San Antonio Spurs power forward Jeremy Sochan.

Banchero, who was the first pick of last year’s draft, received 98 out of the 100 possible first-place votes for Rookie of the Year award, with Kessler receiving the other two to finish in second. Williams was the third finalist.

Banchero led all rookies in scoring with an average of 20.0 points per game, while his average of 3.7 assists ranked third among all qualifying first-year players and average of 6.9 rebounds placed fourth.

Kessler, who was the 22nd overall pick of the 2022 draft, ranked fourth among all players with an average of 2.34 blocks – the most by any rookie since the New York Knicks’ Mitchell Robinson averaged 2.44 in 2018-19. Kessler’s average of 8.4 rebounds per game ranked second among rookies, and he also averaged 9.2 points.

Williams, who was selected 12th, averaged 14.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.37 steals – the highest average by any rookie.

Duren led all rookies in rebounds with an average of 8.9 per game, while Ivey’s average of 5.2 assists were the most by any first-year player.

A huge bounce-back performance from James Harden got the Philadelphia 76ers right back in their Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Boston Celtics.

Harden capped a 42-point effort by hitting a game-winning 3-pointer with 19 seconds left in overtime, lifting the 76ers to a crucial 116-115 Game 4 victory on Sunday that evened the series at 2-2.

The 2017-18 NBA MVP earlier forced overtime by hitting a 16-foot floater with 16.4 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, and rebounded strongly from subpar outings in Philadelphia’s losses in Games 2 and 3. Harden shot a combined 5-of-28 from the field in those games, but finished 16 of 23 in Sunday’s win while making 6 of 9 attempts from 3-point range.

Boston’s Marcus Smart nearly answered Harden’s winning shot with some late heroics of his own, but got off a 3-point attempt that went through the net a split second after the final buzzer sounded as the Sixers held on.

Joel Embiid added 34 points and 13 rebounds for the 76ers, who blew a 16-point third-quarter lead and trailed 105-100 with two minutes left in regulation before closing out the fourth quarter with a 7-2 run.

Jayson Tatum shook off an 0-of-8 shooting start to finish with 24 points and 18 rebounds and help key the Celtics’ comeback in regulation. Jaylen Brown ended with 23 points and Smart had 21.

Game 5 will take place Tuesday in Boston.

Suns withstand Jokic’s 53 points to pull even with Nuggets

Kevin Durant and Devin Booker each scored 36 points and the Phoenix Suns overcame a monster game from Nikola Jokic to earn a 129-124 victory over the Denver Nuggets in Game 4 of the teams’ Western Conference semifinal.

The Suns recorded their second straight home win to even the series at 2-2 despite Jokic amassing a Nuggets’ playoff-record 53 points on 20-of-30 shooting.

Booker had 17 points in the third quarter to help Phoenix take a 98-92 lead into the fourth, and the Suns stretched the advantage to 116-106 on Landry Shamet’s 3-pointer with 4:56 left.

Denver countered with a 12-5 run to close within 121-118 with under two minutes remaining, but the Suns kept the West’s top seed at bay by going 8 for 8 from the foul line in the closing stages.

Jokic’s 53 points were a career high and eclipsed the Nuggets’ single-game record for a playoff game of 50, set twice by teammate Jamal Murray in 2020.

Shamet delivered four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and finished with 19 points off the bench for Phoenix, which will head back to Denver for Tuesday’s Game 5. The home team has won every meeting in the series thus far.

Anthony Davis bounced back with a stellar performance and got ample help from D'Angelo Russell and LeBron James in the Los Angeles Lakers' 127-97 win over the Golden State Warriors on Saturday.

Davis had 25 points on 7-of-10 shooting and grabbed 13 rebounds as the Lakers took a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.

The Lakers' big man was limited to 11 points and seven boards in a Game 2 loss but was relentless at both ends in this one, also adding four blocks and three steals.

Russell scored all 21 of his points in the first half as the Lakers took a 59-48 advantage into the locker room.

James did not attempt a shot in the first quarter for the first time in his playoff carer but led several runs in the second and third quarters on his way to 21 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.

Los Angeles had a huge advantage at the free throw line, making 28 of 37 to just 12 of 17 for Golden State.

The Warriors ended the opening quarter with a 30-23 lead, but the Lakers won the second and third quarters by a combined margin of 63-38. Lakers coach Darvin Ham rested his starters for most of the fourth quarter.

Stephen Curry had 23 points and Andrew Wiggins added 16 for the Warriors, who committed 18 turnovers and made only 13 of 44 from long range.

Golden State got very little from anyone other than Curry, Wiggins or Klay Thompson (15 points), with starters Draymond Green and JaMychal Green combining for just four points on 2-of-9 shooting.

Heat get Butler back, dominate Knicks

Jimmy Butler scored 28 points and was the driving force in his return from a sprained ankle and the Miami Heat rolled to a 105-86 rout of the New York Knicks in Game 3.

Max Strus added 19 points and Bam Adebayo had 17 with 12 rebounds to give Miami a 2-1 lead in the second-round series.

After missing Miami's Game 2 loss due to the ankle, Butler was seen limping at times in the second half Saturday, but the Heat started fast and never trailed against the cold-shooting Knicks.

Butler scored 10 points in the first quarter and the Heat made 10 of their first 15 shots in racing to a 58-44 halftime lead. New York, meanwhile, misfired on 13 of its first 17 shots and shot just 34.1 percent for the game, including a dismal 8-for-40 from 3-point range.

Jalen Brunson led the Knicks with 20 points and Josh Hart had 14. Julius Randle was mostly ineffective with 10 points on 4-of-15 shooting and RJ Barrett was not much better with 14 points on 5 of 16.

Jayson Tatum bounced back with 27 points and the Boston Celtics received a balanced effort in a 114-102 road win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday.

The victory gave Boston a 2-1 lead in the second-round series with Game 4 set for Sunday.

Each Celtics starter reached double figures, with Jaylen Brown scoring 23, Al Horford adding 17 and Marcus Smart contributing 15.

Malcolm Brogdon had 15 points, including a 3-pointer with 5 1/2 minutes left to give Boston a 100-92 lead. Horford hit one of his five 3s to put Boston up seven with 3:25 remaining.

James Harden's 3-pointer with just over two minutes left drew the 76ers within 105-99 but Tatum, who was limited to seven points in Game 2, responded with a 3 of his own, then sank a pair of free throws to make it 110-100 with 1:18 to play.

Joel Embiid had 30 points and 13 rebounds for Philadelphia after he received his MVP trophy in a pregame ceremony. Harden struggled with 16 points on 3-of-14 shooting and is 5 for 28 from the field in the past two games – 2 of 13 from long range - following a 45-point performance in the series opener.

Boston's Grant Williams suffered a bloody mouth late in the game when he was hit in the head by a falling Embiid.

Suns take Game 3 from Nuggets behind Booker, Durant

The Phoenix Suns were in desperate need of a win and Devin Booker and Kevin Durant made sure they got it, combining for 86 points in a 121-114 victory over the visiting Denver Nuggets on Friday.

No other Suns player scored in double digits, but Booker and Durant’s heroics were enough as Phoenix trimmed the second-round series deficit to 2-1.

Booker tied his playoff career high with 47 points on 20-of-25 shooting, including 5-of-8 from 3-point range. Durant wasn’t as efficient with his shot, connecting on 12-of-31 but still finished with 39 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.

Jamal Murray led Denver with 32 points and Nikola Jokic tallied his ninth career postseason triple-double with 30 points, 17 rebounds and 17 assists, one off his personal best.

Cameron Payne started for Phoenix in place of 12-time All-Star Chris Paul and was limited to seven points but hit a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter and added six assists.

TJ Warren only made three baskets for the Suns but two came in the final 2 ½ minutes. His 3 with 2:23 left put Phoenix up eight and he sank a driving floater less than a minute later to make it 114-107.

The Suns will try to even the series on Sunday.

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