Anthony Davis says he will give LeBron James the space he needs to make the right decision on his NBA future.

The Los Angeles Lakers were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in a 4-1 series defeat to the Denver Nuggets, who won Game 5 108-106 on Monday.

James led the Lakers with 30 points and 11 assists and hit a pair of free throws to tie the game in the final 30 seconds.

But with 3.6 seconds remaining, Jamal Murray, who was playing through a calf strain, hit a pull-up 14-footer to condemn the Lakers to an early exit.

After the game, James said that “he does not have an answer” on his NBA future after 21 years in the league.

However, Davis is confident that James will take his time over the decision, make the correct call for himself and tell everyone else when the time is right.

“I mean, he has been in this position numerous times in his career, where he had to make a decision ultimately for himself and his family. I'll be right there supporting whatever he decides to do,” Davis told ESPN.

“It's still fresh. I mean, I'm pretty sure it's not even on his mind right now.

"But I'm pretty sure he'll come talk to me, tell me what's going on before he becomes public with the situation, just to keep me in the loop.

“Obviously, it's been a great five seasons with him. If he does decide to come back, obviously this isn't what we want to be left at, losing in the first round.

"If he does, obviously our goal is to come back and be a championship contender, stay healthy and give Laker Nation what they deserve."

The Nuggets swept the Lakers in the Western Conference finals last year, with their late-game execution proving to be the difference once again in this series.

Murray, who also hit a buzzer-beater to win Game 2, was advised to sit the game out by management due to his calf injury but proved decisive as he scored 12 of his 32 points in a fourth quarter in which the teams repeatedly traded leads.

Asked if he had debated sitting the game out, Murray said: "I came in a little earlier to see if I was going to be able to go, and I felt like I could.

"They [management] just didn't want me to risk it. They told me no.

"And I didn't say no. I didn't want to leave my teammates out there. We've been battling all season.

"Everybody's hurt at some point, everybody's going through something, and I just wouldn't be able to live with myself if I wasn't able to play this game.

"I'm just glad they listened to me - and listened to me listening to my body - and just trusting me with it."

Nikola Jokic finished with 25 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists, while Michael Porter Jr. concluded his impressive series with a 26-point performance for Denver.

Davis had 17 points and 15 rebounds for Los Angeles but was not involved much in the offence late while playing through a shoulder injury.

The Nuggets will continue their championship defence with a second-round series against the Minnesota Timberwolves, who advanced on Sunday by completing a sweep of the Phoenix Suns.

Denver eliminated Minnesota in the first round of last year’s playoffs with a five-game series win.

LeBron James says he "does not have an answer" on his NBA future after the Los Angeles Lakers were eliminated by the Denver Nuggets in their first-round playoff series.

The Nuggets emerged triumphant with a 4-1 series win after beating the Lakers 108-106 in an entertaining Game 5 on Monday.

Despite playing through a calf strain, Jamal Murray hit a pull-up 14-footer with 3.6 seconds remaining of a game which saw the two teams repeatedly trade leads.

LeBron hit a pair of free throws to tie the game with 26 seconds left to give the Lakers hope, but Murray drove to his left and pulled up for the go-ahead jumper over Austin Reaves.

After the painful narrow loss, LeBron was asked how he would approach any decision about Year 22 in the NBA.

"I do not have an answer to be honest, I have not given it much thought," he said, per ESPN.

"We will cross that when we need to. [I will evaluate] what's best for my career."

Asked if the Nuggets game was likely to be his last in a Lakers jersey, the 39-year-old replied: "I'm not going to answer that." 

This was the earliest playoff exit in James' 17 postseason trips. The only other time he was eliminated in the first round was 2021, in a six-game loss to the Phoenix Suns.

"Tip your hat to them," James said about Denver. "Defending champions, they are a great team. Super-well coached and made the plays down the stretch to win the series.

"You give credit where credit is due, that is for sure."

Much like last year, when the Nuggets swept the Lakers in the Western Conference finals, Denver’s late-game execution proved to be the difference.

Nikola Jokic finished with 25 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists, while Michael Porter Jr. concluded his impressive series with a 26-point performance.

James led the Lakers with 30 points and 11 assists. Anthony Davis had 17 points and 15 rebounds but was not involved much in the offence late while playing through a shoulder injury.

LeBron has the option to enter the final year of his contract with the Lakers or he could become a free agent.

Also facing an uncertain future after the first-round exit is head coach Darvin Ham, who has been with the team for two years.

Ham, who is now on the hot seat, hopes the defeat will make him a better coach in the long run.

"My mind's all over the place right now," he said. "It's been a hell of a two years, though, I'll tell you that. Sitting in this seat, it's been a hell of a two years. 

"A lot of good things that got done, but ultimately, you want to win that ultimate prize. I know what that feels like. I had that feeling a couple of times.

"So, you want to do everything in your power to prevent and not continue to feel this feeling we're feeling now, the feeling of defeat. So again, control what I can control, continue to grow and hopefully be a better coach for it.

"I couldn’t be more proud of our crew despite everything that happened.

"Obviously, the series didn’t go in our favor, it didn’t start the way we wanted it to, but to win that one at home, fight tooth and nail to get this one, our guys showed a lot of guts and a lot of character."

Despite playing through a calf strain, Jamal Murray hit a pull-up 14-footer with 3.6 seconds remaining, and the Denver Nuggets beat the Los Angeles Lakers 108-106 on Monday for a 4-1 series win.

Murray, who also hit a buzzer-beater to win Game 2, was a game-time decision due to his calf injury but scored 12 of his 32 points in a fourth quarter in which the teams repeatedly traded leads.

LeBron James hit a pair of free throws to tie the game with 26 seconds left to give the Lakers hope, but Murray drove to his left with help from a high ball screen and pulled up for the go-ahead jumper over Austin Reaves.

Without any timeouts to advance the ball, the Lakers managed only a desperation heave from Taurean Prince at the buzzer which never had a chance.

Much like last year, when the Nuggets swept the Lakers in the Western Conference finals, Denver’s late-game execution proved to be the difference.

Nikola Jokić finished with 25 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists, while Michael Porter Jr. concluded his impressive series with a 26-point performance.

James led the Lakers with 30 points and 11 assists. Anthony Davis had 17 points and 15 rebounds but was not involved much in the offence late while playing through a shoulder injury.

The Nuggets will continue their championship defence with a second-round series against the Minnesota Timberwolves, who advanced Sunday by completing a sweep of the Phoenix Suns.

Denver eliminated Minnesota in the first round of last year’s playoffs with a five-game series win.

Thunder complete sweep of Pelicans

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jalen Williams each scored 24 points to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 97-89 win over the New Orleans Pelicans and secure a four-game series sweep.

The youngest team ever to secure a conference’s No. 1 seed, the Thunder answered questions about play-off inexperience by easily securing their place in the second round, outscoring New Orleans by an average of 15.8 points per game.

Oklahoma City trailed 71-70 to start the fourth quarter but held the Pelicans to 18 points in the final frame.

Williams scored 11 of his points in the fourth quarter, including his own 8-0 run that put the Thunder up 93-82 with 3:08 remaining.

The Pelicans played the series without Zion Williamson due to a hamstring strain, with Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum failing to rise to the challenge.

Ingram shot under 35 percent from the field during the series and was 2 of 14 in Game 4. McCollum had 20 points on 9-for-16 shooting Monday but was just 7 of 29 from 3-point range in the series.

Celtics rout Heat for 3-1 series lead

Derrick White scored 38 points, and the Boston Celtics overcame an injury to Kristaps Porzingis to beat the Miami Heat 102-88 for a 3-1 series lead.

Porzingis exited with 2:27 remaining in the second quarter with right calf tightness and did not return. Al Horford started the second half in Porzingis’ place.

White, who is better known for his defensive contributions, went 8 of 15 from 3-point range en route to his 38 points, a career high for both the regular season and post-season.

Bam Adebayo led the way for the Heat with 25 points, 17 rebounds and five assists.

Jalen Brunson will not spend too long thinking about his 47-point haul in Game 4 against the Philadelphia 76ers as he looks towards the second round of the playoffs.

The New York Knicks took a 3-1 lead in their first-round series thanks to a 97-92 victory on Sunday.

Brunson inspired the Knicks with a stunning 47-point performance, while he also chipped in with 10 assists.

But with the Knicks just one win away from progressing, Brunson is not resting on his laurels.

"I'll look back when I retire," Brunson said.

"Seriously. It's great right now, it helped us get a win.

"But it's not going to do anything for us going forward."

Brunson's haul was a franchise record, as he surpassed Bernard King (46) for the most points scored in a playoff game for the Knicks.

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said: "I think we learned that throughout the course of the season. Jalen has played at such an incredibly high level all season long, and we can play off that.

"We have a little bit of everything. And the rebounding has been terrific. Everyone questioned the rebounding with Josh [Hart] at the power forward. We've been the best rebounding team all year. Everyone questioned Jalen being a leader.

"We have a lot to prove. It takes four to win a series, that's what we have to focus on."

The Sixers are staring down the barrel of an early exit, but Joel Embiid, who finished with 27 points and 10 rebounds, does not believe the pressure is on Philadelphia.

"One at a time," said Embiid. "We know we're good enough. We didn't make shots, so we just got to keep trusting ourselves.

"We got no pressure. We're the seven seed, down 3-1, a lot of guys are hurt.

"I don't know why we would feel the pressure. So we should just go out there and go out and play our best basketball and one at a time, win one, come back home, win another one and then Game 7 over there. So, yeah, I'm looking forward to it. Yeah. No pressure."

Luka Doncic believes he has let Kyrie Irving down in the first four games of the Dallas Mavericks' first-round series with the Los Angeles Clippers, which is level at 2-2 after they dropped Game 4.

Doncic had a triple-double with 29 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists at American Airlines Center on Sunday, but he shot just 10-of-24 from the floor while struggling with a knee issue as the Mavs lost 116-111.

It looked like being a far more resounding defeat when the Clippers went 31 points up midway through the second quarter, but Irving scored all 40 of his points after that to drag Dallas back into it.

However, Paul George and James Harden enjoyed big fourth quarters to deny the Mavs a third straight win and leave the series in the balance ahead of Game 5 in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

After the defeat, Doncic said he had given his fellow Mavs star too much to do, saying: "I've just got to help him more.

"I feel like I'm letting him down, so I've got to be there. I've got to help him more. He's given everything that he has, and he's been amazing for us the whole series."

Doncic has averaged 29 points through the series but has shot just 38.6 per cent from the floor and made 26.5 per cent of his 3-point attempts, while he was exploited on the defensive side on Sunday as George and Harden each had 33 points.

The MVP finalist, however, is refusing to use the soreness in his right knee as an excuse, saying: "It's hurting, obviously.

"But it shouldn't be an excuse, man. I just came out and was a little sloppy, so I've got to be way better than that."

The Clippers announced Kawhi Leonard is out indefinitely due to right knee inflammation ahead of Game 4 but Dallas failed to take advantage of his absence, leaving Los Angeles in buoyant mood with home-court advantage back on their side.

"We dug ourselves in a hole," Irving said. "There's no time to complain about it or look to each other for any excuses. It was just time to get it going. 

"We fell short, but this is a consistent thing in this series so far where Kawhi doesn't play and we're just dealing with a barrage of James Harden and Paul George getting off."

For the first time in two decades, the Minnesota Timberwolves have won a playoff series.

The Timberwolves are the NBA's first team to advance to the conference semifinals after defeating the Phoenix Suns 122-116 on Sunday to complete a first-round sweep.

Minnesota reached the Western Conference second round for the first time since 2004 by recording the first play-off sweep in franchise history.

Anthony Edwards led the way with 40 points, and had a thunderous dunk with just over 2 minutes remaining to help kickstart the Timberwolves' celebrations.

Edwards had a quiet first half before erupting after half-time, scoring 31 points in the final two quarters. He hit four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and had 16 points in the final period to help third-seeded Minnesota pull away.

He finished with seven 3-pointers, and also added nine rebounds and six assists, while Karl-Anthony Towns had 28 points and 10 boards.

The Timberwolves played the final 1:41 without their coach after Mike Conley collided with Chris Finch on the sidelines.

Finch went down hard, appearing to injure his right knee, and had to be helped to the locker room.

Minnesota, who will face the winner of the Denver Nuggets-Los Angeles Lakers series, prevailed despite a 49-point performance from Devin Booker.

Booker was 13 of 21 from the field and made 20 of 21 free throws, while Kevin Durant added 33 points on 12-of-17 shooting.

The rest of the Suns combined for 34 points on 36.1 per cent shooting, as Phoenix suffered their first playoff sweep since 1999.

Brunson's historic performance leads Knicks over 76ers

Jalen Brunson is in the record books and the New York Knicks are one win away from a trip to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Brunson scored a playoff career-high 47 points - the most ever by a Knicks player in a post-season game - in a 97-92 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.

Brunson made two free throws with five seconds remaining to seal the win and surpass the franchise record of 46 points scored by Bernard King in 1984.

With the victory in Philadelphia, the second-seeded Knicks grabbed a 3-1 lead in the first-round series.

New York have the opportunity to eliminate the 76ers in Game 5 back home at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.

Brunson, who added a game-high 10 assists, struggled with his shot in the first two games of the series in New York, but found his touch in Philadelphia.

After totalling 46 points on 29.1 per cent shooting in Games 1 and 2, Brunson had 39 points on Thursday, followed by his record-setting performance in Game 4 while shooting 50.8 per cent.

OG Anunoby added 16 points and 14 rebounds for the Knicks, while Josh Hart played a big role despite missing all seven of his field-goal attempts by grabbing 17 rebounds.

Joel Embiid led the 76ers with 27 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, while Tyrese Maxey scored 23.

Philadelphia were undone by their struggles from long range, shooting 27.3 per cent on 3-pointers (9 of 33) after making 48.4 per cent of their shots from beyond the arc in their Game 3 win.

Clippers hang on after blowing lead of 31 to even up Mavs series 

The Los Angeles Clippers emerged with a 116-111 victory over the Mavericks in Dallas to even up their first-round series at 2-2.

The fourth-seeded Clippers looked like they would roll to an easy win, as they led by 31 points midway through the second quarter, but the Mavericks came storming back to set up a thrilling final few minutes.

After Kyrie Irving hit an off-balanced layup with 2:15 remaining to put Dallas ahead 105-104 - the Mavs' first lead since they were up 8-7 less than five minutes into the game - Paul George responded with an incredible fadeaway 3-pointer from the corner and James Harden followed with a driving floating jump shot to put Los Angeles back up by four points.

George and Harden each finished with 33 points, and between them scored all the Clippers' final 18 points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter.

Irving had 40 points on 14-of-25 shooting and Luka Doncic had 29 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in his fourth career play-off triple-double, but was clearly bothered by a sore right knee and misfired on eight of his nine 3-point attempts.

Before the game, the Clippers announced Kawhi Leonard is out indefinitely due to right knee inflammation.

With the Game 4 win, however, Los Angeles improved to 2-0 in this series in games without the two-time NBA Finals MVP.

In this series, each team has won once on their opponents' court. Game 5 is Wednesday in Los Angeles.

For the first time in two decades, the Minnesota Timberwolves have won a play-off series.

The Timberwolves are the NBA's first team to advance to the conference semi-finals after defeating the Phoenix Suns 122-116 on Sunday to complete a first-round sweep.

Minnesota reached the Western Conference second round for the first time since 2004 by recording the first play-off sweep in franchise history.

Anthony Edwards led the way with 40 points, and had a thunderous dunk with just over 2 minutes remaining to help kick start the Timberwolves' celebration.

 

Edwards had a quiet first half before erupting after half-time, scoring 31 points in the final two quarters. He hit four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and had 16 points in the final period to help third-seeded Minnesota pull away.

He finished with seven 3-pointers, and also added nine rebounds and six assists, while Karl-Anthony Towns had 28 points and 10 boards.

The Timberwolves played the final 1:41 without their coach after Mike Conley collided with Chris Finch on the sidelines.

Finch went down hard appearing to injure his right knee and had to be helped to the locker room.

Minnesota, which will face the winner of the Denver Nuggets-Los Angeles Lakers series, prevailed despite a 49-point performance from Devin Booker.

Booker was 13 of 21 from the field and made 20 of 21 free throws, while Kevin Durant added 33 points on 12-of-17 shooting.

The rest of the Suns combined for 34 points on 36.1 per cent shooting, as Phoenix suffered its first play-off sweep since 1999.

 

Brunson's historic performance leads Knicks over 76ers

Jalen Brunson is in the record books and the New York Knicks are one win away from a trip to the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

Brunson scored a play-off career-high 47 points - the most ever by a Knicks player in a post-season game - in a 97-92 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.

Brunson made two free throws with 5 seconds remaining to seal the win and surpass the franchise record of 46 points scored by Bernard King in 1984.

With the victory in Philadelphia, the second-seeded Knicks grabbed a 3-1 lead in the first-round series.

New York has the opportunity to eliminate the 76ers in Game 5 back home at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.

 

Brunson, who added a game-high 10 assists, struggled with his shot in the first two games of the series in New York, but found his touch in Philadelphia.

After totaling 46 points on 29.1 per cent shooting in Games 1 and 2, Brunson had 39 points on Thursday, followed by the record-setting performance in Game 4 while shooting 50.8 per cent.

OG Anunoby added 16 points and 14 rebounds for the Knicks, while Josh Hart played a big role despite missing all seven of his field goal attempts by grabbing 17 rebounds.

Joel Embiid led the 76ers with 27 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, while Tyrese Maxey scored 23.

Philadelphia was undone by its struggles from long range, shooting 27.3 percent on 3-pointers (9 of 33) after making 48.4 per cent of its shots from beyond the arc in its Game 3 win.

 

Clippers hang on after blowing lead of 31 to even up series with Mavericks

The Los Angeles Clippers emerged with a 116-111 victory over the Mavericks in Dallas to even up their first-round series at 2-2.

The fourth-seeded Clippers looked like they would roll to an easy win, as they led by 31 points midway through the second quarter, but the Mavericks came storming back to set up a thrilling final few minutes.

After Kyrie Irving hit an off-balanced layup with 2:15 remaining to put Dallas ahead 105-104 - the Mavs' first lead since it was 8-7 less than 5 minutes into the game - Paul George responded with an incredible fadeaway 3-pointer from the corner and James Harden followed with a driving floating jump shot to put Los Angeles back up by four points.

George and Harden each finished with 33 points, and scored all of the Clippers' final 18 points in the last 5 minutes of the fourth quarter.

Irving had 40 points on 14-of-25 shooting and Luka Doncic had 29 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in his fourth career play-off triple-double, but was clearly bothered by a sore right knee and misfired on 8 of 9 3-point attempts.

 

Before the game, the Clippers announced Kawhi Leonard is out indefinitely due to right knee inflammation.

With the Game 4 win, however, Los Angeles improved to 2-0 in this series in games without the two-time NBA Finals MVP.

In this series, each team has won once on its opponent's court. Game 5 is Wednesday in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Clippers star forward Kawhi Leonard is out indefinitely, president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank said before Game 4 of the team’s first-round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday.

Leonard missed Los Angeles’ final eight regular-season games due to inflammation in his right knee and then sat out the series opener before returning to action.

However, he's clearly not at full strength after combining for 24 points in Games 2 and 3.

A three-time First-Team All-NBA selection, Leonard played in 68 games during the regular season – his most since 2016-17 - and averaged a team-high 23.7 points to go along with 6.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.63 steals per contest.

Dallas leads the series 2-1, with Game 5 scheduled for Wednesday in Los Angeles.

The GraceKennedy Financial Group (GKFG) has announced that GK One is the official title sponsor of the GK One Howard McCatty Community Basketball League for the 2024 season. The partnership builds upon GKFG's ongoing commitment to supporting local communities and promoting youth development through sports, following another successful staging of the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys’ and Girls’ Track & Field Championships (Champs) last month.

"GK recognizes the importance of investing in initiatives that empower and inspire our youth," said Rickardo Ebanks, Chief Digital Officer, GKFG. "GK One is thrilled to be a part of the Community Basketball League 2024 Season and contribute to the continued success of the competition."

The Howard McCatty Community Basketball League has been a cornerstone for young Jamaican athletes providing opportunities for growth, mentorship, and teamwork. With a rich history of nurturing talent and fostering a love for the game, the league serves as a vital platform for aspiring players to showcase and develop their skills on a path to the National Basketball league.

GK One is GraceKennedy’s all-in-one app which offers a suite of GKFG services, allowing users to receive Western Union remittances to their mobile wallet, make bill payments, apply for a First Global Bank Visa Credit Card, and purchase insurance, anytime and anywhere. The app’s companion prepaid Visa debit card also allows customers to pay for goods and services wherever Visa is accepted.

Through the sponsorship, GK One will support the league's mission of promoting sportsmanship, leadership, and academic achievement among participants. The partnership will enable the league to deliver over 100 games throughout the season, provide resources for coaching and player development, and expand its reach within the community.

"We are grateful for the generous support of GK One," expressed Calvin Martin, Vice President and League organizer. "Their commitment to our league will make a meaningful difference in the lives of our players, helping us to further our impact and grow the game of basketball in Kingston and St Catherine. I encourage other corporate entities to follow the lead of GK One and invest in our communities – especially through sports.”

Beyond financial support, GK One will also engage with participating communities by hosting youth basketball clinics, fan engagement events, and supporting mentorship programmes led by the league. Players and fans will also benefit from access to financial services offered by GKFG.
GK One and the Howard McCatty Community Basketball League look forward to a successful 2024 season and partnership focused on empowering young athletes, fostering community connections, and inspiring the next generation of basketball stars.

 

Already without two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks won’t have Damian Lillard in the lineup for Game 4 of the team’s first-round playoff series against the Indiana Pacers on Sunday.

Lillard played nearly 45 minutes in Milwaukee's 121-118 overtime loss in Game 3 on Friday but was ineffective down the stretch after aggravating a lingering Achilles issue.

The defeat was the second straight in the series for the third-seeded Bucks after defeating No. 6 seed Indiana in Game 1.

Antetokounmpo has not played since straining his left calf on April 9 and remains out Sunday, meaning Milwaukee will be without its two leading scorers as it tries to avoid a 3-1 deficit in the series.

Antetokounmpo averaged 30.4 points this season with Lillard adding 24.3 per game. But with Antetokounmpo sidelined, Lillard averaged 32.3 points in the first three contests against the Pacers to pace Milwaukee.

Game 5 is scheduled for Tuesday.

Michael Malone refused to blame a bizarre equipment mix-up for his Denver Nuggets' Game 4 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.

Denver headed into the game with a 3-0 first-round series lead, but ahead of a Game 4 where they could have sealed their progression, some Nuggets players warmed up in flip-flops after a delay in their shoes arriving to the arena.

Following the equipment mix-up, the Nuggets fell to a 119-108 loss as LeBron James led the way for the Lakers with 30 points to keep his team in the series.

Despite the pre-match muddle, Malone says to blame that for the ensuing defeat would be a "reach".

"Is it ideal? No," Malone told reporters. "But hopefully we can figure that out and make sure it never happens again.

"If you want to dig into stuff and say, 'well, we lost because for some strange reason our players didn't have their shoes when they got here for their normal warm-ups, that we had guys out there shooting around with flip-flops'. Is it ideal? No. But I'm not an excuse guy. And I'm not going to point to the reason we got our butts kicked in the paint because shoes weren't here."

Denver had been forced to overturn double-digit deficits in all three of their series victories prior to Saturday's defeat, and Michael Porter Jr. again lamented his team's slow start while crediting the Lakers.

"We talked about getting off to a better start," Porter Jr. explained. "It takes a lot of energy to come back from these double-digit leads, down 20, down 15, whatever it is.

"Tonight they [Lakers] did a good job of sustaining it. Whenever we got within 10 or eight, it seemed like they made a 3-pointer or made a big shot. So credit to them."

Jayson Tatum believes his Boston Celtics team showed their toughness as they claimed a 104-84 Game 3 win over the Miami Heat on Saturday.

As the top seed in the Eastern Conference, Boston eased to victory in the opening match of the first-round series. However, the eighth-seed Heat hit back in Game 2, taking a 111-101 triumph to level the series.

Game 3 belonged to the Celtics, though, with a strong defensive display and a big performance from Tatum, who finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds, allowing Boston to once again get their noses in front ahead of Game 4.

In Tatum's view, the Celtics were able to match their ability with a strong mindset in Game 3 to help them regain control of the series.

"Everybody knows how talented we are," Tatum told reporters. "But can we be the tougher, harder-playing team?"

"If we can combine that with the talent, it's going to be hard to beat us.

"Can we start off every game, essentially, punching first instead of reacting? That's a test we have to be up for every single night."

The Heat hit 23 3-pointers in their Game 2 victory, but the Celtics' defensive display was a big improvement on Saturday, limiting the Heat to just 84 points.

Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra acknowledged the Celtics' much-improved performance in Game 3, though he still believes his team has the ability to haul themselves back into the series again.

"They were the more physical team," Spoelstra explained. "They bodied us [and] bullied us.

"We have enough to get the job done. We know we have to play hard, and we also have to play well."

LeBron James says the Los Angeles Lakers face a "one-game series" against the Denver Nuggets after clinching a lifeline in their Western Conference first-round battle in Game 4.

The Lakers avoided a sweep with Saturday's 119-108 home win over the reigning NBA champions, halting an 11-game losing streak in head-to-head meetings with Denver. 

James had 30 points while Anthony Davis added 25 points and 23 rebounds as Los Angeles finally saw out a lead to stay alive in the playoffs.

They now return to Denver for Game 5 on Monday, knowing no team has ever overturned a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series. 

James, however, is taking things one game at a time, saying: "Well, the only opportunity for us is just to play the next game. 

"We've given ourselves another life. We've given ourselves another lifeline, and it's a one-game series for us.

"Monday's game is the most important game of the season for us, and we understand that and we know that, it's at that stage where if you lose, you're done. You win and you keep going."

Davis' 25 points came on 11 of 17 shooting, and he is averaging 30.5 points and 15.8 rebounds throughout a series in which he is often up against likely 2023-24 MVP Nikola Jokic.

Davis attracted scrutiny when he appeared to blame head coach Darvin Ham for the Lakers' defeat in Game 2, but James says he doesn't have anything to prove through the rest of the series.

"AD doesn't have to prove anything to anybody," James said. "He's one of the best bigs we have in the game, one of the best bigs in the world. He's showing that again through the first four games."

Davis, meanwhile, was relieved to see the Lakers produce through four quarters, having squandered a 20-point lead back in Game 2.

"We have a lot of confidence in our team," Davis said. "We've had the lead a lot this series. 

"It's just been our second halves, actually our third quarters, where we haven't been able to execute at scoring the basketball. So our confidence was never lost at any point in the game."

LeBron James scored 30 points and Anthony Davis added 25 and 23 rebounds as the Los Angeles Lakers avoided a sweep with a 119-108 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday in their Western Conference first-round series.

D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves each added 21 points to help the Lakers end an 11-game losing streak to the Nuggets, a stretch that included seven consecutive playoff losses.

The Lakers, who notched their first win over the Nuggets since December 2022, will try to stave off elimination again in Game 5 back in Denver on Monday.

Nikola Jokić had 33 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists for his 18th career playoff triple-double and second in this series.

Michael Porter Jr. added 27 points and 11 rebounds for the defending NBA champion Nuggets.

Los Angeles pushed its lead to 106-87 with six minutes remaining, but Denver whittled it down to six on Jokic’s three-point play with 1:25 to play. Reaves, though, hit a short jumper and added four free throws to seal the win.

 

Celtics roll over Heat

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown led a balanced attack with 22 points apiece and the Boston Celtics led wire-to-wire in a 104-84 rout of the Miami Heat to take a 2-1 lead in their Eastern Conference first-round series.

Game 4 is Monday in Miami, where the Celtics are 9-2 in their last 11 games and 6-1 in their last seven in the postseason.

Kristaps Porzingis added 18 points and Derrick White had 16 for top-seeded Boston, which reclaimed the home-court edge that it lost when Miami won Game 2.

The Celtics continued their bounce-back trend, improving to 15-4 in the games immediately following a loss this season with an average margin of victory in those games of 12.2 points.

Bam Adebayo scored 20 points and Nikola Jovic added 15 for the Heat, who are still without starters Jimmy Butler and Terry Rozier due to injuries.

 

Thunder push Pelicans to brink of sweep

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 24 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder knocked down 17 3-pointers in a 106-85 win over the New Orleans Pelicans for a 3-0 lead in their first-round series.

Jalen Williams and Josh Giddey each scored 21 points and combined to go 7 for 11 from long range to help the top-seeded Thunder move a win away from the franchise’s first postseason sweep since eliminating Dallas in 2011-12.

Oklahoma City can complete the sweep in New Orleans in Game 4 on Monday night. No team in NBA history has ever come back from a 3-0 series deficit.

Brandon Ingram scored 19 points and CJ McCollum added 16 for the Pelicans, who continued to struggle offensively without injured star Zion Williamson. They were 9 for 32 from 3-point range and turned the ball over 21 times, leading to 23 Thunder points.

The Thunder took control with a 14-0 run in the second quarter for a 54-39 lead. They led 60-46 at halftime and maintained at least a 10-point advantage the rest of the way.

Luka Doncic saluted "team player" P.J. Washington following his confrontation with Russell Westbrook during the Dallas Mavericks' victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Mavericks prevailed 101-90 in Game 3 to take a 2-1 lead in their first-round series, with Doncic falling just shy of a triple-double with 22 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.

Although, it was a feisty affair at the American Airlines Center, where Washington and Westbrook were both ejected after an altercation following the latter's foul and shove on Doncic.

The five-time NBA All-Star was grateful for Washington's support and intervention, paying tribute to his team-mate.

"The things he does, he's a team player," Doncic said. "He helps all of us. I'm just really happy we've got him on our team.

"I'm used to [getting subjected to extra physicality. I just try to stay calm and keep playing basketball."

Mavericks coach Jason Kidd was also pleased by the togetherness demonstrated by his players with emotions running high.

"We're all competing for each inch to try to win," he said. "This series is going to be more mental as it goes on, just because of the physicality.

"It's very physical, but the mental aspect of this series, we have to be sharp and we have to understand what's taking place. I thought the guys did a great job of protecting one another."


 

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