Stephen Curry lamented a "perfect storm" as the Golden State Warriors were on the end of a 140-88 defeat to the Boston Celtics on Sunday.

The loss at TD Garden was the fourth-worst the Warriors, who entered the contest in good form, have suffered in franchise history.

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.

The Warriors will hope to have Curry back to full fitness for their return to action against the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday.

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

"He's played so well and for so long this year. Hopefully the next few days he'll get it recharged."

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. 

"We didn't come and mess around and that's just how we show our respect to the game, we handle business and take care of it.

"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. 

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. 

Jayson Tatum scored 32 points and the Boston Celtics overcame Luka Dončić’s second straight triple-double in a 138-110 victory over the Dallas Mavericks for their 10th consecutive win on Friday.

Jaylen Brown had 25 points and Kristaps Porzingis added 24 as seven Celtics scored in double figures.

Doncic had 37 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists for his 12th triple-double of the season and 68th of his career.

NBA-leading Boston knocked down 21 3-pointers and shot 55.3 percent (52-of-94) from the field to remain unbeaten since a loss to the Lakers on Feb. 1.

The 10-game streak is the longest for the Celtics since a 10-game run during the 2019-20 season.

Kyrie Irving scored 19 points against his former team but shot 9 of 23 as Dallas lost for the third time in four games.

Antetokounmpo powers streaking Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo poured in 46 points and grabbed 16 rebounds as the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Chicago Bulls 113-97 for their fifth consecutive win.

Antetokoumpo shot 16 of 22 from the field, made 2 of 3 from long range and sank 12 of 16 free throws in his eighth 40-plus point game this season.

Patrick Beverley scored 14 points and Brook Lopez added 12 for the Bucks, who improved to 8-7 under Doc Rivers and moved into a virtual tie with Cleveland for first place in the Central Division.

Chicago’s DeMar DeRozan became the 35th player in NBA history to accumulate 23,000 points. He scored 12 points – all but two in the second half – and was 5 of 13 from the field after missing his first six shots.

Coby White led the Bulls with 22 points and Nikola Vucevic added 17 with nine rebounds.

Warriors win again on road

Stephen Curry scored 25 points and Jonathan Kuminga added 24 to lead the Golden State Warriors to their eighth straight road win, 120-105 over the Toronto Raptors, who lost All-Star Scottie Barnes.

Moses Moody had 17 points and Klay Thompson was next with 14 as the Warriors won their third straight and 13th in 15 games.

Barnes broke his left middle finger late in the first half and the Raptors said he would be out indefinitely. He had 10 points and six rebounds in 16 minutes, ending a career-best streak of five consecutive double-doubles.

Golden State overcame some troublesome travel after it had to switch planes following Thursday night’s win over New York. The Warriors endured a long wait on the tarmac, finally arriving at its Toronto hotel shortly after 7 a.m. Friday morning.

Al Horford says the Boston Celtics are "not where we need to be yet" despite beating the New York Knicks to claim an eighth-straight win.

The Celtics won 116-102 on Saturday to mark a season-best winning streak, while they are also eight games clear at the top of the Eastern Conference.

Jaylen Brown finished with 30 points, Kristaps Porzingis had 22 and Jayson Tatum had 19, while Horford chipped in with 10 points from the bench, as Boston sealed their fourth win of the season over the Knicks.

But in spite of their fine form, Horford says the Celtics must demand more from themselves.

"It's just the way kind of the season has gone," he said.

"We've kind of held our own, continued to work through things. Obviously, the [Philadelphia 76ers] have injuries, different teams have different stuff going on, so that all goes into account.

"But I can just speak to we're continuing to play good basketball. We're really trying to play the right way. I feel like [Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla] is really challenging us to continue to get better. This is the stretch of the season where we can really take it to another level, and that's what we're trying to do.

"I feel like we're not where we need to be yet, and that's a good thing."

Mazzulla added: "The guys understand how to positively impact each other.

"They understand how going into something at one point in the game is going to open it up for someone else later in the game. And we have different combinations, and the guys trust those combinations, and it puts us in a better position to win.

"At the end of the day, it's about winning, and the guys are understanding that. They understand how they affect each other."

Brown, however, pointed to the postseason as when the level of performance will truly count for the Celtics.

He said: "When it comes down to the playoffs, none of that stuff really matters.

"I feel like it's going to be about matchups, it's going to be about playing hard. Obviously, home court matters, so that is key, but when you get into the thick of it, you;'ve got to win basketball games. Regardless of what your seed is.

"If anything, it puts more pressure on you. But I think we're an experienced team. We've been in these situations before and I think we're ready."

Jaylen Brown had 30 points and eight assists and Kristaps Porzingis added 22 points to lead the Boston Celtics to their eighth straight win, 116-102 over the New York Knicks on Saturday.

Jayson Tatum scored 19 points and Derrick White contributed 13 for the league-leading Celtics, winners of 10 of 11.

Jalen Brunson scored 34 points and Josh Hart was next with 16 for the Knicks, who were swept in the four-game season series by Boston.

Porzingis ignited a 10-0 run with a 3-pointer and Brown closed it with a layup to give the Celtics an 88-71 lead with 3:53 left in the third quarter.

New York got the deficit down to 99-90 with 9:17 to play, but the Celtics took advantage of three turnovers and six missed shots to go on a 10-0 run for a 19-point cushion.


Banchero’s last-second 3-point play lifts Magic

Paolo Benchero converted a 3-point play with 0.8 seconds remaining to snap a tie and give the Orlando Magic a 112-109 win over the Detroit Pistons.

Banchero made an 18-foot jumper and the ensuing free throw for the winning points before Cade Cunningham hit the rim on a 70-plus-foot shot at the buzzer.

Banchero finished with 15 points as each Orlando starter scored in double digits in the Magic’s third straight win.

Cunnigham led NBA-worst Detroit with 26 points.


Timberwolves pull away from reeling Nets

Anthony Edwards scored 11 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter and the Minnesota Timberwolves assumed sole possession of first place in the Western Conference with a 101-86 victory over the reeling Brooklyn Nets.

Karl-Anthony Towns had 28 points and nine rebounds as Minnesota bounced back from Friday’s loss to Milwaukee with its fifth win in six games.

Cam Thomas scored 18 points for Brooklyn, which fell to 0-2 under interim coach Kevin Ollie and dropped to 1-7 in its past eight games.

Jayson Tatum scored 31 of his 41 points in the first half and the Boston Celtics defeated the Brooklyn Nets, 118-110, for their fifth straight win in the opener of a home-and-home series on Tuesday.

Jaylen Brown scored 19 points, Al Horford had 16 on 6-for-6 shooting in place of the injured Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday added 14 points and 12 assists.

The Celtics have won nine of 10 against the Nets and the past six meetings in Brooklyn.

Mikal Bridges had 27 points and Cam Thomas added 26 for the Nets, who have lost four of five.

Brooklyn closed within 99-93 with Tatum resting on the bench with 7:55 remaining, but he returned and combined with Brown on a 7-0 run that pushed it to 109-95 with 5:38 left.

These teams meet again in Boston on Wednesday.


Suns overcome Sabonis, Fox

Kevin Durant scored 28 points with 12 rebounds and Devin Booker added 25 points as the Phoenix Suns overcame the loss of Bradley Beal in a 130-125 win over the Sacramento Kings.

Beal injured his left hamstring in the first quarter and didn’t return. The three-time All-Star has often been injured and has played in just 30 of the team’s 54 games.

Eric Gordon scored 23 points and Grayson Allen contributed 19 as the Suns won their fourth in five games.

Sabonis had his third straight triple-double with 35 points, 18 rebounds and 12 assists, and De’Aaron Fox scored 40 for Sacramento, which has lost four of five.


Edwards leads Timberwolves past Trail Blazers

Anthony Edwards poured in 41 points and Rudy Gobert added 16 with 15 rebounds to pace the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 121-109 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

Edwards, who was questionable entering the game due to right knee soreness, was 16 of 27 from the field and 4 of 8 from 3-point range. He hit the 40-point mark for the second time this season.

Edwards and Gobert helped offset an off night from Karl-Anthony Towns, who had foul trouble early and was limited to 13 points in 19 minutes.

Deandre Ayton had 22 points and 16 rebounds for the Blazers, who dropped their fifth straight.

Joe Mazzulla was proud of the Boston Celtics' "late-game execution" in Sunday's 110-106 win over the Miami Heat.

The Celtics had to withstand a late push from the Heat as they held on to win a fourth straight game.

Boston, who beat the Heat by 33 points on the road in January, lead the NBA with a 41-12 record. Miami, meanwhile, are eighth in the Eastern Conference.

And though the Celtics ultimately had to defend late on, they have now won all three meetings with the Heat this season, with their sole loss coming in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals last season.

"Late-game execution, you've got to set the table," Mazzulla said of his team's display. "I think our guys did that.

"Just the intensity. Just the physicality. I enjoy watching physicality with poise, and I thought our guys had that throughout tonight. You obviously need to rise to the occasion."

Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 26 points, nine assists and 10 rebounds, Kristaps Porzingis finished with 25 points and nine rebounds, while Jaylen Brown added 20 points and nine rebounds.

"Today was fun, we have a lot of history with this team," Tatum said.

"Last time we came here we smacked them, so we knew it would be a closer game.

"They came to play and we enjoy being part of games like that. Everybody's being competitive."

Bam Adebayo scored 22 points for the Heat, who were without Jimmy Buttler after he was granted leave following the death of a family member.

"It's tough to see guys like that go down," said Duncan Robinson, who finished with 15 points. 

"And then Jimmy dealing with what he's dealing with is unfortunate, to put it lightly."

The Heat have won four of their last six games, and Erik Spoelstra put this defeat down to many factors going against them.

"I thought our group showed a tremendous amount of grit in that second half," Spoelstra said.

"There were a lot of things that weren't necessarily going our way, including the injuries. To really fight and claw back and get this game on the ropes, it's a credit to how hard guys were playing."

Jayson Tatum just missed a triple-double with 26 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, and the Boston Celtics held off a late comeback attempt by the Miami Heat in Sunday's 110-106 victory that extended their winning streak to four games.

Kristaps Porzingis added 25 points and nine rebounds to help Boston defeat Miami for the third time in as many meetings this season. The Heat ousted the Celtics in seven games in last season's Eastern Conference finals.

Miami had a two-game winning streak snapped and was playing without leading scorer Jimmy Butler, who is away from the team due to the death of a family member. The Heat also lost starting guard Terry Rozier to a knee injury in the third quarter.

Porzingis had 16 first-half points as Boston took a 59-50 lead into the break, and the Celtics were up by as many as 15 points in the third quarter and owned a seemingly comfortable 94-82 advantage with 9 1/2 minutes left to play.

The Heat then went on a 10-2 run to get back in it, however, and later cut their deficit to two when Tyler Herro drilled a 3-pointer with 1:49 remaining that trimmed Boston's lead to 106-104.

Miami came up empty on its next two possessions, though, and Porzingis and Tatum combined to go 4 for 4 from the free-throw line in the late stages to put the game away.

Herro scored 22 of his 24 points in the second half to lead the Heat, who also received 22 points and 13 rebounds from Bam Adebayo.


Gilgeous-Alexander, Williams carry Thunder past Kings

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 38 points and Jalen Williams chipped in 32 as the Oklahoma City Thunder got back on track with a 127-113 win over the Sacramento Kings.

Both players had hot shooting performances to help the Thunder bounce back from consecutive road losses to Utah and Dallas and move a half-game behind the Minnesota Timberwolves for first place in the Western Conference.  Gilgeous-Alexander finished 15 of 26 from the field while adding seven assists, while Williams was 13 of 20 to go along with nine rebounds.

The duo also recorded 19 first-half points each, with Williams producing eight during a 12-0 run that turned a tied game into a 41-29 Oklahoma City lead four minutes into the second quarter.

Oklahoma City took a 67-57 advantage into half-time before pulling away further in the third quarter, building a lead as large as 24 points.

Sacramento's Domantas Sabonis recorded 21 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists for his 17th triple-double of the season, two more than Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokić for the NBA lead. 

Malik Monk had 26 points off the bench for the Kings, who have now lost three of their last four games. De'Aaron Fox finished with 15 points but was held to 6-of-17 shooting.


Jrue Holiday is happy to do things the hard way occasionally after helping the Boston Celtics survive a fightback from the Indiana Pacers.

The Eastern Conference-leading Celtics battled to a 129-124 victory at TD Garden on Tuesday to go 37-11 for the season.

Indiana rallied from 20 points down late in the first half to make it 127-124, but big back-to-back stops kept the Celtics' lead intact.

Holiday saw out the victory for his side with two free throws and has no complaints about being made to sweat for the win.

"We've got to be able to fight through everything," he said. "Fight through expectations, fight through being up 20.

"Fight through somebody having a great third quarter and finishing games. If it was easy the whole time, what's the fun in that?"

Jayson Tatum scored 30 points and came up with two blocks in the final 30 seconds as the Celtics made it five wins in six games.

Jaylen Brown also impressed with 25 points, while Derrick White added 24 for Boston, who claimed the season series with Indiana 3-2.

"You have to be able to win games with your defense," coach Joe Mazzulla said.

"It's a tough balance for us because we always talk about how the game's connected. You can't have one without the other.

"But there's moments when they both have to be elite. We had really good defense down the stretch and made some winning plays."

Aaron Nesmith had 26 points and 12 rebounds and Pascal Siakam added 23 as Indiana, who had won three in a row, fell short of a comeback.

"We got outplayed in the second half, for sure," Brown said. 

"But when it came down to it in the wire, fourth quarter, we were able to nudge out and win just by matching the physicality. 

"We rebounded better in the fourth quarter, a lot better than we did all game, and then that just helped us win."

The Celtics, boasting the best record in NBA, face the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday. The 27-21 Pacers meet the New York Knicks the same day.

The Los Angeles Clippers must be able to replicate their regular-season form in the playoffs if they are to prove themselves as the real deal, so says Kawhi Leonard.

Leonard led the Clippers with 26 points in a blowout 115-96 victory over the NBA-leading Boston Celtics on Saturday.

That marked the Clippers' fifth straight win, as they improved to a league-best 22-4 run since the start of December.

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue labelled the road trip to Boston, who dealt his team a 145-108 defeat back in December, as a "measuring stick".

By any measurement, their response was emphatic, but Leonard has urged his teammates to remember that it is the postseason that really matters.

"I'm happy that we were able to come in and give the Celtics a loss," Leonard said.

"But it really doesn't mean nothing until you get to the playoffs and you're doing the things we did tonight – executing, making shots, playing good defense.

"It's good that we had carryover from last night coming from Toronto and winning these back-to-back games. But you got to just keep getting better as the year goes on."

James Harden, meanwhile, cited Saturday's display as the Clippers' best performance of the season.

"Against a team that was playing really, really well, especially at home, we've still got some ways to go, but this is a good test for us," he said.

Lue added: "The guys were pretty motivated. When they came to L.A., they did us pretty bad. So, the guys were locked in.

"Just a measuring stick against a great team. We just wanted to kind of see where we're at. We had that on our mind."

The Clippers are third in the Western Conference, two wins behind the Minnesota Timberwolves, who suffered a surprise defeat to the San Antonio Spurs.

Victor Wembanyama starred with 23 points and 10 rebounds as the Spurs - rooted to the bottom of the West - clinched a 113-112 victory.

"This is the best win we've had," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, whose team trailed by 15 points before hitting back.

Wembanyama added: "It is definitely a good one and I think tonight we have to feel proud about what we did and get used to the feeling so we can repeat it."

Devin Vassell, who led the Spurs with 25 points, said: "I think we're just growing and maturing.

"There would be times where teams go on a run and we put our heads down and almost get defeated already. Basketball is a game of runs. So right now, we've just been sticking with it. We've been playing 48 minutes."

Indiana Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle described Pascal Siakam's performance as "tremendous" after he notched his first triple-double in 15 months to help end the Philadelphia 76ers' six-game winning run.

Philadelphia arrived at Gainbridge Fieldhouse looking to close the gap on the Eastern Conference leaders, the Boston Celtics, with a seventh straight win. However, Siakam took centre-stage in a 134-122 home victory.

Siakam finished with 26 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists for his first triple-double with Indiana, who never trailed at any point in the game.

The victory came on the same night as Tyrese Haliburton was announced as a first-time All-Star starter, and just three days after reigning MVP Joel Embiid had a 76ers-record 70 points in a win over the San Antonio Spurs.

"We made it our kind of game," Pacers coach Carlisle said after seeing his team improve to 25-20.

"Siakam was obviously tremendous, the sixth triple-double of his career, his first, obviously, with the Pacers. When you have a power forward get a triple-double, it's pretty special."

The Pacers were without Haliburton as he missed another game due to a niggling hamstring injury, but they made light of his absence by racing into a 17-point lead within the first half.

Siakam's display was central to that, and Philadelphia coach Nick Nurse also heaped praise on the two-time All-Star, saying: "He was good, he was very good

"He got going early and when he does that, you're going to see him play really, really well. 

We got to him kind of late on some double teams and there was nobody there to rotate out, which is why he had such a big assist number."

The 76ers were made to pay for their slip-up as the league-leading Celtics beat the Miami Heat 143-110, avenging their defeat to the same team in last season’s Eastern Conference finals.

Jayson Tatum led seven Celtics in double figures with 26 points as Boston improved to 35-10, but head coach Joe Mazzulla warned the victory will be proven redundant if they don't reach the same level in the postseason.

"This game was really good, but it means nothing at all in the grand scheme of things if we don't take the lessons that we need to and apply it to the next game," Mazzulla said. 

"So, we'll enjoy it until we get to the plane and then it's onto the next one."

Nikola Jokic honoured the memory of his former mentor Dejan Milojevic by starring in the Denver Nuggets' crucial road win over the Boston Celtics on Friday, says coach Michael Malone.

Golden State Warriors assistant coach Milojevic died at the age of 46 on Wednesday after suffering a heart attack, prompting an outpouring of emotion across the NBA.

Before his arrival in San Francisco, Milojevic was credited with kickstarting the career of two-time NBA MVP Jokic when the duo worked together at Belgrade-based team KK Mega Basket.

On Friday, Denver had the daunting task of attempting to halt Boston's 20-0 run at TD Garden this season, and Jokic's 34 points helped them on their way to a huge win over a fellow championship contender.  

Jokic also added 12 rebounds and nine assists while Jamal Murray finished with 35 points as the defending champions improved to 29-14.

Speaking after the game, Nuggets coach Malone expressed pride in Jokic and said the events of recent days made his dominant performance all the more impressive.

"As I mentioned to our team after the game, I couldn't be more proud of Nikola for playing the way he played with the tragic passing of Deki," Malone said. 

"That's what you do, though. That's why I'm proud of Nikola. You just lost somebody that you love and you care about that meant a lot to you, that was a mentor and a coach to you.

"So go honour him. You know what I mean? Nikola went out there, he honoured Deki's memory and his legacy by playing at the level he played at.

"It's not easy to do with a heavy heart, but Nikola is a special person, obviously. It was incredible to watch him play with that heavy heart, when you consider who we were playing and you add everything else to the mix.

"That's why Nikola is the best player in the world."

The Celtics found themselves 98-95 up with just under five minutes to go in the fourth quarter, but they missed eight of their final nine shots – four of them from Jayson Tatum – to allow the Nuggets back in.

Malone feels the victory amounted to a statement from his team, saying: "You're playing against the best team in the NBA. It was like a playoff game. 

"I know this is only Game 43, 44, whatever it is, but it was kind of like a playoff game, a playoff atmosphere and two really good teams. 

"They were in the Finals two years ago. They were in the Eastern Conference Finals last year. They have high hopes, as do we.

"It was a game that we were all in. We put all of our chips in and we were lucky enough to get the outcome that we desired."

The Milwaukee Bucks expect to have Giannis Antetokounmpo back on the court soon, but coach Adrian Griffin wants his team to learn from their humbling defeat without the two-time former MVP.

Antetokounmpo sat out Wednesday's game against the Cleveland Cavaliers and saw the Bucks beaten 135-95 in his absence.

The superstar forward had played in each of Milwaukee's previous 29 games, although he was also on the injury report before Sunday's overtime win against the Sacramento Kings, scoring 27 points towards his seasonal average of 31.2 points per game.

While taking on an in-form Cavaliers team without Antetokounmpo was always likely to be a tough ask, Griffin offered the Bucks no excuses.

Indeed, he was particularly dismayed by the way in which Cleveland were allowed to race into a 22-2 lead less than halfway through the first quarter. Donovan Mitchell scored 12 of those 22 points on his way to 31 for the night.

"[It was a] tough night collectively," said Griffin, "but we've got to find the energy from the jump – especially being short-handed.

"You have to learn from this, because you can't allow this to happen again, especially at the start of the game.

"Before we looked up, we were down 20. We would literally come down and just shoot."

A big loss for the 28-13 Bucks allowed the 32-9 Boston Celtics to pull further clear at the top of the Eastern Conference, 117-98 victors over the San Antonio Spurs.

The Spurs' number one overall draft pick Victor Wembanyama scored 27 in his first game in Boston, but he was more impressed by the Celtics.

"Everybody can hoop on that team," said the French rookie. "Everyone's a threat on the court.

"But at the same time, they all know their roles, and they're all willing to share the ball, from the most important franchise guys to the role players.

"Everybody is ready to compete and to make the sacrifices."

Jayson Tatum had no regrets after being ejected for the second time in six weeks on Saturday, being pulled up for back-to-back technical fouls as the Boston Celtics crushed the Houston Rockets.

Tatum had 27 points and eight assists in support of Jaylen Brown's 32 points as the Celtics stayed perfect at home, claiming a 145-113 victory over their former coach Ime Udoka and the Rockets.

League-leading Boston are now up to 30-9 and are 19-0 at TD Garden, having never previously started a season with more than 17 straight home wins.

The game ended on a slightly sour note for the Celtics, though, as Tatum was removed for two technicals in quick succession. 

Having received his first for complaining about a non-call when his arm was clearly struck during an attempted dunk with just over 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Tatum continued to berate the officials then shouted at referee CJ Washington after being ejected.

Tatum has no regrets over his behaviour, however, suggesting he chose the right moment to air his grievances as Boston closed in on a blowout win.

"I'm a pretty self-aware person. I understand the time and score of the game, Tatum said. "The game was pretty much over. I've got to stand up for myself. I was frustrated. 

"At some point throughout the course of the night, you've got to stand up for yourself. This is not something I do every game or every night. Tonight, I just had to let them know how I felt.”

Boston coach Joe Mazzulla echoed those sentiments, saying: "In the NBA you have that space of having to defend yourself, and for me having to defend my guys. 

"There's a time and a place for everything, and you've just got to pick and choose your spots."

Asked about the non-call which led to Tatum's first technical, Mazzulla said: "When it comes to stuff like that, I try not to have an opinion."

Saturday's win – Boston's 10th in their last 13 games – came just 48 hours after a 33-point loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday, and Brown recognised the importance of bouncing back.

"Last game we didn't feel like we were at our best," Brown said. "Today we wanted to come out and make sure we stayed undefeated on our home court."

Giannis Antetokounmpo wants to see more urgency from the Milwaukee Bucks after suggesting "fear factor" inspired his team to a big victory over the Boston Celtics.

Antetokounmpo scored 24 points, including a brilliant dunk, and finished with 12 rebounds as the Bucks snapped out of their January slump with a dominant 135-102 win over Boston on Thursday.

The Bucks had lost four of their previous five games, though some well-timed days off and a good practice session helped them reset.

And while acknowledging the Bucks will not always be able to turn it on as they did against the Celtics, Antetokounmpo wants to see the same level of urgency and motivation in every game.

"There was a respect-slash-fear factor also that's very important for this team, that we have to go out there and play at our best today," Antetokounmpo said.

"There was more urgency. Losing four out of five games. We had to be better, to play better.

"We had a great practice, talked about what we could do better, and guys were more urgent. We were very assertive, defensively we were helping one another.

"The team has to be more urgent, we have to respect the other team. We have to do this every single night.

"There'll be nights we play bad, where the other team makes the shots, but having a good practice and a couple of days off, that helped."

Bobby Portis added 28 points to the Bucks' total, combining with Antetokounmpo to devastating effect in a 25-0 burst midway through the first half.

"I love the way we responded," said Bucks coach Adrian Griffin. "We responded like champions today."

The Celtics have lost two of their last three games, though still remain three wins ahead of the Bucks in the Eastern Conference standings.

"We just didn't have it," Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. "That can happen from time to time."

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