The Miami Heat produced a fourth-quarter comeback to win the second game of the NBA finals 111-108 and even up the seven-match series against the Denver Nuggets.

The Heat trailed by eight heading into the final period, having trailed by 15 earlier in the game in the wake of another massive performance from Nikola Jokic.

Jokic scored 41 points, scoring 16 of 28 shots from the floor including one with 36 seconds remaining which cut the Heat’s lead to three points.

But after Jimmy Butler missed on Miami’s next possession, Jamal Murray was unable to tie the scores with an effort on the buzzer.

The defeat was Denver’s first since May 7 and they had won all 11 play-off games in which they had opened a double-digit lead.

They had trailed 21-10 in the opening quarter before a barrage of three-point scores helped them to a 44-32 advantage which had been trimmed to six points at the break.

And Miami held on through the third quarter before the late surge that takes the series to Miami all square.

Gabe Vincent led the way for Miami with 23 points as Butler and Bam Adebayo each grabbed 21.

The Denver Nuggets cruised to an 11-point win over a lacklustre Miami Heat in the first game of the NBA finals.

Nuggets centre Nikola Jokic was pivotal in the 104-93 victory, picking up a seamless triple-double in his finals debut.

Miami had no defensive answers for the 28-year-old Serbian, who orchestrated Denver’s offence before finishing with 27 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds.

Outside of the first few minutes, Denver never looked like losing – much to the appreciation of a raucous home crowd.

Bam Adebayo had a strong showing for the Heat as he picked up a team-high 26 points, but he had little help from an inconsistent offence.

On the other hand, Jokic was ably assisted by a 26-point effort from Jamal Murray, while fellow starters Aaron Gordon and Michael Porter Jr added 16 and 14 points respectively.

The seven-game series is Denver’s first trip back to the finals in 47 years, while Miami are on the hunt for their fourth championship.

The Denver Nuggets didn’t show much rust despite a lengthy layoff and Nikola Jokic stepped up down the stretch in his NBA Finals debut, helping his team hold off the Miami Heat for a 104-93 victory in Game 1 on Thursday.

Jokic scored 12 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter – including eight in the final four minutes after the Heat stormed back to cut a 24-point deficit to just nine points.

The two-time league MVP also assisted on 14 baskets and grabbed 10 rebounds to notch his ninth triple-double of this year’s playoffs.

Jokic had plenty of help with Jamal Murray finishing with 26 points and 10 assists, Aaron Gordon adding 16 points and six rebounds and Michael Porter Jr. chipping in 14 points and 12 boards for a Nuggets team that improved to 9-0 at home in the playoffs.

 The Heat were led by Bam Adebayo’s 26 points and 13 rebounds, while Gabe Vincent scored 19 and Haywood Highsmith had 18 points off the bench.

Jimmy Butler, the MVP of the Eastern Conference finals, had 13 points – his fewest of the playoffs – along with seven rebounds and seven assists.

With nine days off between games after sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference finals, there was concern that the Nuggets would be a bit rusty, but that wasn’t the case.

Playing in its first Finals in the franchise's 47-year history, Denver came out firing on all cylinders early in front of a raucous crowd, shooting 59.5 per cent in the opening two quarters to jump out to a 59-42 half-time lead.

The Nuggets pulled away in the third quarter to build an 84-60 advantage but the battle-tested Heat responded.

Highsmith scored 12 points in the fourth quarter and his 3 with 2 ½ minutes to play pulled the Heat within nine points, but that is as close as they would get.

Game 2 will be Sunday in Denver, and it’s possible Tyler Herro will be cleared to play.

Herro has been sidelined since fracturing his right hand in Miami’s playoff opener on April 16, and has been increasing his basketball activities in the last week.

Nikola Jokic remains "worried" about the Denver Nuggets' chances of reaching the NBA Finals despite Saturday's Game 3 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, warning LeBron James is "capable of everything".

Jokic combined with Jamal Murray to guide the top-seeded Nuggets to a 119-108 win at Crypto.com Arena, giving them a 3-0 series lead and putting them on the brink of a first NBA Finals appearance.

The two-time NBA MVP added 24 points to Murray's game-high 37, leaving Denver heavily fancied to advance ahead of another road game on Monday.

However, Jokic is unwilling to start the celebrations early, saying: "To be honest, I'm not going to say that I'm scared, but I'm worried.

"Because they have LeBron on the other side, and he is capable of doing everything. 

"We're going to come here with the same mindset, same focus, and I think that's going to put us in a situation to win a game.

"We never know. They're going to be aggressive. Of course, they're going to be extra physical. 

"They're going to run more, everything is going to be on a different level, more of anything. So, we will see."

Murray echoed his team-mate's cautious tone, stressing the importance of the Nuggets remaining grounded. 

"We're just keeping everybody in the moment, not letting it slip away," Murray said.

"You need 16 wins to win a championship and we've got five more to go and the Lakers are in our way, and they are going to do everything in their power to come back and fight."

James finished Game 3 with 23 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds but missed with 11 of his 19 shots, including four of six in the fourth quarter.

Despite the Lakers' season hanging by a thread, the four-time NBA champion is refusing to give up hope.

"We've got to get one, just get one at a time," James said. "Just focus on Game 4, that's all you can think about. 

"Obviously, this game is over with. We had some opportunities and we didn't come through. It's a one-game series for us."

Jamal Murray dominated the first half and Nikola Jokic came alive in the fourth quarter as the Denver Nuggets moved within one win of a sweep with a 119-108 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals.

Murray scored 30 of his 37 points in the first half and Jokic shook off a slow start with 15 of his 24 in the fourth quarter to give Denver a 3-0 lead in the series.

The top-seeded Nuggets can complete the sweep in Game 4 on Monday and secure the franchise's first-ever NBA Finals appearance.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 17 points, Bruce Brown had 15 and Michael Porter Jr. tallied 14 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for the Nuggets, who trailed by one before outscoring the Lakers 26-14 over the final 7 1/2 minutes.

Anthony Davis had 28 points and 18 rebounds and LeBron James and Austin Reaves each added 23 points, but it wasn't enough to prevent Los Angeles from its first three-game losing streak since early February.

The Lakers, who had a nine-game home win streak snapped, are faced with trying to become the first team in NBA history to rally from a 3-0 playoff series deficit.

Jeff Green, Brown and Murray hit consecutive 3-pointers as part of a 13-0 run by the Nuggets that turned a 94-93 deficit into a 106-94 lead with less than five minutes remaining.

The Lakers responded with the next four points, but Jokic sank two free throws and hit a 3-pointer and Murray made a layup to push the advantage to 113-101 with 2:47 to go.

James made three 3-pointers after starting the series 0 for 13 from long range.

LeBron James insists there is light at the end of the tunnel for the Los Angeles Lakers despite falling 2-0 down to the top-seeded Denver Nuggets.

The Lakers were beaten 108-103 in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals, even though they were leading by 11 points in the third quarter and started the fourth still up by three.

Jamal Murray powered a decisive 15-1 Denver run in the fourth quarter, finishing with 37 points, while Nikola Jokic (23-17-12) made it five triple-doubles in the space of six games.

James, meanwhile, was unable to connect with any of his six three-point attempts in a frustrating night that saw him finish with 22 points.

But the 38-year-old did have 10 assists, nine rebounds and four steals and feels there is enough room for optimism ahead of Game 3 on home court, where the Lakers have won every game this postseason.

"I think we improved from Game 1 to Game 2," James said, per ESPN. 

"And if we can do the same thing from Game 2 to Game 3, we put ourselves in a position to win.

"This is not the NCAA tournament. It's the first to four wins. Until a team beats you four times, then you always have an opportunity to come out of it. That is the confidence we need to have.

"We can't go into any postseason game with comfort just because you either haven't lost at home or you're going back home. We have still got to play with the same desperation as we did [in Game 2].

"We came out with an L. The three-point line is what killed us in the fourth.

"[Murray] made shots at the end of the clock. We guard for 24 seconds and he made two big-time shots, one over [Anthony Davis] and one over me. 

"He had his 3-point shot going in the fourth. It’s no surprise to me, he’s done it before. Sometimes it’s a never-miss league."

James said what he called "a little ankle injury" would not stop him suiting up for Game 3 on Saturday.

Austin Reaves tied James for a team-high 22 points and had no concerns about his star teammate’s shooting woes from deep.

"I mean, he can shoot all he wants – it's LeBron James," said Reaves. "I don't think anybody bats an eye when he shoots a shot or questions his shot. 

"We want him taking whatever he feels comfortable with, just because he's a winning basketball player for his whole career and that's all he wants to do, he wants to win."

Coach Darvin Ham had similar views on James' long-range shooting after Thursday's loss.

Ham said: "He [James] was open, they're playing off of him. He's a highly capable three-point shooter, he let it fly.

"Proud of our guys, they bounced back and we addressed a lot of the things that we said we were going to try to do better.

"Still got to be better in transition D. But overall the energy was there, the effort was there, the urgency was there, we just caught a bad stretch."

The Lakers have now lost consecutive games for the first time since the middle of March. After beating the odds to make the playoffs following a woeful start to the regular season, Ham was quick to remind observers the Lakers should not be counted out. 

"I've been down 2-10, 0-5," Ham said. "You're never as good as they say you are and you're never as bad as they say you are.

"You've just got to treat each day like its own entity. Each day, each game an opportunity to go out and get better. Never get too high and never get too low."

Davis also vowed to improve in Game 3. He had 14 rebounds and four blocks but was restricted to 18 points on 4-of-15 shooting after scoring 40 points in Game 1.

The eight-time All-Star said: "I'm going to continue to shoot those shots and I got to be better, more efficient, help the team win. So, I'll be better."

Jamal Murray and Michael Malone wanted to make sure people would be talking about the Denver Nuggets after Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.

They achieved just that as the Nuggets moved 2-0 ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers with a 108-103 win, led by Murray's 37 points.

Murray scored 23 points in a huge fourth quarter that Denver had started three points behind. The Canadian also recorded 10 rebounds, five assists and four steals.

Nikola Jokic impressed again, registering his fifth triple-double in the space of six games with 23 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists.

It was clear after Thursday's game that the Nuggets had been frustrated to see much of the coverage of their 132-126 win in Game 1 discussing the positives of the Lakers' performance.

Now, Denver are two wins away from a first NBA Finals appearance.

"You win Game 1 and all everybody talked about was the Lakers," said Malone, per ESPN.

"Let's be honest, the national narrative was, 'Hey, the Lakers are fine. They're down 1-0, but they figured something out'.

"No one talked about how Nikola just had an historic performance. He's got 13 playoff triple-doubles now, third all-time. What he's doing is just incredible on a nightly basis on the biggest stage in the world.

"But their narrative wasn't about the Nuggets. The narrative wasn't about Nikola. The narrative was about the Lakers and their adjustments. 

"So you know, you put that in your pipe and you smoke it, you come back and you know what, we're gonna go up 2-0."

Murray added: "We're the Denver Nuggets; we're used to that.

"Even when we win, they talk about the other team. We beat the Clippers in the bubble, they talk about the other team. 

"Same old, same old. It fuels us a little more and will be sweeter when we win the chip."

Murray, who is still battling an ear infection, had only made five of his first 17 shots before his decisive late surge.

"It would have been a lot easier if I had made them in the first half!" he said.

"Playing in the Western Conference finals against the Lakers and LeBron James, it's an amazing opportunity, and it's something you're going to look back in history and remember for the rest of your life."

James and Austin Reaves both scored 22 points for the Lakers, while Rui Hachimura added 21 off the bench.

Anthony Davis had 18 points and 14 rebounds but was held to a 4-of-15 shooting performance after scoring 40 points in Game 1.

Murray lifted Denver to a crucial 15-1 run that put them 96-84 ahead with just over five minutes left. He scored four of his six three-pointers in the fourth quarter.

"I love Jamal Murray," added Malone. "This is not just like I'm coaching him. We've been together seven years and been through a lot of ups and downs.

"To see him back playing at the level he's playing at, the first thought for me is just tremendous pride and just so happy for him. Because I saw the dark days coming back from that ACL injury.

"He needs to continue to do that. Obviously our goal is not done. We have to win this series. Our goal is to win a championship, and he's going to be a big part of that."

Jokic said about Murray: "He was special and he won us the game. He played 42 minutes, his energy was amazing. 

"Yes, maybe in the first half, he struggled to make shots. But when it mattered the most, he made shots and won us the game basically."

Game 3 takes place on Saturday in Los Angeles, with the Lakers unbeaten at home so far in the playoffs.

Jamal Murray scored 23 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter in a stellar performance as the Denver Nuggets held on for a 108-103 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Thursday's win saw the Nuggets take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals.

Nikola Jokic notched his fourth straight triple-double and seventh of these playoffs with 23 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists to improve Denver to 8-0 at home this postseason. The Nuggets are two wins away from the franchise's first-ever NBA Finals appearance.

Murray missed 12 of his 17 shots through three quarters but was 6 of 7 in the fourth, including four 3-pointers and fuelled a 15-1 run to put the top-seeded Nuggets ahead for good.

His fourth-quarter explosion began with a short jumper with 9:59 remaining to forge an 81-81 tie.

He then sank consecutive 3-pointers and hit another after Bruce Brown connected from deep to put Denver up 93-84. Michael Porter Jr.'s three preceded another three from Murray that made it 99-87.

The Lakers scored the next five points to close the gap, but Murray answered with another basket. Austin Reaves ended a run of 11 straight missed threes by Los Angeles to close the deficit to 101-99, only to see Murray sink five free throws in the final 25 seconds.

Brown stole the ball from LeBron James with eight seconds left to seal Denver's victory.

Murray's 23-point quarter was one less point than the entire Lakers team.

James was just shy of a triple-double with 22 points, 10 boards and nine assists but missed all six of his 3-point attempts. Austin Reaves added 22 points with five threes and Rui Hachimura contributed 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting for Los Angeles, which misfired on 22 of 30 from beyond the arc.

Game 3 is Saturday night in Los Angeles, where the Lakers have won eight straight.

Nikola Jokic has an uncanny ability to make basketball look simple yet miraculous, according to his Denver Nuggets teammate Aaron Gordon.

Jokic starred for the Nuggets as Denver held off a spirited comeback from LeBron James' Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Tuesday.

The Nuggets prevailed 132-126 to take the series lead, with Jokic registering 34 points, 21 rebounds, 14 assists - his third straight triple-double in the playoffs this season.

"He makes it [look] really simple," Nuggets forward Gordon said of his team-mate.

"[But also] he makes it look miraculous at the same time. It's ridiculous."

For fellow Nugget and former Laker Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who played with James during his stint in Los Angeles, there is not much to pick between Jokic and the NBA's record points scorer.

"I feel like the only difference is 'Bron can jump higher than Jokic," said Caldwell-Pope said.

"That's about the only difference that I can see. I just love playing with Jokic, willing passer, dominant big man down there.

"Just seeing him do what he does, gets everybody else going."

Denver coach Michael Malone added: "I thought when he felt there was one-on-one coverage, facing up and getting to the basket, [Jokic] used that understated athleticism to finish in traffic. That was great to see."

Jokic enjoyed a tussle with Anthony Davis, and sank a 28-foot 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter that even left his opponent smiling.

"Oh, sometimes luck is on our side," Jokic quipped.

"It's a crazy shot, of course. It's not something that I work on, but I'm glad it went in."

Matters did not go entirely Denver's way, with the Lakers forging a comeback and pulling within three twice in the fourth quarter, once on Austin Reaves' 3-pointer at 124-121 with 3:23 remaining and again on James' two free throws that made it 129-126 with 72 seconds to play.

"We'll be better," said James.

"We know we didn't play up to our capabilities in the first half, but you know we'll be better in Game 2, that's for sure."

Nikola Jokic notched another triple-double with 34 points, 21 rebounds and 14 assists but the Denver Nuggets barely held off the visiting Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.

Jokic had his third straight triple-double and sixth of these playoffs, while Jamal Murray added 31 points for the Nuggets, who led by as many as 21 points in the third quarter before the Lakers stormed back, with Denver ultimately holding on for a 132-126 win.

Los Angeles pulled within three twice in the fourth quarter, once on Austin Reaves' 3-pointer at 124-121 with 3:23 remaining and again on LeBron James' two free throws that made it 129-126 with 72 seconds to play.

After sinking two from the line and seeing Murray make a huge steal on James with 18 seconds left, Jokic sank another free throw, effectively ending the Lakers' comeback.

Anthony Davis had 40 points and 10 rebounds, James fell just shy of a triple-double with 26 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists and Reaves keyed the late charge with 11 of his 23 points coming in the final quarter.

Jokic became the first player since at least 1997 to have a dozen or more boards and at least five assists in any quarter of an NBA playoff game.

Game 2 takes place on Thursday in Denver, where the top-seeded Nuggets are 7-0 in the playoffs.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Two-time reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic has "zero interest" in the hype surrounding this year's award.

Jokic is a leading candidate for the 2022-23 MVP award, alongside Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.

The winner will be announced on Tuesday, a day after Jokic led the Denver Nuggets to a 97-87 victory over the Phoenix Suns in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals.

Jokic delivered a performance worthy of an MVP, scoring 39 points and adding 16 rebounds to help Denver take a 2-0 series lead.

But the 28-year-old Serbian is not paying much credence to the speculation over who will claim the prize.

"I don't really think about it. Like zero interest," said Jokic, who is hoping to spend Tuesday recovering.

"Hopefully, it's going to be a sunny day, so I can be in the swimming pool," he quipped.

Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell are the only other players to have been named an MVP for three seasons running.

"I mean, I cannot think about that, because I cannot control it," Jokic said.

Nuggets coach Michael Malone knows that Jokic is not motivated by individual success.

"I marvel at his greatness, I marvel at his consistency, his excellence, his ability to find so many different ways to beat you, whether it's scoring, rebounding, playmaking, not afraid of the moment," Malone said of Jokic.

"There's so many quality [MVP] candidates, and it'll be a really close race.

"But I know what motivates Nikola Jokic, what motivates myself and the rest of the guys in that locker room, is not the MVP.

"It's our journey to try and win the first championship in franchise history."

After two home wins for the Nuggets, Game 3 in Phoenix takes place on Friday.

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