Grant Williams scored a career-high 27 points as the Boston Celtics advanced to the Eastern Conference finals, defeating the reigning NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks 109-81 in Game 7 on Sunday.

Williams went seven-of-18 from the perimeter to lead the Celtics, with four others scoring in double digits in Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Payton Pritchard, who added 14 points off the bench.

The 23-year-old's seventh triple of the night came at an important time, too, with the Bucks starting to gather momentum at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

Tatum was pivotal on both ends despite seven turnovers, putting up 23 points on 50 per cent shooting, eight assists and six rebounds.

The Celtics were able to restrict Giannis Antetokounmpo from scoring easily, with the reigning finals MVP getting 25 points but on 10-of-26 shooting, along with his 20 rebounds and nine assists.

With the series-deciding win, the Celtics have set up a rematch of the 2020 Eastern Conference finals, facing the first-seeded Miami Heat.

Doncic dominates as Mavs demolish Suns

Both of the contestants in the 2021 NBA finals were knocked out in same night in Game 7s on Sunday, with the Dallas Mavericks blowing out the first-seeded Phoenix Suns 123-84.

The Suns scored a disappointingly low 27 points on their home floor in the first half, as threes rained in on the other end, and the Mavs went into the main change with a 30-point lead.

Chris Paul and Devin Booker went missing when they were needed most, generating little in terms of dribble penetration and combining for 21 points on seven-of-22 shooting.

Conversely, Luka Doncic had come into Game 7 with shooting splits of 45.7 and 29.6 per cent but lit the Suns up with the season on the line, finishing with 35 points on 12-of-19 shooting.

More importantly, Doncic was able to get his teammates good looks, with Dallas shooting an 48.7 per cent from the perimeter.

The Mavericks will now face the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals. 

The Miami Heat progressed to the Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday, comfortably defeating the Philadelphia 76ers 99-90.

After the Golden State Warriors' anaemic performance in a closeout game on the road, the Heat showed no such trepidation and led by 20 at one stage, taking control in the third quarter with a 16-2 scoring run.

Jimmy Butler scored 14 points on six-of-nine shooting in that period as Miami put the proverbial foot on Philadelphia's throat, finishing with 32 points, eight rebounds and four assists against his former team.

James Harden went missing in the second half with Philadelphia's season on the line, meanwhile, taking only two shot attempts for the half while committing three turnovers to go with his four assists.

Now in their second ECF in three seasons, the Heat will face the winner of the series between the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks.

Mavs take Suns to deciding game

The Dallas Mavericks are taking the Western Conference's first seed to seven games, after they blew the Phoenix Suns out 113-86.

Luka Doncic was very close to a triple-double with his side's season on the line, but his fingerprints were nevertheless all over Game 6, finishing with 33 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.

Doncic's ability to find his teammates for open looks has been consistent in the series but their ability to knock them down has fluctuated. On Thursday, the Mavs shot 41 per cent from the perimeter for the win.

Devin Booker went two-of-10 with the game in the balance in the second and third quarters, as the Suns hoped to close the series out, finishing with 19 points on six-of-17 shooting.

Phoenix simply did not take care of the basketball, coughing it up 22 times with the Mavs scoring 29 points in transition off those turnovers.

The Miami Heat moved a step closer to progressing to the Eastern Conference Finals, rolling past the Philadelphia 76ers in a 120-85 win on Tuesday.

The Heat comfortably took a 3-2 series lead as the Sixers collapsed in the third quarter, going three-of-12 from the floor for the period aside from Joel Embiid.

While the Heat started strong, Embiid, James Harden and Tyrese Maxey were taken out with eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

Jimmy Butler was able to get to his spots on the floor, going nine-of-15 shooting on the way to 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists for the night.

As a team, Miami had a 20-point advantage (56-36) for points in the paint while seven players scored in double figures in the 35-point win, the joint largest margin of victory in the playoffs this season.

Suns surge in second-half to Game 5 win

The Phoenix Suns also claimed an important Game 5 victory on Tuesday, defeating the Dallas Mavericks 110-80.

Similar to the Philadelphia 76ers in the earlier game, the Mavericks started out ice cold and turned the ball over following the main break, giving up a double-digit lead to start the third quarter.

What was a one-point margin lead for the Suns at half-time quickly blew out to 17 by the middle of the third, when Deandre Ayton scored to make it 67-50.

The Western Conference's first seed did not look back from there, as Devin Booker finished the game with 28 points, seven rebounds and two steals.

Dribble penetration and offensive rebounding created good looks for the Suns, who shot 37.5 per cent from beyond the arc, while the Mavs conversely shot at 25 per cent.

Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams has won NBA Coach of the Year, beating fellow finalists Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat and the Memphis Grizzlies' Taylor Jenkins.

Williams narrowly missed out on 2020-21 award, with the New York Knicks' Tom Thibodeau edging the final tally by 11 votes, but he was the clear choice this season after leading the Suns to a league-best 64-18 record.

As well as winning eight more games than any other team, it also set a new franchise record for wins in a season, and legitimised last year's run to the NBA Finals as more than a fluke.

The news was first broken by Suns star Devin Booker, who tweeted: "Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams has been voted the NBA's COY, book tells sources. A formal announcement is expected later today."

Williams, a former first-round pick in his own right, spent 10 years in the league as a player, and became the youngest head coach in the NBA in 2010 when he earned the head coaching role of the New Orleans Hornets at 38 years old.

After his departure from New Orleans and five years as an assistant, Williams was hired by the Suns in 2019, guiding his team to a memorable 8-0 run in the 'bubble' during his first season.

He has followed that season with two consecutive National Basketball Coaches Association Coach of the Year awards, and his first official NBA Coach of the Year.

The Suns are a combined 115-39 over the past two regular seasons.

Chris Paul was furious after members of his family were reportedly subjected to physical contact and harassed during the Dallas Mavericks' Game 4 win over the Phoenix Suns.

A Mavs fan was ejected during their 110-101 victory at American Airlines Center, where the Western Conference semi-finals series was tied at 2-2 on Sunday.

Suns point guard Paul made an early exit from the court as he fouled out early in the fourth quarter.

It was claimed Paul's mother, Robin, was pushed by a Mavs supporter as she watched the game along with her son's wife, Jada, and their children - prompting the Suns star to seek out security staff.

A furious Paul tweeted: "Wanna fine players for saying stuff to the fans but the fans can put they hands on our families….f*** that!!"

It was a miserable night for Paul, who was hit with a fourth foul when a wily Luka Doncic tumbled towards the baseline after they both went up for a rebound just before half-time.

Paul then fouled out with just under nine minutes to play and knows he must learn from his mistakes.

He said: "I've got to look back at it. I mean, I can't put myself in the situation to give them that ability to do that. I've just got to look at myself and figure out how to do better."

Doncic spoke of his respect for Paul, but felt he only had himself to blame for being dismissed. 

"He [Paul] is one of the best point guards this league has ever had," Doncic said. "His mentality is insane, the way he sees the court, his IQ is amazing, so I think it was big time.

"He was in foul trouble, so we tried to get after him and if you don't have CP out there, it's for sure tougher on their team.

"I saw he was going for the rebound and I was surprised. He said to me if I pushed him that hard. I said, 'No, not that hard, but it was a smart play.' And he said, 'Yeah, I know.'"

Devin Booker scored 35 points for the Suns, who will look to respond in Game 5 at Footprint Center on Tuesday.

It was a defensive showcase by the Philadelphia 76ers in their 99-79 home win in Game 3 of their series against the Miami Heat.

With their season essentially on the line – as no NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit – the 76ers were energised on the defensive end with the return of star Joel Embiid, who was wearing a protective mask to protect his fractured orbital bone.

It was the first time since January 2018 that the 76ers have held an opposing team under 80 points, when they beat the San Antonio Spurs 97-78.

In an incredibly low-scoring first half, the 76ers reached half-time with a 41-34 lead as James Harden carried the early offensive load, before cooling off in the second half to finish on 17 points (four-of-11 shooting) with eight rebounds and six assists.

Embiid was solid in his return, commanding plenty of defensive attention to open up lanes for his teammates and putting in 18 points (five-of-12 shooting, eight-of-10 free throws) with 11 rebounds.

The real star of the show for the home side was Danny Green, who hit seven of his first eight three-point attempts for his equal team-high 21 points, sharing that figure with Tyrese Maxey, who had all of his 21 points in the second half.

Jimmy Butler was the only Miami starter to get into double figures, scoring a game-high 33 points on 12-of-22 shooting, while Tyler Herro was a disappointing five-of-15 from the field for his 14 points.

Game 4 will remain in Philadelphia before heading back to Miami for Game 5.

 

Mavericks make it a series

The Dallas Mavericks injected some life into their series against the Phoenix Suns, taking Game 3 103-94 at home to trail 2-1.

In an inspired defensive showing, Dallas held the Suns to quarter totals of 20, 24, 23 and 27, slowing the game down to a crawling pace at times as both sides hunted for the exact looks they were after.

Both teams shot a respectable 44 per cent from the field, while the Suns were more efficient from long range, shooting it at 46 per cent compared to the Mavericks' 33 per cent, but the hosts forced 17 turnovers while committing just eight.

While the Mavs were not at their best from deep, despite shooters Reggie Bullock and Dorian Finney-Smith combining for eight makes behind the arc, they compensated by dominating the interior, out-scoring the Suns 50-32 in the paint.

Luka Doncic was at his best with 26 points (11-of-25 shooting), adding 13 rebounds and nine assists, but it was Jalen Brunson who lifted the Mavericks to the victory.

After scoring a combined 22 points from 32 per cent shooting in Game 1 and Game 2, Brunson erupted for a game-high 28 points on 10-of-21 shooting, with five assists and four rebounds.

Jason Kidd repeated his plea for the rest of his Dallas Mavericks players to do more to help Luka Doncic after they fell 2-0 behind to the Phoenix Suns in the NBA playoffs.

Game 2 of their Western Conference semi-final was taken away from Dallas by the Suns in the second half on Wednesday, with the hosts scoring 71 points after half-time to eventually run out 129-109 victors at Footprint Center.

A sensational performance from Chris Paul was the catalyst for the number one seeds in the West, with 28 points as well as eight assists and six rebounds.

Paul was more than ably assisted by Devin Booker, who helped himself to 30 points on the night, but the game's top scorer Doncic (35) received less support.

The Slovenian added seven assists and five rebounds, with the next highest Dallas scorer, Reggie Bullock, only managing 16, while first-round star Jalen Brunson could only add nine.

Doncic is averaging 33.5 points per game for his playoff career – the most of all time – but coach Kidd accepts he cannot beat a team as good as the Suns on his own.

"He had a great game, but no one else showed," Kidd said. "We've got to get other guys shooting the ball better.

"We can't win with just him out there scoring 30 a night – not at this time of the year. And we're playing the best team in the league, so we've got to get other guys going.

"We need to do a better job of helping him. [The Suns are] bringing him up into everything. We knew that coming into the series. We knew that in the last series. We did a better job of protecting one another, not just Luka. We've got to get back to protecting one another for Game 3 back at home."

Doncic did not absolve himself of blame, though, adding: "I've just got to play better defense. That's it."

Mavs coach Kidd was also full of praise for Paul and Booker, acknowledging the Suns' gameplan worked to perfection.

"When you look at CP and Book, they took turns," Kidd said. "One took the third quarter, the next one took the fourth quarter, and we had no answers.

"They got the shots that they wanted. CP got to his spots and he made layups and made jump shots. Book made threes. They're really good. They understand the situation. They've seen it all. We've just got to be better."

The Miami Heat took a commanding 2-0 series lead against the Philadelphia 76ers, comfortably winning 119-103 at home on Wednesday.

The Eastern Conference's first seed were faced with little resistance against a Sixers side without Joel Embiid protecting the paint, shooting 51.3 per cent from the floor and 48.3 per cent from beyond the arc.

Jimmy Butler was transformative on the offensive end for the Heat, finishing with 22 points on eight-of-15 shooting and 12 assists.

Four Heat players - Bam Adebayo, Gabe Vincent, Max Strus and Tyler Herro - had three assists, while Herro and Victor Oladipo combined for 37 points off the bench on 12-of-21 shooting.

The Sixers kept turnovers relatively low with eight but did not generate great shots either, coming up with 17 assists for the night and connecting on a poor 26.7 per cent of three-point attempts.

Suns secure 2-0 lead over Mavs

The Phoenix Suns assuredly defended home court in their series with the Dallas Mavericks, securing a 129-109 victory.

A dominant second half saw the Suns through in Game 2, scoring 71 points on 29-of-41 shooting against the Mavs' 49 points on 14-of-39 from the floor.

Devin Booker and Chris Paul took over, combining for 41 points on 16-of-21 shooting after the main change. The change in game complexion was all the more distinct with Dallas taking 16 free-throw attempts in comparison to Phoenix's five.

Booker and Paul scored 30 and 28 points respectively for the night, with the latter chipping in eight assists and six rebounds.

Luka Doncic put up 35 points on 13-of-22 shooting along with seven assists, but crucially committed as many turnovers for the Mavs.

The Phoenix Suns were at their offensive best in their 121-114 Game 1 win against the Dallas Mavericks.

Led by center Deandre Ayton, who had 19 of his 25 points in the first half, the Suns scored 35 in the first quarter and 34 in the second to lead 69-56 at the long break.

The only thing keeping the Mavericks in the game was superstar Luka Doncic, who had 26 first-half points on his way to 45 on 15-of-30 shooting, while grabbing 12 rebounds and dishing eight assists.

Dallas' defense was much improved after half-time, but they struggled to cut into the lead as Devin Booker kept things ticking on his way to 23 points, with some cold shooting late bringing his figures to seven-of-20 from the field with nine rebounds and eight assists.

Cameron Johnson also chipped in with a playoff career-high 17 points off the bench in 24 productive minutes.

With a 16-point lead heading into the last frame, the Suns moved their perfect record to 51-0 this season when leading after three quarters, with only some too-little, too-late shot-making cutting the final margin to a respectable deficit.

Dallas will need much more out of guard Jalen Brunson on the attacking end to keep up with the powerful Suns offense as this series moves forward, finishing six-of-16 from the field for his 13 points, with eight of those points coming in the last quarter when the game was essentially decided.

76ers go cold against Heat

A dominant second half saw the Miami Heat pull away for a 106-92 Game 1 home victory against the Philadelphia 76ers.

It was a great start for the Heat, jumping out to a 25-11 lead, but a strong Philly fightback in the second quarter gave the road team a 51-50 advantage heading into half-time as James Harden put through his 12th point.

Harden would only score four points in the second half, which was indicative of how it went for the 76ers as the Heat raised their defense to another level in the third period.

Miami outscored the visitors 56-41 after half-time, as Tyler Herro led the way with 25 points off the bench on nine-of-17 shooting, adding seven assists.

It was also a strong scoring game for Bam Adebayo, who shot eight-for-10 for his 24 points, with 12 rebounds, four assists, two steals and a blocked shot.

Tobias Harris was the shining light for the 76ers, battling hard on both ends to finish with 27 points on 11-of-18 shooting, and was a big reason for Jimmy Butler's poor performance, which saw the Heat star not play a minute in the fourth quarter.

Chris Paul says his NBA playoff-record shooting night in the Phoenix Suns' 115-109 win over the New Orleans Pelicans was a simple matter of needs must.

The 12-time All-Star went a perfect 14-of-14 as the Suns took out Game 6 and advanced to the second round, setting the NBA playoff record for most field goals without a miss in a single game.

The Point God took over in the third quarter and at an ideal time for the Western Conference's first seed, making all six shots as the Pelicans' double-digit lead from half-time evaporated.

Paul made reference to the fact the Suns were staring a Game 7 in the face at the start of the third quarter, and he had to perform.

"We needed it," Paul said post-game. "That team right there, they pushed us as hard as you can be pushed, and I think it might have been some point in the second quarter, I said to someone 'Imma get aggressive.'

"Coming out the third quarter, I saw how the game was going. We were down 10, so I knew I had to try to force the issue."

The 36-year-old faced particular difficulty with the Pelicans' ability to switch, as well as the primary Jose Alvarado matchup, with Devin Booker out for the previous three games due to a hamstring injury.

Booker's presence allowed Paul an increased ability to penetrate and attack the paint, and the veteran point guard was thankful afterwards.

"It's real nice to have Devin back," he said. "All the pressure from the series, especially the last three games - it's a little bit different when you got him out there on the court."

The Suns will now face the Dallas Mavericks, who also progressed on Thursday with their Game 6 win on the road against the Utah Jazz.

The Phoenix Suns booked their spot in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs, securing the series with a 115-109 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Devin Booker's return from injury gave Chris Paul more room to attack, and Paul obliged with the best shooting night in NBA playoff history.

He went a perfect 14-of-14 from the floor on the way to a game-high 33 points, making the most field goals without a miss in a single playoff game.

The Suns did not have it easy though, with Booker's three-pointer putting the Suns ahead at 106-104 with 1:42 remaining. A CJ McCollum turnover on the next possession effectively secured the Suns the series.

The Pels were up 10 at the half, but foul trouble for McCollum, Herbert Jones and Jose Alvarado made lineups and finding consequent balance complicated for first-year head coach Willie Green.

Sixers snap up Raptors

The Philadelphia 76ers will face the Miami Heat in the second round after they defeated the Toronto Raptors 132-97 in Game 6 of their series.

Joel Embiid and James Harden ultimately stepped up when required, combining for 55 points off 19-of-30 shooting. Embiid added 10 rebounds, three blocks and two steals while Harden masterfully distributed the ball with 15 assists and committed just three turnovers.

The Raptors had a brutal third quarter with their season on the line, going five-of-19 from the floor for 17 points, before Pascal Siakam eventually fouled out with 24 points.

Jazz miss chance to extend season

The Utah Jazz were eliminated from the playoffs, with the Dallas Mavericks winning Game 6 98-96 and progressing to the second round.

With 4.3 seconds remaining on the clock, Bojan Bogdanovic got the ideal look to win the game from a drawn-up play off an inbound. Spencer Dinwiddie scrambled and bought the initial pump-fake, but Bogdanovic could not convert the open look, ending the Jazz's season.

Luka Doncic was everywhere for the Mavs however, coming up with 24 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, as well as two steals and blocks.

Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker is nearing his return from a hamstring injury, and could reportedly play in Game 6 against the New Orleans Pelicans, or Game 7 if it is required.

Booker, 25, will likely be named to the All-NBA First Team after averaging 26 points, five rebounds and five assists per game, with the Suns going 56-12 in the 68 games he suited up for in the regular season.

He played 41 minutes in Phoenix's Game 1 win against the Pelicans, but hurt his hamstring in the third quarter of Game 2 after scoring 31 points in the first half.

In his absence, the Suns lost Game 2 and Game 4, before recovering to win at home in Game 5, taking a 3-2 lead.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said Booker is "progressing toward a return soon, including the possibility as soon as Game 6 or Game 7".

Despite being a true game-time decision, it is reported that Booker will initially be listed as out of Game 6 until he proves his fitness.

The Denver Nuggets narrowly avoided a series sweep on Sunday, coming up big on both ends in the final seconds to beat the Golden State Warriors 126-121.

Down 17 points at one stage and nine to start the fourth quarter, the Warriors were able to claw their way level through Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who combined for 55 points for the game and on 22-of-43 shooting from the floor.

The Warriors could not seize the opportunity to lead with scores tied at 121 however, when Andrew Wiggins missed a tip-dunk off a Thompson miss, an open catch-and-shoot three in the corner.

A Monte Morris floater gave the Nuggets the lead with 33.5 seconds remaining, and Austin Rivers' steal from the consequent Otto Porter Jr. inbound effectively settled the result. Will Barton's corner three from a Nikola Jokic feed was punctuation mark.

Jokic was exceptional with Denver's season on the line, coming up with 37 points on 14-of-21 shooting, eight rebounds and six assists.

Pels level series against Suns

The New Orleans Pelicans have managed to level the series with the first-seeded Phoenix Suns, comfortably winning Game 4 118-103.

The combination of the Pels' defensive flexibility and length combined with the Suns' continued struggles in injured star Devin Booker's absence has made this a series.

While Deandre Ayton was able to provide a presence under the basket with 23 points and eight rebounds, Chris Paul and Mikal Bridges shot a combined six-of-19 from the floor.

Jonas Valanciunas came up with important buckets down the stretch on his way to 26 points and 15 rebounds.

Heat and Bucks take commanding leads in East

The Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks now have the chance to advance in the playoffs on their home floors, defeating the Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls respectively. 

The Heat defeated the Hawks 110-86 to take a 3-1 series lead, with the latter held to just 15 points in the second quarter.

It was a particularly tough night for Trae Young after his game-winner in Game 3, taking only four shots in the second half and committing as many turnovers.

The Milwaukee Bucks also took a 3-1 series lead on Sunday, claiming a big 119-95 win over the Chicago Bulls.

Grayson Allen provided crucial minutes off the bench with 27 points off 10-of-12 shooting, including six-of-seven from beyond the arc, as well as three steals.

Phoenix Suns top-scorer Devin Booker is reportedly unlikely to play in Game 3 or Game 4 of their first-round series against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Booker, 25, scored 31 points in the first half of Game 2, but tweaked his hamstring with five minutes remaining in the third quarter when trying to contest Jaxson Hayes at the rim, immediately leaving for the locker room.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that while the injury is considered "mild" and Booker is not being ruled out for the series, "it appears unlikely he will be able to play in Games 3 and 4".

The injury could have seismic repercussions for the favourites to take out this year's NBA Championship, as what was once considered to be a likely sweep, may now become a case of the Suns being on upset-watch.

From the point Booker was substituted out of Game 2, the Suns were outscored 48-40 in just under 17 minutes, allowing 69 second-half points in the process. For the season, Phoenix only allows opposition teams to score an average of 54 in second-halves.

While the Suns are clearly not a one-man team, if there is one player they could not afford to lose, it is Booker.

In games this season where Booker has played, Phoenix have a record of 56-12 – and winning percentage of .824 – and were just 8-6 in games he missed.

In addition, the Pelicans are a much better side than their 36-46 record indicates.

After starting their season with just one win from their first 14 games, New Orleans went 32-30 from their last 62 contests, banking wins over playoff teams including the Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies, Utah Jazz, Dallas Mavericks, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, Toronto Raptors – and the Suns.

Since the All-Star break – around the time they added key starter C.J. McCollum through a trade with the Portland Trail Blazers – the Pelicans have been a top-10 offense and a top-10 defense, with a net-rating of 4.7, only slightly behind Phoenix's 6.0 over the same time period.

New Orleans are a team playing their best basketball at the right point of the season, and have a young star looking poised to elevate himself into the conversation of the game's most elite offensive players.

In the Pelicans' four postseason games, including the two play-in fixtures, Brandon Ingram is averaging 28 points, 6.8 rebounds and six assists, including going off for 37 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in the Game 2 win to even the series.

Health and momentum are now on the Pelicans' side, as they head back to New Orleans for Game 3 and Game 4 in games Booker is unlikely to suit up for.

While the Suns have kept their head above water in games he has missed, they are just 2-5 on the road when Booker has not played, and they will need at least one more win before heading back to Phoenix for Game 5, or else it could shape up as an upset for the ages.

An eighth seed has only defeated a one seed on four occasions in NBA history: the 1993-94 Denver Nuggets defeated the Seattle Supersonics; the 1998-99 New York Knicks toppled the Miami Heat en route to the NBA Finals; the 2006-07 'We Believe' Golden State Warriors against the Dallas Mavericks; and the 2010-11 Memphis Grizzlies beating the San Antonio Spurs.

The Phoenix Suns are waiting to hear more on Devin Booker's hamstring injury, although coach Monty Williams insisted the NBA title favourites are ready for the "next man up".

After scoring 31 points in the first half of Tuesday's game against the New Orleans Pelicans, giving the Suns a 61-56 lead, Booker was held scoreless in the third quarter before going down injured.

The three-time All-Star, who has battled injury problems previously, left the floor and was unable to return.

"We'll have more information tomorrow," Williams told reporters. "We've played without Chris [Paul] and Book before. If we have to play without Book, next man up. We've done that all year long."

The Suns were 8-6 without Booker this year, 11-6 without Chris Paul and 3-3 when both were absent.

Paul continued on Tuesday to finish with 17 points and 14 assists but acknowledged the blow of Booker's injury.

"It is what it is, it's part of the game," he said. "He was killing, he was having a big-time game."

In Booker's absence, the Suns sensationally lost 125-114 as New Orleans levelled the first-round series at 1-1.

It was a historic win for the Pelicans, who became the first team in NBA history to beat 60-win opponents in the playoffs after themselves finishing the regular season at least 10 games under .500.

Brandon Ingram was the star of the show, with 37 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.

"This was one of his best [games] and it was on the big stage," Pelicans coach Willie Green said of Ingram. "I'm proud of that young man. He works his tail off."

Ingram added: "Throughout this year I had confidence that we would be here.

"I didn't know what it would look like, but we continued to get better every single day with Willie being positive every single day and helping guys and teaching guys every single day."

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