Recent acquisition Buddy Hield scored 24 points and the Philadelphia 76ers held on late to end the Cleveland Cavaliers' nine-game winning streak with Monday's 123-121 victory.

Despite still being without injured reigning NBA MVP Joel Embiid, Philadelphia handed the red-hot Cavaliers just their second loss in their last 19 games behind hot-shooting efforts from Hield and Kelly Oubre Jr. 

Hield, making his third appearance since being acquired by the Sixers from the Indiana Pacers on Thursday, finished 5 of 8 from 3-point range and 9 of 13 overall from the field. Oubre hit 10 of his 14 field goal attempts while also collecting 24 points.

The win was Philadelphia's second straight following a 1-8 stretch from Jan. 25-Feb. 9, during which the team lost Embiid for an extended period due to a knee injury that required surgery.

Cleveland got 36 points and six assists from All-Star Donovan Mitchell and 21 points and 10 rebounds from Jarrett Allen, but couldn't match the Sixers down the stretch after taking a 102-100 lead with seven minutes remaining.

Hield scored the final eight points of a 13-2 run that gave Philadelphia a 113-104 advantage with 4:28 left to play, and the 76ers led 120-110 with 1:25 to go following an Oubre 3-pointer.

The Cavs responded with a 9-0 spurt to pull within 120-119 on Mitchell's 3-pointer with 14 seconds remaining, and had a chance to win at the buzzer when Darius Garland launched a 3-point shot that just missed the mark.

Garland ended with 21 points and nine assists, while Tyrese Maxey recorded 22 points and nine assists for Philadelphia.

Timberwolves dominate second half in rout of Clippers

The Minnesota Timberwolves got 24 points from Karl-Anthony Towns and a big third quarter to pull away for a 121-100 win over the Los Angeles Clippers and pad their lead atop the Western Conference.

Anthony Edwards added 23 points, 12 of which came during a dominant third quarter in which the Timberwolves outscored Los Angeles by a 40-19 margin.

Minnesota entered Monday's clash owning a slim half-game advantage on the Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets, who were handed a 112-95 defeat by the Milwaukee Bucks, in the tightly bunched West standings. 

The Clippers kept it close until the latter stages of the third quarter, as the Timberwolves held a 70-69 edge with under five minutes left in the period.

Minnesota took over from there, as it closed out the quarter on a 19-3 run to take a commanding 89-72 lead into the fourth. Towns had eight points during the pivotal spurt.

The Timberwolves maintained a lead of 15 points or more throughout the final period en route to posting a second straight win and giving Los Angeles a second loss in its last three games.

Kawhi Leonard and Paul George led the Clippers with 18 points each, while James Harden finished with 17 points and six assists. 

Bucks use defence to get past champion Nuggets

The Milwaukee Bucks got 36 points and 18 rebounds from Giannis Antetokounmpo and another strong performance from their much-maligned defence to hand the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets a 112-95 loss.

Milwaukee entered Monday's marquee matchup ranked 23rd in the NBA in scoring defence at 119.3 points allowed per game, but held the formidable Nuggets to their second-lowest shooting rate of the season at 38.3 per cent.

The Bucks have yielded under 100 points in consecutive games for the first time this season. Milwaukee lost five of its first six outings under new head coach Doc Rivers prior to Friday's 120-84 rout of the Charlotte Hornets.

Nikola Jokić amassed 29 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists for the Nuggets. Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., Denver's second and third-leading scorers on the season, were a combined 4 of 16 from the field, however.

Murray managed just three points on 1-of-5 shooting before sitting out the second half due to inflammation in his lower legs.

The Bucks had built a comfortable 60-44 lead at that point as Antetokounmpo racked up 26 points on 10-of-12 shooting over the first two quarters. The Nuggets never got their deficit under 13 points the rest of the way and are now mired in a two-game losing streak.

 

Donovan Mitchell scored 14 of his 40 points in the fourth quarter and Evan Mobley added 22 on 9-of-10 shooting as the Cleveland Cavaliers won their seventh straight game Wednesday, 114-106 over the Washington Wizards.

Mitchell, who had eight rebounds and five assists, scored at least 40 for the fifth time this season. He is averaging 34 points on 56 percent shooting over his last five games.

Cleveland survived a game with nine ties and 17 lead changes to win for the 15th time in 16 tries. The Cavs moved a game ahead of Milwaukee and New York in second place in the Eastern Conference.

Mitchell scored five points during a 9-0 run in the fourth quarter that gave Cleveland the lead for good and his fifth and final 3-pointer of the night made it 104-97 with 2:19 to play.

Kyle Kuzma scored 28 points and Corey Kispert had 23 on 9-of-15 shooting with seven rebounds for the Wizards, who have lost four in a row overall and 12 straight at home.

 

Pelicans cool Clippers for fourth straight win

CJ McCollum scored 13 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter and Zion Williamson had 21 with a career-high 11 assists as the New Orleans Pelicans slowed the Los Angeles Clippers, 117-106.

Brandon Ingram had 15 points and eight rebounds and Herb Jones and Trey Murphy III each added 13 points to help the Pelicans open a four-game road trip with their fourth straight win.

James Harden scored 19 points and Norman Powell had 18 for the Clippers, who had a four-game winning streak snapped in their first game back from a 6-1 road trip.

Los Angeles was playing its eighth game in 13 days and lost for only the sixth time in 32 games since the start of December.

 

Porzingis propels Celtics past Hawks

Kristaps Porzingis had 31 points and Derrick White scored 12 of his 21 in the fourth quarter to power the Boston Celtics to a 125-117 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.

Jayson Tatum tallied 20 points, nine rebounds and seven assists and Jaylen Brown scored 15 for the Celtics, who made 9 of their 17 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to make it seven consecutive wins over the Hawks.

Saddiq Bey scored 25 points and Trae Young added 20 with 10 assists as Atlanta dropped its second straight following a four-game winning streak.

Donovan Mitchell scored 29 points and led a torrid shooting performance from 3-point range that carried the Cleveland Cavaliers to a sixth consecutive win, a 136-110 rout of the Sacramento Kings on Monday. 

Cleveland rolled to its 14th victory in 15 games by going 23 of 41 (56.1 percent) from beyond the arc. Mitchell finished 5 of 11 on 3-point tries and Max Strus was 6 for 10 while adding 22 points.

The Kings got 12 points, 19 rebounds and 15 assists from Domantas Sabonis - his 15th triple-double of the season - but couldn't match the Cavaliers' prolific perimeter shooting as Cleveland began pulling away early in the second quarter.

Cleveland scored five straight points to stretch its lead to 46-36 less than two minutes into the second quarter and went into the half owning a comfortable 74-59 advantage behind Mitchell's 19 points.

The Cavaliers remained up by double digits the rest of the way, with their lead expanding to as many as 29 points late.

Harrison Barnes led Sacramento with 22 points while finishing 6 of 10 from 3-point range. The Kings closed out a seven-game road trip in which they had won five of their first six outings and six of seven overall coming into Monday's clash.

Irving, Doncic lead Mavericks past ailing 76ers

Kyrie Irving and Luka Dončić combined for 42 points in the duo's first appearance together in two weeks to propel the Dallas Mavericks to a 118-102 win over the staggering Philadelphia 76ers.

Irving racked up 23 points on 10-of-17 shooting to go along with eight assists in his return from a six-game absence caused by a sprained right thumb. Doncic had 19 points and eight assists to help Dallas end a two-game skid and deal the ailing 76ers their sixth loss in seven games.

It was just the 23rd time in the Mavericks' 50 games this season they had a healthy Irving and Doncic together in the lineup.

Playing their third straight game without reigning NBA MVP Joel Embiid, who will undergo left knee surgery and is out indefinitely, the Sixers received 19 points from Kelly Oubre Jr. and 17 from Tobias Harris.

All-Star Tyrese Maxey, Philadelphia's second-leading scorer behind Embiid, had 15 points but was just 6 of 16 from the field.

The 76ers did manage to lead 33-26 after one quarter and 57-53 at the half, but Doncic hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 3:57 left in the third quarter to spark an 8-2 run that gave the Mavericks a 77-72 edge near the end of the period.

Dallas then dominated the fourth quarter, outscoring the 76ers by a 41-28 margin with its bench providing most of the offence, as reserves Jaden Hardy and Grant Williams each recorded 10 points in the final 12 minutes. 

Leonard's 36 points help Clippers cap trip with win over Hawks

Kawhi Leonard scored 13 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter as the Los Angeles Clippers outlasted the Atlanta Hawks and completed a successful road trip with a 149-144 victory.

James Harden added 30 points and 10 assists as he and Leonard powered Los Angeles to a ninth win in 10 games. The Clippers went 6-1 on an 11-day trek away from Crypto.com Arena while the venue hosted the Grammy Awards. 

In a fast-paced fourth quarter that saw both teams combine for 90 points, the Clippers outscored Atlanta by a 21-10 margin over a late stretch to move ahead for good.

Leonard began the run with a putback of his own miss that gave Los Angeles a 124-123 lead with 4:52 left, and Harden capped it when he was fouled after hitting a 26-foot jumper with 1:06 to go. He made the free throw to complete the 4-point play and extend the margin to 143-133.

The Hawks put forth a late rally and got to within 147-144 on Bogdan Bogdanović's 3-pointer with 26.7 seconds remaining, but Harden sunk two free throws on the ensuing possession to keep Atlanta at bay.

De'Andre Hunter had 27 points and seven rebounds off the bench to lead Atlanta, which had a four-game winning streak snapped. Trae Young finished with 25 points and 12 assists in the loss. 

 

Draymond Green was not surprised to be on the wrong end of a controversial call on Saturday as the Golden State Warriors forward was ejected from a 118-110 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Green was ejected in the third quarter of the game for two technical fouls, having been involved in a heated altercation with Cleveland's Donovan Mitchell with the Warriors already 10 points behind.

The four-time NBA champion forced Mitchell out of bounds with his shoulder, prompting the Cavs guard to chase him down and confront him moments later. 

The players were separated but Green was subsequently penalised for his second technical of the game, with a review showing he elbowed Mitchell a couple of plays earlier. 

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr questioned the decision after the game, being unaware that the officials could call such a foul retroactively. 

"I had never heard this rule, but apparently you can retroactively call a technical from two plays before upon review," Kerr said. 

"There's a lot of plays I'd like to go back to from three years ago. It was bizarre."

Green's dismissal was his first of the season and the 17th of his NBA career (including playoff games), the most of any active player.

The 33-year-old believes his reputation played a part in the call, saying: "I am the same person that got suspended from the NBA Finals for flagrant fouls that were all called from after the game.

"Nothing surprises me."

The Warriors briefly rallied after Green's exit, outscoring Cleveland 31-16 in the third, though they were unable to sustain their momentum and fell to back-to-back defeats.

It meant Stephen Curry ended on the losing side despite reaching the milestone of 22,000 career NBA points, becoming the 35th player – and fifth active player – to do so with his game-high return of 30 points.

The two-time NBA MVP lamented the Warriors' slow start after the loss, saying: "It's a small sample size, but [we're] starting to set a pattern of getting off slow, and it's a problem we have to correct.

"But we're competitors. Holding them to 16 in the third shows we have it in us. We just have to do it and execute and come up with a better edge to start games."

Curry and his team are back in action on Sunday as the Minnesota Timberwolves visit Chase Center, and he is determined for them to respond and make their home advantage count. 

"Just because we are home doesn't mean you just show up and win," Curry said. 

"We usually respond well to this type of feeling when you lose, understanding what it takes to execute the details of our game plan against a certain team. 

"That'll be the challenge for tomorrow, especially for that starting unit, to get off to a good start."

The New York Knicks are "hopeful" on All-Star Julius Randle's availability for the Easter Conference Semifinals after re-injuring his left ankle and exiting their Game 5 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Randle left Wednesday's game with 1:17 remaining in the second quarter after landing awkwardly on the same ankle which sidelined hm for the final five games of the regular season.

Knicks head coach Tim Thibodeau revealed after their Game 4 win on Monday that Randle was still dealing with the ankle issue originally sustained on March 29 against the Miami Heat.

Randle was only able to play 16 minutes in Game 5 before exiting when he rolled his ankle, scoring 13 points with four rebounds and six assists.

"It would be premature for me to comment," Thibodeau told reporters after the game. "Obviously, he has to be re-examined tomorrow. We're hopeful that it's not bad."

The Knicks' triumph means they get a longer break prior to the Conference Semifinals commencing on May 31 against Miami, who knocked out the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks.

"The turnaround will be quick," Thibodeau said. "That's the next challenge, be ready."

The magnitude of the Knicks' victory was not lost on Thibodeau, marking the franchise's first postseason series win in more than a decade, dating back to 2012.

"The tradition of the Knicks, not only what it means to the city and the league," he said. "We have the best fans in the world, best city in the world, best arena in the world.

"They respond to the way this team plays. They play hard. They play smart and they play together. There's still a lot of work to be done. We have a lot of areas to improve upon. We're looking forward to the next challenge."

Jalen Brunson scored 23 points, while R.J. Barrett added 21, with Mitchell Robinson pulling in 11 offensive rebounds from his 18 for the game.

The Knicks out-rebounded the Cavs throughout the series, including 48-30 in the clincher and Cleveland All-Star Donovan Mitchell cited that physicality as the difference.

"They outplayed us," Mitchell said. "It's as simple as that. They did their job and we didn't.

"For me, personally, I don't feel like I was the player I needed to be for this group. I just didn’t deliver."

New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau revealed Julius Randle is still dealing with the ankle sprain he sustained last month.

Randle sat out the fourth quarter, scoring only seven points from 27 minutes on three-of-10 shooting, as the Knicks won 102-93 over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday to go 3-1 up in their first-round playoffs series.

The Knicks power forward sprained his ankle on March 29 against the Miami Heat and missed the final fortnight of the regular season, before returning for this series, but is still finding his rhythm according to Thibodeau.

"The thing is, he had to work around the clock to get back," Thibodeau said. "That's what I love about Julius. He gives you everything that he has.

"There's 77 games, he sprains his ankle and then he works like crazy to get back, you know how important he is to the team, but to get back, to get ready to play - our medical people did a great job, but that's all him.

"He was working around the clock on that, he still is. That's the challenge that we have and that's what I respect about him. And we just got to get ready for our next game."

Randle is averaging 14.8, 7.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists during the four games in the series, with the next game on Wednesday in Cleveland.

"Julius is our horse," Thibodeau added. "He's given us everything that he has. A lot of guys probably wouldn't even be playing, so I knew that with the quick turnaround, probably impact him more than most players.

"He was out an extended amount of time. So we got multiple days here before the next game, he'll get a chance to get some recovery time."

Jalen Brunson, who insisted the series was "not over", scored a game-high 29 points, making five-of-nine triples with six rebounds and six assists for the Knicks, while R.J. Barrett added 26 points.

Cavs' All-Star Donovan Mitchell was kept to 11 points on five-of-18 shooting, while Darius Garland tried hard with 23 points and 10 assists.

"This is not over with," Mitchell said. "The way we lost sucks. We can't hang our heads and ultimately give up. We're not that type of group. Like I said, we'll be ready for Game 5."

Darius Garland says showing a more "aggressive" side to his game was the key to his inspirational display in the Cleveland Cavaliers' Game 2 victory against the New York Knicks.

After making a limited impact in Saturday's Game 1 loss, Garland was far more involved in Tuesday's contest at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

The 2022 NBA All-Star posted a game-high 32 points on eight-of-17 shooting, draining six-of-10 from long range, and he also chipped in seven assists in a masterful offensive showing.

Asked about the key to his improved performance in his side's 107-90 triumph to level the series, Garland said: "Everybody in the building told me to go be aggressive.

"They said to shoot the ball. So I watched the film from the first game and seeing some opportunities where I can and be aggressive, and that's what I just tried to do today.

"They showed a couple clips where I had open shots and I didn't shoot them. So it's really the entire organisation telling me to shoot the ball; it's not just one person."

Garland averaged 21.6 points during the regular season, with that tally bettered only by Donovan Mitchell (28.3) among Cavs players.

Mitchell, who added 17 and a career playoff-high 13 assists, praised the showing of young point guard Garland.

"That's the All-Star we all know, and it was great to see," Mitchell said. "I told him at the end of the day, that's what we're going to need, continue to be aggressive."

Garland became the third player in the Cavs' franchise history, after LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, to score 26 points or more in a half.

While the 23-year-old was widely praised for his performance, Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff was equally as impressed by what he saw from Mitchell.

"What he did tonight is make sure that everybody had belief, that everybody played to their strength," Bickerstaff said. 

"When they had it going, he could've very easily decided it was time for him to take shots, but he didn't; he made sure those guys kept going so they could keep that confidence.

"We have to continue to hammer this home. We got our a** kicked on the boards the other night, and tonight those guys took it personal and made a huge change."

Cleveland now travel to Madison Square Garden for Games 3 and 4, which take place on Friday and Sunday respectively.

The Cleveland Cavaliers played some role reversal with their star backcourt on Tuesday as Darius Garland led the scoring charge to defeat the New York Knicks 107-90.

The Game 2 victory tied the series at 1-1 after the Knicks took the opener on the road, but following his 38-point performance in Game 1, Cavaliers All-Star Donovan Mitchell assumed point guard responsibilities.

Mitchell dished a career-high 13 assists to go with 17 points as he went six-of-11 from the field, setting up Garland to shoulder the scoring workload.

After 17 points in Game 1, Garland posted a game-high 32 on eight-of-17 shooting, draining six-of-10 from long range, and he also chipped in seven assists in a masterful offensive showing.

Evan Mobley, who was third in Defensive Player of the Year voting, blocked two shots and snatched two steals to go with his 13 points and 13 rebounds, while his interior partner Jarrett Allen racked up three steals and three blocks as they controlled the paint throughout.

For the Knicks, who found themselves down 59-39 at half-time and could not claw their way out, Jalen Brunson shot a disappointing five-of-17 from the field for his 20 points, although he added six assists and four steals.

Julius Randle was not much better, finishing with 22 points on eight-of-20 shooting with eight rebounds and six turnovers, and the Knicks shot seven-of-29 (24.1 per cent) from three-point range.

After splitting the first two games, the Knicks will head to Madison Square Garden for Games 3 and 4 with home court advantage now in their favour.

Boston's White knight delivers

Complimentary guard Derrick White gave the Boston Celtics a match-winning cameo in their 119-106 Game 2 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.

White, who was one of only 10 players this season to play all 82 games in the regular season, put together a terrific game with 26 points (11-of-16 shooting), seven rebounds, three blocks and a steal after starting and playing 34 minutes.

His hot-shooting night saw him usurp Jaylen Brown for the evening in shot attempts as the Celtics' second All-Star chipped in 18 points (seven-of-14), three steals and two blocks, while First Team All-NBA candidate Jayson Tatum led the way with 29 points (12-of-22), 10 rebounds and six assists.

Dejounte Murray was strong for the Hawks with 29 points (11-of-24), six rebounds, six assists and four steals, finishing with a dead-even plus/minus in his 40 minutes, but Trae Young was minus 15 and Atlanta were torched when he was left on the floor without Murray.

While the Celtics will take a 2-0 lead to Atlanta for Games 3 and 4, the Hawks can put all the pressure back on Boston by holding serve at home.

Booker shines for the Suns

Devin Booker stepped up and helped his Phoenix Suns tie their series at 1-1 with a 123-109 triumph over the visiting Los Angeles Clippers.

Booker put up a game-high 38 points on 14-of-22 shooting, playing 45 out of a possible 48 minutes while also leading the Suns with nine assists.

Kevin Durant was excellent in support with 25 points (10-of-19), six rebounds, five assists, two blocks and a steal, while Deandre Ayton added 14 points with 13 rebounds and Chris Paul chipped in eight assists to go with his 16 points.

It was another ubiquitous performance from two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard as he embarks on his quest to join LeBron James as the only Finals MVP-winner with three different teams.

He had a team-high 31 points (11-of-20), a team-high seven assists and a team-high three steals, while Russell Westbrook posted 28 points (nine-of-16), five rebounds and five assists, but they did not have enough help.

The series will head to Los Angeles for Games 3 and 4.

Stephen Curry missed a clean three-point attempt on the buzzer as the Sacramento Kings claimed their first playoff win in almost 17 years with a 126-123 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Saturday.

De'Aaron Fox came alight with 15 final-quarter points for the Kings in a back-and-forth encounter, finishing with 38 on 13-of-27 shooting from the field with four three-pointers.

Curry almost sent Game 1 of their first round playoffs to overtime when he received Draymond Green's inbound pass with 2.9 seconds left, only for his shot to rim out.

Andrew Wiggins had missed a wide-open three-point attempt for the lead with 10.1 seconds left, before Malik Monk made two free-throws to open up the decisive three-point lead.

Curry finished with 30 points on 11-of-20 shooting with six three-pointers made, along with six rebounds and two assists.

Klay Thompson made five-of-14 from beyond the arc, managing 21 points, while Draymond Green had nine rebounds and 11 assists.

Kings center Domantas Sabonis had a double-double with 12 points and 16 rebounds, while Monk finished with an outstanding 32 points in 29 minutes off the bench, making a perfect 14-of-14 from the line.

Brunson repels Cavs and Mitchell rally

Jalen Brunson helped the New York Knicks steady after a late Cleveland Cavaliers rally to grab a 101-97 road win in Game 1 despite Donovan Mitchell's best efforts.

The Cavs claimed the lead with 2:12 remaining in the final period from Jarrett Allen tip-in capping a stunning 9-0 run, before a clutch Josh Hart triple followed by Brunson step-back jump shot.

Brunson finished with a team-high 27 points, while Julius Randle returned from injury with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Mitchell threw everything at the Knicks, scoring 38 points on 14-of-30 shooting with five rebounds, eight assists and three steals.

The Cavs guard scored 10 points in a row for the Knicks during their fourth-quarter charge, where Quentin Grimes' free-throws with 4.1 seconds left sealed the deal.

Celtics first-half flurry sets up win

The Boston Celtics blew away the Atlanta Hawks with 74 first-half points before easing to a 112-99 victory led by Jaylen Brown with 29 points despite a sore hand.

Jayson Tatum scored 21 of his 25 points in the first half where the Celtics led by as much as 32 points, while Derrick White contributed 25 points and 11 rebounds.

The Hawks' shooting letting them down, finishing with five-of-29 from three-point range with Trae Young managing only 16 points on five-of-18 shooting. Dejounte Murray top scored for Atlanta with 24 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

James Harden scored 23 points including seven triples with 13 assists as the Philadelphia 76ers scored a playoffs franchise-record 21 three-pointers in their 121-101 win over the Brooklyn Nets.

The 2023 NBA playoffs are here and promise to be as thrilling as ever.

There are narratives all over the place ready to be written, with the Golden State Warriors trying to retain their championship, the Los Angeles Lakers coming from 2-10 to potentially win it all, and the Boston Celtics looking to make up for last season's Finals heartbreak.

Between now and the start of the Finals in June, who knows how many shock results, big performances and memorable moments basketball fans will be treated to.

The final two places will be decided on Friday with the last two play-in games determining who will face top seeds the Milwaukee Bucks and the Denver Nuggets, while the first round gets underway straight away on Saturday.

Stats Perform takes a look at the six confirmed series so far, starting with arguably the most intriguing of them all.

Western Conference:

Phoenix Suns (4) v Los Angeles Clippers (5)

After an outstanding 2021-22 campaign in which they finished as the top seed in the West with a record of 64-18, the Suns began this season with a 6-1 run.

However, by the end of their first game of 2023, Phoenix had already lost as many as they did in the entirety of the previous regular season and only managed a record of 45-37 in the end to finish as a fourth seed.

Adding Kevin Durant in February gave them a much-needed boost, though, and his link-up with Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, DeAndre Ayton and Chris Paul feels like it could lead to something special in the postseason. Durant is 8-0 as a Net.

They will be up against a Clippers team who have had stumbles during the season but went 11-5 heading into the playoffs.

Kawhi Leonard's return from injury in November was huge for Ty Lue's team, with he and Paul George both averaging 23.8 points per game for the season.

The teams split their four meetings during the regular season, albeit including a Clippers victory in their final game when the Suns rested their starters.

Sacramento Kings (3) v Golden State Warriors (6)

It feels like the Kings quietly went about their business this season, amassing 48 wins, more than half of which (25) came on the road.

That could not really be further removed from the Warriors' experience, which saw only 11 of their 44 victories come as the away team.

However, after starting 7-29 on the road this season, Golden State won four of their final five. That included a 56-point victory at the Portland Trail Blazers on April 9, tied for the second-largest road win by any team in NBA history (Pacers at Thunder in May 2021 – 57).

De'Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis will lead the way for Sacramento, but a certain Stephen Curry will be expected to shine again in the postseason as he has done so often in the past.

Since 2013-14, Curry has gone 27-2 against the Kings, the second-best record by any player against a single opponent (min. 20 games) during that span (Norman Powell, 19-1 vs Nets). Curry has averaged 26.7 points, 7.3 assists and 5.3 rebounds over those games.

Golden State were 3-1 against the Kings this season, with Curry (25 points) and Klay Thompson (29) doing much of the damage in their victory in the penultimate game of the campaign against shorthanded opponents.

Memphis Grizzlies (2) v Los Angeles Lakers (7)

As LeBron James recently said, the Lakers were given just a 0.3 per cent chance of making the playoffs by analysts when they started the year 2-10.

As it turned out, they nearly reached the postseason without even needing the play-in tournament, but a fairly routine win against the Minnesota Timberwolves got them to the dance.

James has been outstanding again this season, averaging 28.9 points, and will be eager to produce fireworks now that he and the Lakers are back in the postseason.

On the other side, Ja Morant seems to have put recent problems behind him and looks ready to lead the Grizzlies.

His 26.2 points have been ably supported by Desmond Bane (21.5) and Jaren Jackson Jr. (18.6), though they will miss the presence of the injured Steven Adams, who averaged 11.5 rebounds this season.

The Lakers went 2-1 against the Grizzlies this season, although the home team won on each occasion.

Eastern Conference:

Cleveland Cavaliers (4) v New York Knicks (5)

It was a strong year for Cleveland, winning 51 games in the regular season, although they had a losing record on the road (20-21).

Donovan Mitchell (28.3 points) has been sensational for the Cavaliers, who could hold a significant advantage throughout the playoffs as they boasted a perfect 7-0 record for games that went into overtime during the season.

The Knicks are looking for their first playoff series win in 10 years in what is only their second postseason appearance in that time.

Coach Tom Thibodeau has Julius Randle (25.1) and Jalen Brunson (24.0) to thank for guiding his team to a comfortable playoff place, with Randle also averaging 10.0 rebounds.

New York's starters are averaging 86.5 points this season, the most by any starting unit (Cleveland rank fifth at 83.5). That accounts for 74.6 per cent of the team's scoring, which is the highest rate by a Knicks squad since 2010-11 (74.7).

The Knicks were 3-1 against the Cavs this season, including their last one at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse just two weeks ago.

Philadelphia 76ers (3) v Brooklyn Nets (6)

Ever since he went to Philadelphia, it has felt like James Harden has been the story heading into any clashes between these two.

It feels like there is so much more to it now, though, especially since the Nets also lost Durant and Kyrie Irving.

No longer a team of stars, the Nets are reinventing themselves as just a team, and it will be interesting to see how they manage the postseason. The Nets finished the season 10-4 in games decided by three or fewer points, tied with the Knicks for the best record in the league (min. 10 one-possession games).

Harden and Tyrese Maxey have provided capable support to Joel Embiid, who has been his usual impressive self, with an average of 33.1 points, the most in the entire league.

The Sixers certainly have the momentum going into this series, winning all four of their meetings this season, including in the final game. It was the first time one of the teams swept the season series since Philadelphia won all four matchups against the New Jersey Nets in 2010-11.

Boston Celtics (2) v Atlanta Hawks (7)

Few expected the Celtics to make the Finals last year, and even fewer thought they would take a 2-1 lead against the Warriors.

It all went south from there, though, ultimately losing 4-2, but their response this season has been impressive again.

Boston started 21-5, and although that levelled out towards the middle of the regular season, they put together some more impressive runs to finish 57-25.

Jayson Tatum's average of 30.1 made him briefly a contender for MVP, while Jaylen Brown (26.6) and Marcus Smart are expected to be fit again during the first round.

Trae Young led the Hawks through their play-in clash with the Miami Heat, and he and they will now need to step up again.

Young has scored 30 or more points in four straight road games against the Celtics. Since the NBA-ABA merger, just four players have scored 30-plus points in five straight games in Boston (including playoffs): Dominique Wilkins, Michael Jordan, Curry and James.

The Celtics won all three regular season meetings, including in their final games before the postseason, although both fielded weakened teams.

Jalen Brunson stepped up in Julius Randle's absence on a career night as the New York Knicks fired a warning shot in beating the Cleveland Cavaliers ahead of the playoffs.

The Knicks are fifth in the Eastern Conference, with the Cavs in fourth. Barring an unlikely late turn of events, they will face each other in the first round this postseason.

Friday's win was a big one then for New York, a 130-116 victory in Cleveland renewing optimism ahead of making that same trip again in the coming weeks.

All-Star Randle was back in New York, but he was scarcely missed as Brunson scored a career-high 48 points, including seven three-pointers.

"There is nothing that Jalen does that surprises you," said Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau. "He's so mentally tough.

"He's nicked up a little bit, but he's a machine. He just keeps going."

Randle sprained his ankle this week and will miss the rest of the regular season, although he will be evaluated again ahead of the playoffs.

"He's done all he can to prepare himself to play in every game, which is a credit to him," Thibodeau said.

"He doesn't miss practice. He doesn't miss games. I'm actually surprised it doesn't happen more than it does."

With Randle potentially returning for the Knicks' far more consequential next game against the Cavs, Donovan Mitchell was eager to ensure Cleveland learn from their loss.

"This loss hurts," said Mitchell. "We need to feel it and be ready to use it when the time comes.

"Obviously, we control our destiny and we'll probably see these guys in two weeks.

"There is a lot of film to go through. But if we let this affect us, we have no chance in the playoffs."

The Golden State Warriors played an inspired second half to recover from a 20-point deficit and defeat the visiting New Orleans Pelicans 120-109 on Tuesday.

As usual, the Warriors were led by reigning NBA Finals MVP Stephen Curry with a game-high 39 points on 14-of-25 shooting, hitting eight-of-15 three-point attempts while adding eight rebounds, eight assists and three steals.

It was a rough start for Golden State as they found themselves trailing 63-43 late in the second quarter, but some early shenanigans between Draymond Green and the entire Pelicans team seemed to spur some life into the Warriors defense after the break.

In typical Warriors fashion, they exploded in the third quarter in front of their home fans, putting together a 39-26 period to cut the lead to four going into the last.

They ratcheted up the defense even further down the stretch, holding the visitors to just 20 points while piling on 35 of their own as Curry, Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole all drained deep triples to blow the roof off Chase Center.

Despite the loss, it was another strong showing from Pelicans centrepiece Brandon Ingram. After his first career triple-double on Thursday and a career-high 13 assists on Saturday, Ingram again looked every bit of an All-NBA initiator with a team-high 26 points (nine-of-22), eight rebounds and seven assists.

A loss for the Warriors would have seen them drop to 39-38 and potentially swap spots with the eighth-seeded Pelicans, but they instead improved to 40-37 and leapfrogged the sixth-seeded Minnesota Timberwolves (39-37) in the process.

Mitchell's 44 not enough for Cleveland

Donovan Mitchell dropped 44 points on the road but it was not enough as the Cleveland Cavaliers fell 120-118 to the Atlanta Hawks.

Mitchell shot 15-of-33 with five rebounds and five assists, while Darius Garland added 27 points (10-of-22) and Evan Mobley chipped in 20 points (10-of-13), 15 rebounds, four assists and four blocks – but the Hawks had all the answers.

Atlanta had seven players score double figures, led by Dejounte Murray's 29 (11-of-22). Trae Young ran the show with 10 assists on an off-shooting night (four-of-15 for 16 points), and the Hawks' bench delivered in a big way.

Backup center Onyeka Okongwu had a wildly efficient 20 minutes with 21 points (five-of-five from the field and 11-of-12 free throws), nine rebounds and three blocks, and trade deadline acquisition Saddiq Bey had 11 points, 10 rebounds and three assists.

Hornets win a shootout in Oklahoma City

The Oklahoma City Thunder received 30-point efforts from Josh Giddey, Jalen Williams and Isaiah Joe – but still lost 137-134 to the surprisingly in-form Charlotte Hornets.

Giddey had one of the best statistical games of his career with 31 points (14-of-22), 10 rebounds and nine assists; rookie Williams had 31 points (11-of-16), four assists and four steals; and Joe hit six-of-11 threes and 11-of-18 overall for his 33 points.

But P.J. Washington was not going to let the Hornets lose, scoring a career-high 43 points on 16-of-24 shooting as he added six rebounds and five assists in an eye-opening performance from the well-rounded six-foot-seven 24-year-old.

It was a standout showing off the bench for the spectacularly bouncy 22-year-old second-year center Kai Jones, collecting the first double-double of his career with 12 points (five-of-five) and 14 rebounds in 22 minutes.

The loss for the Thunder means they slipped to 37-39, still inside the play-in tournament placings, but now tied with the 11th-ranked Dallas Mavericks.

No Paul George, no worries for the Los Angeles Clippers as Kawhi Leonard carried them to an important 127-105 home win against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday.

It was the second consecutive meeting between these two sides in Los Angeles after George limped off with a knee injury in Tuesday's 101-100 loss to the Thunder, but with the Clippers' playoff future up in the air, Leonard rose to the occasion.

The two-time NBA Finals MVP scored a game-high 32 points on red-hot 13-of-15 shooting from the field. He was seven-of-seven for 15 points in the first quarter, with his team leading 36-29, but the Clippers began to fall apart as he tried to look for his team-mates in the second period.

Leonard did not attempt a field goal in the second, allowing the Thunder to claw back to 54-54 at half-time, but he came out of the break determined to decide the outcome.

The Clippers' franchise star played the entire third quarter, and the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, not coming out until his side had built a 103-85 lead.

Leonard added six rebounds, six assists and four steals in a dominant two-way performance, finishing with a plus/minus of plus 16 in his 35 minutes. 

He was supported well by an efficient night from Russell Westbrook, as he chipped in 24 points (eight-of-13 shooting) with seven assists.

A loss would have seen the Clippers tied with the Golden State Warriors at 38-36 in the sixth seed – only one game clear of the play-in tournament placings – but they are now two games clear of the drama in fifth with only eight fixtures remaining.

It was a devastating loss for the Thunder's playoff hopes, blowing an opportunity to move into the seventh seed outright, and instead slipping down to 11th, although there is now a four-way tie at 36-37.

Okoro wins it at the buzzer

The Cleveland Cavaliers secured a 116-114 road win against the Brooklyn Nets in the last second as Isaac Okoro drilled a game-winning three-pointer from the corner.

Cleveland rode the dynamic duo of Donovan Mitchell and Evan Mobley all night, with Mitchell scoring a team-high 31 points on 11-of-24 shooting, while Mobley racked up 26 points (11-of-18), 16 rebounds, four blocks and three assists.

But the biggest moment of the game came down to Caris LeVert and Okoro, as the former Net came up with a loose ball and zipped a cross-court pass for Okoro's three in a hectic closing sequence.

The Cavs have been a disappointing 18-20 away from home this season, but have now won five of their past six on the road.

With the loss, the Nets fell to 39-34 and down into play-in spots. The Miami Heat (40-34) leapfrogged them into sixth.

Magic continue to show progress

The Orlando Magic have quietly become one of the most exciting young teams in the league, and they knocked off another playoff side with a 111-106 home win over the New York Knicks.

It was Orlando's third win from their past four outings, also taking down the Clippers and the Washington Wizards, and their number one draft pick led the way. Paolo Banchero scored a team-high 21 points on seven-of-17 shooting, adding six rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks.

Both Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes scored 25 points each in the absence of starting Knicks point guard Jalen Brunson, but a three-of-12 performance with five turnovers from R.J. Barrett was hard to overcome.

Donovan Mitchell says his dunk on Brooklyn Nets wing Yuta Watanabe is up there with his best, and that it also sparked the Cleveland Cavaliers in their 115-109 win on Tuesday.

Mitchell, who finished with 31 points on 10-of-22 shooting and five rebounds, slammed over Watanabe early in the fourth quarter as the Cavs looked to repel the Nets' rally.

The Cavs were up 96-80 with 10:55 remaining when Mitchell received the ball on a fast break from Caris LeVert, taking four steps before dunking over Watanabe who contested the attempt.

"Everyone's reaction was like 'that's your best one'," Mitchell told reporters after the game.

"It's up there. I don’t know if it's my best one, but it's definitely up there."

In a moment of celebration, Mitchell was caught out of position, allowing Mikal Bridges to score down the other end, before glancing up to the Barclays Center screens for a replay.

"I was trying to see it but I forgot we're on the road," Mitchell said. "They’re definitely not going to show it.

"First time I saw it was when we went back in the locker room. It was not bad."

The poster dunk sent social media into a frenzy but it also "sparked" the Cavs according to Mitchell, pulling ahead to a 22-point lead which put the game to bed.

"It really sparked us," he said. "It gave us a little bit of a boost. Those are defining plays. Different plays for different moments to continue to push us going forward.

"It's not like I go into a game thinking 'alright, I'm going to try get a dunk on somebody', but sometimes that's what's needed.

"I felt good enough to try get up there and dunk it. I figured I'd try use my body and finish. It worked out."

The result saw the Cavs firm up their grip on the four seed in the East with a 46-28 record ahead of the 42-31 New York Knicks, while the Nets are sixth at 39-33.

In a clash between two of the seven best records in the NBA, the Boston Celtics produced an impressive 132-109 road blow-out win against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday.

It was shaping up as a shoot-out as both teams started red hot from three-point range, but the Kings could not keep up as the Celtics scored at least 30 points in all four quarters.

Jayson Tatum led the way for Boston with a game-high 36 points on 14-of-25 shooting, adding eight rebounds, four assists and two steals. His All-Star co-pilot Jaylen Brown chipped in an efficient 27 points (10-of-16 shooting) with five rebounds and four assists.

Kings All-Star Domantas Sabonis put together his 12th triple-double of the season with 16 points (seven-of-12), 13 rebounds and 12 assists, although his six turnovers were costly.

The win improved the Celtics' record to 50-23, becoming the second team in the league to reach 50 wins this season, while their 24-14 mark on the road is bettered only by the Philadelphia 76ers (22-12).

Sacramento are still sitting pretty at 43-28, holding a five-game buffer in the Western Conference's third seed.

Mitchell poster highlights Cavs victory

Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star Donovan Mitchell threw down arguably his biggest dunk of the season to put an exclamation point on a 115-109 win over the Brooklyn Nets.

Mitchell ended up with a game-high 31 points on 10-of-22 shooting, including five-of-nine from three-point range, highlighted by a monstrous fast-break poster jam over Yuta Watanabe as both leapt off two feet and met chest-to-chest.

After missing 10 days due to an eye injury, Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen looked right back to his best with 12 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks, with eight of his rebounds coming on the offensive end.

The victory improves Cleveland's record to 46-28, and while they have been a disappointing 17-20 on the road, they have now won four of their past five away from home.

Top pick Banchero flirts with first triple-double

Orlando Magic top draft pick and overwhelming Rookie of the Year favourite Paolo Banchero nearly posted the first triple-double of his career in a 122-112 home win against the Washington Wizards.

The 20-year-old finished with 18 points (six-of-nine shooting), nine rebounds and eight assists for his second close call of the month. It comes 10 days after he put up 17 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in an overtime win against the Miami Heat.

Kristaps Porzingis led the Wizards with 30 points (12-of-22 shooting), six rebounds, three assists and two blocks, continuing what has been arguably the best season of his eight-year NBA career.

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