Jabari Smith Jr had his best Las Vegas Summer League performance on Monday, helping the Houston Rockets defeat the San Antonio Spurs 97-84.

After a pair of inefficient showings – going four-of-10 for his 10 points in the opener against the Orlando Magic and five-of-19 for 12 points against the Oklahoma City Thunder – Smith found his range against the Spurs.

He finished with 19 points, nine rebounds, two steals and one block as he displayed impressive defensive versatility, and he shot six-of-12 from the field, three-of-five from long range and four-of-five at the free throw line.

Smith, at six-foot-10 with a seven-foot-one wingspan, showed he can guard at least three positions, with only enormous centres and small, shifty point guards figuring to pose any threat to the smooth-moving wing.

He combined well at both ends with fellow first-round pick Tari Eason (17th selection) who shined with 22 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals, hitting nine-of-16 from the field and two of his three attempts from range.

Spurs first-round picks Malaki Branham (20th selection) and Blake Wesley (25th selection) also both showed strong two-way games.

Branham scored a team-high 20 points on eight-of-18 shooting, and while Wesley was much less accurate (three-of-20 from the field for 14 points), he got to the free throw line (eight-of-nine), and collected team-highs in assists (four) and steals (three).

Immediately following that game was Chet Holmgren and the Oklahoma City Thunder as they beat the Orlando Magic 84-81 hours after it was announced the Magic's top pick Paolo Banchero would not participate in any more Summer League action.

While the Magic believe they have seen all they needed from Banchero, the Thunder are using Summer League to build chemistry between their young core, with second-year point guard Josh Giddey also suiting up again.

Holmgren led his team in points with 16 on seven-of-10 shooting, and rebounds with 10, while blocking two shots and dishing two assists.

Giddey's goal of becoming a more efficient scorer is still a work-in-progress, finishing three-of-11 from the field for his 12 points, but his all-round game continues to blossom as he posted eight assists and seven rebounds.

In another notable stat-line, the seven-foot-five Tacko Fall came off the bench for the Utah Jazz against the Dallas Mavericks and collected an outrageous 15 rebounds in 17 minutes, with 13 of his rebounds coming on the offensive end. He also scored 12 points and blocked three shots.

After being counted on to be 'the man' for much of his career, John Wall is excited about being on a Los Angeles Clippers team where he will not be the focal point of the offense.

Wall, who signed a two-year deal with the Clippers after being waived by the Houston Rockets, said he does not now need to be "Batman every night".

"That's the ultimate goal for me is [at] this part of my career, I don't want to have to be the Batman every night to try to win," Wall said.

"On our team that we have, I think anyone can be Batman."

The Washington Wizards selected Wall with the number one overall pick in 2010, and he led the team in scoring in five of his nine seasons in the nation's capital before being traded to the Rockets for Russell Westbrook in December 2020 after sitting out the entire 2019-20 season while recovering from heel surgery.

Wall averaged 20.6 points with the Rockets in 2020-21 but only appeared in 40 games. Last season, he did not play at all as Houston tried to figure out what to do with the five-time All-Star as they rebuilt the roster with younger players.

Wall's 40 games in 2020-21 mark his only appearances in the NBA over the past three seasons.

"My last three years, I was in the darkest place I have ever been,” he said. "I don't think a lot of people could have gotten through what I went through."

The Clippers are looking forward to the 2022-23 season with Wall on the roster and Kawhi Leonard returning after missing all of last season due to a torn ACL.

"I kind of looked at the picture of like, where can I go [where] I don't have to be the John Wall from 2016 and have to carry the load and do all those [things] and have the pressure on me," Wall said.

"I think [the Clippers were] missing a piece of having a point guard, and it's a great situation for me to be there."

Wall is expected to compete with Reggie Jackson for the starting point guard job with the Clippers, who lost both games in the play-in round last season after going 42-40.

"For me, I'm just happy to play basketball again," Wall said.

"I'm a competitor. I know a lot of people ask me, 'Are you mad if you start or not start?' I don't care. I'm a competitor, and I just want an opportunity to go out there and compete for a spot, and if I get it, I get it.

"And if I don't, we know how talented Reggie Jackson is and what he's done for this team and helping these guys out, especially when Kawhi and [Paul George] were out. Even when they were [healthy], he's a great piece. Whoever gets the spot is great."

Orlando Magic fans were treated to a delightful Summer League debut from number one overall pick Paolo Banchero in a 91-77 win against the Houston Rockets and third pick Jabari Smith Jr.

Smith was the heavy favourite to be taken by the Magic with the first pick from the day they won the NBA Draft Lottery, before a draft-day shocker saw them pivot to Banchero, allowing Smith to fall to the Rockets at three.

Banchero was terrific, and was the dominant force in the contest, operating as a six-foot-10 lead ball-handler. 

He finished with 17 points on five-of-12 shooting, hitting two-of-three from long range and all five of his free throws, while also adding a team-high six assists and posting a game-high plus/minus of plus 20 in 26 minutes.

Fellow draftee Caleb Houstan, who was selected by the Magic with the 32nd pick, was the Magic's top-scorer with 20 on seven-of-12 from the field, shooting an impressive five-of-nine from three-point range, while also grabbing six rebounds.

For the Rockets, Smith's stats were less impressive, finishing with 10 points on four-of-10 shooting, although he was not put in a position to succeed.

While Banchero is an on-ball operator, meaning he can initiate his own offense off the dribble, Smith was used as an off-ball threat, relying on the Rockets guards to find him in favourable positions, which they did not.

Smith's tremendous size at six-foot-10, combined with his picture-perfect jump shot form and his defensive upside to guard at least three positions mean there is no reason for panic in Houston after a slow start to his first Summer League.

Second-year guard Josh Christopher top-scored for the Rockets with 22 points on seven-of-18 shooting, 17th overall pick from this year's draft Tari Eason showed what he can do with 14 points and 13 rebounds, and Houston's third first-rounder (29th overall) TyTy Washington flashed glimpses of a skillset that could lead him to becoming the floor general his team is lacking, coming off the bench for seven points, four rebounds and three assists.

Five-time All-Star guard John Wall plans to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers after reaching a buyout agreement with the Houston Rockets, ESPN reported on Monday.

Wall will relinquish $6.5million of the $47.4m he was owed for the upcoming season, the final one of a four-year, $171m extension he signed in 2017 while a member of the Washington Wizards. Yahoo Sports first reported that a buyout had been reached.

The 31-year-old will be joining a Clippers team that reached the Western Conference Finals in 2020-21 but were ousted in this year’s play-in, dealing with long injury absences for stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

Leonard missed the entire season recovering from a torn ACL sustained in the 2021 playoffs, while a torn elbow ligament limited George to 31 games.

Wall also did not play in 2021-22 due to reported differences between the veteran and the rebuilding Rockets over his potential role, and he hasn’t played more than 41 games in a season since 2016-17 due to several injuries.

The top pick of the 2010 NBA Draft missed much of 2017-18 due to a knee injury that required surgery and sat the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season, recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon he suffered in January 2019.

Houston acquired Wall from the Wizards in December 2020 for former NBA MVP Russell Westbrook, and he averaged 20.6 points and 6.9 assists in the lone season he took the court for the Rockets despite being limited to 40 games.

Jabari Smith admitted there is a chip on his shoulder after being overlooked by the Orlando Magic for the number one pick of the 2022 NBA Draft, but vowed to show the Houston Rockets that the Magic's loss is their gain.

Orlando instead picked Paolo Banchero, despite Smith being heavily tipped to have his name called.

Chet Holmgren was chosen second as expected by Oklahoma City Thunder, allowing the Rockets the chance to pick up Smith at three.

Speaking to reporters after Thursday's draft, the 19-year-old said: "[It] Definitely added a chip, but God makes no mistakes, so I'm happy to be here. 

"I'm happy to be where I'm wanted. I'm happy to get to Houston and just show them. Give them what they picked. Just happy to be here."

Smith was a disruptive defender for Aubern, and averaged 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists while shooting 42.9 per cent from the floor and 42 per cent from the three-point line in 2021-22.

The forward was named National Freshman of the Year by both the National Association of Basketball Coaches and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.

He will link up with other promising youngsters at Toyota Center, including Jalen Green and Alperen Sengun, both claimed in last year's draft.

"Most thing I'm looking forward to is just growing with them over these next few years," Smith added.

"We're all young, all new to the NBA lifestyle, so just learning from them. They're older than me, so just getting in there and ultimately building that relationship with them, so it can transfer to the court."

The Rockets had a league-worst record of 20-62 in the 2021-22 season, but Smith is aiming high, believing already that his new team can reach the postseason.

"I want to make the playoffs," Smith told ESPN. "I want to win games. That is how I was raised. That is just who I am. I want to come in and win games.

"I know if I come in every day trying to win, everything else will take care of itself. I am looking forward to a big year."

It always feels somewhat presumptuous to talk about an NBA Draft in the immediate aftermath and judge who did well and who did not. Surely, we have to wait to see how things play out and whether players with immense potential are able to fulfil it?

However, what you can do is judge those who, on paper at least, seem to have struck gold and those who appeared to stumble through their Thursday evening and may well have come away disappointed with their haul.

The night started off delightfully chaotically as the Orlando Magic went against the widely predicted number one pick of Jabari Smith Jr and instead brought in Paolo Banchero.

Now the dust has settled after an interesting night, Stats Perform has taken a look at the potential winners and losers of the draft.

Winners

Houston Rockets

The Rockets could probably not believe their luck when the Magic decided to opt for Banchero. The Italian-American would have still been a fine first-round pick, but given the choice it seems like Houston would rather have taken Smith Jr, and they had the chance to do just that.

The youngster was a disruptive defender for Aubern, and clearly has sound fundamentals, a result no doubt of growing up in and around basketball, with his father Jabari Smith Sr a former NBA player himself.

Smith Jr averaged 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists while shooting 42.9 per cent from the floor and 42 per cent from the three-point line in 2021-22, and should dovetail nicely with Alperen Sengun, a first-round pick from last year.

The Rockets also took Tari Eason, a breakout star at LSU, and TyTy Washington, a high-quality and versatile option who was expected to be picked up earlier in the night.

Detroit Pistons

A very similar moment of fortune fell for the Pistons as their top choice Jaden Ivey was surprisingly still available when it came to their number five pick, with the Sacramento Kings instead taking Keegan Murray.

In two seasons at Purdue, Ivey showed himself to be a top-five prospect with a well-rounded game, though questions persist about the consistency of his shooting. He averaged 17.3 points per game last season, though, with a field goal percentage of 46.0.

Detroit were also involved in a three-way trade with the Charlotte Hornets and the New York Knicks. This ended with them procuring Jalen Duren and Kemba Walker in exchange for their 2025 first-round pick, having acquired it as part of the Jerami Grant trade to the Portland Trail Blazers earlier in the week.

Walker is expected to be bought out of his contract and become a free agent, so it looks like sound dealing to essentially trade a first-round pick to get Duren through the door, who averaged 12.0 points and 8.1 rebounds per game for the Memphis Tigers last season.

San Antonio Spurs

Nothing outrageous from the Spurs, but on the face of it, they ended the night with three solid picks.

Jeremy Sochan became the first British player to be picked in NBA Draft in over 10 years. As a freshman at Baylor, Sochan averaged 9.2 points and 6.4 rebounds in 25.1 minutes per game, making 47.4 per cent of his field goal attempts.

As that average suggests, one aspect to his game that could be improved is his shooting, but San Antonio's Chip Engelland is one of the best shooting coaches in the game and could well help the young man who was raised in Milton Keynes, England.

Malaki Branham looks a smart choice as the number 20 pick from Ohio State, with his one college season seeing him average 13.7 points on 49.8 per cent shooting, while Blake Wesley from Notre Dame also has the potential to also be a valuable arrival.

Losers

New York Knicks

After a poor season that felt like it would at least set them up for a productive draft, the Knicks appeared to overthink things at the draft, or underthink them depending on your viewpoint.

They decided to trade their number 11 pick for three future first-round picks, though none that really hold any value.

They managed to get Walker's contract out the door to the Pistons to free up some salary space, seemingly putting all their eggs in the Jalen Brunson basket, or potentially even Kyrie Irving. However, they only saved $9.2m from Walker's contract, which is not a lot considering they gave up one of their first-round picks. 

Who knows if it will pay off, but Knicks fans were almost certainly expecting more.

Washington Wizards

There was nothing particularly wrong with the picks from the Wizards, but as harsh as it may sound, they are in danger of becoming the NBA's dullest team.

A win percentage of 0.427 was down from 0.472 in 2020-21, and it felt like they might need to take a bit of a risk in the draft with their number 10 pick.

Johnny Davis is a fine player, averaging 19.7 points per game for the Wisconsin Badgers last year, the 25th highest in the college game, but someone like Duren could have been a roll of the dice for something to boost that win percentage sometime soon.

Who knows? It could be a sound strategy, but to be frank, it is a strategy that has not been working for the last few years in Washington.

Sacramento Kings

There is some sympathy with the situation the Kings were put in as the extremely obvious pick at four was Ivey, who had expressly said he did not want to go to Sacramento, so they went with Murray instead.

Murray is a fine prospect himself, and arguably a better fit than Ivey for the Kings, but the latter felt like an opportunity to at the very least have significant trade leverage.

Murray did average the fourth-highest points per game average last year with 23.5 for Iowa, while also adding 8.7 rebounds per game, so comes in as a promising addition.

Ivey will inevitably feel like the one who got away if he does what many think he will at Detroit, though, which could bring back memories of when Sacramento failed to take on Luka Doncic in 2018.

To echo Kevin Durant's thoughts during Thursday's 2022 NBA Draft, it is a wing's league as size, length and shooting proved desirable for front offices, with the Orlando Magic taking Paolo Banchero first. 

The NBA's stylistic pivot towards skill and versatility since the introduction of the defensive three-second rule has necessitated the recruitment of more skilled and flexible players on both ends.

Banchero serves as an apt first selection in this respect - a 6-foot-9 forward with the ability to create his own shot and make decisions with the ball in his hands, as well the versatility to switch on the defensive end.

From the likes of Mario Hezonja to Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac, the Magic have had a predisposition towards rangy forwards who struggle to stretch the floor in recent years, though. Whether Banchero can improve on his outside shooting could again prove definitive in their rebuild.

The Duke freshman averaged 17.2 points per game but connected on 33.8 per cent of shots from three-point range, with their elimination in the Final Four characterised by defenders sagging off him.

A slight improvement at NBA level would be needed in this respect, to force close-outs and help maximise his ability to get to the basket.

Size and shooting are the primary characteristics for others in the lottery however, with Chet Holmgren and Jabari Smith Jr. the other standouts in this year's draft class.

The 7-foot-1 Holmgren has reportedly set a goal of achieving 50/40/90 shooting splits in the NBA, which previously would have been unheard for someone his size.

Meanwhile, the 6-foot-10 Smith presents a similar spacing threat for his size, with ability to quickly get shots up off the catch or when putting the ball on the floor.

Eight of the top ten picks were within the 6-foot-5 to 6-foot-10 range, before even considering the added dynamics of wingspan on the defensive end.

Shooting took over as the most sought-after skill in the late stages of the first round and early parts of the second, with the Golden State Warriors and Miami Heat respectively going for Patrick Baldwin Jr. and Nikola Jovic.

TyTy Washington is yet another example of the value placed in shooting and skill for the Houston Rockets, seemingly seeking their own answer to the Philadelphia 76ers' Tyrese Maxey.

 

2022 NBA Draft first-round picks

1. Orlando Magic - Paolo Banchero (Duke)
2. Oklahoma City Thunder - Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga)
3. Houston Rockets - Jabari Smith (Auburn)
4. Sacramento Kings - Keegan Murray (Iowa)
5. Detroit Pistons - Jaden Ivey (Purdue)
6. Indiana Pacers - Bennedict Mathurin (Arizona)
7. Portland Trail Blazers - Shaedon Sharpe (Kentucky)
8. New Orleans Pelicans - Dyson Daniels (G League Ignite)
9. San Antonio Spurs - Jeremy Sochan (Baylor)
10. Washington Wizards - Johnny Davis (Wisconsin)
11. Oklahoma City Thunder - Ousmane Dieng (New Zealand)
12. Oklahoma City Thunder - Jalen Williams (Santa Clara)
13. Detroit Pistons - Jalen Duren (Memphis)
14. Cleveland Cavaliers - Ochai Agbaji (Kansas)
15. Charlotte Hornets - Mark Williams (Duke)
16. Atlanta Hawks - AJ Griffin (Duke)
17. Houston Rockets - Tari Eason (LSU)
18. Chicago Bulls - Dalen Terry (Arizona)
19. Memphis Grizzlies - Jake LaRavia (Wake Forest)
20. San Antonio Spurs - Malaki Branham (Ohio State)
21. Denver Nuggets - Christian Braun (Kansas)
22. Minnesota Timberwolves - Walker Kessler (Auburn)
23. Memphis Grizzlies - David Roddy (Colorado State)
24. Milwaukee Bucks - MarJon Beauchamp (G League Ignite)
25. San Antonio Spurs - Blake Wesley (Notre Dame)
26. Dallas Mavericks - Wendell Moore Jr. (Duke)
27. Miami Heat - Nikola Jovic (Serbia)
28. Golden State Warriors - Patrick Baldwin Jr. (Milwaukee)
29. Houston Rockets - TyTy Washington Jr. (Kentucky)
30. Denver Nuggets - Peyton Watson (UCLA)

The Orlando Magic sprung a surprise on Thursday, taking Paolo Banchero with the top pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. 

The Oklahoma City Thunder followed up by selecting Chet Holmgren second overall and although many projected him to be the top pick coming into Thursday, the Houston Rockets took Jabari Smith third. 

Reflecting the evolving nature of the NBA, the Magic looked to the wing this time in Banchero, selecting front-court prospects with their previous three top selections in franchise history, in the form of Shaquille O'Neal, Chris Webber and Dwight Howard. 

"I don't even know what to say. I really can't believe what just happened," Banchero said on ESPN's draft broadcast. "I never would have thought that this would happen. I wanted to be in the NBA, but I didn't know I would be here. This is unbelievable.

Banchero is the fifth top selection to come from Duke University, following Art Heyman, Elton Brand, Kyrie Irving and Zion Williamson, also making for the 13th consecutive freshman to be taken at first.

The 19-year-old averaged 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists as he led the Blue Devils to the Final Four, earning first-team All-ACC selection and the ACC Rookie of the Year. 

As a big who can stretch the floor, the 7-foot-1 Holmgren exhibited unique shooting ability for his size in his freshman year at Gonzaga University, potentially creating more space for the likes of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey to make plays. 

Simiarly gifted for his size, the 6-foot-10 Smith is arguably the most NBA-ready of the three coming out of Auburn University, with his ability to score off the catch and off the dribble, along with a versatile defensive skill-set. 

Houston Rockets guard John Wall has exercised his player option for the 2022-23 season, locking in a salary of $47.4million, The Athletic reported on Tuesday.  

Wall was a healthy scratch all last season for the Rockets but will be tied with the Philadelphia 76ers' James Harden for the second-largest salary cap hit in the league.  

Wall opting into the hefty payday is no surprise, but the timing of the move makes the 32-year-old point guard eligible to be traded before or during Thursday's NBA Draft, which annually brings a flurry of player and pick swaps.  

Any potential Wall trade would need a sufficiently large salary coming back to Houston.  

Russell Westbrook, who was traded for Wall in 2020 in a deal with the Washington Wizards, has been a frequent target of trade rumours, with the Los Angeles Lakers looking to improve on a disappointing 33-49 season in 2021-22.  

National NBA reporter Marc Stein, previously of ESPN and the New York Times, reported earlier this month that the Rockets are demanding extra draft picks in another potential Wall-Westbrook swap.  

Wall, a five-time All-Star, has seen his career derailed by injuries and has played just 113 games since being named Third Team All-NBA after the 2016-17 season.

The Dallas Mavericks entered this offseason with a need at center, and potentially filled that void by acquiring Christian Wood from the Houston Rockets in exchange for four players and a draft pick.  

Wood, 26, was the Rockets’ leading scorer and rebounder this past season with 17.9 points and 10.1 boards per game. He was one of just nine players to average at least 17 points and 10 rebounds, joining the likes of Philadelphia's Joel Embiid, Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo and two-time MVP Nikola Jokic of Denver. 

Heading to Houston in the deal are Boban Marjanovic, Trey Burke, Sterling Brown and Marquese Chriss – all of which figure to fill reserve roles, at best – as well as the 26th pick in this year’s draft. Acquiring those players provides Houston with roster flexibility by trading one big contract for numerous smaller contracts, and gives them three first-round picks this year, adding to their selections at number three and 17.

Adding Wood gives Luka Doncic the frontcourt running-mate he has desired since the departure of Kristaps Porzingis, and he projects as the most dynamic pick-and-roll partner the Slovenian superstar has ever played with, playing in a system heavily focused on pick-and-roll offense. 

Wood will be joining his seventh NBA team in his seventh season, but after failing to stick with the 76ers, Hornets, Bucks and Pelicans, he really started to shine in 2019-20 with the Detroit Pistons, leading to a sign-and-trade to the Rockets and a three-year, $41million payday.

In his first season with Houston, he scored a career-best 21 points per game to go with 9.6 rebounds. Wood has also become a capable outside shooter, connecting on 131 3-pointers this season to match his total from the previous two seasons combined.  

The Mavericks were eliminated by the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, marking their deepest playoff run of the Doncic era.

The NBA All-Rookie teams were unveiled on Wednesday, headlined by Rookie of the Year finalists Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley and winner Scottie Barnes in the All-Rookie First Team.

Joining the trio – who were all unanimous selections – on the First Team were Orlando Magic forward Franz Wagner and Houston Rockets guard Jalen Green.

Cunningham, Green, Mobley and Barnes were the first four picks of the 2021 NBA Draft, while Wagner was the eighth selection.

They were also the only five rookies to average at least 15 points per game this season, putting a gap between themselves and sixth-highest scorer Chris Duarte at 13.1 points per game. It is the first time since at least 1985 that all five members of the All-Rookie First Team have each averaged at least 15 points per game.

The All-Rookie Second Team was made up of first-rounders Josh Giddey (sixth selection), Duarte (13th selection) and Bones Hyland (26th), as well as a pair of second-round picks in Herb Jones (35th) and Ayo Dosunmu (38th).

Orlando will have the number one pick of the 2022 NBA Draft, followed by the Oklahoma City Thunder and then the Rockets.

The Orlando Magic have secured the number one pick in this year's NBA Draft following the lottery on Tuesday.

The Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets and Sacramento Kings will pick second, third and fourth respectively, with the Detroit Pistons rounding out the top five.

The Pistons dropped below the top four despite 52.1 per cent odds of landing in one of the top four spots and having a 14 per cent chance at the top pick, with the Kings moving up into fourth.

The Magic, who also had a 14 per cent chance at the top pick, have not had the first selection since the 2004 draft, where they selected Dwight Howard.

The other two times were in 1992, selecting Shaquille O'Neal, and 1993, where the Magic traded Chris Webber for Anfernee Hardaway. O'Neal and Howard both made NBA Finals appearances with the Magic before leaving for the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Thunder's last selection at number two, meanwhile, was Kevin Durant in 2007.

The biggest losers from the lottery were the Portland Trail Blazers, who claimed the seventh pick despite a 2-21 finish to end the season after trading away CJ McCollum and Larry Nance Jr.

The Brooklyn Nets showed how they plan to approach their playoff rotation in a 118-107 home win against the Cleveland Cavaliers to leapfrog into the seven seed with one more game to play. 

In a game considered a must-win for the Nets to avoid the much more difficult Play-In Tournament setup for teams who finish ninth and 10th, Brooklyn cut their rotation down to eight players while Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Bruce Brown all played at least 39 minutes.

Seth Curry and Andre Drummond filled out the starting five, while Kessler Edwards, Patty Mills and Nic Claxton came off the bench, with LaMarcus Aldrige, Blake Griffin and rookie Cam Thomas out of the mix.

Durant went on to finish with a game-high 36 points on 11-of-20 shooting (four-of-six from long range, 10-of-10 from the free throw line) to go with five assists, five rebounds, two steals and a block, while Brown had 10 rebounds, eight assists and four blocks to go with his 18 points (six-of-12 shooting).

With the win, Brooklyn is now in position to host their first Play-In Tournament game – likely against the Cavaliers – with the winner entering the playoffs as the seven seed, while the loser gets another chance to play for the eight seed.

Most Improved Player contender Darius Garland was spectacular for the Cavs, scoring 31 points on 12-of-24 shooting, but the loss means his side has now lost eight of their past 10, and have been sputtering without injured center Jarrett Allen.

Overall, the Cavaliers are 43-38 this season, but just 8-17 in games Allen has missed.

No stoppin' Obi Toppin

It was a career night for New York Knicks cult figure Obi Toppin as he scored a career-high 35 points in his side's 114-92 away win against the Washington Wizards.

In only his eighth start of the season, the former first-round pick shot 14-of-22 from the field, including six-of-nine from deep, while fellow fan-favorite Immanuel Quickley was terrific off the bench, scoring 23 points (nine-of-18 shooting) with 10 assists.

 

Siakam shines, Heat hang on

Pascal Siakam seems destined to receive All-NBA honors this season after another great performance lifted his Toronto Raptors to a 117-115 win against the Houston Rockets.

In his past 10 games, Siakam is averaging 27 points, nine rebounds and six assists while shooting 53 per cent from the field, and improved those numbers with 29 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists against the Rockets.

Meanwhile, the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks played their shortened playoff rotations, and Trae Young's 35 points and eight assists was not enough as the top-seeded Heat prevailed 113-109 at home.

James Harden scored 29 points with a season-high 15 rebounds as the Philadelphia 76ers improved to 46-27 with a 122-97 road victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday.

Harden had four three-pointers in his 29 points, while he also dished off seven assists, with Joel Embiid adding 27 points with 10 rebounds as the 76ers flexed their muscle.

The 76ers set the tone with a 35-19 first quarter with Tobias Harris (12 points, two rebounds and two assists) hitting a buzzer-beating three-pointer.

Harden's 15 rebounds are the most the 2018 MVP has had in a game since December 2020 with the Houston Rockets.

The win helps the 76ers close on the Miami Heat (47-27) and Milwaukee Bucks (46-27) at the top of the Eastern Conference in the jostle for top seed ahead of the playoffs.

 

Curry-less Warriors beaten again

The Golden State Warriors lost for the fourth time in their past five games since Stephen Curry's foot injury, going down 121-110 to the Atlanta Hawks despite Klay Thompson's 37 points including nine triples. Hawks guard Trae Young starred with 33 points and 15 assists.

The Minnesota Timberwolves clinched their 11th win from their past 14 games as they got the Dallas Mavericks 116-95 led by Karl-Anthony Towns' 20 points and nine rebounds. Luka Doncic had 24 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists for the Mavs.

The Charlotte Hornets responded after their shock defeat to the New York Knicks with an impressive 107-101 win over the Utah Jazz, with Miles Bridges scoring 26 points and 11 rebounds, while Terry Rozier added 25 points.

 

Knicks' remarkable run downs Heat

The Miami Heat looked set to gain some breathing space on top of the Eastern Conference before the New York Knicks closed on a remarkable 38-13 run to claim a stunning 111-103 victory. Immanuel Quickley scored 20 of his 23 points in the last quarter.

Spencer Dinwiddie delivered the buzzer-beating dagger in the Dallas Mavericks' 113-111 win on the road against the Brooklyn Nets.

In a game with First Team All-NBA stars Luka Doncic and Kevin Durant going head-to-head, Dinwiddie hit the most important shot of the night as defenders rushed to trap Doncic with just seconds remaining as the Mavericks trailed 110-111.

The game only required Dinwiddie's heroics after a string of late-game shot-making saw the lead seesaw.

After a Dirk Nowitzki-esque mid-range fadeaway from Doncic to grab a 110-108 lead, Durant took matters into his own hands.

Facing a defence that was game-planned to get the ball out of Durant's hands by sending two defenders to him whenever he had the ball, the seven-foot star was unselfish throughout the game as he moved the ball to the open outlet pass and racked up 10 assists to go with his 23 points (8/20 shooting).

But with everything on the line, Durant was determined to live and die by his own shot-making, pulling up and draining a ridiculous long-three with two defenders closing in on him to nab a one-point lead, before Dindwiddie answered.

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