All-Star Jalen Brunson poured in 40 points and the New York Knicks overcame the loss of two starters again to rally for their ninth straight victory, 109-105 over the Indiana Pacers on Thursday.

Hours after being voted a first-time All-Star, Brunson scored 11 points in the fourth quarter in a game the Knicks trailed by 15 points. He shook off an eye injury late in the game and made a driving layup with 1:46 remaining to give the Knicks the lead for good.

Donte DiVincenzo added 20 points, Miles McBride had 16 off the bench and Isaiah Hartenstein contributed 12 points and 19 rebounds for New York, which was again without starters Julius Randle and OG Anunoby.

The Knicks, coming off a 14-2 January, have won nine in a row for the first time since a 13-game run from March 18-April 9, 2013.

Jalen Smith scored 22 points and Aaron Nesmith had 17 as the Pacers had a three-game winning streak snapped.

 

Maxey drops 49 as 76ers win

All-Star Tyrese Maxey scored a career-high 51 points with seven 3-pointers and Tobias Harris added 28 points as the Philadelphia 76ers stopped a four-game losing streak with a 127-124 win over the Utah Jazz.

Maxey shot 17 of 27 from the field, hit 7 of 9 from beyond the arc and was 10 of 11 from the line. He surpassed his previous career high of 50 points - set Nov. 12 at home against Indiana – with two free throws with 4.1 seconds left.

He joined Wilt Chamberlain, Allen Iverson and Joel Embiid as the only 76ers to score 50 points in multiple games in a single season.

Lauri Markkanen had 28 points and 10 rebounds and Collin Sexton scored 22 for Utah, which has lost five of seven.

 

Short-handed Lakers stun Celtics

Austin Reaves scored a season-high 32 points and hit a career-high seven 3-pointers as the undermanned Los Angeles Lakers defeated the league-leading Boston Celtics, 114-105.

The Lakers became just the third team this season to beat the Celtics at home despite playing without top scorers LeBron James (left ankle) and Anthony Davis (Achilles tendon and left hip spasms).

D’Angelo Russell had 16 points, 14 assists and eight rebounds and Jaxson Hayes added 16 points and 10 boards for Los Angeles, which made 19 of 36 3-pointers.

Jayson Tatum scored 23 points and Kristaps Porzingis and Sam Hauser added 17 apiece. The Celtics have lost three of five at home after a 20-0 start at TD Garden.

Nikola Jokic scored 31 points as part of his league-leading 13th triple-double of the season and Jamal Murray also had 31 points to lead the Denver Nuggets to a 114-109 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday.

Jokic sealed Denver’s third straight win with a 3-pointer with 4.7 seconds remaining. He leads all active players with 118 triple-doubles.

Myles Turner had 22 points and Pascal Siakam added 16 with 10 rebounds in his first home game since the Pacers acquired him from Toronto last week.

Indiana lost its third in a row overall and eighth straight against Denver.

The Nuggets took a 93-81 lead into the fourth quarter, but the Pacers took the lead 103-102 on Ben Sheppard’s 3-pointer with 3:42 left.

Jokic’s layup with 1:38 to play gave Denver the lead for good and Murray’s running finger roll 22 seconds later made it 111-107.

McCollum sinks 9 3-pointers as Pelicans erupt

CJ McCollum matched his season high with 33 points and went 9 for 13 from 3-point range as the New Orleans Pelicans set a franchise scoring record in a 153-124 win over the Utah Jazz.

Zion Williamson added 17 points and a career-high 11 assists and Herb Jones scored 22 points for the Pelicans, who surpassed their previous franchise record of 149 points in a win over Sacramento in October 2018.

McCollum shot 11 of 17 from the field and New Orleans connected on half its attempts from long range (23 of 46) as part of a 57.7 percent overall shooting effort.

Brunson, Randle team up to keep Knicks hot

Jalen Brunson had 30 points and Julius Randle flirted with a second straight triple-double as the New York Knicks rallied for a 108-103 win over the Brooklyn Nets.

Donte DiVincenzo scored 11 points and OG Anunoby added 10 for the Knicks, who have won four straight and improved to 10-2 since acquiring Anunoby from Toronto.

Randle finished with 30 points, nine rebounds and seven assists after he had 18 points, 16 boards and 10 assists in Saturday’s win over the Raptors.

Mikal Bridges scored 36 points with a career-high seven 3-pointers for the Nets, who entered the fourth quarter with a nine-point lead, just two nights after squandering an 18-point advantage in a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.

 

The New York Knicks beat the Milwaukee Bucks for the first time in four attempts this season on Christmas Day, as Jalen Brunson starred with 38 points at Madison Square Garden.

The Bucks managed their third win over the Knicks in as many games on Friday, triumphing 130-111 in Manhattan, but there was to be no repeat three days later as the hosts clinched a 129-122 success.  

Brunson led the way with 38 points, the most by a Knicks player on Christmas Day since Bernard King's record 60-point haul back in 1984, to prove Giannis Antetokounmpo's 32 points redundant.

Brunson admitted the Knicks' previous struggles against Milwaukee made Monday's win more enjoyable, saying: "We've struggled against this team throughout this year and the fact that we came out with a win today… it's special.

"I like the way we had a lead no matter how much they cut the lead down. We stayed poised and figured out a way to keep it and win."

In addition to Brunson, Julius Randle (24), RJ Barrett (21) and Immanuel Quickley (20) all scored at least 20 points for the hosts as they improved to 17-12. 

"We had a lot of guys in double figures and a lot of assists," Quickley said. "It was fun to play like that when everybody is moving and touching the ball. 

"I think our defense really bled into our offense, so that has got to be the way, every night."

While the Bucks saw their seven-game winning streak come to a halt, former MVP Antetokounmpo chose to remain upbeat after the spoils were shared over the teams' weekend double-header.

"It was kind of like a playoff matchup," he said. "We've played this team four times in the past month, month and a half. Two times in the past few days.

"It's a good test for us. We're going to play teams in the playoffs twice on the road, so being able to win the first one, lose the second one, it's good. We'll learn from it."

Jalen Brunson poured in a career-high 50 points and hit all nine of his 3-point attempts Friday in the New York Knicks’ 139-122 victory over the Phoenix Suns.

Brunson was 17 of 23 from the field and 7 of 9 from the free-throw line with nine assists, six rebounds and five steals in 35-plus minutes.

He is the first player in franchise history to score 50 points while making all nine 3s.

Julius Randle had 23 points, eight rebounds and six assists to help New York snap a three-game road skid.

Kevin Durant scored 29 points and Devin Booker added 28 for the Suns, who lost guard Bradley Beal to an ankle injury in the first quarter.

Phoenix could be without a member of its All-Star trio for another extended period. Durant, Booker and Beal have played just one game together this season before Friday.

76ers extend Pistons’ losing streak to 22

Joel Embiid had another big game against the Detroit Pistons with 35 points and 13 rebounds on Friday and the Philadelphia 76ers sent the Detroit Pistons to their franchise-record 22nd straight loss, 124-92.

The Pistons, who lost at home to Philadelphia on Wednesday, surpassed the franchise record set at the end of the 1979-80 season and start of 1980-81. Detroit's slide is the sixth-longest single-season skid in NBA history.

The 76ers hold the overall losing streak record with 28 straight, set at the end of 2014-15 and start of 2015-16.

In three wins this season against the Pistons, Embiid has averaged 36.3 points and 13.3 rebounds. He is the first NBA player with at least 675 points and 200 rebounds in the first 20 games of a season since Wilt Chamberlain in 1964-65.

Philadelphia more than doubled Detroit in the second quarter, outscoring the Pistons 35-17 en route to a 61-39 lead at halftime.

James Wiseman had 20 points for Detroit, which dropped to 2-23.

Spurs beat Lakers to snap 18-game slide

Devin Vassell scored a career-high 36 points and Victor Wembanyama had 13 points and 15 rebounds as the San Antonio Spurs beat the short-handed Los Angeles Lakers, 129-115 to end an 18-game losing streak.

The victory was the first for San Antonio since defeating Phoenix on Nov. 2 and snapped the longest losing streak in franchise history, topping a 16-game slide last season.

LeBron James returned after a one-game absence with 23 points and 10 rebounds, but the Lakers felt the loss of Anthony Davis, who sat out with a hip injury after he scored 37 points in a 122-119 win over the Spurs on Wednesday.

Los Angeles was also without starters D’Angelo Russell and Cam Reddish.

Derrick White scored 30 points and Kristaps Porzingis had 21 in his return to the lineup as the Boston Celtics remained perfect at home with Friday's 133-123 win over the New York Knicks.

Jayson Tatum chipped in 25 points to help Boston improve to 10-0 at TD Garden this season and bounce back from Monday's 122-112 loss to the Indiana Pacers in the NBA's In-Season Tournament quarter-finals.

Porzingis, who had missed the Celtics' previous four games with a strained left calf, tallied 19 points on 7-of-8 shooting in the first half to help stake Boston to a 74-65 lead at intermission.

The Celtics stretched their advantage to as many as 20 points in the third quarter and the Knicks never got closer than seven points down in the fourth.

Jalen Brunson and RJ Barrett each had 23 points for New York, which had won three straight prior to Tuesday's loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in the Tournament quarterfinals.

Fox leads rally as Kings top short-handed Suns

De'Aaron Fox scored 23 of his game-high 34 points in the fourth quarter as the Sacramento Kings dominated the second half en route to a 114-106 win over the Phoenix Suns.

Domantas Sabonis compiled 15 points, 17 rebounds and five assists for Sacramento, which overcame a nine-point half-time deficit by outscoring the Suns by a 33-12 margin in the third quarter.

Phoenix, which played without Kevin Durant due to an ankle injury and remains without fellow star Bradley Beal, shot 52.4 per cent in the first half to build a 59-50 lead. 

The Suns went 6 of 23 from the field in the third quarter, though, as the Kings fought back to tie the game before finishing the period on a 16-4 run to take an 83-71 advantage into the fourth.

Fox then took over in the final quarter as Sacramento gradually pulled away, with his 3-pointer with 1:44 remaining giving the Kings a comfortable 112-98 lead.

The slumping Suns lost for the fourth time in five games despite Devin Booker's 28 points on 10-of-14 shooting along with seven assists. Eric Gordon added 19 points for Phoenix.

Thunder continue mastery of Warriors with overtime win

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 38 points, Jalen Williams added 28 and the Oklahoma City Thunder rallied late in regulation before handing the Golden State Warriors a 138-136 overtime loss.

Chet Holmgren chipped in 21 points, including three free throws with 7.7 seconds left in the fourth quarter that forced overtime, as the upstart Thunder defeated the veteran Warriors for the third time in four meetings this season. 

Golden State fell to 10-12 on the season despite 34 points from Stephen Curry and 22 from Klay Thompson. Jonathan Kuminga posted 24 points and 12 rebounds off the bench before fouling out in OT.

The Thunder battled back from a 14-point second-quarter deficit, then never trailed in overtime after opening the session on a 12-3 run capped by a Holmgren 3-pointer that gave them a 130-121 lead with 2:40 left.

Golden State fought back and pulled to within 136-134 on Curry's 3-pointer with 29.7 seconds remaining, but Holmgren fed Luguentz Dort for a critical layup on the ensuing possession and the Warriors eventually ran out of time.

 

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."

The Golden State Warriors almost blew a five-point lead in the final minute as Harrison Barnes missed a buzzer-beater as the reigning champions levelled their first round series with the Sacramento Kings after a 126-125 Game 4 win on Sunday.

The Warriors led 126-121 heading into the final 60 seconds but gifted the Kings an avenue back in after Stephen Curry called for a timeout when they had none left at Chase Center.

Malik Monk scored the subsequent free-throw before De'Aaron Fox's three-pointer cut the margin to one point.

Curry then missed a pullup shot with 14 seconds left but the Kings could not capitalise with the final possession after a timeout, when a double-teamed Fox found Barnes open before his attempt rimmed out.

Reigning NBA Finals MVP Curry finished with 32 points on 11-of-22 shooting with five-of-11 from beyond the arc, along with five rebounds and four assists.

Klay Thompson had 26 points with four three-pointers and Jordan Poole added 22 points, while Draymond Green returned from a one-game ban off the bench with a strong display, holding the Kings to five-of-15 as primary defender.

Clutch Player of the Year Fox did everything but hit the final shot, scoring 38 points on 14-of-31 shooting with four three-pointers.

Keegan Murray added 23 points with five-of-seven three-point shooting and Domantas Sabonis was down on his usual output with 14 points, seven rebounds and eight assists.

The Warriors squared the series up at 2-2 ahead of Game 5 in Sacramento on Wednesday. Golden State are 35-8 at home across the regular and postseason but are 11-32 on the road.

Tatum and Brown led Celtics triumph

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown scored 31 points each as the Boston Celtics pulled 3-1 clear in their first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks with a 129-121 road win.

The Celtics led nearly the entire game, holding off a 68-point Hawks' second half, with Tatum and Brown combining for Boston's final 16 points to round out the win.

Tatum's 31 points came on eight-of-20 shooting from the field including four-of-13 three-pointers, with seven rebounds and three blocks. Brown scored 12-of-22 from the field with three triples.

Trae Young had a strong game for Atlanta with 35 points and 15 assists, while De'Andre Hunter added 27 points and Dejounte Murray scored 23 with nine rebounds.

Knicks pull clear, Timberwolves avoid sweep in OT

The New York Knicks took a 3-1 lead in their first round series with the Cleveland Cavaliers after Jalen Brunson scored 29 points at a loud Madison Square Garden to lead them to a 102-93 win.

Donovan Mitchell had a poor game, managing only 11 points on five-of-18 shooting, with Darius Garland stepping up for 23 points and 10 assists.

But the Knicks were too strong, with R.J. Barrett supporting Brunson with 26 points, while Josh Hart had 19 points and seven rebounds. Brunson shot five three-pointers, while Julius Randle sat out the fourth quarter, scoring on seven points fo the game.

The Minnesota Timberwolves staved off elimination and avoided a first-ever franchise sweep with a 114-108 overtime win over the Denver Nuggets, with Anthony Edwards delivering a clutch three-pointer to cap his 34 points. Denver center Nikola Jokic scored 43 points with 11 rebounds.

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.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says re-signing Kyrie Irving is the franchise's top offseason priority while he launched a stunning rebuke at Jalen Brunson's trade to the New York Knicks.

The Mavs are in danger of missing the play-in tournament altogether, heading into Wednesday's slate of games in 11th in the Western Conference with a 37-42 record.

Dallas traded in All-Star Irving to play alongside Luka Doncic in February but the side have gone 8-16 since that move, sliding out of contention. The Mavs are 4-11 when Irving and Doncic have played together on the backcourt.

Irving is eligible to leave in the offseason in free agency and Cuban is eager to ensure he stays with the Mavs, having traded away Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith and a several of future Draft pick for him only months ago.

Cuban, however, would not be drawn on whether Irving was a max contract player.

"We want him to stay and I think we have a good shot," Cuban said. "I think he's happy here. He tells me he's happy here.

"I think he's a good guy. Everything I thought I knew about Kyrie because of everything I read was 100 per cent wrong."

The Mavs owner was also confident Doncic would stick with the franchise and spend his entire career in Dallas although he acknowledged "we have to earn that".

Doncic is averaging 28.4 points on 45.7 per cent shooting and a career-high 35.3 per cent from beyond the arc with 9.1 rebounds and 8.7 assists this season.

Cuban was also pressed on guard Brunson, who left the Mavs in July last year for the New York Knicks in a free agency move on a four-year, $104million deal. Doncic admitted earlier this week that the Mavs miss his presence "a lot".

Brunson has since played a key role as the Knicks have clinched a playoffs spot, with career-highs in 24.0 points on 41.6 per cent three-point shooting with 6.2 assists this season.

The Mavs owner blamed the involvement of Brunson's father Rick - who was hired as a Knicks assistant in June last year - in negotiations before Jalen left in a move that attracted an NBA investigation which determined the Knicks had violated tampering rules.

"Things went south when the parents got involved," Cuban said.

Cuban also took responsibility for the Mavs' slide but remained hopeful of a run into the playoffs.

"It's absolutely my fault for not recognising that," Cuban said when asked about their defensive issues. "[But] I haven't heard the fat lady sing yet."

The New York Knicks will not "coast" after clinching their place in the NBA playoffs, assured Tom Thibodeau and Jalen Brunson.

The Knicks ended an eight-year wait to return to the postseason in 2020-21, only to take a step back last year and miss out.

But this season's team, boosted by the signing of Brunson, have long looked on course for the playoffs and punched their ticket on Sunday.

A 118-109 win over the Washington Wizards did the job, with Brunson contributing 27 points and eight assists.

The Knicks are not quite there yet in terms of locking up the fifth seed in the East, with the Brooklyn Nets 2.5 games back, but they were not looking to ease up regardless.

"We need to keep playing," said coach Thibodeau. "We want to be at our best going in."

Brunson added: "The fact that we get further on in our season is great, but we've still got a lot of work to do.

"I think first and foremost we want to finish the season as strong as we can. Even getting in the playoffs, we don't want to coast.

"We want to continue to get better, continue to find ways to make each other better and make sure we're staying focused as we're going forward. That's what’s most important."

Knicks owner James Dolan had made public the goal of reaching the playoffs back in January, a challenge the team welcomed.

"I said it at the time: I love that the owner has great belief in the team," said Thibodeau. "That's what I want.

"Our job is to put the work in each day. But there's no trick to this, there's no magic to this, there's no shortcut to it.

"It's a great accomplishment, because it's one of the goals, one of several. It's the next step along the way.

"So, keep going, and that's where the focus is. We know how important the next game is. So, get ready for Indiana, but just keep checking the boxes as we go."

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."

Walker Kessler produced a game-winning block to deny Grant Williams' after Lauri Markkanen's 27th double-double of the season as the Utah Jazz edged the Boston Celtics 118-117 on Saturday.

The Jazz, fighting for a playoff spot in the tight Western Conference, had re-taken the lead with 35.3 seconds remaining from Talen Horton-Tucker's lay-up before Kessler blocked Williams' game-winning two-point attempt on a drive to the basket on the buzzer.

Utah rallied back from a 19-point deficit but the Celtics went on a 14-3 run to re-claim the lead before the late drama.

All-Star Markkanen was brilliant with 28 points including four three-pointers with 10 rebounds and three assists for Utah, while Horton-Tucker added 19 points. Among Markkanen's triples was one with 1:19 to play in the fourth to cut the margin to one point at 117-116.

Williams had produced a career-high seven three-pointers in his 23-point haul, while Jayson Tatum was kept to 15 points on four-of-12 shooting with six assists in a quiet second half.

Boston guard Jaylen Brown scored a team-high 25 points, making four-of-nine from beyond the arc, with six assists.

The Celtics shot 22 three-pointers at 43.1 per cent, but the Jazz hauled down 56-40 rebounds and scored 17-of-22 from the free-throw line.

Boston, playing their third game in four nights, clinched their playoff spot despite the defeat, by virtue of the Miami Heat's 113-99 loss to the Chicago Bulls.

Despite his cold night, Tatum (two) became the fourth Celtics' player to reach multiple 2,000-point seasons, alongside Larry Bird (four), Paul Pierce (four) and John Havlicek (two)

Embiid exceeds Iverson & Wilt franchise record

Joel Embiid became the first Philadelphia 76ers player to record nine straight 30-point games as they downed the Indiana Pacers 141-121.

Embiid scored 31 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the field along with 10-of-13 from the free-throw line, plus seven rebounds, seven assists and two blocks.

The center has averaged 36.1 points per game during his nine-game 30-point run, exceeding Allen Iverson and Wilt Chamberlain's previous joint record of eight.

Tyrese Maxey added 31 points with five triples while Tobias Harris contributed 24 points for the 76ers, who move into second in the Eastern Conference following Boston's loss.

Brunson leads Knicks past slumping Nuggets

Jalen Brunson made an impressive return from a foot injury with 24 points, including 16 in the first quarter, as the New York Knicks got past the Denver Nuggets 116-110.

The Knicks (42-30) rallied from a 13-point third-quarter deficit, with Brunson making two free throws with 43 seconds remaining, before lobbing to Mitchell Robinson to seal the win with 24 seconds left.

Nikola Jokic scored 24 points with 10 rebounds and eight assists for the Western Conference-leading Nuggets, who have lost five of their past six games to fall to a 47-24 record.

The West's second-ranked Memphis Grizzlies closed the gap on the Nuggets with a 133-119 win over the Golden State Warriors, led by Jaren Jackson Jr's 31 points, seven rebounds and four blocks.

Two of the NBA's biggest upstart and in-form teams do battle on Thursday when the Sacramento Kings host the New York Knicks with both pursuing high seedings in their respective conferences.

Both sides actually dropped their most recent games, but Mike Brown's Kings have won six of their past seven and nine of their past 12, with Memphis' recent wobbles – in the absence of Ja Morant after his highly publicised nightclub incident – seeing them move up to second seed in the Western Conference with a 38-26 record.

It's been a similar story with Tom Thibodeau's Knicks, who had won nine straight games until falling to a shock 112-105 loss to the 21-46 Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday. Before that defeat, the Knicks had the NBA's longest active winning streak.

Arguably, the Knicks felt the absence of Jalen Brunson, who missed his second straight game due to foot soreness against the Hornets.

Brunson had won February's Eastern Conference Player of the Month, helping ignite a winning run that has seen the Knicks surge up to fifth in the east with a 39-28 record, breathing down the necks of the fourth-placed Cleveland Cavaliers (42-26).

The Knicks guard averaged 27.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and 5.8 assists during the eight games he played in his side's hot streak.

But Thibodeau downplayed the seriousness of Brunson's issue, suggesting he will likely be available to take on the Kings as both teams look to bank wins down the final stretch of the regular season ahead of the playoffs, with seedings up for grabs.

And the Knicks will not be fazed by taking on a high-ranked team from the West, having toppled the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets – both sitting inside the east's top five – twice each during their recent run of victories.

The Kings' threat is their offense, leading the NBA in points per game (121.1), including a league-high home return (124.3), led by Domantas Sabonis, Harrison Barnes, Kevin Huerter and De'Aaron Fox. Sacramento (50.0) are behind only the Denver Nuggets (50.9) – currently atop the West – for field-goal percentage.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Sacramento Kings - De'Aaron Fox

Across the past 10 games, Kings point guard Fox is second only to Portland Trail Blazers veteran Damian Lillard (39.9) in the NBA for points per game, averaging a staggering 33.5 on 57.2 per cent field-goal shooting.

Fox scored a season-high 42 points in last month's wild 176-175 double-overtime win over the Los Angeles Clippers, which was the second-highest scoring game in NBA history.

New York Knicks - Julius Randle

Brunson's recent impact has grabbed the headlines, but Julius Randle's output should not be lost in that, averaging 28.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists in their past 10 games, including a clutch game-winning three-pointer against the Miami Heat.

Randle has exceeded the form that saw him win the NBA's Most Improved Player in 2021 after dipping in offensive output in 2021-22.

KEY BATTLE - Can the Knicks control the key?

The Knicks will need to find a way to shut down the Kings' prolific offense, at least to some extent, but they will be buoyed by having the NBA's best record for fewest opposition points in the paint this season (45.3).

The paint is Kings power forward Sabonis' domain, sitting seventh in the league for points in the foul lane (8.5 per game), so his battle with Knicks center Mitchell Robinson will be important. On the flip side, the Kings are 28th for opposition points in the paint (54.6).

HEAD-TO-HEAD

These two sides have only met once this season, with the Knicks winning 112-99 in December with Randle and R.J. Barrett top scoring with 27 points each.

Sacramento's offense was kept below 100 points for the first time this season in that contest, which has only occurred twice in 2022-23. The Knicks have won three of their past four meetings.

February's Eastern Conference Player of the Month Jalen Brunson will miss a second straight game due to foot soreness.

New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau confirmed Brunson's absence prior to Tuesday's game against the Charlotte Hornets, having been listed as questionable, but eased fears of a long-term absence.

Brunson averaged 23.9 points per game during February, helping the Knicks launch their win streak which currently stands at nine straight victories heading into Tuesday's game.

"Not ready," Thibodeau said about Brunson pre-game. "Much better today but not quite ready, so we'll see where he is tomorrow."

The Knicks point guard was absent for Sunday's thrilling 131-129 double-overtime victory over the Boston Celtics with the same issue, where Immanuel Quickley filled in for Brunson with a career-high 38 points.

Thibodeau added: "I leave that up to the medical staff and the player. I know he'll play if he can play.

"If the medical people and he feels he needs another day, then give him the day. We love our depth. We saw 'Quick' gave us a great game. We have more than enough to win."

Thibodeau said Brunson will be part on the Knicks' upcoming road trip starting on Thursday against the Sacramento Kings.

The Knicks head coach acknowledged Tuesday's game against the 20-46 Hornets was a "trap game" but called on his players to be ready.

"I think every game is a trap game," he said. "It's human nature, you let your guard own a little bit, you're going to slip.

"If you look at Charlotte over their last 10 games, they're 5-5. If we're not ready to play, what happened last game has nothing to do with this game."

Brunson is averaging 23.9 points, 3.6 rebounds and 6.2 assists since joining the Knicks this season from the Dallas Mavericks.

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