Two of the most important players in the playoffs will miss their respective Game 4s as Philadelphia 76ers MVP favourite Joel Embiid and Los Angeles Clippers franchise player Kawhi Leonard battle injuries.

It was announced on Friday that Embiid had suffered a knee sprain and would be unable to suit up for Game 4, although he is expected to return "early next week", per ESPN.

The 76ers lead their series against the Brooklyn Nets 3-0, with Tyrese Maxey stepping up as Philadelphia's top scoring option down the stretch of Game 3.

Embiid is having a down series by his lofty standards, averaging 20.0 points, 11.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.3 blocks in the three games so far, shooting 46.2 per cent from the field and only hitting one of his eight three-point attempts.

Meanwhile, Leonard was a surprise absentee in Game 3 with a knee injury of his own, and he has not been able to recover in time to make it back for a crucial Game 4 with his Clippers trailing 2-1.

Leonard has returned to his status as one of the best players in the league, and he was averaging 34.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 2.0 steals through his two games against the Phoenix Suns this series, shooting a blistering 54.5 per cent from the field, 60.0 per cent from deep and 88.2 per cent from the free throw line.

The Clippers lost Game 3 despite receiving a 42-point outburst from Norman Powell and a 30-point, 12-assist showing from the resurgent Russell Westbrook.

Russell Westbrook believes the Los Angeles Clippers were missing "the best in the world" as Kawhi Leonard sat out a Game 3 defeat to the Phoenix Suns.

Devin Booker scored 45 points as the Suns beat the Clippers 129-124 on Thursday to take a 2-1 lead, and only the Phoenix star is scoring more points so far in the postseason (36.3 per game) than Leonard (34.5).

But Leonard was not on the floor, watching instead from the sideline due to a knee injury.

The setback was only reported hours before the game in Los Angeles, although it was quickly clarified it was not related to the ACL injury that saw him miss the whole of last season.

Leonard could be back for Game 4, but his absence was a blow – especially as the Clippers came so close to beating the Suns even without him.

"I just feel sorry for him," team-mate Westbrook said. "He probably was playing his best basketball in a while, probably the best in the world, honestly. It just sucks just for him mentally.

"But it was good to see him be around and communicate with us on the bench. Hopefully we can see how he's feeling and see what's next.

"If he's not back, we have to rally around each other, support each other, find ways to make something happen. It's a series. First to four. Get ready for Saturday afternoon."

Coach Ty Lue added of the injury: "It's very deflating. I think more so for Kawhi.

"You have a guy who's coming off ACL, hasn't missed a rehab session, eats right, eats clean, does everything he can for his body, works extremely hard to get to this point. Then you have something like this happen.

"So, it's tough for him, for all the work that he puts in. I feel bad for him."

The Los Angeles Clippers will be without Kawhi Leonard in Game 3 against the Phoenix Suns due to a knee injury for the two-time NBA champion.

Leonard averaged 34.5 points across the first two games of the first-round playoff series, despite sustaining a right knee injury in Game 1 and playing through the pain in Game 2.

Yet the 31-year-old will miss Thursday's third showdown between the two teams, with the series tied at 1-1, according to reports.

Leonard's recovery from a knee strain will be monitored on a day-to-day basis, ESPN said, as the Clippers hope their five-time All Star will be healthy for Saturday's Game 4.

The two-time Finals MVP's aggravation of a knee problem is not related to the ACL injury that saw him miss the whole of last season, the ESPN report added.

The Clippers are already without fellow star Paul George, who is also recovering from a knee injury.

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.

Nikola Jokic recorded a double-double while Jamal Murray top scored as the Denver Nuggets re-discovered their form with a dominant 109-80 blowout of the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday.

The Western Conference top seed Nuggets had gone 7-8 in their final 15 regular-season games, but snapped back into form in Game 1 of their first round playoffs series at Ball Arena.

Denver pulled away with a 32-14 third quarter, highlighted by five three-pointers.

Murray top scored with 24 points, making four-of-10 from three-point range, with eight rebounds and eight assists, while Michael Porter Jr also made four triples in his 18 points with 11 rebounds.

Porter Jr's game was capped by a hammer jam late in the first half as the Nuggets started to pull clear.

Jokic scored 13 points on six-of-12 shooting with 14 rebounds, including five offensive rebounds, and six assists.

Despite his modest stats, the Serbian center was influential in the first half with a no-look pass for Bruce Brown's three-pointer along with a classy spin to glide past Rudy Gobert in the lane.

The Timberwolves were no match for the top seed with Karl-Anthony Towns, who was the 2016 NBA Rookie of the Year in Jokic's rookie season, struggling for 11 points on five-of-15 shooting.

Former NBA Draft top overall pick Anthony Edwards only managed 18 points with five assists, while veteran point guard Mike Conley had eight points, four rebounds and three assists.

Clutch Kawhi leads Clippers past Suns

Kawhi Leonard came up clutch with two late three-pointers among his 38 points while Russell Westbrook made a critical block as the Los Angeles Clippers won 115-110 over the Phoenix Suns.

The Clippers put together three straight three-pointers in three plays in the final three minutes, including two from Leonard before kicking out a pass to Eric Gordon to make it 109-103 with 1:33 left.

With Suns cut it back to one point but Westbrook blocked Devin Booker with before making two free-throws to seal the win. Westbrook shot three-of-19 but never stopped, finishing with 10 rebounds including five in offense and eight assists.

Leonard went 13-of-24 from the field with three triples along with five rebounds and five assists, while Gordon added 19 with Paul George still out injured. Kevin Durant top scored for Phoenix with 27 points and 11 assists while Booker had 26 points and Chris Paul added 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

Lakers down Grizzlies, Heat shock Bucks

The Los Angeles Lakers claimed an early road win 128-112 over the Memphis Grizzlies with Ja Morant suffering a fourth-quarter hand injury to throw their first round series wide open.

Rui Hachimura scored a playoff career-best 29 points with 21 in the second half as the Lakers rallied back from a 65-59 half-time deficit, pulling clear late after Morant exited with 5:48 remaining at 105-101.

Morant was kept to 18 points with six rebounds, while Jaren Jackson Jr had 31 points with five rebounds and two blocks.

LeBron James had 21 points and 11 rebounds with two steals and three blocks, while Anthony Davis contributed 22 points, 12 rebounds and seven blocks. Lakers guard Austin Reaves added 23 points.

Eastern Conference eight seed Miami Heat pulled off an upset 130-117 road win over the Milwaukee Bucks who lost Giannis Antetokounmpo to a lower back contusion before half-time. The Heat lost Tyler Herro to a broken hand but Jimmy Butler stepped up with 35 points and 11 assists.

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.

The Los Angeles Clippers secured the five seed in the Western Conference after rallying from a 10-point third-quarter deficit to beat the Phoenix Suns 119-114 on Sunday.

Norman Powell, Kawhi Leonard and Russell Westbrook scored 29, 25 and 25 points respectively for the Clippers, who held off the Golden State Warriors for the five seed, meaning LA will take on the Suns again in the playoffs first round.

Leonard scored the Clippers' final eight points of the game among 12 in the fourth quarter, shooting 11-of-21 from the field, with 15 rebounds and six assists.

Powell continued his fine form off the bench, shooting 12-of-22 for his 29 points with five rebounds, while Westbrook made two three-pointers in his 25 points with seven rebounds and nine assists.

Phoenix sat starters Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Deandre Ayton for the game.

Despite that, the Suns put up a good fight, with guard Saben Lee having 25 points with 10 assists, shooting three-of-eight from beyond the arc.

Warriors hit NBA record, LeBron lifts Lakers

Stephen Curry made five three-pointers and shot nine-of-15 for 26 points as the Golden State Warriors routed the short-handed Portland Trail Blazers 157-101.

The Warriors could have jumped the Clippers into the five seed if LA lost, but the reigning champions will settle for the six seed, meaning they will take on the Sacramento Kings in the first round.

Curry only played 22 minutes along with Klay Thompson, who scored 20 points, with Golden State piling on an NBA record 55 first-quarter points. Jordan Poole added 21 points including four-of-five triples in 17 minutes and Moses Moody contributed 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting in 29 minutes.

That meant the Los Angeles Lakers finished seventh in the West despite LeBron James scoring eight three-pointers among 36 points in a 128-117 win over the Utah Jazz.

The Lakers will face the Minnesota Timberwolves in the play-in tournament, with the winner to face the Memphis Grizzlies in the playoffs first round.

Wolves win amid Gobert and McDaniels drama

The Timberwolves jumped the New Orleans Pelicans in the play-in seeding for eighth with a 113-108 victory, but it was a game full of drama with Rudy Gobert throwing a punch at teammate Kyle Anderson during a timeout.

Gobert was dismissed for the rest of the game after the second-quarter incident, while top perimeter defender Jaden McDaniels broke his right hand after hitting a wall in frustration.

Despite all that, Anthony Edwards led the Wolves to victory with 26 points, 13 rebounds, four steals and four blocks, while Karl-Anthony Towns had 30 points with eight rebounds.

Brandon Ingram scored 42 points for the Pelicans, who could have finished as high as fifth, but will instead face the Oklahoma City Thunder in a play-in tournament elimination game.

The Los Angeles Clippers moved a step closer to securing a playoffs berth with a 136-125 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday.

The Clippers claimed a major advantage in the complicated race to avoid the play-in tournament in the Western Conference with Kawhi Leonard top scoring with 27 points.

Leonard shot seven-of-17 from the field for his 27 points with three triples, with eight rebounds and four assists, while Russell Westbrook added 20 points, six rebounds and six assists.

Norman Powell continued his strong form off the bench with 23 points for the Clippers who rallied back from a 70-64 half-time deficit on a 14-2 run early in the third quarter.

Kevin Knox II scored a game-high 30 points for the Blazers, shooting five-of-eight from three-point range.

The Clippers, who have won four of their past six games, are fifth in the West ahead of their final regular season game against the Phoenix Suns, who they will face in the playoffs first round if they hold fifth.

LA (43-38) can finish as low as seventh should they lose to the Suns, with the Golden State Warriors (43-38) taking on Portland, while the New Orleans Pelicans (42-39) can go ahead of them if they also beat the Minnesota Timberwolves as they own the tiebreaker against the Clippers.

Timberwolves rout Spurs to keep race alive

The Minnesota Timberwolves blew out the San Antonio Spurs 151-131, meaning the order of placings in the West's play-in tournament remains undecided.

Anthony Edwards scored 33 points in 25 minutes with Karl-Anthony Towns adding 22, with Spurs conceding their most points allowed in regulation time under coach Gregg Popovich.

The 41-40 Timberwolves are ninth in the West, but hold tiebreakers against the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans, who are both 42-39, ahead of Sunday's final slate of games. The Wolves face the Pels, while the Lakers take on the Utah Jazz.

One seed Nuggets fall to fifth loss in six

The Denver Nuggets may be the number one seed in the West but they suffered their fifth loss from their past six games with a 118-114 defeat to the eliminated Jazz.

Denver's scratchy form ahead of the playoffs continued with Nikola Jokic shooting two-of-five from the field for six points with 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

Ochai Agbaji scored a career-high and game-high 28 points with three-of-11 three-pointers as Utah snapped a four-game losing skid.

Brandon Ingram said the New Orleans Pelicans proved they can contend with the best in the NBA as he continued his hot streak to earn a huge win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Ingram scored 25 points or more for the ninth straight outing, putting up 36 in a 122-114 victory that leaves the Pelicans just one game back of the sixth-placed Clippers in the West.

Getting into the top six would mean the Pelicans avoid the play-in tournament in the playoffs.

"If you want to be the best, you've got to go against the best and you've got to beat them," Ingram said. 

"That's one of the things that was in my head tonight, just trying to get this win."

Asked about his impressive form, Ingram said: "It's just manoeuvring a little bit, seeing what's open, seeing what spot I can get to on the floor, not forcing the game.

"That’s the biggest thing – seeing what's the best shot for the team, but also making sure that I stay aggressive."

Team-mates CJ McCollum and Trey Murphy III put up 19 apiece, and the former paid tribute to Ingram's ability to make the clutch shots in key moments.

"Those are I'm-just-better-than-you shots," McCollum said. 

"He's relying on his skill set and his comfort level. Regardless of analytics and what's considered a good shot, that's a great shot for him."

Kawhi Leonard put up 40 points for the Clippers, who have now lost back-to-back games.

"We just have to give credit to them as they played amazing. Ingram played great," Leonard said.

Luka Doncic scored 42 points with 10 rebounds but it was not enough for the Dallas Mavericks who suffered their sixth loss from their past seven games 129-122 to the Miami Heat on Saturday.

The win was much needed for Miami, who improved to 41-37 to be seventh in the East, with Jimmy Butler top scoring with 35 points and 12 assists at FTX Arena.

The Heat snapped their three-game skid but it left the Mavs' perilous playoff hopes worse off, falling to a 37-41 record, remaining 11th in the West.

Dallas are a game back from Oklahoma City (38-40) in the race for the final play-in spot, with the Thunder owning the head-to-head tiebreaker too.

Doncic tried his best with 42 points on 17-of-25 shooting with two triples along with 10 rebounds, eight assists and two steals. That was the Slovenian's 14th 40-point game this season.

Kyrie Irving added 23 points and eight assists, while Tim Hardaway Jr drained six three-pointers in his 31 points with six rebound and seven assists.

Yet all that was not enough for Dallas who shot at 61 per cent as a team, after Miami piled on 44 first-quarter points, leaving the Mavs to lament their defense. Miami's 76 first-half points was the third most in franchise history.

Center Cody Zeller offered good support to Butler with 20 points and eight rebounds, while Kevin Love and Max Strus both added 18 points and Tyler Herro contributed 15.

Ingram stars as Pels continue playoffs push

The New Orleans Pelicans moved above the Los Angeles Lakers and into the seven spot in the Western Conference with a crucial 122-114 over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Kawhi Leonard scored 40 points for the Clippers, who fall to sixth in the West, but Brandon Ingram maintained his fine form with a game-winning display.

Ingram scored 36 points on 13-of-23 shooting with four rebounds and eight assists, while Jonas Valanciunas added 23 points with 12 rebounds.

Leonard shot 15-of-28 from the field with four-of-eight from beyond the arc with eight rebounds and four assists, while Russell Westbrook contributed 24 points with nine assists.

The Pels have won seven of their past eight games to shoot into playoffs contention in the West with a 40-38 record, while the Clippers are 41-38.

Kawhi Leonard played a lead role as the Los Angeles Clippers won without the injured Paul George and urged teammates to "dial in even deeper" over the remainder of the regular season.

The Clippers scored a 127-105 home win against the Oklahoma City Thunder, two nights after George suffered a knee injury in a 101-100 loss to the same opposition.

Leonard played the lead role as the two-time NBA Finals MVP scored a game-high 32 points on 13-of-15 shooting from the field, adding six assists and six rebounds, while Russell Westbrook added 24 points.

Asked how the Clippers would cope without eight-time All-Star George, Leonard said: "Like we did tonight. Eric Gordon stepped in and started in his position, and it provided more minutes for Bones [Hyland] and Terance [Mann] and they came in and did a great job, provided a positive energy. Nobody's head was down.

"We wish PG a speedy recovery. It's next man up and that's how we've got to play.

"We've got to keep sharing the ball, and dial in even deeper."

He said the Clippers must collectively be "more focused because we're missing a superstar".

George is set to miss the rest of the regular season but crucially he has avoided serious ligament damage, so it should not be a long-term lay-off.

Leonard might be the franchise player, but he wants everyone to be making big contributions in George's absence as the Clippers look to nail down their postseason spot. For now, they sit fifth in the Western Conference with a 39-35 record.

"Missing a guy like that, the ball's going to be in my hands more," Leonard said in his post-game press conference.

"But everybody else as well. One man can't win these basketball games. We'll have to come in with a group effort and everybody focus up, buy in, and try to do what we can do without him."

As for how Westbrook is faring, almost five weeks on from his arrival from the Utah Jazz, Leonard was complimentary, saying it was positive "just having a Hall of Fame point guard on the floor".

"He brings energy to the team, brings pace, plays both ends of the floor," Leonard said. "He's been doing a good job."

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.

The Los Angeles Clippers' hopes of a deep playoffs run may have suffered a major blow after Paul George exited their 101-100 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder with a leg injury.

George fell to the floor after his right knee collided with Luguentz Dort's knee in the air while attempting a rebound.

The eight-time All-Star got up with help and exited the game with 4:38 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue said during his post-game press conference that George was still being evaluated and that he had not spoken to him.

ESPN reported George was spotted exiting the arena in the back of a cart with his right leg extended.

George scored 18 points with seven rebounds, five assists and three steals before exiting, with the loss seeing the Clippers fall to a 38-35 record in fifth in the West.

The 32-year-old is averaging 23.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game this season.

Team-mate Kawhi Leonard said the Clippers would take on a "next man up" mentality if George was unavailable for a significant period.

"Next man up, but we'll see," Leonard told reporters. "We've got a group of guys that still want to win and like to play basketball. We'll see happens."

Stephen Curry's 50 points were not enough for the Golden State Warriors to avoid a ninth straight road loss going down 134-126 to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.

The Warriors' dreadful road record worsened to 7-27 across the season, with Kawhi Leonard top scoring for the Clippers with 30 points at Crypto.com Arena.

Curry piled on 21 points in the third quarter, shooting 20-of-28 from the field and eight-of-14 from three-point range, matching his season-high 50 points from the November 16 loss to the Phoenix Suns.

The reigning Finals MVP is the only player in the NBA to score 50-plus points in a loss multiple times this season. All other players are 18-2 in 50-point games this season.

Curry, who turned 35 earlier this week, also tied Wilt Chamberlain on seven for the most 50-point games after turning 30-years-old, moving past Michael Jordan (six).

Golden State's latest defeat comes in the first game of a five-game road trip which may define their playoffs aspirations, with the Warriors in sixth in the Western Conference at 36-34, while the Clippers are fifth on 37-33.

The Clippers claimed their fourth straight win after an 0-5 start after the All-Star break.

Leonard led the way on 10-of-19 field shooting, while Paul George added 24 points including four triples and seven assists.

Jordan Poole provided the Warriors' next best output with 19 points off the bench, while Draymond Green received his 16th technical foul of the season, meaning he will cop a one-game suspension.

Sixers clinch sixth win in a row

Joel Embiid scored 36 points with 18 rebounds as the Philadelphia 76ers continued their momentum with their sixth straight win in a 118-109 triumph over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Embiid had a charging call against him overturned with 4:12 remaining, which would have been his sixth foul, allowing him to play out the game and guide the 76ers home after the Cavs had led 96-95 in the last quarter.

James Harden added 28 points with 12 assists for Philadelphia, while Donovan Mitchell was kept to 21 points on nine-of-19 shooting, making only one-of-seven from beyond the arc.

In the Eastern Conference standings, the third-placed 76ers move to 46-22, just behind the second-placed Boston Celtics (48-22) who edged the Minnesota Timberwolves 104-102. The Cavs are fourth at 44-28.

Clutch Fox sinks Bulls on buzzer

De'Aaron Fox landed a go-ahead pull-up three-pointer with 0.7 seconds left to earn the Sacramento Kings' 117-114 victory over the Chicago Bulls.

Fox finished with 32 points on 12-of-17 shooting, making four-of-six three pointers including the game-winner under pressure from Ayo Dosunmu, after DeMar DeRozan tied the game at 114-all with a four-point play.

Domantas Sabonis managed a triple-double with 14 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists for the Kings, who improved to 41-27 with the win in the race for second seed in the West.

The Golden State Warriors' NBA title defence has so far been beset by problems – primarily the absences of key personnel.

Even now, there remains no return date for Andrew Wiggins, who has played only 37 of 69 games this season and missed the past 12 for personal reasons.

Stephen Curry is back now but has sat for 26 games this year.

Although the Warriors' most-used lineup in the 2022 playoffs – including both Wiggins and Curry – has again been their most-used lineup in this regular season, it has started just a third of their games.

Yet that does not explain a quite remarkable trend that has developed across this campaign and now causes the Warriors real concern as they go on the road against the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.

Golden State have won their past eight home games, the longest active streak in the NBA, yet they have lost their past eight road games, also the league's longest active streak.

This form extends beyond the past month, too.

Ahead of Tuesday's games, the Warriors possess the fourth-best home record at 29-7, actually improving on last year's winning percentage after a 31-10 performance at Chase Center en route to taking the title.

However, on the road, only tanking duo the San Antonio Spurs and the Houston Rockets are worse off than the Warriors, who are an alarming 7-26.

Those contrasting records are still good enough to have the Warriors fifth in the Western Conference, but they are 1.5 games behind the fourth-placed Phoenix Suns, meaning Golden State are set to miss out on home advantage for every round of the playoffs. Clearly, that is an issue.

The Warriors' eight-game losing streak on the road has included each of their prior three games in Los Angeles this season, beaten by the Clippers on Valentine's Day ahead of defeats to the Lakers in consecutive road games. All of their eight straight losses have come against Western Conference rivals.

Now, this latest game at the Clippers – who are sixth in the West with an identical record to the Warriors – marks the start of a five-game road trip, with eight of Golden State's final 13 matchups away from San Francisco.

Their home record may have kept them competitive to this point, but hopes for success in the postseason will require vast improvement on the road moving forward.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Los Angeles Clippers – Kawhi Leonard

As for several Warriors stars, this has been another stop-start season for Leonard, yet he has started seven of the Clippers' eight games since the All-Star break and is finally building momentum again.

Leonard had averaged 22.1 points prior to the All-Star break but has scored 31.0 points per game since then. That is tied for the sixth-best mark in that time, along with Curry.

Golden State Warriors – Klay Thompson

Curry has actually averaged more points on the road this season (30.3) than at home (28.9), but he has lacked support in away games because the same has not been true of team-mate Thompson.

The 33-year-old has scored 24.8 points at home but just 19.0 on the road. However, he has still averaged 24.6 points in those rare road wins.

Golden State will need Curry and Thompson to turn up together to get their road form back on track.

KEY BATTLE – Fast start vital

As much as any Clipper, the Warriors will be battling themselves in the first quarter. Their slow starts in road games have been ever so costly.

Golden State have trailed through the first quarter of 17 games on the road this season. They are an incredible 0-17 in those games.

The Warriors must either make a rapid start or rediscover the sort of championship grit that would allow them to recover when they are up against it on their travels.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

The Warriors are 2-1 against the Clippers this season, although those two wins have of course come in San Francisco.

Since 2019, Golden State have won just one of five road games against the Clippers. They had won eight of nine such matchups prior to that in a series they have dominated 137-94 all-time.

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