Giannis Antetokounmpo believes Stephen Curry is the best player in the world after inspiring the Golden State Warriors' NBA title triumph last season.

Curry won his fourth NBA title in June at the expense of the Boston Celtics, taking the series 4-2.

Superstar guard Curry won the NBA Finals MVP after averaging 31.2 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals in the six games.

The 34-year-old became only the seventh player to win at least four NBA titles and win two MVP awards, a feat Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, LeBron James, Magic Johnson and Tim Duncan have also achieved.

Antetokounmpo claimed the title and was Finals MVP for the Milwaukee Bucks in 2021, but says Curry is now the best on the planet despite Nikola Jokic winning the 2021 and 2022 NBA MVP awards.

He said during a Bucks media day: "I think the best player in the world is the person that is the last man standing.

"It's the person that takes his team to the Finals, the finish line and helps them win the game. - that's how I view it. I believe the best player in the world is Steph Curry."

Antetokounmpo says no individual awards can match the feeling of winning the NBA title.

"The feeling I felt, it was a nice feeling," he said. "I got jealous of Golden State, seeing them in the parade and the ESPYs. You know that feeling now. You know what is getting stripped away from you."

Giannis Antetokounmpo says only a "liar" would state that they do not want to play for the Chicago Bulls but he is committed to the Milwaukee Bucks for now.

Antetokounmpo has only ever played for the Bucks in the NBA and signed a blockbuster new long-term deal contract in December 2020.

The two-time NBA MVP is not contemplating leaving Milwaukee but gave a frank answer when asked if playing for the Bulls would interest him.

Antetokounmpo told Fox 32 Chicago Sports: "I think anybody you ask that question that plays basketball, if he said no he would be a liar.

"It's a team that won multiple championships, it's a team that one of the greatest players [Michael Jordan], if not the greatest player, to play this game played for.

"So, it's a no-brainer, everybody would love to play for Chicago. Down the line you never know.

"Maybe I'll play for Chicago, but right now I'm committed to Milwaukee."

Pat Connaughton is set to extend his contract with the Milwaukee Bucks, on the verge of finalising a three-year, $30 million contract extension, sources confirmed to The Athletic on Tuesday.

Connaughton already helped the Milwaukee Bucks win one NBA title and will now have a few more chances to add another, in a move that will keep the 6-foot-5 swingman with Milwaukee until the 2025-26 season.

The 29-year-old had the best season of his seven-year career in 2021-22, averaging 9.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists over 26 minutes per game in 65 appearances. He also shot 39.5 per cent from three-point range and ranked third on the team with a personal-best 146 triples for the season.

A key piece during the Bucks’ NBA championship run in 2021, Connaughton’s emergence last season was one reason why the team felt comfortable trading Donte DiVincenzo to the Sacramento Kings at the trade deadline.

Connaughton put off free agency by opting into the final year of his current contract last month. He was eligible to sign an extension for up to four years and approximately $59million after opting in.

Lu Dort, Bobby Portis and P.J. Tucker were among the players to get paid on a busy Thursday evening of free agency action.

Dort was shown good faith by the Oklahoma City Thunder, who opted to decline his team option that would have kept him on a $1.9million deal for next season, instead choosing to sign him to a five-year, $87.5million extension.

On a roster stacked with rookie salaries, the Thunder simply need to have some bigger contracts on their books to meet the league's salary floor, and in doing so they have rewarded a player who has become a cult figure, averaging 17.2 points per game this past season while being his side's premier wing defender.

Speaking of cult figures, Portis' connection with the Milwaukee Bucks after helping to deliver the city their second NBA championship was strong enough to have him stick around for the following year on just over $4m.

That loyalty was rewarded with a new four-year, $49m deal that will keep the 27-year-old big-man in Milwaukee until after the 2026 playoffs.

The Bucks also made a second notable move, signing 34-year-old free agent Joe Ingles to a one-year, $6.5m contract. Ingles suffered a season-ending injury with the Utah Jazz this past season, but figures to fill a role as a 41 per cent career three-point shooter, who can also handle, pass and defend at six-foot-eight.

Tucker was also a member of the Bucks' 2021 championship team, and after contributing to the Miami Heat's run to the Eastern Conference Finals this past season, the 37-year-old has signed with the Philadelphia 76ers for three years and $33m.

Over the years, Tucker has evolved into one of the game's best corner three point shooters, and across the past five seasons he has started 77 playoff games, often guarding the opposition's most dangerous wing scorer.

While Tucker is getting paid to come and provide a stabilising force, the Portland Trail Blazers are paying for upside with their four-year, $100m commitment to breakout guard Anfernee Simons.

After averaging no more than 8.4 points and 1.4 assists in each of his first three campaigns, the 23-year-old shot into mainstream attention this season and he piled up numbers on a Trail Blazers team that was missing star Damian Lillard through injury.

Simons started a career-high 30 games, and put up career-high numbers across the board. He averaged 17.3 points and 3.9 assists, while shooting an impressive 40 per cent from three on an aggressive 7.8 attempts per game, emerging as one of the game's more lethal pull-up shooters from distance.

Backup point guard Tyus Jones will return to the Memphis Grizzlies on a two-year, $30m contract after a season where he became one of the league's most valuable backups.

Jones led the entire league in assist-to-turnover ratio at 6.4 – putting a gap on the rest of the field – with his brother, Tre Jones of the Spurs, in second place at 5.1.

He also shot a career-high 39 per cent from long range, and averaged 12.7 points, 6.6 assists and 3.2 rebounds without Ja Morant in the line-up, making him one of the main reasons the Grizzlies were 20-5 in the 25 games their superstar point guard missed due to injury.

Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka identified Darvin Ham's "no-nonsense and hard-working approach" as key, as he was confirmed as the team's head coach on Friday.

A week after reports emerged of Ham's imminent appointment at Crypto.com Arena, the Lakers officially welcomed their new coach.

Ham previously worked under Mike Brown as an assistant on the Lakers between 2011 and 2013, and he returns to the team from the Milwaukee Bucks.

The 48-year-old – whose only previous head coaching job was with the New Mexico Thunderbirds, now the Cleveland Charge – followed Mike Budenholzer from the Atlanta Hawks to Milwaukee in 2018.

He was part of the staff that helped the Bucks to win their second NBA championship in 2021, adding to a sole success as a player on the 2004 Detroit Pistons.

Now, Ham will be leading the Lakers, looking to improve on a hugely underwhelming season in which the team failed to qualify for the playoffs.

LeBron James is ageing, Anthony Davis has endured injury issues, and the signing of Russell Westbrook as a third superstar was not a success.

James was enthused by reports of Ham's arrival, though, and Pelinka is also looking forward to seeing his latest hire get to work.

"When someone begins his NBA coaching career at the G League level and goes all the way through playing an integral role on the front bench of an NBA championship team, it really speaks to a certain strength of character," Pelinka said.

"Our players and fans will immediately identify with Darvin's no-nonsense and hard-working approach, which we feel will bring toughness and a competitive edge to all we do.

"When you add that to Darvin's sophisticated grasp of in-game strategy and deep knowledge of the game of basketball, we have the ideal coach for this next chapter in Lakers history.

"We could not be more honoured and proud to name Darvin Ham as our new head coach."

Ham is set to meet the media for the first time as Lakers coach on Monday, when potential offseason trades for Westbrook and his significant salary are sure to be a topic of discussion.

The Los Angeles Lakers have hired Milwaukee Bucks assistant Darvin Ham as their new head coach after he was brought in for a formal interview for the position on Thursday.

Ham, who will become a head coach in the NBA for the first time, was chosen ahead of former NBA head coaches Terry Stotts – who spent nine season in charge of the Portland Trail Blazers – and Kenny Atkinson, who oversaw the rebuild of the Brooklyn Nets before the arrival of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

Before becoming a coach, Ham played 417 games across eight seasons in his NBA career, and earned his first assistant role in the league with the Lakers back in 2011.

After two seasons with the Lakers, Ham moved on to the Atlanta Hawks, where alongside head coach Mike Budenholzer he helped them become the top seed in the Eastern Conference in 2014-15, despite their top-scorer being Paul Millsap at 16.7 points per game.

When Budenholzer was fired in 2017 and took the head role with the Bucks, Ham followed, and was a key member in the staff that won the 2021 NBA Championship.

Long-considered a head-coach-in-waiting, Ham was viewed as a front-runner for the vacancies with the Washington Wizards and the Sacramento Kings before ultimately being passed on, leaving him as the man tasked with mounting another championship run while LeBron James remains near the top of his game.

James tweeted his excitement about the hiring, saying: "So damn EXCITED!!!!!!!! Congrats and welcome coach DHam!!"

Ham will also be only the third African American coach to enter an NBA season as head coach of the Lakers, after Mike Brown did so in 2011-12 – getting fired after five games – and Byron Scott in 2014-15 and 2015-16.

Nikola Jokic was named in the All-NBA first team ahead of Joel Embiid and alongside Jayson Tatum, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Devin Booker in Tuesday evening's announcement.

Jokic pipped fellow center Embiid for the NBA's 2021-22 MVP award earlier this month and the Serbian again got the nod in that position in the All-NBA first team, although the Philadelphia 76ers star was eligible as a forward but also missed out.

While Jokic and Embiid split votes, Milwaukee Bucks forward Antetokounmpo was the only unanimous selection in the first team.

Antetokounmpo became the first player over the past 50 years to be a unanimous selection to the All-NBA first team in four straight seasons.

Tatum and Booker were both selected to the All-NBA first team for the first time.

Embiid led the selections for the second team, alongside DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Ja Morant.

LeBron James was named to the third team, with Pascal Siakam, Karl-Anthony Towns, Chris Paul and Trae Young.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doncic dominates as Mavs demolish Suns

Both of the contestants in the 2021 NBA finals were knocked out in same night in Game 7s on Sunday, with the Dallas Mavericks blowing out the first-seeded Phoenix Suns 123-90.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doncic dominates as Mavs demolish Suns

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jayson Tatum said forcing a Game 7 in Boston "means everything" after he scored a game-high 46 points to carry his Boston Celtics to a 108-95 win in Game 6 against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Tatum shot 17-of-32 from the field and seven-of-15 from long-range for his 46, while Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo had 44 points and 20 rebounds, becoming the first player since Shaquille O'Neal over 20 years ago to put up 40-and-20 in a playoff game.

Unlike Antetokounmpo, Tatum had strong support from his teammates, with Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart combining for an efficient 43 points, while Al Horford collected team-highs in rebounds (10) and blocks (four).

After a disappointing Game 5 showing at home, Tatum told reporters post-game that the timid performance was lingering in their memories, determined not to make the same mistakes.

"[The Game 5 comeback] was in the back of our mind… it's something we talked about," he said.

"We felt they beat us on 'winning' plays – hustle plays, 50-50 balls – they were tougher than us in the fourth quarter of Game 5. 

"I think just how much it stung – losing like that. Everyone had a bad taste in their mouth.

"That was in the back of my mind, it was in the back of everyone's minds. Our season was on the line, we knew that, and we had to dig deep and give everything we had. 

"[But] we were upbeat, we weren't defeated – knowing we still had an opportunity to save our season by coming in here and getting a win, and we believed that, we truly did. We believed in each other, and I think that showed tonight."

Touching on the Bucks and what makes them so good, Tatum emphasised their unity and cohesiveness, with everyone buying into their roles.

"They're a great team," he said. "I think everyone over there knows their role, and everyone is a star in their role – they compliment each other really well. 

"They're well-coached, they run great sets, and they're not going to beat themselves. They've done it before, and we know that, so coming into the series we knew it wasn't going to be easy – by no means – whoever wins was going to have to earn it.

"I was excited to play today – Game 6, you know, this is a big moment. For all of us, for myself and the team and how we would respond. 

"Losing Game 5 was going to make us or break us, and I think we showed a lot of toughness and growth coming out here and getting a win on the road and giving ourselves a chance."

Tatum was all smiles at the thought of Game 7 heading back to Boston, saying this is what competitors dream of.

"It means everything," he said. "It's the best atmosphere in the NBA, and Game 7s are the biggest and best games.

"I'm looking forward to it, truly… this is it, do or die. 

"This is going to be fun – it's supposed to be fun, it's basketball."

The Boston Celtics survived a historic performance from Giannis Antetokounmpo as Jayson Tatum scored 46 points to carry his side to a 108-95 win, tying the series at 3-3 and forcing a Game 7 in Boston.

Antetokounmpo became the first player since Shaquille O'Neal over 20 years ago to eclipse a playoff stat-line of 40 points and 20 rebounds, finishing with 44 points on 14-of-30 shooting, going 14-of-15 from the free throw line and an even 20 boards. He also added six assists, two blocks and one steal.

But Tatum was matching him every step of the way on the offensive end, shooting 17-of-32 from the field and seven-of-15 from long range, with nine rebounds and four assists to go with his 46.

It was a game that the Celtics controlled from the second quarter, restricting the Bucks to 17 points in the frame to grab a 10-point half-time lead, and although the home side made runs, Boston had all the answers.

The Bucks were a one-man show, but the Celtics had a number of solid contributors as Jaylen Brown shot seven-of-16 from the field and four-of-seven from deep for his 22 points, while Marcus Smart shot eight-of-16 and five-of-nine from beyond the arc for his 21.

Al Horford finished with just two points, but had a game-high four blocks and a team-high 10 rebounds as he made Antetokounmpo battle all day inside, while Derrick White also chipped in with 30 important minutes off the bench, complimenting the stars perfectly.

Jrue Holiday and Pat Connaughton were the only other Bucks to score more than six points as Milwaukee shot 40 per cent from the field and 24 per cent from three (seven-of-29).


'Game 6 Klay' returns to clinch series 

The Golden State Warriors booked their trip to the Western Conference Finals with a 110-96 win in Game 6 of their series against the Memphis Grizzlies, advancing with a 4-2 margin.

To the Grizzlies' credit, without Ja Morant, they stayed competitive through three quarters, before a 32-19 final frame for the Warriors put the game to bed.

While most Warriors players rose to the occasion, none played better than Klay Thompson, who lived up to his glittering reputation in Game 6s with 30 points, shooting 11-of-22 from the field and eight-of-14 from long range.

Stephen Curry added 29 points on 10-of-27 shooting, adding seven rebounds and five assists, while Andrew Wiggins was strong on both ends, scoring 18 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking three shots.

After being bullied on the interior in Game 5, the Warriors re-injected Kevon Looney into the rotation, and he collected a game-high 22 rebounds in 35 minutes, while Draymond Green had 14 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists.

The Warriors will play the winner of the Game 7 showdown between the Phoenix Suns and the Dallas Mavericks.

Giannis Antetokounmpo showed why many feel he is the best player in the world in the Milwaukee Bucks' 110-107 comeback win away against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday.

The two-time MVP and reigning NBA Finals MVP was a dominant force in Boston, finishing with 40 points on 16-of-27 shooting, keeping his side in touch as they struggled in the first half, and making clutch plays down the stretch to help the Bucks win the fourth quarter 33-21.

It was a bright start in the first quarter for Milwaukee, with Antetokounmpo only scoring four points as role players hit shots and Jrue Holiday had nine early, but their star had to take over in the second quarter as the offense stalled.

Antetokounmpo had 15 of the Bucks' 19 second-quarter points as the Celtics threatened to pull away, leading 54-42 with two minutes remaining in the first half.

Both teams were clicking in the third quarter, but every time the Bucks closed the gap, the Celtics had an answer in front of their raucous home fans, with an Antetokounmpo pull-up three to end the quarter needed to trim the margin to an 86-77 Boston lead.

With 10 minutes to play, the Celtics led 93-79 – and then everything began to fall apart.

The once-fluid Boston offense devolved into a stagnant, turn-taking, isolation-heavy mess, consistently not even beginning to attack until there was less than 10 seconds on the shot clock, often resulting in tough, contested, long two-point jump shots by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

Trailing 105-99 with two minutes remaining, Antetokounmpo drained a clutch three-pointer to make it a one-possession game, before Holiday tied it up via a long-ball with 42 seconds on the clock.

Two Tatum free throws put the Celtics back ahead, before Antetokounmpo earned two shots himself. 

He scored the first – with blood dripping down his face from a cut above his right eye – and missed the second, but Bobby Portis was able to come up with the offensive rebound in a scramble and put it back in to take a 108-107 lead with 11 seconds remaining.

The last 11 seconds was a chance for Holiday to make a statement. Widely considered the best defensive guard in the game, Holiday blocked the shot of Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart, snatching the ball out of the air in the process to win possession.

After two successful free throws from Pat Connaughton, Holiday put the finishing touches on the game by picking Smart's pocket once again as he tried to bring the ball up for one last attempt at tying it, taking a 3-2 series lead, with Game 6 headed back to Milwaukee.

In NBA playoff history, when a series has been tied at 2-2, the winner of Game 5 has won the series 82.2 per cent of the time (180-39).

If the Celtics can win Game 6, the Game 7 decider will head back to Boston.

 

No Ja, no worries for Memphis Grizzlies at home

With their season on the line, the Memphis Grizzlies dominated the Golden State Warriors 134-95 as nine players scored at least nine points each with star Ja Morant out injured.

The Grizzlies were expected to be competitive without Morant – going 20-5 in the 25 games he missed in the regular season – but they were far more than that, opening up a 119-67 lead at three-quarter time.

Illustrating the one-sided nature of the contest, the Warriors committed 22 turnovers compared to 10 for the Grizzlies, and grabbed just four offensive rebounds while the home side snatched down 18.

Overall, this meant the Grizzlies attempted 19 more field goals (47-of-99 compared to 36-of-80), as well as 17 more free throws (22-of-30 to nine-of-13).

Desmond Bane, Tyus Jones and Jaren Jackson Jr top-scored for Memphis with 21 points each, and all five Grizzlies starters finished with a plus/minus of at least plus 32.

Klay Thompson top-scored for the Warriors with 19 points on an efficient seven-of-12 shooting, but he had the worst plus/minus in the game at minus 45.

Game 6 will head back to Memphis, and if the Grizzlies can force a Game 7, it will be played in Golden State

Giannis Antetokounmpo never thought twice about putting up his clutch three-pointer, which was key in the Milwaukee Bucks coming back to beat the Boston Celtics 110-107 in Game 5.

The win gives the Bucks a 3-2 series lead, with Game 6 heading back to Milwaukee, and at times it was a one-man show as Antetokounmpo finished with a game-high 40 points on 16-of-27 shooting.

As the Celtics began to open up a sizeable lead, Antetokounmpo scored 15 of the Bucks' 19 second-quarter points to keep his side within touching distance, and hit an important three-pointer to close out the third quarter and trim the margin back to nine points.

With less than two minutes to play, trailing 105-99, and having shot the three poorly all playoffs (four-of-29, 13 per cent entering Game 5) Antetokounmpo nailed a clutch catch-and-shoot three to make it 105-102, before Jrue Holiday tied the game with another a minute later.

Speaking to the post-game media, the reigning NBA Finals MVP said the big moments are not for everyone, but he wanted the responsibility.

"In a play, when it's a close game and if you're not comfortable or confident enough to take that shot, for a person who is being criticised for his shooting, you don't take that shot," he said.

"You wait, you give the ball to the point guard and you have like a full play, set a pick-and-roll, make sure everybody touches the ball, drive-and-kick…but as I said, I worked on it.

"I felt good, the ball felt good in my hands and I was able to have the nerves and time to take that shot."

While Antetokounmpo was the driving force behind the win, Holiday was crucial in securing the result, becoming the first player in the past 25 years to have a steal and a block in the last 10 seconds of a playoff game.

Antetokounmpo made sure to credit Holiday and the Bucks defense, which held the Celtics to just nine points in the final eight minutes.

"Great block [by Holiday], and he was able to keep his balance then stay in the court," he said.

"Then at the end of the game he got that steal from Marcus Smart. Big-time plays down the stretch and that's what Jrue does.

"It's great. Some people take this for granted, but you can live or die with Jrue making decisions like that, going for a steal or putting his hands in there. We've won a lot of games with him doing that.

"[As a team] we just tried to keep guys in front of us, make them take that tough shot, being as active as we could – showing our bodies, showing our hands.

"Sometimes it's just luck, sometimes the ball just bounces our way and we were able to get some stops, but there was definitely effort behind it."

The passing of Hall of Fame center Bob Lanier prompted tributes from the Detroit Pistons and the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday.

Eight-time All-Star Lanier died on Tuesday following a short illness, the NBA said.

Commissioner Adam Silver described the popular former player, who was 73, as "among the most talented centers in the history of the NBA" but added: "His impact on the league went far beyond what he accomplished on the court."

After retiring on the Bucks in 1984 and briefly serving as a coach at the Golden State Warriors in the 1990s, Lanier was an NBA ambassador and a special assistant to both David Stern and Silver.

"I learned so much from Bob by simply watching how he connected with people," Silver said. "He was a close friend who I will miss dearly, as will so many of his colleagues across the NBA who were inspired by his generosity."

Lanier had his number 16 jersey retired by both the Pistons, where he spent nine and a half seasons, and the Bucks, finishing his career with four and a half years in Milwaukee.

He ranks third all-time for both points (15,488) and rebounds (8,063) as a Piston.

A Pistons statement read: "The Detroit Pistons organisation is deeply saddened by the passing of Bob Lanier, a true legend who meant so much to the city of Detroit and to generations of Pistons fans.

"As fierce and as dominant as Bob was on the court, he was equally kind and impactful in the community.

"As an ambassador for both the Pistons organisation and the NBA, he represented our league, our franchise and our fans with great passion and integrity."

The Bucks said: "Bob Lanier was an all-time great Milwaukee Buck and a Hall of Famer, whose retired number 16 hangs in the rafters at Fiserv Forum.

"In his five seasons in Milwaukee (1980-84), Bob led the Bucks to division titles each year and to two Eastern Conference Finals appearances in 1983 and 1984.

"But even more than his basketball success, which included his being an All-Star in 1982, Bob was one of the most popular players with Bucks fans and known throughout the community for his generosity and kindness.

"We send our deepest condolences to Bob's family and friends."

Al Horford's career-best playoff haul of 30 points drew acclaim as the Boston Celtics secured Game 4 with a superb fourth quarter in a 116-108 road win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

The 35-year-old veteran and five-time NBA All-Star delivered 11-of-14 shooting with eight rebounds and three assists as Boston levelled the NBA Eastern Conference semi-final series at 2-2.

Horford rose to the occasion after a third-quarter dunk from Giannis Antetokounmpo left him smarting, and steered the visitors to a crucial win at the Fiserv Forum in Wisconsin.

The center returned the favour on his opponent in the final act, with both handed technical fouls, but it was the sheer energy of the Dominican that captured the attention.

"That was a hell of a play," team-mate Jayson Tatum said. "Especially anytime Al turns back the clock and he looks like his old self, it gets everybody off the bench.

"Al plays with so much passion. When Al is playing with passion like that, everybody else has to follow."

Marcus Smart also hailed Horford, in particular for his dunk, adding: "It's a big-time play in a big-time moment.

"It's a physical game. We were on the other end a couple of times, so it felt kind of good to have that one."

Horford himself admitted the Celtics were driven to victory by a desire to close out the game after the Bucks held on for a 103-101 win on Saturday in Game 3.

"We felt that at the end of Game 3 that we were in a position to win the game, and we didn't," he added. "I was just really locked in.

"I understood the moment and what we needed to do as a group. Just come out and we were gonna do whatever it took tonight. It was one of those types of nights."

The two sides return to Massachusetts now, and will contest Game 5 at the TD Garden on Wednesday.

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