Devin Booker put on a show with 49 points as Chris Paul returned from a broken wrist as the Phoenix Suns clinched top spot in the Western Conference with a 140-130 win over the Denver Nuggets.

Booker's 49 points was a season-high, while 36-year-old Paul returned for the first time since February 20 with 17 points, including 15 in the first half, and 13 assists as the Suns secured their sixth straight win.

Three-time All-Star Booker shot 16-of-25 from the field and also had 10 assists, with Mikal Bridges contributing 22 points from eight-of-nine shooting.

The win means the Suns have secured the NBA's best record for the third time in franchise history, following on from 1992-93 and 2004-05.

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic had 28 points with six rebounds and six assists for the Nuggets, who are 43-31 and holding on to sixth spot in the Western Conference.

 

Grizzlies and Bucks win without stars

The Memphis Grizzlies won again without Ja Morant with a 133-103 victory over the Indiana Pacers. Desmond Bane scored 30 points with five assists and five rebounds as the Grizzlies improved to 16-2 without Morant.

The Milwaukee Bucks triumphed without Khris Middleton (wrist) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (knee) with Jrue Holiday starring with 24 points and 10 assists in a 114-102 win over the Washington Wizards.

Pascal Siakam equalled his season-high 35 points as the Toronto Raptors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 117-104 in a crucial game in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

 

DeRozan out as Bulls slide continues

The Chicago Bulls slipped to their fifth defeat from their past six games, going down 126-109 to the New Orleans Pelicans. The Bulls are fifth in the east with a 42-31 record, just ahead of the Cavs and Raptors (both 41-32).

The Bulls, who were without DeMar DeRozan due to a left groin issue, were dominated 40-24 by the Pels in the fourth quarter, led by Devonte' Graham (30 points including five three-pointers) and Jonas Valanciunas (16 points and 19 rebounds).

Zach LaVine was Chicago's best with 39 points in DeRozan's absence, going 12-of-23 from the field, while Coby White added 23 points off the bench including five triples.

Trae Young's return to Madison Square Garden was like a recurring nightmare for New York Knicks fans as the Atlanta Hawks prevailed 117-111.

Young, who became public enemy number one in New York when he erupted in the playoffs, eliminating the Knicks in the process, was spectacular again on Tuesday night.

He finished with a game-high 45 points (13-of-25 shooting, seven-of-15 from three) to go with eight assists, and was supported by a season-high 32 points (11-of-20 shooting, four-of-10 from three) from Bogdan Bogdanovic off the bench.

New York's R.J. Barrett played hard, but was ultimately inefficient, scoring 30 points on nine-of-25 shooting, going one-of-seven from long range and 11-of-17 from the free throw line.

The win pulls the Hawks' record even at 36-36, with last year's Eastern Conference finalists set for a play-in battle as they occupy the 10 seed.

Demar DeRozan was a man looking for answers after his Chicago Bulls were handed a demoralising 126-98 defeat at the hands of the reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks.

DeRozan, who at one stage this season was considered a real MVP candidate, had a sub-par 23 points on 23 field goal attempts in the loss, which moved the Bulls to a record of 3-9 in their past 12 games.

Three of the Bulls' past four games have now resulted in losses of at least 15 points against strong playoff contenders in the Utah Jazz (125-110) and the Phoenix Suns (129-102) before Tuesday's loss to Milwaukee.

Speaking to post-match media, DeRozan said it was evident what makes the Bucks a great team.

"Playing against the defending champs – seeing, feeling, understanding how hard they compete, and how well they execute," he said.

"Their physicality, everything that comes with it, it's how they got what they deserved last year, so that's what I take away from [this game].

"It's definitely not a talent issue at all – we've proven we are a great team – it's just execution, especially when you're playing against top-notch teams that understand the value of executing on both ends, and understand their assignments every time they stop out on the court.

"Those teams are always on a string, and we show it through spurts through a game, but the good teams that go far do it as close to 48 minutes as possible – not just a quarter, or half a quarter.

"You need to be as close to perfect through a 48-minute game as possible."

Once again, the Los Angeles Lakers were unable to get the job done on a night where LeBron James made history.

With James expected to pass Karl Malone for second place on the all-time regular season scoring list, the Lakers suffered a fourth-quarter collapse to lose 127-119 against the Washington Wizards.

James trailed the Utah Jazz Hall of Famer by 20 points coming into the night, passing him with 5:20 left in the second quarter on his way to 38 points (16-of-29 from the field, four-of-10 from three) with 10 rebounds and six assists.

The 37-year-old now is behind only former Lakers great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the all-time NBA scoring list with 38,387 points. James now has 36,947 career points.

The Lakers led 97-83 with two minutes remaining in the third quarter, before getting out-scored 44-22 the rest of the way.

Reigning NBA Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo has been ruled out of the Milwaukee Bucks' road matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Bucks are calling it "right knee soreness" for the two-time MVP and one-time Defensive Player of the Year.

It will be the 12th time Antetokounmpo has missed a game due to injury this season, with the 27-year-old previously playing 59 of a possible 70 before today.

Antetokounmpo is currently third-favourite in both MVP and Defensive Player of the Year odds, averaging a career-high 29.8 points per game, along with 11.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists.

On a day that saw MVP favourites Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic go head-to-head, it was fellow center Karl-Anthony Towns who stole the headlines.

Towns scored a career-high 60 points in the Minnesota Timberwolves' 149-139 win over the San Antonio Spurs.

It is the most points scored by any player in a single game this season, ahead of Trae Young and LeBron James, who both scored 56.

After reaching half-time with 24 points, Towns exploded into life after the break, scoring 32 of his side's 46 third-quarter points on his way to final shooting figures of 19-31 from the field, 7-11 from three and 15-16 from the line.

Towns, who is the first center to hit 60 points in a single NBA game since Shaquille O'Neal in March 2000, also grabbed a personal season-high of 17 rebounds, while on the other side Dejounte Murray was no slouch with 30 points and 12 assists, though it was not enough for the Spurs.

A barnstorming first half from the Golden State Warriors' Klay Thompson set up a decisive 122-109 home victory against the reigning champions Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday.

Thompson started on fire, scoring 21 points (8-12 from the field, 5-8 from three), with three rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block as the Warriors went into the half-time leading 67-58.

In an interesting strategic decision, Milwaukee decided to face-guard Steph Curry all the way up to the half-court line when he did not have the ball.

It forced Curry into a decision, where he could either scratch and claw to try and play his usual game, or he could drag his defender out to near half-court, allowing his team-mates to play four-on-four with plenty of extra space.

Curry finished with only seven field goal attempts – his first game this season with less than 10 – but had eight assists, and opened up the game for Thompson and Jordan Poole to dominate.

Thompson finished with a season-high 38 points (15-24 from the field, 8-14 from three), while Poole collected an efficient 30 (9-16 from the field, 5-10 from three, 7-7 from the line).

It was also yet another glimpse of what the seventh overall pick of the 2021 NBA Draft, Jonathan Kuminga, could look like when he is fully formed as the 19-year-old scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, spending long periods of the game holding up defensively against Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Antetokounmpo was the sole bright spot for Milwaukee, scoring 31 points (9-17 from the field, 12-18 from the line) to go with his eight rebounds. 

 

The Phoenix Suns became the first team to secure a playoff spot with an impressive 111-90 defeat of the Miami Heat on Wednesday.

Devin Booker returned from a four-game absence to put up 23 points, nine assists and eight rebounds as the leaders of the West toppled the top side in the East.

The Suns, who are 53-13 for the season, have now beaten all other 29 teams in the same season for the first time since 2006-07.

"I told the guys it was one of the best defensive performances I've ever seen," said Suns coach Monty Williams after watching his team concede just 35 points in the second half. "I've been around for a little bit."

Duncan Robinson was top scorer for Miami with 22, who led by 11 in the early stages before falling to just their third defeat in 15 games.

"They were first to the ball a lot," said Robinson. "They were the aggressor. Unacceptable."

 

The Milwaukee Bucks are now two games behind the Heat at the top of the Eastern Conference after beating the Atlanta Hawks 124-115, with Giannis Antetokounmpo's double-double of 43 points and 12 rebounds firing them to a sixth-straight win.

Antetokounmpo finished 15-of-22 from the field to take his tally to 82 points in the space of 24 hours after his 39 in Tuesday's victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

"The things he does are not normal," said team-mate Bobby Portis. "It's fun to be his team-mate and fun to play alongside him."

Rockets stun Lakers in overtime

The Los Angeles Lakers lost for the ninth time in a row on the road, going down 139-130 in overtime against the Houston Rockets.

A triple-double from LeBron James and 30 points from Russell Westbrook were not enough as rookie Jalen Green hit a career-high 32 points for the Rockets.

"We have a really small margin of error this season and teams are making us pay," said James, whose run of consecutive 25-point games ended at 23. "I missed a lot of shots that I know I'm capable of making, have made throughout the course of the season and my career."

The Los Angeles Clippers snapped their two-game losing streak, beating the Washington Wizards 115-109, while the Utah Jazz improved to 41-24 with a comfortable 123-85 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

Bulls back on track, Beasley sets record

The Chicago Bulls ended a run of five consecutive losses, DeMar DeRozan scoring 36 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter, in a 114-108 win over the Detroit Pistons.

It was a day to remember for Malik Beasley, who set a franchise record for three-pointers in the Minnesota Timberwolves' win at home over the Thunder.

Beasley landed 11 of his 17 attempts from beyond the arc as Minnesota, seventh in the West, made it six wins in a row.

The Boston Celtics continued their recent good form with a 115-101 win at the Charlotte Hornets, while the New York Knicks pulled off a fifth-straight road win over the Dallas Mavericks, Julius Randle scoring 26 points in a 107-77 blowout.

Gregg Popovich will have to wait for his NBA record 1,336th regular-season win as coach, the San Antonio Spurs falling 119-104 at home to the Toronto Raptors.

There were also wins for the Orlando Magic, who topped the New Orleans Pelicans 108-102, and the Denver Nuggets, who beat the Sacramento Kings 106-100 thanks to a 38-point double-double from Nikola Jokic.

Kyrie Irving scored a season-high 50 points to help snap the Brooklyn Nets' four-game losing run with a 132-121 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday.

Kevin Durant took a backseat to Irving's "master class", as the Nets point guard hit nine three-pointers, shooting at 79 percent from the floor, making 15-of-19.

Irving scored 30 points in the second half, with his Nets teammates contributing 33, helping them claim their fourth win from their past 21 games.

The 29-year-old became one of 22 players in NBA history with five 50-point games, along with becoming the second guard – behind Michal Jordan - in NBA history to have multiple 50-point games while shooting 75 percent or better from the floor.

Durant added 14 points with three rebounds and seven assists while Andre Drummond had 20 points with 14 rebounds.

 

Giannis stars as champions win fifth straight

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 39 points, shooting 13-of-19 including four-of-four from beyond the arc, as the Milwaukee Bucks crushed the Oklahoma City Thunder 142-115 for their fifth straight win. Khris Middleton added 25 points while Bobby Portis had 18 points with 14 rebounds.

Devin Booker was still out but the Phoenix Suns triumphed after a late Mikal Bridges block in a 102-99 win over the Orlando Magic. Deandre Ayton had 21 points with 19 rebounds for the Suns.

Ja Morant scored 24 points with eight rebounds and eight assists as the Memphis Grizzlies downed the New Orleans Pelicans 132-111, while Darius Garland became the fourth player in Cleveland Cavaliers history with 40 points and 10 assists in a game (41 and 13) as they won 127-124 over the Indiana Pacers.

 

Splash brothers shooting off

The Golden State Warriors' splash brothers, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson only managed a combined three-of-15 from beyond the arc but they snapped their five-game skid with a 112-97 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. Curry and Thompson finished with 15 and 20 points respectively, while Reggie Jackson struggled with two-of-14 shooting for the Clippers.

Jayson Tatum produced a dominant display with 54 points as the Boston Celtics won 126-120 over the Brooklyn Nets who had the rare partnership of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on Sunday.

Durant and Irving teamed up for only the fourth time this season but their presence would not deny Tatum's brilliance, shooting 16-of-30 from the field and eight-of-15 from beyond the arc.

Tatum, who scored 34 points in the second half, led the Celtics' late charge as they won after trailing by one point at the final change.

Durant scored 37 points in his second game back from an MCL sprain which kept him out since mid-January, becoming the 23rd player to reach 25,000 career NBA points.

Irving only managed 19 points with four rebounds and six rebounds for the Nets who slip to 32-33, while the Celtics have won 21 of their past 27 games to improve to 39-27.

 

Middleton scores season-high

Khris Middleton scored a season-high 44 points as Giannis Antetokounmpo took a back seat in the Milwaukee Bucks' 132-122 win over the Phoenix Suns, who were missing both Chris Paul (thumb) and Devin Booker (protocols). The Bucks, who have won four straight, stormed home with a 12-1 run over the last three minutes as Antetokounmpo got into foul trouble.

The Houston Rockets snapped their 12-game losing run with a shock 123-112 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, for whom Ja Morant scored 22 points with six assists. The Utah Jazz closed on Memphis in the west with a 116-103 win at the Oklahoma City Thunder as Bojan Bogdanovic hit a franchise-record 11 three-pointers for his 35 points.

Nikola Jokic scored 46 points, including 30 in the fourth quarter, as the Denver Nuggets won 138-130 over the New Orleans Pelicans in over-time. Jokic had 46 points plus 12 rebounds and 11 assists as the Nugs rallied after squandering a 21-point lead.

 

Allen injury sours Cavs win

The Cleveland Cavaliers won 104-96 over the Toronto Raptors but lost Jarrett Allen indefinitely to a suspected fractured finger. Rookie Evan Mobley had 20 points with 17 rebounds for the Cavs who are 37-27.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday called for reigning NBA champions the Milwaukee Bucks to keep improving after they battled past the Chicago Bulls.

The Bucks edged out the Bulls 118-112, with Holiday finishing on 26 points, while Giannis Antetokounmpo had 34 points and 16 rebounds as Milwaukee made it three wins on the spin.

It was not all straightforward for Mike Budenholzer's side, though, given they went from leading by 14 in the second quarter to trail by seven through the third.

However, Holiday delivered 15 points in the fourth quarter as the Bucks rallied to another victory, just as they did at the Miami Heat to triumph by one on Wednesday.

"It's just a feeling and you know you've got to turn it on," Holiday said.

"It's time for us to lock-in. It's time for us to just concentrate, be aggressive and make good plays, smart plays, down the stretch."

The Bucks are now tied with Chicago for the Central Division lead, both sat on 39-25, with Milwaukee next hosting the NBA-leading Phoenix Suns on Sunday, with the Bulls going up against the Philadelphia 76ers a day later.

"We got to keep it up," Antetokounmpo said. "If good things are going on, you got to keep waking up the next day and keep learning something new, keep evolving, keep improving."

Milwaukee did well to limit a star-studded Bulls line-up. Zach LaVine headed the Chicago scoring with 30 points, while DeMar DeRozan managed 29 but finished 11 for 30 from the field.

DeRozan believes Milwaukee displayed their championship credentials.

"I felt like we competed," he told reporters. "It came down to the last couple minutes. They're defending champs for a reason."

Reigning NBA champions the Milwaukee Bucks claimed another big win on Friday as they toppled the Chicago Bulls 118-112.

Jrue Holiday came up big down the stretch to finish on 26 points, while Giannis Antetokounmpo had 34 points and 16 rebounds as the Bucks made it three wins on the spin.

While the Bucks are regaining form at the right time, the Bulls have now lost four on the bounce, though they hold an identical 39-25 record to Milwaukee.

Holiday hit the game-winning layup with less than two seconds left in the Bucks' win over the Miami Heat on Wednesday and he scored 15 points in the final quarter to help ensure the Bucks' 14th win against the Bulls in their last 15 meetings.

DeMar DeRozan has 29 points but was kept well contained overall, with Zach LaVine top scoring for Chicago with 30.

It was far from plain sailing for the Bucks, however, with Chicago having overturned an initial 14-point deficit to lead by seven after the third quarter.

Suns edge out Knicks as Randle's temper flares 

Next up on the Bucks' tough run are the NBA-leading Phoenix Suns, who scraped onto 51 wins for the season with a 115-114 triumph over the New York Knicks.

Cameron Johnson hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer to snag a comeback victory and finish with a career-high 38 points in the process.

The Suns, without Chris Paul and Devin Booker, looked set to lose out with the Knicks leading by 14 in the third quarter, only for Julius Randle to be ejected after a confrontation with Johnson.

Sixers make it five in a row

The Philadelphia 76ers reeled off a fifth straight win as they dispatched the Cleveland Cavaliers 125-119.

James Harden had 25 points and 11 rebounds to continue his strong start, while Joel Embiid got a relatively low, by his standards, 22 points on the board. That was no matter for Philadelphia, though, as Tyrese Maxey scored 33 points, with his haul including five three-pointers.

The Utah Jazz had a shocker as they went down 124-90 to the New Orleans Pelicans, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's 33 points was not enough as the Oklahoma City Thunder lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves, and there were victories for the Houston Rockets, the Atlanta Hawks, the Detroit Pistons and the Orlando Magic.

Jrue Holiday insisted the Milwaukee Bucks cannot reflect on their dramatic win over the Miami Heat for too long.

Holiday came up with the game-winning lay-up as the Bucks edged out the Heat 120-119 on Wednesday, having trailed by 14 points heading into the final six minutes.

It capped a six-game home stretch in style, though Milwaukee now face tough matchups against the Chicago Bulls and the NBA-leading Phoenix Suns.

"We can't really dwell on this win," Holiday told reporters. "We accept it and we love it, but these games are not stopping."

Holiday had 25 points and 11 assists, though Giannis Antetokounmpo was Milwaukee's standout performer with double-double of 28 points and 17 rebounds, with the Greek adding a further five assists.

"We've done it before," Antetokounmpo said as the Bucks moved to 38-25 for the season.

"We did it against Boston. We were down 13 in the Christmas game and came back and won the game."

Coach Mike Budenholzer said: "The guys found a way. They'd do anything they could to keep them from putting it in.

"A lot of plays down the stretch, a lot of guys did things to contribute. The team just stuck to it tonight, played for 48, found a way to get a win against a tough team. A hell of an NBA game."

Antetokounmpo, however, was also involved in a contentious moment that kick-started Milwaukee's comeback.

The Bucks' talisman forced a jump ball against Jimmy Butler, which the Heat believed was worthy of a foul, though no such call came.

"I'm not going to go on a big rant about the officiating," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "I'm just shocked. I'm shocked that wasn't a foul on Jimmy as we were trying to inbound.

"We certainly had some other opportunities to be able to close out the game, particularly when we were up four. That's just the way it goes.

"I just can't imagine from my vantage point how that wasn't a foul.

"We did enough for 47 minutes and change to put ourselves in position to win this game. We just couldn't close it out."

Antetokounmpo, of course, pleaded his innocence. 

He explained: "I was able to get my hands on the ball, and at the end of the day, when you want to win, things just happen. That's just instinct talking."

The Miami Heat have surged to the top of the Eastern Conference but will receive a stern test of their credentials on Wednesday when they visit the Milwaukee Bucks. 

Miami went 9-1 in February to take a two-game lead atop the East, capping a stunning month by routing the Chicago Bulls 112-99 on Monday.

Milwaukee sit two games further back but will be out to prove it is they who are the team to beat as the Bucks aim to successfully defend the NBA title.

The Bucks will not be facing a full-strength Heat team, with Kyle Lowry out for personal reasons and Victor Oladipo absent with a right knee injury.

Being slightly undermanned has not proven an issue for the Heat of late, yet it may be different against the Bucks and their two-time MVP.

Giannis Antetokounmpo used the month of February to deliver a scarcely needed reminder of why he is arguably the finest basketball player on the planet.

However, having made the NBA Finals two seasons ago, the Heat have shown they can deliver against top-tier opposition.

The Bucks, though, have been a thorn in Miami's side, sweeping them in the first round en route to the title last season, and this encounter may provide an insight into whether the Heat, who have won two out of their meetings with Milwaukee this season, can cause the defending champions serious problems in the postseason.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Miami Heat - Bam Adebayo

No player was more crucial to the Heat's scorching run in February than Adebayo. He led Miami with 22 points per game last month and was fifth in the league in average plus-minus with 12.6. Adebayo was tied 10th in steals per game (1.73) and defensive rebounds (8.2) and ended the month ninth in blocked shots per game (1.55), illustrating his substantial value on the defensive end.

Milwaukee Bucks - Giannis Antetokounmpo

The Bucks have depth that gives them an excellent chance of repeating as champions but, when it comes to games against the elite, all eyes must be on Antetokounmpo.

He took his game to another level in February, averaging 51.3 points/assists/rebounds per game. Only Luka Doncic (53.8) fared better last month.

KEY BATTLE - Can Heat keep possession?

Miami have thrived this season despite often being lackadaisical in possession.

The Heat's turnover rate of 13.5 per cent is the fourth-highest in the NBA and they are facing a Bucks team whose rate of 12.1 per cent is superior to the league average of 12.5.

In other words, if the Heat want to stay hot against one of their main rivals in the East, they must flip the script and take better care of the ball.

HEAD TO HEAD

The Bucks are looking to continue a recent run of dominance in home games with the Heat, having won the last three meetings in Milwaukee.

All-Star Ja Morant scored a career-high 52 points including a massive dunk and a buzzer-beater as the Memphis Grizzlies won 118-105 over the San Antonio Spurs on Monday.

Morant's 52-point haul was the second highest of the NBA season, behind only Trae Young who scored 56 points for the Atlanta Hawks against the Portland Trail Blazers on January 3.

The 22-year-old guard went 22-of-30 from the field including four-of-four from beyond the arc. Morant also hit a ridiculous half-time buzzer-bester after Steve Adams' full-court pass, catching and shooting in one motion.

Earlier in the second quarter, Morant produced a monster one-handed dunk over Spurs center Jakob Poeltl.

Morant's half-century follows up his career-best 46 points against the Chicago Bulls on Saturday. It was also the first 50-point game in Grizzlies franchise history.

 

Bucks bounce back with Giannis starring

Reigning champions, the Milwaukee Bucks, had dropped four of their past five games but Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way as they bounced back with a 130-106 win over the Charlotte Hornets. Antetokounmpo scored 26 points with 16 rebounds, four blocks, two steals and six assists, with Bobby Portis adding 20 points and 10 rebounds.

The Miami Heat took some ground in the race for top seed in the Eastern Conference with a 112-99 victory over the Chicago Bulls, with Tyler Herro contributing 20 points, six rebounds and five assists off the bench. DeMar DeRozan's 10-game run of 30-point games was halted, managing only 18 for the Bulls.

D'Angelo Russell's good run of scoring continued with 25 points as the Minnesota Timberwolves boosted their playoffs hopes by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-22, with Karl-Anthony Towns () draining a key late three-pointer.

 

Short-handed Nets blown away

The Brooklyn Nets slumped to their 14th loss from their past 17 games, going down miserably 133-97 to the Toronto Raptors at home. Scottie Barnes dominated with 28 points, 16 rebounds and five steals for Toronto while the Nets, missing Kyrie Irving who is ineligible to play home games and head coach Steve Nash in protocols, had few winners

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