The Milwaukee Bucks found a way to victory without Giannis Antetokounmpo by draining 25 three-pointers in their 138-122 victory over the Miami Heat in Game 2 on Wednesday.

The Bucks squared up their first-round playoff series, scoring 81 first-half points and tying the NBA record for three-point baskets in a postseason game. Milwaukee led 118-85 at three-quarter time, even without Antetokounmpo due to lower back bruising.

Brook Lopez top scored for the Bucks with 25 points on 12-of-17 shooting, but Pat Connaughton shot six-of-10 from beyond the arc for 22 points to led Milwaukee's long-range assault, with Joe Inglis making five-of-six from three-point range.

Jrue Holiday scored four triples in his 24 points with 11 assists, while Grayson Allen made four-of-eight from three-point range in a 16-point haul.

The Bucks shot at 51 per cent from three-point range as a team, having only managed 11-of-45 from beyond the arc in Game 1.

Jimmy Butler managed 25 points on eight-of-12 shooting from the field, but the Heat missed Tyler Herro out with a broken right hand, with his replacement Duncan Robinson scoring 14 points.

The series moves to Miami at 1-1 with Games 3 and 4 on Saturday and Monday.

Nuggets hold off Wolves for gritty win

The Denver Nuggets withstood an almighty Minnesota Timberwolves' rally to go 2-0 up in their first-round playoff series with a 122-113 victory.

The Nuggets led by as many as 21 points in the second quarter, shooting at 61 per cent in the first half, before the Timberwolves stormed back into the game, fuelled by a 14-0 run, taking the lead with 2:31 left in the third on a Kyle Anderson dunk.

Anthony Edwards was outstanding with 41 points on 14-of-23 shooting with six-of-10 three-pointers, but the Timberwolves ran out of gas.

Jamal Murray top scored for Denver with 40 points on 13-of-22 shooting with five assists, while Nikola Jokic had 27 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.

Grizz triumph despite Ja absence

The Memphis Grizzlies overcame the absence of All-Star Ja Morant to right hand soreness to square their series with the Los Angeles Lakers with a 103-93 victory.

The Grizzlies raced to a 30-19 quarter-time lead and never looked back as Xavier Tillman scored a career-high 22 points on 10-of-13 shooting with 13 rebounds and three assists.

Recently crowned Defensive Player of the Year Jaren Jackson Jr had 18 points with nine rebounds, one steal and three blocks, while Desmond Bane added 17 points.

Lakers star LeBron James scored a game-high 28 points on 12-of-23 shooting with 12 rebounds and three assists, while Anthony Davis was kept to 13 points (four-of-14) with eight rebounds and five blocks.

Jamal Murray said the adrenaline of his first NBA playoff game since 2020 affected his early performance in the Denver Nuggets' win against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Murray finished with a team-high 24 points in the 109-80 victory in Game 1 of the first-round series against the Timberwolves, though it was a slow start at Ball Arena.

Missing his first five shots, Murray attributed his early struggles to the adrenaline in what was his first playoff appearance since the NBA bubble in 2020 and first home playoff game since May 2019.

"I haven't felt that much excitement in a minute, probably since the beginning of the season," he said, per ESPN.

"You want to play so good, it's much anticipated. Sometimes that can affect you too much. Gotta slow down, get my legs back and just play basketball."

Murray's performance was recognised by his teammates, with Michael Porter Jr believing he is a better player than he was prior to his ACL injury.

"I told him the other day, I feel like he's better now than before his injury. I know he probably doesn't feel it, but just his all-around game, his awareness," he said.

"He had a year off where he just had to watch. So, I just feel like his awareness and just the right plays he's making -- the assists, being able to play a true point guard for our team and knowing the guys around him and how to get them open."

The Nuggets host the Timberwolves in Game 2 on Wednesday, then travelling to Minnesota as the series continues on Friday and Sunday.

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.

Rudy Gobert believes the Minnesota Timberwolves can go on to beat anyone in the NBA playoffs after seeing off the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Timberwolves won 120-95 in their play-in matchup on Friday to secure the number eight seed in the Western Conference.

Minnesota must now take on the top-seeded Denver Nuggets in the first round as they go into the postseason as heavy underdogs but Gobert, who had 21 points and 10 rebounds against the Thunder, is not daunted.

"To be honest, I don't consider ourselves as an eight-seed," Gobert said, per ESPN.

"We are in the standings, but I don't consider us an eight-seed. 

"Now, it's an amazing opportunity for us to keep getting better as a team. It's a huge challenge for us. It's an exciting opportunity.

"But we're not looking at the standings anymore. We're looking at who is in front of us. 

"We believe if we play the right way, there's not a team in this league that we cannot beat."

Nickeil Alexander-Walker was praised for his performance guarding cousin Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the NBA's fourth-highest scorer this season, after being handed a surprise start.

Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns, who top scored with 28 points and added 11 rebounds, was full of praise for his teammate, who helped to hold Gilgeous-Alexander to 5-of-19 from the field, a season-low shooting percentage (26.3).

"X-factor," Towns said about Alexander-Walker. "He's the reason we won. 

"He went out there and had a very, very tough job to guard Shai, who's been fantastic this whole year and one of the best scorers in the league. 

"And to go out there and do what he did is the reason we won. There's no other way to put it.

"We utilised our size. We did a great job of putting pressure on the paint and just doing what we do best."

Alexander-Walker added: "I was just so thankful for that opportunity to start and then have that assignment to guard him. 

"It's a little different than any other game. This is someone I grew up with my whole life. As far as people, he knows me better than anybody and he knows me better than anybody I could say."

The Timberwolves have now made the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time in almost two decades.

They previously had a run of eight straight postseason appearances came to an end in 2004.

Game 1 against Denver takes place on Sunday.

Jimmy Butler once again rose to the occasion to lift the Miami Heat to a 102-91 win over the Chicago Bulls in Friday's play-in tournament.

The win means the Heat have earned the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and a first-round series against the top-ranked Milwaukee Bucks.

Against the Bulls, Miami led narrowly at half-time courtesy of a sharpshooting performance from Max Strus, scoring 23 points across the first two quarters on the back of six made three-pointers.

Strus went on to finish with an equal game-high 31 points, shooting eight-of-16 from the field and seven-of-12 from deep, providing some offensive firepower beside Butler.

Butler also scored 31, shooting 11-of-24 from the field while adding five rebounds, three assists and two steals in his 43 minutes of action, making up for the fact that starting trio Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro and Gabe Vincent combined for just 20 points on six-of-23 shooting.

DeMar DeRozan was strong for Chicago, scoring a team-high 26 points on nine-of-19 shooting while adding nine assists, but top option Zach LaVine struggled, shooting six-of-21 for his 15 points.

The result confirms the fourth consecutive postseason appearance for the Heat, where they will be looking for their third Eastern Conference Finals appearance since 2020.

Towns delivers on both ends in Wolves win

Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns produced one of his best games of the season to defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder 120-95 and earn a blockbuster first-round matchup against back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic.

Towns, who was only able to suit up for a career-low 29 games this regular season due to a four-month calf injury, scored a game-high 28 points (11-of-16 shooting), grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds and blocked a team-high three shots in a great two-way showing.

The Thunder were down all game, but after trimming the margin to 10 points in the third quarter, All-Star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander copped a hard accidental elbow to the face from Rudy Gobert, and while he was able to return, he was nursing a brutal black eye the rest of the way.

Gilgeous-Alexander, who finished fourth in the NBA in scoring at 31.4 points per game, top-scored for Oklahoma City with 22, but shot a disappointing five-of-19 from the field. He was also the only guard in the league to average at least one steal and one block, and he had one steal with three blocks.

The Timberwolves will now get a chance to face the top-seeded Denver Nuggets in the first round, and with Gobert and Towns, they are arguably the West's most equipped team to deal with Jokic from a size perspective.

LeBron James was quick to point out how the Los Angeles Lakers were written off earlier in the season after clinching their playoff spot with Tuesday's 108-102 overtime win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

James scored 30 points with 10 rebounds and six assists as the Lakers rallied from a 15-point deficit to beat the short-handed Timberwolves in the NBA play-in tournament to secure a first-round series with the second seed Memphis Grizzlies.

The Lakers have endured a tumultuous campaign, having started slowly, but rallied to become the first team in nearly two decades to start 2-10 and finish with a winning record (43-39), before now clinching their playoff spot.

They revived their season with a series of trade deadlines moves, including flipping Russell Westbrook out and bringing in Rui Hachimura, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt and D'Angelo Russell. Since Westbrook exited, the Lakers have gone 19-9.

"When we were 2-10, the analytics said we had a 0.3 chance of making the postseason," four-time NBA champion James told reporters after Tuesday's win. "All you ask for is a chance.

"For us to turn around our season and give ourselves an opportunity to compete for the Larry O'Brien Trophy is all you can ask for.

"Even through ups and downs we've been very resilient. We've been able to stick with the game and find the way to gut out a win, even with slow starts or not finishing the game how we'd like to... Tonight was another instance of that versus a very, very good team."

No team has progressed past the playoffs first round after qualifying from the play-in tournament since it was introduced in 2021, but James remained hopeful of a Lakers' run.

"That's the only reason I play still, to try and put myself in a position to make championship runs," he said. "And give team-mates that have never been on a championship run something they haven’t experienced before.

"It hasn’t changed for me since about 2006 or 2007. That's been my mindset every year, how can I make a championship run? I've been successful in four of those. I've been on a lot and I want to continue those."

The Lakers should have clinched victory in regulation time after James drove to the bucket, drawing defenders before kicking out an assist to Denis Schroder for a go-ahead three-pointer with 1.4 seconds left.

But Anthony Davis gifted the Wolves three free-throws after a foul on Mike Conley, before the Lakers triumphed in OT.

"It's unfortunate that AD had a brain fart and messed his game-winner up," James told NBA on TNT with a laugh alongside Schroder.

"This is what our sport is all about, getting to April and having an opportunity to play in the postseason. We've been battle-tested all year, especially since the break, we've played some really good basketball."

LeBron James led the way as the Los Angeles Lakers rallied from a 15-point deficit to clinch their playoffs spot with a 108-102 overtime win over the short-handed Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday.

James finished with 30 points on 12-of-21 shooting with 10 rebounds, six assists and two blocks, including sinking a crucial three-pointer to tie the game up 95-95 with 2:03 left in regulation time.

The four-time MVP drove to the basket and kicked out a pass to Denis Schroder to drain a potential game-winning three-pointer to put the Lakers up by three with 1.4 seconds left, only for Anthony Davis to foul Mike Conley on an ambitious three-point attempt.

The Timberwolves veteran guard showed composure to hit all three free-throws, sending the game to overtime but Minnesota were undone by four OT turnovers, totalling for 24 for the game. The Wolves also scored only 16 points after leading 86-79 at three-quarter time.

The Lakers, who were 25-30 at the trade deadline before shuffling their roster and storming into the play-in tournament, secure the seven seed and will face the Memphis Grizzlies in the playoffs first round.

Minnesota, who were missing the suspended Rudy Gobert and injured Jaden McDaniels, will take on the winner of the New Orleans Pelicans-Oklahoma City Thunder play-in game for the right to take the eight seed.

Veteran LA guard Schroder was excellent off the bench with 21 points from 32 minutes including shooting three-of-four from beyond the arc. Davis added 24 points with 15 rebounds and three blocks.

Conley was exceptional for the Timberwolves with 23 points, making six-of-eight from three-point range with four rebounds, four assists and three steals.

Karl-Anthony Towns scored 24 points with 11 rebounds and three blocks in Gobert's absence after the French center swung a punch at teammate Kyle Anderson during at timeout in their final regular season game, leading to a team-imposed suspension.

Anthony Edwards had a game to forget, shooting three-of-17 from the field and none-of-nine from three-point range for nine points with eight rebounds.

Hawks upset Heat to clinch seven seed

Quin Snyder's Atlanta Hawks clinched the Eastern Conference's seven seed and will face the Boston Celtics in the playoffs first round after overcoming the Miami Heat 116-105.

Hawks center Clint Capela was outstanding in the paint with 21 rebounds, including eight offensive rebounds, along with two blocks.

Trae Young scored a team-high 25 points on eight-of-18 shooting from the field, despite making only one-of-eight from three-point range, while Dejounte Murray added 18 points with three triples.

Atlanta opened up a 24-point second-quarter lead which was trimmed to 65-50 by half-time, but never relented despite the Heat closing within five in the third.

Kyle Lowry top scored for the Heat with 33 points with six-of-nine from beyond the arc along with four rebounds and five assists.

Tyler Herro added 26 points, while Jimmy Butler scored 21 points with four rebounds, nine assists, two steals and a block.

Atlanta got the edge in the key with 63-39 rebounds, including 22-6 on the offensive glass with 26-6 second-chance points led by Capela.

The Heat will take on the winner of Wednesday's Toronto Raptors-Chicago Bulls' play-in tournament game for the right to the East's eight seed.

Rudy Gobert has been suspended by the Minnesota Timberwolves for Tuesday's play-in game against the Los Angeles Lakers for throwing a punch at team-mate Kyle Anderson during an argument in a team huddle during a timeout.

The Timberwolves announced the one-game suspension of the 10-year veteran on Monday.

The incident occurred in the second quarter of Sunday's game against the New Orleans Pelicans, when Gobert got into a heated exchange with Anderson and hit him in the upper chest.

Gobert was escorted off the court and sent home by the team at half-time.

Trailing by 12 points at the time of the altercation, Minnesota ended up rallying for a 113-108 win to secure eighth place in the Western Conference.

As the No. 8 seed, the Timberwolves will have two opportunities to win a play-in game and earn a playoff berth.

If Minnesota win at Los Angeles, they will clinch the No. 7 seed and face the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round.

If they lose, however, the Timberwolves will return home Friday to host the winner of the Pelicans-Oklahoma City Thunder game for a chance at the No. 8 seed and a first-round matchup against the top-seeded Denver Nuggets.

In addition to facing the Lakers without their top rim protector in Gobert, Minnesota will also be without Jaden McDaniels after he sustained a broken wrist from punching a wall in the tunnel that leads to the locker room on Sunday.

Acquired from the Utah Jazz in blockbuster trade last summer, the 30-year-old Gobert averaged 13.4 points, a team-leading 11.6 rebounds and 1.36 blocks (the 12th-most in the NBA) in 70 games in his first season with the Timberwolves.

The NBA regular season has come to a close, which means the postseason is on the horizon to excite fans with its unpredictability and drama.

First, though, the play-in format returns for its third season and promises to once again add all sorts of further intrigue to the playoff picture.

The mini tournament takes place over April 11-14, with the teams that finished seventh and eighth playing one another to determine the seventh playoff seed from their respective conference, while the loser of that game gets a chance to secure the eighth seed when they host the winner of a game between the ninth and 10th seeds.

Therefore, the teams that finish seventh or eighth only need to win one game to advance to the playoffs, while those in ninth and 10th must win two.

Whoever clinches the seventh seed in the East will face the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs, while the eighth seed will take on the Milwaukee Bucks. In the West, the seventh seed will go up against the Memphis Grizzlies, and the eighth seed will be paired with the Denver Nuggets.

Stats Perform previews the eight teams looking to secure their place in the 2023 NBA playoffs.

Eastern Conference

Tuesday, April 11 – Miami Heat (7th) vs Atlanta Hawks (8th) 

One of these teams has made the Eastern Conference Finals in each of the last three seasons, although that trend appears unlikely to continue this year.

After starting the season 2-5, the Heat soon recovered some sort of form without threatening to repeat the performances that saw them clinch the top seed in the East the previous year. They at least strung together a solid run over December and January, going 19-11, to boost their playoff hopes.

The Heat will be favourites in this matchup, having gone 4-1 in April and 3-1 against the Hawks this season, including winning back-to-back games in Miami in early March.

The trio of Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro will be key, with all three scoring over 20 points per game in the regular season.

Opponents Atlanta went 7-3 to start the season, but their form dipped towards the end of 2022, before picking up again in January.

Trae Young, the star of their 2021 run, will be hoping to lead his team back to the playoffs, having averaged 26.2 points and 10.2 assists in the regular season, and the Heat's ability to stop him could be the key in this one.

The loser will host the winner of...

Wednesday, April 12 – Toronto Raptors (9th) vs Chicago Bulls (10th)

The Raptors have done well to reach this stage after a poor first half to the campaign, starting 16-23, but an improvement in 2023 saw them end level with the Hawks with an even .500 record.

Pascal Siakam averaged 24.2 points from his 71 games in the regular season, while Fred VanVleet (19.3) will also be required to lend a hand.

Chicago, who ended with a 40-42 record, will look to the pairing of Zach LaVine (24.8) and DeMar DeRozan (24.5) for inspiration after a promising end to the regular season on an 11-6 run.

The Raptors were 2-1 against the Bulls this season, including winning their most recent meeting in Toronto in late February on the back of a fourth-quarter fightback.

This promises to be another intriguing encounter.

Western Conference:

Tuesday, April 11 – Los Angeles Lakers (7th) vs Minnesota Timberwolves (8th)

This has been a fascinating season for the Lakers, who looked down and out but recovered to such an extent they ended up disappointed they had to settle for a play-in spot.

LeBron James and co. started 0-5 and then 2-10 as the word "crisis" was tossed about by all and sundry.

However, a subsequent run of 8-2 propelled them into a season few could have imagined in early November, while they also finished the year strongly on a 9-2 run.

James (28.9 points) and Anthony Davis (25.9) have each had injury issues, playing just 55 and 56 games respectively, but they have crucially found form and fitness at this crucial stage in the season.

 

The Timberwolves also have talent but come into this with a bit of a cloud over them after the fracas between big-trade flop Rudy Gobert and Kyle Anderson in their final game against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Minnesota started 2-0 against the Lakers this season, but Davis had 38 points and 17 rebounds in a big win when the teams met less than two weeks ago.

The loser will host the winner of...

Wednesday, April 12 – New Orleans Pelicans (9th) vs Oklahoma City Thunder (10th)

The biggest story around this one centres on who will not be there, as Zion Williamson continues to sit on the sideline with a hamstring injury.

The Pelicans' star man averaged 26.0 points this season but played only 29 games and none since January 2.

Updates from New Orleans have remained vague, although Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin has spoken of a "best possible outcome" that would "maybe" see Williamson in practice around the first round. Again, "if everything lined up perfectly".

That means Brandon Ingram will be required to carry the scoring burden for now, a task he warmed up for in fine style with a 42-point return against the Timberwolves on Sunday.

The Thunder will look to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to lead them into the postseason, with the 24-year-old averaging 31.4 points this year, the fourth-most in the league.

New Orleans were 3-1 against OKC this season, but the Thunder won their last game in March with Gilgeous-Alexander scoring 35 – albeit the Pelicans were without Ingram as well as Williamson.

Rudy Gobert apologised to Kyle Anderson, his other Minnesota Timberwolves team-mates and supporters after punching Anderson during a chaotic win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Timberwolves triumphed 113-108 on Sunday but the victory was marred by an inexplicable confrontation between Gobert and Anderson.

After an animated discussion on the sidelines in the second quarter, Gobert aimed a jab at the chest of Anderson and was removed from the team for the remainder of the game.

Gobert was taken to the locker room and the Timberwolves were quick to inform their center had been sent home for his "unacceptable" actions, which Minnesota said will be handled "internally".

The 30-year-old took to Twitter after the game to smooth things over with Anderson and express his apologies to those involved with the Timberwolves.

"Emotions got the best of me today. I should not have reacted the way I did regardless of what was said," Gobert wrote. 

"I want to apologise to the fans, the organisation and particularly to Kyle, who is someone that I truly love and respect as a team-mate."

The Minnesota embarrassment was compounded as Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels reportedly also suffered a broken right hand after punching a wall at half-time.

The Timberwolves will travel to face the Los Angeles Lakers in the first game of the Western Conference play-in tournament.

If they lose, Minnesota will have another chance to qualify for the playoffs by beating the winner of the nine versus 10 matchup between the Pelicans and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

LeBron James implored the Los Angeles Lakers to "stay on edge" for their play-in tournament game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday.

The Lakers fell short of their goal of making the playoffs after a poor start to the season, despite Sunday's 128-117 win over the Utah Jazz.

James' side had rallied back from their early-season troubles to finish seventh in the West with a 43-39 record, but are in the box seat to make the playoffs via the play-in with home court advantage.

"For us, it's just good that we don't need to travel. We've travelled a lot lately," James told reporters.

"It's good that we get to stay here, but we shouldn't be comfortable. We have to stay on edge and get ready for the game."

The Lakers, who were NBA champions in 2020, missed the playoffs altogether in 2022 after being eliminated in the first round in 2021. The NBA playoffs proper commence on Saturday.

"Obviously it's different because usually in the postseason you have multiple days of prep for a team, but you literally have one day to prep," James said. "You're kind of locked in on everything that needs to be done."

The short turnaround may not suit the Lakers, who have seen veterans James and Anthony Davis miss plenty of games this season with injury.

"Be efficient with how we spend our non-game days," Lakers head coach Darvin Ham said. "Make sure they're getting the proper treatment between now and Tuesday.

"But they're aware, man. These stakes are high and a lot of times, I don't want to call it pressure, but the challenges of guys knowing what's at stake can weigh on them a little bit. But here we are, we know what's in front of us."

The Lakers' play-in opponents, Minnesota, have their own issues after Rudy Gobert attempted to punch teammate Kyle Anderson during a second-quarter timeout in their 113-109 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Gobert was dismissed by the team for the rest of the game and could have a suspension imposed on him by the Wolves.

The Wolves center apologised on Twitter, when he wrote: "Emotions got the best of me today. I should not have reacted the way i did regardless of what was said. I wanna apologize to the fans, the organisation and particularly to Kyle, who is someone that i truly love and respect as a teammate."

Jaden McDaniels also hurt his hand punching a wall in frustration during the game, with sources claiming an X-ray has revealed a season-ending fracture.

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.

Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert was sent home after punching teammate Kyle Anderson in a timeout during Sunday's chaotic 113-108 win against the New Orleans Pelicans.

After an animated discussion on the sidelines in the second quarter, Gobert aimed a jab at the chest of Anderson and was removed from the team for the remainder of the game.

Gobert was taken to the locker room and it was swiftly made public that his involvement was over.

In a statement, Timberwolves president of basketball operations Tim Connelly said after the game: "We made the decision to send Rudy Gobert home after the incident in the second quarter.

"His behaviour on the bench was unacceptable and we will continue handling the situation internally."

Gobert's teammate Jaden McDaniels also failed to last the distance in Sunday's game, with reports claiming he broke his right hand when punching a wall at half-time.

The Timberwolves will travel to face the Los Angeles Lakers in the first game of the Western Conference play-in tournament, and if they lose, they will have another chance to qualify for the playoffs by beating the winner of the nine versus 10 matchup between the Pelicans and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

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.

Anthony Davis limped through a vital Los Angeles Lakers win at the Minnesota Timberwolves before assuring fans his ankle would "be fine" and "we're not finished".

The Lakers moved above .500 for the first time this season with a 123-111 victory at the T-Wolves, powered by 38 points and 17 rebounds from Davis.

That was despite the Lakers superstar turning his ankle in his first game back in Minnesota since sustaining a knee injury there in December 2021.

On that occasion, Davis missed more than a month; this time, he did not miss a possession.

"I knew I was going to play," he said after the game. "Tied the shoes up tighter and just kind of played off adrenaline until the end of the game and was able to get some treatment. But I'll be fine."

The Lakers could not have afforded to be without him, with coach Darvin Ham emphasising the big man's importance to their team.

"Everyone knows that in order for us to be at the highest level and playing at the highest level, it all starts with AD," he said.

"We have a team that can make some things happen, but you have to have that one pivotal force that's leading the charge, and in our case, with this particular team here in the moment, it's AD.

"When he comes out and he's aggressive and we're feeding him and he's not settling and he's putting pressure on the paint, putting pressure on the rim, we find ourselves having a lot of success."

LeBron James added of his team-mate: "I think he understood the assignment and knew how important this game was, and I think we all knew that.

"We jumped on AD's back and he brought us home."

As T-Wolves coach Chris Finch put it: "He kicked our a** in every way possible."

The Lakers are up to seventh in the West, but an intense playoff race is not done – and nor are they.

"We've made some huge climbs, but we're not finished," Davis said. "We want to get greedy."

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