Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers is unsure when Joel Embiid will return from injury after a knee sprain sidelined the MVP favourite for Game 4 against the Brooklyn Nets.

It was announced on Friday that Embiid had suffered the injury in Thursday's Game 3 win over the Nets – the 76ers' third straight victory in the series.

Embiid has sustained injuries during several previous postseason campaigns, including sitting out two games as the 76ers were beaten by the Miami Heat in last year's Eastern Conference semifinals.

An ESPN report suggested Embiid could return to the court as early as next week, but Rivers was unwilling to put a timeframe on the center's recovery on Saturday.

"This is another obstacle in the story that we're going to write this year, and we're going to be okay. It may take a minute, but this is just part of it," Rivers said.

"He's human, and goodness, this happens again. Let's win, let's get him back on the floor and let's keep on our own journey."

Asked whether Embiid could return during this series if Brooklyn were to force a Game 5, Rivers added: "I don't know. I can't answer that, but I'm not sure.

"From my understanding, they checked his knee out right after the game because he was complaining about some soreness behind the knee, which is always a scary thing to hear about with players. 

"There was swelling already, which is way too early, so we did the MRI. As a coach, I hate that word. I hate those three letters, because it never comes out well. 

"It just feels like that, whenever they tell a coach you're going to get an MRI, it doesn't turn out well most of the time, and this time it did not."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Harden could not understand why he was ejected from Game 3 between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Brooklyn Nets, although he was not the only individual frustrated with the officiating on Thursday.

A hot-tempered affair saw a player from each side ejected and the Nets claiming Joel Embiid should have joined them.

Embiid and Nic Claxton clashed after the MVP frontrunner was fouled in the first quarter. As Claxton stared Embiid down, the Sixers big man appeared to aim a kick at his opponent.

While Embiid was issued a flagrant foul one, Claxton was hit with a technical and would later be ejected for a second technical, again for confronting Embiid.

Embiid later described himself as "too valuable" to allow that situation to escalate, but team-mate Harden was thrown out of the game in a separate incident.

He caught Nets forward Royce O'Neale while in possession late in the third quarter, and referee Tony Brothers explained after the game: "Based on the point of contact directly to the groin, it rose to the level of excessive and ejection."

Harden disagreed, not even believing the incident was worthy of a foul.

"Unacceptable, unacceptable flagrant two," Harden said. "First time I've been ejected.

"I'm not labelled as a dirty player, and I didn't hit him in a private area. Somebody is draped on you like that defensively, that's a natural basketball reaction. I didn't hit him hard enough for him to fall down like that.

"For a flagrant two, it's unacceptable. This is a playoff game. We've seen around the league, things are much worse than that play was.

"Honestly, I didn't think it was a foul on me. But that's unacceptable. It can't happen."

By contrast, Brothers said Embiid's foul was "unnecessary" but "didn't rise to the level of excessive" as contact was made with Claxton's leg.

Nets coach Jacque Vaughn responded: "I don't think I've ever seen that in my career before.

"For a guy to intentionally kick someone in an area that none of us want to be kicked at or towards, for him to continue to play...

"I've never seen that before in a game and a guy continues to play. Intentional."

Despite Harden playing only 29 minutes and Embiid scoring just 14 points, the 76ers won 102-97 to take a 3-0 series lead.

Stephen Curry was the star of the show in Thursday's crucial 114-97 Golden State Warriors victory in Game 3 of their first-round series against the Sacramento Kings.

After dropping the first two games of the series on the road, it was a do-or-die fixture for a Warriors team who were without future Hall-of-Famer Draymond Green due to his stomping suspension from Game 2.

But Kevon Looney picked up the slack on the interior, snatching down 20 rebounds to go with an equal career-high nine assists as he did his best Green impression, while Curry provided the scoring firepower.

Curry finished with a game-high 36 points on 12-of-25 shooting, hitting six-of-12 from long range, while adding six rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block, posting a plus/minus of plus 24 in his 37 minutes.

Andrew Wiggins was the Warriors' top perimeter defender, and he chipped in 20 points (eight-of-16) in an important two-way effort as Golden State survived Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole combining to shoot nine-of-28 from the field (32.1 per cent).

For the Kings, recently announced winner of the inaugural Clutch Player of the Year award De'Aaron Fox was far from a disappointment, scoring 26 points (nine-of-22) with nine rebounds, nine assists and two steals. 

All-Star Domantas Sabonis also had a solid stat line of 15 points (seven-of-14) and 16 rebounds, but the duo combined for 10 costly turnovers, while the Warriors had 11 as a team.

Green will return for an energised Warriors team as they try to tie the series at 2-2 in Game 4, but if the Kings take it, they will get a chance to seal the series at home when things head back to Sacramento for Game 5.

Maxey delivers down the stretch

Third-year standout Tyrese Maxey was the Philadelphia 76ers' hero down the stretch of their 102-97 road win against the Brooklyn Nets to take a commanding 3-0 series lead.

It was a strange game for overwhelming MVP favourite Joel Embiid as the 76ers' big-man was lucky to not be ejected for kicking at Nic Claxton as the Nets center tried to step over him, and he went on to post just 14 points (five-of-13 shooting) and 10 rebounds, with five fouls and five turnovers in 38 minutes.

But after trailing 96-91 with 2:15 remaining, Maxey scored eight points in a row to put Philadelphia up, while the 76ers' defense allowed just one point in the final two minutes.

Maxey finished with a team-high 25 points (10-of-17 shooting), while James Harden was ejected for a low blow after racking up 21 points (eight-of-15) in 29 minutes, although the former MVP did have a plus/minus of minus 15.

Despite being down 3-0, Nets wing Mikal Bridges has shown he has what it takes to deliver offensively as a focal point in the playoffs, averaging 25.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists across the three games, with shooting splits of 45/42/88.

Booker outduels heroic Powell performance

With Kawhi Leonard ruled out, Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker had to deal with an offensive explosion from Los Angeles Clippers guard Norman Powell before emerging victorious 129-124.

The win gives the Suns a 2-1 advantage after dropping Game 1 at home, and they were led by Booker's 45 points (18-of-29 shooting), six rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks.

This series has been a defensive awakening for Booker, who also had four steals and three blocks in Game 1, while Kevin Durant filled a secondary role.

Durant's 28 points (eight-of-15 shooting), six rebounds, five assists and two steals were slightly soured by his six turnovers, and he had no luck slowing down Powell.

Powell's 42 points on 15-of-23 shooting was one off his career-high, while Russell Westbrook also rose to the occasion with 30 points (11-of-23), 12 assists, eight rebounds and three steals, posting a plus/minus of plus one in 40 minutes.

Game 4 will remain in Los Angeles, and if the Suns take it, they can lock up a 4-1 series win back at home in Game 5.

Doc Rivers' "cursing" had the desire effect as the Philadelphia 76ers stepped it up in the second half to take a 2-0 lead over the Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Conference playoff series.

The Nets led Game 2 at Wells Fargo Center on Monday by five points at half-time and Rivers decided just over a minute into the third quarter it was time for him to unleash some verbal volleys.

Sixers head coach Rivers' intervention sparked his side into life and they went on to win 96-84.

Tyrese Maxey top scored with 33 points, including six three-pointers, while Joel Embiid finished with 20 points, 19 rebounds, seven assists and three blocks.

Tobias Harris also weighed in with 20 points and 12 rebounds as Philadelphia took command of the first-round series before travelling to New York for Game 3 on Thursday.

Asked what Rivers said during a huddle early in the third quarter, James Harden said: "Cursing us out. That's it. Just cursing us out.

"The first possession, we didn't run a play that he drew up, for whatever reason. But we got it right."

Rivers felt the Sixers made life difficult for themselves before raising their game to dominate the second half.

"We got guys to the right space," Rivers said. "Joel was patient. James was patient. We moved the ball, we got every shot we wanted.

"That was a hard game, because we got outside of ourselves in the first half. I thought we were forcing it. We were trying, nothing selfish, but we're trying to score all of us, instead of being there giving you the answers with their traps. Trust your stuff, trust your spacing, move the ball and the right guys are going to end up with the ball.

"And if we do it enough, eventually, Joel, you're gonna get one-on-ones, and then you're going to dominate the game. And I thought we did that in the second half."

Cam Johnson led the Nets with 28 points but they were unable to level the series.

The Golden State Warriors' title defense is on rocky ground after Monday's 114-106 loss to the Sacramento Kings left them 2-0 down in their playoffs first round series.

To make matters worse for the reigning champions, Draymond Green faces a ban for Game 3 back at Chase Center after being ejected for stomping on Domantas Sabonis with 7:03 remaining in the fourth quarter.

The Kings led 91-87 at the time with the contest wide open until Sacramento pulled away with 12 of the final 17 points. The Warriors were left to rue 20 turnovers, along with making 13-of-40 three-point attempts.

De'Aaron Fox, who finished with 24 points on 10-of-23 shooting with nine assists, made a three-point shot with 2:17 remaining before Sabonis assisted Davion Mitchell's triple for 112-103 with 1:17 left. Sabonis scored 24 points on eight-of-12 shooting with nine rebounds and four assists.

Warriors guard Stephen Curry shot three-of-13 from three-point range, finishing with 28 points and six assists, while Klay Thompson made five-of-10 from beyond the arc in his 21-point haul.

Andrew Wiggins contributed strongly again with 22 points and five rebounds, while Green had four rebounds, five assists and eight points before his ejection.

The Green incident came when Sabonis fell to the ground amid a scrum of players attempting to rebound Malik Monk's failed two-point attempt.

The Kings center appeared to grab Green's leg as the Warriors tried to launch a break, prompting the reaction. Green's right foot landed heavily on Sabonis' chest, with the Lithuanian remaining on the floor in pain as the officials reviewed the play.

The officials called Sabonis for a technical foul for grabbing Green's leg, with the Warriors center given a flagrant-2 foul, prompting his automatic ejection and potential suspension.

The Kings fans at Golden 1 Center yelled at Green during the review, with the four-time All-Star egging them on, waving them on and holding a hand to his ear calling for more.

Maxey stars as 76ers open up 2-0 lead

Tyrese Maxey drained six three-pointers as the Philadelphia 76ers claimed a 2-0 lead in their playoffs first round series with a 96-84 win over the Brooklyn Nets.

Maxey scored a game-high 33 points for the 76ers, including a triple from Joel Embiid's pass with 1:54 remaining to open up a 12-point lead. Maxey's total was a playoff career-high.

Embiid pulled down 19 rebounds, with 20 points on six-of-11 shooting and seven assists, while Tobias Harris added 20 points and 12 rebounds.

Philadelphia showcased their depth, with James Harden only having eight points on three-of-13 shooting and seven assists.

The Nets had started strongly, leading by 10 points in the second quarter with Cam Johnson having 22 first-half points but he finished with only 28. Brooklyn only used eight players.

The 76ers turned the game in their favour with a 24-14 third quarter, condemning the Nets to their seventh straight postseason loss, having been swept by the Boston Celtics at this stage last year.

Stephen Curry missed a clean three-point attempt on the buzzer as the Sacramento Kings claimed their first playoff win in almost 17 years with a 126-123 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Saturday.

De'Aaron Fox came alight with 15 final-quarter points for the Kings in a back-and-forth encounter, finishing with 38 on 13-of-27 shooting from the field with four three-pointers.

Curry almost sent Game 1 of their first round playoffs to overtime when he received Draymond Green's inbound pass with 2.9 seconds left, only for his shot to rim out.

Andrew Wiggins had missed a wide-open three-point attempt for the lead with 10.1 seconds left, before Malik Monk made two free-throws to open up the decisive three-point lead.

Curry finished with 30 points on 11-of-20 shooting with six three-pointers made, along with six rebounds and two assists.

Klay Thompson made five-of-14 from beyond the arc, managing 21 points, while Draymond Green had nine rebounds and 11 assists.

Kings center Domantas Sabonis had a double-double with 12 points and 16 rebounds, while Monk finished with an outstanding 32 points in 29 minutes off the bench, making a perfect 14-of-14 from the line.

Brunson repels Cavs and Mitchell rally

Jalen Brunson helped the New York Knicks steady after a late Cleveland Cavaliers rally to grab a 101-97 road win in Game 1 despite Donovan Mitchell's best efforts.

The Cavs claimed the lead with 2:12 remaining in the final period from Jarrett Allen tip-in capping a stunning 9-0 run, before a clutch Josh Hart triple followed by Brunson step-back jump shot.

Brunson finished with a team-high 27 points, while Julius Randle returned from injury with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Mitchell threw everything at the Knicks, scoring 38 points on 14-of-30 shooting with five rebounds, eight assists and three steals.

The Cavs guard scored 10 points in a row for the Knicks during their fourth-quarter charge, where Quentin Grimes' free-throws with 4.1 seconds left sealed the deal.

Celtics first-half flurry sets up win

The Boston Celtics blew away the Atlanta Hawks with 74 first-half points before easing to a 112-99 victory led by Jaylen Brown with 29 points despite a sore hand.

Jayson Tatum scored 21 of his 25 points in the first half where the Celtics led by as much as 32 points, while Derrick White contributed 25 points and 11 rebounds.

The Hawks' shooting letting them down, finishing with five-of-29 from three-point range with Trae Young managing only 16 points on five-of-18 shooting. Dejounte Murray top scored for Atlanta with 24 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

James Harden scored 23 points including seven triples with 13 assists as the Philadelphia 76ers scored a playoffs franchise-record 21 three-pointers in their 121-101 win over the Brooklyn Nets.

James Harden called the "perfect game" according to Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers after leading them to a 121-102 win over the Brooklyn Nets in Game 1 of their playoffs first round series.

Harden starred against his former franchise, scoring 23 points on seven-of-13 three-point shooting with 13 assists.

The Nets put attention into MVP candidate Joel Embiid throughout, restricting him to 26 points, but the 76ers stepped up elsewhere, making a franchise-record 21 three-pointers in a playoff game.

"James, I thought that was one of his best games as a 'catcher' where he was calling the perfect game," Rivers told reporters about Harden.

"He's in shape, he's healthy. He's confident in how we play. Last year, even when he was playing, he was like 'am I doing the right thing here?'. There was a lot of good there."

Rivers pointed out that the 76ers also generated 19 more shots than the Nets (89-70), while Harden acknowledged the Nets' tactics to limit Embiid's tactics but hailed his side's shooting, going at 48.8 per cent from beyond the arc. Fifteen of the 76ers' 21 triples were uncontested.

"I mean, he's the MVP," Harden said of Embiid. "So it's like, would you rather him score 40, or live with us making shots? Either way, it's fine. We'll be ready either way."

Embiid's 26 points came on seven-of-15 field-goal shooting with five rebounds, three assists and two blocks. The MVP contender was full of praise for Harden's impact.

"He's the best playmaker in the league, by far," Embiid said. "But we don't want him settling. I don't want him to fall in love with just that. We need him to be aggressive, and he was today.

"I think that's the key - not just being a playmaker, just being aggressive, going downhill and creating for himself and everyone else."

The 2023 NBA playoffs are here and promise to be as thrilling as ever.

There are narratives all over the place ready to be written, with the Golden State Warriors trying to retain their championship, the Los Angeles Lakers coming from 2-10 to potentially win it all, and the Boston Celtics looking to make up for last season's Finals heartbreak.

Between now and the start of the Finals in June, who knows how many shock results, big performances and memorable moments basketball fans will be treated to.

The final two places will be decided on Friday with the last two play-in games determining who will face top seeds the Milwaukee Bucks and the Denver Nuggets, while the first round gets underway straight away on Saturday.

Stats Perform takes a look at the six confirmed series so far, starting with arguably the most intriguing of them all.

Western Conference:

Phoenix Suns (4) v Los Angeles Clippers (5)

After an outstanding 2021-22 campaign in which they finished as the top seed in the West with a record of 64-18, the Suns began this season with a 6-1 run.

However, by the end of their first game of 2023, Phoenix had already lost as many as they did in the entirety of the previous regular season and only managed a record of 45-37 in the end to finish as a fourth seed.

Adding Kevin Durant in February gave them a much-needed boost, though, and his link-up with Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, DeAndre Ayton and Chris Paul feels like it could lead to something special in the postseason. Durant is 8-0 as a Net.

They will be up against a Clippers team who have had stumbles during the season but went 11-5 heading into the playoffs.

Kawhi Leonard's return from injury in November was huge for Ty Lue's team, with he and Paul George both averaging 23.8 points per game for the season.

The teams split their four meetings during the regular season, albeit including a Clippers victory in their final game when the Suns rested their starters.

Sacramento Kings (3) v Golden State Warriors (6)

It feels like the Kings quietly went about their business this season, amassing 48 wins, more than half of which (25) came on the road.

That could not really be further removed from the Warriors' experience, which saw only 11 of their 44 victories come as the away team.

However, after starting 7-29 on the road this season, Golden State won four of their final five. That included a 56-point victory at the Portland Trail Blazers on April 9, tied for the second-largest road win by any team in NBA history (Pacers at Thunder in May 2021 – 57).

De'Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis will lead the way for Sacramento, but a certain Stephen Curry will be expected to shine again in the postseason as he has done so often in the past.

Since 2013-14, Curry has gone 27-2 against the Kings, the second-best record by any player against a single opponent (min. 20 games) during that span (Norman Powell, 19-1 vs Nets). Curry has averaged 26.7 points, 7.3 assists and 5.3 rebounds over those games.

Golden State were 3-1 against the Kings this season, with Curry (25 points) and Klay Thompson (29) doing much of the damage in their victory in the penultimate game of the campaign against shorthanded opponents.

Memphis Grizzlies (2) v Los Angeles Lakers (7)

As LeBron James recently said, the Lakers were given just a 0.3 per cent chance of making the playoffs by analysts when they started the year 2-10.

As it turned out, they nearly reached the postseason without even needing the play-in tournament, but a fairly routine win against the Minnesota Timberwolves got them to the dance.

James has been outstanding again this season, averaging 28.9 points, and will be eager to produce fireworks now that he and the Lakers are back in the postseason.

On the other side, Ja Morant seems to have put recent problems behind him and looks ready to lead the Grizzlies.

His 26.2 points have been ably supported by Desmond Bane (21.5) and Jaren Jackson Jr. (18.6), though they will miss the presence of the injured Steven Adams, who averaged 11.5 rebounds this season.

The Lakers went 2-1 against the Grizzlies this season, although the home team won on each occasion.

Eastern Conference:

Cleveland Cavaliers (4) v New York Knicks (5)

It was a strong year for Cleveland, winning 51 games in the regular season, although they had a losing record on the road (20-21).

Donovan Mitchell (28.3 points) has been sensational for the Cavaliers, who could hold a significant advantage throughout the playoffs as they boasted a perfect 7-0 record for games that went into overtime during the season.

The Knicks are looking for their first playoff series win in 10 years in what is only their second postseason appearance in that time.

Coach Tom Thibodeau has Julius Randle (25.1) and Jalen Brunson (24.0) to thank for guiding his team to a comfortable playoff place, with Randle also averaging 10.0 rebounds.

New York's starters are averaging 86.5 points this season, the most by any starting unit (Cleveland rank fifth at 83.5). That accounts for 74.6 per cent of the team's scoring, which is the highest rate by a Knicks squad since 2010-11 (74.7).

The Knicks were 3-1 against the Cavs this season, including their last one at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse just two weeks ago.

Philadelphia 76ers (3) v Brooklyn Nets (6)

Ever since he went to Philadelphia, it has felt like James Harden has been the story heading into any clashes between these two.

It feels like there is so much more to it now, though, especially since the Nets also lost Durant and Kyrie Irving.

No longer a team of stars, the Nets are reinventing themselves as just a team, and it will be interesting to see how they manage the postseason. The Nets finished the season 10-4 in games decided by three or fewer points, tied with the Knicks for the best record in the league (min. 10 one-possession games).

Harden and Tyrese Maxey have provided capable support to Joel Embiid, who has been his usual impressive self, with an average of 33.1 points, the most in the entire league.

The Sixers certainly have the momentum going into this series, winning all four of their meetings this season, including in the final game. It was the first time one of the teams swept the season series since Philadelphia won all four matchups against the New Jersey Nets in 2010-11.

Boston Celtics (2) v Atlanta Hawks (7)

Few expected the Celtics to make the Finals last year, and even fewer thought they would take a 2-1 lead against the Warriors.

It all went south from there, though, ultimately losing 4-2, but their response this season has been impressive again.

Boston started 21-5, and although that levelled out towards the middle of the regular season, they put together some more impressive runs to finish 57-25.

Jayson Tatum's average of 30.1 made him briefly a contender for MVP, while Jaylen Brown (26.6) and Marcus Smart are expected to be fit again during the first round.

Trae Young led the Hawks through their play-in clash with the Miami Heat, and he and they will now need to step up again.

Young has scored 30 or more points in four straight road games against the Celtics. Since the NBA-ABA merger, just four players have scored 30-plus points in five straight games in Boston (including playoffs): Dominique Wilkins, Michael Jordan, Curry and James.

The Celtics won all three regular season meetings, including in their final games before the postseason, although both fielded weakened teams.

Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson produced a vintage performance to carry the Golden State Warriors to a 119-97 road victory against the Sacramento Kings on Friday.

One of the few teams still with plenty to play for in the final games, the Warriors needed a win to avoid falling into the play-in tournament placings, as they would get leapfrogged by the 42-39 New Orleans Pelicans if they finish with an equal record.

But with Kings stars Domantas Sabonis and De'Aaron Fox both out resting – with Sacramento (48-33) locked into the Western Conference's third seed – the Warriors took full advantage.

In a terrific defensive outing, Golden State did not allow a single Sacramento starter to score more than Harrison Barnes' 13 points, while Curry and Thompson combined for 54 points and shot eight-of-15 from three-point range.

Thompson top-scored with 29 points on 11-of-19 shooting (five-of-eight from deep), while Curry chipped in 25 (eight-of-14 shooting, three-of-seven from deep), seven rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block.

Donte DiVincenzo continued to excel when given an opportunity, with the 26-year-old backup guard putting together 18 points (seven-of-10 shooting), nine assists and six rebounds. 

He vastly outplayed fellow rotation guard and sixth man Jordan Poole, who shot a poor zero-of-10 from the floor, and the two will likely be competing for minutes in the playoffs.

The victory means the Warriors can secure their spot in the playoffs by finishing the season with a win against the tanking Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday, avoiding the play-in tournament in the process.

Reaves, Beasley lead important Lakers win

The Los Angeles Lakers (42-39) are only a half-game behind local rivals the Los Angeles Clippers (42-38) after a crucial 121-107 triumph at home against the undermanned Phoenix Suns.

With Phoenix resting Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton, the full-strength Lakers made sure to capitalise, although it was neck-and-neck until the fourth quarter.

Both LeBron James (six-of-19 from the field) and Anthony Davis (four-of-12) had poor shooting nights, combining for just 30 points, but role players Austin Reaves and Malik Beasley came to the rescue.

Reaves was arguably the Lakers' best player, scoring 22 points on nine-of-13 shooting with five assists, while Beasley came off the bench to hit seven-of-14 shots, including four-of-10 from long range for 21 important points.

The Lakers will finish their regular season at home against the Utah Jazz on Sunday, and they can steal the sixth seed if the Clippers lose their final two games against Portland and Phoenix.

76ers ruin Trae's big night

Trae Young put up a ridiculous stat line of 27 points and 20 assists, but it was not enough as his Atlanta Hawks went down 136-131 to the Philadelphia 76ers in overtime.

Young's 20 assists broke his previous career-high by two, and he shot an efficient seven-of-14 from the field, but his nine turnovers were costly. It is the eighth time in Young's career he has committed at least nine turnovers in a game.

While the Hawks were at full strength, the 76ers rode a career-high 16 assists from bench guard Shake Milton in a rare start, with stars Joel Embiid, James Harden and Tyrese Maxey out of action.

Jalen McDaniels enjoyed his best game in a Philly jersey with 24 points (eight-of-17 shooting), 11 rebounds and three steals, and Georges Niang also added 24 points (nine-of-13) in a starting role.

The Phoenix Suns have clinched the fourth seed in the Western Conference after defeating the undermanned Denver Nuggets 119-115 on Thursday.

The victory was Phoenix's seventh in a row, having been ignited by the return of Kevin Durant for their past five fixtures after he missed over three weeks of action in March.

Durant has personally not played in a loss since January 5, winning his last two games for the Brooklyn Nets before being traded while injured, and he has won all eight Suns games he has suited up for.

He was again the key against the Nuggets, scoring a team-high 29 points on nine-of-18 shooting, including six-of-10 from three-point range, while adding seven rebounds and four assists in an eyebrow-raising 41 minutes as head coach Monty Williams gave his star extended run.

Chris Paul was terrific in support, tying his regular season career-high with seven made three-pointers on the way to 25 points (nine-of-15 shooting) and only one turnover.

Devin Booker was the primary playmaker for the Suns, racking up eight assists, but it was also due to a poor shooting night where he finished three-of-12 from the field for his 15 points.

Despite the loss – where starters Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope sat out – Bruce Brown showed why he will have a key role in the playoffs as he put up 31 points (11-of-18 shooting), six rebounds and four assists as the stand-in top option.

Thunder hang on to final play-in spot

The Oklahoma City Thunder kept their playoff hopes alive with a 114-98 road win against the Utah Jazz, denying the Dallas Mavericks for the time being.

If the Thunder had lost, they would have slipped to 38-43 and been overtaken by the 38-42 Mavs, but they instead rode a terrific team effort to victory as seven Oklahoma City players scored in double-figures.

The result leaves the Thunder a half-game clear of the Mavericks in the race for the Western Conference's 10th seed, with OKC's last game of the season to come at home against the Memphis Grizzlies, while Dallas will host the Chicago Bulls and the San Antonio Spurs to close out their regular season.

Miami bring the heat to Philadelphia

The Philadelphia 76ers had almost nothing to play for against the Miami Heat, and it showed, with the visitors collecting a 129-101 road triumph.

Miami (43-37) still have a small chance at avoiding the play-in tournament if they can overtake the Brooklyn Nets (44-36) in the final stages, and they got the job done in Philadelphia thanks to Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro.

Butler was rock-solid with an equal team-high 24 points on nine-of-12 shooting, adding six assists, while Herro shot seven-of-17 for his 24 points and five assists.

Joel Embiid's stellar showing against the Boston Celtics led Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers to declare the MVP race "over".

Embiid is a likely contender, alongside Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo, for the NBA's MVP award.

But with just five days of the regular season remaining, the Sixers star made an almighty push for the gong with a remarkable display against the Celtics.

Embiid scored 52 points, over half of Philadelphia's total in a 103-101 victory on Tuesday, while adding 13 rebounds and six assists.

The 29-year-old is the first player in the stop-clock era to score more than half of his team's points and shoot 80 per cent from the field.

Wilt Chamberlain, meanwhile, was the only other player to have previously shot 80 per cent from the field and record at least 50 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.

For Rivers, it means job done in the MVP race.

"The man just scored half our points, in an NBA game," Rivers said. 

"I'm biased, but the MVP race is over.

"We did so many things wrong, but what we did right was Joel Embiid."

Embiid's team-mate James Harden echoed Rivers' sentiment, adding: "Joel should win it.

"He's been in contention for it the last few years. He led the league in scoring last year. It looks like he's going to lead the league in scoring this year.

"We're the third seed in the East. He's been consistent all year."

When the comments of Rivers and Harden were put to him, Embiid quipped: "They're probably right, but we got bigger goals.

"We understand we got a chance, but it's not going to be easy. For me, it was kind of disappointing because we found so many ways to lose the game, and that's on all of us.

"I'm part of it. I could've been better. You know, I had a couple of dumb plays. I could've been better, and we could've been better as a team.

"Like I said, we got bigger goals in mind, but we got to be better than that."

As for how to stop Embiid, who is second in the NBA for points this season (2,162) and leads the way for points per game (33.3), Celtics guard Derrick White is non-plussed.

"I think the whole league's trying to figure that out right now," said White. "So, if you got any ideas, I think every other NBA team would like to know."

Philadelphia 76ers center and MVP hopeful Joel Embiid put together arguably his best game of the season on Tuesday to deliver a 103-101 home win against the Boston Celtics.

Embiid put up 52 points – over half of his team's total and the third-most in his career – while shooting a remarkable 20-of-25 from the field. He also grabbed 13 rebounds, dished six assists and blocked two shots in his 39 minutes.

The 29-year-old, who has finished as the runner-up in the past two MVP votes, had never scored more than 50 points in a game prior to this season, but he has done so three times this campaign, highlighted by a 59-point, 11-rebound, eight-assist, seven-block showing against the Utah Jazz in November.

Against the Celtics, Embiid was supported in style by James Harden as the 76ers' second star chipped in 20 points (seven-of-17 shooting) and 10 assists with no turnovers. It was only his second game this season without a turnover.

Meanwhile, the Celtics were left short-handed as All-Star Jaylen Brown was ruled out in the hours leading up to tip-off, and Jayson Tatum was disappointing in his highly anticipated showdown against Embiid, delivering just 19 points on seven-of-20 shooting with six rebounds, six assists and three steals.

Tatum had a plus/minus of minus 13 in his 38 minutes, meaning Boston were plus 11 in the 10 minutes he was on the bench.

LeBron lifts the Lakers in overtime

The Los Angeles Lakers have now won seven of their past eight fixtures after a 135-133 overtime victory on the road against the Utah Jazz.

It was a mediocre offensive showing from the red-hot Anthony Davis as he shot just seven-of-16 from the field and seven-of-12 from the free throw line for his 21 points, but he added 14 rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks.

Instead it was LeBron James coming through for the Lakers, producing his best game since the All-Star break with 37 points (14-of-27 shooting), six assists and five rebounds. Austin Reaves stepped up in D'Angelo Russell's absence, contributing 28 points (eight-of-13) and six assists in an equal team-high 42 minutes.

The win improved the Lakers' record to 41-38, leaving them tied with the Los Angeles Clippers for the sixth-best record in the West – with the Lakers and Clippers to face off on Wednesday.

Warriors stay out of the play-in

The Golden State Warriors were at risk of being leapfrogged by the Lakers and falling into the play-in tournament placings, before coming from behind to defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder 136-125.

It was the Thunder leading 106-102 heading into the fourth quarter, but with Klay Thompson missing through injury, Jordan Poole stepped up as the Warriors' hero.

Poole scored 18 points in the fourth quarter while the Thunder scored 19 as a team, with the fourth-year guard finishing with 30 points (eight-of-19 shooting). 

Stephen Curry was just as good, dropping a game-high 34 points (11-of-25), while Most Improved Player candidate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 32 points (11-of-17) and seven assists for the Thunder.

The win means the Warriors have jumped the Clippers into the fifth seed with just two games remaining, while the Thunder's loss keeps the Dallas Mavericks alive, with just a half-game separating the 10th and 11th seeds.

Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday argued Giannis Antetokounmpo should be this season's MVP and has blamed voter fatigue for why he is not the favourite.

The MVP race appears a battle of two, between Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic and Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid, but Antetokounmpo reminded everyone of his quality with his 31st 30-point double-double in Sunday's 117-104 win over the Sixers.

The win boosted the Bucks' (56-22) chances of finishing in the one seed in the Eastern Conference, pulling two games clear of the Boston Celtics (54-24) in the two spot with four games to play.

In a match-up against Embiid, Antetokounmpo finished with 33 points, 14 rebounds, six assists and three blocks and is averaging 31.1 points, 11.8 rebounds and 5.6 assists this season. Embiid had 29 points, nine rebounds and five assists.

The Greek forward is fifth overall for points per game, led by Embiid (33.0), while he is third for rebounds, behind Domantas Sabonis (12.4) and Jokic (11.9).

Holiday argued that because 2019 and 2020 NBA MVP Antetokounmpo has been elite for a long period of time, voters take his quality for granted.

"[Giannis] has been MVP too much," Holiday told reporters when asked about the MVP race. "He's been doing this too much, I feel like people get bored of it.

"It's kind of like the Bron effect. LeBron has done it so many times that people think that it's normal now. And it's not.

"He makes it look so easy. The first couple years that he got it, it's like wow, nobody can do [that] and it's still, to this day, nobody can do what he does.

"He's on the number one team, not just in the East, but in the league."

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer echoed Holiday's sentiment, believing that Antetokounmpo is this season's rightful MVP, arguing "he does everything".

"We certainly feel like Giannis is the MVP," Budenholzer said. "Best player, best record, what he does on both ends of the court, the rebounding, the blocked shots, the defense, guarding on the perimeter.

"He does everything: play-makes, attacks, gets to the free throw line. We feel like he's in the conversation and he should be the guy."

Antetokounmpo's 31.1 points per game this season is a career best and comes at 55 per cent shooting across 62 games.

The NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks produced a statement win ahead of the playoffs led by Giannis Antetokounmpo as they defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 117-104 on Sunday.

Antetokounmpo scored 33 points with 14 rebounds, six assists and three blocks, bringing up his 31st 30-point double-double this season, as they improved to 56-22 at Fiserv Forum.

The win moves Milwaukee closer to clinching the Eastern Conference, with the Boston Celtics (54-24) in the second spot ahead of the 76ers (51-27) in third with four games to play.

Boston, who routed the Bucks 140-99 three nights ago, have the head-to-head tiebreaker on Milwaukee.

The Bucks shot at 57.5 per cent from the field, led by Antetokounmpo's 13-of-17 shooting, while Khris Middleton started strong for 19 points. Brook Lopez, Jrue Holiday and Bobby Portis contributed 21, 18 and 18 points respectively.

Middleton's hot start fuelled the Bucks' 41-26 first-quarter lead and they never looked back, with the 76ers closing to within four points in the third period, before the Bucks pulled away again as Antetokounmpo scored the final seven points of that quarter.

MVP candidate Joel Embiid scored 28 points on 11-of-25 shooting from the field with nine rebounds and five assists.

Tyrese Maxey added a team-high 29 points with six-of-seven from beyond the arc. James Harden was contained to 11 points with six assists.

Thompson spurns game-winning attempt

Klay Thompson missed two game-winning three-point attempts in the final five seconds as the fast-finishing Golden State Warriors lost 112-110 to the Denver Nuggets without Nikola Jokic.

The Warriors had rallied from nine points down in the final two minutes to earn Thompson a three-point shot for victory from Stephen Curry's pass, but his initial attempt rimmed out, before a follow-up was blocked by Aaron Gordon.

Michael Porter Jr (29 points and 11 rebounds) and Jamal Murray (26 points and eight assists) impressed in Jokic's absence.

Thompson and Curry finished with 25 and 21 points each, with the former making five-of-16 from three-point range as Golden State shot nine-of-42 from beyond the arc as a team. Golden State fall to sixth with a 41-38 record with the Los Angeles Lakers right behind them.

LeBron matches Kidd for triple-doubles

Anthony Davis scored 40 points and LeBron James recorded a triple-double as the Lakers claimed their third straight win to boost their playoff hopes, downing the Houston Rockets 134-109.

James finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists to draw level wit Jason Kidd in fourth overall (107) for most triple-doubles in NBA history. Russell Westbrook (198) has the most, ahead of Oscar Robertson (181) and Magic Johnson (138).

Davis scored 27 of his 40 points in the first half, with the Lakers improving their record to 40-38 to sit seventh in the West with four games to go. The fifth-placed Los Angeles Clippers (41-38) lost to the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday, with the two LA sides to meet on Wednesday.

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